Black Saturday:

Michael James writes: Lyall Chittleborough (yesterday, comments) wants to build brick houses to protect against bushfires. Did Lyall also not notice that there were many brick walls standing testament to the blindingly obvious reality that bushfires burn all houses from the inside out? Timber walls and decking are among the last things to burn, especially if they are made of hardwood, especially if blackbutt. Brick is an entirely false security blanket.

There are three main points of ember attack and all three can be protected with minimal cost. First is the roof and the ceiling space — if embers get in, nothing will save the house. The roofing material must be sheet steel, the eaves must be closed and there must be no vulnerabilities like whirlybirds that sweep embers directly into the ceiling void.

Second is under the house which is even easier to protect with cheap fibro board or mesh.

Third and more difficult are the windows; well not that difficult to almost anyone but Australians. The Mediterranean countries (and their Asian and Pacific colonies) have external shutters while in the North American tornado zone they board up their windows and doors (and retreat to a cellar). Why is this beyond us? (Ten-pound poms from a damp climate too witless to adapt — even after two centuries — to a dry fire prone environment?) To protect against embers, a very effective makeshift solution that can be used for existing windows is fibro-cement sheeting that can be hung on nails.

Yesterday morning on ABC612 radio a victim of the Canberra bushfires, Rick Hingee explained how he rebuilt his house to be much more fire resistant. He said it probably added about $25k to the cost of the build. Considering that is about 5-10% of the cost of the average Australian house, it seems like an eminently sensible investment. But he went a bit overboard especially with double-glazed toughened-glass windows that also had mesh screens on the outside and inside — the simple fibro sheet solution would be a fraction of the cost and probably more effective. He also ensured he had his own water supply to avoid the problem of failure of town water pressure which he experienced in 2003.

Rick Hingee thought his investment was worthwhile because although the 2003 fire was supposed to be a one-in-a-hundred year event, in reality now it can be expected every 10-20 years. Yet he reported that almost all the other houses in his suburb had been rebuilt exactly as before.

Barry O’Farrell and Stockland:

Katie Lennon, Media Relations Manager, Corporate Affairs at Stockland, writes: Re. “Barry O’Farrell sticks his neck out on donations reform” (yesterday, item 3). NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon wrote: “Stockland, which recently purchased land in Gordon for $24 million to build 140 apartments, has donated $200,000 to the NSW Liberal party.”

Having acquired its Gordon property in 2003, Stockland sold it in early 2009. In July 2008, the Stockland Board implemented a company-wide policy of zero donations to politicians and political parties at all levels of government.

Tom Cruise:

Andrew Hornery, Columnist, The Sydney Morning Herald, writes: Re. “The Daily Telegraph, Tom Cruise and the trip that never was” (Monday, item 3). Yes that was an odd little story the Tele regurgitated. For the record, I had heard about Tommy being in Broome a fortnight or so ago, spoke to the local rag who claimed the pics were authentic and spoke to freelance photographer Brad Durack about the pics.

I thought it was a bit odd that no one else — i.e. the Aussie paps — had any clue about Tom going to Broome, and without his wife or daughter, let alone his Aussie posse of Packers. The pics were not terribly convincing but the clanger came when I noticed shots coming in from LA of Tom at a soccer game chin-wagging with Posh Spice. The images were taken around the same time he was meant to be bobbing about the azure waters off Broome. So unless the Scientologists had devised rapid-speed cloning, I figured the Broome guys had got it slightly wrong and dropped the story there.

I was as surprised as everyone else to see it resurface in Sydney Confidential, just goes to show you should never blindly recycle gossip without doing a bit of fact-checking. Indeed they were really “conned” (boom tish). Indeed there were other stars rumoured to be in Broome that week too, including Hugh Jackman and Oprah Winfrey. The local races were on, though I don’t think the Big O is much of a punter. The Paspaley family of pearling fame were also opening a resort which did attract Barry Humphries and Ros Packer (I wrote about that Saturday before last), but sadly no Mamma O or Tommy.

