Thursday, September 27, 2007

Test Your Drug Knowledge

I'm not sure whether I should be proud or ashamed of this result - at least I know drugs well enough to have an informed, intelligent view of them, but by the look of this test perhaps I know them a bit too well...

NameThatDrug.com
NameThatDrug.com - Test your drug knowledge

Friday, August 10, 2007

Things I've Learned

Thanks to Nicky for this list, which contains some gems we should all take to heart.

I've learned… that life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
I've learned… that we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.
I've learned… that money doesn't buy class.
I've learned… that it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.
I've learned… that under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
I've learned… that the Lord didn't do it all in one day so what makes me think I can?
I've learned… that to ignore the facts does not change the facts.
I've learned… that the less time I have to work, the more I get done.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

God's Inbox

And you thought YOUR email inbox was full of the same old garbage all the time…

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Harry McGurk


You've come across a zillion optical illusions on the web, but how many audible illusions have you found? OK, you could argue that the Harry McGurk Effect is also an optical one, since it requires you to watch at least half the time, but the real tricking is through the ears, and whichever way you look at it, it's a fascinating illusion.

Whenever you watch the movie linked here, you'll quite clearly hear him saying "Dada dada dada", but if you close your eyes, you'll quite clearly hear him saying "Baba baba baba" instead. Play the clip several times, alternating between looking while listening, and listening with your eyes shut. Try looking off to the side of the screen and then quickly looking straight at him in mid-sentence, and what you hear will change!

Most adults (98%) think they are hearing "Dada". In reality you are hearing the sound "Baba", while you are seeing the lip movements for "Gaga". The McGurk Effect was first described by Harry McGurk and John MacDonald in "Hearing lips and seeing voices", Nature 264, 746-748 (1976).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Surviving a Disaster

Today I came across "100 top item to disappear first during a national emergency". What's interesting about this list isn't what items go first, but what it says about humans and the way they think, feel and act when the chips are down. It wasn't the list which interested me, so much as the psychology behind it. Here it is, in the same order as the original list, but broken down into "reaction stages". You can see the original, full list here.

Generators, Water Filters/Purifiers, Portable Toilets, Firewood, Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps, Coleman Fuel
I want to make sure I'm warm, am drinking safe water and can go to the toilet.

Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots
Having secured a few treasures, I will now fight or kill anyone who tries to take them.

Hand Can Openers, Egg Beaters, Whisks, Honey/Syrups/Sugar, Rice, Beans, Wheat, Cooking Oil, Charcoal, Lighter Fluid
I'm getting hungry. I need food, and I need to cook with my fire, not just use it for warmth.

Water Containers, Propane Cylinder, Survival Guide Book, Mantle Lighting
I've suddenly realised water won't be coming out of the pipes much longer, I'll need to go looking for it. The lamps I got first day don't last long, and I know nothing about how to fend for myself when the water stops. I'd better learn.

Baby Supplies, Diapers, Ointments, Aspirin, Washboards, Mop Bucket, Cookstoves, Vitamins, Feminine Hygiene, Haircare
First indication that I need to care about someone other than myself. Living rough isn't as healthy as I thought it was going to be, I feel sick and need to keep everything cleaner to stop disease.

Saws, Axes, Hatchets, Wedges, Aluminum Foil, Gasoline Container, Garbage Bags, Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels, Powdered Milk, Garden Seeds, Clothes Pins, Pump Repair Kit, Tuna Fish, Fire Extinguishers, First Aid Kits, Batteries, Garlic, Spices & Vinegar, Baking Supplies
Notice how we've gone from "essentials to keep me alive today" to "start getting things for the long-term"? Also, some things have already broken down, and we almost had a fire in the shelter last night when one of the lamps tipped over.

Big Dogs
We got attacked and I found its a lot harder to kill someone than I thought, so I need an animal to do it.

That's about a third of the list, but you get the general idea. Have a look at the complete list, and think about the timing, and why that item is important at this stage in the disaster. It's an interesting view.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Viagra Vermin

No society can exist without laws to control and limit individual rights and actions. Rights campaigners would find that a bitter pill to swallow, but its the plain truth. The only way I, for example, can have the right to own a particular shiny gemstone is if everyone else agrees that they can't own it, because I do. So laws, and the legal system, are there for a good reason. We each give up rights so that society as a whole can enjoy an "average" standard of rights.

The legal system sometimes has to decide whether the damage an individual did, or could have done if allowed to get away with it, was sufficiently bad to warrant sending the person to jail. So, in the case of the poor maid who served a cup of urine to her employer (story here), she got jailed, even though he didn't drink the stuff.

Chinese Police today siezed 18,000 fake Viagra tablets (Story here), and one would have to argue that even though no-one took these pills because they were seized, the potential for damage to society is quite horrific. Just imagine for a moment that you are one of those unfortunates who need to take Viagra to… er… rise to the occasion. Imagine then, that after taking one, you still can't get any joy happening. Perhaps in desperation you'd pop 4 or 5, and get absolutely no effect whatsoever… its not as if, like a woman, you can groan a couple of times and fake it. In my humble opinion, the potential for serious damage to relationship, personal psyche, health and emotional wellbeing is so bad that these fake Viagra-peddlers should get life without possibility of parole - and with an unending supply of the real thing given to their fellow inmates. The punishment, after all, should always fit the crime…

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Test Yourself

How smart are you?
Test yourself out at am-i-dumb.com
. Of course, if you take the test and find you're just too dumb for society to be expected to put up with you, you should consider doing the responsible thing, but first check how much you're worth; it might be that you're less of a drain on society alive than dead...
How much are you worth?
See how much you're worth at humanforsale.com

Monday, July 23, 2007

Gung-Ho Mr Howard

Prime Minister John Howard's move to stamp out abuse and alcoholism in indigenous communities has, over the past few weeks, attracted all the expected criticism that we are "invading" aboriginal communities, that every land right won over decades is being stolen back, and that they are being victimized for being aboriginal. So what? Evil prevails when good men do nothing, the saying goes. No matter how respectful of a person's rights you are, there is a point where you can take no more, where action becomes absolutely necessary. In the words of Star Trek's Captain Picard, "the line must be drawn here, this far and no further."

