Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The AFL Story

There is a story common among guys who grow up in Australia - how far they got in footy - Australian Rules footy.  I imagine its the same in other countries with other sports.  But here, it is footy.  Me, I peaked in the 2nd side of South Perth Primary School.  Not bloody far at all.

But I've met many guys who played colts, or country football, or reserves in the WAFL.  I've got nephews and sons of friends who are in WAFL clubs development squads.

I thought about this today, because three Eagles, Dylan Main, Rowen Powell and Will Maginness, were delisted today, none of them every playing an AFL game.  The Eagles finished second, and were fighting for wins the whole way through the season.  If they'd been down and out, maybe Dylan, Rowen and Will might have been given a run with the big boys, but they weren't.  

How tough is it to have got that far without getting on the big stage?  The disappointment, not only of the boys, but of family and friends, that they didn't get a chance.

Anyway, I can't help but think that there is a screenplay here.  Because for everyone who goes on to play 200 AFL games, there are thousands who never quite got there - and I think the story of them is waiting to be told.  And I think there are lots of Aussie blokes who'd watch it and remember what might have been...

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Kids complaining about things not being fair are often told, "Life isn't fair.  Get over it."

Now I'm getting on, and I've never really got my head around life not being fair.  I thought I did, thinking that luck played its part.  But that is not it.  When people say that life isn't fair, they mean it really isn't fair.  That people will, for their own selfish motives, make decisions that disadvantage you.  And that while they are doing this, they will lie to you and tell you that they are being fair.

This is a lesson that doesn't get through my thick head.  Its not the world I want to live in, so I don't actually build it into my model of the world.  So every time it happens, I'm caught out.  Again.

Which makes me wonder.  How would my world change if I accepted the inherent unfairness of the world?  Would I fight against it, or accept it and go with the flow?

A specific example happened on Friday night.  Freo played Hawthorn in the AFL 2015 preliminary final at Subiaco Oval.  The AFL announced the umpires for the match on Monday, and immediately some fans said that we (Freo) would lose with those umps.  I could see their point, but didn't really believe it.  But I was at the game, and it was far worse than I'd imagined.  The umps killed us.  And then some.  And then some more.  In the end we lost by a reasonable margin, and all the usual apologists came out and said that the umpiring did not influence the result.  But they are fools.

So what to do?  I propose that next year, Freo fight the AFL on every single dodgy decision they make, not matter how inconsequential it may seem.  The AFL schedules a game of ours in Tasmania - we don't send a team.  The AFL gives us umpires we don't like - we complain loudly before, during and after the game.  The AFL suspends our players for any reason, we challenge, and we fight.  And we don't be fair about it.  We exploit everything we can to make the AFL uncomfortable.  We question their decisions, and if told that we are bringing the game into disrepute, we point out that they made the dodgy decision - we are just having trouble understanding how the hell they thought it was OK.

Actually, looking at that, I've made one mistake.  I said "next year".  What the fuck, lets start right now.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Bye bye Tony!

Tony Abbott has been deposed as Australia's PM by Malcolm Turnbull.  Turnbull was a minister in Abbott's government.

Now this happened when the ALP was in power - Gillard deposed Rudd.

And of course one thing is blindingly obvious.  Both Rudd and Abbott were brilliant as opposition leaders.  Both ran good campaigns and got their party into government.  BUT this does not mean they are the best people to run the government.

You'll never get anywhere with this, but I'd say that after 18 months of government, there should always be a spill of leadership positions, so that the party can choose as leader the person best suited to lead them in government.  You can't do it straight after an election - because everyone will just back the person who they perceive won them office.  But 18 months later, it should be pretty clear to everyone just how the government is going, and if the leader needs replacing.

Mind you, a really brilliant opposition leader might win the election, and immediately fall on their sword and accept a ministry in a government led by the person they think will do the best job as PM.  It will never happen though.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


I live in Australia, where our political class have decided that we will take a certain number of refugees who arrive via the official channels each year.  And we will take no refugees who try and get here by boat.

The "official channels" means finding your way to a UNHCR run refugee camp, and living there for about 10 years until you are offered a place in a nice country.

What seems obvious to all right thinking Australians is that we (and the rest of the rich world) can't actually take all of the people bent on escaping war, famine, and political, racial and religious persecution.

