Saturday, 29 March 2014

My Thoughts on Industrial Relations

Industrial relations has been a thorny subject ever since the industrial revolution over 100 years ago. Working conditions in the first ever factories were absolutely terrible. Workers would be abused underpaid, blackmailed and dismissed on a whim. The working environment was also incredibly dangerous and bad for your health.

It wasn’t long until unions were formed to fight for worker’s rights. It was a long battle but eventually the workers won. Since then unions have been forever vigilant to protect their hard won gains. It is now very difficult for governments to change industrial relations laws without mass hysteria. But I do think there are a couple of things that could be improved without impacting the rights of workers.

I think our current system is way too complex - almost too difficult for an ordinary person to find the time to learn and comprehend it. On the employer side it is even worse. Workers have a large number of entitlements such as superannuation, holiday pay, sick pay, long service leave and then there is overtime loading, time and a half on Saturday and double time on Sunday. They have got awards EBAs - it goes on and on.

I firmly believe workers are entitled to fair work and conditions, but there is absolutely no reason why our system has to be so complex. For example maybe they could change entitlements and put them all in one package add it into superannuation and allow people to draw down a percentage of their super every year or not. This will also stop employees from losing all their entitlements when a company goes bankrupt.

Also maybe they could simplify penalty rates. I don’t think it is particularly fair when a business gets a new employee the business just happens to have a free shift on Sunday this employee ends up being the best paid worker in the business as the award states that work on a Sunday is payed doubletime. Maybe they could partially eliminate permanently rates and raise the amount that all workers are paid.

I also have an idea to simplify the tax system by scrapping tax brackets and instead of having a tax curve. At the moment tax brackets are arbitrarily selected. Instead I would replace it with a tax curve this could be created by an algorithm you just punch in the amount of money you earn and it calculates exactly how much tax you should pay. I also think that people who earn ridiculously absurd amounts of money should pay more tax than they currently do.

Governments need to also stop punishing those on government benefits such as disability pensions when they work. If someone on a disability pension earns more than $156 a fortnight they lose 50 cents out of every dollar earned after this figure. This means that pensioners pay a higher equivalent tax rate to Gina Reinhart - what is the point in looking for work? The government needs to reduce this equivalent tax rate to be the same as the bottom bracket 19 cents in the dollar. This would cost the budget initially, but would probably pay for itself as more disabled people enter the workforce.

Friday, 28 March 2014


The recent incident where Newcastle Knights player Alex McKinnon suffered a serious spinal injury illuminates a serious problem with rugby league. It seems no matter how many times league players are told not to ram opposing players heads into the ground it still happens again and again. The players would think “it could never to me” this opinion is only confirmed when players walk from similar tackles. But every time a tackle like this occurs there is a massive risk of a serious life destroying injury. Alex McKinnon will be lucky if he can ever walk again.

I have spent the majority of my life in an electric wheelchair. All you people, who have the ability to walk take it completely for granted. The human body is incredible it allows you to travel almost everywhere that you can see. It makes me despair when I see people throwing away the gifts that they have. It is just so easy to become disabled - it can and does happen to anybody. A couple of simple precautions and using your brain can prevent a crippling injury from ever occurring.

I think the NRL needs to greatly increase the punishments for this kind of tackle. A two-year ban I think is reasonable. Two years that’s nothing - Alex McKinnon will probably never play league again and could be crippled for life.

A few simple precautions are things like getting vaccinated. Going to the doctor when sick. Wear safety equipment and use your judgement when playing dangerous sports. Have good personal hygiene. Don’t drive like a maniac or while drunk. Don’t do super dangerous, stupid, unnecessary things like climbing Mount Everest.

It angers me so much when I see such public examples of human stupidity.