When I read that an 11-year old boy has given STD's to two preschool-age girls of 5 and 6, whom he forced to have sex with him (article here); that 19 aboriginal men have been charged with 39 child sex offences in just two weeks since Mr Howard's campaign began; that last February, 15 men from the Kalumburu community were charged with 103 offences… it is definitely past time to draw the line and say "no further". Go for it, Mr Howard - no sane person could possibly object.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Disclosed Secrets

Its becoming a more regular and more promoted annual event than Christmas! Yes, Harry Potter is back and the whole world except Me, apparently, is once again in a frenzy of fanaticism over the latest book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. To save you angst (and purely as a a public service of course) here's everything you need to know:

Burbage dies p12
Hedwig dies p56
Mad-Eye dies p76
Scrimgeour dies p15
Wormtail dies p471
Dobby dies p476
Snape dies p658
Fred Weasley p637
Harry gets effed up by Voldemort on p704
Comes back to life on p724
Nagini gets beheaded by Neville Longbottom on p733
Tonks, Lupin, and Colin Creevy have their deaths confirmed on p734
Voldemort killed Snape
Ron and Hermione get married, 2 kids
Harry and Ginny get married, 3 kids
Malfoy has a son
Final line of the book:
"The scar had not pained harry for nineteen years. All was well."

Let's face it, only a tiny fraction of the fans out there have ever read more than 10 pages of any of the books, anyway. 700 plus pages? Get real!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

BigPond Brother


Apple has a handy list on their website of all the latest software releases. Over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed that every time I tried to access macgamefiles.com, the server couldn't be found. I didn't worry about it too much, but my sister emailed me saying she was having the same problem, so I decided to investigate a bit further. What I found was almost unbelievable.

Telstra BigPond have blocked the macgamesfiles and insidemacgames websites! And goodness only knows what others. I couldn't really credit that they would, so I redirected my network through our old ISDN server, which uses NT Services Tas not BigPond, and sure enough, the sites can be accessed through that. That puts the blame squarely on BigPond. Others have found the same thing, as evidenced by the Australian MacTalk Forum.

I can still scarcely believe that an ISP which doesn't block porn, illegal software, serial number trading or music piracy, has decided to ban websites based solely on the user's platform. Is it even legal to do so? This constitutes a gross instance of discrimination, and I'll be contacting the Australian Internet Ombudsman about it. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lost in Translation


They say English is one of the hardest languages to learn, which is probably why so many foreigners armed only with a Local Language-English dictionary manage to produce some amazing signs and menus. Sometimes you can see how the wrong word was used, how a word similar in meaning to the one they actually used could also have a second meaning close to was intended. But then there are the example which make you wonder if they actually tried to translate at all, or if they just picked random words from the dictionary. I came across a Chinese website today which seems to be trying to sell some sort of health product, based on the picture. But don't let a picture sway you, read all about it before you buy:

Ad the Romans! Intelligence to the defense of Islam because they tribe he might exercise therapy them fresh things to improve a lie against Allah do what? Tell them not earth? Intelligence improve his supplication away the earth they? And drew toward and living habits disease. The health of family life build him and take care of him! Sad. Is visceral fat, sugar metabolism from the Secretary things. Lo! Heel. Sentence deviated away from the blunt from the sky for thee, we increased blood compression strokes nor could they have problems depending on what they thee. Fertilizer fill as he disbelieved and when the health of the victims been dispute to perish when, the body of felicity is the visceral fat. Such are the ways of reasons for you not take yours, caravan.

Lui muscle is not you normal hepatic detoxification them role for him and most of all save a convincing proof that ye desire. The verses, muscle him, in fine, muscular shortage is NADO is detoxification when they handcuffed away, most of them are ungrateful and that ye reasons they not have a will. Hepatic you handle them away down to him mad when no toxins and ye praises occasions. Nay, hepatic you tired of Moses but they rebelled detoxification cooperation between them, when our children have them in vivo accumulation is what thee Resurrection. Endotoxin is the body fat stored them reward you, you fat Moses fuel burn them to him so that they may prejudice them.


Well, I'm convinced, where's my chequebook?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

iApologize

Ok, I apologize for everything I said about Apple's new iPhone a couple of weeks ago, and suggesting that people who got all enthusiastic about it should get a life. How was I to know that this little device has so many applications? See the video below and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Tall Dark Stranger


If humans are so intelligent, how come so many people still believe in astrology, witchcraft and all that crap? If psychics have any real powers, how come they don't ring you up when you want to ask them a question? And how about that phrase "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual". Every time I hear anyone call themselves "spiritual" it's just after they mention astrology and rebirthing their inner-child silver chord of reiki feng-shit, and just before I land a flying Clenched Fist Of Love on their mouth, or shove their tarot cards up their third eye and tell them to go self-heal themselves. Hey, the whole point of religion is that you do believe, even though logic tells you its impossible. That's why they call it Faith. Start trying to explain it in terms of creative auras and energy channels and you've got plain, ordinary physics, but without the provability.

