Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing day - the true meaning of Christmas!

I am blogging to you live from my home town, The Basin, a wondrous outer Eastern suburb, nestled in the hills of the "mighty" Dandenong ranges. Cold meat leftovers from Christmas lunch have just been served up, the family is sitting around very quietly, and the cricket is on - so of course, it must be Boxing Day!

It has been a mammoth few days, though probably not interesting enough to the world at large to detail here. What I will say is that the Aff'n'Chris world tour is well underway, having started on Christmas Eve when we made the pilgrimage from Canberra to Melbourne. That drive just gets longer and longer! After Christmas Eve and morning at Aff's Mum's house in Carlton, we then embarked on our annual a tour of the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, which I am happy to report, no major incidents occurred (although, I did have some old bloke ask me to roll down my window so I could give him directions to Scoresby rd - not sure why he bothered asking because the very next intersection, he did precisely the opposite to what I told him).

Christmas day itself went according to plan. Currently, I am sitting on my arse, thoroughly stuffed with animals of all varieties, suffering significant bloatedness from too many beers, and am a significantly wealthier man than I was before Christmas with Christmas money coming at me from all angles, including some I didn't bank on - I am almost wealthy enough to pay some of our outstanding bills! So all in all, its been another successful Christmas. Aff and I are spending this afternoon at The Basin, before heading back to Carlton tonight. We then transform ourselves from over-indulged blobs, to extreme outdoor adventurers as we pack our backpacks for a 7 day hiking trip in Tassie. At this stage, I am trying to ignore the whole 7 day hiking bit, and am just looking forward to getting back to Tassie again. I'm sure the hiking will be great, but after a huge couple of days, I think I can be forgiven for feeling more like lazing on a beach somewhere ... mind you, the walk itself will be following the South West coast line of Tassie, so I may yet realise this dream.

So that's the Christmas wrap up. I will almost certainly be away from my blog (in fact, hopefully I'll be away from computing technology altogether) until sometime mid January. In the mean time, please check out some of my friend's blogs on the right, and follow some of the many links they provide to some other interesting blogs out there. It is interesting to note that over the last day or so, I have had numerous conversations where the subject of blogs has come up. Clearly, the blogging phenomenon is taking hold. I must admit, while I have known about blogs for quite some time, I never really appreciated the e extent to which this had taken hold. The best thing about blogs is that they are truly independent sources. They can be truly fascinating, often enlightening, sometimes horrifying, highly creative, and all in all, very interesting insights the stories and opinions of everyday people. They are also highly addictive :)

Anyway, enough blogging - there's cricket to watch!

Friday, December 23, 2005

The ANU's post VSU plan

All ANU students received an email today detailing just what the VSU legislation passed two weeks ago, means for the payment of fees next year. Here is the email:

Dear Student

If you have been following the debate about Voluntary Student Unionism you will know that legislation has recently been passed to prevent universities from charging students fees for services of a non-academic nature from 1 July 2006. At the ANU, these fees are known as General Services Fees or GSF.

GSF collected by ANU are distributed primarily through the undergraduate and postgraduate student associations (ANUSA and PARSA respectively), the Sport and Recreation Association (ANUSRA) and the Student Union. These organizations provide a range of services including sporting facilities, recreational and entertainment opportunities, food and beverage services, information, legal service, advocacy, financial advisory assistance and emergency grants. GSF has allowed those services to be provided at reduced cost or free of charge to students.

Other University services, such as medical, counseling, childcare, indigenous, disability and international student services have been provided by the University and therefore are unaffected by this legislation; they will continue to be provided.

To comply with the new legislation, The ANU will do the following in 2006:

1. If you are a new student (undergraduate, postgraduate and research) commencing your studies before 1 July 2006, you will be charged GSF of $120.

2. If you are a continuing student returning to study before 1 July 2006 (undergraduate, postgraduate and research), you will be charged GSF of $120.

3. All new and continuing students who commence or continue their studies after 1 July 2006 will not be charged a GSF.

4. If you have already paid a full year's GSF ($240) for 2006, you will receive a refund of $120.

We are still looking at our options for continuing the services and facilities affected by the legislation and will keep you up to date on progress.

ANU is proud of the fact that it offers exceptional education to its students but it recognizes that support services and provision of wider social and personal opportunities are critical for many students to be able to maximise their experience at ANU. The University will make every effort to ensure that goal is not compromised.