Thursday, 27 March 2014


I watched Equilibrium last night. Equilibrium stars Christian Bale and was released in 2002 to widespread critical condemnation. The movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by a fascist dictatorship. In an effort to prevent war everybody is forced to take a drug called Prozim that eliminates all emotion. This premise is basically an excuse for ultraviolent gunfights with a pinch of Kung Fu. However Equilibrium has a number of important messages - it is much deeper than your usual action movie. The violence is intimately connected to the message being delivered.

People don’t seem to like or understand movies that work on multiple levels. Starship Troopers is another example of this. This movie was an adaption of Robert Heinlein’s book of the same name. Unlike most adaptions it ridicules the source material delivering a completely opposite message than the book intended. It criticises commercialism, propaganda and fascism while masquerading as a brainless science-fiction action movie.

Another, one of my favourite movies that falls into this category is Hudson Hawk. This movie mushes together several genres: musical, comedy, action, adventure and crime. It has the most amusing bad guys you will ever see. It’s a great movie, one that I judge the quality of someone’s character by. If you like this movie, I like you.

I don’t really understand why these films are so underappreciated. I don’t think people like movies that forced them to think or deliver the unexpected. They just wish to sit in the cinema turn their brain off and munch popcorn. Sad really.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Desktop War

I love my desktop computer and it is probably the most expensive thing I own. I love working on my computer and of course playing computer games. As far as I’m concerned the desktop shits on all other gaming platforms. Last year I wrote an article defending the desktop computer - it didn’t seem to work.

Ever since Apple released the first iPad people have been rabbiting on about the death of the desktop. Meanwhile what are they using to write these articles - a desktop.

A new trend is appearing with many corporations trying to put the desktop out of its misery. Recently Facebook killed Facebook messenger for Windows and they did not even bother creating a messenger for Apple Mac. Microsoft released Windows 8 wholly embracing the “tablet revolution.” It seems the only operating system that really supports the desktop is Linux.

Thankfully, there are a number of counterrevolutionary forces. There are many games developers that create Linux versions of their games just in case Microsoft suddenly try to kill the desktop. Chris Roberts the developer of the Wing Commander series is creating Star Citizen a desktop only game funded through kickstarter.

The desktop will not die, so please stop trying to kill it.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

You Are Right George

Over the last few days Senator George Brandis the Attorney General has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest with proposed changes to Australia’s anti-racism laws.

At the moment it is considered an offence to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate people on basis of race, religion, skin colour, ethnic origin etc. The proposed change removes the words offend, insult, humiliate while keeping intimidate and adding vilification - making hate speech or encouraging others to hate an offence.

According to George offending, insulting or humiliating people is an unavoidable repercussion of passionate debate and I agree with him. The law as it stands is way too broad which leads to it never being enforced. Removing those words and adding vilification will actually strengthen this law.

The other important thing that this change does is to protect our freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is far more important than people’s hurt feelings. I have had lots of controversial debates about politics, religion and all other subjects. Occasionally, people have taken offence, accused me of insulting them, even humiliating them.

I once knew a Mormon who had the mistaken belief that their church believed that homosexuals were evil and it was their duty to hate them. I had a chain of arguments with this person and even though I was an atheist I was able to convince her that her church actually had a much softer official line towards homosexuality than she believed. It was a great relief to her because she didn’t ever want to hate anybody. Now if I hadn’t been able to risk offending her or insulting her religion I may not have been able to get through to her and give her the advice she needed and eventually welcomed.

Our country continues to have problems when it comes to race. Look at the life expectancy gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australians or the way that asylum seekers are treated. Laws that could possibly stifle debate are just plain stupid and counter-productive. There are debates on race that we need to continue to have if we are to fix the problems our country has. Some people will be offended, insulted maybe even humiliated. Unfortunately, that is just life.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Rules Are Made to be Broken

No I am not an anarchist (am I…?) I am usually a law-abiding citizen, but when a law is outdated stupid, ineffective, unfair or counter-productive I feel a certain duty to break that law.

