Monday, July 11, 2011

A Time of Compromise

The US is now facing a grave economic crisis. As a 64 year old, I speak for a part of the baby boom generation. I was born in the U.S. and am now a citizen of Australia.

We've reached the age where we cannot have everything, do everything, and afford everything. We have just launched our last shuttle mission; manned exploration of space is too expensive. We are fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and lesser actions elsewhere which we cannot afford. Our bridges are falling down. Our levies are bursting. The poor have no medical care or dental care. The US is rapidly going broke. It's time to compromise; time to barbecue some sacred cows.

Let's start with social security. Yes we made promises. It was a time of unlimited optimism in a world which appeared to hold unlimited resources and potential. Not so. Social Security entitlements should be trimmed right now and in the future so that benefits do not go to people who are well enough off.

Let's take up health care. We have increased life expectancy beyond reason. The cost of living ninety years far outweighs the benefits. Investments and benefits should be shifted from keeping people alive to keeping people healthy. We need programs to eliminate cigarette smoking, fat and other bad lifestyles so that health care investments and benefits can be shifted away from dealing with bad lifestyle choices. These changes need to be made to Medicaid and Medicare and all forms of health care investment.

Lets zero budget ALL existing federal subsidies (including tax loopholes) and only add back those that make sense to the country.

We need to take a much more realistic view of what we can afford and what we can deliver, and a much more pragmatic view of what we want to accomplish with the investments that we do make. This calls for sacrifices to be made in non-critical areas. All the sacred cows have to be on the table.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting Outlook mail into Apple's

There are lots of forum posts for getting content from Outlook's pst files into Apple's All of them kinda sorta work. I've finally accomplished the job, but just like my journey from Windows to Macintosh to Linux, the road I took I feels like I've been around the world!

It all started with our dog having a litter of puppies two years ago. I moved with her up to our holiday house on the central coast an hour's drive north of Sydney. We bought a digital mini-cam and new iMac so that I could make movies of the birth, rearing and weaning of the litter of Collie Rough (Lassie) pups and share these with friends and family back in Sydney. This was my first user experience with Apple products and I must say I was blown away. It was soooo easy over those 4 months to transfer pictures and movie snippets from the cameras to the Macintosh and thence though email to my wife and to our friends back in Sydney. As a life-long Windows user from the very early 80's, I fell in love with Apple.

About the same time, my PC in Sydney began to operate erratically, sometimes booting, sometimes not. Although I had burned CD's of My Documents, I was concerned that I had no backups for my email and contacts which lived in Outlook. I decided to purchase a $10. program called O2M from Little Machines to do the job. O2M runs on Windows. You pick the outlook folders you want and O2M automatically exports Outlook data into portable files which can be imported into Apple's Mail and Address Book applications. As I recall, the mail files went over perfectly and the Contact files not at all. However, enough of my email problem was solved to cause me to forget about it for a while.

Another year went by and my windows PC booted for the last time. I should have bitten the bullet then and there and bought a Mac. Instead, I farted around and found a brand new overstock corporate machine on Ebay for $300. This HP Athelon had XP Professional, 2GB of memory, 160GB disk, keyboard, and mouse and I could not bring myself to spend the extra money on a Mac. This foolishness became apparent when I realized how few original installation disks I had for the software which had been running on the PC. The antivirus software alone was going to cost $200! Since I no longer had access to Microsoft software from work, Office was going to cost $400. By the time I would have finished buying software for my cheap Windows machine, I would easily have touched $1000. At this point I had been living in different houses with different computers for nearly two years. I now had substantial "sent" mail folders living in two locations AND I could not find my O2M license or downloads. This $10. piece of software which I refused to re-buy was my personal environmental tipping point. I swore off commercial software forever and downloaded Ubuntu Linux onto my Windows box. It is from that trip that I now return to the story of getting my g-damn emails out of frigging Microsoft Outlook and into

First of all, let me say that everything that is wrong with Microsoft is tied up in Outlook's PST files. Inaccessible, inscrutable, proprietary, arbitrary, non-standard and non-interoperable!!! I read somewhere that you could import PST files into Outlook Express and from there you could export them into a quasi standard format accessible by So here's the story:

In Windows, importing PST files into Outlook Express (OE) went great and was very easy. Exporting from OE was equally easy: using Windows Explorer, I created two folders on my desktop: Sent and Contacts. Then, within Outlook Express I highlighted all my sent email and dragged and dropped it into the desktop Sent folder. I ended up with one .eml file for every email message in Outlook Express. Same for contacts except I ended up with one .vcf file in the folder for each contact in OE (vcf is the vCard standard for address information.) I took my exported file to my Mac and I was able to import the vcf folder directly into Address Book on the Mac (version 4.11 on os x 10.5.4.). Not so easy for the .eml email files.

