Monday, June 27, 2016

Way to Put Australian Politics Into Perspective

Posts have been light for the last few days for a very simple reason.  The electricity supply at my flat resentful of being taken advantage of for so many years with so little to show for it has risen in its wrath and is shoving power surges through my flat and, for good measure, several of my neighbour's flats as well.  So far this has fried a power board, a modem an iPod dock and a washing machine.  I'm now considering a career in male prostitution to help fund the replacement of the above.  Or at least I was considering such a career until it was pointed out to me that I'd probably make more money on welfare.

While I've been huddled in my home waiting for the electricity monster to blow up another appliance the world has continued turning outside.  Australia is still in the throes of an election campaign that looks increasingly like a remake of the movie Dumb and Dumber only more boring while over in the home of my ancestors the British have voted to leave the EU.

Various inlaws of mine were stunned and horrified by the decision but ultimately it would appear that people who thought they got nothing out of the EU except misery outnumbered those who thought they benefited.  Sitting in my chair on the other side of the world it seems pretty obvious to me that Britain should remain in the EU if only for the same reason heroin users shouldn't go cold turkey, the shock will probably kill them.  Having spent forty odd years integrating your economy with that of Europe removing it again is probably going to cause problems.

Possibly, as those of the leave camp capable of uttering a semi articulate sentence assured, Britain will recover and be stronger on its own.  This is possible.  But even if it is it will probably take about thirty to forty years.  First of all you've got to clear the rubble of the house you just destroyed and then you have to build a replacement and while that's going on you're going to need somewhere to live.  And there won't be any Polish builders around to knock you up one on the cheap.

And the fact that even I can make a joke like that last one tells you why Britain voted to leave.  Forget all the idiotic promises made by the Leave campaigners.  Almost nobody believes politicians promises anyway.  The promises of politicians serve merely as justification for decisions we've already made.  However a large number of people in Britain did not feel as though they benefited from being part of the EU.  They may have been wrong in this belief but they held it.  These were people who for centuries could feel that there was always the promise of a shitty, ghastly, low paying job that they could break themselves physically doing and in doing so put food on the table and a little pride in achievement in their hearts.  Most of those jobs are gone now and such as remain are, at least in the public view, the preserve of people from poorer parts of Europe who will work for even less. 

Leaving the EU wont improve anything but that really wasn't the point.  The point was that a large chunk of Britain's population had been told the EU was good for them and they took the first opportunity to point out that they disagreed.  Things weren't helped by certain commentary from the remain camp which only served to prove that an elitist contempt for the working class is not necessarily incompatible with being left wing.  Possibly the people voting to leave were wrong.  Rather than tell them they're wrong in tones of weary condescension it might have helped if some people had pointed out why they were wrong while at the same time indicating that they had some sort of clue as to why the leavers might be upset in the first place. 

It has been said that the Brexit has divided Britain, absolutely wrong.  Britain was already divided, all Brexit has done is brought this fact to the attention of the blinkered, self satisfied and intellectually arrogant clowns whose mismanagement of the Remain campaign might have been a textbook case of why being smarter than average doesn't necessarily make you any smarter than average.  I'm smarter than average and I can barely tie my own shoelaces.

Sadly they're already taking the wrong lesson from this.  Already comments have been made about how silly it is to have a referendum decision when "only" 52% of the electorate supported the decision (better to go with the option of 48% of the electorate instead, much more fair).  Various people in Scotland, revelling in their land's brief moment of relevance, are suggesting they might leave Britain, or block implementation of the results.  In short, the lesson the flag bearers of the remain camp seem to have taken from this is that they have to be more efficient about ignoring the wishes of the people in future.

Be careful guys otherwise the next revolution might involve pitchforks and guillotines.

