Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Merry Christmas and all that!

Hello everyone! I hope you've all had sufficiently fun and enjoyable festive celebrations! Personally, I've had just about the best Christmas I can remember to be honest! So much fun, I feel thoroughly knackered! The last four days have just be awesome - I finished work on the Friday at 12.30, so to kick everything off, I went down to Bondi beach to drink cold rose and soak up the sun with some friends.Then, that evening we (that is, the assorted ragtag band of hostel party goers) made our way down to the best club in Sydney, Chinese Laundry, for the a great weekly breaks night (Break Inn), where we had the very great pleasure of seeing Slyde from Finger Lickin' Records play - and a jolly knees up was had by all :) After a few hours rest, Christmas eve turned into a rather impromptu house warming party round my new crib. This was coupled with the fact that the 24th is in fact Swedish Christmas, and it therefore seemed, a perfect opportunity to drink lots of vodka, eat meatballs from Ikea (no, seriously) and various other Swedish dishes (most of which seem to revolve around nuclear-strength flavoured fish products). Again, very much fun had by all, and a truly shocking amount of all kinds of various beverages were consumed.Christmas Day itself, whilst rather distressingly hungover to start with, was actually also great. I went down to Woolongong, eventually (having managed to miss two trains) to visit my friend Lee, and had lunch with her extended family in the garden, which was just great - I was made to feel really welcome, and it was so nice to get out of the city. I of course also had to go down to the beach - I mean, I'm in Australia for Christmas, it would have been nigh on criminal not to go to the beach :) Yesterday was also yet another leg in the party marathon - me and some friends went down to the Botanical Garden to sit in the sun and play frisbee all day. In the evening we went to go see Pendulum play a rather blistering drum and bass set - this was, naturally, followed by another 4 hours clubbing to an tech-house/ electro breaks DJ in another club called Dragonfly. And here I am - back in the office, sore and a bit stiff, but having oh so much fun - and we've still got New Years Eve to come! Anyway, enjoy the pics, remember to post comments people!

Thursday, 21 December 2006

The Ryugyong 'Hotel', North Korea

Hey, check this crazy thing I just came across - its called the Ryugyong Hotel, though its a bit of a stretch to call it a hotel.

Under the personality cult of leaders Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung, North Korea has become fiercely isolationist, nationalistic, and totalitarian. Despite being one of the planet's poorest countries, the communist state looks for any achievement to boost itself in eyes of the world - hence the decision to build this ridiculously big building.

It's a massive, 105-story structure which dominates the city's skyline. It's also a massive embarrassment because it's a complete engineering failure… its empty, dilapidated husk lurks over the capital.

The hotel's story begins in 1987, when the North Korean government began construction at an estimated cost of $750 million, or 2% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). By comparison, 2% of the United States' GDP would be about $220 billion.

It has a total of 3.9 million square feet of floor space. The hotel would be the tallest hotel and seventh largest building in the world if it were finished. It would also have been the first building with over one hundred floors outside of New York or Chicago. It was planned to have 3,000 rooms and 7 revolving restaurants, scheduled to open in June 1989 - but construction came to a halt in 1992 due to lack of funding, acute electricity shortages and a massive famine.

The shell of the building is complete but it has not been certified as safe for occupancy. There are no windows, fixtures, or fittings. The extremely poor quality concrete used in its construction has left the building sagging to such a great degree that the structure can never be finished without a massive overhaul.

I'm just blown away by this thing.

Check out the satellite picture of the 'hotel' here and a video of it here

Pictures from the Hunter Valley

Hey gezzas, so I managed to get some pics from Henry of the trip - please note the sheer, unadulterated awesomeness of the van.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Drunken Pictures

Hello there, I thought I try to stay 'on topic' with the blog, and stick some rather amusing pictures of myself and fellow travelers getting progressively more drunk on the hostel sunroof, followed by the den of utter iniquity and Bacchusian excess, 'the O'Malleys' not very Irish Irish pub. Enjoy!

Blair's Lies Exposed

Here's how the Independent has covered the startling revelations, revealed in an until now repressed British document, written by a UK diplomat at the UN, that Blair knew that Iraq posed absolutely no WMD threat.

Here's the big bombshell

"at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests... There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US"

How much longer can this go on before some serious heads start to roll? Blair should be ashamed of himself.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Army Captain's Simple Demonstration: How to Win in Iraq

I think those of you with a current affairs bent will find this pretty interesting - its amazing how simple a huge part of the solution in Iraq is.

Sadly, the guy was killed by an IED, but lets hope at least some people at the top get this PowerPoint presentation.