Horoscopes? Ever notice how every time someone asks what sign you are, they always say "Thought so, you're so much a..." after you tell them. So how come they couldn't tell you and had to ask in the first place? Astrological signs are based on symbols drawn by people who believed that light from stars came from burning chariot wheels, the world was flat and had dragons in each corner. And yet people even make financial decisions based on them. Can you believe there are homo sapiens out there who literally believe clumps of rocks and dirt floating around pockets of gas have anything to do with their stocks and lottery winnings?

You've got to love the phone psychics especially, who address Mrs Average Housewife as a dear old friend, so that now she feels justified about spending $50 on that newly-acquired Brazilian power crystal she stares into to "improve reception" while the psychic at the other end of the line does a line of coke off a hooker's ass with the millions he's raked in from morons like her. And of course, every prediction contains lots of words like "could be", "might", "possibly" and "good chance", which covers the Hotline's butt in the unlikely event that everything they tell you turns out to be horseshit and has nothing to do with anyone or anything in the universe. That would constitute fraud, so thankfully we have the Doctrine of Uncertainty to protect psychics everywhere from malpractice lawsuits. Otherwise an entire industry of aging hippies, middle-class 16 year old girls and bored housewives, trudging aimlessly from one rebellious new-age religion to the next, would have to find a new hobby - and who knows, maybe grow a brain.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

iPhone Phanatics


I started out on PC's, went to Macs fairly early on, and now I have both in one with my Intel MacMini. Even during all my Mac years I owned a PC, it just didn't get turned on much. I've been as enthusiastic a Mac convert as most Mac users, but in regard to all the hype surrounding Apple's new iPhone, i just have to say... get a life people! My 60 gig iPod has 8,000+ songs on it, a few games, 1500 pictures of Tasmania, the entire New Testament, and 3 or 4 entire series of TV from 'Blakes 7' to 'Chasers War on Everything', as well as about 80 episodes of the comedy podcast 'Channel Frederator'. It gets used every day, and that means its also very scratched.

Now we've got the iPhone. Enthusiastists camped out at Apple's stores for days before they came out to ensure they got one, but what exactly did they actually get for their money? As I see it, there are going to be quite a few problems with the iPhone.

1. Battery Life - Apple have been touting some pretty amazing times, and I frankly don't believe them. Anything with a screen is going to chew through power.
2. Size - this thing is just too BIG to be a phone. Sure it looks great, but its too heavy to comfortably sit in your pocket, and your keys are going to scratch it to a terrible state in no time at all.
3. Storage - its hard to understand why anyone would buy one given there are 60 gig iPods out there versus the iPhone's 8 gig. The batteries can give you 7 hours of video, but can you fit 7 hours of video on the iPhone?
4. Cost - the iPhone is about 10 times the iPods cost per gig of storage. 'OK', you say, 'but its a phone not a media player'.
5. Support - all the rest of us in other countries may, or may not, be able to find a service provider who supports it. Even if we do, it'll cost us an arm and a leg to subscribe to one.

The problem is that Apple aren't really pushing it as a phone, they're trying to sell you on the idea that its a pocket computer that can also make calls. That means a lot of people are going to be disappointed when the shine wears off and they wake up to the fact they could have bought a laptop for the same price. I predict in the next few weeks, we'll see a lot of "I bought an iPhone and wish I hadn't" stories.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Computers Get it Wrong


The computer illiterate 95% of the population (no, just being able to use one DOESN'T make you computer literate) will tell you that computers never make mistakes, that they are always correct because they use logic and maths. They think this makes them cleverer than the previous generation of people, who blamed "computer error" for everything bad that ever happened.

Any programmer, of course, will tell you that computers DO make mistakes, BECAUSE they use maths and logic. Remember how the world was going to end in 1999 because of Y2K? Remember how Pentiums added 2+2 and got 3.999999? Logic is great until you encounter a statement like "I am lying to you when I say this statement is a lie". Maths is a great way of describing the universe, but it has SOME limits, like the fact that the number zero doesn't really exist, and therefore if you try to divide by it you're in trouble. When applied to computers, there are always limits on maths imposed by the hardware, maximum values on floating bit variables and integers, etc.

A fair while ago, I dropped a tongue-in-cheek email to the creator of Lux, Dustin Sacks, showing that if you sat there putting more and more armies into a country instead of finishing off your opponent, eventually the numbers wrapped around and your chock-a-block country went back to zero population. Even though no-one in a normal game would ever come REMOTELY close to the number of armies I was talking about, Dustin fixed the problem in a later release - or so I thought.

But not quite. See that room in the middle of the screen snapshot with 341 million soldiers in it? The turn before, it has just under 2300 million. Presumably, having reached the magic number of 256 (binary 8 bits limit), my population reverted back to zero plus the income from this turn, which I must admit, was fairly high by this stage of the game. It just goes to show that the best laid plans of mice, men and programmers will always provide a few "hidden features" (programmer jargon for "bugs") for the adventurous or just plain stupid to discover. Just like real life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Xzibit Continued


Just a quick update to yesterday's story about Xzibit, the US rapper. After having a rant on his MySpace blog about supposedly being the victim of racism by a member of Rove's staff, the comments started being left by Australians in droves. After some 350-400 comments, 95% of which disagreed with him, suggesting in various ways that he have a little less attitude and a little more understanding, he took down both the MySpace blog post and its comments. That didn't stop people posting comments, they just posted them to other blog entries that had nothing to do with the original post instead. But taking it down? It seems the principle of Freedom of Speech only applies when you agree with Xzibit. To quote the man himself, "If you have a problem with what I say in my blogs stay off my site people." I guess that says everything you need to know about the man.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

That Ugly 'Racism' Word


Racism is in the News today, on at least two fronts. Firstly, John Howard's plan to stamp out abuse in indigenous communities has very predictably been labelled racist, despite him clearly saying these emergency actions would be implemented nationwide; and secondly, US rapper Xzibit stormed off the set of 'Rove' because a staff member said "we came a long way just having you on the program". Its kind of hard to see how that remark is racist, but if you look hard enough, you might be able to interpret it that way. I would think it had more to do with the rap/hiphop culture and Rove's audience demographics and preferences than skin colour, but obviously Xzibit didn't see it that way.