On the Mac, you can double click on one of these .eml files and Mail will kindly open it and display it perfectly. However, you cannot import one or many .eml's into the file system. There are references to using Microsoft Entourage to convert .eml files to's mbox format at but I wasn't going there! I did find a ruby script that promised to convert eml files into a mbox format. This is at
However, I was not able to import the resultant mbox into! The 90MB worth of .eml files ended up as one large 90MB email!!!

Thunderbird also uses the mbox format although you cannot import mbox files natively. I saw a reference for an add-in for Thunderbird that allows you to import mbox files at . Back in Sydney I installed Thunderbird on my Ubuntu box and installed this add-in into Thunderbird. I imported the mbox files created by the ruby script into Thunderbird. They appeared as perfectly formed single emails! Since you can import Thunderbird mail directly into, I tried this via a shared network folder but again ended up with one large blob email. I then tried exporting from Thunderbird and re-importing back into but ended up again with a one large 90MB email! At this stage, I had in the same mental catagory as Outlook!

My final solution was a reference to sync (upload) existing Thunderbird email folders with Gmail using Gmail's imap features http:// I did this for my sent mail folder on Thunderbird which I had imported (via the ruby script and the Outlook Express import/export) this all worked and I now had my sent emails from Outlook PST on Gmail! Next, I used another reference showing how to sync (download) Gmail with using Gmail's POP features This reference also showed how to use rules to plop Gmail's downloaded sent messages automatically into's sent mail folder. My problem has been solved and I am done with Outlook forever!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another Way to See China

Just as the Olympics are a stage on which the world can view China, so too is the response of the Chinese government to the earthquake in Szechuan Province.  I am impressed with the openness of the government and the access that journalists have had traveling to the disaster area and getting stories and pictures out.  

I keep comparing Chinese government response to this earthquake to the hurricane response in New Orleans in the USA. The reaction of the Chinese government appears to have been swift and comprehensive:  priorities have been set, the military has been mobilized, and the highway leading north out of Beijing has been commandeered for disaster relief, so that aid could flow north and injured people could be transported south.  HU Jintao has been all over this disaster; his presence begs the comparison to Bush's ignoring New Orleans.    

For a China that thinks the West only hopes for bad things for China, there are those of us who say, "Good job China."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What the Torch Relay Protests have done to China

China competed to have the Olympics and thus show itself off to the world.  China's enemies and the groups that China has repressed were always going to use the Olympic stage to protest against China's policies.  It amazes me that the leadership of China and the Olympic Movement were blind sided by the torch relay protests.

China has made great progress opening its economy and elevating the standard of living for many millions of Chinese. She has much to be proud of and many people in the world now admire China.  The protests around the torch relay gave China the chance to react, on an international stage, to people in democratic countries exercising their rights to protest.  

Unfortunately, the responses to the torch relay protests have highlighted China's shortcomings rather than her achievements.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Proposed Liquor Regulation 2008 in NSW

There is increasing awareness in the community that the consumption of alcohol like the consumption of tobacco is bad. Section 6.1 of the Regulation puts the cost to the community of alcohol abuse at $7 million per day (that is $2.5 Billion annually, in NSW alone!) The figure of $50 million in costs to the NSW Police Force must surely be understated in light of the statistic that 80% of all crime is alcohol related.

In the past few months, there has been broad recognition in government and media of the evils of binge drinking, the relationship between crime and alcohol, and the need to change our culture with respect to alcohol consumption. However, the regulations contained in the 2007 Act and the 2008 Regulation do not sufficiently support the behaviour change required to control the damage and minimise the harm of excess alcohol consumption.

Section 3.1(b) Objectives of the Liquor Act of 2007 calls for “facilitating the balanced development, in the public interest of the liquor industry...” This is too wishy washy. It is much like having a smoking regulation which promotes the balanced development of the tobacco industry. The objective of the Act and the Regulation should be to “to control the development” rather than to “facilitate the development” of the liquor industry.