For example the copyright on movies and TV shows is enforced. We have to wait months or maybe even years to legally watch some series and then have to pay large fees for the privilege. We also have the knowledge that many of our friends in other countries are already legally watching these programs.

There is no fairly priced, easy and legal way to have access to some of these programs in Australia. If the producers and distributors of these products had any brains they would have created a system for anybody on this planet to have fairly priced access to them years ago. In a case like this where people are faced with such inequality and unfairness it is understandable that piracy is a crime that almost all Australians have committed.

Another example of silly laws is drug policy. A number of drugs primarily marijuana I believe should be fully legalised and then taxed in a similar way to cigarettes. This would give farmers a valuable new crop to grow and provide a major new source of revenue for the government. It would also remove massive amounts of capital from criminal enterprises. At the moment marijuana is in a sort of legal no-man’s-land where the laws are very rarely enforced and only for major traffickers or producers. Everybody, that wishes to smoke marijuana already does.

It is far more preferable to have the money spent on purchasing this drug in the hands of farmers and government rather than criminals. Our current laws only force people who wish to use this drug to consort with criminals. Some of these drug dealers no doubt sell more harmful, addictive, hard drugs as well. The only argument against legalising marijuana seems to be, “but that will mean that we are condoning it.” This is just a stupid emotional argument with no basis in fact or logic. Compare it to cigarettes which have always been legal, but nevertheless the tireless effort of the medical community and government have drastically cut the smoking rate. I also don’t need to mention the horrendous unintended consequences from alcohol prohibition in the US.

Another major problem with our laws and criminal justice system is that people seem to be detained on an arbitrary basis and not on how much of a threat they are to the community. Child molesters, rapists and other violent criminals I believe should be held in jail on the basis of the chance of reoffending. People who have not committed violent crimes and/or first-time offenders are not a risk to the community should not be in jail. Instead they should be made to perform community service to use their talents to pay compensation to their victims or to benefit society. The current system is basically a university for criminals, turning adolescent mistakes into a career criminals.

Three word slogan time:

Abbott fix it!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Paint.NET Review

I have been looking for a replacement for Photoshop for years. I got addicted to it when I was doing my multimedia course. Photoshop is way too expensive even though it is the best. was created by Rick Brewster for a computer science student project at Washington State University. It was developed as sort of a super Paint for Windows and is programmed using the .NET framework. It was then released as open source in 2004. Since then the various releases have been open or closed source (something to do with plagiarism according to Wikipedia). It is currently closed source, but under a freeware license. continues to be developed by Rick Brewster to this day. is an easy to use completely free photo editing program that does almost everything, layers, gradients, transparency etc. It has the support of a large community with lots of tutorials on YouTube. The community also develops plug-ins that can be used to increase the functionality of the program by adding effects or support for other file formats. has more plug-ins than I have ever seen in any other program.

After installing it is a good idea to download some plug-in packs and fonts. is available for Windows (sorry Apple(actually, I'm not sorry)) from their website:

Other useful links:

Plugin Packs I advise getting Red ochre and pyrochild's plug-in packs to start off with.

K163 Paint.NET Tutorials

5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


The reason why I haven’t been feeding my blog lately is because I have been a bit sick. The other reason is that I am working on a website for a new business I am starting.

I decided to use WordPress and alter a theme enough for look like an original customised website. WordPress is an open source content management system originally designed to create blogs. Lately it has become a fully-fledged content management system. It has a large and active community behind it and for these reasons I selected it.

The issue was, many of the themes were needlessly overcomplicated and were designed to work in the maximum number of circumstances. I also hadn’t realised how much WordPress has evolved over the years since I last used it. Altering a theme turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. I have also forgot a great deal about making websites - it’s not like a bike apparently.

So I started creating my own theme inspired by my blog. It is a very simple theme - it is a series of translucent boxes. Then I found another problem it is surprisingly difficult to get translucent web page elements to behave properly. Although the solution was rather simple. It is actually now possible to make translucent colours on webpages. I will be writing another article about what I have learnt.