Meanwhile back in Australia our longest and arguably most tedious election campaign drags on as we attempt to decide whether to replace an incompetent, spendthrift government with an opposition campaigning on the promise to be even worse.  Dumb and Dumber indeed.  I have never been more grateful.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Vivid Darkness

Vivid is happening in Sydney at the moment.  "What is Vivid?" you ask.  Vivid is a means by which the NSW state government makes it more difficult for me to get home from work.  Normally when I leave my office I join the tide of besuited lemmings pouring down towards Circular Quay railway station in relentless pursuit of home.  Sure there's some jostling, a little light hearted trampling of the laggards under foot but essentially we are all on the same side each seeking escape from the city for another twelve hours or so.

When Vivid afflicts our city this all changes.  The human tide intent on home pours towards the station to slam straight into another vast crowd of humanity standing just outside the station watching coloured lights on a building wall.  The irresistible force has met the immovable object and progress is a painful, brutal exercise in scratching and clawing ones way through the crowd kicking aside children and the elderly and ganging up to overwhelm the able bodied.  This nightly scene of carnage is illuminated in a kaleidoscope of jangling colours guaranteed to induce epilepsy in any survivors while in the background the opera house looks like someone has vomited on it from a great height.

Vivid is considered to be terribly successful in as much as it has persuaded people to come into the city during the week in the cold and dark of Winter.  Which leads me to question.  If you are successful in achieving something nobody in their right mind would want are you a genius or an imbecile.  Should you be applauded for your success?  Or should you be pilloried for trying in the first place?  Still the lights are pretty and I suppose that justifies the crowds and the inconvenience for soulless reptiles such as myself who see the city not so much as a backdrop for art as a place to leave as swiftly and conveniently as possible once the wage slaving is done for the day.

Still it could have been worse, or possibly better.  According to my colleague and part time garlic herder who also doubles as this blog's roving cultural reporter they have a similar festival in Hobart only without the light.  It's call Dark Mofo or the people attending it are called mofos in the dark or something like that and it's basically a way of utilising decaying pieces of urban failure without having to go to the expense of lighting them.  Either that or the Basslink cable's gone down again and Tasmania is back on candle power.  It actually sounds way more fun than Vivid with belching gas jets (or possibly burst gas mains, its a little difficult to tell in Hobart) and fires semi illuminating various artisticish type things.

My favourite was the artist who created a piece consisting of seventy five translucent panels each plastered with the words "Your Work is Shit" which he then set up around the school of art which commissioned the work in the first place.  Outraged comments from the students got it moved.  Let me be clear, if he had set the work up anywhere else I would have full sympathy with the occupants of the building involved.  However since the occupants of the building were essentially training to be the sort of whiny, petulant self absorbed pissants who might think that creating seventy five translucent panels saying "Your Work is Shit" is a valid use of anyone's time I personally think that each and every one who complained should automatically fail their course and be expelled.  Go and get jobs as bank tellers guys, you're obviously not up to the rigours of "art".

The next day there was a nude swim because, of course there was.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Stormageddon II: The Soggening

Yep, its on again.  Apparently evil minded weather systems are charging towards Sydney with devastation on their minds.  Dear god, is there no end to our suffering?  Barely have we come to terms with swimming pools that we thought were safely buried erupting from their graves like zombies with severe fluid retention than we have to deal with yet more weather created tragedy.  It isn't just swimming pools this time, there is a serious risk that the backyard pergolas will go too.

Fortunately this time Sydney is prepared.  In response to the fact that dams might overflow the government is considering raising them.  It hasn't actually done that yet but its definitely on the agenda.  So our dams are now safe.  On a more individual note the general public is preparing too.  Across our fair (but overcast) city people are saying to each other "another storm coming" and gaining sage nods of agreement in reply.  So we too have done all we can.

Hear me Oh Gods of Rain and Wind!  Sydney defies you!  Never have we been so well prepared, do your worst you displacer of swimming pools!  Chance your arm you beach eating monsters!  We do not fear your gushing gutters, we laugh at your clogging of our storm drains, we sneer at the concept of seawalls.  We shall weather your weather in the traditional Sydney fashion.  By doing nothing until its all over and then bitching about the result.

