Apr 25
icon4 Apr 25th, 2012 | icon2 Bric-a-Brac | icon35 Comments »

OK, so I had to move everything to a different server and managed to lose the last post – coincidence as it’s ANZAC Day today – as well as my so-called “Reading List” which thankfully I also have in a spreadsheet.

The Snubian blog is like the thylacine, not officially extinct but there haven’t been any recent credible sightings. Please stand by for a new and (I know this is difficult to believe) even better thingy.

Au revoir.

Aug 13
So You Think You Know How to Vote?
icon4 Aug 13th, 2010 | icon2 Bric-a-Brac | icon3Comments Off

So there’s an election coming up in a week’s time. Maybe this is the first time you’ve voted, maybe you’ve been voting since Harold Holt was a nipper. But do you really know much about the voting process? It’s surprising how many people are under strange misapprehensions about how their vote will be distributed and counted. First and foremost among these is what I will now call …

The “preference myth”:

The political parties make preference deals and can distribute my vote any way they want to.

So many people believe this is the case, but it is most definitely not true!

When you walk into a polling booth you can be certain that only you can decide who gets your vote. Let’s look at the ballot paper for the House of Representatives:

You can see from the instructions that you need to number every box. Maybe you like Candidate D the best, so he or she gets a “1″, but you still have to put numbers in the other boxes, in the order you like. These are your preferences. Your vote will be distributed according to the order in which you number the candidates. Nobody else has any say in it! (There is one possible exception to this when voting for the Senate, see below.)

But what’s all this stuff you hear about parties making preference deals? All this refers to is how each party or group will choose to order candidates on the “how-to-vote” cards that they will distribute at polling booths. You know those annoying people who want to hand you a wad of papers as you walk in to vote? All those ex-trees they are handing you are how-to-vote cards.

Here’s how it works: parties make agreements with other parties about the preferred ordering of candidates, then they publish these on a how-to-vote card and try to force it upon you as you arrive at the local primary school gates on election day. And that’s the beginning and end of it! In this great and democratic country of ours you are of course under no obligation to follow your favourite party’s how-to-vote card, you can vote any way you want.

Here’s a quote from the website australianpolitics.com which neatly sums up the whole “preference deal” malarky (note the section which I have emphasised):

Decisions about preference allocation are made by the political parties, sometimes after negotiation and agreement with other parties, but there is no way of enforcing these agreements other than by issuing how-to-vote cards.

I suggest you now take a few minutes to watch an excellent short video by the Australian Electoral Commission which explains beautifully the process of counting votes for the House of Representatives using the preference system (it may take a few seconds to load).

If you enjoyed that video, you can try this one about the counting of votes for the Senate. It’s a little more complicated but worth watching. Trust me, you will learn a lot in just a few minutes!

If you just watched the Senate video, you’ll see what I meant earlier about an exception to the rule that “nobody else has any say” in your vote. When voting for the Senate you have two choices as to how to place your vote. Let’s look at the ballot paper for the Senate:

You’ll see there are two sections, “above the line” and “below the line”. If you vote above the line, then you must only put a single “1″ in the box corresponding to your preferred party. If you choose to vote above the line, then (from the AEC website, my emphasis):

By casting a vote this way, voters are allowing the order of their preference to be determined by the party or group they are voting for.

So you see, only in this particular case can someone else decide your preferences for you. The party to whom you give your “1″ vote above the line may get to ultimately determine who gets your vote. But even so, each party must have lodged what is called a “group voting ticket”, a written statement which clearly lists each party’s preferences. These group voting tickets will determine the order in which the AEC will allocate “above the line” votes. In effect, you are voting for which group voting ticket you want to be used to distribute your vote.

(Importantly, all group voting tickets are available at polling booths on election day. So even if you choose to vote above the line, you can request to view your party’s group voting ticket at the polling booth, prior to casting your vote.)

Better still, you can choose to vote below the line in the Senate. If you do this you must number every candidate in your preferred order, just like the House of Representatives ballot paper. Sometimes the Senate ballot papers can be enormous, so this may seem a daunting prospect, but if you want to remain in control of your vote this is what you may choose to do.

So there you are. Your vote is your vote, end of story. Ignore all the crap you hear about “preference deals” and most importantly ignore ridiculous headlines such as this:

THE preference deal between Labor and the Greens has injected a radical new note of uncertainty into the election campaign, says Tony Abbott.