Tim Beckett
Director, Student and Academic Services
Director, Student Recruitment and International Education

So in essence, the ANU has decided to charge half the usual fee for the first half of next year, which I guess is the only real solution. I am pleased that this email details just what services are to be effected, as well as making it clear just who provides such services. Given that as of July 1 2006, students will separately have to decide whether to pay for and join their student association (about $50 for a year, which is approximately what PARSA gets per student at the moment), such promotion and support from the University itself couldn't be more important.

In general, student associations at the ANU are signifcantly better off than elsewhere, as the University's VC and other senior figures are very supportive of such organisations, and consider them an integral part of the Universities structure (so much so, that both PARSA and ANUSA have seats on almost all the major University committees and councils). The ANU considers it in their interest, that student associations not only survive, but continue to work effectively on behalf of all students (even if we technically don't have all students as members), and remain a vibrant force on campus. Bring on 2006!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dr Phil - never trust a man with a moustache

So the Christmas shopping has officially started. Of course, too many readers of this blog are in-line for presents, so I won't go into the details.

All I will say is this:

If I walk into one more book store and find Dr Phil staring back at me, I may just decide to boycott Christmas altogether. That man apparently believes he has the solution to everything. I walk past the self help section, and there he is, staring back at me with his bald head and "trust me, I'm a conservative middle age man of God" moustache, telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself. Then, I walk to the next aisle, the cook books section, and there he is again, with his "scientifically based" weight-loss diet. Upon reading the blurb, I was yet again told to stop feeling sorry for myself.

I kept browsing, and then found myself in the "mind, body and soul" section (not sure why, but that's where my mood took me), and there he was again, big Phil, this time telling me how he is going to rescue my relationship - and just in case I think my relationship doesn't need any rescuing, Phil goes to great lengths to explain to me that no relationship is perfect, and cannot be expected to flourish without big Phil's intervention.

I had planned on browsing through the computer books section next, but was afraid I'd find Dr Phil's "Linux Life-line", so made a quick exit instead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

T'was the week before Christmas

Ah yes, the week before Christmas - always a bit of a bazaar time at Universities, as I am sure it is in most work places. The ANU is no exception. Slowly but surely, everything grinds to a halt. First, the food outlets start to shut. My usual source of cheap food, the Union bakery (which is also a contender for worst bakery in the universe) has closed, along with the equally dodgy Italian food outlet - even the old bloke that fixes bikes on campus for next to nothing has disappeared! Actually, he has been gone for quite sometime, which is a little concerning because he was getting on a bit! And of course, work colleagues themselves start to disappear. My hope is that by tomorrow a majority of people in my department will decide not to come in, thereby making it pointless for those of us persisting to do so, to keep doing so. So today may in fact be my last working day of the year (actually, bugger that, it will be!).

In truth, I probably need to take at least two days off this week just to get the much dreaded Christmas shopping done, as well as other preparations. Aff, yet again, has been consumed by the overwhelming desire to make homemade substances like jam and tomato sauce. Of course, her grand plan didn't really take into account the fact that she has absolutely no time to do it. However, after seeing the anguish in her eyes as this heavy dose of reality sunk in, I couldn't stand by and do nothing - and so it was that I, Chris McCarthy, agreed to take on the task of making homemade tomato sauce - thus completing my domestic training. While this was not exactly on my list of "things to do before I'm 30", I am quietly looking forward to the opportunity of boiling down tomatoes en mass, as well as the obligatory label making, complete with catchy slogan (yet to be decided - suggestions welcome).

So what are the plans for Christmas - well, I am pleased to say Aff and I have finally lodged our official itinerary with the powers that be (our parents), a task that involved intricate negotiation skills, complicated sheep trading, and just a little compromise while still retaining the core elements of our Christmas plan. The itinerary appears to have achieved consensus, and so now can be published for the world to see.

This year is officially "the year of the Macca", thus giving my family the rights to host Aff and myself for the majority of Christmas day. However, we seem to have successfully managed to fit all the major Christmas players into our grand plan, while still maintaining the core principles of "the year of the Macca".