I shall return!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Banner Saga - Review

The Banner Saga is a turn based strategy game with RPG elements. The game has a very nice cel shaded look and the classical soundtrack is amazing. The game takes a non-linear approach to storytelling - you play different characters at different times. It also takes a new spin on turn based strategy. You have up to 6 characters on the field at one time and you take it in turns to move your characters as in a chess game. This really deepens the strategy. It means you have to think and plan your moves carefully in advance.

The storyline is great, the characters are real and they are well developed with flaws and everything. It takes place in a Viking inspired world in a mediaeval fantasy setting. You may be thinking ‘sigh, another one of these,’ but this game is not what you expect. It is very different from the usual fantasy game. The story follows two groups travelling through the winter on foot. One group is human and the other Varl - a race created relatively recently by a now deceased God. A third race called the Dredge are the enemy. This game has a mythology all its own. I can’t say any more without ruining it. Unfortunately, the story is a little short. It is possible to finish it in a matter of hours. It is almost a hybrid computer game-comic book.

Now, I bought this game a couple of months ago, but it would not work on my computer after I downloaded it. It is a new computer with a great graphics card and freshly installed. Then I tried it on my laptop and it kept crashing randomly every time I entered a loading screen. I tried playing it all week on my laptop and eventually gave up out of frustration. When I went back to my PC it suddenly worked again - I don’t know if they patched it or what. So, if you don’t have money to burn don’t buy this game as it might not work.

If you ignore the bad points or have a spare $15 you are willing to lose buy it and play it. I do not regret playing this game. Lots of other people feel the same way as The Banner Saga gets 80/100 on metacritic. I am really conflicted about recommending this game and I really shouldn’t be. If the developers had just taken a little bit extra time and done more testing I would not hesitate to the recommend it.

3 out of 5

The Banner Saga is on sale on Steam Right now.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Democracy in Trouble: Part III, How Can We Fix It

Part I, The Economy | Part II, Our Rights | Part III, How Can We Fix It

So, we despise our politicians and they aren’t doing a very good job. I think the problem with governments throughout the world is that they seem to have forgotten what their purpose is. A government should be an entity that solely exists to serve the people. It is also to provide stability and to ensure that we have the maximum amount freedom without unduly taking away the freedom of others.

Lately governments have forgotten this. They seem to have grown an ego. The government seems to think that we are ignorant children that need protecting. The people that make up the government also think it is a game. Just look at the stupid crap that goes on during question time not to mention all the backroom shenanigans.

This is a serious problem. Let’s take one example. I’m not entirely sure whether the Abbott government have succeeded in “Stopping The Boats” after attaining power because of government secrecy on this issue, but let’s just assume that they have. Just imagine that, back in 2012 Tony Abbott and the Liberal party had foolproof way to “stop the boats” and to prevent mass drownings. Now the Labour Party are using a number of policies in an attempt to stop the mass drownings at sea, but failing. What should happen is they ask the Liberal party to help them create a bipartisan solution to the issue. Both parties work together share ideas and finally come up with a solution together that saves lives.

Now of course this isn’t what happened. Instead Abbott carried on about how our government is an adversarial system and it is not right for both sides to cooperate. It would also hurt him politically to share his secret plan before he won the next Federal election. Gillard on the other hand was very reluctant to work with the Liberal party because it would also hurt her politically. Politicians are willing to put people lives above petty politics. It’s both pathetic and disgusting.

Another big issue is the complexity of our society. Over the past 30 years the complexity of our society has increased to a ridiculous extent. In the 16th century it was possible to literally know everything. When our current governmental system was developed society was far simpler. They could play all their silly political games and it didn’t take a large amount of intelligence to govern those societies.

With the Internet, instantaneous global communication and the expansion of the financial sector has meant governments need to make more, and more complex, decisions, in shorter periods of time all while managing the media and more.