Section 6.1 of the Regulatory Impact Statement says that the guiding principle of the Act and the Regulation is to, “allow people to sell, supply and consume liquor in a responsible manner and in a way that is appropriate having regard to the interests of the local and wider community.” However, this is intent is not sufficiently provided for. I believe that communities should have a much greater say in the determination of license conditions including licensing hours. In Manly, our local council have been trying for many years to limit the licensed hours of pubs and clubs. In 2005 our Local Council adopted a Policy to limit trading hours to 2:00am for pubs and clubs with a lock-out at 12:30am. I believe we should have the right to apply this.

Similarly, Clause 58 authorises the general manager of a local council to make a disciplinary complaint to the Casino Liquor and Gaming Control Authority (CLAGCA) but there are no provisions which require the CLAGCA to act on this complaint. This should be strengthened to give local councils more power with more immediate effect when raising a complaint about licensed premises.

Harm minimization
One area not covered sufficiently by the Regulation or the Act is the litter problem resulting from alcohol related packaging. Alcohol packaging, including bottles, glasses, cardboard, plastic and paper packaging is the biggest blight on the visual and physical environment. Glass bottles particularly are quickly if not instantly reduced to pieces of broken glass which simply do not get picked up but instead lie in wait to disgust the tourists and harm the unwary.

The alarm bell has rung but the regulatory call has not been sufficiently answered. Much more can and should be done to control and minimise the harm of alcohol consumption. Culture and attitudes follow behaviour. In order to change the culture, we must change behaviour. The way to change behaviour is tougher Legislation.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Binge Drinking in Australia

There is a shared value in Australia that it is right and good to drink as much alcohol as you can, get plastered out of your brain and do whatever stupid thing comes to mind. A set of behaviours around drinking have been repeated so many times and over such a duration that values and attitudes have developed that this behaviour is OK. For example, when the Turks at Gallipoli complained about the behaviour of drunken Australian visitors at an Anzac commemoration, then Prime Minister John Howard said, 'You think that's bad? You should see Circular Quay in Sydney after a New Year's Eve celebration.' Hmmm.

One way to alter drinking behaviour would be to enact and enforce number changes to the laws govenring drinking. Here are some possibilities:
  1. Change the penalty for licensed premises selling to under age patrons from a the current slap on the wrist to a license revocation. 1 week for the first offense, 1 month for the second, one year for the third offense.
  2. Institute breath testing in Pubs and Clubs.
  3. Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) legislation: Increase the penalties for employees of licensed premises to sell or supply alcohol to a drunken person (BCA could be set higher than .05.) Start the penalty at $1000 and increase to $2500 and $5000 for 2nd and 3rd offenses.
  4. If a licensed premises has 3 RSA infringements in one year, that premises suffers a license revocation of one week and an additional week for each RSA infringement thereafter.
  5. Include Patrons in Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) legislation. Just as for licensed premises servers, make it illegal for a person to supply alcohol to a drunken person. Same penalties as for servers in licensed premises.
  6. Make it illegal to leave drinking litter (bottles, cans, cups, packaging) in a public places. Enforce this with on-the-spot fines of $500 for each person in a group that leaves drinking litter in a public place such as a street, park or beach.
  7. Severely tighten the laws and increase the penalties for drinking and driving.
  8. 0% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) to age 25 on penalty of suspension of license
  9. If over 25, automatic suspension of driving license for BAC greater the .05
  10. Automatic custodial sentence for second BAC offenses
  11. Strategies can be implementing in the workplace to reduce the consequences related to excessive alcohol use. One change could be for companies to stop re-imbursements for alcohol related entertainment expense.

There a many possibilities for using the laws to change behaviour. Once behaviour changes attitudes and culture will follow.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Early Leader in the battle against Binge Drinking

Now that Australia seems to have discovered our national problem with binge drinking, it surprises me that no one has recognised (Manly, NSW) Mayor Peter Macdonald's early leadership on this issue. It seems that the evils related to alcohol abuse such as violence, unruly behaviour, and litter which were so hotly disputed in Manly are now accepted as fact. I would like to thank Dr. Macdonald for his leadership on this issue, apologise for the personal abuse he had to sustain in the process, and ask that he reconsider his plans to give up the mayor's job. Given the current recognition of this problem nationally, I'm sure we could finally achieve progress addressing this problem in Manly.