What bollocks! Number every box on election day!

Spoken by Snubian
Authorised by Snubian
Snubian Party
May 16
It’s a Small World After All
icon4 May 16th, 2010 | icon2 Bric-a-Brac | icon3Comments Off

Heard yesterday on the radio as Jessica Watson sailed into Sydney Harbour:

“I’m sure Jessica’s knockers have been put right in their place.”

Good to know.

The first circumnavigation of the globe is usually credited to Ferdinand Magellan, although he was killed in the Philippines midway through the journey. His expedition, led by Juan Sebastián Elcano, went on to complete the round-the-world voyage, arriving in Spain in 1522. The first Englishman to achieve this feat was another name you might’ve learned in primary school: Francis Drake. He did it in 1580.

The first solo sailor to make it round the world was the Canadian Joshua Slocum, who completed his voyage in 1898. Slocum’s method of navigation was “dead reckoning”, which involves estimating your current position based on your previous position and taking into account a guesstimate of your speed, direction and elapsed time. (It’s believed that certain animals, including ants and rats, use a version of dead reckoning to return safely to their home after a foraging expedition.)

“Around the world” in yo-yo terms means to fling the yo-yo outwards and then, with the yo-yo at full extension, to have it spinning in a wide circle to the side of your body. Don’t do this in front of a mirror or large glass window.

Apr 29
I Don’t, I Don’t, I Don’t
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I recently discovered, to my amazement, that it’s perfectly legal in Australia to marry your aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or cousin.

The Marriage Act 1961 SECT 23B specifically defines a “prohibited relationship” as being with a descendant or ancestor, or sibling. So you can’t marry your grandparent, parent, child, grandchild, etc. And you can’t marry your brother or sister (even adopted and step-children are considered blood relatives for the purpose of marriage, so Woody Allen would be out of luck here*). And that’s it. Everyone else is up for grabs.

Of course, all this assumes you are of the opposite gender to the close relative you wish to marry. The Marriage Act 1961 SECT 5(1) defines marriage as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. As you would be aware, marriage between same-sex couples is not legal in Australia. But you can marry your uncle Rodney. That is pretty fucked up. (To all my gender-reassigned readers, you will be pleased to know that you can legally marry as your reassigned gender, thanks to the successful case Re Kevin in the Family Court in 2001.)

Aside from the “yuckiness” of marrying a close blood relative, there is the issue of increased possibility of genetic disorders in any children that are produced. It’s for this reason that I’m surprised that marriages at first cousin level or closer are not banned. (Apparently the US is the only country to outlaw cousin marriage). In general, the Australian marriage restrictions as described above are typical of those in most Western societies. A few countries are even relaxed enough to decriminalise incest – Belgium, for example, where the age of consent for incestual sex is 16.

So, if there’s an aunty or nephew you’ve had your eye on, go for it!


* This refers to Woody Allen’s marriage in 1997 to Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Allen’s long-term partner Mia Farrow and Farrow’s previous husband André Previn. In fact, Soon-Yi Previn was never legally adopted by Allen. It was probably that Allen had known Soon-Yi since she was 10 years old, and the 35 year age gap, that led many people to think this was a tad creepy.

Dec 27
Christmas Craziness
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Well, our Chrissie was a good one, got lots of nice pressies, ate lots of nice food, and so on … but our quiet little corner of the world had its share of newsworthiness on Christmas Day.

You may have seen on the news that a guy was shot by police following a neighbourhood dispute in Lisarow, which is our suburb! And it happened just a stone’s throw from Rach’s mum’s house, which is a bit scary! The police had the road blocked yesterday, and there were journos nosing about getting quotes from the neighbours for the evening news. On the same day a woman was hit by a van while walking on the footpath just a few streets away from us. And to top it off, a guy was bitten by a shark at Avoca Beach, our latest favourite swimming spot!

Apart from all that the day went fairly smoothly. I was lucky enough to take out the Annual Christmas Day Family Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament – my second win in three years, to blow my own trumpet!

The last two days I’ve done not very much apart from eat leftovers and read my book while keeping an eye on the Boxing Day Test Match. Go Pakistan!

Nov 27
Ticket to Ride
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I’m sure I’m not the first person to do this, but I’m going to rant about Ticketek for a few minutes.

We decide to go to the cricket in January, so I sit down at my computer, open up a web browser and connect to the Ticketek website. My eyes are instantly assaulted by so many animated images, scrolling text boxes and overlapping advertisements (no, I don’t want to buy a Robbie Williams T-shirt) that I have to look away.

