Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wed 31 Dec - Going camping in Chaing Mai

Sah wat dee krap, (Thai - greetings)
It is 8am Wednesday morning and Kiel and I are checking out from the Panda House where we have stayed for the last 3 days in Chaing Mai. We are waiting to be picked up by Mark & Joanne Hunter, a missionary couple that I know of through Anne St (my church in Australia). We will be camping with them near Chaing Rai in the far north of the country.
While waiting in the lobby of the guesthouse, the Thai news on TV has shown footage of the demonstrations going on in Bangkok. We are aprox 1200km away from Bangkok ande there is no sign of political unrest at all - in fact it is an amazingly calm atmosphere considering the number of people that live here and the long hours that people seem to work.

The city seems to come alive in the late afternoon when all of the stalls begin to set up aong the street. The footpaths quickly grow power points, and "all-in-one" stalls park and fold out to be a shop that contains more stock than an Australian Supermarket.
Space is a resourse that is not wasted.

Well - Mark is about to pick us up so I ave to run.
I won't have internet access until Friday evening when I arrive back in Chain Mai.
Happy New years to all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A quick stopover in Brunei

Over the last 60hr I have traveled to South East Asia on a long awaited holiday. Mid way through 2008 I decided to use my tax return to set off and explore more of the world - well at least a tiny little part of it.
So Kiel and I bought tickets to travel to Thailand in over Christmas/New Years. I didn't really know much about Thailand at all - I knew that people often went there and I was told a lot how cheap things were. And I heard a rumour it was big on Buddhism.
So in the last 6 months I have slowly been asking questions and reading up on Thailand - ok so well those of you who know me will be well aware that a majority of my "reading up" would have taken place in the 24hr prior to take off...
So here I am in Bangkok. But I didn't come straight here. Let me tell you about the stopover in Brunei.
At 4pm Christmas Day, we touched down in Brunei. It was almost 7 years to the day when I was last in Brunei stopping over for 2hr on my way to Malaysia. The memories came flooding back as I stepped into the airport - the stairway in the centre of the lounge, the shops, the seats. This time though, I had 26hr in Brunei. I was able to step outside of the airport.
We were put up in the Orchid Garden - we had no idea of what to expect. A hostel? Something similar to Formula 1 in Australia? To our amazement we were staying in 4* luxury. It was great.
But of course we are not traveling to see the inside of the lobby so out we went straight away. Caught a cab to the city. Now the cabs - oh we have a story there = maxi taxis, miscommunication, unregistered taxis with tyres scraping the chasis! haha Incredible. It worth every penny!!
The following day 4 daring Australians (two of whom Kiel and I met in the line going through Brunei customs) caught public transport into the heart of the capital city.
We had head of a water village and were keen to check it out. We made a beeline straight for the waters edge - we weren't sure if it was part of a canal system or a river/dam etc.
Asmi - a local Brunei came to the rescue and offered the four young Aussies a tour around Brunei's water ways. $20 for one hour. We were there.
The water village was amazing - with incredible structures standing on the tiniest stilts, walkways connecting kilometres of houses, three story school buildings, mosques, restaurants, supermarkets, service stations (for the boats of course), police stations... the waterways had it all so it seemed.

It raised a lot of questions in my mind - should the Government whom receives all royalties coming from the sales of the oil being drilled in Brunei, be investing further in the infrastructure of the people (over 25% or 30,000 people live in the water village)?
What regulations can you possible put in for a place similar to this? Is it even worth the effort?
What role should a country like Australia play in the development of such nations? Are we to stand by and allow a country to somewhat neglect their people?

More things for me to consider over time...

At the end of the stopover I was extremely glad that we went the les comfortable option and got amongst it - the lunch at the restaurant on the river was also incredible - $2.50 for food, drink and a banana desert. mmmm

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The day before...

It's Tuesday evening, 30 hours until I fly out of Townsville on my month long holiday in Thailand.

I tried to begin the whole packing process - but with minimal luck. There is nothing in any of the three bags I am taking. I am mentally going over my list and I think I'm prepared.
A handful of clothes. A few books. Havi's. Joggers. The "make my torso the target" wallet (you know - the one you strap to yourself and you think it is concealed but everyone knows that is where tourists keep their extra cash). Sunnies. Malaria tablets - oops, no I have to pick them up tomorrow. Camera.

I've got my ticket, the first three nights accommodation is booked - I'm set.

Well I'm sure Wednesday night I'll be one of the most hyperactive and restless people in Townsville - and I don't even believe in Santa.

I will endeavor to update my blog as often as possible - with my daily reflections and ponderings - I hope it provides some entertaining and/or provoking reading.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

For Sale - Australian Defence Force Contracts

I recently stumbled across the website for a company called ASC Pty Ltd while searching for the Australian Sports Commission. At first glance I thought it was an off-shoot of the Aust Defence Force, but upon closer inspection I was troubled by what I found. Below is a transcript of an email I sent to the Minister for Defence.

Please provide your thoughts:

"Dear Minister,
I am writing to express my concerns regarding the company ASC Pty Ltd. and their role in supplying the Australian Defence Force with ships and submarines.

My concern is that the role of National Security must surely be of utmost importance. This said, I question why it appears that a private company is being left solely with the responsibility of maintaining our fleet of submarines.

The logic follows: a company must return as great a profit as possible - the objective is to make money. If there is an opportunity for a company to make further profit on a particular project, than they will do what is needed to maximise the profit while still delivering the required outcomes (a minimalistic approach will result).

I find it extremely hard to understand why the Australian Government would allow a $3.5 billion contract to be signed to hand over the control of any part of national security to a private company.

Below ae some of the corporate objectives as outlined in ASC's Statement of Corporate Intent

  • Create a long-term viable Australian business that is responsive to the needs of its customers, provides value for money, is attractive to investors and is an employer of choice;
  • Ensure these objectives are met in a manner that will facilitate the timely privatisation of the company; and
Additionally, the criteria of success are listed, one being:

  • Our investors – ASC is measured on acceptable and sustainable financial returns

This states clearly that part of their intent is to be making a financial return for it's members. Since when is it allowable for the safety of our country to be placed in the hands of a profiteering few. Please do not allow Australia take steps towards creating Haliburton, CACI, Titan or Bechtel.

National Defense is Australian Business and must remain in house and all aspects remain controlled by the Aust Government. The website for this company is listed below -

I look forward to hearing a justification and further clarification of the reasons behind such a decision being made (outsourcing defense).


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Teaching and incorporating ICTs - what for?

Finally - I have drafted a "teaching philosophy" with respect to ICTs.
Feel free to make comments to challenge my understanding on this issue.

Information Communication Technology (herein referred to as ICTs) – to use technology to communicate information; ideas, concepts, opinions and facts। ICTs impact in each of our lives in numerous ways; we watch the television while we eat breakfast, we talk to our spouse on the mobile phone on our way home from work (of course not while driving), we listen to a podcast while we walk up Castle Hill on our iPod, we become ‘Facebook friends’ with political figures during their campaign, and at the end of our day we enter a short account of the days events in our on-line diary (aka Blog). The technological changes that we have witnessed in the last few decades have revolutionized the way in which we interact with each other and the world in general. Information is communicated differently in the 21st century than the 20th. For Teachers this has profound implications.

The purpose of formalized education it can be argued is to equip the people of the nation with the skills and knowledge necessary to allow the country to survive on the ‘world stage’, while simultaneously allowing the persons to participate as citizens of their country. It is therefore important to keep this end point in mind when incorporating ICTs into the learning experiences of the students.
Incorporating ICT must always be done with the goal to enhance the educational experience; and not as a token gesture that removes the enjoyment and excitement from learning. In much the same way that skills are developed for a sport, not for the skill in and of itself, but in order to be used and incorporated into the sport as a whole; so to are ICT’s not an end in themselves, but a means by which we can participate and interact with our society.
This should therefore shape our approach to incorporating ICT in the classroom; modeling the use of the ICTs as part of something better; as part of the exciting journey and experience that life can be. ICTs are incredibly useful an powerful tools, and by equipping students with the skills necessary to use ICTs in their everyday life as citizens, all-the-while supporting their development (and drive) towards being lifelong learners, teachers can safely say they have accomplished an honorable mission for their country and their students.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Facebook - one word or two?

On a lighter note... I was sending a message via "facebook" and was expressing my frustration that another of our friends did not have their own profile on facebook yet. While typing the message, I noticed that Facebook underlines incorrect spelling with the infamous red line - and in fact had underlined the word "facebook" with a red line.

I thought it was ironic that the Facebook dictionary does not recognise its own 'name' so to speak.

Childcare services - nationalise or corporatise?

In the last week there has been quite a shock-wave sent throughout Australia as the largest "supplier" of Child Care Services (to the best of my knowledge) has gone into receivership.

This has left me to ponder - 'Why is it that a service that is so vital to the everyday functioning of Australia, been provided by the Private Sector?'
It stands to reason that businesses come and go, they rise and fall continuously. So if there is a service that is almost critical to Australia's operations, should it not be 'nationalised' and therefore the continuation of the service is guaranteed while it is still a critical function to the Australian people.

This then led me to ponder - 'what is the criteria for which services are Nationalised and which are safe enough to be market driven?'
Why is it that we have the state or federal Government providing such services as Education, Health, Law Enforcement and rescue services. What makes these services so critical that we are willing to pay taxes for them?

I'm yet to come up with an answer to that - but I am keen to hear other's thoughts.