Monday, October 11, 2010

Back but jet lagged

Back from Greece last night, still jet lagged and with a bad cold. I have a lot of things to do today, but thought that I might indulge myself first with a simple catch-up.

We left Athens in the afternoon for Dubai, then left Dubai for Sydney in the middle of the night Dubai time, arriving in Sydney about 11pm Sydney time. I have travelled a fair bit over the years, and have learned various ways of managing the jet lag problem. One key is to progressively switch to destination time. In this case, that meant treating the flight as a late night then day time flight. However, here I hit some problems.

To begin with, Emirates served just two meals, one called breakfast, the second lunch. From my body's viewpoint, the first was indeed breakfast, but the second had to be classified as dinner because of the long gap between the two. A snack was served in the middle, but I found this indigestible.

A more important problem lay in the plane lighting. As day dawned, the plane was kept in darkness. This made it easier for people to see the back seat screens and no doubt helped the cabin crew; these long flights must be exhausting; keeping people asleep or watching screens does make management easier. That said, it made it bloody hard to adjust my body clock to a night, day, night sequence.

Worse, when I went to put on the reading light to allow me to do some reading and writing, I found that it shone on the person beside me. This really made it quite impossible to do what I wanted to do. I sat there bored and fumed quietly.

As I looked round the plane, I thought that there were going to be some very badly jet-lagged travellers. West-east flights are always worse than east-west flights. I had to fight to stay awake in the darkness. Those who spent the time sleeping with breaks for entertainment and food were going to find themselves wide awake in the middle of the night Sydney time, essentially wiping themselves out for the next day and, indeed, probably the day beyond. I may be tired today, but I am at least functional!

There have been a number of stories while I was away on some of the perennial topics that interest me.

I was struck in Greece by just how cheap many things were. Cigarettes 3 euro 90, many alcohol products up to 60% less than the Australian equivalent, even foodstuffs including meat. Food and especially meat prices came as surprise, for Australia used to be a low food cost country. No more, I fear.

I mention this because of the current stories about the impact of irrigation cuts in the Murray-Darling basin, along with the concerns expressed that, for the first time, this country is going to become a net importer of food outside certain broad acre products.

There are a range of issues involved in these topics. For example, sky-rocketing sheep meat prices are linked partly to the decline in the wool industry and a consequent decline in sheep numbers, along with growing export demand. In the case of pork, cheap bacon imports have reduced local production. We pay less for bacon, but more for other other cuts. We want more water for environmental reasons and for urban supply, but then have to rely more on overseas foodstuffs, effectively importing water.

I am too tired to flesh all this out in detail, and it might also get too boring. I would simply note that I think that the issue of food prices and food security is likely to become quite important over the next decade. Globally, rising living standards together with changing expectations means that demand for at least certain foodstuffs is pushing hard against supply. As we become more dependant on imports, the simple combination of shifts in global prices with exchange rate shifts makes us more vulnerable.

The potential impact is greatest on lower income Australians.

Recently I did some very rough modelling, trying to compare the present and past living standards of a person on a low income. To provide an income base, I took the old age pension. To provide a consistent basket of goods, I took past consumption patterns, assuming that the household smoked a packet of cigarettes a day, that they drank the equivalent of a bottle of beer several times a week, that they generally ate cheaper cuts, with the occasional more expensive meal.

Whichever way I cut the numbers, I found the household was worse off.

It rained while I was away, it has been raining today, there are again floods in South-Eastern Queensland. In Water, water everywhere …, John Quiggin complains about the maintenance of mandatory water restrictions on gardening when there is plenty of water. I quote:              
It makes sense to require water-efficient sprinklers, taps and so on – investment in such measures now will pay off in a drought. But, when water is plentiful, there should be no restrictions on when and how it is used. That way, restrictions will have more bite when they are actually needed.
I agree, and indeed complained strongly about the way that water restrictions were implemented in Sydney. I couldn't use the water to garden properly, yet others could fill their swimming pools. I guess that I am going to continue to complain about current rigid rules based approaches!

The Commonwealth Games began while I was in Greece. To answer a question posed by Legal Eagle in Is anyone watching the Commonwealth Games?, I was really looking forward to doing just that.  Sadly, India's initial problems in mounting the games were so widely reported that they clearly damaged the event itself.

Beyond international media coverage, the on-line Australian press provided my only access to Games reporting. I found the triumphalism of this reporting quite repulsive. Get real, chaps. I note that the UK as a whole has as many medals as us!

Hopefully, now that I am back, I will see some reporting. I have always enjoyed the Commonwealth Games because I see sports and countries not normally featured.

Well, I need to move on. Over the next week or so, you can expect reporting on some of the key features of the Greek trip.     


Anonymous said...

Welcome home Jim! Pleased to see you survived. This is not homework, however...

I would be really interested in a brief comment at some stage on security - both airport and on the ground.

I look forward to your coming posts, but would note just this short SMH article on a favourite topic of mine for your perusal at some stage:


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi KVD and thanks. Security was no more obvious than Australia; there is a story in the treatment of liquids, however.

Thanks for the lead on the SMH story. I will write something because, like you, I am getting increasingly cranky about this type of thing.

Anonymous said...

Jim, There was also an interesting post over at on the subject of mutuals, and I let my heart bleed all over that as well. I just mention this because the comments following mine were varied and quite interesting - and sometimes even on-topic.

I just note this link as maybe another worthwhile browse.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi KVD. For some reason, this post seems to have vanished from the SL site. Perhaps LE & Co had to remove the bloodstains?

Jim Belshaw said...

Correction, KVD. Now found!