Do not feel flattered by this ye Deities of Destruction, this is how we treat every occurrence whether for good or ill.  Some people waste their time preparing for disaster.  We mock these fools and their efforts for we know the truth.  All that time, all that effort that is wasted in preparation could be more enjoyably used blaming somebody else afterwards. 

According to the news Queensland might also see some wild weather this weekend.  I and other Sydneysiders sneer at this with contempt.  Not for one instant can anyone believe that Queensland might be subjected to horrors to match the rain and wind we shall endure this weekend.  For one thing the rain and wind happening to us is happening to us and is therefore infinitely more important and severe than anything that might be happening to a bunch of people several hundred kilometres up the coast who are only considered fellow countrymen as a combined act of courtesy and charity.  It could be raining acid in Queensland and we still wouldn't think it as important as an orphan swimming pool lying on a beach in Sydney.

So prepare yourselves for, in the cockpit of Sydney, comes the greatest clash between man and nature ever witnessed as four million people do battle with some rain.  The stakes are high and not every swimming pool will survive but those who endure will be able to call themselves men.  Or women if they prefer.  I'm certainly not trying to impose gender stereotypes on anyone.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

JunoBear Part 2 - The Cavalcade of Shame Continues

Oh dear god why do I keep doing this to myself.  I've been playing this game for more than twenty years on and off.  You'd think I might have either got a little better at it or taken a very broad hint and developed an interest in chess instead.  After being deposited on my doorstep in a semi catatonic state by a homeless person who was concerned for my wellbeing I dragged myself back to consciousness on Sunday morning just in time to rinse the crusted humiliation from my body, dress in fresh (ok, semi fresh) clothes and stumble back towards Paddington for more punishment.  Punishment was duly dispensed.  For those who like seeing fragile human dreams crushed like an eggshell, read on.

Costly Baptism

First up was another episode in the gratuitous torture of the Polish nation.  This one was called "Costly Baptism" and was set on the very first day of World War 2.  Six Polish squads, a hmg and a trio of incredibly bizarre and decrepit armoured cars attempt to defend a small village from nine German squads and a trio of equally bizarre but slightly less decrepit armoured cars attempting to capture it.  I commanded the noble Poles defending their country, Murray McCloskey had the attacking Germans.

My problem was the Germans only needed to capture three buildings and the entire village was quite close to his entry area.  This meant a forward defence because Murray didn't really need to travel too far to reach his objectives.  A forest bisected by a road covered the centre of the position and I based most of my troops in that anchoring the flanks and centre with armoured cars.  Possibly setting up the armoured cars in the very front of the front lines was a mistake, it certainly didn't stop his armoured cars from moving around my left flank but a good deal of his infantry was held up shooting machine guns and antitank rifles at them.  This delay plus a little lucky shooting on my part held my lines for about four turns.  This was good as my troops had a tendency to break if a bullet passed within a hundred metres of them.  One of Murray's armoured cars broke down, unfortunately in quite a useful position, and my hmg managed to kill another as he tried to penetrate my defences from the flank.  Sadly despite some genuinely unpleasant carnage at the hands of my hmg and my right flank armoured car Murray did eventually wipe all three out (setting one on fire in the process) and moved his surviving troops into the forest.  Once there my soldiers folded like wet cardboard despite the presence of a heroic leader on one flank.  It actually took longer than I expected but as turn five approached the writing was on the wall.  Murray had two of the three buildings he needed and I had nothing to stop him.  Three games four losses.

Maximum Aggression

Leaving Poland we dropped in on Malaya where the Japanese were busy dismantling Britain's colonial empire.  I played Dave Wallace at this game the AAR is as follows;

I lost.  

I was prepared to concede at the end of turn one but more out of masochism than anything else I agreed to continue for another turn.  Then I conceded.  By that time I had lost my entire at start force plus two and a half squads of my reinforcements.  I must confess that I was somewhat over it by this time.  Dave had a train to catch and I simply wasn't in the mood to attempt to pick up the pieces and lose decently in the fourth turn rather than give up and go home after the second.  So I gave up and went home after the second.