I believe this has led to the development of political doctrines that are more in line with religious beliefs than sound management. There are a number of these: the devotional attachment to budget surpluses, the belief that taxes should never be raised no matter how far the budget is in the red, introducing more mandatory sentencing, national security is sacrosanct - telling a government to stop spying on their own people is heresy. Drugs like marijuana could never be legalised as it would “send the wrong message.” Decisions are made for arbitrary or emotional reasons with the zeal of the Spanish Inquisition.

This could be very difficult to fix. For starters we need to make sure that our politicians know we want petty politics to stop and we want our politicians to the right thing and govern. Forget the 24 hour media cycle, forget the nanny state. I think that governments should also have a panel of experts as their cabinet. Have economists, scientists, doctors etc. in cabinet. We want decisions to be made on a scientific basis rather than on emotional ones.

Maybe we can also set up experiments to test certain laws and to determine any unintended consequences. Set up a floating city as an experiment - people could volunteer to live there and different laws could be tried and government types could be tested.

They could also learn from the mistakes and successes of other countries. Our leaders need to be more scientific in the creation of legislation. Only introduce new laws that have been proven to work. Eliminate laws that are stupid, obsolete or counter-productive. They could also try to make things simpler such as cleaning up the taxation system and getting rid of the mountains of red tape. Remove artificial barriers in our economy.

In the future we can develop new forms of government appropriate for our time, rather than the 19th century. Direct democracy is where everybody gets a say on legislation through the use of referendums. There is also open source governance which would manage decisions using social networks and other technologies. Maybe a combination of the two? Further into the future we could create an artificial intelligence to act as a benevolent dictator. Of course there would be an off switch…

Our leaders should be people that we can respect. They should be trustworthy and competent at their job. Politicians have forgotten they are not to our betters - we don’t need protecting from ourselves. Dispense with this nanny state “it might send the wrong message” bullshit - we aren’t children. Stop wasting taxpayer’s money on crap. I also want projects on a national scale that can fire the imagination.

Most of all, I want leaders that will stop acting like childish idiots and lead.

Russia Bad, USA Good?

A friend of mine, who thinks a little bit differently than I do, expressed a certain admiration for Vladimir Putin. I responded rather rudely.

But it set me thinking… Contrast Putin’s Russia with the US under Obama and George W.

Putin uses assassination, I am also sure the Russians use harsh interrogation methods, put people in prison unfairly or without trial and they probably spy on their own people. There are also doubts over the veracity of Russian electoral results. They also invade other countries for reasons the rest of the world is sceptical of.

Putin is evil, but what about the USA?

Under the last two administrations, the US has used assassination, locked people up without trial, spied on their own people, invaded other countries to protect their “national interests” and they use torture. In the US there are no limits to the budget that people can use to fuel their election campaigns.

Large corporations and billionaires are able to ensure the people they want are in power. This is a problem because the people that fund election campaigns wish to get a return on their investment. If American politicians don’t do right by their benefactors they won’t have any chance of winning the next election. For this reason I don’t really consider the United States a true democracy. An elite group have enormous amounts of power while ordinary people don’t have any. There is also one law for the rich and another for the poor, just look at what those criminals on Wall Street got away with.

Russia and the USA sound pretty similar to me. Good and bad are relative, apparently.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Alas, I am ailing!

I haven’t been blogging for the past week because I have been sick. I had two minor surgical procedures last week. I also had a chest infection plus a mystery virus and I ended up in hospital for a couple of hours. It takes a lot to take me down apparently.

I’m feeling a lot better and I am currently working on a number of blog posts for next week.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Things That Drive Me Nuts - Global Warming Deniers

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former - Albert Einstein
What a sad, and true, indictment of our species. Now let’s get one thing straight. This argument is not an argument, it is finished - my side won many years ago. Not just my side, the side of science, of logic, of reason and plain old garden variety common sense.

