Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Considerate Car

Now I am not one of those petrol heads that endows my cars with personality, gentle reader, but if I was, I'd be claiming that my MX5 is considerate.

When it failed to proceed, it did so in my garage, which was very convenient.

This things are generally very reliable, as they are a conglomeration of simple Mazda mechanicals in a lightweight roadster body, but like all things made by made by man, they are not foolproof.

This becomes more of an issue, when the vehicle in question has covered more than 65% of the distance between the earth and the moon, as this one has.

It failed to start after a long run on an unseasonably hot day, and I reckon the CAS* is cooked.

The RACQ came to my aid. I'm a "platinum" member, and got a free tow to my workshop of choice. The operator was very careful. He told me he is fond of MX5s. That was an advantage.

He was solicitously careful about getting it on the tilt-tray, not an easy task on our sloping driveway.

Anyway, I was always expecting niggles, and as they go, this one (if my diagnosis is correct), is not major or expensive.

I did a compilation the other day of the work that has been done on the car before I came into ownership -
So the CAS was one of the bits not replaced.

It will be now.

* Cam Angle Sensor
This is the thingy. You don't have to take the donk out.


It was the cam angle sensor, although the fuel pump was replaced as it also was on the way out.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Analysing the Ad

An advertisement supporting the "No" case in the upcoming postal survey about same sex marriage hit the deck a few days ago.

In the best tradition of fact checking, I thought I'd have a closer look at it, and try to come to some conclusion as to its veracity.

This, gentle reader, is the result. Read it and weep - 

The women featured in the ad make three statements. Let’s look at each in turn – Cella White, the first "parent" featured, says “the school told my son he could wear a dress if he wanted”. The principal, John Albiston, denies this.

Cella White used to work for the Australian Christian Lobby, and has appeared previously as a spokesperson for that organisation.

We have the school principal’s word against that of a political activist. My experience as a principal with parents with a political axe to grind is this. They invariably make an approach to the media and the upper echelons of the department rather than approach the school their children attend, the latter being the correct approach if their concern is for their child rather than the political barrow they’re pushing. The former approach gets more media coverage.

Cella White did exactly that. The first the principal knew about her “concerns” was when he read it in the media.  Given White’s political affiliations, I know whom I would believe.

The second statement made by a different person (who has also previously been active in the media)  is – “This type of programme will become widespread and compulsory”.

Despite the myth, Safe Schools is NOT compulsory in Victoria or anywhere else. Check the Victorian Ed Department’s website (not the Safe school’s website) for confirmation.

So it is neither “widespread” or “compulsory” now (note the woman featured used the verb “will” – she’s making a dodgy prediction). To ascertain the likelihood of this prediction, we need to look at jurisdictions where same sex marriage is legal. Let’s look (for example) at Ireland and Canada.

The link to the relevant section of the official Irish curriculum is here.

Let me know gentle reader, if you find any mention of a program resembling in any way “Safe Schools” in the Irish curriculum. You would have to if the allegation in the ad is correct.

Then there’s Canada. Please let me know if you can find any reference to programs promoting gender fluidity (or anything like it) here .

The third statement made in the ad is – “Children in Year 7 are asked to role play being in a same sex relationship”.

There is no evidence that this has ever happened beyond the statement in the ad. What school? When, and by whom? If it had indeed happened, no doubt there would have been witnesses, but no one has come forward. Common sense would suggest that it comes from the same place as the first unsubstantiated allegation.

So, in summary, on the balance of probabilities, the first and last statements are concoctions. The second statement is simply untrue.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to call two allegations and one non-factual statement “lies”.

For your information, here are some extracts from the Victorian Ed Department’s website about safe Schools. They confirm my understandings above. 