Many thanks to Ivan and Aaron for arranging the tournament and for providing the various esoteric counters and maps that nobody else seemed to possess. 

 Now I have to decide whether I actually want to continue playing this game.  I suppose I'd better for a while if only because I've already booked my airline tickets and accommodation in Cleveland this year.  For right now I'm going to crawl under my bed and pretend very hard that the last two days didn't happen.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

JunoBear Part 1 - An Extended Exercise in Misery

Poland's burning, Poland's burning
Draw nearer, draw nearer

The smell of smoke was borne to me on a chill Winter wind.  Across the thousands of miles and decades of time the siren song of battle called my name.  The message although faint was clear; Poland was in flames and even such an inept, flabby warrior as myself must answer the call.  I stumbled around banging into walls and whimpering helplessly until I found my contact lenses after which I still banged into walls but at least I generally knew which ones.  With a bowl of sugar laced stodge in my belly and hope in my heart I gathered together such weaponry as I possessed and set forth to join battle.

Yes JunoBear is upon us once more.  This is less an ASL competition than it is a charitable effort to provide Paddington RSL club with sufficient revenue to prevent its closing.  Nevertheless for my comrades to justify their absence from home and family some ASL must be played and play it we did with a decidedly Polish flavour.  Ivan Kent was organising the competition this year and it has to be said that he's getting a little obsessed with the "Poland in Flames" pack put out recently by Bounding Fire Productions (of course we need 7-1 officers, how can we charge this much without them?).  It isn't sufficient that he and I are currently going through the scenarios on VASL (there are about 183 of them) but three of the four scenarios for JunoBear were also sourced from PiF.

I had no hopes of doing well.  I have long put such childish dreams behind me.  Perhaps, I told myself in an excess of confidence, I might win a scenario.  Perhaps but not today.  Today brought nothing but defeat which I bore in a noble fashion only whining and bitching until my opponents told me to shut up rather than continuing long into the night.  Oh wait a minute, that's what I'm doing now.  Anyway, for the tale of woe Part 1 read on.

Silent Bayonets

I have actually played this scenario before against Ivan and despite winning it was on the record as not liking it particularly much.  Since I had the Slovaks in my previous outing I generously told my opponent Neil Andrews of my experience and offered him the Slovaks, an offer which he accepted.  To avoid confusion as is usual when I play Neil I shall refer to him as Evil Neil to differentiate him from the noble essayist who is your companion on this journey through the first level of Hell.

Evil Neil set up in the centre with his officer and mmg well forward.  As the Poles I could set up in brush, orchard or woods and took the opportunity to bulk up opposite his forces and also place some forces in the woods in the south.  Strangely for the first turn things went according to plan and my troops swept forward, particularly in the north where I snatched undefended buildings with ease.  In the centre things were slower but I was pushing through and as my southern troops came up Evil Neil's forces were squeezed in an increasingly diminishing area in the centre.

Unfortunately that's as good as it got for me.  Time is of the essence.  The Poles have to brutalise the onboard Slovak force before their reinforcements arrive in turn two.  Despite my achievements the brutalisation level was insufficient and when Evil Neil brought on his reinforcements it was my southern troops who were caught between two fires.  They held up bravely for a turn but once again close combat turned out to be a disaster for me which was exemplified when I advanced a squad into a building held only by a hero only to have the entire squad killed in CC.  When I lost a squad and a half in a second close combat the next turn (having already lost two others) I simply didn't have enough troops left to even pretend I could win.


This scenario saw me commanding Soviet troops defending an ill gotten Polish village from the vengeful locals annoyed at what I'm doing to the front garden.  Peter Palmer commanded the Poles who had to sweep through and recapture said village despite the fact that I had two heavy machine guns and a 37mm gun (plus nine squads) to stop him.  With firepower like that stopping him shouldn't have been too hard right?  Wrong.

