Migrating del.icio.us

I decided to move my del.icio.us bookmarks to a more “business like” username. I exported from del.icio.us, then imported into the new username, but it marks everything as “not shared”, and there’s no “share all” function.

I suspect this is an anti-spam measure, but it was a real pain. Anyways, a bit of digging and I found this blog entry that contains a script that allows you to, albeit slowly, automate much of the process. A tip though – don’t open multiple tabs and run this script as del.icio.us might lock you out…

Subsidising the wrong things

So, I was reading in Wheels magazine today that Ford Australia received $100 million in funding from the government so that they could keep open their manufacturing operations here.

To put that figure into perspective, the government has committed $75 million towards the recently announced “world’s largest” solar energy plant.

Obviously the intent is to maintain a manufacturing presence in Australia which will support Ford’s workers, but also the component manufacturers that supply Ford. I’m not a fan of subsidies for uncompetitive industries, but on balance it sounds reasonable. (I’d love to know how many people would be affected by Ford closing local manufacturing – could that $100 million be better spent re-skilling the workforce? But I digress…)

Of course, that mag went to press before the layoffs announced the other day. These layoffs are blamed on rising oil prices, and a drop in “big car” sales.

This is not a new trend. Car manufacturers that are relying on “big car” sales, like Holden (Commodore) and Ford (Falcon) have been seeing declining sales of their bigger models for years, with a particularly steep drop in the past year. The biggest selling cars for some time have consistently been smaller cars. And the dominant player at the moment is Toyota.

You’d think they’d cotton on to the fact that maybe they should be looking to develop smaller cars. Or more efficient engines. Or something! Not just keep building the same old cars that aren’t selling. Certainly it doesn’t seem to be a winning strategy.

But I nearly fell of my chair when I continued reading the article to see that the funding was specifically for development of large cars (specifically V8s if memory serves) and related technology – with a view to export markets. So not only is the government propping up an uncompetitive industry, but it is throwing money at a strategy that is clearly a dud.

In the same edition of Wheels, they interview last year’s Wheels Young Designer of the Year who is close to finishing an internship at Ford (the internship is a prize for winning the award). He is environmentally conscious, and clearly wants to work on cars that are more efficient and environmentally friendly. But Ford aren’t doing a whole lot in that area, are they?

Now to me, connecting the dots is pretty easy. (Am I being too simplistic?) Yet high-paid executives at Ford seem unwilling to see the writing on the wall and change course. Instead of looking for government handouts to prop up their unsustainable “big car” strategy, they should be looking to utilise Australia’s strong design talent to deliver innovation – cleaner, more efficient cars might be a good place to start.

And perhaps our government could think more strategically about spending our tax dollars on a dying business and instead focus it on research and development of cleaner and more efficient technologies. Focus on the development of “green tech” – one of the biggest growing industries worldwide – with a view to position Australia as a leader in the field.

What would it take to switch from subsidising “business as usual” practices to spurring innovation? I do hope we find out soon, coz I fear for the continued economic success of our country if we don’t start changing course soon…

Update 2006-11-10: Just a pointer to the comments section – John has some really interesting points in his post there…

Interest rates

As a new home owner, I now have to understand Reserve Bank interest rate announcements and how they affect our loan etc. Ross Gittens has a great piece that explains a few things about today’s rate increase. We’re on a fixed introductory rate that’s unlikely to change prior to settlement, so we should be sweet. But still, it’ll take a few of these announcements for me to stop feeling just a little anxious…

Climate change debate gaining traction

The Age: Govt ‘spends on ads, not climate change’. Glad to see Labor capitalising on an argument some have been making for a while.

The papers are awash with climate change related articles. A very good sign indeed. But the front page of The Age made me smile with this one:

MORE than six in 10 Australians are dissatisfied with the Howard Government’s response to global warming — and are prepared to pay extra to cut greenhouse emissions.

An overwhelming 91 per cent regard global warming as “very” or “somewhat” serious, a ACNielsen/ Age poll has found. But people believe renewable energy is a better solution than nuclear.

(Emphasis mine) Given all the spin and bluster around nuclear, I’m really glad that people are seeing through it. And for once the right question was asked – not if nuclear could be viable and whether or not they accept it, but whether nuclear is preferred over alternatives.

Perhaps this is the wake up call the government needs? Still not holding my breath – but wow! The coverage has been amazing. Now to leverage that and turn it into lasting action…

This cartoon takes the cake though – published with the Age article above:

Cartoon in the Age - 7 Nov 2006

Spinning in Iraq

The Australian: Saddam sentence sparks clashes.

Police were battling supporters of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad last night when clashes broke out in the Iraqi capital immediately after the ousted president was sentenced to death.

Police exchanged machinegun fire with insurgents in the capital’s rebellious northern Azamiyah district, an area dominated by hardliners from among Saddam’s fellow Sunnis.

Sometimes the spin is subtle… In the first para, the author says “supporters of Saddam Hussein”. Second para, they become “insurgents”. The inference – that the “insurgents” in Iraq, responsible for the violence and bombings, are the last of the “supporters of Saddam Hussein”. The logical extension: the death of Saddam will see the insurgents off.

The idea that the remaining insurgents are Saddam supporters has long been discredited – especially by journalists like Robert Fisk who have been on the ground in Iraq. The anti-US sentiment in Iraq, fuelled by the lack of a clear timetable for withdrawal, continues to build support for the insurgents – the resistance (possibly a more appropriate term?) is not going anywhere.

The Bush administration, and the press, will continue to push this idea for some time to come. The inferences will become more subtle, but no less problematic.

Thoughts on Bono

It seems Bono can do no wrong lately. I haven’t really bought into the hype surrounding his recent interview with Andrew Denton (which I’ve heard is “really good”). I am going to see the band – to fulfil a promise I made to myself nearly 10 years ago when I missed their last tour – but I’m not a real big fan of their last few albums.

However, I was killing time yesterday and came across this interview when I was rustling through a paper left at a local cafe. I had a bit of a read, and this passage stood out for me.

“Intimacy is a great word. A lot of people are listening to music through earphones [these days] and you know, you’re whispering into people’s ears. It is a very intimate relationship and I think the place where it flowers is, of course, at these shows. You realise that people are not screaming their lungs out for you – I’ve kind of known this – they’re screaming for themselves. And they’re screaming for the moments they attach to those songs, the lives. Our songs tend to be with people at either the best of times or worst of times. When things are going normally, I’m not sure people listen to our band very much ,” he said, laughing again.

I mentioned this to Ang, suggesting that it was a pretty humble response to the kind of hysteria that he probably witnesses at shows and elsewhere. Ang wondered aloud if it was just an act?

And so a great discussion ensued. It really challenged me to think about how we idolise people.

I figure that Bono has worked out that some people do hang on his words. That doors open for him that are not open to many people. That what he says has massive influence on people (whether that influence is warranted is open to debate). And with all that I get a sense that he recognises this as a great responsibility – and therefore measures his words and uses the airtime he gets to put forward ideas that may otherwise be lost in the noise of the media.

Some other questions that came up: why do we/how can we idolise people when we don’t even know them? Is the hype around U2 the hype around Bono? Is it true, as he suggests in the interview, that the band wouldn’t work if one of the members stopped playing? Does he warrant the attention – is there something truly special about this one person? Are his words any more valid than the next person’s? Is it all an act? (I personally don’t think it is – there seems to be a consistency in what he’s been saying the past few years that would be hard to maintain unless it’s authentic.)

Anyways, the conversation challenged me for a lot of reasons, and I wanted to share some of the thoughts around it – I don’t quite know why. What do you think?

David Hicks action

Amnesty is running a letter writing campaign calling on the PM to give David Hicks a “fair go”:

The camp in Guantanamo Bay is a legal black hole designed to put detainees outside the rule of law and the US Administration beyond the rule of law. It must be shut down. The detainees held there should be either released or, if they are suspected of having committed a recognisably criminal offence, they should be charged immediately and tried in fair proceedings.

Worth sending a letter I reckon…

My letter goes something like this:

Dear Prime Minister,

As you are aware, Australian citizen David Hicks has been detained for five years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a US-run detention camp.

The camp has been established outside of international law, and is a blight on the US/UK/Australia coalition’s human rights record.

The “war on terror” cannot be won if we disregard the rule of law and basic human rights.

With that in mind, I ask you to intervene in the case of David Hicks to ensure he is returned to Australia and tried under the Australian justice system.

If no ground or evidence is found to prosecute him, then David Hicks must be released immediately.

Additionally, I urge you oppose the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and that you call on the US close the illegal prison camp in Guantanamo Bay.

Leveling playing fields in the music biz

The Devoted Few recently finished their latest video-clip for their single, Don’t Listen to Us (which, incidentally, you can download from their website).

The clip captures moments from their recent touring and recording activities, and looks pretty cool. The band currently doesn’t have a label deal, despite getting high-rotation airplay on Triple J, and therefore they don’t have the budget to produce a video clip. (I still don’t get this: band that consistently gets good airplay and has done some amazing live dates supporting top-line acts like Eskimo Joe hasn’t received any bites from a major label? But I digress…)

So they turned to iMovie. Barry collated a bunch of footage captured on his personal digital video camera and pulled it into iMovie, then cut it to the track. The bridge section needed a little “something else”, so a friend helped them by pulling it into Final Cut Pro to do the 16 panel sequence that fills that spot. That’s the only sequence that wasn’t done on a basic G4 iBook and the free software that comes with it.

And the result is quite compelling. Sure, it doesn’t have fancy special effects, but it does capture the tone of the band, and is compelling enough to hold its own. Compelling enough for multiple spins on Rage, and hopefully jTV – Triple J’s digital TV channel (which also appears occasionally on free-to-air ABC).

So – let’s recap. They couldn’t get a label deal so released the single on the net and got high-rotation Triple J airplay. They didn’t have funding for a video clip, so they did it themselves using a video camcorder, an iBook (recently replaced in the Apple hardware lineup by the more powerful MacBook), and a bit of creativity – posted it on YouTube, and also had it played on free-to-air television.

As I understand it they are currently working out how they might fund their next long-player themselves also. Sure, it’s a lot of hard work. Sure, it would be nice to have the funding to get other people to do the job – more time to spend on creating music. But whereas these used to be barriers that couldn’t be overcome unless you had truckloads of cash, nowadays bands can do stuff on a shoestring and pull it off.

Anyways, enough philosophising on the power of digital and social media ;) Give them a hand and go check out the clip, download the single, request it on Triple J’s Super Request and jTV.