Saturday, September 02, 2006

RIP Pluto & Don

Sadly, this week marked the passing of two Great Bodies of the Universe - Australian Democrat's Founder, Don Chipp, and the planet Pluto. Don Chipp was one of the brightest lights in the Australian political scene throughout his career, with his catch-phrase "Let's keep the bastards honest". In fact, as the tributes flowed at his funeral, it's fairly certain that never before has St Paul's Cathedral heard so much laughter. Comedian Andrew Denton apologised in advance before reading a bawdy poem that Mr Chipp wrote for his 80th birthday last year, then described Mr Chipp's impression of government censors and what they might do with pornography magazines, his lust for the Queen and the similarities between former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and an Easter Island statue "with a poker up its a%s".

A more solemn reaction around the world, though, for Pluto, now demoted officially from "planet" to "dirty annoying spot on the lens". Poor Pluto, always bullied for being so small and deftly kept out of the inner solar system by the big bully Gas Giants, has now had to suffer the ultimate shunning by a group of scientists who said years ago they had discovered every single planet and there was no possiblity of more being found; only to now say they have found hundreds, including a bunch bigger than Puny Pluto. These are the professionals who can't find where most of the matter in the universe is hiding, and who see a big area of nothing at all, and call it an object with the unlikely name of "Black Hole". Not so many years ago these same so-called learned men were seeing great big animals floating around the sky, and men with bows and arrows.

We can't do anything for Don Chipp now, but we can certainly "Protest for Pluto". I urge you to write to your Parliamentary Member today.

Honey, I shrunk the solar system

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lies & Statistics

"There are lies, damn lies, and statistics" said Mark Twain. The world is littered with statistics, and statistically, the average person is bombarded with five statistics a day. Statistics are usually misleading and deliberately distorting, as they are used to demonstrate not random samplings of truth, but trends among a specific area of the population on a specific topic. According to a website on statistics, though, this quote from Mark Twain is accurate: "statistics are often used to lie to the public because most people do not understand how statistics work. The aim of this entry is to acquaint the reader with the basics of statistical analysis and to help them determine when someone is trying to pull a fast one." But then, you must always remember the sage advice of George Carlin, too: "Think about how stupid the average person is; now realise half of them are dumber than that."

In today's News, figures have shown that Tassie has the highest rate of fatal air crashes in the country. Between 1990 and 2004, Tasmania recorded 1.8 fatal accidents per 100,000 landings, above the national average of 0.7 fatalities. The guy in charge of these statistics warns that it should be a wake-up call to all light plane pilots.

Except that Tasmania only has a population of half a million or so people, and the rest of Australia has 20 million. Where a busy Sydney airport might have 100,000 lands per year, we'd be lucky to have 100,000 landings per decade! As everything in Tassie is so easily within driving distance (maximum 4 hour drive from one end of the state to the other) that small planes aren't a big thing here. Even our major airports, like Devonport, only have 3 or 4 small planes hanging around. Ask any Tasmanian when the last air fatality in Tasmania was and the answer will probably be, "Have we ever had one?"

But of course we have had one or two tragic accidents. And those have blown out our statistical bubble so that for the next 20 years at least, we'll be higher than the National Average, even assuming no-one else gets killed.

The lesson? Statistics can say anything at all. Use your brain.

ABC News Tasmanian Air Crashes

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Microsoft Does it Again

Microsoft does it again, another on-stage demo which goes completely wrong:

How pathetic is Microsoft anyway? Does anything they produce work!? I'm not being platformist here, but c'mon - Apple's Steve Jobs comes on stage doing a jig and looks like the cover guy of Playgirl Magazine, Microsoft's Steve Balmer comes on stage and looks like a hippo having a heart attack, and takes 2 or 3 minutes to recover his breathing. On-stage their voice recognition does an atrocious job and they blame 'ambient noise' like there wouldn't be any in a normal office, while Apple have had voice recognition that works for over 10 years. Various Microsoft on-stage shows have crashes, remote controls that don't work, programs that show the Blue Screen of Death. I don't think there's ever been an Apple demo which didn't work, and they were showing off more impressive stuff!

And the daily grind for the average user - I boot Messenger and it asks me every two minutes to allow a different port number than the one I just authorised it for. After ten minutes of chatting whatever the person at the other end types just comes up as a blank line at my end. It tells me I have Hotmail and when I try to access it, it gets into a complex loop of self-forwarded web pages which never get to Hotmail. Which is fine, because I can't use it any more anyway - I lost my password and when I clicked on 'Lost Password' it tells me that it sent instructions on how to change my Hotmail password to... guess where? My Hotmail account. The one I can't access. I install a Microsoft product and the installer progress bar ends after 10 items, then stays at 100% for another 10,000 items after that. Or breaks right through the right-hand-side of the dialog and keeps going... right off the screen. Or the installer says it's finished and when I click 'Finished' it then starts installing another component of the same installation. Dialogs that use 'Yes' or 'Cancel' to questions like "Installer will now finish" Video's using MediaPlayer that take 5 minutes just to buffer when YouTube or Google Video finish playing the whole thing inside a minute. And having buffered it, when I rewind it to play it again it has to rebuffer it all over again before it plays! I fast-forward a bit and then watch 3 minutes of black screen with audio only, because there are no keyframes or else they're not implemented well. I install Word and it won't open half the files I created with previous versions. And keeps second-guessing me (wrongly) about everything I want to do. And oh, don't I look so, so professional to the client with those stupid boingy sound effects and animated helper characters running around the screen!