Oh there were moments.  I set up to defend the main village cluster with an outlying squad or two covering the flank.  One of these stood up like heroes killing one half squad and breaking another.  Unfortunately that was about it for the good news.  The most effective weapon was my sniper which killed two of three Polish officers, broke a squad, pinned a squad and broke a half squad.  When I mention that my sniper number was three it gives an indication of the type of dice Peter was getting.  He just shot my force to pieces.  I conceded halfway through because I had practically run out of troops.  I killed some Poles most certainly but I would have had to kill every single counter on the board to have any sort of effect.  I may have had some sort of a breakdown at that point.  When I woke up we were at a Lebanese restaurant and my compatriots were telling the waitress that we didn't want a belly dancer for some reason.  I'm now sitting at home wondering whether or not to bother going tomorrow.  I probably will if only so I can write part two of this blog entry without which I will feel uneasy and incomplete.

Abandon State, Leeks and Beetroot First

Well a week has gone by since my hapless city was lashed with the fury of a rather incontinent god.  "Stormageddon" proclaimed the newspaper headlines eager to emphasise exactly how terribly our fair town had suffered under the cruel vagaries of nature.  A colleague of mine who was born in the Philippines pointed out that back there they refer to this sort of weather as "Winter".  Some news outlets alluded darkly to climate change as a contributing factor.  You know climate change, it's what we used to call "weather" before we got addicted to melodrama.

I shouldn't mock, after all people died.  Not many, but some and some houses got damaged as well.  At this point let me toss in a quick word of praise for my ugly, old slipshod block of flats which survived with nary a drip.  Houses particularly got damaged if they were built near beaches.  As a general rule if you build your house less than a camel spit away from the ocean you shouldn't be too surprised if the ocean turns up in your living room from time to time.

I think it was the sight of a living pool stranded tragically on its side that brought home the true impact of this supposedly terrible storm to me.  That this became the iconic image associated with the storm shows our sense of priorities and also tells us that things weren't actually all that bad.  On an individual level of course whoever owns that swimming pool probably isn't happy about it and those who died have even more cause to complain but collectively can we please take a deep breath and get a grip.  If that really is the sort of disaster climate change will bring then we're absolutely fine.  If it is just a piece of unusually wild weather then we're still fine although we might like to tighten planning permission for where exactly you can dig an in ground swimming pool.  In short if that really was Stormageddon then it was a (very) damp squib.

Meanwhile down in Tasmania the dial was flipped from drought to flood without anything very much in between.  The city of Launceston was threatened by flooding and the presence of political leaders trying to persuade any survivors to vote for them.  Further to the south this blog's Ends of the Earth Reporter had grimmer tidings to relate.  Swollen rivers charged along suddenly inadequate beds threatening all those in their path.  All those in their path turned out to be a whole bunch of cows and the contents of a leek and beetroot warehouse.  The leeks and beetroot are apparently scattered across a beach being plundered by locals taking this opportunity to reacquaint themselves with what a vegetable looks like. 

Cattle being somewhat closer to the Tasmanian heart the whole rescue services of the state were mobilised to save their milk producing sisters (and given this is Tasmania that term might not be metaphorical).  As the flood waters raged some bloke swam out on a paddle board and escorted fifteen trapped cows to safety.  Or at least to such safety as can be expected when your life consists of growing to a certain size and then being killed.

Speaking of which I hope readers will be pleased to know that so far Mr Moo has evaded the executioners axe.  This is largely due to a disagreement between the two parties who want him dead.  One plans to drop him where he stands and then hack bits off him to sell to passers by.  The other feels that if he wanted nearly a tonne of dead animal piled up outside his front gate then he would hit it with his car like a normal person and insists that Mr Moo be dragged off to an abattoir.  The upshot is that so far Mr Moo hasn't been dragged anywhere just yet.  Flee for the hills Mr Moo while you still can!

