Annual Rostrum Convention Queensland

Today is the Annual Rostrum Convention in Queensland.  I have arrived a bit late, so I am sitting outside in the coffee area blogging.  In my defence, I was up until midnight reviewing a student’s literature review submission for UQ prior to having to mark it.  

Rostrum is all about public speaking, so today’s discussions should be pretty good – given that I like that kind of thing.  Since I arrived late, I haven’t gone into the venue yet.  I am running a hypothetical later in the day – hmm, apparently for 45 minutes.  Given the last one went for two hours, I suppose this one will be a bit less taxing.  How does that sound?

All at the Brisbane International Hotel – at Windsor.  A cosy little venue.

IMG 4541

MNCs in Emerging Markets: International Human Resource Management

So – why does the US hold its elections on a Tuesday in November?

I am just preparing for tonight’s Rostrum meeting and decided to mention that pesky United States election thing.

I found this discussion on Election, which as an avid follower of US politics I found interesting – and intriguing.  As it is currently Tuesday in the United States (that whole time zone thing means it’s actually Wednesday, but there you go), I was curious to know how election days came about.  According to Wikipedia, there are prosaic reasons as to why election days are held on a Tuesday in November.

Originally, states were to hold their presidential election “any day in the 34 days prior to the first Wednesday of December”. This was chosen as the magic date between harvest time and the crippling snow storms of the North Eastern States.

However, states holding their election later held an advantage: they knew what earlier results were and could strongly influence the results (and thus get a whole load of pork). So Congress in 1845 decided election day should be uniformly the 1st Tuesday of November in years evenly divisible by four.

Except that election day is not held then – because that approach occasionally violated the 34 day rule, so it was changed to… any guesses? Yes, the Tuesday after the first Monday of November is the rule.

So why is it a Tuesday?  It’s a Tuesday because back in 1845 it generally took a full day by horse and cart to travel to a voting station, then allow a day to vote, and then a day to travel back.  So the Biblical Sabbath (i.e. Sunday) would be disrupted if the election were held earlier, so this meant that election day had to be a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

However, most towns held their Market Day on Wednesdays.  So the trip could allow you to vote AND go to market.  And so to avoid harvest and snow storms, it’s November, and to avoid Sunday and Wednesday, election day is held on a Tuesday.  

From the ‘never knew that’ file.

Total Recall Remake – a Science Fiction Geek’s Review

So I thought I’d post up my review of the Total Recall remake.  Since I’d gone to all the effort of writing it on my Facebook.

This film had a lot to live up to, with the predecessor film having starred the perennial Arnold Schwarzenegger. On its own and without referencing the original film, the movie is good. As usual in today’s Hollywood there is a lot of CGI and running from one high-powered sequence to another. The film is shot to look more like Blade Runner, with lots of rainy dark streets filled with the poor and downtrodden, than the original fluorescent film.

An impressive amount of thought went into some of the technology set-pieces developed for the film – the mag-lev cars allow an impressive twist on the traditional car chase, although ultimately they appear as impractical commuter vehicles. Similarly the Fall – a tunnel drilled through the core of the earth used to commute from one side of the planet to the other in a rather quick 17 minutes – is of interest but ignores several (many) laws of physics. As a science fiction story the film should survive the suspension of disbelief test and this film survives that test – just, if you don’t think about it much.

Similarly, it is apparent people in the future don’t bruise as easily as their modern day counterpart – although the film’s main stars (Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and the never-say-die Kate Beckinsale as the ex-wife baddie in this story) fight and stab and kick and fall and slam into things regularly, no-one ever stops to stretch properly or put Deep Heat into those sore muscles.  As usual the bad guys go to the Bad Guy School of Marksmanship and although an incredible number of bullets are fired, the bad guys all miss spectacularly (unless you count hapless bystanders). Sometimes the bad guys are such bad shots they actually shoot through the good guys! Such skill!

Although much truer to the original Philip K Dick story than the original, plot development suffers a bit from the incessant running, fighting, dodging and weaving. Just don’t think too much about the plot, the torn tendons and broken bones, or the lack of empathy with the characters we never get to sit down and build a relationship with. And don’t think too much about the original movie with the tongue in cheek Arnie references (“Consider that a divorce!”). Overall a good film on its own that suffers through comparison (B-).

Poverty in Australia

A friend of mine on Facebook posted up a quote:

“You need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty – finish high school,marry before having a child, and marry after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of the families who do this are poor; 79 percent of those who fail to do this are poor.”

William Galston, Clinton White House

He wondered whether the states would be the same in Australia; that question intrigued me to investigate the differences atwixt here and there.:

Current poverty rate in the United States is 15.1 percent. The measure is based on income received – $22,350 per annum for a family of four, or about $428 per week.


Poverty rate in Australia is also based on income received. However, here the poverty level is defined by the Henderson Poverty Index from the Melbourne Institute (based upon the Henderson inquiry of 1973). Using this basis, the Poverty Line in Australia is $776.71 per week for a non-working family of four, or about $40,528 (as of September 2011).


The current estimate is ‘1 in 10’ Australians, or 10%, live in poverty according to this definition.


To put that lot in perspective, in the US you are considered to live in poverty if you live on $US428 per week for a family of four – poverty rate 15.1%. In $US, the equivalent Australian measure is $US823 – and our poverty rate according to that definition is 10%.

In Australia, the same non-working family of four is entitled to a welfare payments (again according to the Melbourne Institute as above) of $686.41 per week. I believe I am correct therefore in saying that Australia has a welfare system that prevents people from being in the situation that does not even begin to define poverty in the United States as welfare payments exceed US’s threshold. So in my brief sojourn into the world of social welfare research (rather than my actual research), there are three measures of poverty:

  • Objective – you earn less than this, you don’t have enough to survive on the staples with. For this kind of poverty, dumpster-diving is a way of life.
  • Relative – you earn less than a majority of people in your country, so you live in relative poverty (x-boxes aside). For this kind of poverty, surround yourself with friends who are less well off than you.
  • Subjective – you feel like you don’t earn enough to live off. This is everyone, because everyone defines someone else as rich if they earn about 10% more than you do.

When I look at the toys my kids get compared to what I got growing up, and then they announce ‘I’m bored’ – well, I could just throttle them :). I can tell you, I didn’t break my Christmas presents on Christmas day – heck, I still have my Christmas present radio from 1986 (it’s looking a bit battered and I’ve finally retired it).

In the States, too, the point was made that the wage arrangements allow wait staff at cafes etc to be paid $3 and make up the difference to the minimum wage via tips.  Apparently if the waitstaff don’t get sufficient tips to make the minimum wage the employer is supposed to cover it.  Apparently, a lot of people don’t know that rule (thanks Sam!).  And Sam also pointed out that there are a lot of ‘private/public benefits’ of the welfare state – she has had to buy a more expensive house in a ‘good’ area, and security firms are a way of life in some parts of the US, due at least in part, probably mostly, to the grinding level of poverty and the complete lack of a welfare safety net.

To be clear: I think it’s a good thing to have safety net. I also think its a good thing to have a high-ish minimum wage. You hear of unskilled people in US working huge hours and getting paid next to nix. I’d rather they had training options available to build a future for them and their family. Sam also pointed out the difference between purchasing power in Australia and the US; that’s very true, especially given housing costs here versus there.  Nonetheless I think the overall conclusion remains – Australia is much more insulated from ‘real’ poverty and thus the Occupy movement here in Australia is not quite full of the 99%ers.

So, just wow. Two countries alike in many ways and yet so very very different.