Name changing:

Sean Williams writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published:

As a recently married woman, I am going through the pain of changing my name on everything from my bank accounts to my driver’s licence. All painful but all that was required was a registered marriage certificate and it was relatively easy to do, but I have finally gotten around to trying to renew my passport and ended up giving up in a blind rage as instead of filling in the normal renewal form, if you need to change your name on your passport you must re-apply for a passport — as if you have never been issued a passport before.

This includes digging up birth certificates and obtaining written proof of your existence from a guarantor (I gave up at this point!). My current passport was only issued last year — has the microchip centre etc etc. Why wouldn’t this plus a marriage certificate be enough proof of identity!

Thousands of women who are married each year must have to go through this obnoxious exercise (a bitter part of my brain is saying that this process is obviously concocted by a man who is unlikely ever to have to change his name!).”

The assumption that every women who marries — and only women who marry — changes their name to her husband’s is just so twentieth century. Nineteenth century, even. Whatever. A better tip would be to keep your own name, and your own identity, intact, and save yourself the bureaucratic hassle into the bargain.

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Surely I join a chorus of readers in saying to the married woman name-changer, “Just don’t!” It’s incredible to me that this subservient relic still exists. I presume that you would also like to be addressed “Mrs John Smith”? As to the children’s surnames, why not give the boys your husband’s surname and the girls yours, or invent a brand new one for them, just to piss the genealogists off?

Jo Dyer writes: I think the difficulty in changing one’s name should give those thousands of women married every year pause for thought as to why so many of them are still going through the ridiculous ritual of abandoning their own identity in favour of their husband’s? Spooky how so many women will nominate every reason under the sun — my surname is difficult to spell, my husband is the last of his bloodline and how could we let his name disappear? — rather than admit they remain captive to the patriarchal norms of our less-that-equal society.

Jackie O:

Jim Hart writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published:

Spotted. Jackie O, scurrying to a convention of gal pals in the Sydney harbourside suburb of Pyrmont. The Dalgety Street gab-fest over mezze plates was overheard by several passers-by, with O coming clean on what she really thinks about the latest lie detector controversy.

The public contrition of Kyle & Jackie and the issue of radio ethics (Re. “The Kyle and Jackie O Code of Contrition“, yesterday, item 5) is a valid story. But two snaps of a self-important radio host is not worth the bandwidth it’s printed on. Not even New Idea would give it space, unless perhaps if there was a possible baby bump happening (come to think of it — no, it’s just a very loose cardy).

Now if you could get a photo of the real Jackie O feeding a Sydney parking meter, that would have been right up there with confirmed Elvis sightings.

Which reminds me — could someone explain why the current Jackie calls herself O since her name is apparently Henderson? No, sorry, don’t bother, forget I mentioned it, just get her and her boofhead mate out of sight as quickly as possible.

Fairfax:

Glen Frost writes: Re. “Fairfax’s strategic future: Crikey readers weigh in” (yesterday, item 18). OK, so here’s a businessman’s shot at a strategy for Fairfax;

What’s our strategy? (apart from fire the CEO)

Answer: New readers. New markets. New products.

What are the opportunities?

Answer: Fairfax does a glossy magazine, so why not launch a AWW/New Weekly gossip-style mag? Asia is growing; why not buy something in China? There’s $3bn in TV advertising, why not launch IPTV channels? Social media is booming; why not invest in this area? (MySpace et al)

I suspect it’s 50% about cultural change: Fairfax seems to be run as an old boys club; change that and you’re 50% there

First Dog on the Moon:

Neil Hunt writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 6). Hmm, I’m thinking that First Dog has run out of things to write about, or I’ve just missed the latest round of gossip somewhere, but can anyone explain why First Dog is cartooning about a song that is now nearly seven years old?

Still, it’s my Mrs’ favourite song, and it gave her a chuckle, so thumbs up for giving me a happy bride. We married when that song was a hit.

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