Saturday, September 30, 2006

All Upside Down

Just watched the new Poseidon movie. The original, done way back in the 70's, was full of mistakes, mostly where the set designers had had trouble thinking upside-down or the carpenters just didn't think when making the sets. You'd think in a remake of the film they'd be very careful of that, perhaps even build every set right way up and then flip them. But no, the modern version has a number of similar mistakes as well. About 2 minutes after the ship rolls over, our heroes are crossing an elevator shaft and a grill on the wall is the right way up. Grills have slanted vanes to stop the dust getting inside, but this one, when the ship was upright, would channel the dust into it. And not long after, our intrepid ex-fireman doesn't know basic Rule One of firefighting - aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire, not 4 feet into the air. Good thing the door was hot but the fire had already gone out! And my favourite one of all, the multi-story theatre room with balloons everywhere - which presumably weren't helium-filled and were drooping down sadly before the ship flipped, because the still are now. Guys, helium balloons would still be the right way up! Anyway, you get my drift. Check out, a great site for picking the nits out of your favourite movies, if you want to see a few more.

Movie Mistakes - Poseidon

Friday, September 29, 2006

Apple Still #1

First a quick joke: In the Post Office one day the mail sorters see a letter addressed to "God, Heaven", in a child's writing. They open it up and read "Dear God, mum is very sick, can you send $500 to help us out? Signed Johnny." Well, they immediately run around the mailroom showing everyone, they all put in money to help out, and they come up with $350, which they send off to the boy. A week later another letter arrives addressed to God, and they all stop work and gather around to hear what is in it as one of them opens it and begins to read aloud: "Dear God, thanks for the money, I only got $350 of it because you know what thieving bastards those Post Office people are…"

Recently I ordered a Mac Mini, and got up Apple on this blog because their order confirmation said it would take 14 days to ship when their website said 24 hours. I rang them, and said they don't listen to their customers. Here's what happened:

• I emailed a complaint to them and asked them to read the blog entry.
• I received an explanation of the delay by email after they had done so.
• I was asked to fill in a survey of their service even though they knew I wouldn't say nice things.
• I received another email saying my Mac had shipped.
• I received my Mac yesterday.

Shipping to Tasmania always goes through third-party and very slow couriers. This means that not only did Apple listen to me, the customer, but someone at Apple must have moved hell and high water to get it to me so quickly. This was certainly service above and beyond the call of duty. So I certainly won't be like the boy in the joke; if Apple Store staff read this blog again to see if I'm still complaining, let me assure you I'm not! You've done very, very well indeed, and this customer is once again happy. Thank you.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

War on Telemarketers

Telemarketers are an absolute pain. But the bad news is that it's our own fault. No matter how cheap the call costs to these organisations (and believe me, they pay next to nothing), they still wouldn't worth doing it if idiots out there didn't encourage them. All of us pay the price, and the only way to stop this method of selling is for every single person to declare war on telemarketing, and refuse to buy their crap. I hate people with scripts on the other end of the phone. After all, isn't the phone for conversation? Would you put up with a friend if all they ever did was continue saying what they wanted to, without ever listening to you? So method number one in the fight is - disrupt the script. Today I got a phone call and it went something like this:

Tm: Hi it's Jane here from the Broadband Company. We're a Telstra service…
Me: Are you part of Telstra or a separate company entirely?
Tm: Oh, er, we're associated with Telstra…
Me: I'm associated with them, too. I'm one of their customers. Is that what you mean in regard to your association?
Tm: We're associated with Telstra to…
Me: So you're a completely separate company with no corporate link to Telstra then?
Tm: Yes, we're offering you…
Me: May I have your ABN [Australian Business Number] please?
Tm: Er, um, I'm not sure what it is…
Me: But as a phone sales company you are required by law to provide it immediately upon request.
Tm: We're calling about our broadband service…
Me: Speed and cost?
Tm: Pardon?
Me: I'm a busy man, speed and cost?
Tm: We have a number of options…
Me: Fastest speed for lowest price. Give me figures.
Tm: Well, er, we have a 256k…
Me: Too slow. Connection AND your answer. Bye.