More pics

Oh yeah, and this is where I work

And this is where I have my lunch most days and try to get even more tanned :)

Some pics of Sydney

I realised today, now that I've got my pics off the camera, that I've not really taken that many - anyway, here's a few all the same.

The Hunter Valley Road Trip

Hey everyone

So I hope you all had a great weekend - I certainly did. But first, thanks to everyone who emailed about the finger, I really appreciate it a lot.

So the weekend! I decided to take the Friday off, and me and a rather motley band of fellow travelers went north to check out the Hunter Valley wine region, a few hours north of Sydney.

There were in fact seven of us - Emilie (Parisian), Stefan, Patrick and Suss (aka Team Sweden) Henry, his girlfriend Holly and myself (aka Team UK) - all in Team Sweden's trust roadster, an incredibly beat up old Japanese made van fondly referred to as Seth McGuire (don't ask me why.) The best thing about it - by far - has got to be the ram's horns roped to the bull bar :)

I'd put a whole load of pics of the trip up if I could, but I foolishly left my battery in the charger! I'll try to get some from someone else soon - I now have the technology (finally!) to get pics off my camera and onto this blog, so expect plenty more soon.

Anyway, the trip was awesome, in spite of the rain on the first day - it was so good to get out of the city and feel like I was actually on holiday for a bit and traveling. Sydney was just getting too much and the break was exactly what I needed - it goes without saying that we drank a lot of free wine at the vineyards, followed by a considerable amount of cheese and olives. Camping was also fantastic - all very good stuff!

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Stu's Sore Finger - Fucking French Surgeon

Well, I went to go see the hand specialist today, Dr. Ian Hargrieves on Macquarie Street who is, so I'm told, the best hand and joint surgeon in Sydney and who, incidentally, reminded me a lot of my dad (big beard and glasses dad, if your reading).

He had a good look at the finger joint, and ordered a whole load of new x rays, but in the end, it only really confirmed all the bad news and predictions that I had been getting all along.

Basically, this is the rather grim situation.

Looking at the first x rays, he described the size of the pin used to initially fix the joint as 'out of all proportion', and 'like using a sledge hammer to fix a wrist watch'. I told him that the surgeon had told me he only had a huge one left, but stuck in in there any way (of course, only after the fucking operation). This apparently then probably interfered with the proper operation of the tendons, and this is not a good thing.

That said, the actual break has in fact actually healed pretty well. What
is a problem is what's been going on on the other side of the joint. I'm going to stick a copy of the x ray up so you can see, but basically, the originally healthy, uninjured side of the joint has just completely died and broken up - its totally fucked, there's bits of scattered and fragmented bone in it, and the end looks like a blank of wood snapped in half.

What he thinks has happened here is that the butcher, oh sorry, surgeon, has used a
blunt fucking drill to get the screw out. Because its so fucking blunt it causes excess heat, which then kills all the bone and blood supply system to the bone - aka thermonecrosis. He also thinks the dumb blind fuck may have also cut away the tendon from the bone, so he could see better what he was doing. Unfortunately, this has almost certainly killed this bit of the tendon.

And there's absolutely, positively no further medical options left open either, sadly. There are artificial joints 'but they're all rubbish' with a failure rate of about 40% in the first 3 years - which is certainly not going to do me any favours for the next 50 years of my expected life span.

So, thats it pretty much. In some ways I'm upset to learn that, in his words, 'I've never seen such a bad result from this kind of surgery' and that' if this was conducted in Australia it would certainly be a case of medical negligence'. Of course, it being done in France by a French surgeon, nothing will come of it.

Still, I think I can at last try to start moving forward past this - and before you say 'its just a little finger', you've got no idea what its like to lose the full use of your main hand - and thats what it is. It's been a small personal tragedy, and I don't think that is being melodramatic.

I'm grateful, at least, to finally know that it was just not my fault.

I guess it goes without saying, but take care of yourselves people - your body is the most wonderful, perfect and amazing machine and tool. Please don't ever forget that.

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Maher Arar's Letelier-Moffitt Award Acceptance

Here's a truly shocking video - Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was unlawfully and illegally detained whilst in transit through JFK airport. The US government denied him access to a lawyer, communication with anyone and interrogated him for several hours, before extraditing him to Syria (from which he had fled to escape torture).

He was then tortured and interrogated for 10 months and 10 days, before being released without charge of any crime being filed in any country.

How exactly is this going to win the 'war on terror'?

A Letter to the American People

Hello all! I hope everyone has had a very fun weekend - mine was spent primarily clubbing on Friday and Saturday nights, and spending most of the day on the beach.

