Monday, June 23, 2014

Latest Dogscapades - a Jack Russell, a Cattle Dog and an American Pit Bull Terrier

So I was walking Ms8Months in the pram along the shared public walking/cycle path near Light-House beach, Ballina yesterday afternoon when I saw an American Pit Bull Terrier coming towards us off the leash. On its trajectory along the path it was already making for between us and the road on our right with the bush to our left leaving very little option to avoid a very close and uncomfortable proximity and no means of escape should I choose to make such a futile an effort. I immediately stopped pulling as far to the left as the railing would allow attempting to bring as little attention as possible to our existence.

This was after earlier pointing out to a 40 something man who was walking around the beach carpark with his cattle dog off leash next to the "no dogs" sign that his dog should at least be leashed. His response was "Why, are there council rangers around?" assuming I was concerned he would get in trouble. I corrected him explaining my concern for the safety of children, particularly my baby daughter to which he responded "oh, no, this is such a beautiful, gentle dog". My response to this was the usual "thats what they all say" as he proceeded to wander off towards the beach, dog still unleashed. 

The day before, Saturday, while Kirsty was surfing I was about to take Ms8Months down to the small paddle pool on the reef at Shelly Beach when I noticed a Jack Russell dog swimming in it. I don't know whether the other parents standing around with their children were concerned but none of the children were in the pool while the dog was in there. Call me a snob but there was no way Ms8Months was going in that pool until after high tide had flushed it out. It got me wondering how many dogs paddle in that pool on a daily basis? A man proceeded up the beach, a "no dogs" area, with this dog, wait for it... unleashed. We later came across this same man and dog outside the Shelly beach surf clubso I thought I'd take the opportunity to raise the issue with him. He flat out ignored me and carried on with his business.

It is really horrifying what a dog, even a small one, can do to a grown man never mind a child. I recently became aware of a young girl, 3 year old dog attack victim Victoria Wilcher, who you may have seen in the news as the girl who was asked to leave a KFC "restaurant" in the US because her facial injuries a the result of a dog attack was upsetting customers. 

Victoria Wilcher - one of the less confronting photographs of this brave and lucky survivor.
"Victoria lost her right eye in an April attack at her grandfather's home in Simpson County. She also received a broken upper and lower jaw, a broken nose, and smashed cheekbones. She also lost the ability to move the right side of her face, according to the post."

This has prompted further discussion on dogs in the US: Time: The problem with Pit Bulls 

So, as this pit bull drew closer I became aware of its "owner". I was barely aware of this slight, pierced and tattooed man in his late 20s early 30s dressed in US style basketball singlet, track pants and baseball cap who, in my opinion would have about as much chance controlling this beast as running for Prime Minister had the dog been on the leash anyway. I was wrestling with being prepared for a flight or fight response to protect my 8 month old daughter from a well know baby killer when he said "Ow's it garn blud" as he swaggered past. My fear switched to anger as I watched these two animals saunter past unfettered in provocative disregard to society and safety. 

All I could come up with in my heightened parental state of defence was a calm, controlled

"Yeah... f*%k you"?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When animals attack - Comparing dog and shark attacks in NSW

About 4:30-45pm on 16th April 2014 my partner was out walking with our 6 month old baby daughter in a pram in our local neighbourhood in Goonellabah when she was attacked, unprovoked and by surprise, from behind by a small dog who bit her on the leg. This dog, breed currently unidentified, injured my partners lower leg with bruising and a puncture wound drawing blood. On receiving a call form my partner, who was upset and a bit shocked I immediately drove from work collected my girls in our car and took them to the excellent Lismore Clinic who agreed to see us after hours to have the wound treated and antibiotics prescribed.

Since that day my partner has had many more encounters with dogs while out walking and now carries a big stick. Not much use in surprise attacks like the one previously described. There is at least one dog, some times more, big and small out wondering around each time she takes the pram out in the space of a few blocks approx 2-3km. Its like my partner and daughter are prisoners in our own neighbourhood.

I'm sorry, while sharks sometimes attack humans when we venture into their habitat, the statistics show dogs regularly attack and injure humans in our own habitat see the information below from the NSW Government website.

In NSW 2012 there were 5 shark attacks on humans reported injuring 3. In the same year there were 3,323 dog attacks on humans, 767 of those required medical treatment and 146 people were hospitalised. 75% of dogs were not under control and 62% occurred in a public place. Neither caused fatalities in NSW that year, however both have been known to, especially the very young and old.

