Welcome back, iServ

Welcome back to iServ, one of Australia’s pre-eminent web sites on current affairs and political commentary.

iServ has been sorely missed during it’s short absence. Whilst many may not have agreed with the opinions expressed on iServ from time to time (and I am quite ready to acknowledge that I occasionally disagreed with some of the views of the site’s owner, so don’t for one minute think this post is merely a suck up to iServ), I think it is fair to say that the owner was fair in his allowance of freedom of speech to all that cared to make reasoned and considered comment. He always was, and I’m advised that he will continue to be, fair and reasonable in allowing commentary from all comers. So long as one stays “on topic”, and does not attempt to denigrate the thread into a personal slanging match or some other diatribe that defies the intended aim of the site, then contributors have nothing to fear from the site’s owner.

Addenda: Sadly, iServ is no longer, and has been relegated to the mists of history. A pity this has come to pass, as the site’s owner showed neither fear nor favour in his observations and commentary of Australian politics. Thank you iServ for your pithy commentary. You will be sorely missed.

© Bat’s View, All rights reserved.

The lake floods…

On 3 February, 2008, Sydney was in the grip of a major low pressure system that saw large quantities of rainfall across the entire Sydney metropolitan area.  There were many areas affected by flooding (thankfully, we were not unduly inconvenienced). However, the lake across the road from our house rose to levels never before seen. The lake is part of a stormwater catchment system designed to prevent the detritus of human occupation (read “garbage”) such as empty plastic bags and bottles, grass clippings, pet faeces, etc., etc., from finding its way downstream and eventually ending up in the Hawkesbury River.

The lake is home to a number of different species of native water birds, and has even hosted a breeding pair of black swans (regretfully, they have taken up residence elsewhere – we suspect this is in no small way due to the visits by marauding & opportunistic pelicans that show up on frequent occasions. And then there was the couple that used to bring their Labrador Retriever dogs to the park for training for dog trials and these people would blithely throw floating “toys” into the lake for the dogs to retrieve as part of their training regimen. The dogs would end up swimming to the small island that can be seen in the photos, which would have been very unsettling for the swans and their brood. These people were politely requested by several of the residents around the lake to not to let their dogs into the lake, and they were gracious enough to adhere to this request for a while, but eventually the dogs were back in the water. These people and their dogs haven’t been seen at the park for some time now and that coincides neatly with the departure of the swans).

The swans still return occasionally for a visit, but rarely remain long. Hopefully they will one day return to re-establish the lake as a nesting site and produce another clutch of progeny – there is something quite satisfying watching the adult swans majestically paddle around the lake closely followed by the troop of signets. We see a similar thing with the native ducks and their ducklings paddling around the lake, but it’s just not quite the same.

Following are a series of images showing the lake as it is normally, and how it appeared on 3 February together with a timeline to indicate how quickly the waters rose.

Images 1 to 7 show the lake in it’s normal, non-flooded state, panning from right to left from our viewpoint. Images 1 through 6 are as the camera panned from right to left across the scene, and note especially Image 7 and the small signboard at the centre of the image. This signboard, which shows pictures and a brief description of the types of water birds that reside in the lake for people to study as they walk around the lake, stands approximately 1.2 metres high.

Image 1

 

Image 2

 

Image 3

 

Image 4

 

Image 5

 

Image 6

 

Image 7

 

And now for the same scenes during the deluge…

Image 8 – compare this with Image 1

 

Image 9 – compare this with Image 2

 

Image 10 – compare this with Image 3

 

Image 11 – compare this with Image 4

 

Image 12 – compare this with Image 5

 

Image 13 – compare this with Image 6 (I stuffed up the focus on this one unfortunately – nevertheless, even though the intended focus area is blurred, you can get an idea of the water level)

 

Now then – remember the signboard in Image 7? What follows is a series of images with a timeline to show the rise of the waters. These all follow on from Image 9, which was taken at 12.23 pm. (I regret that a couple of them are a bit blurred. It’s a new camera and I really am going to have to work on my camera technique).

Image 14 – 12.27 pm (4 minutes after Image 9)

 

Image 15 – 12.31 pm (8 minutes after Image 9) – notice the strength of the water flow has forced underwater the reeds that were visible in Image 14 in front of the grid fence

 

Image 16 – 12.32 pm (9 minutes after Image 9)

 

Image 17 – 12.34 pm (11 minutes after Image 9)

 

Image 18 – 12.37 pm (14 minutes after Image 9) – going…….