Nothing this dinosaur of the company produces works properly, or indeed even halfway properly. There are never any new ideas of concepts, only second-rate clones of products from others. Their operating systems are full of thousands of holes and vulnerabilities, viruses run rampant, and all because everything they ever do isn't the result of dynamic, intelligent programmers, but instead the results of a bunch of outdated suit-men cobbling together something, then instead of taking the time to get it from concept to marketable product, they just release it as a finished product anyway.

The staggering thing about it all is this - wouldn't you think the men that produce this crap would just say, "Damn it, what a loser of a job I've got. I don't know why I even bother coming to work to produce this crud. Surely I could get a job with a real company that produces things that work?"

Pathetic. Absolutely, completely, mind-numbingly pathetic.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


With Fathers' Day coming up this weekend, spare a few moments to ring your Dad and your Mum, because if you don't do it on Fathers' and Mothers' Days, then when will you? And if you don't get on with your Dad any more, think how fortunate you are to have him when compared to this Aussie Genius, and be 'Glad and Prad of yer Dad':

Jail for Tumble-Drying Kid

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Who Watches the Watchers?

What do you call a judge, a prostitute, a lawyer and a dead American academic? No, the answer isn't "A good start", because this isn't a joke.

Police are investigating claims that retired Federal court judge Marcus Enfield lied to a court (a crime, perjury) so he didn't have to pay a $77 speeding ticket. It's only 2 or 3 months ago police across Australia were warning drivers not to take the blame for a mate or spouse by pretending you were driving, not them, when the speed camera caught the car. It's a crime, and you could end up paying a lot more than a few dollars - your protecting your friend can get you both jailed. Nonetheless, the judge, who of all people should know better, told the Court he wasn't driving that day, that the car was loaned to an old friend - American academic Professor Teresa Brennan. The trouble is, Teresa has been dead for 3 years. There have also been claims that the judge blamed an entirely different US-based academic for two other traffic infringements in 1999 and 2000, but the judge says they're not true. The prostitute had a falling out with a Sydney solictor, Michael Ryan, and ransacked his rubbish bin, finding drafts of the judge's public statements on the whole issue, so now solicitor Ryan has resigned, or been sacked, from the case.

It seems the judge doesn't think the law applies to him - now he's been charged with disobeying a no-parking sign in January this year. He claims he can't walk far because of a previous leg injury, and he had his frail, elderly mother with him that day. It seems he thinks it's ok to break laws as long as you have a good personal excuse. I wonder how many people who came through his Courts over the years he accepted that defense from!

The Australian

Monday, August 28, 2006

Gunns Unlimited Ego

Poor old John Gay had a bit of a knock today when the Victorian Supreme Court rejected out of hand Gunns Ltd's claim for almost $7 million damages against 19 or so environmentalists, plus The Wilderness Society. The Court ruled that the claim was too general, against too many people. Which is hardly surprising, after all, those 20 respondents are just scapegoats meant to represent the Tasmanian population at large and it's attitudes. Tasmanians outside of Launceston, the only area which will significantly benefit from the proposed new pulp mill development at the heart of all this protest, are overwhelmingly against the idea. Gunns Ltd has consistently lied about the project, claiming it would not hurt old-growth or protected areas of forest. Other views suggest up to 85% of the trees the mill pulps will be old-growth. And Gunns has lied all the way along the line about the pollution which would be produced, the number of jobs, the amount of water the mill would demand (Launceston already faces a shortage of water)… in fact, you name it, Gunns have lied about it. The latest Court submission is version 3 of their claim - version 2 was laughed out of Court last year, the Court describing it as "embarrassing" and "at best ambiguous and at worst misleading", and ordering Gunns to pay the costs of the defendants.

Like most Tasmanians, I'm pretty sick of hearing about Forestry. I'm sick and tired of the Greenies who can't protest sanely and take everything to ridiculous extremes, and I'm sick of companies like Gunns whose management have no moral code at all other than the Holy Dollar. I'm sick of hearing the lies on both sides of the fence.

The punchline to the joke is that most of the Reserved and World Heritage areas are "set aside for future generations to enjoy" but who is this mythical future generation? When does the present stop and the future begin? Using the accepted definition of "generation", there have been 3 or 4 generations since some of these Reserves were "set aside" - but apparently they're not the "future generations" that the Reserves were set aside for.

Whose forests are they? Who gave anyone who doesn't own the land the right to decide who does what in them? Don't chop them down, and don't tell me I'm not allowed to ride a horse through them or have a picnic. Stop treating them like Holy Mother Gaia's Revered Children and start seeing them for what they are - dirt and trees.

The Australian - $7 Million Bid Rejected

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Maps Update

I'm running a bit behind with my new map for Lux this week. Last week, after talking it over with the Map Lab, I decided to change the name from 'Space Invaders', which may still be copyrighted, to 'Lux Invaders'. Because the name itself was changed, that meant the new map upload completely took the place of the first one and that put me 2 days behind normal schedule, so I can't upload 'USS Lionhart', which a lot of players are waiting anxiously for, until tomorrow or the next day, because only 1 upload per week is allowed. So be patient, folks, it's not far away. Meanwhile, here are a few more I've been working on which you'll be seeing in the Map Manager in the next few weeks: