28 February 2009

To Pay or Not To Pay -- Airline Toilets

There is one thing that seems to remain perpetually true of Ryanair, it is no stranger to self-made controversy or perhaps just brilliant self-promotion and marketing. The latest statement from Ryanair's CEO, Michael O'Leary, that future Ryanair passengers are going to have to pay for the pleasure of relief at 30,000 feet. The relief that O'Leary is referring to is certainly a new spin on the "mile high club". Yes, Ryanair has apparently been discussing, at least, internally the possibility of charging passengers for the privilege of using the toilet facilities on its flights.

This might seem an unlikely scenario. However, Ryanair has been the leader in ramping up their income generating capacity of services that have traditionally been free. More to the point other airlines have been following suit. Paying additional for in-flight food and beverage, checking a second bag, and online bookings, to name but a few.

There are a couple of realities in this proposal. First, and let's face it, if you gotta go you gotta go and when it is all said and done it is not like you have a lot of choices at 30,000 feet. It is not like you are going to be saying to the captain that you would like to pull over at the next set of public toilets. Second, the fees for cleaning up should one refuse to pay the toll for the toilet would probably mean that a pound or so to take a pee is probably worth it. Finally, this may in fact allow Ryanair to reduce their flight costs even further and there should be a reduction in ticket prices.

Yet, the flip side of this is that people would take a pee before boarding and then try and ride it out so to speak. This means that they would be less inclined to drink during the flight as a means of trying to eliminate the need to go.

To be honest, whether I had to pay a pound or not to take a pee in flight would not be a primary determining factor as to whether I would fly Ryanair or not. However, Ryanair is always good value for money in the sense that I really enjoy reading news about Ryanair whether it be publishing sexy calendars of the staff or thinking about charging passengers to take a pee. It is good to see a company that take the view that all news is a publicity opportunity to promote the product.

Nevertheless, I am wondering that if you have to pay to pee can you expect better and cleaner facilities?

27 February 2009

19 February 2009

Cartoons and Racism

The New York Post has published a cartoon that compares the first black President of the United States to a crazy chimpanzee that was gunned down by police after it had attacked a woman and allegedly tearing off most of her face. The caption to the cartoon reads "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." Now, it is widely known that President Obama was instrumental in getting the version of the stimulus bill that was eventually passed into the form that was passed.

It would seem that the caption is a clear pot shot at the president. I do not really care all that much for US politics, but I am a follower of events. After all, the US is supposed to be the leader of the free world, right? So, it probably pays to be informed.

It does not really matter what your personal views are on the stimulus bill and the policies being adopted in order to give effect to the provisions of the bill. Like it or hate it, the bill that is, is not what this cartoon seems to be about. To the contrary, there is a clear reference to the President and the reference is also that he is a maniacal chimp.

I really cannot work out how the New York Post cannot see the racial over or undertones to the visual provided. It is pretty clear and has been for some time that comparing black people to monkeys is not on and when it is done it should be labeled for what it is, racist.

I am not a big fan of political correctness, the idea of calling a person who suffers from cerebral palsy, physically challenged or a dwarf a little person or for that matter a black American an African-American seems to protecting sensibilities that do not need that level of protection. Nevertheless, that said, I am rarely in a group that is so labeled. Although, for those of you readers who know Indonesia and the term "bule" you might understand how it is to be labeled for the colour of your skin.

My old man is a Welsh man and I cannot recall ever calling myself Welsh-Australian. That is not to suggest that I am trying to hide my Welsh heritage or that I am not proud of it. I was born and raised in Australia and that is how I identify myself. But I digress.

The New York Post's editor-in-chief, Col Allan, sort to justify the cartoon in this way, "The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy." However, judging by the several thousand comments uploaded to the story as it was noted in the Huffington Post would tend to suggest that most people are finding themselves offended at the connotation.

My guess is that the New York Post is courting controversy and it seems to have found a good formula to do that, incorporating race into anything, but particularly politics, and to run the gauntlet of comparing the first black president of the US to a monkey must be called for what it is.

Thus endeth another RAB sermon.

Fatherhood at 13 -- Scam?

A sordid tale of underage sex, scams, and money has led some to claim that young Alfie (photo courtesy of AFP) is not the father of the child that many claim him to be. It seems that there has been an elaborate scam in play by the parents to extract as much money for the story.

It seems that the mother of the child and supposedly the girlfriend of Alfie is allegedly vastly more experienced sexually than the original story would have us believe. There have been at least two other teenagers who have come forward to say that they have had sex with Chantelle on numerous occasions. One of them is even claiming to be the father because the kid has his eyes.

This can all be resolved with a few simple DNA tests. One to either unequivocally validate Alfie's claim to fatherhood and the others to determine actual paternity if Alfie is not the man (or boy).

You have to admit that the story of a 13-year-old kid out spreading his seed at such a young age is a far more interesting read than some 16-year-old horny apprentice chef getting his girl pregnant.

18 February 2009

God Hates Australia 2...

I am not quite sure what Australia has done to offend the Westboro Baptist Church, but whatever it was it must have been good. My understanding is that Australia's biggest sin can be traced to a film about a gay cowboy played by the late Heath Ledger.

Anyway, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, Pastor Fred Phelps, has put out a video stating that Australia is suffering for its sins and that God hates Australia. He even suggests that he is hopeful that more tragedy strikes Australia and that the death toll from the recent bushfires in Victoria continues to climb. He is also praiseworthy of the floods in hoping that the death toll and destruction continues to rise on that front.

This man is a complete nutter. It is hard to take a Church seriously that maintains a website called www.godhatesfags.com.

I am sure others will have more choice words to describe his hate-filled drivel. I cannot, for the life of me, reconcile the idea of a vengeful Christian God that slaughters the innocent. Perhaps, I just expect too much from the Christian faith or I just do not understand religion in the same way as the Westboro Baptist Church.

Clearly just trying to ignore the Westboro Baptist Church is not working, they simply have not gone away. I guess this is the flip side of free speech and free expression.

17 February 2009

Facebook, Football, and Marriage...

It seems that people seem to think that they can flirt and cheat on Facebook and other social networking sites without being caught out, eventually. This is stupid! As it turns out a dispute about whether Manchester United or Liverpool is the better football team has ended up in the Manchester United fan being framed by his Liverpool counterparts and their Facebook interactions uploaded and displayed for the world to see.

Unfortunately, for the Manchester United fan his wife was able to follow the whole "affair" and decided to end the marriage. The Manchester United fan, Stuart Slann, drove some nine hours and 600km to rendezvous with a mystery woman named Emma that he had arranged to meet through Facebook. Emma, though was the figment of the rival Liverpool fans imagination and was designed from the outset to be a sting.

And stung Stuart was, game and marriage over.

The moral of this story ...

You can work it out!

Precocious Talent 2...

While I was checking out the rest of this kid's videos I came across my favourite the Mamas and the Papas tune, "California Dreamin'".

I am just amazed at this kid. I am sure there must be other talented young guitar players out there waiting to be found.

Precocious Talent...

I was actually playing around in You Tube looking for a Simon & Garfunkel video of "The Boxer" (which I found) and came across this kid, Sungha Jung, who has a stack of videos of him playing acoustic covers of some classic songs. Precocious talent might be a bit of an understatement for this kid.

If I could play the guitar half as well as he does then I would probably be twice as happy as he is. Awesome.

I am embedding a couple of my favourites. The first is a cover of "With or Without You" by U2 and the second is an amazing little cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry".

Enjoy this kid's talent!

Is this kid good or what?

16 February 2009

Facebook, Suppression Orders, and Arsonists

Facebook and other social networking sites are more prevalent than ever and in most instances groups that spring up on these networking sites are hard to regulate other than for the owners of the sites to delete the groups as they appear. There might be some free speech issues here that I am not going to go into in detail. There are also some big picture issues with regards to how we view matters such as a fair trial, innocent until proven guilty, and the like.

This is the case after the recent spate of deadly bush fires in the southern Australian state of Victoria. Some of these fires are alleged to be deliberately lit with the aim of destroying property. The police made an arrest and there was an immediate suppression order slapped on the identity, address, and image of the alleged arsonist. A magistrate has since lifted the suppression order on the publication of the alleged arsonists name, Brendan Sokaluk, but the suppression order remained with respect to his address and image.

Nevertheless, the publication of his name meant that somewhere someone would know who he is. As soon as his name was published two Facebook groups were created publishing both his address and image. The man has been remanded in custody, and by all accounts is in protective custody in order to protect him from others that might be inclined to do him harm.

Interestingly, aside from the arson causing death and intentionally starting a bush fire charges, the man has been charged with a child pornography possession charge. It would seem that the police have found evidence to suggest that aside from a penchant for burning things, he is also into the collection of kiddie porn. Strange bedfellows, arson and child porn.

The problem with the Facebook groups is that they violate the suppression order. It is not a difficult argument to make that the Facebook groups would fall under the suppression order even if Facebook is not considered to be traditional media. If this was indeed to be made out then Facebook might find itself in contempt of court as the publisher, along with the author. And, the lawyers would undoubtedly be arguing that their client cannot get a fair trial because of the exposure.

I can understand that people need to vent their anger after such a tragic loss of life and property. However, in the aftermath I would also imagine that people would like to see justice done, and perhaps not vigilante justice, but that kind of justice that sees the perpetrator do the time for his crimes. If this is the case, then it is a risky proposition to breach the suppression order. Sometimes we just have to have faith in our judicial system that it will work and work well.

15 February 2009

Madonna -- Art or Porn?

This post contains a full-frontal nude photo of a 20-year-old aspiring singer, Madonna. If the nude form offends you then do not scroll down and look at the picture at the bottom of this post. You have been warned! If you scroll down, look, and then claim to be offended, it is your own fault!

I am sure that at some point most young artists starting out in the entertainment world reach a point where they need to make ends meet and get them that little bit closer to their dream.

Madonna is no different in that sense, except perhaps that she went on to live out that dream. Nevertheless, as a 20-year-old artist looking to make ends meet as she traveled on her way to super-stardom, she answered an ad for a nude model and was given the job.

The photos have appeared in Playboy Magazine in 1985 and all but one of the photos were sold in 2003. The current photo, was expected to fetch a price of up to USD 15,000 at auction. However, the photo sold for a respectable USD 37,500.

Nevertheless, as the title suggests, I am wondering when something stops being art and becomes porn or is it always art no matter where it might have appeared in the past? I am sure the photo falls foul of Indonesia's pornography laws, yet should it?

Maybe this post is just an excuse for me to post a gratuitous full-frontal nude of a 20-year-old Madonna. Then again, I might be serious when I suggest that there is a need for greater debate on the subject of art and porn. Either way, if you are offended by the naked form, my apologies!

Is this art or porn? You be the judge.

14 February 2009

The Fate of the Free World and a Blackberry

I am sure that there are good reasons for President Obama to want to keep his Blackberry handy, like keeping in contact with his kids for example or texting Hillary Clinton that the bombing of Iran is an option or similar things. The mere fact that the President is going to continue to use it is tantamount to being a red rag to a bull. Every hacker worth their salt is going to be trying to crack the "big one". Fox News is referring to it as the Holy Grail.

The free world can rest assured that the device must have the best encryption available to human kind loaded onto it. Nevertheless, that is always the challenge that hackers face. So, why should hackers not go after the Presidential Blackberry?

I am sure if you crack the thing and then get found out you will be in for a world of hurt. Nevertheless, your reputation and legend will pretty much proceed you wherever you go. Kevin Mitnick, once acclaimed as the world's greatest hacker, did five years in prison for his hacking activities, but nevertheless seems to think it possible and that a sophisticated hacker is in with a shot at getting in.

According to Mitnick, the weakness might not be the President but rather the circle of people that he communicates with. They presumably will not be as encrypted as the President and therefore seeming more vulnerable to attack.

So, the innocuous SMS of "Dad, where is this secret service dude that is supposed to be picking me up from school" from one of his kids might be just the entry point a hacker needs.

The reality is that now that it has been publicly declared that the President is going to continue to use his Blackberry that there are armies of hackers and code breakers sitting in underground caves in China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, among other locales, all tasked with a solitary mission, hack into the Presidential Blackberry.

I wonder what the threat is like. Is it conceivable that the fate of the free world can be compromised by the use of a Blackberry?

The mind boggles.

A Parent at 13-Years-Old...

This particular story out of the UK might have many saying WTF and others simply shaking their heads or others, like me, trying to remember back to when I was 13 and wondering whether this was an outcome I was thinking about.

This is a story of little Alfie Patten, who at the tender age of 13 has managed to get his 15-year-old girlfriend pregnant. Not only did he get her pregnant, it seems that there was a conscious decision to have the child.

Now, I will be 39 this year and I am currently enduring the challenges of fatherhood with our firstborn. I would not say that I am struggling, to the contrary, I am loving it. Nevertheless, I am wondering how well equipped a 13-year-old father and a 15-year-old mother are to be facing these challenges.

By all reports, young Alfie is seemingly a natural and really good with babies. At 13 I would be suggesting that young Alfie is still pretty much a baby himself. However, the pair seem to have the future all mapped out. This includes sharing some of the parenting duties with the baby's grandparents. This is supposedly going to facilitate the pair staying in school and then making the most of their abilities in providing for the kid. Although Alfie seems equally at home with PlayStation and X-Box

The case is an interesting one. It is without a doubt a case to which local social workers will be paying a lot of attention to. Interestingly, the police investigated and decided that it was not in any one's interest to prosecute. This is probably so. A rape charge would seem pretty difficult to sustain and that would leave something like child neglect as a possible charge. Child neglect would also be pretty hard to sustain, unless of course the burden is on the parents to chain their children to the bed.