 

Image 19 – 12.40 pm (17 minutes after Image 9) – going……..

 

Image 20 – 12.41 pm (18 minutes after Image 9) – goooorrrnnnn!!!!

 

Image 21 – 12.52 pm (29 minutes after Image 9) – long gone under, and the waters are almost smooth as the depth above the grid has almost negated the turbulence created as the water flows over the grid.  This was about the maximum level the waters reached, but I have no idea how deep it was as there is no flood water measure (like the type you find near rivers prone to flooding).  My estimate is that the water reached a level that was a little over 2 metres above its normal height.

 

© Bat’s View. All rights reserved.

Bat’s View undergoes some refurbishing

I decided “Bat’s View” was looking a bit jaded and old and in need of some work to make a bit more “fresh”, so I’ve been playing around a bit with the style sheet.

What you see at the moment is the initial result of my tinkering. No doubt there will be some purists that deride what I have done as it’s now designed to take advantage of the increased size of monitors being sold/purchased with computers today, as opposed to those being sold a few years ago. The entry level monitor these days appears to be a 17″ lcd, rather than the 15″ crt that was “de rigeur” not so long ago. Therefore, I’ve optimised the appearance of Bat’s View to take advantage of the increased “acreage” available on these larger monitors (i.e., a native resolution of 1024 x 768 instead of the older 800 x 600). Having said that, I’m currently typing this on a HP notebook with a 15.4″ lcd monitor, and Bat’s View renders perfectly across the screen without creating a need for me to have to scroll from side to side to see all of the post.

This change also allows me to post images in a higher resolution than the old 800 x 600 resolution would allow. This means the images provide better, clearer viewing for the reader.

Further changes will occur as I learn a bit more about the style sheet and it’s effect on what you, the reader, sees.

I hope you like the changes.

UPDATE:  3 November, 2008 – I’ve done a bit more tinkering.  Hope you like the latest look.

© Bat’s View. All rights reserved.

Street Racing – so what’s so new about it?

Over the last week or so the NSW state government, police force and Australian media generally have put under the spotlight the tendency of drivers to “race” their motor vehicles on the streets.  This current focus has been brought on by the recent tragic deaths of an elderly couple quietly returning home after a night out at a local venue.  They were killed when their car was hit by 2 other vehicles travelling at high speed on a public road, allegedly “racing” each other.

There has since been much spoken and written about the incident and other similar incidents.  Many people are asking why it is allowed to continue, what drives people to race their cars on the streets, and how it can be stopped.

It is my belief that such activities can never be wiped out.  That’s not to say that I condone such behaviour. Man is, by nature, a competitive beast.  Like the rest of the animal kingdom, we are genetically pre-disposed to strive to out-do our peers to get to the top of the heap and be seen as the strongest and quickest to ensure the “survival of the species”.  This clearly extends to every facet of human endeavour.  Therefore, it will be impossible to stop it without turning the human species into an evolutionary backwater that will stagnate and eventually fade away (we’re probably going to do ourselves in as a species anyway, but that’s a whole different subject).

These activities continue to happen due to the NSW Government’s inability to maintain adequate police numbers actually on the roads being policeman.  Premier Morris Iemma claims that they are providing additional police, however the problem with that is that his government is merely bringing police numbers back to levels from which they have gradually been allowed to decline.  The government has not increased the numbers of police to keep pace with the growth of the population and many more need to be added to our police force.  A more visible presence of police on the roads will go a long way to reducing traffic infringements in general.

More police on the roads is one piece of the puzzle to reducing this so-called “anti-social” behaviour of street racing.  But more than just police on the roads is needed.  The NSW Police Commissioner, Ken Moroney, has suggested seizing the vehicles of people convicted of street racing and crushing them into a small cube and putting the cube in the offenders front yard as a reminder.  This idea simply isn’t workable.  Mr Moroney cites overseas examples, such as in southern California, USA, and in England, of this practice.  But it hasn’t stopped the street racers in either of those places, so clearly it doesn’t work as a way of stopping the practice.

