29 September 2006

England XI to field XVI: is it cricket?

While the cricket world is currently preoccupied with the ICC referee's decision in the ball tampering case (the full decision, which IMO is worth reading, is here), and the collateral speculation about
Umpire Hair's future , another matter, a proposal to change the nature of the preliminary matches of the England tour, has slipped under the media radar.

England has apparently requested that either one ( according to Adelaide Now aka The Advertiser online) or both (according to Cricinfo )three day preliminary matches will become basically centre wicket practice.

In one sense this harks back to the nineteenth century where matches were often played against odds, eg England v XVI of Woop Woop. Then however it was the local opposition, not the touring team, who were allowed to augment their numbers to even up the contest. Now it seems that anything goes, including downgrading matches which have been advertised for some time as first class.

Cricinfo reports this feeble attempt to justify the proposal:
John Buchanan, Australia's coach, said England's request was just a continuation of what is now a common practice. "They want to be able to use as many players as they can, so really they're treating it, as most teams do, as game time and match practice in different conditions," he said. "Albeit that they might not be totally similar to exactly what you're going to play on, but it is time in Australia out in the middle, playing cricket and preparing."

I can't see the rationale behind this: it might be out in the middle and preparing, but if players can be rotated at will this makes a mockery of the game.

Of course, if the last few Ashes tours and reports of the state of fitness of the selected squad are anything to go by, it is quite possible that England won't have more than 11 fit players for these games. If so, what will happen: back to plan A or cancel them?

28 September 2006

All change on the buses?

The long-awaited (well for the last few months) changes to Adelaide public transport have been published online, a couple of days before their official release date.

On one hand there's been a lot of speculation about potential changes, including service reductions; on the other there's been a lot of spin from the government about better services et al.

I've run an eye over many of the changes, which will take effect from 15 October, and to me they look like a case of the more things change the more they remain the same. Many routes have been tweaked, and renumbering some gives the impression of many more changes than are in fact the case.

That said there are still some issues which the authorities have ducked , such as how to improve the provision of services accessible to physically disabled people. The current policy of publicising only routes which are totally wheelchair accessible instead of, as happens elsewhere eg Darwin, inviting disabled patrons to contact the bus company and request an accessible bus for the particular service they wish to travel on, is shortsighted and prevents the company (and the government) from earning a few brownie points.

25 September 2006

Regional media

After bagging it in my preceding post, I was pleasantly surprised to see ABC TV moving back into my good books with tonight's Media Watch which discussed our regional media's trend to fob off local communities with news plucked at random from all over the place.

I raised an eyebrow when Monica Attard used Wollongong as her principal example of "regional" media: I thought it was part of the greater Sydney conurbation. That said, the program provided a considerable amount of information, some of which is expanded in the program website. For example, check out Minister Coonan's answers to the questions submitted to her for confirmation (if you needed it) that doublespeak still flourishes.

If the program had a shortcoming it was that it concentrated on the commercial electronic media, and didn't balance this perspective by referring to the ABC. The fact is, as I can attest from my recent travels in the interior, that the ABC is the only substantial source of local news in regional areas. Newspapers aren't available in the morning (though some may be accessed via the web) and when they do arrive they cost much more than in the southern capitals: the weekday Australian sells for $3.00 in Darwin and $2.20 in Alice Springs. ABC local radio is a valuable source of local and other news (and the various websites are an archive of information for tourists and others - for an example which I've used see ABC Kimberley) .

ABC punches below its weight

"Inspiring stories of the human spirit" is the ABC's website puff for Australian Story , which tonight plumbed new depths of banality by featuring a female WBC featherweight boxing champion who is also a fundamentalist Christian and, if this is any indication, has a literacy problem (though she aspires to "memorize the Bible").

I'll post this though I'm not sure that this froth should be blown any further.

24 September 2006

Doctor Warne bending the elbow?

Cricinfo reports that there was some ill feeling in the Hampshire v Lancashire cricket match where the Hampshire skipper, Dr Warne , was piqued by the opposition's refusal to give his team a sliver of opportunity to win the game outright.

Shortly after lunch there was a surreal five-over period where Warne and others deliberately offered up a series of ridiculous deliveries in an apparent protest. Warne himself sent down a succession of bouncers and was no-balled for throwing the ball from a standing start.

No balled for throwing? The photo of the incident shows a well flighted ball delivered by a gunbarrel straight arm. Wearing a cap to deliver a ball and not running in are not illegal: I recall seeing West Indian Chris Gayle doing the same last year in a ODI v Pakistan .

Anyone who thinks that tossing a ball high in the air is somehow against the spirit and laws of cricket needs to be reminded that another doctor, Arthur Conan Doyle, as Michael Parkinson reminds us,
once wrote a story "Spedegue's Dropper" about how the Ashes were recovered using just this ploy. Nobody has raised an eyebrow about the legitimacy of the delivery, and, showing that art occasionally does imitate life, it has even made the Cricinfo XI freakish dismissals list .

23 September 2006

Breaking news or false lead?

The (Australian) ABC is running a French report that Osama Bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan last month.

As I post this hasn't been picked up by many other media outlets, though
The New York Times website has a report with a cautious headline "France to Probe Bin Laden Death Report Leak".

I'll be interested to see whether any of these matters (the leak, the report and the death itself) are corroborated.

20 September 2006

One year on

A year ago today I began this blog. At the time my aim was to post regularly (at least three times a week) on a variety of topics and to attract a few readers other than friends and relatives. I seem to have done this.

I hope to keep it going but also to work on improving it, eg by writing more frequently about books I've read and films I've seen. These are modest aims but I'll try to keep them in mind over the next year.

18 September 2006

Relative work value changes

Andrew Leigh reports the results of a study carried out by a former WA Assistant Director General of Education which shows how the relativities between WA backbenchers' and teachers' salaries changed from 1973 to 2003.

In 1973 a backbencher's base salary was $10,000 whereas that of a four year trained teacher at the top of the scale was $8,150, ie the backbencher earned 123% of the teacher's salary.

By 2003 the respective amounts were $106,000 and $56,126: the backbencher now earned 189% of the teacher's salary!

It would be interesting to see similar comparisons with other occupations, though not limited to predominantly public sector ones such as nursing and police.

17 September 2006

Going for the doctor of spin

Shane Warne has been awarded an honorary PhD by Southampton Solent University. According to the university's website

The accolade was conferred at The Rose Bowl in Hampshire in a twist on the traditional university graduation ceremony. A procession of university high officers, made their way to the boundary rope in front of the pavilion. Warne, the scourge of England’s batsmen in successive Ashes Test Series, received his degree scroll wearing customary academic dress.

The Pro-Chancellor who officiated at the ceremony said

As arguably the greatest bowler who has ever lived, Shane Warne is highly deserving of this honorary doctorate. His sporting success is an inspiration to all, and is particularly close to our own hearts given the university’s commitment to sporting achievement. We felt it was only fitting to break with tradition and confer this degree at the Rose Bowl, the home of Hampshire cricket, in recognition of the huge contribution he has made not only to international cricket but to the success and popularity of cricket in the Hampshire region.

Unfortunately the new doctor soon afterwards, as The Times reported, required the services of a medical doctor to attend to an injury sustained on the paying field.

Dr Warne has also been in the news recently for allegedly disturbing the harmony of the Australian team.

Perhaps the last word for the moment should be Geoff Boycott's advice to him:

Australia are the favourites this winter. I really think they will win unless the injury tally evens itself up. They are fit and fresh and well-rested. Some people say Shane Warne is creaking, but I say he took 40 wickets in last summer's series. Richie Benaud reckons Warne will be back for the 2009 Ashes and the only thing that makes me think otherwise is that Warney's life is full of escapades. If he slept with his bat, like I used to, he could probably manage another five years.

16 September 2006

Border security breached in WA

The ABC reports that a live cane toad has crossed into WA from the NT, thereby evading the substantial WA border protection illustrated in these pictures which I took last month.

Fortunately the report states that the illegal immigrant was found by a Kunnunurra couple "near the town's caravan park" (a dog whistle that tourists were responsible for its importation?) and was subsequently disposed of by a local vet.

After my experience at the hands of the WA officials, who not only took the fruit and vegetables in my possession (all of which I voluntarily declared) but also confiscated a box in which they had been stored, I'm surprised that anything could have escaped their zealous scrutiny.

Perhaps not everyone passing the checkpoint was
subjected to the same degree of attention as I was. I thought at the time that there may have been a form of profiling in operation, and that because I was driving a vehicle with a non-WA registration I therefore qualified for closer examination. I wouldn't wish a plague or even a trickle of cane toads upon anyone, but unfortunately they're a fact of life in northern Australia. Perhaps the WA authorities could do more to alert all travellers, whether their own people or interstate or overseas tourists, to their quarantine policies and to seek their cooperation in advance so that the rigour of the border searches (and the brusqueness of some officials) don't come as such a surprise.

13 September 2006

Free media?

Yesterday's Crikey referred to an article by
Richard Addis in The Guardian (UK) which ponders whether in 10 years' time all newspapers will be free. It's worth reading the whole piece for yourself, as it includes some rough calculations of costs and benefits. Addis suggests that the freebies are but a step on the road to fully online papers.

In Australia the free newspaper (many of them owned by News Ltd) has long been a feature of the suburban lawnscape, though it's not quite like London situation where the free papers have been used as bait to entice readers to fork out for a bulkier edition later the same day.

The costs of printing and distributing newspapers throughout our dispersed suburbs must be huge, and while a lot of people, including me, like to be able to hold something in their hand (if only to do the crossword puzzle or to have something to read on the bus) it may be that we can be weaned away from our reliance on print. After all I read bits and pieces of many papers on the web already.

Here in Adelaide both The Advertiser and The Independent Weekly have a free daily email each weekday which are sent out within minutes of each other to anyone who requests them. This competition doesn't guarantee that they'll report all the local news that's fit to email: yesterday neither reported the latest rumours about Mitsubishi, but it may be another indication of the way the wind is shifting.

That said, I think the home delivered newspaper will be with us for a while yet: perhaps even longer than 10 years. On my recent trip up north I was surprised that the weekday Australian costs $3.00 in Darwin and $2.20 in Alice Springs (and is not available at newsagencies in each place until the afternoon) . There are obviously people who are prepared to pay these prices and wear the delays (which can be even longer in more remote areas). Even so I'm surprised that a full text internet version isn't more widely promoted in those places: or perhaps it is and the tradition of the morning (or morning after) newspaper is still alive and well.

Alternative Prime Minister?

Just when I thought that Kim Beazley was starting to look and sound like an alternative PM he has made a fool of himself again. No, not over his assertion that the IR issue was the main reason why the Labor government was returned in Queensland (even though Laurie Oakes in The Bulletin has taken him to task for this), but over his idea (demand?) that everyone coming to Australia should have to sign on to an unspecified list of "Australian values".

Not only does this have all the indicia of policy made up on the run (as his predecessor was apt to do) but, as Matt Price in The Australian put it so pithily:

Having criticised Howard for dog-whistling on Muslim-bashing all these years, some Labor MPs are worried Beazley is sticking two fingers underneath his tongue and blowing hard.

One of the worried MPs, judging from her comments on last night's ABC TV Lateline, would be Julia Gillard . Only the transcript of her interrogation by Tony Jones is available: a video would show how she just managed to maintain her poker face for the duration of a longish interview.

Come on, Kim : you need to do better than this.

England selects

The squads for the English cricket tour of Australia have been announced. Injuries have ruled out Michael Vaughan and Simon Jones, while there seem to be some doubtful starters, eg
Ashley Giles who hasn't played for months, among those who have been selected. The selectors have prudently named a backup "Academy" squad which will be based in WA as a kind of travelling replacement pool.

I wouldn't write the English off so far in advance but on paper the team looks weaker than that which won the Ashes last year: the only possible improvements I can see are (assuming Read is preferred to Jones)
in the wicketkeeping
and maybe (if Giles is unfit and Panesar can spin the ball as he's done recently) the spin bowling. I won't make any further predictions, but will hope for a competitive series. England should be able to give Australia a good run for its money, but whether it can do enough to hold on to the Ashes (ie at least draw the series) is another matter.

11 September 2006

Five years on

Almost every western media commentator has had, it seems, something to say about the fifth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre. I don't have their analytical ability but, as I did visit the site earlier this year and took the photos above, I will post my one cent's worth .

Two pictures are of the site itself; the other two are of an adjacent churchyard dating from the 18th century (Ground Zero can be seen in the background of one of them) which was largely unscathed except for a tree uprooted by the blast.

When I was there I paused to reflect upon the destruction and the loss of life. I have never been in a place where so many innocent - and, despite what others may say, they were innocent - people have died at one time as a consequence of the actions of other humans. I know that there have been many other "occasions" (an unsatisfactory term, but I can't think of a more appropriate one just now) where there has been greater loss of life, but I will always remember my visit to Ground Zero and hope, though am too cynical to expect, that there will never again be deaths on this scale.

10 September 2006

GNE 2006

Summary of journey [added to blog July 2007 from notes taken at the time].

Day 1

Adelaide - Coober Pedy via Stuart Highway.
880 kms

Day 2

Coober Pedy.
34 kms

Day 3

Coober Pedy - Breakaways (see photo).

Day 4

Coober Pedy - Alice Springs via Stuart Highway.
713 kms

Day 5

Alice Springs - Renner Springs via Stuart Highway

Day 6

Renner Springs - Dunmarra (Stuart Highway)
206 km
Buchanan Highway (see photo of road train) - Top Springs - Victoria River Downs (pass) - Victoria Highway - Gregory National Park (see photo of boabs)- Limestone Gorge
476 km
Total for day:682 kms

Day 7

Walked to East Baines River through washed out area.
Drove Limestone Gorge - Timber Creek - WA border (zealous quarantine inspection) - Kununurra.
297 kms

Day 8

Kununurra - Wyndham and return (see photo of me dipping foot in water).
255 kms

Day 9

Kununurra - Lake Argyle/ Ord River Dam - Gregory's camp - Timber Creek - Sullivan Camp (Gregory NP) (many flies but Hobson's choice).
435 kms

Day 10

Sullivan Camp - Katherine - Edith Falls Nitmiluk NP (first safe swimming spot on trip).
247 kms

Day 11

Edith Falls - Pine Creek - Adelaide River (see photo of station) - Batchelor ( car cooling system problem required rescheduling of proposed trip to Litchfield) - Howard Springs.
326 kms

Day 12

Howard Springs - Palmerston for car repairs; I took bus into Darwin. Collected car in pm.
33kms (car)

Day 13

Howard Springs - Batchelor - Florence Falls, Litchfield NP (resuming planned itinerary). Car clocked up 130,000 kms near Elizabeth River.
126 kms

Day 14

Litchfield NP tour: Buley Rockhole, Tolmer, Wangi (walked above waterfall).
67 kms

Day 15

Florence Falls - Batchelor - Snake Creek Railway remains - Pine Creek - Edith Falls.
282 kms

Day 16

Edith Falls - Katherine - Mataranka Homestead (near thermal pool).
181 kms

Day 17

Mataranka - Larrimah (Stuart Hwy); Larrimah - Birdum (rough track following railway line) for Birdum 2006. As in 2005, a most interesting group of people.
92 kms

Day 18

Rode the NAR (see photo), then drove Birdum - Larrimah (rough track), then back onto Stuart Hwy; brief diversions to Daly Waters and old Stuart Hwy near Banka Banka otherwise on to Tennant Creek (Outback Caravan Park - v good).
520 kms

Day 19

Tennant Creek - Stuart Hwy - Alice Springs (spent c 2 hrs there inc quick visits to Old Ghan and Road Transport museums - both worth seeing) - SA/ NT border. Camped with ( as I calculated) my head in NT and legs in SA. Among campers were a French couple cycling south.
831 kms

Day 20

SA/ NT border - Coober Pedy.
414 kms

Day 21
Coober Pedy(dep 0655) -Port Augusta via Stuart Hwy - Wilmington - Melrose - Clare - Adelaide (arr 1907).
896 kms.

Total trip: 8083 kms.

07 September 2006

Colin Thiele

Colin Thiele died on the same day as Steve Irwin and thus his life has not been commemorated to the extent that many, particularly we South Australians, might have expected.

I'm not in any way belittling Steve Irwin, but I knew Colin Thiele. Many years ago I was a student at the teachers college where he was a lecturer and was impressed not only by his ability to evoke South Australian life and landscapes in his writings but also by his willingness to give his time to encourage others to read, and not just his books.

His passing is sad, but his substantial body of work will remain, as will the fond memories of people such as me, those who have sent letters to The Advertiser, and many more whose minds have been stimulated and enriched by reading his books.

Resumption of service

Yesterday evening I returned from GNE2006, after driving all day from Coober Pedy. Watch this space for more details of the trip, and for more frequent postings on other matters.