Gritting my teeth I turn back to the screen and type “cricket” into the keyword search. A few mouse clicks later and I am looking at the ticket selection screen. There are no less than 8 ticket price categories to choose from. We are keen to sit in the upper level of the Brewongle stand, which is in the “Gold” category, so I select “Gold” and continue by hitting the button which reads “Get Tickets!” (Sounds promising, right?)

I am looking at a different screen now. The only options I have are to select a Price Category and number of tickets required. I dutifully select “Gold” from the drop-down list and press “Continue”, knowing that this will get me nowhere. And sure enough, the tickets it wants to give me are in Bay 16-1, in the concourse below the Victor Trumper Stand.

I try to reason with the computer. “But we don’t want to sit there,” I say, “we want to sit in the Brewongle Stand.” It pays me no attention.

Of course I knew all along that this would happen. I knew that the Ticketek website (or “web-shite” – hey, is that a new word?) is woefully inadequate. It is impossible to choose the seats you want. All you can do is specify how many tickets, and in which price category, and the website selects the “best available” seats that meet your requirements. It then gives you precisely 8 minutes to decide whether you want to keep the tickets or not. A photon travels from the sun to Earth in that time, although whether this is relevant I am not sure.

I certainly did not want to keep these tickets, so I hit a button that says “Remove”. Rather than taking me back one step to the ticket selection page, it kicks me way back to the home page, perhaps trying to twist my arm on the whole Robbie Williams T-shirt thing. Fuck you, Ticketek.

OK, to the Bat Phone! But nowhere on the Ticketek homepage does it give their call centre phone number. I had to click on a button that says “Agencies” to find it, in text about 2mm high.

Like many customer service telephone systems these days, my call to Ticketek begins with a computerised conversation which tries to narrow down what it is that I want. The theory behind this is that, unlike humans, computers can deal with thousands of customers at once, are cheap to operate, and don’t need to go to the toilet or down to the street for a quick fag.

My new computer friend started by asking a vague question about what sort of event I was interested in. Wanting to be as non-confrontational as possible, I said ”cricket”.

Based on the subtleties of my verbal response, and through a series of complex algorithmic processes, the computer system was clever enough to understand immediately that I was interested in purchasing tickets for a match in the forthcoming 2009/10 summer of cricket. But it needed more information.

There is a whole slew of cricket being played this summer. Six different competitions in fact. I know because the computerised voice read out all six and asked me to repeat exactly the one that I wanted to attend. And the options weren’t short either. They were things like “Pizza Hut Under-12 Sheffield Shield Alcohol-Free Victor Chang Fundraising Gala 20/20 Match at North Sydney Number Two Oval on February 13, 14 and 16″.

It took more than a minute for the voice to say all six. By the time it got to the end all I could remember of my desired option was “International Cricket Season”, so I said that. There was a brief pause, then I could’ve sworn I detected something like a computerised tutting, as if to say “You weren’t listening, were you, dickhead?”

The computer read the six options a second time and I wrote down word-for-word the one I wanted: ”The International Cricket Season 2009/2010 in Sydney and Adelaide”. I repeated it carefully and in a voice reminiscent of Laurence Olivier as Hamlet.

A sigh of relief from the computer – no need to repeat those options yet again – and I went on to the next step: choosing a date. This was a piece of piss by comparison and so just a few seconds later I was on hold, waiting for an operator (a human!) while listening to a rather fetching piano piece which looped every 37 seconds. And there I sat for 30 minutes. I reckon I could play that piano piece by heart.

Anyway, this long story has a happy ending. I spoke to a nice young lady whose name escapes me, she quickly verified that the information I had earlier given to the computerised lady was accurate, asked me a few more pertinent questions, and before I knew it I was $204.50 poorer. But I had two tickets in the bloody Brewongle Stand!

If it rains on 4th January I’m going to kill someone, I swear.

Nov 13
Tooth Hurty
icon4 Nov 13th, 2009 | icon2 Bric-a-Brac, Memories | icon3Comments Off

What’s the best time to go to the dentist? (See the title of this post for the answer.)

So I had a wisdom tooth pulled out yesterday. Upper left. It had been giving me gyp for a few weeks, nothing too bad though. Nowhere near as painful as when my other wisdom tooth went to the dark side, a year or so ago.

