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 Does anyone have the 'montage song' from Team America? If you do, plz send it to me.
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 ...I've been making videos of stuff I've been up to in Vietnam. My channel of stuff I've done so far- http://www.youtube.com/user/imdaveyeahdave?feature=mhum

I'll probably post new videos here from now on. I keep forgetting.

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I'm starting to like this whole minority government idea. Have a look at these parliamentary reforms that have bipartisan support. Among the changes, these are the ones that stick out to me the most:
  • An independent speaker. How awesome is that? I really look forward to seeing a speaker who can really let fly, the last time I remember that happening was during the Rann minority government.
  • Standing orders on answers being relevant enforced. Oh yes, this will make things interesting.
  • Time limits on questions and answers. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out.
  • Shorter time limits for statements about bills, to 15 minutes. It's about time. That said I've always been happy that we have a system where people can't just talk forever to stop a bill from being voted on.
  • Required governmental replies to committee reports 6 months after they are tabled. Niiiice.
  • More time for matters of public importance. I'm pretty meh on this one, most of the time it's quite drudging and most likely the period when the ministers realise they said the wrong thing during question time.
  • More time for private member's bills. I'm uncertain about this one. I'm not really sure if there needs time to be allocated to this, and with more time allocated to debate, I wonder if Parliament will be having even more 12-14 hour days.
  • 15 minutes for 90 second statements about constituency issues. A nice touch.
  • A different procedure for bills and scrutiny by standing committees. Eh, it's shuffling the paperwork a little, but it clearly favours the independents, who have little time to scrutinise rushed bills.
  • Look into more sitting days. Sounds good, but there are always fine constituency matters to balance.
  • A trial of a 5 minute Q&A (30 second questions, 2 minute answers) after MP speeches to 'encourage smarter debate'. Oh yes yes yes yes. That would be totally awesome and I'd love for that to be enacted.

So there you have it. Some big changes going on there. Hopefully this will give the opposition more power to pressure the government during question time and have some better process with debate and the passage of bills.

Awesome stuff.
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I've been in Vietnam for close to a month, and there are a few things that I miss from Australia. List! No particular order.
  1. My beer. And good beer in general. The most commonly available beer here is Hanoi beer, which is a Standard American Lager- watery, 30-40% adjuncts, and flavourless. They like putting ice in it for some reason. Pff, after all that I'd rather a cold glass of water. Listening to The Brewing Network makes things worse, I keep thinking about tasty IPAs and the such.
  2. The dairy food group. It's hard to find any dairy over here, especially where I'm staying because it's remote. I bought some milk in a visit to Hanoi when I went to vote, but the milk tasted weird. It's like they added heaps of HFCS to sweeten it up for some reason.
  3. Mel :-(
  4. My snake, Francis
  5. Steak. The meat here is kinda fatty, and it's usually pork. Dog is a terrible meat.
  6. Civilisation in general. I really don't spend much time doing any actual work, so I spend heaps of time listening to podcasts and music, on the internet, reading, etc... I miss being 10 minutes from a shopping centre. the closest sign of civilisation is a small market that's a few kilometres away, and I usually walk because it's a real hassle convincing a person at the park to give me a ride in on a motorbike.
  7. Uninterrupted sleep. Either I have troubles getting to sleep because of insects (there was a shitload of them in my room last night, and they were falling through my mosquito net somehow), the heat, the humidity, get woken up by thunder (there have been constant thunder storms) and other distractions, and get woken up early by the early light. Ugh.
While this is a bit of a 'waaaah' post, I am actually enjoying things over here. Vietnam is a beautiful country, and being in an isolated place gives me an interesting look into rural living (which is how most of the population lives anyway). When it's not threatening rain, I walk around the park which is nice. I keep meaning to find some of the Buddhist temples in the area (apparently there are heaps of temples and Catholic churches).

So yeah. Hmm.
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A hung parliament, the Greens increasing their primary vote by 50% and picking up its first lower house seat, the Greens getting the balance of power in the senate, Fielding losing but Day winning for Family First, ensuring that crackpot party still hangs around the halls of parliament, and nobody knowing exactly who will be the Prime Minister once everything is done and dusted.

What an election.

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Mmm, my thoughts on the only debate on the election? It was all right. Very stage managed, and little substance was there. No mistakes to really point out, and both participants were good at making no real commitment.

Julia Gillard

She went well. My only critiques is that she should have made a bigger deal out of Abbott's maternity leave plan requiring a rise in company tax. She mentioned the planned rise but didn't couple it with the actual bill. Another big hole in ther argument is the lack of reference to infrastructure spending. It's possible that because her portfolio before becoming PM was education/industrial relations she wasn't really 100% on all the details, but mentioning even generically the rail and road investment would have been nice.

Tony Abbott

Wow, he sure likes saying fair dinkum, eh? He did well, much better than he did in the health debate against Rudd earlier this year. Frustrtingly he once again trotted out the "goverment debt makes things more expensive" line GRR MACRO ECONOMICS DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY. He fumbled a little early on but regained his composure and debated well.

The WInner

Overall I'll have to go with what most of the commentators went for and say it's a draw. Neither leader really got any big hits on the other, and neither actulaly said anything of substance. If one of them decided to announce a policy during the debate (I remember Latham killing Howard and twisting the knife by releasing a policy that put the government on the back foot... but maybe we shouldn't use the L word here). Eh, it was all right.





This Week in the Campaign

In a word, Frustrating. I really like election campaigns. They're interesting, they have the cut and parry of usual politics, but much more concentrated, with every day counting. However, this really isn't happening. This campaign should be about some really hot issues, but in reality it's about grocery prices (which the government can't change), border security (which the two parties pretty much have the same policies), and the economy (which is being argued poorly). The only real dynamite issue is the whole 'trust' thing (hmm... recycled from the last campaign, I see), which has descended into childish name calling.



I'll leave this post with the following problem- what is Tony Abbott's industrial relations policy? He says that WorkChoices is dead and buried, but what will he change? First he says he'll leave it as is, then he said he'll make changes that don't need legislation (getting around his initial promise), which in turn it was pointed out needed legislation after all. The Australian economy has been  in a state of continual reform since the early 80s, and it's the reason why Australia is still in the longest period of growth in its history. I cannot possibly believe that a Liberal government won't change anything, especially when the businesses that support the party are screaming for change, and given the political landscape of the past three decades. I don't think he'll be stupid enough to try WorkChoicesII, but he'll try something. Him being cagey and his proposed 'no dole for under 30s' policy makes me wary.
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OH FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK THE LIBERALS HAVE GOOD COMMERCIALS. Sure they aren't accurate, but they are just so damn good I almost like the crazy bastard.
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OK, so here's my usual post where I talk about the parties and how they have gone.


Labor


I'll be honest here- Labor does not deserve to win the election. This is not to discount their achievements, they have been great-
  • Stopping Australia from going into recession while the rest of the western world did (though I'll only give them partial credit for that, Hawke/Keating/Costello can take some of the credit as well).
  • Ending WorkChoices
  • Starting up the new Organ Donor registry, causing an upturn in donations
  • Apologising to the Stolen Generation
  • Signing Kyoto

There are more, but they are the dominant ones. However they have been outweighed by the failures of the government. Far too much waste, poor policy formulation and a leader who concentrated all decision making into his office but lacked the patience to do it properly. Gillard taking over the leadership will help this- she has gone back to the traditional decision making structure Labor has had for the past 140 odd years, so it's a little better.

This whole saga though has left a real bad taste in my mouth concerning Labor. Latham's ascent raised big questions about the Labor machine. He was a man who was essentially raised by Labor, and he turned out to be incredibly unstable and took Labor to its worst election defeat since Fraser's election in 1974. Rudd was ascended to leadership quickly and was held aloft by a machine that didn't really trust him nor believed in how he was going about leading the country. Is it surprising that they would cut his head off when things go sour?

I'll vote Labor in the lower house, I suppose. It's mainly because it'll be so delicious to see Pyne lose his seat. He holds it by 1.88%, which means that a swing of around .9% will see him out, depriving the Liberals of Abbott's potential replacement if he loses the election. There are two other reasons. The first is that a loss to Labor would devastate the party and send it into a crisis of confidence I'm not sure the party has had ever. It will be so ineffective in opposition that they might as well not be there. The third reason is the alternative, which I will go into below.


Liberal

I don't want the Coalition to win. It's a problem, because on one hand you have a party that has made a mess of its first term, and another party that has a leader with far too right wing views. If the Coalition wins, the authority Abbott will have will be enormous, since he will have led the Coalition to the impossible victory. The ideas that Howard told him to shut up about? He'll most likely bring the back up, and nobody will have the balls to say 'that's kinda dumb'. He's already spruiked the idea of stopping the dole for everyone under 30, what next?

Their front bench I'm also quite uncomfortable with. The treasurer will be Joe Hockey, a man who I detest. The deputy PM will be whatsername. Abbott will probably fill the rest of the bench with former Howard government hacks who were too incompetent to get into a real portfolio. Is this really a party that is ready to lead? It has not learned the lessons of why it lost in 2007, and thus it's likely that it will bring about the sort of policies Howard liked in his last term, with the added bonus of having an opposition in such turmoil that it won't lose them the next election.

Also: would you really elect a party that has had 3 leaders in 3 years?

Nationals

The Liberal party's partner in the Coalition has been relatively quiet. Barnaby Joyce has been a pain in the ass as usual, which has made following the National party reasonably enjoyable. Apart from that they have been reasonably quiet, which is unusual for the Nationals. Normally they largely split from the Liberals in opposition, but this time they've been quite loyal, especially with their annual backstabbing ritual. Feh, I have little of interest to say about this lot.

The Greens

They have done well. They have managed to get concessions from the government that have worked, and have managed to steal votes from the government, giving it the very real chance of having a fat section of seats in the next Senate. All they need to do is keep their heads and keep going like they have been. I'll probably vote for them in the upper house again, they serve as a good party to review legislation and take part in the various committees that review the executive level of government. If Labor is returned, I'd like to see more of that.

Family First

Steven Fielding annoys me. Even if you look past the fact that I disagree with their stance on pretty much everything, he just isn't a very good Senator. He keep contradicting himself, making claims that aren't true, and just not being able to handle himself very well. Yes I understand that it's his first term, and yes I understand that he has a learning disability. However, this doesn't excuse the many times he has failed to understand a bill because he hasn't bothered to read it. I really hope he doesn't get back into the Senate.
Democrats

Who?



But yeah... interesting times ahead.
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 Gillard today announced the election will be held on August the 21st. This gives the two parties 5 weeks to campaign. I'm kinda sad, because I'll be overseas for a majority of the campaign, and you should know how much I like election campaigns.

Should be exciting!

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 I recently purchased a Kobo ereader, and as such here's a review. I was drawn to the idea of ebooks due to their convenience- cramming a large number of books into a small device struck me as a great idea. I had a look around at the various ereaders on the market, looking mostly at the Kindle and the Kobo. I decided on the latter for two reasons. The first is that I could physically look at one in stores (the display ones had a habit of freezing up, though since buying one it struck me that the magnets used to keep them on the displays might be messing with them somewhat) and that the kobo can open pdfs, which I really like the idea of.

The Design

For those of you looking at getting one, I recommend getting the black one. The white one has a green pad on it, and it just doesn't look as nice as the black one.





Ooh, how nice. Anyway, the screen is smallish but a nice size for what it's used for. It has a quilted back which is comfortable in the hand. The screen  is great to read- one advantage ereaders have over tablet PCs is that it doesn't have backlighting and its own unique method of displaying pages, which is really easy on the eyes (I hate reading off computer screens) and is for me the greatest selling point for ereaders.


The Reading Experience


My feelings are mixed but I'm generally quite happy with it, My only gripe is that it takes a while for books to load up, about 5-8 seconds. Since the kobo uses what's called 'eink' technology, it takes a bit less than a second for a page to makifest itself on the screen. It's about how long I'd take to turn a physical page so I'm not too fussed about that. As mentioned above reading off the screen is an enjoyable experience.

There isn't much choice in fonts, just 'serif' and 'sans serif'. I chose the serif. They're pretty bog standard fonts which I suppose is best. I would prefer if there was some choice when it came to fonts though. There are six choices when it comes to font size, the one displayed above is 'medium', which is the fourth biggest font size.


Software


This is a little annoying but not much. Kobo comes with its own software to access its library. This is straightforward- buy books, upload them to your kobo using the software, you're done. Kobo only reads the standard ebook format (so no amazon books can be read on it), which means that you can buy from a bunch of different online retailers like Barnes and Noble, Sony (my favourite), and so forth. These tend to come with their own software to download their books with.

There is a simple solution, though. I have an Adobe program called 'Adobe Digital Editions', which I drag and drop all ebooks I buy elsewhere onto. It centralises my non-kobo bought library, and it interfaces with the Kobo very well, so I just update new books through this software, and bingo, it's done. It's a bit annoying because I still have to have all these superfluous ebook downloading software on my computer, but this seems to be the way the ebook retailers prefer to do things.

Small Gripes

There are a couple of issues I have with the Kobo, though. The menu has an 'I'm Reading' section, which brings up books you are part way through. However, documents (so pdfs) you are in the middle of don't appear in it. You have to scroll through your list of documents to find the one you want, and since I have quite a few documents, it's a little annoying. When I find out how to make a suggestion to the Kobo people I'll do so.

The software thing is annoying. I would prefer it if I could drag and drop ebooks I bought elsewhere onto the Kobo software, but I suppose it's an attempt to get people to buy from them as much as possible. That's moot if the books aren't available (James Bond!)

There are still some coding issues with the ebook format. Interesting Times has all the footnotes at the beginning for some reason and in Diamonds are Forever instead of having dollar and pound signs it would have something like '&dollar500', which is disappointing.

It has bluetooth but not wireless, so I have to update with a cable. This isn't much of an issue though.

Overall

I quite like the Kobo. It's an enjoyable piece of technology that has the ability to hold heaps of books that I want to read. For me being able to read pdfs is fantastic because I have a bunch of books in pdf format that I have wanted to read but have been held back by the fact that I hate reading books offf a screen. While ebooks are not as absurdly cheap as they are made out to be, they are still cheaper than their physical counterparts (Diamonds are Forever is $11 instead of $15 physical)- but cost really isn't the overriding appeal of the format. It's the convenience and lack of weight that really sells it for me, and is the reason I'll keep getting more ebooks to go through.


Basic Information

Internal Memory: 1GB, can be expanded with SD cards
Screen Resolution: 600x800
Weight: 221g
Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth
Shades of Grey: 8
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