See how easy it is? Now, if you think of these people as poor battlers struggling to earn a dollar you'll come unstuck and buy something from them out of sympathy. Remember always that every telemarketer owns a private yacht, they are all part of the conspiracy to bring about one world government, and most of them watch porn on their computer screen while selling you stuff. Their children are locked in a cupboard upstairs, and they kill, skin and eat their cat's kittens for tea. Remember this, and you won't have any troubles saying 'No' next time these devil worshippers call.

He Saved the World - Literally!

I noticed a couple of days ago that Google's title graphic had been changed to include a birthday cake, signifying their 8th Birthday. Google regularly commemorates special events in this way, but there is a far more important anniversary than their birthday to celebrate - September 26th is the date that the world would have ended, but for Colonel Stanislav Petrov.

On 26th September 1983, Petrov was in charge of the Soviet Union’s satellite warning systems. This was the height of the cold war, NATO was carrying out its annual tactical exercises, and two weeks before the Soviets had shot down a Korean airliner that had wandered into their airspace. Ronald Reagan was publicly calling the Soviet Union an ‘Evil Empire’, the warmup man at a UK Conservative party rally had opened with the call to “Bomb Russia”, we had Andropov, a former leader of the KGB, as the current ruler of the Kremlin, and every American was digging a backyard bomb shelter. Things were, to put it mildly, on a hair trigger.

At 40 minutes past midnight on the 26th, Petrov looked up and saw a missile launch from a United States silo. You might expect panic at this point, but missile command tends to attract serious, sober types, the type of people who smoke a pipe and sew leather patches on their jackets. Petrov kept his head. He knew the satellite had been reported as suspect and decided to hold off on informing the high command. Then a second missile launch was picked up, and shortly after another, and another and another. Petrov knew that if he waited until he could confirm the launches with ground radar it would be too late for his country, he and his family would die and the Yankees would win the Cold War.

Thankfully, he thought before acting. He reasoned that it was illogical for a surprise attack to launch missiles one after the other – instead you’d launch everything you had and hope to wipe out the enemy before they reacted. He left the launch button alone and thankfully the missiles proved to be ghosts. Millions of people slept peacefully in their beds that night, blissfully unaware of how close they came to fiery death or a worse existence than they could imagine.

Petrov was reprimanded and now lives in the scientific community of Fryazino in Russia. He was honoured in a ceremony at the United Nations and has been been distinguished by two World Citizen Awards. So take some time out today and say your private thanks to the man who saved the world.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tautologous Places

Tautology is putting extra words in a sentence which mean the same thing, so there is no point having them there. Newspapers, in their bid to pad a story out to a certain number of words, are the worst culprits, and you'll often see phrases like "illegal theft" (all thefts are illegal therefore the word illegal isn't needed), "dangerous speeding" (all speeding is dangerous), "dishonest politicians" (well, you get the idea…)

Here's a list of some real place names from around the world, which you can use as examples when you try to Win Friends and Influence People by telling them what tautology is (just before they punch you for being a smart-***):

