Feathers ruffled after the flood

January 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Now the flood waters have subsided, and we are down to the cleaning and fixing and counting and blaming. And figuring out who should pay.

In true social democratic spirit, the government is going for a sort of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need!” approach. Or to put it a bit more clearly, “From each according to his income greater than $50,000, to each according to damage suffered (to the electorate)”.  My personal favourite, though, is “From each according to whether they already scored some disaster relief payout or not, to each according to whether they are that bastard next door who showered in beer for two days and already spent it on a high def TV”.

Here, there and everywhere, the chickens are coming home to roost.

They are roosting all over the flood victims who chose to live in low lying areas and didn’t cough up for flood insurance. Cheapskates. Look at me, up here on my hill.  Sqweark!

They are roosting all over the furrow-browed, trembling-fingered, red button-hovering guardians of Wivenhoe Dam who mistakenly thought they were supposed to be filling it up instead of emptying it. That will teach you to take five straight years of drought seriously.  Sqweark!

They are roosting all over the residents of Dalby, who refused to give a hand up to homeless refugees in June last year but who now need a hand out themselves.  Sqweark!

They are roosting all over the small minded, cheaply tricked voters who tossed out Howard and shoved in Rudd, who was then overthrown by Gillard, and who didn’t see THAT coming.  Sqweark!

And they are most certainly roosting all over our Little Red Hen-pecked Prime Minister. Watch out for eggs, Julia.

Peck. Scratch. Cluck cluck sqweark! say the Australian public. And by public, I mean people who write in to newspapers and phone up the wireless to let us have a piece of their mind, which usually is in pieces.

Consider these (poultry) missives:

Jade of Brisbane complains that: “The $1000 payment was given to far too many people. I know several people that have gone out and bought new TVs because they drove to a friends house then couldn’t get home for 2 days because roads were blocked. It’s a joke.”

Yep. And the joke’s on you.

not impressed of brisbane writes: “These idiots (govt) build homes in flood prone areas and then expect me to pay for their poor planning….unbelievable.”


Brax rages that: “…now I have to pay a tax for having the foresight to live on a hill & not on a floodplain or in a ditch!?!?! I find this offensive & outrageous. Whatever happened to natural selection & the survival of the smartest & fittest? No wonder the human gene pool is shrinking & the idiots are taking over.”

Yes, they sure are. Head for your hill!

jealous of QLD whines: “Wish I’d lost my power, I could have done with a quick overseas holiday paid for by the government… and I voted labor at the last election. Sorry.”

Tricked you!

And kevin marshall of woodridge fears that: “what now we going to have the 3 circus of Independent clowns with the biggesr leader bob brown sitting down for weeks desiding queenland flooded states future by a leavy”

Oh dear, kevin marshall of woodridge. Bob Brown is not the same person as Bob Katter. *Click*  But wait, Kevin’s not finished! *Brrring* “tell you one thing no matter how much i hatted the libs and howard goverment just wish thay were in goverment right now”

I hatted the libs too, Kevin. Thay we’re sux.  Sqweark!

What a cock a doodle doo. I’m off to take a dust bath.



One suitcase only, please

January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Attention travellers. Qantas is introducing valuable new customer service enhancements to its baggage check in system.

Currently, economy class flyers face a weight limit of 23 kilograms on their baggage, with the possibility of being slugged $10 a kilo for extra weight, if the check in staff don’t like the look of you. It doesn’t matter what you do with your 23 kilograms.

There is also a rule about how big your bag can be. In theory, your suitcase’s combined length, width and depth can only total 140cm. In practise I have not seen this enforced. If they did, passengers would be limited to a suitcase measuring 60cm x 50cm x 30cm. That’s a pretty small suitcase. I have one. I can get it in the overhead locker.

Alternatively, you could always travel with a much larger (100cm x 40cm) piece of cardboard.

Now all that is about to change. Now the system cares about weight and volume and (drumroll) QUANTITY.

Meaning that if I was, say…

A furrie*.

And I was transporting three small suitcases, each containing a four-kilogram animal suit, under the previous system that wouldn’t cost me anything. The system didn’t care about volume, only weight. But under the new system each bag after the first costs an additional $30. Thirty dollars for the persian cat, sixty dollars for the grizzly bear, ninety dollars for the french poodle and so on.

And don’t think you can mince and purr your way around the ground staff. Because a computer has been brought in and the computer will say Oh No You Don’t.

It makes sense really. A baggage handler can only steal one bag at a time. Possibly two, assuming he has two arms. Because he is a thickset man, the weight of each bag means little to him other than higher resale value. But it takes three times as long to take six suitcases off the automated baggage handling system and put them in your mate’s truck than it does to take two. And time is money, friends. And Qantas loves money. Your money.

Good luck with your packing.

By the way, this new system commences on 1 June. In the meantime, I am heading out to buy the biggest suitcase I can find, and a new wardrobe made entirely of feathers.

Bon voyage.


* I am not a furrie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Some kind of cake

January 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Presenting my Lemon Yogurt Syrup Cake!

Er, my Ricotta Lemon Yogurt Lime Syrup Cake!


Okay, so I had two recipes and not quite the right ingredients for either, but I came up with this:

Yes, it sunk. I blame the heavy syrup.


“A major catastrophe is unfolding”

January 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

On 15 December 2010, in horrible weather, a Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel (SIEV) smashed into rocks on the north-west coast of Christmas Island.  Forty-one men, women and children were saved. At least twenty-eight died.

The official “internal review” on the tragedy was released today.

ACV Triton and HMAS Pirie were the two Customs and Border Protection vessels at Christmas Island at the time. But they didn’t just have one boat on their hands.

They had four*.

