God is in the Rain

I awoke this morning to rain outside my apartment window. I have now just arrived at uni quite wet after walking to the bus, and walking from the bus to my office. But I am rejoicing.

It is odd to rejoice about rain, in fact many people curse the rain, but I like rain, it is awesome, particularly after such a long period of little to no rain.

Rain is the bringer of life, it keeps us alive, it keeps animals alive, it keeps plants and trees alive, it keeps the world alive. Rain is so often referred to as being depressing. But I think we should celebrate in the rain, celebrate life, and celebrate how without water falling freely from the sky we wouldn’t be here.

When the king smiles, there is life; his favor refreshes like a gentle rain. – Proverbs 16:15 NLT

The mess that is the UK Elections

It is amazing how much technology can change the shape of history, can shape our future, and can shape the outcome of elections. A little over a year ago we saw the election of Barack Obama to the United States Presidency off the back of a massive campaign using new media. Now thanks to two televised election debates we are seeing a mini revolution in UK politics. The only problem is this mini revolution may be the biggest political revolution that never happens because with the UK still using the First Past the Post voting system the party that wins the most number of votes may fail to govern.

Like Australia, the United States, and many other countries the UK has traditionally had two major political parties, the left leaning Labour Party, and the right leaning Conservatives. For a few parliamentary terms the Labour Party will rule and once the voters get sick of them the Conservatives will rule until the cycle reverses. The way in which these governments are elected comes down to local electorates rather than voting for the party you want to win you vote for your local MP. The party that has the most number of electorate MPs elected will get to govern. This is different from NZ politics where under MMP you have two votes one for your local MP and one for the party you wish to govern with the parliament being made up with a mixture of local MPs and party list MPs.

Now the reason a mini revolution has occurred in England is because for the first time Nick Clegg, the leader of the Social Democrats a small minority party, has been included in two televised leaders debates alongside the leaders of the both the Conservative and Labour parties. And in both of these debates Clegg has won. This has seen the Social Democrats rocket up the polls on the popular vote to a position where they are beating Labour and in some poles even leading the Conservatives. This has also thrown the May 6 election wide open with the real possibility of a hung parliament.

The biggest problem with all this analysis though is it may amount to nothing all because of the way FPP operates. The NZ Herald puts it this way:

The really surprising thing about the Nick Clegg surge is that almost nothing has changed.

That may seem an odd thing to say after 10 days in which Labour has been forced into third place in the opinion polls and the Liberal Democrats have broken through for the first time since the formation of the Social Democratic Party nearly three decades ago.

But the way votes translate into seats means that, unless the Lib Dems get up to 36 or 37 per cent of the vote, they remain the third party in seats.

And while Clegg’s party remains the third party in the House of Commons, the outcome of the election is decided by the gap between the Conservatives and Labour.

The shape of politics will be transformed on May 6. That may be the beginning of the end for the Labour Party. And yet the outcome of the election remains surprisingly unchanged.

The reason is that Clegg’s surge has been uncannily even-handed in its effect on the other two parties. The Conservatives have fallen 4.5 points in the polls, on average, since the first debate, and the Labour drop has been the same.

The gap between the two is therefore unchanged, at about 6.5 points, which suggests the Tories would be the largest party in a hung parliament – which is where the country was before the Cleggshell was dropped on this campaign.

The voters are likely to end up, therefore, with David Cameron as prime minister, leader of a minority Conservative government.

All of this screams out that the who democratic process of FPP is wrong, for a party to be able to gain the most number of popular votes and not govern is wrong, for a party to be able to govern on only 30% support is wrong. And focusing on New Zealand for a second this is the exact reason why we should not move back towards FPP or change away from MPP. It is often argued that MMP gives small parties too much power, but I would rather have good, cross party support for well written laws than be ruled by a minority forcing their sole thoughts on the nation.

This morning the Green Party posted a good video about the problems with the UK election to their blog:

Remembering the Glorious Dead for the right reasons

There is a very unpatriotic opinion article in the Sydney Morning Herald today suggesting that we don’t honour the ANZACs.

While the author, Martin Flanagan, does well to point out some of the history surrounding the Gallipoli campaign his tie in arguments against remembering the dead simply do not stack up.

Gallipoli was a military disaster. We should note that in justice to the young men who died there. Do we owe them less than we owe those who die in bushfires like Black Saturday? We should also note it in justice to future generations. The voices that urged Australia into the invasion of Iraq were of the same character as those that propelled Australia to Gallipoli in 1914.

Flanagan is correct in stating that Gallipoli was a military disaster, one of the primary reasons for this was that the ANZACs landed at the wrong beach. But I do not want to get bogged down in historical arguments. The most offensive and false claim by Flanagan in this statement is comparing the Gallipoli campaign to Iraq. There is a big difference in roles between the two, in Gallipoli the ANZACs were defending, sure they were invading Turkey, however the only reason for doing so was to defend the British Empire and end the war, they did not start the war but their goal was to end it. In Iraq the Australian Army is among the aggressors, they did start the war and they did make the choice to attack.