Australia just ISN'T a racist country. Sure, like anywhere, there are individuals who will hold their own bigoted opinions, but this isn't the US, where there are clear socioeconomic boundaries between different ethnic groups. Most people in Australia don't notice race unless its specifically pointed out to them, and the average street of Suburbia has people of different original nationality in almost every house. We are so multicultural now that we simply don't notice differences any more. That is the very OPPOSITE of racist, and a real testament to the Aussie way of life and the principle of a "Fair Go" for all. So "Keep it G", Xzibit, and next time don't impose your own racially-skewed views on us… there's a word for that, and we all know what it is.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Stunt Men

In the last few days, Prime Minister John Howard announced the government's response to an appalling report into sexual abuse among indigenous (aboriginal for those who don't understand Political Correctness) communities. The measures are hard-hitting and comprehensive, and must have taken more guts than any PM of this country has shown in the past 50 years. The Opposition labelled it as a political stunt designed to pull votes in the coming election.

Union officials were caught on video berating and abusing employees, but it was just a political stunt according to Kevin Rudd. Rudd's plan to chat with the Dalai Lama is just a political stunt, says Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. Justine Elliot says the Federal Government's new fairness test is just a political stunt. And Mr Howard scratching his nose on camera, I'm sure, is just a political stunt designed to pull in votes from the nasally differently-endowed. Likewise, whenever Mr Rudd goes to the toilet, I'm sure he pulls a few political stunts out while he's in there.

In fact, a search of Google News reveals a whopping 698 political stunts in today's news alone, although to be fair, not all of them are in Australia. It seems even foreign countries are pulling political stunts, presumably for the benefit of one Australian party or the other.

I am getting very sick of the phrase, and the election is still a few months away. It's to be expected that in an election year, those in the running will try to be more visible and remind the public of what exactly it is that they do, to justify their ridiculously high salaries. But whichever way you look at it, Mr Howard's bold action on the indigenous abuse problem took guts, just like his decision to send troops to Iraq did in the face of massive opposition here at home, or his decision to stand firm on same-sex marriages not being allowed. And love him or loath him, THAT is why he's been Prime Minister of Australia for so long now.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Smoking Gun

A man who sexually assaulted a woman in Melbourne then forced-marched her to a nearby service station to buy cigarettes (see story here). That's where he made his big mistake, of course. These days courts seem to hand out ridiculously lenient sentences, so if the assault had been all he did to her, he might have been walking the streets again in 18 months or so. But forcing her to buy cigarettes? Surely in this day and age of unbridled smoking antagonism, that's Attempted Murder! Forget prison, let's just hang him now!

Today some of the other Australian States caught up to Tasmania and banned smoking in bars, pubs, etc. In a month or two, smoking in all indoor areas, and most outdoor areas, will be completely banned. I grew up a vehement anti-smoker, took it up at 28, quit at 34, took it up again at 38. I've always smoked 1 mg cigs, in the belief that smoking a whole packet in a day was the same as someone else smoking 2 or 3 or their 12 mg ones. According to doctors, I was wrong, and have the same chance of harm as them.

Smoking is addictive, and there's only one way to fix the problem for good. That's to stop the sale of cigarettes, period. The social consequences would be dire, crime would go through the roof until the jitters of being forced to go cold-turkey passed, and there would always be an underground of illegal tobacco growers, just as there is, and always will be, with marijuana. Publicly, the government says that smoking costs the nation a lot more in healthcare bills than the revenue from selling cigarettes raises, but I don't believe that for a minute. The bottom line is that governments are about money, and if there wasn't a profit from selling cigarettes, they would already have been banned.

Who do you believe? I, for one, believe nobody on the cigarette issue, from the Government to the Quit campaigners to the Doctors of the 50's who told us all how much they recommended Camels. Smoking is a curse, and like all curses, it will take a Witch Doctor to see it lifted.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

You Know You're Living in 2007 When…

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.
2. You've forgotten that solitaire used to be played with real cards.
3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.
4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you, and people who live in your house.
5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have e-mail addresses.
6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.
7. Every commercial on television has a website at the bottom of the screen.
8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.
10. You get up in the morning and check your email before your shower, shave or coffee.
11. You tilt your head sideways to smile. : )
12. You're reading this and nodding and laughing.
13. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this message.
14. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.
15. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a #9 on this list.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Primetime Bloodbath

And while I'm still on the topic of television, the following article was in our school's newsletter this week:

House Of Horrors - The Prime Time Bloodbath
350 ACTS OF VIOLENCE
234 GUNSHOTS
139 OBSCENITIES
THAT’S WHAT FREE TV AIRED 6pm-10:30pm IN ONE WEEK!

Those were the headlines in a Sydney newspaper this week. Primetime television is awash with death and violence… disturbing images across all stations and time slots… Those involved in the seven-night survey sat through a week of murder, stabbings, torture, car and airplane crashes and blood shed, as well as sex and nudity. They said they had not realised how desensitised they had become until they started actually taking notes and counting. For example, there was a scene in CSI (Nine) with a man buried up to his neck; then tree sap was poured on his head. You saw him screaming and then the investigators were examining a headless corpse, again and again. The television stations need to be more responsible, BUT we as parents need to be more accountable. The Bible says to train up a child in the way he/she SHOULD go. The premier of NSW said that this relentless march of televised violence and sex into the nation's lounge rooms is a grim reality for parents who are struggling to act as censor for their children. Even the Prime Minister said that parents had the greatest responsibility to monitor their children’s intake. I believe he is exactly right. Stop blaming the television channels and do your God given job. I would recommend that you get rid of your TV, or at least remove off your roof the aerial which brings into your home all this junk! You can control the use of selected DVD’s in your players instead. We will reap what we sow. We cannot do our job properly at school, if you do not support us in this issue.