River River River Avon, England - Avon, spelled Afon in modern times, is Welsh for river.
River River River Río Guadix, Spain - Río is river in Spanish, Guad river in Arabic and Ix is river in Phoenician.
Long Tidal River River Connecticut River, United States - Algonquin.
Big River River Mississippi River, United States - Algonquin.
Lake Lake Second Lake Rotorua, New Zealand - Many NZ lakes have the "Lake Roto-" form.
Lake the Lake Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California - Washo Native American Tribal language.
Lake Lake Lake Nyassa, Malawi/Mozambique - Yao.
Lakeville Lake Michican, USA - The village is Lakeville, the adjacent lake is Lakeville Lake.
Hill Hill Bredon, England - Celtic/Saxon.
Hill Hill on the Hill Breedon on the Hill, England - Celtic/Saxon.
Mount Mount Big Mount Maunganui, New Zealand - Maori.
Mount Snowy Mountains Sierra Nevada Mountains, California - Spanish.
Hill Hill Hill Hill Torpenhow Hill, England - SW-English, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, English.
Hill Hill Hill Pendle Hill, England - "Pen" Cumbric language and the suffix "dle" from the Old English language.
Mountain Mountain Mongibello, Sicily, Italy - Latin "Mons" and the Arabic "Gebel".
Peak Peak Summit Peak, New Zealand - The US also has five hills called Summit Peak.
Sheep Islands Islands Faroe Islands, North Atlantic - Faroese.
Island Islands Gili Islands, Indonesia - Sasak.
Many Islands Islands Polynesian Islands, Pacific Ocean - Greek.
The The Tar Tar Pits La Brea Tar Pits, California - Spanish.
Deserts Desert Sahara Desert, Africa - Arabic.
Waterfall Waterfall Waterfall Eas Fors Waterfall on the Isle of Mull in Scotland
Beech Wood Wood Wood Beechhurst Holt Wood, England - Anglo-Saxon.
View View Elementary School Vista View Elementary School, Minnesota - Spanish.
Valley Valley Beqaa Valley - "Beqaa" is Arabic for valley.
The Rock of The Rock of Tariq The Rock of Gibraltar - Arabic.
Town's Town Townsville, Australia - French.
East East Timor-Leste, East Timor - Indonesian/Malay, Portuguese.
Circle Circle Trendle Ring, Somerset, England.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Land of the Long White Cloud

A Luxer called Philip Lyth, from New Zealand, sent me a 'Thankyou' email for a couple of my other maps, so I was inspired to make one for the 'Land of the Long White Cloud'. But after about 3 attempts I still wasn't sure what era to base it on! So with a bit of modern satellite terrain, some notes of Captain Cook's, and borders that are a mix of modern electoral boundaries, Maori tribal boundaries, and just plain made up ones, plus a few inset enlargements because everyone just loves them(!), here it is! With all these mixed elements in the map it shouldn't work, but somehow it does - which sums up modern New Zealand society perfectly. Enjoy.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Apple, Are You Ready?

Top marks to Apple for replying to my queries about the MiniMac I ordered within 24 hours, even though I still object to being told 24 hours on the website and 14 days on the order confirmation email. Let's stop and think, for a moment, about what is going to go through the mind of a huge number of PC users over the next few months.

1. Yah, Windows Vista is out. I want it!
2. But damn, I have to upgrade my computer before it can run Vista. New hardware time.
3. Hmmm, Mac OSX is really a great OS. I can buy an Intel Mac and still run Vista, AND have a Mac too.
4. Great, I'll order an Intel Mac instead.
5. Wait a minute… buy a PC off the shelf in my local store OR wait a month for an Apple…
6. Well, the Mac would be nice but I want it now so… new PC it is.

Right now Apple have 3-4% of the computer market, despite constantly having the most innovative hardware with none of the security holes, bugs and incompatibilities that the PC market has. And the average buyer has to wait 2 weeks for his new Mac. Windows Vista is going to be the best advertisement for the Intel Macs ever, and there are going to be a hell of a lot of people who will use the opportunity to change over, IF THEY CAN! But they CAN'T. Apple struggles to service 3-4% of the market - how are they going to cope with 30-40% in the next couple of years, or 60-70% two years after that?

Apple, sort it out, NOW. There's no point labouring to till soil and plant seed if you let the fruit rot on the branches when harvest time comes!

Sunday, September 24, 2006


There's been a lot of talk this week about a proposal that elderly drivers should have to display an 'E' plate, just as Learners are required to have an 'L' one and Provisional riders a 'P' plate. But the question I ask is, "what would be the point?" A Provisional driver looks just like everyone else on the road, so I agree with that; a Learner can even pass for a normal driver unless you happen to see his face, with that eyes-straight-ahead concentration that is often called "Race Face". But the elderly!? If you can't see that the driver up ahead is an elderly one from a distance of at least 100 metres, based on such subtle clues as the 20 kph speed, the "one inch from the gutter" lane position, the indicator left on for the last 10 kilometres, or the brake lights flashing on and off every 3 or 4 seconds, then you shouldn't have a licence either! If your powers of observation of the road, and other people sharing it with you, are so poor that you find yourself within 50 metres of an elderly driver without realising until then that is was one, shame on you, get off the road and stay off.