Wednesday 27 October 2010

Mission: Failed

That's right, just one book into my attempt to read all the books in my library, I've fallen and I can't get up. Walking past the newsagent yesterday I saw a book, a beautiful book, with a good weight to it and the promise of more beauty inside, and made an impulse buy. I was out the door before I realised that I wasn't supposed to be buying books any more.
The book in question was called "A Historical Atlas of the World", and features many thousands of maps of various places at various times. I'm not utterly convinced that it's well executed, but it's an idea that's always fascinated me. I won't add it to the reading list (it's a reference book, reading it throuhg would take a while), but I will probably post on it some time, because I just can't resist a good map.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile IX: Pin the Tail on the Country

While Michael5000, is still pretending that he's not writing quizzes, but is instead concentrating on dorkfest, this antipodean blog is providing an antipodean alternative.

Sorry for the interruption to our regular service, the internet is not always our friend. This weeks quiz is not a happy camper, thus we bring you what was to be next week’s quiz. This quiz will test your geographical knowledge and also how much you’ve been paying attention for the last few months. All you have to do is accurately position each of these Australian locations according to the grid. Each point correctly placed will earn you 5 points up to a maximum of 120, and odd numbers of correct answers will be rounded up the nearest 10 points, thus you need only 23 out of 25 to score full points in this admittedly difficult challenge.

In which location on the grid are these national landmarks?

1. Sydney: Capital of New South Wales, largest city in Australia, holder of the 2000 Olympics, and perennial winner of the most famous city award. First landing place of James Cook in 1770.
2. Melbourne: Capital of Victoria, second largest city in Australia, holder of the 1956 Olympics, and perennial coveter of the most famous city award.
3. Canberra: National capital city, a planned city made the capital because Sydney and Melbourne couldn’t decide who was more important.
4. Brisbane: Capital of Queensland. I need to go back there and have a look sometime.
5. Hobart: Capital of Tasmania, Australia’s Apple Isle.
6. Adelaide: An oasis of class and sophistication in the midst of a world gone mad.
7. Perth: Capital of Western Australia. Like Adelaide, but prettier and further away.
8. Mt. Kosciusko: The tallest mountain in Australia, it’s generally pretty cold.
9. Uluru: Monolith and perennial winner of the most recognisable landmark award, to the chagrin of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
10. Lake Eyre: Australia’s largest lake, generally dry, home of the exceedingly optimistic Lake Eyre Sailing Club.
11. Alice Springs: Central city most famous for its Todd River Race, the boat race that was cancelled in 1993 because for the first time in 50 years there was water in the river.
12. Hutt River Principality: Famous micro-nation in regional WA, ruled since 1970 by Prince Leopold, yet unrecognised by the Australian government.
13. Broken Hill: Mining town that should be familiar to returning quiz participants.
14. Ballarat: Victorian mining town that was the centre of Australia’s first gold.
15. Poeppel Corner: Point in the Simpson Desert that marks the boundaries of 3 different states/ territories.
16. Cairns: Tropical tourist city and gateway to Cape York.
17. Town of 1770: Location of Cook’s second mainland landing. Now a tourist town operating cruises on amphibious vehicles.
18. Pt. Hedland: Australia’s largest port, servicing the booming WA iron mining industry.
19. Great Victoria Desert: A great big patch of emptiness. It’s not in Victoria.
20. Big Desert: A small desert, by Australian standards, just north of Little Desert.
21. Hamilton Island: Biggest of the Whitsunday islands in the Great Barrier Reef.
22. Rum Jungle: Australia’s first uranium mine, appropriately named after an alcoholic beverage.
23. Eucla: Little town in the middle of the Great Australian Bight. Famous for being in the middle of the Great Australian Bight
24. Cape Grim: Site of the massacre of as many as 60 aborigines by 4 shepherds after the tribe drove a flock of sheep off a cliff. Locals used to call the area Victory Hill, but the name was changed for some reason.
25. Kakadu National Park: World Heritage site and home of some the most famous rainforest and waterfalls in Australia.

Spin around three times and leave your answers in the comments.

