Romanes Eunt Domus

Nothing serious happening today worthy of commentary.

La Famile Ockham continues their European holiday and this week sees us back in The Eternal City.

January is the best month to visit Rome as the pickpockets are still in hibernation and the illegal immigrants have moved on to Calais in preparation for the opening of the spring sailing calendar.

As I will be unlikely to pass this way again for some years, I’m going to potentially risk getting a table at one of the best kept secrets in the city, and tell you that you should have dinner at Tullio’s next time you’re here. I’ve eaten there many times and it never disappoints. Hint; look at the dessert menu and, if they have Mont Blanc, plan backwards from that.

I am fully aware of the Jedi level of pretentiousness to admitting to having a favourite regular restaurant in Rome.

Anyway, as I say, Brexit votes notwithstanding, nothing important is happening on the world stage today so I wanted to share a holiday photo;

No, that’s not me, I’m the shadow.

Why did I take a photo of some random stranger at The Colosseum?

Look at what he’s doing. By the way, his head is turning because I’d just said, “what a fucking twat” to him in a loud voice. He then went for a fairly brisk walk away from me.

I’ve always wondered who on earth visits 2,000 year old monuments and inscribes, “I woz ere” on it.

If you have wondered this too, this picture will help solve the mystery.

Bill’s Opinion

Previous pan-European projects have failed.

Let’s hope tonight’s vote signals the failure of the current one.

Well, that’s a clear choice then

The democratically-elected joint Presidents of the EU have written to Theresa May with assurances that are apparently meant to help her convince parliament to vote for the recently negotiated deal.

The letter in full is here.

Parliament has the “meaningful vote” this evening around 19.00 UK time. It’s not looking likely that the deal will be ratified, but in these febrile times, who knows?

The great thing about the letter, if one chooses to read it carefully, is that it clearly signals to the UK that the EU has not, nor has any intention of in the future, negotiating in good faith.

That’s quite a bold statement, why am I so sure?

Theresa May’s biggest problem (of which she has many) is that she relies on the Northern Ireland party, the DUP, to have any chance of winning the vote.

The DUP’s prime concern is that Northern Ireland remains a part of the UK and not be become a vassal state of the Republic of Ireland and the EU.

In fact that should also be the prime concern of any resident of Britain who enjoys only having Islamic terrorism to contend with these days.

So, if you were the EU president and you wanted to give that assurance to Theresa May to pass on to the DUP, all it would take would be an extra clause in the agreement giving the UK the unilateral ability to exit the so-called “backstop”. What, maybe 2 sentences with no more that 40 words in total?

That it’s not offered in that letter and, instead, there are vague and nebulous statements about “best endeavours” signals they aren’t interested in compromising.

This is the paragraph that tells you they aren’t budging;

The European Council also said that, if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered, it would only apply temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement that ensures that a hard border is avoided, and that the European Union, in such a case, would use its best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop, and would expect the same of the United Kingdom, so that the backstop would only be in place for as long as strictly necessary.

In other words, “you’ve had our best offer, take it or leave it”.

Bill’s Opinion

Whatever happens, democracy in the UK will never be the same after this evening.

It’s anyone’s guess what comes next; riots on the street, quiet resignation of rule by elites or perhaps even the recognition that MPs are voted in to office to do as they are told?

Regardless, unless parliament can agree on a new bill to alter the current withdrawal bill or the Cabinet triggers a constitutional crisis by extending Article 50, the UK leaves the EU at 11pm, March 29th.

Deal or no deal.

When you invite a junkie into your house, you can’t have nice stuff

It’s just the rule. Every generation learns it in their own way.

For a while they think that their new drug of choice is better/safer/not as destructive as those stupid junkies of previous generations, but it always ends up with you wondering where your re-sellable stuff like records, CDs, iPods, Bose headphones, etc. disappeared.

The latest group of people to learn this lesson the hard way is that purveyor of sugary warm milkshakes for adults, Starbucks. They are having to install needle disposal bins in their bathrooms.

Apparently, this is a brilliant idea, because “inclusion”.

