Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for January 2012

This is an extended version of the column posted in The Chronicle Canberra Tuesday 24 January 2012.

From time to time I’ve come across articles in which writers forecast the end of handwriting becauser computers, mobile phones, tablets (keep that word in mind ) and voice recognition technology are pushing it to the point of extinction at an ever increasing rate.

They may well be right but what worries me more is not the end of handwriting but the end of words we use when writing. More worrying still is their failure to put a date on when they think this extinction will take place. Indeed, and depending on the writer, the date varies from eons to centuries.

So let me state my personal preference: if it is going to happen I hope it happens sooner rather than later and preferably before the start of a Christmas season. Anything that makes it un-necessary for me to handwrite dozens of Christmas cards will be a blessing in disguise.

But let me be frank about the demise of handwriting; by the end of the next century people will be talking about how technology caused the demise of handwriting in the same way as we talk tday about the demise of the dinosaurs. For example, their Tyranosaurus Rex will be the Commodore 64 et al.

Among the et al, will be the various computers that killed off older computers with everyone who helped develop a new computer claiming it was the best. Unfortunately for them, just as the T-Rex Commdore was overwhelmed by a new computer each sucessive computer met the same fate: they became redundant.

Examples of the technology that will help cause the demise of handwriting are: the world wide web, e-mail, texting, twitter, facebook, you tube; skype, along with many other technological developements that at present we cannot even begin to imagine. Computer operated TV, fridges and sundry other items that the present generation ooh -ah over, willl be old hat.

Importantly however, people will no longer need to worry about where the power will come from to run these appliances: fusion energy will have arrived. Fusion energy of course, is not technology that will become redundant. If it did there would be no world to live in because that means the sun would have shut down.

But I won’t get on to fusion energy but return to handwriting. And while handwriting as we know it will have ceased there will still be handwriting of a kind. Fortunately too, some old adges will remain also because as people will still talk, the saying there’s many a slip twixt lip and cup will still be in use as will ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.’ That these sayings will still be around is only because humans won’t have become redundant. Unfortunately, some of them will still become politicians.

And though hand writing of a kind will remain there’s every possibility that in the next century many of the words we use today will ceased to have meaning. The suggestion is not as silly as you think. With regard to the writing of words I think many of you will be familiar with the phrase ‘what goes around comes around.’

In my opinion we are headed into a second age of cuneiform writing similar to Sumerian cuneiform, which dates back to c.3300 BCE. You’ll have seen those television programs where explorers erupt in excitement as they manage to decipher the cuneiform messages etched on the their walls – were cuneformists the first graffiti artists? Not for them page after page of words when one etched stone wall carried hundreds and hundreds of messages.

I don’t know what name to give the the new form of etching and so have settled for ‘compuglyphs.’

While you might say all this is nonsense, it isn’t. Take a look around you at signs that don’t use words but give you messages without words. For example: no smoking, speed bump, blind corner, cattle grid and that’s only a few; there are thousands more

And if that’s not proof enough, take a look at your mobile phone. I’ve just taken a look at mine and found fourteen hieroglyphic signs that have replaced words. And that’s just the advance guard from the growing lexicon of compuglyphs.

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Let me reply to Veronica a recent commentator by saying that all Allan Takes Aim blogs at are written by me, Don Allan ! I can assure Veronica and everyone else who might think a blog has been inspired by a cousin, uncle, auntie or any other relative that they haven’t; all are the product of my thinking

Let me add also when people comment other than direct to they encourage people on the same network to copy a comment they like and use it for themselves.

This is not something I want to encourage if only because I blog in hope of encouraging people to think and then make their own comments as to whether they agree or disagree with what Ive written.

Notwithstanding these remarks I am pleased that people read the blog and I hope the 182 blogs I’ve posted that have attracted over 35,000 ( of which the site manager has allowed 3,500 to be posted) and the blogs still to come will continue to attract comments in their thousands.

If you want to comment however, I urge you to comment directly in response to the website:

This is an updated version of the column published in this week’s Chronicle.

Nine months from now the ACT will give birth to a new Assembly. A few of its Members will no doubt be recognised (subconsciously) for playing a role comparable to one described in the classic monologue “All the world’s a stage “ Act II Scene VII in Shakespeare’s play “As you like it.” But whether recognised or not, of one thing you can be sure, some will spruik monologues, dreary rather than classic, because they love the sound of their own voice.

Some MLAS will have been elected also despite not understanding that voters are interested in what they have to say provided they do it by way of explanation not declamation. (I hope voters realise its time to give short shrift to politicians who declaim rather than explain so that the next Assembly functions not as a shouting house but a thinking one.)

It is also a fact that the Assembly will have one new MLA at least because Labor MLA John Hargreaves (recognised unofficially as chief comedian in the current ACT Comedy Theatre – known as the Assembly- is retiring. It is also likely there will be more. How many? I don’t knows although rumours as accurate as some climate change forecasts will circulate.

Because I haven’t met all the hopefuls (a pleasure that still awaits me) I feel sure the Assembly will welcome more than one new MLA. Whether Labor, Liberal, Green or someone not yet visible on the political spectrum, I don’t know. Like you, I’ll have to wait and see.

Of current MLAs, for example MLA Steve Doszpot, elected Member for Brindabella in 2008 has moved to Molonglo, an electorate for which he has yet to be pre-selected. Based on his Assembly performance I will be very much surprised if he is not pre -selected and re-elected

Unfortunately Labor candidate for Molonglo, David Mathews, didn’t win in 2008 but I hope he doesn’t miss out this time because he has been assiduous in trying to help people in the electorate during the last four years. I am picking Doszpot and Mathews as winners because they strike me as having the common sense I think a necessary pre-requisite for an MLA.

My next choice is Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur, a surprise winner in Molonglo in 2008. She might well surprise again in October. As for my predictions, they are not based on how many times these candidates are seen in the press or seen and heard on TV and radio but on the basis that when they are, they display the common sense I mentioned earlier.

As the months go by, I hope to bring you my opinion about other new candidates. It would be unfair to condemn anyone without knowing anything about them and who knows, among them there might be some who will do better for Canberra than some of the people who already are being talked of as certainties.

And so by the time the election arrives I expect to have given you the opportunity to read about new candidates so that in October you will vote for the candidates you want not the ones that party hierarchies want.

I am in no doubt most voters will have read the monologue I cited in the first paragraph (if they haven’t they should) and nor am in doubt either that they will be able to identify that some MLAs standing for re-election fit one of the descriptions given by Shakespeare.

For example they might think that some have still not grown up and not only are they still like infants mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms but also that they are unlikely to change. Some might even think some MLAs seeking re-election are more like whining schoolboys creeping unwillingly to school.

And from what I know, none seem to fit the image of the lover sighing like a furnace with a woeful ballad made to his mistresses’ eyebrows. And as my knowledge of the romantic predilections of current MLAs is zilch, I shall resist making predictions.

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First published The Chronicle, Canberra, 10 January, 2012

Billions of people fall prey to Resolution Sickness, also known as making New Year Resolutions, the short term pandemic that strikes the world on January 1 every year. Because of its regularity this pandemic is now seen as more of tradition than a sickness although many a person affected by a resolution’s secondary effect will disagree about that particularly when their bankcard statements arrive.

Thankfully for most people, the sickness passes rapidly and normal life resumes. Unfortunately for a group of people who think the sickness has passed, it hasn’t; in fact it is merely lying dormant, waiting for the cue word that will trigger it into action later, not just on January 1 but on every day of the year. (More later about this group.)

The distinctive symptoms of this sickness are, that on January 1 every year, nearly every adult man and woman in the world feels compelled to make resolutions even though they know it unlikely they will ever keep them.

During my study of the pandemic and based on anecdotal evidence, the most common resolutions made by adult males in 2012 were: they would curb their drinking and smoking stop swearing in mixed company; never cheat on wife or girl friend; exercise more; and help around the house. As for women, they too resolved to drink less; smoke less; go on a diet; swear less; exercise more; stop spending so much on clothes; love their enemies; not gossip about their best friends; and, where applicable, stop cheating on their husbands.

Not wishing to be outdone and copying their adult role models, children made extravagant promises to be behave better, while teenagers and slightly older young adults promised to respect their elders. Far be it from me, an optimist by nature, to believe they do not intend to keep their resolutions but the fact is experience tells me such resolutions have as much chance of lasting as an ice block lying exposed to the full glare of the sun in the Simpson Desert in the height of summer.

Indeed many resolutions last no more than a minute, although when the temptation devil makes himself known, they last for hours, days or weeks; more rarely, they last for a year. But no matter how briefly or how long they last, people believe the benefit of the resolutions is that for a time they get a subconscious feeling of saintliness at having have donned the hair shirt of purity.

Now, if you make resolutions for reasons of tradition, what you may not know, is that you’re not following the idea of a much admired parent or grandparent but a long dead Babylonian. Indeed you can thank the Babylonians for the tradition of making and breaking resolutions on January 1, a tradition which, I have to say, has been practised assiduously not only by Babylonians but into the present millennium by other than Babylonians.

Finding out that the Babylonians were the creators of New Year resolutions was a huge shock to my system because, ever since I can remember, I believed making New Year resolutions was a Scottish tradition. That being the cases and being Scottish not Babylonian, seems to me like a good excuse for not making resolutions and a liar of myself, so I won’t.

But don’t let that put readers off making New Year resolutions: you may not know it but perhaps you’re a cousin 2000 times removed from a Babylonian and so I wouldn’t want you to break with what might be a family tradition.

As to the group of people I mentioned earlier in whom resolution sickness did not pass but lay dormant until being triggered many years later. No one quite knows what the trigger is. Some think ego is the trigger. I have to say this would not be an unreasonable conclusion to draw considering the people I’m talking about are politicians.

As for myself, hoping to make a good start to this year I haven’t made a resolution not to write about politicians but neither have I made a resolution to write about them either except to say that politicians are probably the world’s best resolution breakers.
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To all commentators

I’d like to advise all potential contributors to that the site will be down for approximately six days.

Don Allan


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