Monday 25 October 2010

Read: Worth the Wait

I haven't done any writing on a large scale (more than a couple of paragraphs or a bunch of dot points) since high school, and boy-o can you tell. Since the idea of this blog was to get back into the habit, I'm releasing this anyway, after weeks of trying and failing miserably to improve it to some kind of readability. You have been warned. Rest assured that I am suitably embarrassed and am taking any steps I can to return my writing quality to its former glory.


Inspired by a terrifying list of books to read and the South Australian Redbacks participation in the Champions League Twenty20 last month, I sat down to read Worth the Wait, an autobiography by much-loved former redbacks captain and all-round nice guy, Darren Lehmann.

Before we get started, it's worth mentioning that Darren Lehmann was a childhood hero of mine, the implacable rock in a South Australian team that, more often than not, much more often than not, turned out to be full of nothing else but sand. I'm also a big fan of autobiographies, having had my thirst for the first-person narrative inspired by the wonderful Harpo Speaks, so I knew what I was getting myself in for.

Like the Redbacks Champions League campaign, though it looked a bit rough around the edges, it was off to a promising start. The depiction of a young Lehmann and his sudden rise from local, to grade, to state cricket had just as much promise as the Redbacks downing of the local favourite Highveld Lions by 11 runs. The writing certainly let a few go through to the keeper, and there were a few false starts, but it was a good solid victory and something to build on for the rest of the competition.

Anecdotes from his early life in the South Australian team, his double life as a hot-shot middle-order batsmen by weekend and a factory worker in Adelaide's disreputable Northern suburbs during the week were all top notch and blended together to give the book a flying start, like the Redback's excellent opening partnership in their second game against the high-profile Mumbai Indians. But I had the sinking feeling that the enthusiasm being put into this part of the competition meant that it couldn't possibly last.

Then came the crescendo, the fight with the Bangalore Challengers for the top spot in the group, the 1994/95 South Australian Sheffield Shield and Lehmann's One Day International career. Sure, we won, but it could have definitely been portrayed...better. The way it was all glossed felt like it was just a prologue to something more, something just around the corner where all the actual meat in the book was going to come, where we could really let our batsmen off the leash to play all the big shots and score a massive victory.

Only, it never came. For Lehmann, the focus of the book was his playing for Australia in Tests and the tragic death of David Hookes, his mentor and the undisputed King of South Australian cricket, in a bar-room brawl. Like South Australia's game against Guyana in the Twenty20, there was a lot of build up and a lot of excitement, but unlike the earlier sections it didn't get the audience involved, and generally involved some pretty sad cricket. There were some fun little anecdotes about the other members of the Australian team at the time, but nothing worth reading the whole book for.

The aftermath, of course, is tragic. For South Australia, they were knocked out of the competition in the semi-final by the Warriors, who went on to lose to Chennai in the final. For Lehmann, this book was written during the tour of Sri Lanka in 2005-06and ends with a little note of hope for his career in the future and prospects as a leader in the Australian team he'd fought for so long to get into. Little did he know, but he had just 6 tests left in his career before he was unceremoniously dropped, never again to wear the Baggy Green.

So, Worth the Wait wasn't, but it was probably worth the $8 I paid for it in a buy two, get one free deal. I'm glad it wasn't ghost-written, since it was at least genuine and heart-felt, but when you wade through a book like this you can see why ghost-writing is such an important part of the industry.

If anyone is interested in owning it, perhaps in the vain hope of finding out a little about one of your favourite cricketers through the eyes of one of mine, I'd be happy to post it to you, as I don't feel any particular need to keep it in my collection.


Favourite Quote:
Glenn McGrath is a pest...You will be sitting there minding your own business and suddenly a sugar sachet will be emptied in your hair or a feather will be tickling you behind the ear and you think it's a fly. He basically gets bored very quickly and takes it out on everyone else. It must be a fast bowler thing because Merv hughes used to do exactly the same thing.

Page 123:
Gone are the times when you would start enjoying the first beer five minutes after the last ball was bowled. Now there are ice baths, warm-down sessions, all stuff I have to say I don't enjoy because the ice baths are too bloody cold!

Reading Project Status
Read: 1/74
Australian Ratio: 1:0
Next Up: Songs of the Dying Earth, G.R.R. Martin et al.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Wednesday Quiz VIII: Ministers Prime

Michael5000, internationally renowned for his famous Monday, Wednesday and Thursday quizzes, is taking a well-earned break from quizmastery, so I’ve taken up the reigns to provide a season of one-eyed quizzes from a flawed Australian perspective.