Let's face it, if the parent(s) have already discussed the "birds + bees" with their kids and the kids go out and do the deed, then really have the parents been neglectful or have the kids just been kids and ignored their parents advice and now have a serious set of consequences to deal with?

It is now that the recriminations will start. Who's at fault? Where did the system fail? Who should pick up the tab on this one?

I do not know that this is indicative of a crumbling social norm in Britain or anywhere else that teenage pregnancies occur. What it is indicative of is a need to reassess whether the idea of abstinence is a sustainable one. Perhaps greater emphasis and more serious levels of sex education (personal development training if you prefer) is necessary in schools so that youngsters are forewarned about the consequences and risks that they face if they engage in sexual behaviour.

At 13, I think I was pretty good on the Atari and I am pretty sure I was not thinking of bedding my girlfriend and becoming a dad. I am not even sure that I had a girlfriend.


The photo is subject to copyright (apparently). I tried to contact the paper that I lifted it from but they did not respond, but it can be found here. The photo is accredited to a Lee Thompson.

Learning Languages...

I have always had a fascination with learning, and in particular learning languages. I guess this stems from the fact that I have always had a knack for picking up languages easily. I once tried to learn Vietnamese, perhaps tried is the wrong word, and after 16 hours of learning my teacher, a South Vietnamese refugee who ended up re-settling in Australia, could not believe that I had never had a lesson before. He seemed to think I was pretty good at it.

I also learned French for a couple of terms in junior high school. I was pretty good at French too. However, much to my mum's horror, I stopped learning French after a couple of terms because I succumbed to peer pressure. My friends were adamant that only "gay" people spoke French, and at 12 I really did not think that I wanted to be gay. Not that I am really sure that I knew what gay was all about back then.

However, I recently bought "French for Dummies" and I am going to teach myself (or re-acquire the limited skills I once had) French. The reason for this undertaking is nothing more than I want to learn and I am keen to learn at least three more languages. At the moment those languages are French, Welsh, and Arabic. I have decided to start with French.

Maybe my next post will be in bad French :D

09 February 2009

Little Girl on a Plane

A stranger was seated next to a little girl on the airplane. The stranger turned to the little girl and said, "let's talk. I have heard that flights go faster if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passengers."

The little girl, who had just opened her book, closed it slowly and said to the stranger, "What do you want to talk about?"

"Oh, I don't know," said the stranger. "How about nuclear power?" and he smiles.

"OK," she said. "That could be an interesting topic."

But let me ask you a question first," she said.

"A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff, grass. Yet, a dear excretes little pellets, a cow excretes flat patties, and a horse produces clumps of dried grass. Why do yo suppose that is?"

The stranger visibly surprised by the little girl's intelligence, thinks about it for a moment and says, "hmmmm, I have no idea!"

To which the little girl replies, "do you really feel qualified to discuss nuclear power when you clearly do not know shit?"

05 February 2009

A Short Musing

I really need to try and write more often in the blog, but things have changed. Things being priorities in this case. To be sure it is not writer's block or even a lack of blog worthy happenings that is the reason for the rapid decline in production. It is not even a case of being more selective. It is a simple matter of time.

Time is, or at least it seems, in much shorter supply at the moment. In between Will and work there does not seem to be much time available. I am jotting down these few lines as I have lunch in the office.

I have no regrets about the decline in production. I am really enjoying spending the time with Will and the Wife.

It is all about priorities.

04 February 2009

Will -- 3 February 2009

As promised. A running photo update of Will's development...

For those of you who are interested, of course.

The photos are really for Will's Nanna and Grancher as the Thomas the Tank Engine jumpsuit is a gift from them. It is for a baby of six months of age. You will note from the running ticker at the top of my blog page that Will has only recently turned the corner on the two month barrier.

01 February 2009

Michael Phelps -- Eight Golds and A Bong

I guess having just won eight Olympic gold medals and become the greatest swimmer of all time was too much for Michael Phelps and he needed a little something to take the edge off and wind down.

The above photo of the superstar pulling back on a bong is being run by News of the World. The photo dates from November 2008. So, assuming he has not been smoking the wacky weed since then, then any drug test would be negative for THC.

Nevertheless, the photo is pretty incriminating. That said I have known people to pack cones with nothing more than tobacco and smoke them. So, maybe he can claim that it was just tobacco and he was fooling around.

Is the swimming career over?