We have a long weekend and my colleague and part time Tasmanian Affairs reporter is spending it knee deep in mud trying to repair flood damaged garlic with a hair dryer while Mr Moo looks on with a cynical eye.  I am relaxing by getting beaten in a wargaming tournament.  One day I must try and win one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Silly After Action Report Part 2 - Training Day - I Didn't Need Those Tanks Anyway

You may recall that the first part of this AAR ended with me inching painfully towards Ivan's defences and bemoaning my tank losses.  Just so that no one dies of suspense, the second part of the AAR is going to end in much the same way.

Up in the castle Ivan's cupolas of death hammered away at my forces as they tried to cross open ground that seemed to be a long way from the action.  Sadly the extra half level of height provided by the rooftop positioning of the cupolas gave Ivan the lines of sight he needed.  Still I got through his turn without too much in the way of losses and started my third with hope.  My intention was to consolidate on the left and ready for a formal assault later in the game, press on the right to maintain a threat and purely for laughs bring on my bridgelayers in an attempt to bridge some antitank ditches.  There is absolutely no sense in this except for the sheer fun of seeing it done.  I have a pair of tanks and a squad and a half in the centre which will no doubt be horribly slaughtered if they attempt to cross any bridges my bridgelayers lay.

Well, things don't seem to have changed much but if you look closely I have inched a little nearer my goal

Not much happened on my third turn except for Ivan killing an entire squad on the right with a snake eyes from a cupola.  OK so moving in the open (well wheatfield) is dicey and I was prepared to accept a pin or a break but outright death!  My remaining forces, brushing bits of blood and bone off their uniforms moved forward.  I'm not sure if they're threatening but they're definitely present.  In the left and centre incremental moves and more bloody moving in the open results were the order of the day.  A 9-1 officer lead an hmg toting squad on what I hoped was a covered route to the hill mass.  It wasn't covered and the officer is now wounded and the squad a pair of broken halfsquads cringing in a building while the hmg sits forlornly in the blood spattered grass.

In my next turn I used my mortars to drop smoke rounds on his forward cupolas which may prompt the question, what the hell took me so long?  The answer is deeply embarrassing.  I just don't get elevation line of sight rules.  Every time I get screwed over by them I go back and reread the rules and I still don't get them.  Thus it took Ivan's ability to kill me to convince me that my mortars could hit his cupolas in return.  Hit the cupolas they did and his front defences are now wreathed in smoke.  His infantry may have to step forward a little now.

Over on the left a PzII attempted to leave a minefield and of course was immobilised.  The crew fled to a nearby building.  Despite this I'm starting to build up a position near the woods.  My broken half squad in the minefield self rallied, attempted to leave and promptly died but other forces are inching up the hill.  My left flankers are trotting forward and building up a large if somewhat incoherent force and oh yes, I've found his other antitank gun and his antiaircraft gun.  Do I need to mention how I did that?  My last PzIV was sitting up on the first level of the hill.  I viewed the wide open space with suspicion.  Somewhere there were three HIP squad equivalents but how to find them without  my troops dying horribly?  I decided my PzIV would have to take one (well quite a lot really) for the team.  Besides I needed to get rid of that other armour leader.

Revving up the tank rolled forward and Ivan promptly revealed his second 37L but mercy of mercies despite two shots (and two hits) he couldn't kill the PzIV.  To escape I rolled up to the next level and bumped into the AA gun.  He took another pair of shots with it without result and then I overran that sucker and sent the crew yelping rearwards.  Dropping back down the hill I finished up right next to the atg (but outside his covered arc) when an unsmoked cupola stunned my heroic tankers.  Taking their cue from the hero PzIV I now have a PzII and an early model PzI up on the hill as well plus a squad with an hmg.  A halfsquad charged bravely forward, took some fire, battle hardened into fanatics and plunged into close combat with a squad.  No they couldn't wipe out the entire squad but they did take a halfsquad down into death with them so not a complete waste of time.