An alternative explanation is that this happened;

In April 2018, 2 men entered a Starbucks in Philadelphia, and sat at a table without placing an order. After a while, thy were asked to either buy something or leave. They refused both of those options, the police were called and, as they still wouldn’t buy something or leave, were arrested for trespassing.

Oh, additional fact; their skin colour wasn’t white.

Boom! Racism!

Cue viral social media outrage, protests, boycotts, hand-wringing and accusations of systemic “isms” everywhere in the hot beverage retail industry.

I’ve yet to find an interview with either of the gentleman concerned where they are asked, “so why didn’t you just buy a filter coffee for $1.85 and avoid the inevitable unpleasantness that any reasonable person could have anticipated?”. If any reader of this can find one, please add a link in the comments.

Whether or not there is systemic racism in the Starbucks’ corporate culture is not a particularly interesting question, mainly because it seems so unlikely; black people have money and drink coffee too, as long as they follow the basic rules of polite society in their stores, Starbucks would be foolish to do anything which might discourage their business.

No, the fun is to be had in the response by Starbucks to the hashtag campaigns and the consequences of their response.

Frightened witless, the management sent every staff member on a re-education course and changed the policy about using their stores without needing to make a purchase.

Here’s the list of things they hoped people wouldn’t do in response;

• No using drugs. Drug deals and use are one of the few things that employees are told to respond to with a 911 call, The Wall Street Journal reports. Employees are now encouraged to call 911 only if a situation presents immediate danger to employees or customers. So, presumably Starbucks’s stores are now the equivalent of a sovereign state with USA laws selectively applied.

• No breaking the law, including stealing or indecent exposure. Or else what?

• No drinking.

• No watching porn.

• No smoking.

• No napping.

• No talking too loudly or playing loud music.

• No disrupting others in hygiene maintenance, by doing things such as cutting nails.

• No obscenity or unwanted sexual advances.

• No panhandling or solicitation.

I quite like the “no talking too loudly” one. Having just suffered 3 hours on a train in Europe in a carriage with a millennial American who was FaceTiming his girlfriend, I’m wondering whether there’s a different definition of “talking too loudly” in the USA to other countries? Oh, and is there a competition to see how many times the word “like” can be shoe-horned into a bloody sentence?

I digress.

In a surprise to absolutely nobody, all of those “do not” rules were broken, particularly the one about not using the bathroom to shoot up, but the employees were too shit scared to call the police for fear of having a Twitter mob piling on and their piss weak management firing them.

Bill’s Opinion

Don’t invite junkies into your place, even if it means the Twitter outrage mob inflicting a severe case of hashtagging.

Also, if you’re the management of a large corporation being subjected to a bullying campaign that’s not based on fact, hold your damn nerve as they will find another target and will still want to buy your stuff next week.

Behold, my virtue!

I’m the underrepresented voice in the room“?

That may be correct; there probably aren’t too many qualified actuaries speaking at the conference who have a degree from the prestigious Babson College, including 2 years of overseas study, a year of which was at the London School of Economics, and who have been employed by organisations such as Facebook and Willis Towers.

But yes, Steven, you’ve had it bloody tough, eh?

I bet nary a day has gone by in your career when some alpha male actuary with his white privilege has made a joke at your expense, perhaps suggesting that your ethnic background had a .74684 correlation with the 9th decile of life expectancy in a random sample demographic of the Bay Area.

The cruel laughter of your colleagues must have stung.

Bill’s Opinion

When exactly did being a victim become fashionable?

What an utterly pathetic individual.

He’s had one of the best educations money can buy, a exceptionally well paid international career and yet here he is claiming victim status to his entire professional network and beyond.

Here’s an idea, Steve; do the speaking gig and donate the fee to an orphanage in Bangladesh or a charity that digs wells for sub-Saharan African villages.

Also, “white-passing“? Ever met someone with vitiligo? That’s not a term I’d chuck around casually if I were you.

Oh, and as for helpfully explaining which gender pronouns you prefer….. I’d just stick with “Twat” if I were you, it seems to suit you.

Wasn’t this tried once before in one half of Germany?

That this should come from a German politician’s mouth is somewhat ironic.

Spahn, a conservative heavyweight among Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats who recently lost a contest to become the party’s leader, described a knock-on effect of countries attracting doctors from neighboring countries, as is the case with Switzerland taking in German physicians.

That’ll be the “free movement of labour” thing that the EU is so much in favour of then.

Or is the deal that only low skilled labour should be allowed to move so as to keep a downward pressure on domestic wages?

“That cannot be right. We should therefore think about whether we need to create new regulations on the luring away of people with certain professions within the EU, and without fundamentally calling into question the freedom of movement within Europe,” he was quoted as saying.

Bill’s Opinion

The good news is, the Germans have relatively recent experience and understanding on what the solution is to this.

The bad news is, if Trump gets his budget passed, there’ll be a global shortage of workers with the skills to build it for a year or two;

Have we hit “peak” Sydney Morning Herald?

Quite possibly.

In the past few years, the world has finally started to wake up to the socially constructed ways in which some people are given an easier ride through life than others.

Here we go, which people?

Male privilege acknowledges how being a man means earning a higher wage than women, not being discriminated against because of their gender, and being far less likely to be sexually assaulted. And white privilege recognises the ongoing discriminations faced by people of colour in job opportunities, safety and every other part of life.

Ah, men. White men being the worst.

Those white men who do all the jobs with the high fatality and injury rates?

Yes, those but especially the ones who don’t binge eat;

But what about being thin? Is there an advantage, nay a privilege, associated with being slim in our society? It seems that yes, there is.

Well, we can agree on that. Hence why many of us eat sensibly and exercise.

The “thin” in “thin privilege” is not about being supermodel-skinny but being at a weight that means you are not subjected to judgment and harassment from strangers. It means that you can go into almost any clothes shop and find something that will fit. You can eat a hamburger in public without people clearly judging your decision. You can wear something figure-hugging without people sniggering at you.

You’ve just described the effects, not the cause of being a reasonable weight for your height.

Melbourne academic and body positivity advocate Jenny Lee says that women are especially vulnerable to this type of rhetoric because “women are still valued for their beauty first and are socialised accordingly”.

Ok, “Melbourne academic and body positivity advocate” Jenny Lee and the author of this article, Alana Schetzer, are early contenders for the Steve Sailer First Law of Female Journalisn Award, 2019.

“When I speak about thin privilege, I am talking about the advantages that thin people in Western culture experience, such as being assumed healthy and having a wide array of clothes available, as well as a body that aligns with dominant ideas of what is attractive,” says Dr Lee, who teaches gender and literary studies at Victoria University.

Ok, I admit it, Jenny Lee doesn’t in any way align with my personal idea of what is attractive. Where do I report to be sent to my re-education camp and will I also have to be subjected to gender and literary studies lectures?

“It’s time to acknowledge thin privilege the way the Left has acknowledged white privilege, class privilege or straight privilege. As a white middle-class person, albeit with working-class roots, it is worth noting here that I can’t speak for all fat women, and I have barely been able to touch on the prejudice that fat people of colour experience.”

Ah, that’s a helpful clue about where the morbidly obese sit in the Victim Olympics medal table;

Gold – dark skinned working class fatties

Silver – white working class fatties

Bronze – to be determined, they’re still panting their way around the track.

The conversation around thin privilege got a kick-start when US blogger Cora Harrington wrote a series of tweets explaining what it is and how people can benefit from it, even if they don’t think of themselves as thin.

“No one groans or rolls their eyes when they have to sit next to me on a plane or a bus,” she tweeted in July. “ In fact, no one comments on my body at all. The ability to move through life without people insisting you need to be a smaller size … if you don’t have to think about that, it’s privilege.”

No, it’s just the default position for anyone who has learned to control their calorific intake. That doesn’t make them a Nazi, just a functioning human adult.

Society has long determined that overweight people are not only flawed but also fully responsible for their weight gain. That being “fat” is simply deemed to be a failure caused by nothing but greed and gluttony, a byword for laziness, being undisciplined, greedy and unintelligent.

Let me correct that for you;

Society Nature has long determined that overweight people are not only flawed….

If you were too heavy to chase dinner on the plains, the rest of the tribe would view you as a liability. There is a very simple evolutionary reason for “society’s” judgement on obesity and it probably pre-dates language.

Another take on the label is that it’s not so much that thin privilege exists but that “fat inconvenience” does – a sort of social tax that bigger bodies have to pay, whether it’s the lack of choice in shops to buy clothes, or nasty stares and under-the-breath comments from airplane neighbours for taking up too much space.

Let’s remind ourselves the author is writing for a media outlet with a default position that any problem can be solved by the government taxing it. It would seem you can’t have it both ways (yes, I was going to write “cake and eat it” but just caught myself); either the “fat tax” of society’s disapproval and inconvenience works or it doesn’t.

Whatever you want to call it, there is undoubtedly a series of hardships that bigger people face, most of which are socially constructed as a way to control and belittle them. If we can create it, then we can unmake it.

Are far higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems and early mortality also “socially constructed”?

Bill’s Opinion

Obviously it’s our fault that Alana has an eating disorder.

How do I know she has an eating disorder?

Well, according to her Twitter feed, she’s a single female who owns a cat. You rarely get those two without the third.

Oh, here’s her blog at The Huffington Post.

Over the past year, I knew I had put on weight. Dresses and pants that used to fit comfortably now squished against my growing belly and left nasty red lines against my skin.

Whenever I was upset, I would skip dinner and instead plunge into a family-sized bag of Doritos, and the only exercise I was getting was waddling to the fridge and back to the lounge room, where I would read.

And here’s the explanation behind most of her journalistic output;

Sailer’s Law of Female Journalism;

The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

This is a heartwarming tale of consumer power to save a dying brand from bygone times; a small group of dedicated enthusiasts are keeping the traditional New South Wales’ beer, Resch’s alive by maintaining a Facebook page informing people where it can be purchased.

Admirable stuff.

Ah, those halcyon days of yore when the working man would drink a simple yet honest schooner of Resch’s beer.

Not for these enthusiasts the cynical corporate machine pumping out gigalitres of tasteless piss. Oh no, they’re fighting for the little guy, the artisan brewery doing it tough amidst a market dominated by a duopoly that has taken nearly all of the market share. Bravo!

One of the beer’s younger fans, 22 year old Amelia McGuire, was introduced to Resch’s when she was in year 12 by some male friends. To her, the beer feels part of the local community (although it is owned by Carlton United Breweries).

Wait, what?

Oh, Resch’s is just another of the myriad brands of beers brewed by Carlton United (really, AB-InBev) who, along with Lion Nathan (really, Kirin Holdings), brew and sell 98 of every 100 pints of beers drunk in Australia.

See also, Little Creatures, Four Pines, and every other “craft” beer you’ve drunk in recent years.

Bill’s Opinion

Beer is the second oldest recipe in human history (bread is the first… which resulted in the discovery of beer). Maintaining a diverse range of choices of this ancient beverage is surely a good thing.

In the early 1970s, British beer diversity started to improve thanks to the work of CAMRA.

Similarly, massive improvements have occurred in the USA in the last twenty years with a thriving independent brewing sector producing interesting and award-winning beers after the pissy “Bud” decades.

Australia however, is stuck in the 1970s with their duopoly masquerading as a “craft beer” industry.

So much so, that some silly old farts have formed a society celebrating, in effect, a recipe that’s been bought by Coca Cola.

In the words of Ray Davies;

We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society

God save Mrs. Mopp and good old Mother Riley

Preserving the old ways from being abused

Protecting the new ways, for me and for you

What more can we do?

To which the answer is, “more, but not this”.

[oh, and I resisted the temptation to make fun of Ms. McGuire but feel free in the comments]

What’s that definition of insanity….

….that Einstein probably never said?

Real estate agents are starting earlier this year.

Shame. You’ll be telling us next that divorce lawyers, journalists and politicians are having a hard time, and then we’ll really have to get the tissues out.

Falling prices, tighter credit and uncertainty ahead of a federal election and the final report of the banking royal commission mean a busier year for agents on the country’s eastern seaboard as they sell an increasing stock of homes on the market.

I’m not sure that statement is completely accurate; perhaps replace “busier” with “tougher”?

As several commentators on here have pointed out, in a falling market most sellers will rethink whether they really need to move. There’s a high degree of emotion attached to the perceived value of one’s house and the attitude that “it’s worth $x and I won’t take a penny less” can be deeply ingrained.

So therefore we may well see far fewer properties up for sale this year. Those who have to sell due to death, divorce or unsustainable debt will be the exceptions.

Something else will need to change too, although Eliza McGrath hasn’t spotted it yet;

Our first open [day] is on 19 January. Then we’re extending it to be a five-week campaign with the first auction on 16 February.

Given that fewer than 1 in 2 properties are selling at auction, it seems somewhat poor advice to her clients to chuck a bunch of cash at a marketing campaign and planning for an event that has a higher probability of disappointment than ever before in living memory.

Finance is getting harder to get,” McGrath says. “So getting a five-week campaign is more standard. Some people are asking for six weeks. They know from trying to buy themselves how hard it is to get pre-approval.

She’s not getting the hint, is she? The auction favours the seller only in a rising market, that power dynamic reverses on the way down.

A search for her on Google Images explains why. She looks like she is barely 30 years old. The last time the market was like this she wouldn’t have been potty trained.

Ren Hor Wong seems to have a better idea, however;

“Given the current market condition and low auction clearance rate, vendors’ confidence is low when it comes to selling,” chief executive Ren Hor Wong said.

“We see a surge in listings activity, but majority of them would not go to auction, and some probably don’t even want to go for a marketing campaign.”

Quite.

This is interesting too;

“So it’s imperative for agents to have a database of finance-ready buyers”

He might regret dropping that gem into the interview. He’s just told his competitors a good tip on how to survive this year, if they are clever enough to listen.

He’s got some other intelligent insights too;

Going off market also allows the seller to save marketing costs, a key for vendors at this low point in the market, Wong adds.

“When you can’t ask for a higher price in the market, next thing you want to do is to save money,” he says.

Smart thinking; drop the price and lower your sales costs.

Meanwhile, on Planet Millennial, reality hasn’t arrived yet;

McGrath isn’t sure what will come. The year is likely to start well, but it is hard to see further beyond, she says.

We’ll have a strong start to 2019, like 2018 did, but it’s hard to say what’s after the first quarter, with the election coming up and the royal commission [final report],” she says.

I bet you won’t, Eliza, I bet you won’t.

Bill’s Opinion

For some time now, being an estate agent on the east coast of Australia required nothing more challenging than possession of a cheap suit, a driving licence and pulse.

Things have changed this year. There will be significant consolidation of agencies and a huge reduction in the number of agents employed.

The question is, what does one do as an alternative job if all your previous work experience consisted of handing out leaflets at open houses for the last decade?

The price of Uber journeys and dog waking services in Melbourne and Sydney are likely to reduce significantly.

So what you’re saying is…

….Japanese men compete hardest when there is more cultural “face” to lose, particularly when competing against women?

Here’s an insight from the economic heavyweight that is the Sydney Morning Herald’s Economics Editor, Ross Gittins.

To be fair, he’s achieved one requirement of journalisming; to inform. I, for one, had never heard of this Japanese sport before;

He also explains that there is a vast database of to be mined about how men and women compete in single sex and mixed sex races, both in terms of results and penalties for aggressive fouls.

What does this data tell us?

Wait for it; men are more aggressive than women, even more so when they are competing with women.

Which surprises no-one who has a passing knowledge of Asian culture.

There is then a whole bunch of word salad about something called “gender identity“. 

Bill’s Opinion

Japanese men in competitive sport don’t like losing.

Japanese men in competitive sport really don’t like losing to women.

Japanese women in competitive sport take fewer risks than men.

This research and Ross Gittins’ subsequent regurgitating of it is analogous to the discovery of the double helix by Watson and Crick in it’s importance to the human species. 

It’s possible that blog posts here may reduce in frequency soon, depending on how successful I am in my application for a 3 year research grant to investigate why men and women tend to urinate standing up and sitting down, respectively, and the influence of the cis-heteronormative patriarchy on the cultural appropriation of gender norms in the use of toilets.

In related news, if you want to understand how completely arrogant and boorish Gittins is, risk your mental health by listening to this podcast where he is interviewed by our friend Jess I can use a spreadsheet to diet, and you proles can’t Irvine

Gittins may be hugely qualified in his profession but, my goodness, when speaking he sounds an awful lot like every old bloke in the office you’ve ever met who’s close to retirement and wants to give you unsolicited advice at each opportunity that seems more about explaining how smart he is than being of any practical use to you.

 

 

Climate change maths salad

Like cooking, journalisming has its best results when using seasonal ingredients. January wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory look at all the weather records that were broken the previous calendar year. Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald’s effort, under the tagline “extreme weather” (“climate change” seemingly out of favour recently, suggesting some bet hedging is going on).

Unfortunately, the climate team’s intern, Nicole Hasham, was given the task of assembling the maths salad and, as we will see, is really not as competent at the task as her senior colleague, Peter “weather is climate” Hannam.

Regurgitating Quoting a Bureau of Meteorology report, Nicole starts off poorly;

Where to start?

Well, perhaps the first point to make is that averages, by their very definition need some values above and some values below. It would be remarkable if no temperatures were experienced above average during a long enough timescale.

It seems somewhat depressing to have to explain this to a senior climatologist (now there’s a job title of our time) and an environment and energy correspondent. At least one of them will have studied statistics in high school, not that you’d be able to guess it from the statement above.

The second point, and it seems somewhat obvious, is that the climate has no concept of a state or territory.

Finally, does Nicole understand, or expect her readers to understand, what “second warmest on record for daily high temperatures” means?

Or perhaps the only important words she wants us to read are “second warmest“?

Next up is a bunch of rainfall maths salad;

We dealt with this at the time.

Subsequently, the rain came along but just a little delayed.

To be fair to Nicole, she did regurgitate quote the report on this. It probably proves something significant and negative in her mind though;

“Respite”.

It’s almost as if, I dunno, the climate is a complex system that doesn’t drop a consistent volume of rain during a man made time interval known by the English noun, “month”.

This would be amusing if the Australian taxpayer weren’t picking up the bill for this so called “science”;

“Increasingly influenced by global warming”.

Really. Do tell us whose fault this is;

“Can only be explained by human influence”? Well, there’s the Scientific Method dispensed with in just 7 words. One can imagine the reception a researcher would get if they tried to apply for a grant to investigate the influence of solar cycles on global temperature.

Finally, we get to the chart that reveals Australia’s record-breaking run of rising temperatures;

That looks shocking, especially with all that red on the chart.

Let’s look a little closer at the scale and labels though….

The Y-axis is interesting; why set the zero point as the average of 1961 to 1990? Why not take the average of the entire time range? What would that chart look like? Sadly, we don’t know because, as far as I can tell, they haven’t published the data behind the chart. Here’s the link to the original report, where we learn that the chart is showing the anomaly; Anomaly is the departure from the long-term (1961–1990) average. We also discover that the chart above shows, Mean temperature anomalies averaged over Australia, again, calculated against the 1960-91 average for some unknown reason.

Wait, averaged over Australia“? WHAT???? 

So, in summary, you took ALL of the mean temperatures recorded across the entire continent of Australia, averaged them and then compared that against a similar average between the years 1960-91 on a chart starting at 1900?

What insight, pray tell, was this exercise supposed to result in?

 

Bill’s Opinion

To answer my final question above, this chart that is supposed to reveal Australia’s record-breaking run of rising temperatures does nothing of the sort. What it shows is a sliced, diced, mixed together, re-diced and re-sliced set of data and then selectively colour-coded to scare people who don’t understand statistics.

By which, I mean Sydney Morning Herald environment correspondents. Well, either Nicole doesn’t understand statistics or she’s blatantly pushing a political agenda and pushing it with lies.

Which is it Nicole?

Let’s face it, this is the climate science equivalent of a collateral debt obligation, and we all know where that led.

UPDATE; I made an error regarding means vs. median in the original post. That sentence has been deleted.