Personally, I think the statistics quoted in the article are a bit low. Yes, low! I would be amazed if there were not a lot more violent acts and deaths in a whole week's TV. I discovered a site ages ago which, as a parent, I have found very useful. When it comes to deciding whether to hire a certain DVD or whether to take the kids to see that latest movie at the cinema, check out screenit.com

Check out, for example screenit.com's review of the movie "Ocean's 13", here. As well as a handy summary of the movie, shown below, screenit.com goes through every single occurrence of bad language, scary scenes, sex, violence, etc, and even issues to talk to kids about after the movie. One of the web's most useful sites.

More WIN Losers

A few days ago I had a whinge about free to air commercial TV stations and the number of advertisements they run, which appear to have far exceeded the legal maximum, especially on WIN TV. How bad is the problem? Last night I set my Miglia to record a program starting at 11:15 pm and ending at 11:45 pm, and the Miglia records for 5 minutes before AND after the set time. Out of my total 40 minutes of recording, I didn't get one single second of the program I wanted. That's right, the program which was scheduled to begin at 11:15 pm in the TV Guide hadn't even started yet at 11:50 pm! Pathetic, and definitely not viewer-friendly.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The The Impotence of Proofreading

You work very horde on a paper for English clash, and then get a very glow raid (like a D or even a D=) and all because you are the words liverwurst spoiler. Proofreading your peppers is a matter of the the utmost impotence. This is a problem that affects manly, manly students. I myself was such a bed spiller once upon a term that my English teacher in my sophomoric year, Mrs Myth, said I would never get into a good colleague. And that's all I wanted, just to get into a good colleague. Not just anal community colleague, because I wouldn't be happy at anal community colleague. I needed a place that would offer me intellectual simulation, I really need to be challenged, challenged dentally. I know this makes me sound like a stereo, but I really wanted to go to an ivory legal collegue. So I needed to improvement or gone would be my dream of going to Harvard, Jail, or Prison (in Prison, New Jersey).

So I got myself a spell checker and figured I was on Sleazy Street. But there are several missed aches that a spell chukker can't can't catch catch. For instant, if you accidentally leave a word your spell exchequer won't put it in you. And God for billing purposes only you should have serial problems with Tori Spelling your spell Chekhov might replace a word with one you had absolutely no detention of using. Because what do you want it to douch? It only does what you tell it to douche. You're the one with your hand on the mouth going clit, clit, clit. It just goes to show you how embargo one careless clit of the mouth can be.

Which reminds me of this one time during my Junior Mint. The teacher read my entire paper on A Sale of Two Titties out loud to all of my assmates. I'm not joking, I'm totally cereal. It was the most humidifying experience of my life, being laughed at pubically. So do yourself a flavor and follow these two Pisces of advice: 1. There is no prostitute for careful editing. And 3. When it comes to proofreading, the red penis your friend.

By Taylor Mali

World Wide Colossal Cave


Who is the man in that picture? If you don't know, shame on you... you're looking at Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the World Wide Web. I was doing a little browsing on the history of the Internet and the World Wide Web today (no, they are NOT the same thing) and ended up at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. That's where Berners-Lee first proposed the idea, and CERN also, therefore, had the world's first website. Check out the story, and the original proposal he submitted, here.

In the proposal, Berners-Lee refers to two things I would never have guessed were influential in the creation of the web we all take for granted.

Firstly, the original ADVENT game by Crowther & Woods, also know as Colossal Cave to later generations, which was probably the first game to create an alternate world with which one could interact realistically and with some degree of intelligence. Its use of nodes and links were a major influence on the idea of the web.

Secondly, Apple and their much-maligned early programming language, presentation software, and all-round ideas visualiser - HyperCard. Over the years HyperCard copped a lot of flak, but for those of us who were there, it was the first programming language which made graphics as easy as text, and allowed the creation of just about anything, in a very simple to learn language.

Strange to think that two of the oldest bastions of popular computing pathed the way for the globe-spanning super-encyclopedic oracle of human knowledge we have today.

Berners-Lee's original Proposal

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TV or Not TV


Free-to-air television sucks, we all know that, especially here in Tasmania where we only have 4 stations. In these days of Pay TV, video and DVD, online movie and TV channels, etc, the only programs that the free-to-air stations can afford are the cheap or old ones, with a sprinkle of newish popular stuff just to keep the viewers from turning off completely. We can't expect quality, so surely we should at least be able to expect quantity...

There are laws governing what can be shown on TV, how much of the airtime can be advertisements, etc. But those laws are obviously ignored. Take, for example, the program I recorded with my Miglia TVMax last Saturday, mid afternoon timeslot, the classic "How the West Was Won". You can see from the screenshot that the total length of the program was 194 minutes, and that when I marked the adverts to be cut out, it reduced the running time to 137 minutes. That's 70% program, 30% adverts, or if you prefer, one minute of advert for every 2 minutes of actual program. In amongst a total of 137 minutes of content, WIN TV managed to squeeze 57 minutes of advertising, and that's in a low-view timeslot. In primetime, the ratio of adverts to actual content sometimes runs close to 50%, I suspect.