Except all of a sudden it seems to me that this is not obvious.  It seems logical and necessary that we take all refugees, and we do it now.

Firstly, most of the people fleeing are blameless.  They did nothing to deserve their situation, and nothing they could do could fix it.

Secondly, in many cases the change that forced them to flee is permanent.  It is not a case of sitting in a refugee camp for a few years and then heading home.  Maybe things will improve, and they will go back home, but to spend 10 years in a refugee camp with your life on hold while you wait, that is not on.

Thirdly, the world is a very interconnected place.  If things are unbearable in Syria or Somalia, there is every chance that "we" have something to do with it.

Accepting all refugees is a huge step.  But in all honesty, the other choice, to sit back and let innocent people die or rot in squalid camps, is not an option.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The anxiety epidemic- a cause?

I'm going out on a limb here.  I'm going to connect injury and anxiety.  My hypothesis is that injury helps prevent anxiety.

When I was a kid, there no doubt was anxiety.  But back in the 60's and 70's, it wasn't a big deal.  Anxiety is now a big deal.  Lots of young people suffer from anxiety.  Often crippling anxiety that stops them interacting socially, keeps them home from school or university.

And with such things, you are inclined to think, "What changed between then and now?".  Of course a lot of things changed, and one of them involves the amount of physical risks that kids took.  And I don't think anyone would argue that modern kids take far fewer physical risks, and suffer fewer injuries.

So what prompted this idea?  Well, my young adult son suffers from anxiety.  And last weekend he was engaged in uncharacteristically fast running, and fell over, getting some nice scrapes and bruises.  And this week, his anxiety is less.

That is it.  A sample size of one.  A highly subjective observation.  Someone needs to follow this up!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The twin paradox

You may be familiar with the twin paradox of special relativity.

One twin stays on earth, while the other twin flies off to a nearby star at nearly the speed of light.  On reaching that star, she turns round and comes back to earth.  For all the time travelling at nearly the speed of light, each twin sees the other twin's clock running slowly (according to special relativity, which is correct).   Yet when the traveller returns to earth, they really are younger than their stay-at-home twin.

There are various explanation of this, which are almost certainly correct (because some very smart people thought about this), but I don't like them.  They are unsatisfying.  They rely on the lack of symmetry - one twin sits still, the other has to turn around, and it is the turnaround that leads to the asymmetry.  So I figure there must be a symmetric version of the twin paradox.

This time our intrepid twins are both travelling at nearly the speed of light, parallel to each other, when without changing speed they take circular paths of the same radius that diverge.  At some point they will converge again, having each done a full circle, and can compare clocks, or look for visible signs of aging, or whatever.  The situation is symmetric, so when they compare clocks, both clocks must show the same time.  But at various points in their trip, they are moving very fast relative to each other, and so must both see each others clocks running slow.  So how, when they meet again, can their clocks show exactly the same time?  And now there is no asymmetry to hang your hat on.

Oh well, I'll have to ask some of the very smart people I work with...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


The goal of any business is to sell lots of stuff and reduce their costs.  The biggest cost is often labour, so it is only natural that companies try and use less labour.  After all, who wants farmers to plough by hand?  Who wants armies of government clerks filing paper copies of everything?

The only problem with this is that when you are replaced by a machine or a computer, you aren't earning money any more, and that makes life kind of difficult.

Anyway, it seems to me that over time less and less labour will be used, and that means less and less people having money from working.  And maybe more and more people having money from investing.  And herein lies a problem.  Most of us can imagine earning a living by selling our labour.  There is probably something we are good at.  But you can't make a living from investing unless you have money.

Now governments can actually take money and redistribute it.  And they do this.  But there is a movement that, while not actually stating they don't agree with redistribution, are advocating less tax.   I guess if you want, you can pretend that you can collect less tax and still do the necessary redistribution.  But it is just pretending.

Of course in the long term, new industries will spring up to employ those displaced by technology.  Just look at the number of coffee shops that have sprung up.  Personal trainers did not exist 30 years ago.  A great number of various types of therapist have exploded in number in recent years.

So the amount of redistribution needed is not fixed, and not necessarily ever growing, but right now the pace of change is great, so more redistribution is needed.  The other path leads to revolution and destruction.