What the Australians won at Gallipoli was huge respect, including from their enemy. It really is time we started making clear to young Australians that the Anzacs didn’t die protecting Australia from being invaded. Rather, we were invading a country on the other side of the world – to wit, Turkey – with whom we had no difference as a people outside the larger politics of the day.

Surely it is time we owed Turkey, and Turkish Australians, that respect. Look at the respect Turkey shows our dead.

I ask this question most seriously. Does any country in the world – other than Turkey – permit a people who tried to invade it to commemorate the fact of that attempted invasion on their shores each year? I know of not a single one. Imagine if the descendants of the Japanese pilots who bombed Darwin held an emotional service beneath the Japanese flag on the shores of Darwin Harbour each year.

Again there is a massive difference between the attack on Gallipoli and the attack on Darwin. The attack on Gallipoli formed the basis of the ANZAC bond that has seen NZ and Australian troops work together jointly in a number of wars, exercises, rescues, peacekeeping missions, trade and politics over the last 95 years. It also formed the basis of maturing as two nations independent of Great Britain and through the war a bond with Turkey.

The services at Gallipoli are not the celebration of war they are remembering the dead, the dead who died serving their country, defending their country, and believing in their country. They are also about respecting those who fought to give us the freedoms we enjoy today – including the freedom to criticise what they fought for.

The difference with the attack on Darwin is that the scars between the actions of Japan and Australia have never fully healed. The way in which the author compares the attack suggests this. The way in which Japan and Germany among other countries avoid talking about the war also suggests that they are not at a point yet to move on from the past. The attack on Darwin was an attack and only an attack, the Gallipoli campaign was a lot more than just an attack, it was the forming of nations and what is honoured on ANZAC day is those who helped form those nations not those who needless died in a failed campaign.

Keith Locke’s Head of State Referenda Bill Voted Down

It is a great shame that the National Government along with the support of the Act, Maori, and Progressive parties tonight voted down Keith Locke’s Head of State Referenda Bill.

The sooner New Zealand becomes an independent nation the better. I do not mind if we become a state of the larger nation of an independent Australia or if we become an independent nation in free association with an independent Australia. But there is one thing I feel strongly about and that is New Zealand should no longer be a colony of Great Britain.

Some may argue that we already have independence through the Statute of Westminster however this is not full or true independence.

What has particularly got my back up tonight though is the arguments of the Maori Party in the debate. Below this post is the full speech given by Rahui Katene in which she argues that any move towards becoming a republic would run foul of the Treaty of Waitangi.

What a missed opportunity this is. The Treaty of Waitangi has been a source of much argument and problems for years, the founding of the Maori party was birthed in a disagreement over the Treaty of Waitangi on matters to do with the foreshore and seabed. There are a number of factions within Maoridom who do not agree with the treaty and some iwi who did not sign it and to this day do not want to!

A move to a republic gives the nation of Aotearoa New Zealand a chance to make things right, a chance to get a second go at creating a nation. However, the very politicians who represent a party that was born out of a disagreement over the interpretation of a badly worded treaty do not even want a discussion on the issue at a select committee.

I want to know if the Maori Party was forced by the National Party to vote against the bill, or if it did so on its own merits. In either case I have lost a lot respect I had for that party as a party of free thinkers. You can’t always fix the past, you certainly cannot hang onto the past, the best way forward is to always do what is best for the future and that is an independent republic of New Zealand.

Chinese Trojan Spam Virus Attacking Websites

Since installing Google Analytics I have been checking my webstats on a near daily basis. However, because of my lack of blogging over the last few weeks I have also been monitoring the stats less. Today I learnt my lesson that maybe I should maintain a daily watch. Over the last few days (yesterday in particular) there has been a dramatic spike in the number of visits to my site despite no new blog posts being added.

Looking at the data in more detail it appears a lot of traffic is being generated out of China by a site called qq829.com

Looking into this some more there is this thread on a lot of traffic appearing from China and on the Google Analytics forum.

Furthermore both HubPages and Symantic have information on the Trojan that is causing the problem.

At this stage it does not appear that my website has been infected with Malware or compromised in anyway, however, please ensure that your antivirus software is up to date as this particular Trojan could be costing you a lot of traffic and could potentially cause other problems.

Furthermore I have now blocked traffic originating from the qq829 website, other people are blocking all of China but at this stage I am not considering it.

If you are facing similar weird problems with bursts of traffic to your site you can block the qq829 website by adding these lines to your .htaccess file.

SetEnvIfNoCase Referer "^qq829" TOBLOCK=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer "^cnzz" TOBLOCK=1

<FilesMatch "(.*)">
Order Allow,Deny
Allow from all
Deny from env=TOBLOCK
</FilesMatch>

deny from 219.232.240.0/20
deny from 203.171.224.0/20

Byron Bay and Nightcap National Park – 48 hours in Paradise

It is not often I will call a weekend away Paradise, normally awesome, cool, wicked, fun, great, brilliant would suffice but in this case Paradise is the only word that can truly describe just how much fun and enjoyment I had.