Let me digress for a moment by saying that I am not a big fan of going to the dentist. This probably goes back to when I was in primary school, when we used to have an annual event called a “Brush-In”. The Brush-In (presumably the name is in the vein of “bed-in”, “sit-in” and so on) was a kind of enforced, intensive tooth-brushing session, overseen by a crack team of dental hygiene professionals. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?


The problem was the toothpaste. They weren’t using no Colgate, let me tell you. This stuff was fucking disgusting. It was pink and gritty, and its smell alone was enough to send a kid running. The rumour in the playground was that if you should be so unfortunate as to swallow any of this rancid paste you would vomit uncontrollably until your body was purged of the vile poison.

The Brush-In could occur on any day of the year, and we were never informed in advance. It would simply be announced with little or no notice, and we’d be marched across to the toilet block where the Brush-In crew would be waiting. Every kid would be given a new toothbrush and a paddle-pop stick with a lump of the deadly pink goo. In groups of six we’d stand at the sink and brush away until our overseers were satisfied.

My next brush (pun intended) with the dentist came when I was 12. For some reason one of my front baby teeth refused to fall out on its own, and was beginning to look a little ridiculous. Mum took me to a dentist one day after school, and before having the offending tooth ripped out, I was forced to brush once again with the same pink gloop as I’d dreaded for so many years in primary school. Anyway, the tooth came out easy – it was loose anyway – and apart from the shame of walking around Woolworths with a mouth full of cotton wool while mum did the weekly shopping, the trip was a success.

It did, however, mark the beginning of a dental drought for me, as I wasn’t to go to the dentist again for more than 25 years.

Which brings me back to having my first wisdom tooth pulled out, which happened about a year ago. I won’t go into gory details, but it really hurt like hell, an abscess having formed under the decayed tooth cap. Luckily, Rach’s uncle is a top dentist in Newcastle (like me, he’s a proud Novocastrian) and he sorted me out nicely, got it out in just a few minutes without any pain, and the relief was blissfully instantaneous.

Yesterday’s operation was only slightly more difficult. The tooth itself needed a bit more coaxing out of its position, but now I have a nice big hole where the tooth used to be. Luckily, my teeth are generally pretty solid – no cavities, no fillings – so I’m going to see if I can’t beat my 25 year record.

Here is a video of some dude getting a wisdom tooth yanked. This dentist also works part time as a butcher. Don’t watch if you’re squeamish.

Jul 26
Lazy Sunday Afternoon
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I love Sundays. Mainly because the Sunday edition of the Sydney Morning Herald is delivered – occasionally to somewhere in the vicinity of our house, having been fired from a large catapult located at the SMH printing plant 70 km away in Chullora.

The first thing I look at in Sunday’s paper – after discarding the TV Guide and Domayne catalogue – is the “S” liftout. This is the section that takes us “behind celebrity lines”.

Today there is a special feature on Hollywood babe Katherine Heigl (great surname for crosswords, will have to remember that one). We learn that she is in fact much more down to earth than would be expected. Fancy that! She is also “disarmingly honest”. What tosh.

Turn the page and here’s an informative piece about Aussie model Annalise Braakensiek, who has just released a range of “eco” lingerie, made from Earth-friendly products including “organic bamboo”. Shouldn’t this be in the business section? Anyway, we get a pic of Annalise showing off one of her new bras, complete with provocatively raised arm and sultry stare. In the accompanying story poor Annalise despairs about having to attend modelling shoots where “I was wearing these beautiful garments but they only go up to a maximum D cup, and I’m an E cup. It was so frustrating”. I can imagine.

Next is the regular column “Date with Kate”, where somebody called Kate Waterhouse (anybody know who this person is?) has lunch with somebody equally as pointless. Today it’s Sophie Lavers, recently crowned as the somewhat oxymoronic “Miss World Australia”. The photo of the two dining out is uncaptioned, so it remains a mystery which is which. Perhaps we are just supposed to know, darlink. Among the startling revelations from the beauty queen are that her boyfriend of two years is named “Jack Pembroke-Birss” (sounds like an Austrian ski resort) and her biggest indulgence is … chocolate!

Then comes a few pages of tripe entitled “Party Animal”, in which A-list socialite and grade-A dumb mole Amy Cooper reviews the previous week’s party scene. Essentially, we get to track where Gracie Otto was 24/7 since last Sunday.