In total there have been less than half the number shark attacks reported in Australia since records began in 1791 than dog attacks reported in a single year 2011/2012 reporting period in NSW.

I acknowledge its not all dog owners, but come on people, look after your pets. Please be responsible and don't let your pets roam the streets unattended and unrestrained terrorising the community. Its only a matter of time before someone is hositalised or a small child is killed.


Mangement of bite injuries -

Shark attacks in Australia: a timeline -

Australian Shark Attack File - Annual Australian Shark Attack Report Summary - 2012 -

Dog attack reporting -

NSW Dog Attacks 2011/2012 -

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What is Coal Seam Gas (CSG) and is there a demand for it on the Northern Rivers?

Is it hypocritical to protest against Coals Seam Gas (CSG) mining while being a consumer of gas and does being a gas consumer mean that there is local demand for CSG/LNG on the Northern Rivers? According to those arguing for CSG you are and it does. However, the reality is not so clear cut.

Photo by Alex Moffat-Clarke

1. It is a common misconception that LNG (natural gas) from CSG and LPG are the same. They aren’t.
  • Both LPG and LNG are produced as a by product from the existing conventional oil and gas extraction methods and refining processes. These are also in plentiful supply in Australia. At least  there was until contracts were signed to supply phenomenal quantities of gas to the international LNG market. 
Northern Rivers gas supplier Elgas defines the difference between CSG/LNG vs LPG here

2. It is also a common misconception that there is an existing local demand for CSG/LNG natural gas in the Northern Rivers. There isn’t.
  • As Elgas points out currently bottled gas supplied in the Northern Rivers and most of regional NSW is LPG gas. There is not LNG pipeline infrastructure.
  • CSG/LNG is not compatible with existing LPG systems and infrastructure. 
  • You can’t burn LNG in your LPG heater, water heater, BBQ, camp stove or car. 
 For more about the distinction between LNG, LPG etc 

Here's what the locals think

thanks to CSGFree Northern Rivers

 I hope this helps.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Forgot to post this vid I shot and edited last year of The Voice Australia Musical Director Scott Aplin for SCU. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The biggest economic douche in Australia's history

Scrutiny? Lets compare our old mate "sweaty" Joe and his Liberal and Labor pals with the Greens on the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) the independent agency that was setup for precisely this purpose.


According to journalist Greg Jericho "the Greens approach to parliamentary budget costings should be the benchmark by which all parties in future elections are judged." and "All up, the Greens have sent 74 policies to be costed by the PBO since 14 August."
2 days out from the election and who is looking like the biggest economical douche? Could be the source of all that moisture?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Keyword loading URLs and search ranking - an SEO case study

In the last couple of months we have rolled out some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) changes across key sub-sites. Our goal being improving the ranking of these sites in Google search results based on keyword searches. Below is the benchmark and current search ranking performance on Google for the School of Environment, Science and Engineering site at Southern Cross University for comparison before and after URL change results.

Back in June 2013 I did some benchmark testing on Google by searching with the following keyword term "environmental science engineering" which served up the following top 3 results:
  1. Griffith University
  2. Wikipedia
  3. SCU
So in this case our SCU website was coming up in 3rd place in the search results. In my analysis, I noticed that Griffith aren't utilising the Description or Keywords metadata fields which we are. All other SEO aspects are reasonably even. This lead me to assume that their advantage is the use keywords in the URL and probably more overall visitor traffic. I concluded that making a similar change to our URL should make us more competitive and improve our ranking. 

In July 2013 we proceeded to make the following changes to our site loading keywords in the the URL.

Of course this transition had to be carefully managed to make sure that all current shortlinks and redirects we diverted to the new URL, that all pages had new redirects placed to catch traffic and send it to the new page locations and that sitemap.xml files were updated and re submitted. We also carried this same process out with our other School sites.

Fast forward to the end of August 2013. Now when searching on Google for the terms "environmental science engineering" we get the following top three results:
  1. Griffith University
  2. SCU
  3. Wikipedia
So climbing one position in one month is encouraging and demonstrating that the experiment was successful. Of course it will be interesting to compare other likely keyword combinations that prospective students are likely to use and measure their success.

Looking at visits to this School home page in Google Analytics we can see that for June the site was received 222 visits, fairly typical in the months leading up to the changes, while in August it has already received 380 visits, an increase of 158 visits or 67%.

Other before and after data:

Pages/Visit 5.63
Average Visit Duration 13:38
% New Visits 33%
Bounce Rate 27.48%

Pages/Visit 5.74
Average Visit Duration 10:26
% New Visits 32.37%
Bounce Rate 22.63%

At this point our strategy has helped the site climb one place in the ranking to second for that particular site and increase overall visits by 67%. Other improvements are a reduced bounce rate meaning that visitors are of a higher quality.

In comparing our page to Griffith Uni's there are some more SEO improvements we can make Eg. making in content keywords links to course or discipline pages, though I believe our main obstacle in gaining number 1 ranking is going to be traffic. Traffic is a very powerful metric in SEO ranking and I have the feeling that Griffith Uni is probably getting a lot more traffic to their page at this point. However, the increase that we are already seeing could build up over time and, with a few additional SEO tweaks, eventually give us the edge. 

Other factors that my benefit our site could include targeted digital campaigns to drive more traffic from other website sources that Google.

Conclusion, while not gaining that coveted number 1 ranking at this stage, this exercise resulted in significant improvements.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Raising the Fun Tax

Have you heard of the term the "Fun Tax"? Why is it the people who drink, smoke and gamble the most, pub people, also complain the loudest about paying tax when in all likelihood they are probably paying more because of their personal lifestyle choices. Why would anyone choose to pay more tax?

What is this "Fun Tax"? Its a general term that refers to the taxes on tobacco, alcohol and gambling (currently not affecting the average Australian). These taxes introduced by previous governments have been increased by current Australian government in order to raise more revenue and fund campaigns to reduce smoking and alcohol participation for health reasons are being described as "draconian", "unfair" and impacting on "our freedom of choice". Are they?

Its no secret that this mix of tax are major sources of revenue for governments in this country, but how does this revenue generated compare to the actual cost in addressing the associated long term health and social problems caused by these "fun" lifestyle choices.

Looking at alcohol it’s estimated that in 2010 the Commonwealth raised $7.075 billion in from alcohol taxes, excise and GST revenue. In comparison researchers  at Griffith University discovered that the total cost to society from alcohol related problems was estimated at $14,352 billion. It doesn't take a degree in economics to realise the cost is more than double that raised in tax. Are you shocked? There's more.

Tobacco in Australia is the number one cause of preventable death and disease causing 12% of the national disease burden, up to 20% in Indigenous communities, while costing society $31 billion a year in health and social costs. This is 4 times the tax raised from tobacco products. Are you more shocked? There's still more.

The other point to make about tobacco and alcohol is that these are seriously harmful substances not unlike class A drugs. While these two are technically “legal” in a regulated way, less harmful products are restricted and will attract a fine and even a jail sentence for even small quantities. Tobacco and alcohol are also the number 1 and 2 respectively major causes of cancer in Australia. The only reasonable justification for their continued place in the market place is their revenue raising potential. It would appear however after doing the sums that the revenue raised goes nowhere near covering the harm that they cause to individuals, families and society as a whole.

In 2012 cancer was estimated to account for 19% of the total disease burden in Australia. Both Alcohol and tobacco make up a significant portion of this statistic. Smoking alone is estimated to cause one in nine cancers, and one in five cancer deaths.

As yet the cost of supporting problem gamblers through counseling and other harm minimisation programs has not been identified due to the nature of reporting in the health industry. Unlike alcohol and tobacco, gambling is not directly taxed at the consumer end. Therefore whatever health cost there are incurring, currently there is no way of comparing to revenue raised. Based on the anecdotal evidence of the number of people seeking help to deal with gambling and associated problems, we can easily see that there must be substantial costs involved. Even more shocked?

So even though the consumers of tobacco, alcohol and gambling are likely paying more tax than the rest of us as a direct result of participating in these activities, the rest of us are significantly compensating them in order for them to receive health treatment and support as a direct result of their lifestyle choices. Who really should be complaining about the "Fun Tax"? And why isn't it higher?

Surely there are better causes that require are hard earned taxes in the community than on the self obsessed narcissists that are bleeding the system of $50-60 billion, in the vicinity of the total cost of the Governments NBN policy, EVERY SINGLE YEAR?

To top it off, some political leaders actually gauge the potential success of their policies by running them by these same people in what they call the "Pub Test". Not satisfied in being heavily subsidised, pub people get a greater share of say in how this country is run. Like there is some kind of social collective wisdom that comes from a schooner that is in some way superior.

So next time you see someone you know who has just cast a bet, ordered a schooner and is heading to the beer garden for a smoke, asks them "Are we having "fun" yet?"


Cost of Alcohol Misuse Double Govt Revenue

Tobacco is Australia's Number One cause of preventable death and disease

Cancer in Australia statistics

What causes cancer