The practice is self-defeating. In a bid to squeeze more out of the budget, the stations are forcing viewers to switch away from them in droves. This means the advertisers are getting less and less value for their money, which means the TV stations need to put even more adverts into every hour of TV to pay the bills. It won't be too many years, I suspect, before TV channels in Tasmania close completely, a victim of their own shortsightedness.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Flights of Fancy


I am sooooo sick of people knocking the Virgin Blue and JetStar airlines and swapping horror stories of how terrible their service was, how they did everything wrong, and how they will never fly with them again. Its the same in the UK, but the target of their frustration there is EasyJet. To all these people I say "Do what you're told and there's no problem." Let me throw my own personal experience into the pot. Every time I've flown between Tassie and the Mainland, it's been with Virgin Blue. Firstly, there was the price - Virgin flew two adults and 3 kids to Melbourne and back for around $400, and the nearest competitor was over $900, the plane didn't crash and we got a cup of tea and a biscuit. What more do you want on a flight? Do you expect when you catch a bus that you'll be waited on hand and foot?

These airlines operate on a shoestring budget, and the savings are passed on to the consumer. That means if they say be there by 9:00 am and you arrive at 9:10, they can't help you. Live with it, you're all grown up now and you were told when to be there. The airlines have rules and procedures to follow, and even if there is still half an hour till the plane actually takes off, if they keep letting people on, they will never take off. Fuel calculations have to be made, safety procedures explained, etc. Try doing that to an audience when people keep trickling in.

The big airlines can afford to give you another flight free when you were stupid enough to be late, because every passenger is paying for the late idiots in every ticket they buy. If you want a no-frills price, you have to accept the fact that that means everything in the process, from check-in times to baggage weight, has to be much more strict to meet that price. So lay off the cheap airlines and stop blaming them for the simple fact that you, a supposed adult, couldn't follow simple instructions. I've yet to hear a single one of these rants where the airline could really be said to be at fault, and I'll continue to fly Virgin Blue, and be quite satisfied with them, for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Use Algebra

The mother is 21 years older than the child. In 6 years from now the mother will be 5 times as old as the child. The question you need to answer is: "Where is the father?" Hint: You can solve the puzzle using ordinary algebra. Check the Comments of this post for the answer.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Brain Teaser

Find at least 18 creatures in the italicized sentence. The names appear in the words, they're not mixed up anagrams, jumbled or combined words. Check Comments for answers (not now, after you've had a try! Shheesh!)

Kneel in the kayak grasping the boat, but don't wrench the bullion or scowl at the chart. Behind the taped and sealed painter is a benevolent collier. The foxglove is in the bath.

No Yahoo's from Me


Last night I saw an advert on TV for a Pirates of the Caribbean competition which could be entered online at yahoo7, by following the links there. I went to Yahoo7 and couldn't find any mention of the movie or the competition, and their search box just did a Google search which brought up lots of references to the first 2 movies, but nothing recent. There were some competitions down the bottom of the page, and every one that I clicked on took me to pages which said "Thanks, but that competition has already closed". Almost every link on the page took me to some sort of ad-referral sponsored page, in fact.

On the face of it Yahoo7 seems to be a great place to make your home page - after all, there are TV Guides, Weather, Mail, Music and Messenger, all sorts of topics life Lifestyle, News, Photos, Travel and Real Estate. But overall, the site is just waaaay too commercial now. What happened to the "good old" Yahoo which was just as likely to be your home page as Google or the now defunct Excite? Unfortunately, like so many successful websites, it was bought out by business, who then set about changing it to what they, in their business frame of mind, thought it should be. Businesses should stick to what they do best, running a business. If the dotcom implosion and fallout of a few years ago teaches us anything, its that the web is a very fickle place, and normal rules of commerce don't apply there. The inevitable result of big business trying to run the web is that they ruin whatever they touch, just as King Midas did. The web isn't about business, no matter how many opportunities they think they see there, and never will be. Most of these sites get you to sign up so they can tell their shareholders they have x million members, but the fact is that most people who sign up never go back to the site again. Yahoo7.com.au may look great in PowerPoint presentations to the shareholders, but it's not worth the server space it takes up, and in a year or two it will join many, many other "Once Were Great" websites in the "Jumped the Shark When It Was Bought Out" trash pile.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Late Night TV Asks "How Dumb Are You?"


Let's face it, late night advertising isn't ever likely to be interesting or informative. Anyone who can only afford to pay the very low rates for advertising in the 1 am to 4 am timeslot probably hasn't got a product that's worth selling. But with so many recording and timeshift options these days, perhaps advertising in that timeslot is actually a smart thing to do, given that more people than ever before will see your advert, next day when they watch what they recorded last night. That being the case, advertisers in that time slot need to start treating their audience as normal human beings, and stop assuming that because their advert is on at 2 am, anyone watching has incredible bowel pain, is lonely for company, or is just completely stupid.

Mind you, you'd have to be incredibly stupid to fall for some of the sexy-sms style adverts. In the centre of our picture is the "Text your postcode and we'll set you up with a root in your area" scam. They assume you already have internet access, because the only way to read the full terms and conditions is on their website, and yet somehow you will never have heard of Messenger, MySpace, Meetro, FriendFinder and a thousand other online services which allow you to search by area, for free. Never mind the small print on the ad, which charges you $4 per message received by you from them - if you're stupid enough to send in your postcode and live in a big city, what is to stop them from sending you a thousand contacts at $4 each?

Then there's the "Guess my cup size and win $5,000" scam. Seems easy to me, she's obviously a C-cup, but again, the small print takes the cake. You've actually got to answer 2 rounds of 5 questions each, at $5 per message, to even go into the draw for the prize. That's a raffle that costs $50 per ticket, and you can bet that the last question would be something like "What was the population of Brazil in 1867, and name them all". How dumb are people? Well obviously dumb enough that the promoters figure they'll make a fortune off this moronic scam.

An Honourable Mention has to go to the Adult Literacy adverts. For years, the people who organise these campaigns haven't been able to figure out the fundamentals of their target market - that they can't actually read! I used to live with an illiterate guy, and I can tell you that having the phone number dancing around with little eyes and singing the number at you just doesn't work because (a) you've had to make the jingle so complicated to get all those numbers in that no illiterate can remember it, and (b) just because he's illiterate doesn't mean he's 5 years old. One of the biggest problems my friend had with the whole Adult Literacy sector is the tendency to treat every client like he was a naughty 3 year old, not an adult. Better results could be had by using a plain sans-serif font, large and totally immobile, on screen in the same place for the whole advert. Stupid jingles like "One-three-double-Ooooo-six-triple-five-oh-six" with overlapping digits that are comic-style, move, jiggle and blink are the last thing likely to get results. They may not be able to read, but they can probably copy numbers down - if only you'd give them something decent to copy from. And as for the genius who decided to put adverts on the back of taxis that say "Can't read? Phone…" - he or she should be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More things I've learned watching TV lately

1. Even in a murder where there is only one witness, the witness will be asked 1 or 2 questions by each attorney and then dismissed, spending less than 2 minutes on the stand.

2. No meeting is ever concluded when everyone says "That's it"... you always have to wait until the person leaving the office opens the door and is halfway through it, before making them pause so you can say your final piece.

3. Every class ends with the bell ringing 10 seconds after the teacher starts the lesson, and he always picks a person to wait a minute.

4. No-one can ever walk past a table in a prison without having their tray upset by the person at the table.

5. In any trial, as long as the opposing attorney keeps saying "Objection" the Judge will keep saying "Over-ruled" and allow the questioning to continue, no matter how irrelevant it appears.

6. Any time a witness breaks down on the stand and admits to fault, the accused is automatically innocent of whatever he was charged with.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Long Way


If you want to do a road trip all the way around Australia but you're worried about the rising price of fuel, here's a handy tip - the trip is almost 1 km shorter if you drive around Australia anti-clockwise than if you drive clockwise. It takes a bit of lateral thinking but most people can work out how and why fairly quickly. Just in case you're having an off day though, I'll post the answer in Comments to this post.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Clean Up

It's not exactly springtime, but maybe its time for some spring cleaning! I was filling some ink cartridges, spilled ink everywhere on my wife's best tablecloth, and she'll kill me if she sees it like this! Luckily, to clean it up all you have to do is stare at the dot in the centre, and all that messy ink will disappear...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Moonbow

No, its not a rainbow. Commercial photographer Brent Gilstrap captured this moonbow over Yosemite Falls. Ideal conditions for moonbows include clear skies, abundant mist at the base of a fall and the absence of artificial light.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Agreeable Guy

Several men are in the locker room of a golf club. A cell phone on a bench rings and a man engages the hands-free speaker- function and begins to talk. Everyone else in the room stops to listen.

MAN: "Hello"
WOMAN: "Honey, it's me. Are you at the club?"
MAN: "Yes."
WOMAN: "I'm at the mall now and found this beautiful leather coat. It's only $1,000. Is it OK if I buy it?"
MAN: "Sure, go ahead if you like it that much."
WOMAN: "I also stopped by the Mercedes dealership and saw the new 2007 models. I saw one I really liked."
MAN: "How much?"
WOMAN: "$65,000."
MAN: "OK, but for that price I want it with all the options."
WOMAN: "Great! Oh, and one more thing. The house we wanted last year is back on the market. They're asking $950,000."
MAN: "Well, then go ahead and give them an offer, but just offer $900,000."
WOMAN: "OK. I'll see you later! I love you!"
MAN: "Bye, I love you, too."

The man hangs up. The other men in the locker room are looking at him in astonishment. Then he smiles and asks, "Anyone know whose phone this is?"

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Nobody Home

And while we're still on the subject of pictures, have a look at the one below. There is NO WOMAN in the picture below... whatever you THINK your eyes are telling you, if you look carefully, you'll see there is no-one there!

Free Fireworks

Today's amazing picture from the web shows two Fireworks shows at once… on the left, humans let theirs off, while on the right, God puts on his own show at the same time.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

And Now the Weather

Today will be mainly fine, bright and sunny, then becoming heavy storms, torrential rain and zero visibility in about 2 minutes time...

Friday, May 18, 2007

All About SECS

Ever wondered how the years went past so fast? You hit 40 and you think, "Where did all that time go?" It seems like just a month or two ago you were 18 or 20, and you can't believe you're actually as old as you are. And the problem gets worse the older you get, so that you turn 70 and still can't believe you're more than 25 or so. You see teenagers and you think "Man, you think you have all the time in the world, but I know that soon you'll be thinking 'where did all the years go?'" And it gets much worse when you have kids of your own, because you have no idea of what you're meant to do to raise them right, and just about that same time comes the realisation that your own parents weren't the Wise Ones you thought they were, and that they had no idea either about how to raise kids, and were winging it day-by-day just like you are doing now.

Well, I have a simple explanation for it all, which I call Significant Event Chronology Scale, just so that I can say to people (very loudly of course) "Hey, I'm the inventor of SECS" and watch their reaction.

In a nutshell, imagine you're starting on a train journey. At first, you look out the window and watch every passing house, bridge, tree and interesting sight. After a while, though, you've seen enough of them that you lose interest, and only look out the window at some new, not-seen-before sight, like a waterfall perhaps. You only mark the passage of time in your brain through the 'Significant Events' of the journey.