Living the dream indeed.

Anyway, I just came across
this and thought people might find it interesting - its the full text of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter to the American people, from last month.

For a figure so incessantly demonised in the Western media, it's certainly very interesting to read - less of the 'mad mullah' and a lot more of a very shrewd political operator.

Friday, 8 December 2006

A thought for the weekend

A bit of positive energy and some powerful words to think about until Monday
 "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed
citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing
that ever has."
Margaret Mead

Saudi Roadskating

Now, is it me, or is this (or some variant of vicious Islamic Wahabi fundmentalism) kind of the natural outcome when you essentially ban fun by outlaw drinking, gambling, and chasing girls? No fun for you!

Paul Krugman and Rising Inequality in the US

Hello everyone,

I'm not entirely sure how many people are actually reading this, so if your out there give me a shout in the comments box!

I thought people might find this article interesting by Paul Krugman, professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, entitled
'The Great Wealth Transfer', talking about the devastating economic and social effects of the disgustingly regressive tax cuts that the Bush administration pushed through.

Essentially, the Bush administration, run by and for rich dynasties, decided to give itself a nice little tax break:

"once the Bush tax cuts have taken full effect, more than a third of the cash will go to people making more than $500,000 a year -- a mere 0.8 percent of the population."

It really is shocking to see how social mobility and opportunity have been replaced by corporate greed and what, to my mind at least, can really only be described as
Robber Baron political corruption.

Here's some choice statistics to consider:

"To picture who gained the most, imagine the son of a very wealthy man, who expects to inherit $50 million in stock and live off the dividends. Before the Bush tax cuts, our lucky heir-to-be would have paid about $27 million in estate taxes and contributed 39.6 percent of his dividend income in taxes. Once Bush's cuts go into effect, he could inherit the whole estate tax-free and pay a tax rate of only fifteen percent on his stock earnings."

Krugman's final thoughts are pretty sobering:

"Today, we're completely out of line with other advanced countries. The share of income received by the top 0.1 percent of Americans is twice the share received by the corresponding group in Britain, and three times the share in France. These days, to find societies as unequal as the United States you have to look beyond the advanced world, to Latin America. And if that comparison doesn't frighten you, it should."

Is it me, or has Bush managed to destroy pretty much all the good work and legacy of 8 years of Clinton and Gore? Is there anything left?

I mean, maybe this is a bit harsh, but aren't Americans ashamed of this state of affairs? Where's the outrage?

If your reading this and have some views, I'd like to hear them, so man up!

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Go link my blog

Aforementioned very gay office party photos

For those of you who got the last email, he's the pictures of the two office/ industry things I went to last week, which were basically a lot more gay then anyone expected.

I hope they amuse

And yes, that is a transvestite in the pink dress

Stu's Sore Finger

As I'm sure most of you are aware, I had a rather nasty snowboarding accident in France, where I broke my finger joint. It was operated on and pinned and what not, but its pretty much wrecked - its pretty much as bad as it could be.

That said, I've been put in touch with the best hand surgeon in Sydney and should be seeing him next week, so fingers cross (bad pun I know, but I thought I would get in there before anyone else did). I'm just hoping that, after so many many disappointments and let downs by the collective medical profession, that things will start to go right for me with this.

The most galling was being told here that its basically a fairly common injury, and that most people should have absolutely no problems with recovery and future use. As it is, the joint doesn't really work, and there's large pieces of chipped bone in it, not to mention the tendon is basically fucked. "Its just about as bad as it could be" were the exact words. So I was a little down Tuesday when I found out all this.

But I try to stay positive and thoughtful, and just get on with things. Even though I know its a very very small chance at this stage, there might still be an option for further surgery to improve the situation. I'll keep you all posted I guess.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

First Posting

Welcome to the Adventures of a Whinging Pommy Downunder!

If you've made it this far, congratulations, you are no doubt a member of my 'elite force' so gold stars all round.

Given my incredibly time consuming and staggeringly annoying experience yesterday attempting to send out a group email via hotmail to the many people I've met on my travels and want to keep in touch with, I decided I'd try this new fangled 'blog' thing that everyone's going on about :)

So, here it is.

Basically, I'll be updating this with comments as and when I feel like it - expect the contents to vary between stuff in my daily life that I think it is worth telling you about, and, global politics, music, film, literature at the other end of the spectrum.

I'll also be sticking up all sorts of pictures of my adventures on here, as well as anything random that I find that I happen to think is fun

Let the blogging begin!

Oh, and of course, please do comment and what not, the more the merrier.