October 2007 Archives

To the Nameless Dead

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Been listeningto the new Primordial album this morning. Their last album blew me away and was my album of the year. Still formulating an overall opinion on this new one, but I am already hooked on As Rome Burns - what a powerful track.

Proper seasons

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One thing I have definitely come to appreciate since moving to Norway is the proper distinct seasons I had never got autumn in oz but driving to Bergen today after work was absolutely sublime I had seen the amazing landscape before but seeing the russet tones combined with the unique light that Norway has makes it all the more special. The weather was crisp and clear and we drove with the setting sun in the west illuminating the fjords deepening the autumn tones and reflecting the forest on the calm water. It is the perfect way to end a busy week and very centering for body and mind.

after it seemed like the Norwegian post had decided to lose my parcel i was very happy to find it had arrived last night. Much hacking ensued and now I have an iPhone. Writing this blog entry on the phone now. Movable type has a plugin to allow a more streamlined interface which seems to work great I like this little gadget a lot apple have really thought it through well and the spell correction works so much better than I ever expected I am amazed

This morning, in Australia, John Howard did what he should have done months ago. He called a general election.

I have no like for Little Johnny Coward as my father loves to call him, but I have actually spent my entire adult life living in a country run by Howard and the party he represents.

One of the reasons I so strongly dislike Howard is the way he plays this political game, which of course should never be treated like a game at all. To sum it up, he is a canny old bastard.

Take the announcement of an election on a Sunday, one of the things that has confused people - including me about this year's election is that they have changed the laws about the cutoff date for electoral enrolment.

This SMH article states that electoral rolls close the day the election is announced. Yet this time around Howard has announced the election on a Sunday, a non working day. Further confusing the issue.

Looking at the official electoral web site they can't even get it right or advise Howard correctly.

Howard has stated that Weds 17th is the cutoff if you have not yet registered and Mon 22 is the cutoff if you have registered but need to update your details.

However Monday is a full day public holiday in one tiny part of Oz, so the cut off for enrolment updates is actually Tuesday 23rd.

So those of you have have never registered to vote or have dropped off the electoral roll, you have THREE days to fix it!

This is all quite deliberate, by creating confusion, dragging out the announcement of the election, Howard will deny first time voters, overseas voters and also many in their 20s who move house a lot from voting due to the very small time window to enroll or update your enrollment.

These are all groups who might swing things away from Howard, he's very canny and he learns from the bad examples in the US where similar tactics have been used to deny minorities from being able to vote.
The following is all speculation, I don't even live in Oz any more and have no access to polling surveys or anything.

In London there's a huge expat community - many of whom are happy to be out of an Australia screwed up by John Howard. They have a right to vote, and would be more likely to vote labour - but they have to jump through more hoops to actually vote and unlike Australians living in Oz do not get penalised for not voting.

First time voters will have been influenced by their families and have seen how much more of a struggle it is to get started in the workplace under the reforms Howard has introduced, I would guess that they would also vote Labour if given the chance.

Twentysomethings have enjoyed the financial prosperity and me culture that Australia has moved towards progressively over the last decade. However the recent housing crisis has hurt them badly. They are more likely to live in the big cities, but now cannot afford to do so. It is possible they will be locked out of ever owning their own home unless their parents are able to help them out. But their parents are a bit young to be part of the baby boomer generation where all the wealth is concentrated in Australia. So they are likely out of luck. Last election this group mostly voted for Howard, it's possible this time around with they might vote differently.

Howard has made a huge about face on the aboriginal issue this year. However he still won't say sorry.

Also it may be argued that his stance on Aboriginal reconillation and the strongarm approach to the problems that remote Aboriginal communities face is really for the benefit of White voters who want to be reassured that Howard cares about all Australians.

Howard's approach to solving the crises in remote Aboriginal communities is carefully constructed to show immediate success so as to garner votes. It will fail shortly after and then be deliberately underfunded and forgotten.

Of course he will say that the AEC has spent a lot of money advertising the upcoming election and encouraging people to enroll, but in reality - most people don't even bother to take action until the election has actually been called.

Another detail on the timing of the calling of the election, by doing it on Sunday Morning, well after the deadlines for most newspapers that are printed at 10PM on saturday, this news will not be so well publicised till Monday. My sister could not even find a mention of the election announcement on the Canberra times website.

Wasn't my intention, but hey I think I had a right complain.

One thing that continues to really piss me off about Norway is the absolutely craptastic service you get wherever you go. Now I get the egalitarian social attitude of this country and mostly agree that it is a good thing. Yet, I think that there is still room for decent service even if everyone is equal.

The problems to me seem to focus around the following, firstly - Norwegians put up with it. In the UK or Oz bad service would be the death of a shop in the long run. Possibly with the exception of Glebe's "Badde Manors", where the name pre-warns customers.

Secondly, the government almost over-protects the workers. It's so opposite to the situation in the US or even under Work Choices employment contracts in Oz. Base salaries are quite high and overtime/weekend salaries can't be removed in some fine print of a contract. In addition, it is much easier to take significant amounts of time off for being burnt out or work related mental illness, and your job will likely be protected until you return.

This makes employees expensive, and means employers can't afford to have 5 staff working a cafe on a sunday when only 2 would still keep the place open.

Thirdly, there is a fundamental problem attitude wise in Norwegian culture, potentially this is because of the egalitarian culture, I'm not sure. Workers will not structure their workflow in such a way as to maximise all customers satisfaction and reduce queues, instead they will rudely focus on serving the first person in the queue even if that is obviously going to cause the queue to ballon to 4 times it's length with quick fix customers. Nor do staff work together to make a more efficient workflow, like one person taking orders and another making coffees. The same person does it all, takes your order, makes your drinks, clears your table. Notice I made no mention of bringing your coffee to you, in Norway you hover around the bar waiting for your coffee to be made so you can carry it to the table. This just further clutters the long queue that inevitably forms at any cafe or service orientated shop.

Today we went out for Pizza to a chain restaurant. We ordered quickly and waited, after 40 minutes we enquired about our pizzas, coming soon they said. Twenty minutes later another enquiry started to bring pizza to the table, but they were stone cold.

Turns out they had made the Pizza, but not told the single girl who was taking orders, bringing food to the tables and then cleaning the tables.

We were adamant that we would not pay full price for cold 1 hour late Pizza, and both Astrid and I made a point of telling this young woman how bad the service was. When I said that I had experienced plenty of bad service in Norway, but this event took the cake, the waitress retreated tears in her eyes.

I later apologised, as it wasn't my intention to upset. However I thought that the proper reaction on being told that the Pizza was cold was, we're very sorry it has been busy tonight and you can have the Pizza for half price/free whatever. Instead they completely screwed up the handling of their customers by ignoring the issue until pressed.

Yes they are young and inexperienced, but when we asked to see the manager, they were off on "mental health leave" due to being burnt out.

Someone needs to remind the Norsk population that the service industry is now the largest of any in the world finally having overtaken Farming for the number one spot. While they are at that it could be good to remind Norwegians they are mostly not farmers any more and that their queuing skills could be vastly improved by studying the mindless mass movements of sheep!

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