I flew to the Gold Coast on Saturday night with a friend, got picked up from the airport and driven the 50km south to Byron. The best thing about Saturday night was the rain, it is still very odd to be living in a country where rain is a rare commodity and when you see it falling you smile.

Sunday was spent hiking in the Nightcap National Park. Initially we were meant to just walk a 7.5km and 4.5 hours on the Minyon Loop Track to the base of the Minyon Falls and back up. Problem was despite stopping for around 30 minutes for lunch we managed to complete the track in two hours.

Minyon Falls

Rather than waiting 2.5 hours for our transport back to Byron we decided to head up to Rummery Park Camp Ground via Boggy Creek Track. This took an hour and once we had stopped again for food and wildlife spotting we decided to head up a fire break to try and spot Cape Byron and its lighthouse.

Cape Byron + Lighthouse

Once we got back to Byron Bay we had a beer and danced at the Byron Beach Hotel where Lisa Hunt’s Forever Soul band was performing covers of many songs from the 60s – 80s. The great thing about the Beach Hotel was it didn’t matter who you were, how old you were or how you were dressed everyone was having a fun time; it was a very relaxed and friendly family environment.

At 5am on Monday I got up to catch the Sunrise over the Tasman Sea. Getting up to see the sunrise is one of the best experiences you can ever have and it is a tradition of mine to do so when I am in the bush or a beautiful country environment. The sunrise over Cape Byron certainly did not disappoint and was well worth getting up so early for.

Monday morning was spent sea kayaking in Byron Bay. Getting out through the surf at Byron Bay was a fun experience as there was around a 2m swell onshore and further out some of the waves on the reef were breaking a lot larger. I was fortunate that I only got tossed out of the kayak once on the way out. Once we got about 2.5km offshore we were able to spot fish jumping, green turtles and a pod of bottle nosed dolphins. It was one of the most fun and spectacular things I have ever done in my life, I may love the mountains but being in a kayak, offshore around 20m from a pod of dolphins is awesome.

Once we got back from our tour we headed into the surf to do some boogie boarding.  The rest of the day was then spent getting a very late lunch and looking through the town. Overall this trip was Paradise. If you plan to go to the Gold Coast do not go to Surfers Paradise, instead head to a real piece of Paradise – Byron Bay.

Byron Bay - Paradise

Full Buses Not Good Enough

I am finally on a bus to uni. It has taken 30 minutes to get on board because during the uni break the express busses run a reduced schedule which pushes more people onto the normal non express services. The problem is departing town at 10am there is simply not enough buses to meet the demand so where I catch the bus around 500m after the start of the route the buses just go straight past because they are full.

Now it is good to have a busy public transport system. But it needs to work there needs to be enough buses to meet demand and empty buses going past on other routes or not in service suggests a problem with the timetables.

I want my 30 minutes back.

The Masquerade of Humanity

Over the last few weeks I have been observing people and the way in which we all as humans wear different masks depending on the circumstances we are in. Some people claim that this is just their form of being “bi-polar” but I think there is something deeper to it.

I am always my harshest critic and often find myself getting pissed off at myself for the way in which I talk, act and do change depending on who I am around. Now it is perfectly natural to act more casual around your friends as you are more relaxed and not trying to fit into the societal norms that are expected within a workplace for instance. However, I find it frustrating how people become entirely different depending if they are at school, church, home, work and the associated social groups.

For instance within Christian circles there is a label applied to those who just come to church on a Sunday and spend the rest of the week acting as if they are just like everyone else – so called “Sunday Christians”. Now don’t get me wrong, it is very important to fit into society and to interact with it, but surely if you are as hardcore Christian as you make yourself out on a Sunday this should show through during the rest of the week.

Or how about those people who are uber geeks at uni but spend the rest of the time trying to play down their intellectual ability. I mean why can’t we just be who we are?

And yet as I write this I am also realising that in a way I fit the people who I am describing. Maybe this is why I get so annoyed at them, because I am one of them.

But I digress from my key point. Should humanity throw off the masks that they hide behind and show who they really are? Is true honesty too much to ask for? Or are we just too comfortable living in our dream world where all business men wear suits and all the artists wear clashing colours that they call fashion?

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr Seuss

He is risen! Indeed He is RISEN!

I am out of Sydney this weekend somewhere deep in the bush south of Melbourne. Before I left I set up this post which is timed to release on Sunday morning. If I were at church this is the line up of worship and the message that I would expect to hear – or some variant of.

Worship:

Jesus Paid It All:

Better Is One Day:

Blessed Be Your Name:

O Praise Him:

Sing To the King:

The Sermon (yes Lego):