ACV Triton was already carrying 108 boat people from two boats – SIEV 218 and 219 – discovered near Ashmore Reef, while HMAS Pirie was guarding the hulk of SIEV 220 whose sixteen passengers and crew had already been transferred to Christmas Island.

Those dangerous conditions included 40 knot winds, overcast skies and rain, and a 3-4 metre swell that effectively had the island in a lock down. Nothing can land at Christmas Island in this weather. Not aircraft, not the monthly supply ship, not the muscly and experienced Australian Customs vessels, and certainly not a broken-down wooden boat from Indonesia.

Why wasn’t SIEV 221 noticed earlier? And why did it take an hour and a half to get a rescue vessel over there? There were a few reasons:

  • The time of day. It was very early morning. The boat came to Christmas Island under cover of darkness.
  • The weather. There was no aerial surveillance going on. Border protection “intelligence” was aware of SIEV 220, already at Christmas Island, and what later became known as SIEV 222 in the vicinity of Ashmore Reef. SIEV 221 simply…slipped through the net.

    ACV Triton and HMAS Pirie were taking cover from the melee over on the eastern side of the island, doing the best they could to protect their own vessels, crew and passengers (ACV Triton was itself carrying seventy per cent more passengers than it was designed for) while juggling the hulk of SIEV 220. Neither vessel was actively monitoring radar at the time and if they had been, it would not have seen through the landmass between them and the stricken boat. In fact, most people were still asleep when SIEV 221 was first spotted by a Customs officer on the northern edge of the island at 5.40am. The wooden boat – officially named a “Contact Of Interest” – was about 600 metres off shore.

  • The protocols. As a response properly, but agonisingly slowly, shifted into gear, it gradually became obvious that the boat had no power and was drifting towards the rocks. At 6.16am, when the boat was less than 100 metres off shore, Customs and Border Protection at Christmas Island phoned Canberra (Canberra! Five thousand kilometres away!) to announce that “a major catastrophe is unfolding”.
  • The technical issues. HMAS Pirie was deployed to the scene, about a thirty minute journey around the northern perimeter of the island. Incredibly, she broke down, causing a delay as engines were restarted. Inflatable boats were sent ahead.

At 7.05am the rescue and recovery mission began. SIEV 221 had been on the rocks, and its inhabitants in the churning water, for twenty-five minutes.


*A further three boats, SIEV 222, 223 and 224, were intercepted within a week of this tragedy.

What do we do? What can we do?

May the lost, brave refugees of this storm rest in peace. And may the survivors find new hope here.



Park bench dining #1

January 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well look what’s in my lunch pail today. Tuna wrap with Spanish onion, a pile of crispy salad and a trickle of mayonnaise. It demanded that you undress it by tearing away its dainty white paper underthings. So good I almost wanted to eat the brown paper bag as well. And it’s Rorschach-like face makes it almost therapeutic, don’t you think?



Watch the dam movie

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, in the whole month of January, the city of Toowoomba expects to receive 60mm of rainfall. In the first sixteen days of January 2011, Toowoomba had recorded more than 400mm. All that water (and that was only a little bit of what fell on South East Queensland) had to go somewhere.

The historical graph of dam levels at Wivenhoe shows that, whenever the dam exceeds “normal” full capacity – ie 100% – water is released. But in that fateful week, the dam rose from 102.4% on Wed 4 Jan, to 148.4% on Mon Jan 10, to 188.5% on Thu 13 Jan. The natural deluge that caused all hell to break loose happened on that Monday. One analyst is asking why the dam levels weren’t lowered by then – nearly a week after full capacity had been reached. A few days later the dam was at dangerously high levels and very near to exceeding its flood compartment and triggering its own safety valves.

You don’t want a dam in charge of itself.

All this reading about how close Wivenhoe Dam came to losing it has got me thinking:

Is it time for a dam disaster movie?

How’s this pitch? A huge city toils 50 kilometres (okay, miles) downstream from its massive water supply. Greedy developers have crammed dwellings on every square metre (er, foot) of riverfront land. Millions of people go about their daily lives largely unaware of the dam’s existence. The dam’s engineers are first pumped, and then increasingly nervous, as extraordinary rainfall upstream takes the dam to alarming levels. Eighty, ninety, one hundred per cent of capacity, and then some, filling the built-in overflow capacity. A hundred and twenty, one-fifty, one hundred and eighty per cent. There are signs of strain in the two kilometres (miles) of spillway and billions of cubic metres (feet) of concrete and earth holding it back. A warning light here. A crack there. A black needle in the red zone. But the mayor, and the premier (governor), with their fingers deep in the lucrative, watery foundations of the city, don’t want to hear about it. There’s a once in a lifetime storm coming. Cue the catastrophe…

Anyway, here’s to Wivenhoe Dam and its amazing ability to keep 2.6 million megalitres of water behind a concrete wall.  And may the frightening, tragic, brutal and downright messy events of January 2011 never happen again.

Except in a cinema near you.


Flip me over, push me out

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I’m reading about tumble turn technique. Wouldn’t you love to be able to do the perfect tumble turn? I would. It seems like such a great way to combine grace with power. I want some of that!

There are a few obstacles I need to cross though.

One is that you need a certain amount of speed to the wall, to give you the momentum in the flip. This is a challenge in itself. Unfortunately the flip turn happens at the end of each lap, when you are most fatigued and out of breath!

Another is that you need to keep your arms out of the picture. When you commence the turn, they should be down by your sides. The trick is to leave them in that position so that when you roll over they are now over your head and ready to streamline away. Beginners (like me) try to use their arms like paddles.

Finally, you have to leave the twist until your turn is fully complete. Flip straight over and push off face up, then roll into position as you streamline off the wall.

Right. Should be easy. Will report back.


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