You have been provided with the portraits and brief biographies of twelve famous men. All you have to do is identify which of the twelve have been Prime Ministers of Australia and which have not. The bios are all accurate, except that titles have been changed in some of those that have not been Prime Minister to make it look like they have. Identify the furphies to score points towards winning the grand prize, and please avoid collaborating with others or researching the topic, as parliamentary censure and penalties for high treason will apply.

Was this man an Australian Prime Minister?

1. No list of Australian politicans would be complete without Harold Holt, the Liberal most famous for his disappearance while swimming in 1967 after just 22 months in the top job after more than twenty years of experience as a government minister. Whether abducted by Chinese submariners or simply swept into the Pacific, Holt's (alleged) death left an impact on the minds of all Australians, which is more than can be said for his government, which increased Australia's involvement in Vietnam, following the infamous "All the way with LBJ" policy.

2. Despite his republican leanings, an unpopular position during and immediately following the first world war, Warren Harding, former teacher and newspaper baron began his ill-fated Prime Ministership in 1920 with 61% of the vote, which was at the time the largest ever margin in a national election, on the back of policies of isolationism and nationalism (and helped by an insider’s knowledge of the press). His government reduced post-war unemployment by 10% and established good relationships with many countries (with a distinct pro-American stance), but Harding died suddenly in 1923, and in the wake of his death came allegations of corruption and bribery amongst his cabinet that shook the establishment and resulted in his lasting unpopularity even into the present day.

3. Universally loved in the North and universally infamous in the rest of the country, Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier of Queensland from 1968 to 1987 before his incredible “Joh for Canberra” campaign in 1987. His government promoted huge industrial growth, particularly in Bjelke-Petersen’s home state, and was later found to have accepted large bribes in return for government contracts for a number of projects. When Bjelke-Petersen was prosecuted for perjury in 1993, the jury was deadlocked, though allegations of jury tampering were rife. When Joh was knighted, his wife (a sitting federal Senator famous for her pumpkin scone recipe) became the Senator Lady Bjelke-Petersen, which I find inherently funny. (What do you think, Aviatrix? Would “Senatrix” be appropriate in that situation just to prevent the horrible dual title “Senator Lady”?)

4. In a life straight out of a Broadway musical, John Gorton was born the illegitimate son of 'Alice Sinn' in 1911, travelled to England an graduated from Oxford in 1932, was shot down over Singapore at had his face crushed when he crash-landed upside-down in 1942, became a Liberal Minister in 1958, resigned in 1968 to contest Harold Holt's newly vacant seat, and became Prime Minister 20 days later. He was PM for less than a year before losing an election, being sacked by his own party and replaced by Malcolm Fraser. He remained an MP until 1975, and reportedly detesting being in the same room as Fraser until he died in 2002.

5. The first Prime Minister to be born in Australia, Isaac Isaacs sat in the first parliament in 1901 as a minister in the Barton government, but his perceived aloofness and unpopularity amongst his fellow politicians meant it would be a long time before he took over as Prime Minister thanks to the support of Labor heavyweight James Scullin in 1930, when Isaacs was already 75 years old. After leaving office in 1936 after a wave of support for Joseph Lyons’ United Australia party, he continued public life as a prominent constitutional law expert and a leader of the Jewish community in Australia. Isaacs was an outspoken opponent of Zionism until he died in 1949, and never saw Israel become a sovereign nation.

6. After studying at Cambridge and practicing law in London, Stanley Bruce joined the British Army and won the Military Cross and Crois de Guerre for his actions in France during WWI. After being injured in 1917 he travelled to Australia and was elected to parliament in 1918 and appointed Treasurer in 1921. He became Prime Minister of a coalition government with the Country Party in 1923, the first PM not to have been a member of the first parliament in 1901. A strong advocate of the White Australia policy and monarchist, he led the Nationalist Party until his defeat and loss of his parliamentary seat in 1929, a feat not to be repeated until John Howard also lost his seat of Bennelong in 2007. He helped found the United Australia party in 1931 (rumour has it that it would have been the ‘Bruce Party’ but Joseph Lyons switched the name at the last minute).