Do you remember the immobilised PzIV which broke its main armament shooting at a roadblock?  Well I finally managed to repair it and, bereft of anything else to do, fired at the roadblock again.  And broke the main armament again.  These guys really aren't interested in the war.  In other roadblock news the combined efforts of three half squads finally managed to clear the other one just after my tanks got tired of wating and crunched their way through trees and minefields up onto the hill.

Ivan's turn four is coming up.  I have at least a presence on the hill and with some luck might still have a tank alive at the end of his turn.  The Luftwaffe has finally turned up and I will have to think of what might be a useful target for its bombing attentions.  On the left my assault troops are beginning to move into position.  In the centre my bridgelayers are up to the antitank ditch and Ivan has revealed a 76mm artillery piece in a so far unsuccessful attempt to kill them.  Over on the right my troops have discovered more land mines the hard way and are struggling forward towards wire tangled trees.

Well, things don't seem to have changed much but if you look closely I have inched a little nearer my goal.  Oh yes and more tanks are about to die.

I have plenty of time left but it remains to be seen whether possibly I've paid too high a price to get this far.  Of the fifteen tanks which started the game two have been destroyed and three immobilised.  Of the remaining ten two are bridgelayers and (despite my early attempts at concentration the remaining eight are scattered across the board.  In retrospect I think the PzIV made his deathride a turn to early.  He should have waited until the remaining tanks were ready to join him.  As it is I have already written the letters to the tank crew's families and put the commander up for a posthumous knights cross.  All I have to do is fill in the dates.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Big Brother is Watching You But Isn't Terribly Interested

Facebook recently informed me that they were concerned for my privacy and made various suggestions to help protect it which was nice of them.  I would have been more impressed if they hadn't followed this up by suggesting I add topics to my facebook posts, suggested (disturbingly accurate) topic names when I didn't and then showed a frightening awareness as to my physical location.  If nothing else they have succeeded in convincing me that possibly my privacy does need protecting.

I intend to protect my privacy in the following manner, I will stop thinking about it.  There is an old joke which goes something like this; 
Q: What's the difference between a police state and a normal state?
A:  In a police state you know you're being watched.

The simple fact of the matter is that anyone who thinks they have complete privacy or anonymity is almost certainly wrong.  The amount of available, personal data floating about is so vast that you really would need to be living in a cave on Venus to be completely anonymous.  People think this is a function of the internet but really all the internet did is make things easier.  The internet doesn't really do anything, its essentially a high tech filing cabinet that anyone can access.  If you put personal information into the filing cabinet (and almost everyone does) then, theoretically at least, somebody else can pull it out.

So how do we manage to get by knowing that our personal details (and browser histories) are pretty much available to anyone with a bit of effort.  We deal with it in two ways.  Firstly; we don't think about it, not much anyway and usually not at all until someone goes to the effort of bringing the situation to our attention (ie by stealing our identity, siphoning our bank account or arresting us for what really was a harmless little joke involving some semtex and the US president).  As a means of protecting our privacy not thinking about the fact that we don't have any is actually remarkably effective.  We are assisted in this endeavour by the fact that most of those invading our privacy have a vested interest in not letting us realise it, thus they tend to be discreet.  Think about it like this, having a stalker go through your underwear drawer sniffing various items is absolutely harmless and uncreepy until you find out about it at which point it becomes deeply disturbing.  Facebook really did blot the copybook by pointing out to me exactly how close an eye they keep on me.

The second protection we have is quite simply the fact that almost none of us are as important as we think we are.  It honestly doesn't matter how much personal information of yours is floating around cyberspace.  The sad fact is, nobody actually gives a crap.  This isn't true for everyone of course but it is sufficiently true for a sufficiently large number of people to make those for whom it isn't true a statistical anomaly that can be safely ignored (unless of course you are the person who's life has been destroyed as a result).  There is so much information out there that even with the aid of the internet gathering it all together would be quite an effort.  Can you name six people you could be arsed doing that for?  I can't.

Which brings me to my final point.  It isn't facebook or corporations or governments that you really have to worry about (unless you are a terrorist or something).  All of those entities will gather as much information on you as they feel they need but they won't tell you and it probably doesn't have to bother you too much.  This is called rational ignorance although I prefer the term proactive laziness.  So who does go to all of that effort and then use the information gathered to ruin your life.  I'll tell you.  The mother of the child your kid got into an argument with at daycare, she'll do it.  The bloke you cut off in traffic, he'll do it.  The boyfriend/girlfriend/non gender specific partner paradigm that perhaps you didn't break up with as nicely as you could have, they'll do it.  In short the people most likely to invade your privacy are people you already know.

Meanwhile in national capitals and corporate headquarters around the world a fat file with your name on it is being filed under the heading "Who gives a toss?"

OK, So I'm Saying Something

"If you see something, say something" is the catchy phrase headlining the latest anti terrorism advertisements on our screens at the moment.  They've been popping up quite a bit lately which surprised me until I realised we're in the middle of an election campaign.  I'm sure it is useful to remind people that if they do encounter somebody wearing a suicide vest and shouting "Allah Akbar" at the top of their lungs then possibly it should be mentioned to the next police officer they encounter but I have to wonder about the timing.  I'm sure that various evil people are making various evil plans to do various evil things to the rest of us and I hope that our security forces, police, military and Country Women's Association are right on top of all of that  and stopping them from happening.  It is also possible that the sudden upsurge in ads relates to a credible threat identified by our security services but which they haven't seen fit to share with the general public as yet.  But one can't help wondering if the government is gently reminding us of their supposed security credentials in the lead up to the polls.  Well, I've seen the anti terrorism ads and I'm saying something.

If nothing else the anti terrorism ads have reminded me that there is an election happening.  This was quite useful as without the ads I might well have forgotten.  Neither of the leaders of the two political parties supposedly engaged in a tussle of ideas to see which of them will be considered fit to shepherd the Australian nation forward towards its inevitable destiny for the next three years has actually managed to catch my attention.  On the one hand the leader of the Liberal party isn't conservative enough to satisfy the sort of people who like to think of themselves as the bedrock of the conservative movement (everybody else thinks they're old and kind of silly).  On the other hand the leader of the Labor party seems to have been selected expressly to prove that a retarded jellyfish could be the leader of the Labor party as long as the union movement owned it.

The result is a sort of damp squib sputter as two people who differ at most by degrees go through a half hearted facade of pretending that there are great ideological differences and clashes of ideas happening.  Ideological differences are out there and there are certainly differing ideas on how to fix what's wrong with the country but both mainstream parties seem to think its a little beneath their dignity to actually mention them.  Apparently we shouldn't sully the purity of an election campaign with any discussion of topics as tawdry as "issues".

What this means is that the only people who are engaged in ideological debate or floating great ideas for the salvation of the country are the sort of extremist nutbags on right and left who in any well functioning democracy would be laughed out of the room the moment they opened their mouths.  As it is, with both major parties apparently campaigning on a platform of simply being the only two parties in the country with the organisation to produce enough candidates to form a government anyone who actually has an idea gets some airtime.

On the right side of politics we're supposed to deploy the navy to drive off boat people (oh wait we did that but we're supposed to keep doing it and be more enthusiastic about it) and stop foreigners (particularly Asian ones from large mainland countries) from buying things other Australians seem only too happy to sell them.  On the left (sometimes known as the green) side of politics we're supposed to stop coal mining, invest in  renewable energy sources and create green jobs.  Apparently out of thin air using money that we got,,,somehow.

I personally am a moderate economic conservative and a strong social liberal.  This means I can vote for either party and wind up disappointed in the result but also reassure myself that things could have been worse.  Imagine if those other bastards had got in hey?  Unfortunately I suspect they might.  In the meantime I'll keep an eye on the anti terrorism ads.  If they stop unexpectedly I'll know I forgot to vote.