The plan is:

We head down to Melbourne on Saturday (yes, driving down the Hume Hwy on Christmas Eve - probably the least cunning part of our grand plan). We are spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Aff's Mum in Carlton, before heading out to The Basin for Christmas lunch and afternoon festivities. Of course, there is nothing quite like a drive through Melbourne's Eastern suburban sprawl on Christmas morning to really extinguish any reminense of Christmas spirit. The drive always takes a lot longer than I expect, and usually culminates in me abusing some family of 5 in a 4WD who cut me off at the intersection of Springvale rd and Maroondah Hwy - when that toll way is finished, I expect my Christmas' to get a whole lot merrier.

Assuming we arrive without incident, the day itself should be relaxed. Both my sisters, with partners, will be in attendance, as well as my poppy (there is no way to say "my poppy" and not sound like you are three years old), and my step-grandfather, Tom (my late Nan re-married after her first husband, "my poppa", died many years ago). I am really looking forward to spending the afternoon around the pool, and yes, maybe drinking a few beers - as Christmas was intended.

In the evening, Christmas dinner will be consumed at Aff's aunt's place in Vermont, where Aff's Dad, and perhaps Aff's "not so little" step-brother Lincoln, will also be. We then head back to The Basin to sleep off what will undoubtedly be a very big day of Christmas merriment.

The whole Christmas period is set to be a frantic one (is it ever anything else?). Aff and I will only be in Melbourne for a few days, before flying off with our friends James, Claire and Alec for a 7 day hiking trip in Tassie. So don't expect too many blog posts over this time .. In fact, I am not entirely sure how many more posts I will get in this week - though perhaps at the very least, a special Christmas day post can be fitted on - live from the McCarthy Christmas lunch.

In any case, let me take the opportunity now to wish everyone out in the blogosphere, a very merry Christmas and a safe new year.

... be careful out there! The real world is dangerous - keep your fridge magnet handy and watch out for renegade party popers - you could have an eye out!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Oh Internet - you've done it again

the song has a line in the chorus something like "there's nothing that I can do" (and involves other lines that end with words rhyming with "do".

Also, early in the song, the chorus tune is sung using just: "ba ba baba ba ba ba ba .. ba ba baba ba ba ba ba ba ..."

anyone ??


The above is the exact words I posted on triple J's music forum a few weeks ago, after hearing a song I loved on the lunch time show, but not hearing the back announcement. Of course, things would have been a whole lot simpler if triple J published its playlists - but apparently our 8 cents a day doesn't quite stretch that far.

Anyway, you might be surprised to know that it took less than 24 hours for someone to respond with the correct band and song title:

Song:Sould Meets Body
Artist: Death Cab for Cutie
from the album Plans.

The band, as far as I can gather, are from Seattle, and have been kicking around for quite some time.

I have downloaded the whole album, and its very good. I am sure you can find it in any reputable CD shop. I highly recommend it (says Chris "Molly" McCarthy).

"we're not astronauts, we're just asses"

I actually reported this story on the radio yesterday (Fuzzy logic), but thought it was worth a blog entry as well:

In the latest reality show on British Television's Channel 4, Space Cadets - Three British "space tourists" have succesfully completed a five day mission orbitting the Earth at an altitude of 100km. To quote from the website, the mission was thrilling, exciting, cutting edge, and best of all, it was totally bogus!

While this group of unsuspecting, ordinary members of the UK public thought they were orbiting the Earth, they were in fact flying around in a fully equiped shuttle simulator, and were very much grounded.

Before launch, these thrill seeking participants experienced two weeks of intensive astronaut training believing they were at a training facility, near Moscow, and labouring under the illusion that they were part of a real space mission, when in reality, they were at a disused military base in Suffolk, England.

To fuel the illusion, the Suffolk base was painstakingly decked out in Russian products, down to the very last plug socket, and their physical training was under the supervision of a genuine former KGB agent. Sound effects were created to simulate the incredible noise generated by blasting off from the earth. For further authenticity, Hydraulics and 'air biscuits' were used to pull, jolt, and vibrate the space craft violently around as these intrepid adventurers began their amazing journey to absolutely no where.

When the cadets looked out of the cockpit window, all they saw was a distant earth, thanks to meticulous computer generated visual effects.

And what about weightlessness I hear you ask ? Well, its amazing how convincing a little psuedo-physics explained by a bunch of guys in white lab coats can be. I'm tipping these participants weren't exactly rocket scientists :)

The space shuttle itself was designed and built from NASA blueprints by Hollywood visual effects specialists, Wonderworks, whose credits include The Day After Tomorrow and Apollo 13. And just like the real thing, the shuttle consists of three parts: a cockpit, a mid-deck where they sleep and eat, and a lab for experiments, and of course, its tiny.