Over the years I have written many articles about this topic arguing with a smaller and smaller and nuttier minority. Now, because I have already won this argument many times over, instead of continuing the argument and getting a headache I will point out in the simplest possible terms the stupidity of global warming denial.

For this article to work I need to clarify a few terms. I will be talking specifically about anthropogenic climate change, that it’s us humans that is causing the warming of the earth.

The original climate sceptic believed the climate was just following its standard cycle and that we are due for another ice age. The other studied recent records that showed the world was slowly getting warmer and at the current rate another ice age was not on the horizon.

Back then there was a somewhat valid argument between both sides, comparing geological records, ice cores, growth rings in old trees to the atmosphere and temperature today. Most of these people saw the evidence of anthropogenic climate change and accepted it.

Meanwhile in the lunatic fringe they used a number of different methods to support their denialist agenda.

1. Cherry picking data.

This one is a favourite among non-scientist deniers such as Andrew Bolt. This simply involves grabbing any graph showing global temperatures over say a 20 year period. Then all you do is arbitrarily mark a spot on the graph (usually 1998) then you find another spot down the other end of the graph that was a particularly cold year and draw a line between both points.

Instantly you have “proven” that the world is getting cooler and that we should invest in some warm clothes because an ice age is just around the corner. I have seen many graphs like this and most of them actually show a positive trend if you ignore the arbitrarily selected points.

How a graph with a trendline is supposed to work is that you ignore the highest point and the lowest point and then draw your trendline. This is used to eliminate aberrations in small sample sizes. Deniers generally use old graphs because the latest graphs are completely an undeniable with a positive trend even without eliminating any of the points.

Another favourite trick of the cherry picking variety is to find a particular glazier in Upper Bumfuck that is growing. You can ignore every other shrinking glazier or ice cap because this one is getting bigger.

2. Misrepresenting the way science works.

Science can be a dirty business. Science works by creating a hypothesis that explains how a particular observation occurs. It is very difficult if not impossible to prove that anything is true; instead you create experiments to test your hypothesis. In other words you are trying to break your theory. If your theory survives experiment after experiment, if multiple scientists have tested the theory repeated your experiments and created their own - only then do you start to create a consensus.

In an industry where you are trying to prove everybody wrong it can get quite nasty. Competition for grant money also increases the friction. There are also egos that that grow or get damaged in the dog eat dog world of science. There has been incredible rivalries in science such as the battle between Sabin and Salk when developing a vaccine for polio.

This can make it easy to represent science as some sort of evil dystopian bureaucracy. Oh look at these two scientists they hate each other’s guts - their science must be biased. Or they say Science is about the truth, how can these two scientists disagree if it is the truth? There is a Variant of this Used by intelligent design proponents called Teach the Controversy.

3. Ridicule.

This one is insidious and nasty. This has been used for many years by some of the more nastier scientists. The idea is if you can’t think of an experiment to disprove a rivals theory you make them and/or their theory a laughing stock in order to discredit them and hopefully their theory. There have been many very talented scientists over the years who have had their reputations tarnished to such an extent that they could not continue in their work sometimes with tragic consequences. Some even have their theories stolen by rivals.

Usually ridicule isn’t quite this nasty and the form that worries me at the moment is Snarky named PDF documents that are sent around to try to convince the uninformed that humans are not causing global warming. The tone is a bit like this:

Recently the sceptics have changed “theory” to something that, in their minds, is only slightly less ridiculous. Yes, global warming is happening, but humans are not responsible. Yay! The deniers have finally accepted the inevitable... Hang on a minute…

You don’t think this is having an effect on the planet?

Then what about this?

Even when every glazier has melted (except the one in Upper Bumfuck), the ice caps have gone and somebody has moved polar bears from the North Pole to the south resulting in the extinction of several penguin species and a LOT of very hungry bears, snow no longer exists, Greenland is an exporter of wheat and the face of the earth is unrecognisable because sea levels have risen. Even then, some people will deny that humans were responsible for destroying the earth.

Here’s a song to lighten the mood: