Hello Again, Sydney

One Sydney-sider's experiences moving back to Sydney after a long absence overseas.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Off to vote

Ah yes, the big day of the federal election has arrived and my dreams of embracing the democratic process have amounted to... Well, let's see:

- I've done a little reading on the Tamar Valley pulp mill in Tasmania, which has been approved by the Federal government and the opposition (including Shadow Minister for the environment, that old activist and rock star, Peter Garrett). On one hand it seems to make sense that instead of exporting four boatloads of woodchips to Japan we process them here and then export one boatload of pulp. Hey, they're going to get processed somewhere, right? Saying "Not In Our Backyard" doesn't make it right. *But* We were supposed to be reducing woodchipping, and what you can infer from the Environment Minister's evasions on the topic is that the pulp mill will consume more wood. What I'm not seeing from either major party is a clear strategy on the environment. We will reduce emissions says the Labor party. Really? How will building a pulp mill help?

- I did a quick quiz at www.getup.org.au - the internet lobby group that supports most causes I'm interested in. They have a "how to vote" feature which lets you plug in your postcode and then answer twenty questions. "This quiz takes just 3 minutes!" it says (and yes, there is an exclamation mark). One of the statements is: "Corporate taxes in Australia are too high." Honestly, how would I know? For a start, what is the corporate tax rate? Are corporations feeling it? Is it affecting the amount they pay their workers? I could find out, but it would certainly take more than three minutes.

One of the things that has really depressed me this election campaign is that I'm starting to see the shoddy seams of political dressing up on the left side as much as the right side. A question like this caters for people who don't know the details, they just think that big corporations are the devil and they're getting too much money. Then to cap it all off, when you finish the quiz, it compares your responses with the responses of the candidates in your electorate so you can see who to vote for. Except only (surprise, surprise) the Greens and Labor party candidates have completed the quiz so you're always told to vote for those two. Sure, you could say it's the other parties' fault for not doing basic internet campaigning, but I don't blame them for not filling out this "quiz" which even a leftie like me will admit is a load of old bollocks.

- I watched a Four Corners special which followed the lives of a few swinging voters in key seats during the election. I was already saddened by the whole "campaign", but this finished me off. Here you could see that even the swinging voters heard what they wanted to hear and retreated back to the beliefs they grew up with.

If the Labor party do get in I don't expect them to be vastly superior to the Libs. But I do know a couple of things: I don't want to live in a country where people think the most important issue is interest rates; and I don't want to be ruled by racists and xenophobes. I hope John Howard loses today, but if I can find a place that's taking bets, I'd consider putting a cheeky $20 on him to pull through. Let's see what you stand for Australia.

PS For any US readers, Liberal = Republican; Howard = Bush.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Happy feet

Apparently, we only actively use 10 per cent of our brains. The other 90 per cent is occupied thinking about shoes.

At least that's how it's felt to me in the last couple of weeks. I started at Hype in the city where they sell "short-run limited-edition shoes" on a corner of the Pitt Street mall (which should give you an idea of the prices). I picked a couple of models out - what do you think?

These were cool too. And call me a fashion victim but I like the business suit with converse boot thing that's going around at the moment.

So why didn't I get them? Well, if someone concealed a miniature camera inside these shoes and snapped the looks on people's faces when they read the price tag, it would make an entertaining gallery. Most guys would be doing a passable impression of getting kicked in the balls.

Next stop was Platypus, another trendy trainer place in Bondi Junction that always seems to be closing down. On the liquidation table, I found some of the shoes I'd been looking at in Hype.

I like the little men on the side, but there's a split below the cross strap that stretches open when you put them on, revealing whatever daggy sock you might be wearing. I'm not into that. Getting dressed before work is challenging enough without having to worry about coordinating shoes and socks.

You know how it is with shopping. After a couple of disappointments you swear yourself off it. Then I was wandering at lunch and found these.

I'd already decided I liked them when I saw the price - $30. Imagine again the camera in the shoe; the strange thing is, this shot wouldn't look much different to the photo taken in the ultra-pricey place. Why? I guess a fashion item can also be too cheap. So on top of it looking cool and fitting well, it also has to sit in the "right price" pocket. No wonder I'm having trouble.

But I got them. Then yesterday I was at a loose end on my lunch break (becoming a theme) and gravitated towards another shoe store where these bad boys were on special.

So hopefully all this shoe business is over for a while. Still waiting for the surge of brainpower.

On a separate note, one activity you don't need shoes for - swimming! We were back in the water on the weekend. First dip in the sea for this summer. Brrrrrracing.