After the space shutte landed, the contestants walked out only to be greeted by the shows host, and a cheering crowd of friends, family and actors.

Shocked and confused, the contestants stood in awe as the reality of the prank dawned on them.
One of the contestants Paul, when asked what was going through his head simply said:

“ah man, we're not astronauts, we're just asses”.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Ho freak'n Ho awards - Christmas in Collector

As I mentioned a few posts ago, the Christmas events are coming thick and fast at the moment. Its unrelenting - but so far so good. So I think its time to kick off the Ho freak'n Ho Christmas party award reviews with last Saturday's Christmas in Collector

Christmas in Collector with Tim and Yvette - Saturday Dec 10th
Tim, a work colleugue of Aff's and lead singer of local folk band, The Lenders (some may remember I posted a review of their CD launch back in July), and his wife Yvette hosted a most pleasant afternoon/evening Christmas event last Saturday. The event was advertised as a Christmas/House warming shin dig. Of course, "shindig", much like the title "Extravaganza" promises a lot, yet simultaneously manages to promise nothing specific (though at least for me, shindig does conjure images of spontaneous line dancing, which thankfully, did not eventuate).

When I first heard about this party, it instantly appealed to me. Of course, any invitation that suggests sitting around in the late afternoon sun, drinking beer in good company is always a welcome distraction from the usual routine, but the opportunity to get out of Canberra (Collector is about half way to Goulbourn) and breathe the country air was equally irresistible. In terms of population , Collector barely rates a mention on a map (something like 200 people), yet its significance is immortalised in its checkered history involving Ben Hall's bushranger gang and the shooting of Constable Samuel Nelson (for which a memorial exists opposite the famous local pub, the Bushranger's Hotel. Its fascinating history is probably a lot more notable than its other claim to fame, as the Gateway to the big Marino Sheep (up the road in Goulbourn). In all seriousness, Collector is well worth a visit if ever you get the chance.

The party itself involved an eclectic mix of people. A number of Tim's (and Aff's) work friends were there so there were plenty of familiar faces. I should say, Aff was unable to come because she was living it up on the Gold Coast after a conference in Brisbane, so I was going it alone, which felt a little bit weird given most people at the party were work colleague's of Aff's. In reality, this was no issue whatsoever, and I settled in nicely with everyone around me. There were, of course, others in attendance as well. I met a couple, probably in their 50's, from the house over the road. I cannot remember their names unfortunately, but I got into a deep and somewhat depressing conversation with the husband, a builder, who went to great lengths in describing the murders he has witnessed in his time spent overseas building in some of the world's more dangerous cities - according to him, if you can live in Johannesburg, or New Orleans, you can live anywhere. While I respect his right to an opinion (for which he had many, some of which bordered on racist, and others which plainly were), and his ability to tell a story or ten, I suspect a little artistic license was taken in the re-telling of his many life experiences. He was a nice enough bloke, and gave me beer, so I was happy enough to listen.

After spending the afternoon in Tim and Yvette's beautiful back yard, we headed on to the Bushranger's Hotel for further merriment. Given I was driving, I had to keep my beer consumption in constant check. This wasn't entirely a bad thing given my chronic cash flow problems, and a need to save money for the much dreaded task of shopping for Christmas presents (which still hasn't happened). The Bushranger's Hotel is a fine establishment, and well worth a visit. Don't let the mangy stuffed kangaroo that welcomes you at the front door scare you away - I am convinced it is the original Skippy, which now has to suffer the indignity of wearing an "I love Australia" t-shirt, and a beanie. The pub itself is full of memorabilia and other little surprises. Being my second visit to this fine establishment, I knew exactly where to go - out the back are some very comfy arm chairs - the whole room reminds me of the dining room in my late Nan's old house. I settled into my seat, and didn't move an inch for the rest of the night. We all sat around chatting, drinking and eating, and it was good.

With the festivities having started at 3pm, it was inevitable that people would leave a little earlier than perhaps would normally be the case. This was also because the drive back to Canberra takes a little while. And so it was at about 10pm, following the lead of others, that I began to climb my way out of the depths of the arm chair cushion which by this stage, had almost entirely consumed me, and took my leave.

As Christmas/House warming parties go, this one was in no danger of requiring police intervention in the wee hours of Sunday morning, but it was a very pleasant afternoon/evening, and probably just what I was in the mood for after a hectic week. The only disappointment was the absence of the full Lenders line up to belt out a few folky Christmas carols. I offered to sing, but was promptly told this wouldn't be necessary.

Coming up next in the "Ho 'freak'n Ho" Christmas party reviews: "weird science" - the fuzzy logic Christmas party and Christmas/new year show pre-record.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Problems with authority

I have had conversations with others about this before, and it seems to be a reasonably common problem among many of us. Around my peers, I like to think I am a reasonably confident person. If I feel comfortable with the people around me, I generally come right out of my shell, crack jokes and generally talk non-stop - but put me in a situation where I have to interact with someone of great distinction and authority, and, well, things aren't so great. No matter how much I try to be relaxed, witty, intelligent, and funny with these people, I can't help but be a blubbering mess. Imagine a mix between Elliot Goblett and Collin Carpenter - because that's me.

I'm so bad at it that I do try my best to avoid such situations. Unfortunately, however, I couldn't avoid this morning's little incident. I was trapped in the bike cage. There was no escape. I had just locked up my bike, and was feeling quite content after a very good ride in (clocked up a bit of a PB this morning). I must have been enjoying a quiet day dream when I went to open the cage door with my swipe card, only to have the door fling open in front of me. Without naming names, all I will say is that the person entering was a Professor of very high distinction in my field or research. Having been taken by surprise, all my conversational flare went out the window. I stood in the door way, and, after a slight pause, I said "hi", followed by a momentary pause while I tried to remember his name. Of course, I knew his name, but at this moment I could not think of it, and so instead, after what must have been 5 seconds at least, I opted for that tried and tested aussie wild card .... "mate".

"Good Morning" he replied. I then held the bike cage door open while he wheeled in his bike. After he passed me, I then walked through the door and was about to make a break for it when he then said without looking back at me:

"thanks for that - if you could just hold the door open for me while I lock my bike, that would be great".

So I stood there and held the door while he went to lock his bike. After about 20 seconds, he took a glance back towards the door where he saw me holding it ajar.

"No No.. sorry .. I was actually joking".

To which I replied (rather over exageratedly), "Ha!", followed by a short pause, "very funny ... " - another pause - "mate" - capped then off with one final pause, before I made the quickest exit known to man.

With my awkwardness and embarrassment at dizzy new heights, it took me no less than 20 seconds to disappear completely from sight. I am now sitting at my desk, hoping never to see him again, but of course, tomorrow is another day, not to mention the tea room, which is a bit of a mine field for awkward interactions with authority.

Monday, December 12, 2005

One final rant

Don't worry everyone, while current trends may suggest otherwise, I am not turning my blog into a full-time vent for my political rants. I always intended to mix things up in an effort to ensure my blog served no specific purpose whatsoever except to take snap shots of my life an thoughts in this crazy town. I make no apologies, however, for the increased frequency of political ranting of late. The fact is, you would need to look a long way back in Australian political history to find a fortnite quite like the one just gone. Unless you are a raving, foaming at the mouth, Liberal party devotee, I don't know how anyone could think that last week was anything but a horrible reminder of how fragile our democratic system really is. Regardless of your opinions on industrial relations, welfare, anti-terror laws and VSU (among others), the abuse of power that occurred was nothing short of a travesty.

As you might have imagined, my last post was written in considerable anger ... no doubt Mum will be waiting at the fron door on Christmas day, with soap in hand, to wash my mouth out :-). It was quite a day for anyone following the VSU issue. I didn't say much about it, so let this post be a summing up of the events (and yes, perhaps one last rant), before I lay it to rest (until next year anyway).

While Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals "maverick" Senator from Queensland, crossed the floor, Steve Fielding, the Family First Senator from Victoria, decided to vote in favour of VSU, effectively nullifying Barnaby's vote. So, the bill passed with a vote of 29 to 27. Barnaby, while against compulsory student unionism, could not get Nelson to budge on the issue of allowing Universities to charge students an amenities and services fee (GSF) to maintain infrastructure (in effect, Barnaby was trying to not let the baby be thrown out with the bath water).

Steve, on the other hand, had expressed no particular opinion on the matter until the (guillotined) Senate debate on Friday. He now claims his reasons are that the subsidised services for which the GSF supports, are not "essential enough" to warrant this fee being charged to students. In reference to families, Fielding says that the fee itself may cause hardship on families.

let the rant begin now ...

Personally I am gob-smacked at how such a simplistic view of things can prevail. The sorts of support services we're talking about relate specifically to the well being of students on campus, and lets not forget how many students from rural and international locations leave home and have to adjust to a completely different life style. The clubs and societies, the counseling services, the sport, the social events, the advocacy services, the cheap access to legal, and financial aid are all things that students, particularly those a long way from home, can draw from to ensure they have the support they need. Personally, I would have thought that parents would feel comforted in the knowledge that the universities their children are heading off to each day, provide all these services at low cost (or free), and have all the support networks in place to ensure students are looked after. Let us also not forget that most students are only 17 or 18 years old when they start university - an age where things start to dramatically change - leaving home, serious relationships, full responsibility for their own education. Having a university campus equipped to ensure that a student is always looked after, is surely essential enough to support.

Even if you are not convinced that VSU is bad, consider the fact that no research report has been sort to understand just what the effects of VSU might be on Australian Universities. This was an problem Barnaby often mentioned - Where are the figures ? Where is the 5 year outlook ?, the 10 year outlook ? Where can I find a document that provides the considered responses of experts to the many concerns expressed by Australia's Vice-Chancellors, the National Union of Students and the thousands of students who this will effect. The truth is, this legislation has nothing to do with improving the lives of university students, its about pay-back by many government ministers, who had a bit of a hard time of it when they were involved in student politics. Pathetic.

The government has agreed to set aside 80 Million dollars to assist universities with the transition period after VSU comes into effect on July 1 next year. This seemingly arbitrary, baseless figure is cold comfort for Australia's already cash strapped universities that now, if they want to maintain student support services, must find the money themselves - if universities attempt to maintain services as they are, it will be at the cost of other pillars of university operation, such as research and education. If universities don't (or simply can't) provide adequate funding to support these services, then there is no doubt who will suffer - the students.. in fact, either way, students will not be better off. If things really deteriorate, there is also the risk that the other major cash earner for Australian Universities, the full-fee paying international student, may also dry up as these students start to look elsewhere for a higher quality of university education (and more generally, a more enriching experience).

Finally, you will note here that I am not drumming the beat to compulsory unionism itself. I do support freedom of association, but this is not about that issue. The government has said an awful lot about this, but in reality, this aspect of the legislation is a drop in the ocean compared with the general lack of funding for support services. Its just a pitty that ideology blinds our politicians of what, at least in my eyes, is just common sense.

Enough said.

Futher post-VSU vote reports:

.. and just to make sure I am not accused of citing "left-friendly" sources only:

Friday, December 09, 2005

A sad day for Australian Universities

Family First Senator, Steve Fielding, after accepting an 11th hour deal, decided to vote in favour of VSU, with no amendments!

So thats it.

Perhaps Senator Fielding can provide us all with a family impact statement for his vote. I am particularly interested to hear just how a lack of funding to subsidise on-campus child care, student health services and sport is family friendly.

You can read the full story of the vote here here.

I can't be fucked writing about it.

Word of the day - filibustering


  • defn 1 - the use of long speeches or other tactics in Parliament to delay deliberately a vote or decision - as defined, and observed, by Senator Andrew Bartlett.

  • defn 2 - a desperate government!

to quote Andrew Bartlett
[filibustering] led to the absurd situation where we had more Senate debate on some relatively minor higher education and banking legislation than we got on anti-terror or welfare changes

Behold Australia - the senate majority you voted for!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

VSU unlikely to be passed this year

Anyone following this issue, particularly those against VSU like me, would know that this week has been a tense one. In a week where legislation such as welfare-to-work, and anti-terrorism laws have been passed, and a Prime Minister wanna-be is under fire and has now declared he won't challenge Johnny for the top job, you would hardly think an issue like VSU would also feature in the same week, but it has.

Yesterday, the bill passed the lower house, and I thought things looked pretty ominous. Everyone's best mate, Barnarby, while still declaring his opposition to the legislation as it stands, didn't look to me to be beyond some sort of last minute compromise. The government apparently wanted to see just how naive Barnaby was when they offered to provide special funding to support universities that maystruggle to maintain their existing student services and infrastructure post VSU - of course, this would appear no where in the legislation itself, it would simply be a verbal agreement - I think I speak for everyone who has seen such promises go un-fulfilled in the past when I say "fat f#$^ing chance"!

Todays news suggests no such deal is likely to be struck between Nelson and the Nats, so the bill appears unlikely to pass before Christmas. Mind you, it is very hard to know what exactly is going on, given different government ministers appear to be saying different things. Why is all this important ? well, the bill contained an amendment that VSU would come into effect as of July 1 next year. Postponement of the bill's introduction into the senate until the next sitting (in February I think), should see its commencement date (assuming the bill is passed) pushed back to Jan 2007, which gives university services and student associations at least another year of certain funding, as well as some extra time to prepare.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The inaugural 2005 "Ho-freak'n-Ho" Christmas party award

It has begun... the inevitable Christmas party/drinks invitations ... within a couple of days I have received invitations to NICTA's (National ICT Australia's) Christmas party on the 16th, the ANU Graduate School's drinks on the 14th, followed later on the same night by a Fuzzy Logic christmas party and pre-record for our Christmas day show ... not to mention the end-of-year gatherings already scheduled for this Friday, and Saturday, and yesterday's somewhat piss-weak Dept of Information Engineering (my ANU department) Christmas BBQ which ran out of sausages after about 15 minutes, and provided no beer!

While, of course, such parties also happened in Melbourne, I get the impression Canberra work places really do go to great lengths to have as many Christmas gatherings as possible - my theory being that this is because in two or three weeks time, Canberra will be nothing more than a ghost town as people evacuate the city in their thousands.

Perhaps I'll provide reviews of my various Christmas events, and then announce the recipient of the inaugural 2005 "Ho-freak'n-Ho" Christmas party award.

I invite everyone to submit their own Christmas party reviews for consideration.

Also, any contributions for specific criteria on which to assess such events would be appreciated :)

Red Red Wine ... Stay away from me

I must admit, these days, I am not the party animal I used to be. Well, to be quite honest, I was never really much of a party animal, but there certainly was a time when I could finish work at 2am (ah Rembrandt's .. so many memories), and then kick on until 7am, and then do it all again the following night. Trying to maintain that sort of pace these days is neither possible, nor desirable, and when I do, I probably don't drink anywhere near as much as I used to. Having said all this, last Friday night I got absolutely sh!t-faced ... It was never my intention at the start of the night, or at any time during the night, to go completely nuts, but I was drinking red wine (as opposed to my usual choice of beer) like it was cordial, and boy did I pay the price.

While beer suffers the reputation of being the predominant cause of significant bulging in the gut region, it does have the unique quality of causing considerable bloatedness. As such, I can usually rely on the physical limitations of my gut to step in before my liver cries "abort!" When drinking wine, however, I'm on my own, and clearly not to be trusted.

Thankfully, my intoxicated exuberance went largely unnoticed (until the final hours, at our friend, Ben's place. Prior to this, I was at the PARSA Christmas party, where most of the drinking actually took place. It wasn't any kind of wild party either, very civilised in fact. Amanda and I organised the BBQ for the night, and around 17 or so PARSA reps (and partners) came. We sat around, ate cheese, chatted, played Conga Cranium (which was introduced to the party with a traditional conga-line opening ceremony), and yes, some of us partook in a tipple of wine or beer. I say some of us, because we were indeed in the minority. A significant proportion of the PRC do not drink at all, which is probably just as well, because Amanda's house would have been a lot messier at the end of the night had we been 17 piss-heads - one (me) was probably enough. I should point out that apart from reportedly making ridiculous comments with impressive regularity, I [reportedly] did not make a complete goose of myself at the party. I was, however, alarmed to see in Amanda's photos of the night, just how many involved me holding a glass of red wine, and the apparent deterioration of my sobriety:

The quiet listener:

becomes the philosopher:

who becomes the camera flirt:

who becomes the annoying guy in every photo:

who becomes the rowdy one:

and who ends up like this:

So as I say, not a goose at all ?! I kept that for later on, when Aff and I left the party at around midnight, to head over to our friend Ben's place in Lyneham.