Ah, here it is!! My favourite piece of printed matter for the whole week (excluding the daily KenKen puzzle). It’s “Urban Style” by uber-wanker Fernando Frisoni. Let me explain this to you. Fernando ventures out into the mean streets of Sydney (e.g., Paddington … ooh! aah!) and finds stylish locals wandering aimlessly about. He then photographs them, dissects their fashion sense and asks a few probing questions.

Bullshit. What really happens is this. A selection of models are paid to be photographed in some non-descript Sydney street (probably in Strathfield) while wearing the most ridiculous clothes imaginable, by whichever local rag-merchants have slipped Fernando a bag of cash in the previous week. Names are then invented for these non-people, usually outlandish and double-barrelled, like “Sabrina von Film-Noir”. (I made that one up.) Some pretentious twaddle is written to accompany the picture, such as:

Sabrina von Film-Noir in Kings Cross wears skirt by sass&bide, top by Felix of Milan, retro sunglasses from a market in Caracas, and scarf from her grandmother’s wardrobe.
What music are you listening to right now? I’m really digging early Kraftwerk at the moment.

Well, after all that – and having done the two Sunday KenKens – I’m too tired to read the rest of the paper, which is pretty much all rubbish anyhow. It will sit in our retro ’70s magazine rack until Tuesday night, when it will be taken out to the recycle bin, perhaps to be later fashioned into one of Annalise Braakensiek’s eco-bras. Maybe I’ve got time for a snooze before tea.

May 14
Miss Communication
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Last night Rach made a yummy chicken curry. It was scrumptious! So this morning, in the car on the way to the train station, she asks me in a morning chit-chat way, “How good was that chicken curry?” In my head, what I heard was, “How good was that chick in Kurri?”

For a moment I thought, “When did we go to Kurri and what chick are you talking about?” before I realised what she’d said. This sort of thing is happening more and more often. Am I going senile? It was 6:40am after all.

P.S. For those that don’t know.

Apr 20
Pig’s Arse!
icon4 Apr 20th, 2009 | icon2 Bric-a-Brac | icon3Comments Off

Yesterday we went to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It was a lot of fun, we saw animal displays & woodchopping, ate too much food, and so on. One event, however, stands out above all others. I am talking about the racing and diving pigs.

I was very excited to hear that there would be diving pigs at the show. It has always been my dream to see a pig dive from a great height into a shallow body of water. And I have no ethical concerns – surely the pigs wouldn’t dive if they didn’t enjoy it, right?

Of course, human nature being what it is, the diving pigs are a huge crowd puller, and one of the most popular events at the show. Long queues form an hour before each exhibition, and in fact we were lucky to get in at all. The audience was crushed into the small arena. I sat cross-legged on the ground in the blazing midday sun along with dozens of others unfortunate enough to miss out on a seat.

Before the pigs came out to do their daredevil stunts we had to sit through the warm-up act. I forget the guy’s name now, but he was a somewhat grizzled singer-guitarist who chugged his way through a couple of toe-tappers (“See See Rider” and “Midnight Special”) with the aid of a backing tape. Talk about padding! I counted three separate guitar solos in the first number alone before I momentarily blacked out. I don’t want to contemplate how this guy feels when he looks in the bathroom mirror in the morning. “Is this what my life has become? Opening act for a diving pig.”

The racing pigs were next on the bill. A U-shaped sawdust track, about 25 metres long was the course for this display of porcine speed. Each section of the audience was given a pig to cheer for, so all my hopes were resting on Pig #1. After a poor start from his inside barrier, Pig #1 clung to the rail and hammered down the finishing straight to win by a snout.

The diving pigs were the headlining act, and so were last to perform. I’m sure the rest of the crowd, like me, were on the edge of their seat (those who were lucky enough to have a seat). Soon we would witness the absolute zenith of animal aerobatics, a plethora of pirouetting pigs, the Greg Louganis of the barnyard.

Let’s just say I was underwhelmed. Two pigs waddled out to the end of a gantry and tumbled into a small pool a few feet below. The first one looked decidedly freaked out by the whole affair, but the lure of food a few feet away was more powerful than its fear of a watery death. The second pig didn’t even pause before its jump, clearing most of the width of the pool in one leap.

Exciting as it was, it did not live up to the blurb on the Easter Show’s website, which promised that Smokey the diving pig would jump from a “platform 4.5 metres high”. As you can see from the video below, the platform is barely above head height, and the pool is only a few feet below that. Those lying bastards.

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