Myth: The Safe Schools program is a compulsory part of the school curriculum.
Fact: Safe Schools is not part of the Victorian Curriculum – it’s a commitment that schools make to be inclusive places for all students, including LGBTI students. The Department of Education and Training provides information, resources and professional learning that have been developed by experts for school staff to use as they see fit to prevent discrimination against LGBTI students.
Myth: The Safe Schools program is teaching sex education and/or sexual practices to students, including material that is not age-appropriate.
Fact: Safe Schools is not a sex education program, nor does it teach sexual practices. The Safe Schools program simply seeks to create safe and inclusive environments for LGBTI students. Resources provided by the Department of Education and Training to help deliver the program are developed by experts and carefully selected to ensure they are appropriate for the ages of students using them.
Myth: The Safe Schools program encourages students to question or change their gender or sexuality.
Fact: Nothing about the Safe Schools program encourages students to question or change their gender or sexuality.
Myth: The Safe Schools program teaches radical gender theory. 
Fact: Safe Schools does not teach radical gender theory. It is simply a program to help schools and students understand and respect that people should not be discriminated against for any reason - including gender and sexual diversity.
Myth: Parents are not given an opportunity to consent to their child’s participation and the program disregards the wishes of parents who do not want their children to participate.
Fact: Individual schools decide how to implement the Safe Schools program at their school, based on their local context and the needs of their school community. This is often done in consultation with students, school council and the broader school community. The program does not impose specific requirements for student participation but does ask all school community members to demonstrate the school’s values. The Department of Education and Training encourages parents to discuss any concerns directly with the school principal. Within any school community there is always a diversity of views represented and schools take those views into account when working with children and families.

I have a few mates in the game (principalship) in Victoria. They regard this media outrage as the biggest beatup since the year 2000 virus. It does sell papers.

After working with kids with disabilities for nearly 50 years, I am saddened by efforts to subvert the capacity for kids from a different minority group (gay and transgender) to live their lives free from harassment and bullying.

We won this struggle for kids with disabilities in the mid-seventies. It’s sad that it has to be fought all over again for a different marginalised group.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Toilet Humour

We're hearing a great deal about gender fluidity as the same sex marriage debate rumbles along.

Much of it is based on fear, rather than fact, and prominent throughout this meme are warnings about children being sexually assaulted in school toilets.

It goes something like this - children who have identified as female but who are biologically male will present an unacceptable threat if admitted to female toilets.

I'm unaware if this has ever happened in a school in Australia. If it has, we would no doubt have heard about it, as it would provide fertile ground for the level of outrage about this issue that sells newspapers and scores clicks on websites.

After 49 years in schools (18 of them as a school principal), I have encountered from time to time, incidents where children have been assaulted by their peers in school toilets. Child-on-child violence in the school yard is not uncommon, unfortunately, and not surprisingly, much of it happens in the toilet.

When you think about it, if child A is intent on giving child B a good thumping, the toilet is an ideal location, as it's out of sight (usually) of patrolling teachers. The same applies if the violence has a sexual component. Sexual violence towards members of the same gender is unfortunately not unheard of.

One of the major problems presenting for principals trying to organise supervision during breaks these days is the gender imbalance in school staffing.

When you have very few male teachers on staff, how do you ensure the boy's toilets are supervised by males? School communities are generally uncomfortable about female teachers venturing into the boys toilets to sort out bullying issues, for example. Bullying still happens, and the toilets are a favored location for the reasons suggested above.

Let's look at the gender fluidity issue in the light of the current situation. Violence happens in school toilets, irrespective of the sign on the door.

How is allowing kids who identify as the opposite sex into that designated toilet going to make any difference to that?

Here's a better idea. Remove the gender designation from school toilets. This would save a great deal of money when building new schools and remodeling existing ones. Leave the problem of ensuring student safety in these places to the architects, the technology gurus, and those developing supervision rosters.

After all, if it's good enough for Scandinavia it's probably worth a try here.

The Scots (where at Glasgow in 2015 unisex toilets were introduced into every new school built in part of a campaign to eradicate bullying) have also come round to the idea. If I'm permitted to acknowledge the stereotype, maybe the Scots were also attracted by the money savings.

My experience in education has been primarily with students with disabilities. Toilets accessible to students with disabilities have been unisex for decades, and there's never been a problem that I'm aware of.

Think about the last time you flew somewhere. Did you notice that the toilets in the aircraft were unisex?

Anyway, gentle reader, that's the last time I will blog about toilets. It's difficult to keep a straight face in light of the confected outrage generated by this topic.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Fun, Fear & Frivolity

Today is the anniversary of the battle of Long Tan, so it's fitting to post something relevant.

In this case, gentle reader, I've opted to review an eBook released recently by a Vietnam veteran called Ian Cavanough who served in 2 RAR in 1970-71.

The book is called "Fun, Fear, Frivolity", and it is well worth a read, whether you're a veteran or not.

Ian (better known as "Cav") has put together a memoir tracing his training, service in SVN, and return to Australia. His descriptions of recruit training are alternatively hilarious, accurate and bizarre.

Looking back on it, that is exactly how rookie training was. I doubt it made much difference whether that was at Singleton, Kapooka or Puckapunyal, the three recruit training bases. Cav captures the atmosphere, the development of confidence and camaraderie, and the daily experience of training very accurately.

His recount of his Vietnam experience is fascinating. Although he states on a few occasions that he can't write about his emotions, the force of the narrative actually captures the feelings of the young diggers very well. Nothing is stated, but the descriptions are so vivid and stark, that most readers would be captured by the his account and feel for those involved.

Although Cav is very self-deprecating about his writing, his capacity for accurate recall, vivid description and gentle humour make his work very engaging. His use of maps and photos taken during operations add to the immediacy of the narrative. 

His experience as an infantry soldier on operational service during the latter stages of Australia's involvement in the conflict is shared by thousands of diggers, but given the nature of counter insurgency warfare it is unique to Cav as an individual. 

For most Australians at the sharp end in Vietnam at the time, jungle warfare was very much a small patrol operation, and no two soldiers saw the same situation from exactly the same perspective. Cav captures his experience and that of his section and platoon with riveting detail and wry observation.

An unexpected bonus for me was his description of the operating environment, particularly the flora and fauna. For me, old experiences and images were dragged out of the recesses of memory and relived. Most of the accounts of the experience I've read down though the years (and I've read most of them) lack this wealth of detail.

There are many cliches, myths and misunderstandings about this most divisive of conflicts. Through it all, the stubborn valour of the diggers, whether national servicemen or regular soldiers, renders all this background as irrelevant - as white noise.

This memoir is an important contribution to the body of work still being produced by those who actually lived the experience of the war. It is authentic, immediate and engaging.

Get yourself a copy - whether you're a veteran or not.

Go here to find out how you can do that.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Two of a Kind

Trumpkim - origin unknown

I know I’d promised, gentle reader, to avoid matters political (national and international), but right now there’s a very large elephant (actually two elephants) in the room.

Given that our PM has said that we are “joined at the hip” with the US, we are involved in the current standoff whether we like it or not.

Turnbull’s statement brings back memories of Holt’s “all the way with LBJ”, and shortly after it was made, along with thousands of other young Australians I found myself beating around the bush in South Vietnam whilst a number of young men from another dispensation tried very hard to kill me.

You will understand then, gentle reader, why I don’t greet the PM’s words with any enthusiasm.

But back to the title of this post.

It’s fascinating to compare the two individuals at the epicentre of the current dispute.

In the first place, they both inherited unbridled wealth and power through no merit of their own.
In Trump’s case, from his father, and likewise for Kim Jong-un. The Kim dynasty is in many ways similar to a royal family. Australians know all about that.

The Trump dynasty began with his paternal grandfather, Friedrich Drumpf who emigrated to the United States in 1885 at the age of 16. He amassed a fortune operating boom-town restaurants and boarding houses in the Seattle area and the Klondike region of Canada, during the gold rush.

Trump inherited the family company and all its wealth (the Trump Organization) in 1971. It fell into his lap.

Kim Jong-un assumed power in North Korea in December 2011 upon the death of his father Kim Jong-il. Both the Trump dynasty and the Kim dynasty are characterised by serial “marriages”, although in different generations. Kim Jong-il had four, Trump three, so the Korean wins that one….

Trump has five children by three marriages, and has eight grandchildren. His first two marriages ended in widely publicized divorces.

Nether Trump nor Kim Jong-un saw military service. Trump was at college during much of the war in Vietnam and was deferred five times, and Kim Jong-un was educated in Switzerland,  a long way from conflict both in time and place. This probably helps to explain why both demonstrate a proclivity for bellicose rhetoric. This has always come easily to politicians who have not experienced the reality of operational service.

Then there is their physical appearance. Both are chubby, and have unusual hairstyles. Both look as if they need to be aware of issues such as diabetes and hypertension. Kim Jong-un is much younger, so his viability into the future is probably stronger.

But most of, their public behaviour (excuse me whilst I quote my PM) really joins them at the hip.

Both have cultivated the cult of personality to the utmost. Trump has used the media, going to the extreme of setting himself up as a soap star. Kim Jong-un has used the media he controls in North Korea equally as effectively. It’s easy to note the eerie similarity between a Trump rally and a Kim Jong-un parade.

The main difference is the standard of choreography. Kim Jong-un comes out on top here.

Both claim to lead democracies. Kim Jong-un’s state is called the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, so it must be so. We keep hearing, after all how Hitler was a left winger because the word “socialist” appears in the term NAZI.

Trump was elected by 27% of eligible voters (subtracting those who voted for Clinton – 2.8 million more, and those who did not vote at all). Put another way, 74% of eligible American voters did not support him. That is not “democracy”.

So there it is. We can only cross our fingers in the hope that those surrounding this pair of lunatics can restrain them so that the Korean peninsula (and probably Japan) don’t become piles of radioactive ash.

And we are “joined at the hip” to one of them. Aren’t we lucky?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Of Cats and Frogs

Appearance is good.

Sustaining my current distaste for issues political, once again I’m blogging about issues mechanical.
My bride is one of eleven, and six of her siblings are female. This means I have lots of sisters-in-law.
One of them has a fondness for Jaguars (the motor car – not the animal). She is also fond of frogs, but that’s another story.
2.1 litre V6

Her hubby (my brother-in-law) has been for some time, searching for a Jaguar as a surprise gift. He found one (a 2002 manual X-Type) and it was in Toowoomba. These things are not all that common, and manuals are like hen’s teeth. His bride (said sister-in-law) also has a fondness for manual transmissions.

So the plot was hatched. I was to look at the car, and if it seemed OK, serious negotiations would be entered into. It was very OK, well-priced, and the deal was done.

Brother-in-law and bride are flying from their home base (Cairns) today, and I am meeting them at the airport with the surprise – the Jag.

Fake wood - real leather

Not everything went smoothly. Turns out the air conditioning was non-functional, although it was working when I first inspected the car. Now air blowing warm is not a good thing in humid Cairns, so parts had to be found, and repairs done. As this is written, the parts have been dispatched but not delivered to Toowoomba, so here’s hoping they get here in time to be fitted before I have to drive down to meet the midday plane.

I’ll keep you posted.
Snarly cat on wheel!

As to the car – it’s in top nick and has covered about 120000 kms. These were the first Jags produced after Ford bought Jaguar in or around 2000. Ford used the Mondeo frame, which upset many Jaguar traditionalists, but the cars are more reliable than pre-Ford Jags as a consequence, and well-sorted.

The Jaguar ambiance is still there, with lots of leather and wood, and it’s a very pleasant drive. It’s powered b a small (2.1lit) six, and has a Getrag gearbox. It actually feels a little bit like our Focus to drive, and has idiosyncrasies like the bonnet opening handle on the passenger’s side which it shares with the small Fords.

It was the first (and only, I think), front wheel drive Jaguar.

It’s much more refined than the Focus, but handles much the same – no bad thing. You won’t find a better set of driver’s cars than the small Fords, even if Ford fitted them for a time with that weird and troublesome Powershift transmission.
Frogs are a thing.

As mentioned above, my SIL likes frogs, so I found a frog themed key ring (pictured) to go with the car. I hope she is impressed.

Update -
The parts for the A/C didn't arrive in time to meet the plane, but a rendezvous was organised later in the day.
Sister-in-law was surprised (very pleasantly) and liked the frog......

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Details .....Details....

Tarting up the engine bay.

Politics is beyond depressing right now, so I'll stick to posts about my MX5 for a while.

Restoring cars is less boring, and there is actually a result at the end of it. Can't same the same for political commentary.

Whilst the bodywork has a reasonable appearance, there's a lot of external detail stuff which needed doing. I started with the engine bay, the wheels, and other external bits like the wipers. I painted them, and made a bit of a hash of it.

More successful improvements included a new gear lever knob, leather binding on the steering wheel, and painting various visible bits such as the heat shield on the exhaust manifold and the brake calipers. The leather on the original steering wheel rim and gear lever knob were beyond restoration.

Not genuine, but pretty close in appearance.
This is the original well-worn gear lever knob.

I also replaced a missing bolt on the folding top, which actually meant replacing two, to get a matching pair.
Replacement bolts (6mm x 12mm)

 The pics are self-explanatory.
The bolt on the left is the original, the one in the middle the replacement, and the one on the right was temporary.
Steering wheel cover laced on. This was first attempt at replacing the worn gear knob. It had a 5 speed label, so I ditched it.

The other thing I tackled was the mag wheels, all of them having been fairly comprehensively kerbed by previous owners. That was entirely unsuccessful, as the product I bought to cover the kerb damage (and to prevent further damage) refused to stay in place.

Tyres are Toyo A Drive R1 - excellent grip & feedback.

They detached and flailed around on each wheel at different intervals - entertaining, but not useful. the problem is that already damaged rims don't provide a stable mount for the self-glued strip. They would probably work well on new rims.

Wheel refurbishment may be in order.

A good result - but much more to do.


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