It seems to me that the best way of combatting the situation and reducing the risk to the majority of road users lies in better driver training – something I’ve always been a strong advocate of.  The NSW driver’s licencing regime for motor vehicle drivers is nothing short of a farce.  There needs to be a mandatory requirement for all learner drivers to attend a car control course where they are able to learn, in a controlled environment away from public roads, what an out of control car feels like and how to avoid getting into those situations, or if they do find themselves in situation then they will know what to do and not freeze in panic.  This needs to be extended to a refresher course at the time they graduate from their red “P” to their green “P”, and perhaps again when they graduate to their full licence.  In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for it to be a compulsory requirement that people must attend such a course on a regular basis, say every 5 years.  These courses not only teach people the physical skills, but they also focus on the mental attitude of drivers which I think is a major factor.

There are those that say these courses are a bad thing as they give the trainees a false sense of security and actually increases the risk they will do something dangerous.  To these people I say RUBBISH.  From personal experience I can say that idea is a load of crap.  I have watched family members go from being inexperienced panickers that simply froze if the car or traffic around them did something unexpected, to being confident drivers able to cope with pretty much any situation day to day driving can throw at them.  I’ve seen the evidence first hand that these courses save lives.

As to reducing the incidence of street racing, might I suggest firstly that, as part of their punishment, anyone convicted of such an offence be forced to do community service in a hospital trauma ward helping to tend to those injured in motor vehicle accidents?  Secondly, if the convicted driver is guilty of actually injuring other people, then that driver should be made to face the families of the victims and see the grief and torment their actions have caused.

And to those that ask why we have to have such powerful cars on the roads, the amount of power of a motor vehicle will make no difference (and do you wowsers realise that the more powerful vehicles are safer than the tinny gutless offerings you favour, because of the features built in to cope with the increased power?). 

Human beings will pit themselves against their fellow human beings at any opportunity – we can’t help it, it’s our destiny….

Sydney’s Wharf Owners Display Their Arrogance

The purveyors of Sydney’s waterfront stevedoring activities (i.e., the companies that operate the stevedoring activities at the wharves, NOT the waterside workers (aka wharfies) themselves) have released their working arrangements for the Easter holiday weekend.

In a stunning display of unadulterated arrogance and abuse of power, they have decided that they will be charging storage on uncollected containers on days when the wharves are not open for business.  By way of background information, let me make a few salient points so that readers are better able to understand what I’m prattling on about.

Sydney has suffered under a duopoly of wharf stevedore companies for many years.  As a result of the complete lack of any real competition the two stevedoring companies could be said to be colluding in the way they operate and set their policies and charges.  It seems that no sooner has one of them decided on a new policy or charge, than the other follows suit.  Long gone are the days when the wharves made allowance for the Australian working week and the fact that most company’s warehouses are closed on weekends.  The attitude of the stevedores is, generally, “we work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so importers and exporters should change their work practices to meet our schedules.”  What this means is that the wharves now count Saturdays as part of the “normal” working week when calculating the free period of container availability before storage charges are levied.  The wharves only allow 3 free days from time of declared availability, so if Saturdays are part of the 3 free day allowance long weekends often mean it is impossible for containers to be removed from the wharf before storage charges commence.  The alternative is for the container to be collected on a weekend and thus incurring the additional costs of overtime and penalty rates from the transport company.  Either way, the importer ends up with additional costs which, of course, are passed on to the consumer.

To add insult to injury, the stevedores have decided that Good Friday is an official “non-work” day (like Sundays) and they will not deliver or receive containers on that day.  However, they will still include this day when calculating any storage charges that might be applicable, even though they weren’t there to deliver the container to the importer!  So, if you are importing a container, and the last day of free time is the Thursday before Easter then you can expect storage charges to start on Good Friday and the charges will include Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday.

Am I wrong in thinking that charging storage on a day when they aren’t there is akin to “highway robbery”?  And there I was thinking Ned Kelly was dead…..

As if this arrogance isn’t bad enough, the wharf stevedores have taken this stance despite the fact there is currently an investigation underway (and has been for the last 2 years) into the operating and charging practices of the wharf stevedores.  This investigation, started by the Container Logistics Action Group (CLAG), has received initial favourable consideration by the Independent Pricing And Remuneration Tribunal (IPART) who have stated that they believe there is a case to be answered and are investigating further.  It seems the stevedores don’t give a stuff and think they can just do as they please when it comes to their pricing and charging policies and operating procedures.  This is hardly surprising though when one considers the amounts of money we are talking about.  In the last financial year, the amount of revenue generated from wharf storage was in the order of some AUD40 million.  This is pure revenue – there is absolutely no cost to the stevedores in generating this revenue stream (mind you, they would no doubt point to the fact that the container is taking up space on the wharf that could be used for other containers, and they have to manouevre around it, and whatever other spurious justifications they can think up – the fact of the matter is that there is quite enough space, and the container is most likely “block-stacked” somewhere at the bottom of a pile of containers anyway).