7. Born in England in 1865, George Windsor served in the Royal Navy before travelling to Australia in 1901, and rose quickly to preside over the first majority government in 1910. Despite his high popularity his leadership was marked by his declining health and Joseph Cook rose to PM after just over two years, but his tenure included many reforms of parliamentary process, international relations and vast restrictions of the power of the European aristocracy. A strong and outspoken monarchist, he played an essential role in the establishment of the Statute of Westminster (he would later be played by David Troughton in the award-winning Australian TV series, All the Kings Men) and he retained a strong political influence behind the scenes during WWI and right up until his death in 1936.

8. Joe Clark, who also began his professional life as a journalist, was prime minister for only 9 months in 1979-1980. Sandwiched between two extended Liberal party terms, his government was defeated in a no-confidence motion in early 1980, ending the leadership of Clark, still the youngest-ever PM in any Commonwealth country. A repeat-offending politician, Clark returned to politics running for and winning the seat of Kings-Hants as a “Progressive Conservative” candidate in 1998 and holding it until as recently as 2003. He currently lives in Canada since being assaulted in the street after admitting to being a former prime-minister.

9. A keen debater with a vicious sense of humour, George Reid was a Scottish immigrant who became the first opposition leader and eventually prime minister as head of the ill-fated "Free Trade" party, and practiced privately as a lawyer the whole time to supplement his income. In between, he resigned his seat in Sydney, then won in back in the subsequent by-election as a kind of private referendum on his system of equal voting electorates. After the free-trade party lost power (they instituted trade tarriffs, which gave them little support from their voting base) in 1905 he re-named it the "Anti-socialist party", and remained at its head until the formation of the Commonwealth Liberals. He resigned again in 1909, and his seat was left empty until the 1910 election (possibly to prevent him standing and winning at a by-election yet again).

10. A consummate politician, Andrew Peacock became president of the young liberals in 1962 and president of the Liberal Party of Victoria in 1965 before inheriting the seat of Kooyong from Sir Robert Menzies in 1966. As Minister for Territories in 1972 he played a crucial role in the establishment of Papua New Guinea as an independent nation, but he became infamous for his affairs (particularly his relationship with Shirley MacLaine) as Minister of Foreign Affairs (hurr hurr) under Malcolm Fraser, which may well have contributed to his surprisingly high vote in the 1984 election against Bob Hawke. His government was unable to pass much legislation due to an opposition Senate. It couldn’t last, and after a long series of in-fights leading up to and following Hawke’s 1987 landslide the Liberal leadership would change from Peacock, to John Howard, back to Peacock, to John Hewson, to Alexander Downer and finally back to John Howard in 1995. Peacock retired from politics in 1994 and became Ambassador to the US in 1996.

11. One of only two state Premiers to become PM, Joseph Lyons left state politics to enter the federal arena, then quit the sitting Labor government in 1931 and joined with the nationalist party to form the United Australia party and become leader of the opposition. He became PM in 1932 (the 3rd ex-Labor MP to become PM in another party). His government supported the League of Nations and was extremely pro-British interest, and Lyons was a successful leader, leading the UAP to three election victories. However, as the situation in Europe worsened in the late 20's, Lyons, a pacifist, died of a heart attack (the two may not have been related, who knows?). His widow, Dame Enid Lyons, became Australia's first woman MP in 1943 and served in the Menzies ministry, and both his sons would go on to serve as ministers in Tasmanian parliaments.

12. Last but certainly not least, when Gough Whitlam became leader of the Labor party in 1967, Labor hadn't been in power since Ben Chifley's popular wartime government was voted out in 1949. Labor finally returned to power in 1972, in an election campaign in which Whitlam was told to stop humiliating his opponents, as the population was feeling sorry for them, but they, fatefully, failed to secure a majority in the Senate. In the first few weeks of his government, Whitlam used the power of the Defence Minister to exempt people from conscription to exempt all Australians, opened diplomatic relations with China (and close them with Taiwan), removed tax on contraceptives, placed sanctions on South Africa and Rhodesia and recalled all troops from Vietnam. He was famously removed from office in 1975 by the Governor-General and replaced by Malcolm Fraser when the Senate failed to support his supply bills, causing a constitutional crisis unparalleled in Commonwealth history.