Ben was hosting a bit of a poker night with his partner Jen, Michael and Lisa, and Tim (back from the UK for a visit). As I walked up the stairs to Ben's apartment, I knew things were on the way down. Those who've drank to excess (you know who you are!) know exactly what I mean - when the target you are fixated on, in this case Ben's front door, starts to move to the side, and then as the most sickening of dizzy spells hits, another identical looking object (in this case, another door), appears to separate itself from the original one, rendering you a navigational vegetable. From previous experience, I have learnt that the trick in these situations is not to try and head towards any particular duplicated object, but rather, to take the average of the two, and put your arms out in front of you so as to compensate for your lack of depth perception. However, with Ben's stair case to also traverse, I decided to let Aff find the door, while I waited at the bottom of the stair case for Aff to collect me.

After entering Ben's place, I celebrated with another beer, which as any sports commentator would say, was probably the final "nail in the coffin". The next clear memory of the night was a very familiar one from years gone by - on my knees, staring straight down the toilet bowl. I'll spare you the rest of the sorry tale, except to say that Saturday morning felt about as close to a near death experience as I have had in recent times.

Red Red Wine - Stay AWAY from Me -e -e!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Nelson plans national student vote on VSU

I don't like this one bit, and before you start accusing me of being anti-democratic, just hear me out.

Nelson's proposed plan is to put VSU to a national vote of students, to be overseen by the Electoral Commission. Fine in theory, except that student unions will then be forced to campaign for their own survival, against a government set on having this law passed. This will force student associations to be seen as highly political campaigners (which is exactly what Nelson wants), and will also force student associations to spend the very money that is under dispute, on such a campaign .. which, of course, is perfect fuel for the government to point out the miss-spending of such monies.

So, as I see it, this is a trap, and one that should be avoided at all costs. The other aspect of this issue, as Barnaby Joyce points out, is that the outcome of such a vote would not only effect today's students, but students of the future, as well as the communities that rely on their local university campus for various educational, sporting and cultural support and infrastructure.

The vote should therefore take place in the Senate, by our elected representatives, where I think the issue has its best chance of being debated properly (so long as Barnaby, and other senators, stick to their principles as they seem to be so far). Forcing student unions to go out and spend GSF money to convince students to pay GSF is just not acceptable.

Melbourne Invasion

Well, its been a week since my last post, which, as per usual, is mostly the result of having to exist in the PhD world, and therefore having to every now and then, deal with things like deadlines. The last week has been one of the busiest since arriving in Canberra. No less than 7 Melburnians have visited Canberra in the last week, four of which stayed at Rancho-relaxo-de-Belco (Aff and my place). What is even more impressive is that this was not even one big group, but rather, several independent groups, all converging on our nations capital at once. I wouldn't be surprised if ASIO suspected some sort of imminent attack was being planned as non-Canberrans converged on Belconnen (and Aff did buy some fertilizer a week or two before).

The terror cells included:

  • Michael and Lisa (Mike is actually staying with us for a month while on placement at Canberra hospital as a trainee Genetic counselor. Lisa came up to visit for the weekend, and no doubt to make sure Michael wasn't getting too cozy in Canberra.

  • Rob and Russ: Rob was up to watch the women's hockey, and Russ, as far as I have gathered, was hear to make caramel slice for us all, and his world famous sausage rolls. After initially being horrified by the news that Aff and I do not have wireless internet, they both seemed to settle into more off-line activities like sight seeing, and attending sports events.

  • Tim: originally a Canberran native, then a Melburnian, but like so many before him, is now trapped in some sort of dilusional belief that London is the place to be. I've been to London in the winter .. I'm yet to be convinced (though 20 pound flights to Italy do have a certain appeal).

  • Shelley and Ben: my sister and her hubby .. Up for a family event (on Ben's side), and bringing with them the obligatory family gossip (which is plentiful at the moment given my other sister Lindy is about to get married, and has just realised her wedding dress is not the one she ordered!)

I have to say, as it slowly dawned on me in the weeks leading up to this, that everyone was coming at once, and at a time when many other activities were scheduled (such as PARSA's xmas party), and when I had an important deadline to meet (I finally got the crazy camera to work with my program code, and is now being demo'd at a conference in Sydney), I was pretty anxious about how I'd cope .. but as it turned out, everything was great.

Rather than write one huge post about all that has happened, I think I will apply the "small bight size nuggets of news" strategy, which apparently means you are all more likely to read it (apparently more than two paragraphs is a challenge). With no immediate deadlines, and a supervisor, and a partner, both away at conferences this week, you can be very sure that blog posts from me will be coming thick and fast this week ... It keeps me off the streets at least.