So this is nothing more than pure greed, especially when the storage rates along the lines of AUD 130.00 per day for a 20ft container are taken into consideration.  It beggars belief that they can arrive at a figure of that magnitude when it costs nothing to have the container sitting on the wharf (most likely at the back of the wharf in a stack of other containers suffering a similar fate).

The sooner these companies are brought to account and made to be more reasonable with their operating practices and charging policies, the better it will be for our economy.

Merry Christmas to everyone

Ok, so it’s my first Christmas with a blog.  Please don’t hang me for being so trite and mundane as to do what I expect nearly every other blogger has done/is doing – wishing their readers a Merry Christmas.

To me, the Christmas/New Year season is a time to reflect on the year just past, and enjoy time with one’s family members.  For many this is not easy, a fact I know from personal experience.  Nevertheless, I believe this is the one time of the year where we should make the effort to go that little bit further to show our family, friends, and even people we don’t know, that we aren’t all arseholes or Scrooges (you, in the back row, was that a “Bahh, humbug!” I just heard?).

I care not what your religious background and beliefs may be.  You are as entitled to them as I am to mine.  I do believe, however, that NO religion intends to inflict pain or suffering on any member of the human race, nor for that matter members of the other species that inhabit this fragile little world of ours.  It is mankind that creates wars and conflict in the name of religion, not religion itself.  Sadly, it seems the only way we can protect ourselves from people with tyrannical and megalomaniacal tendencies is to fight back, and defend our way of life.  What brings these people to want to cause such trouble?  Intolerance for their fellow man, for one thing.  Warped views of societal structures other than their own, for another.

Whatever the cause, why can’t they just learn to live in peace with the rest of the world, and learn to tolerate, indeed rejoice in, the many variations of humankind and our society?

To all those that perchance come across my humble blog, I wish every one of you a peaceful and joyous Christmas season (whether you believe in that particular religious system or not) and success and prosperity in your endeavours in 2007.

Australian Idol 2006

The winner of Australian Idol 2006 is Irish born Damien Leith, who has reportedly applied for Australian citizenship but is not yet an Australian.

Whilst his musical talent is unquestionable, is it really proper that the winner of Australian Idol is not an Australian, either by birth or by application for citizenship?

Personally, I congratulate Damien on achieving his success but I can’t get rid of this feeling that somehow we’ve been cheated.

What do you think?

P-platers copping a raw deal

Is it just me, or does the current media focus on P-plate drivers seem a little unfair?  It’s tough enough being a young, newly licensed driver without adding the pressure of almost constant media scrutiny and attack.  The majority of these drivers are responsible young adults, but driving in Sydney’s hectic traffic is not for the faint-hearted so is it any wonder that drivers with low levels of experience feature more highly in accident statistics?

And there lies part of what I believe is the crux of the matter – experience.

The other thing that I believe contributes in no small way is the pathetic driver training given to these people.  The licensing system in NSW is pathetic – it simply teaches people how to pass a test.  It does absolutely nothing to teach people how to drive.  The government has attempted to make it look like it is doing something by introducing a longer period between application for a Learner’s Permit and sitting for a driver’s license, and requiring learner drivers to have a certain minimum number of hours behind the wheel and maintain a log book as evidence.  This system is so open to abuse, it’s laughable.  There is too much anecdotal evidence around to say that the stories of parents “fudging” their child’s log book hours are all untrue.

Another thing that I find amazing is that, in NSW at least, non-english speaking applicants for a driver’s license are able to undertake the exams in their own language, a point I have commented on before.  This is simply appalling!  How are these non-english speaking people supposed to understand road signs, or verbal instructions from police or other officials?

Having watched members of my own family go through the NSW driver’s licensing system and then seen the result on the road, I made sure they received additional driver training of the same type that I did as a newly licensed driver in my teens.  I have always been a great supporter of the “schools” that employ professional drivers to teach responsible attitude, road awareness and crash avoidance skills, and the skills to regain control of a skidding or spinning motor vehicle.  It’s simply not possible to understand the dynamics of a car that is spinning or skidding on a wet or loose surface until you have actually experienced it.  A lot of accidents occur because drivers suddenly find themselves having to make an emergency stop for some reason, and they have never experienced what a skidding car feels like.  The result?  They become just another passenger in the car, frozen into inaction by their lack of knowledge and uselessly holding the steering wheel and waiting for the “ride” to stop.  That stop is invariably a hard one when they hit an immoveable object.

So, how do we improve the situation?  I don’t hold myself out to be a guru here, far from it.  However, I will suggest some steps that I think go a long way to alleviate the problems.

1. Get them early.  Start teaching our children proper attitudes from an early age.  This is a parental responsibility, so all you people with kids better realise that if you have bad habits, your kids are learning it right from the first time they travel in the car with you.  These lessons will stick with them for life.

2. More driver education programs in schools.  It seems to work well in the USA (one of the few good things to come from their education system it appears), so why shouldn’t it be done here?  Part of this education should involve lectures from Police Highway Patrol officers, including pictures of crash scenes with statistics like estimated speed of the vehicles, road conditions, etc, so that students can understand the link between these things, and how easily cars bend at relatively slow speeds.  As gruesome as it may sound, outings to hospital accident wards might also be valuable in providing a wake up call to them that they aren’t “bullet-proof”.

3. The log book system has a lot of merit as evidence of driving in conditions that aren’t ideal, such as in rain, fog, and/or at night, on roads with loose surfaces, etc.  However, it is clearly open to abuse in it’s present form.  Perhaps there could be some sort of electronic “log book” developed that at least provides evidence of time behind the wheel, although I expect this would require the co-operation of the car makers in providing a common interface for the “log-book” to be plugged in to the car.  The device would also require security features to prevent it’s data being falsified, things like bio-identification (a finger print pad or the like).

4. Compulsory attendance at a professional car control course where they learn, in a safe, controlled environment, what an out of control car feels like and what to do and NOT to do to bring the car back under control.  I’m not suggesting an advanced course where they learn high speed manoeuvres, simply a basic course focussed on road awareness and crash avoidance, with a back up of skid control techniques.  In fact, might I go so far as to suggest they do such a course twice before attaining a full license?  Once when on their L-plates prior to obtaining their red P-plates, then again as part of the application for a full license at the end of their green P-plate period.

5. This idea could be used across the board for all drivers, P-plate or full license.  Develop a system of positive reinforcement.  Why not award additional license points to drivers with good driving histories?  I’m sure a suitable formula could be worked out, perhaps half a point for every year without an infringement notice or other driving related penalty?  This would give drivers more reason to aspire to better driving skills and road behaviour.  Taking this one step further, award additional points to drivers that take regular refresher courses at driver training courses and/or that voluntarily re-sit the driving license exams as proof they are keeping up with road rules.

C’mon people, let’s help our kids with positive support, not hinder them with ever more repressive rules and regulations.

Addenda:

This article appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald web site on 4/11/2006:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/another-pplater-death-on-roads/2006/11/04/1162340087261.html

The government’s proposals won’t help.  The system needs drastic change, not band-aid solutions.

Ban called to prevent parents from smacking their children

The Australian Childhood Foundation has called for Governments to make laws banning parents from smacking their children.  There are already laws in place to prevent parents hitting their children above the shoulders and I, for one, support that ideal.  However, to suggest taking away from parents what is perhaps one of the most effective tools they have for stopping children getting out of hand seems to lack an understanding of what parents have to endure.

I do NOT for one minute condone physical abuse of anyone, especially children.  However, using the palm of one’s hand to deliver a bare-handed smack to a child’s posterior is quite often the only effective deterrent available to a parent.  A smack is one thing, delivering a beating is something entirely different and cannot be tolerated.

Mr Joe Tucci, the CEO of the aforementioned Foundation, claims positive behaviour reward techniques are more effective.  Perhaps so, but how do you create the right sort of environment when your child has decided to chuck a tantrum while you’re at the supermarket?  A quick smack brings the child to brook quickly and effectively.  Once the parent and child are home, then the parent can sit the child down and talk with the child about the child’s misbehaviour (assuming the child is old enough to comprehend fully). I never suffered detrimentally as a child from the occasional smack, and neither have my children who are today well behaved, polite young adults.  Smacks are just one small part of a parent’s armoury of correcting a child’s behaviour, and I grant they should be used sparingly.  But for heaven’s sake, these bloody interfering “welfare” groups should mind their own bloody business.