Please leave your answers and domestic policy recommendations in the comments.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile VII: Information is Beautiful

It should come as no suprise to you that this week's Wednesday quiz is about Australia. This week we're looking at a range of different Aussie information through a medium very dear to my dorky little heart. Graphs. All you have to do is identify what the graphs represent to score points for your team and the admiration of the nation. Whoa! Whoa! (sorry, Football joke) If you could refrain from skewing the data collected by introducing factors outside of my control such as google, friends and family or other people's answers that would be better for all involved and for the scientific method in general.

Indentify the graph.

1. What's this map stolen from our friends at wikipedia show?
2. What does this graph represent?
3. What does this graph represent?
4. What does this graph represent?
5. What does this graph represent?
6. If Australia is the blue one, what does this graph represent?
7. If Australia is the blue one, what does this graph represent?
8. What does this graph represent? (And for bonus points, what specifically does the blue bar represent?)
9. What does this graph represent? (And for bonus points, where does Adelaide fit on this graphic?)
10.What does this graph represent?

Leave your answers in the comments. Remember to label appropriately and include margins of error.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

In my usual fashion of taking credit for things I had very little or nothing to do with, I think it's probably worth mentioning that two of my friends announced their engagement last night. This would not normally be remarkable, after all it seems that half the people I know are suddenly getting married at the moment, except that it turns out that I introduced these two back in the deep dark depths of time when we were all back in university. Truly, I had no idea that introducing pancake girl and the blob would lead to marriage, but I can't help feeling more than a little bit proud.
So here's to you, blob, and to you, pancake girl, and to an exciting future.
My ego stirs me to point out that my record is pretty good so far, and that I have my little bottle of sulphur and some woodchips ready, and that all you single friends of mine are more than welcome to turn up to my place for my weekly dinners. You never can tell, and at least you'll be fed.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile VI: Wealth for Toil

Some good things come out of the ground, and Australia has more than its fair share. This week's quiz celebrates the mineral wealth of Australia, all you have to do is use your problem solving skills and geographical knowledge to identify the mineral described in each question without looking them up or talking to others, offences punishable by being left in one of my many local abandoned mine shafts overnight.

What mineral is that?

1. Fittingly, considering that Australia produces 97% of the world's supply, this gemstone is the national stone, found primarily in Andamooka and Coober Pedy in South Australia, and Lightning Ridge in New South Wales. Deposits have been discovered on Mars, but the large transport costs for Martian varieties should ensure that Australia continues to be the major source for the discernable future.

2. This map (courtesy of the Department of Mining's snazzy Australian Mine Atlas, which is good for a look after you've finished the quiz) depicts historic mines of this mineral in green and current mines in red.

3. Australia has the third biggest deposits of this valuable gemstone in the world, after Russia and Botswana, and just before the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

4. Australia is the biggest exporter of this resource (clocking in at a massive 25%, or 278 million tons in 2009), which is mostly sent to China, the biggest producer, to fuel their energy needs.

5. Again from our friends at the department, this one represents mineral deposits of which metal?

6. One of the earliest resources discovered in Australia, this element was mined extensively in the mid 1800's in the South Australian towns of Burra and Kapunda, but is now found mostly at the Olympic Dam mine and in the Western Queensland city of Mt. Isa.

7. This is NOT a picture of myself and my brother (but it would have been if I could find it in time) that was taken a number of years ago in Ruby Gap, Nothern Territory, where the rivers flow literally red with gemstones. When news of this miraculous occurence got out, it caused the Australian "Ruby Rush" in the latter part of the 19th century, and thousands of people left their homes and travelled north. Too late, it was soon discovered that these were not rubies but are actually which comparitively worthless stone?

8. Australia is the biggest producer of this ore of aluminium, producing more than twice the amount of any other country. Australia's deposits are found mostly in the extreme South-West of Western Australia and in the extreme North of Queensland and the Northern Territory.

9. This is a panorama (courtesty of our friends at wikipedia) of Broken Hill in New South Wales(the Hill itself was mined out of existance almost completely decades ago), the world's largest single desosit of galena. Once home of BHP, the world's biggest mining company, the mine was once open-cut but is now entirely subterranean. Which three minerals are predominately found here?

10. This timeline depicts Australian production of what?

Please leave your answers in a carbon-neutral fashion in the comments.