Now consider life. When you're 5, every day brings heaps of new events and things which you haven't encountered before. To use a computer metaphor, let's say that each time one of these things happens, your brain creates a new Inbox for that subject. As time goes on, you encounter a lot of the Significant Events you've seen before, and they are largely filed as 'been there, done that', but new events still get a new Inbox created for them.

On a graph it might look like this:


Imagine that every time a Significant Event happens, we shout out our age at that time. Obviously, it will sound like "I'm 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 20, 20, 20, 20, 30, 30, 40" etc. From this we can see that the more time goes by, the less we notice how old we're getting, because (for the sake of argument) we only notice it when we shout it out. So if we take special notice of our age every 10th time we shout something out, it will appear as if we were 10, then 30, then 90, all in the same breath.

Using this view of things, some pretty disconcerting trends emerge. Assuming that at age 70 we have 1 SE per year, a decrease of only one-tenth per year means that at age 10 we had 304, or just under 1 per day, and at age 1 we have 790, just over 2 per day. No wonder we say thats kids learn much faster than adults, that early reading, writing and maths tuition is a big benefit, and that habits learned in the first 5 years are the most formative! According to this scale, 61% of everything that you learn, and therefore every Significant Event for which a new Inbox was created, is experienced by Age 9! By the time you reach 20, you've experienced 86% of the SE's in your life, and by the age of 30, its 94%!

So that's why everyone feels old before their time, and why they still feel in their mind that they are much younger than their real age. Our brain is only shouting out our age whenever a Significant Event occurs, with all the boring bits of life in between them left out or relegated to the Junkmail box. So by age 40, 98% of your life's exciting bits are in the past, and you have the option of hanging in there for the remaining 2% in arthritic pain and agony, or finding a friendly Doctor who'll promise to pull the plug when you just can't take it any more. I know which one I'd prefer.

Peacekeepers

Beautiful but deadly… no, I'm not talking about any of my ex's (well actually, maybe I am…). Today's picture shows a US Peacekeeper missile test. Nice to look at when you're at this end of the flight path, but not so funny if you're on the receiving end. Ever been to a fireworks show and wondered how much it cost? Well each Peacekeeper is worth $20-$70 million, so in this one scene you're looking at between $160,000,000 and $560,000,000 being shot off - perhaps making this one of the most expensive photos ever !

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Footy Fan

A reporter from the Melbourne Herald is wandering the streets looking for a story because its a slow news day, when he spots a small kid in a playground about to be attacked by a vicious pitbull terrier, frothing at the mouth and clearly out for blood. He jumps out of his car, wondering what to do, but before he can decide, another older boy runs over, picks up a stick, and hits the dog with it, landing a lucky hit and killing it instantly.

The reporter runs over to the boy and says “Mate, I'm a reporter from the Melbourne Herald and I saw the whole thing. You're a hero, you'll be on the front page of the Herald tomorrow morning. I can see the headline now - 'Brave Bombers Fan Saves Defenceless Child'…”

"Uh yeah", says the boy, but I'm not a Bombers fan."

"Oh…", says the reporter, "you've got to be a Hawks fan then eh? Selfless Hawks Hero Takes On Rabid Killer…"

"No, no…", says the boy, "I'm a Sydney Swans fan!"

So the next day's headline read "Beloved Family Pet Clubbed to Death by Psycho Swans Thug"

Deer Fire

Continuing on with the 'best pics from the web' theme, today's is the famous deer fire photo. It was snapped by a fireman fighting a bushfire in the US, and it probably would have won all sorts of awards in the photographic journalism world, perhaps even been rated as the best photo ever, except for the fact that because he was on the job at the time, he is prohibited from making any profit from it. Nonetheless, we're glad he chose to upload it and share it with the rest of the world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Amazing Photos

Haven't got a lot to say at the moment, so for a few days I thought I'd just post some of the most amazing photos I've come across here and there on the web. To start with, the lot of a lighthouse-keeper isn't always a comforting one...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What's Wrong?


What's wrong with the above picture? No, you don't get a hint, except to say its not a trick question and the answer is fairly obvious if you use your eyes and a little intelligence. I'll post the answer as a Comment to this post, tomorrow, or someone else might care to post the answer first...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Trophy Winners


As you've probably guessed by now, I've been spending a fair bit of browsing time on bored.com lately, a site dedicated to taking all your spare time. Some people, of course, have way too much spare time, and fill it in in the stupidest ways imaginable. Here are some real-life cases, to whom the British Sunday Express gave Gongs (medals) for dubious distinctions:

Tortoise Trophy
To British Rail, which ingeniously solved the problem of lateness in the InterCity express train service by redefining "on time" to include trains arriving within one hour of schedule.

Rubber Cushion
To John Bloor, who mistook a tube of superglue for his hemorrhoid cream and glued his buttocks together.

Crimewatch Cup - Gold Star
To Henry Smith, arrested moments after returning home with a stolen stereo. His error was having tattooed on his forehead in large capital letters the words "Henry Smith." His lawyer told the court: "My client is not a very bright young man."

Crimewatch Cup - Silver Star
To Michael Robinson, who rang police to deliver a bomb threat, but became so agitated about the mounting cost of the call that he began screaming "Call me back!" and left his phone number.

Crimewatch Cup - Bronze Star
To Paul Monkton, who used as his getaway vehicle a van with his name and phone number painted in foot-high letters on the side.

British Cup
To the passengers on a jam-packed train from Margate to Victoria, who averted their eyes while John Henderson and Zoe D'Arcy engaged in oral sex and then moved on to intercourse ... but complained when the pair lit up post-coital cigarettes because it was a 'non-smoking' compartment.

Flying Cross
To Percy the Pigeon, who flopped down exhausted in a Sheffield loft, having beaten 1,000 rivals in a 500 mile race, and was immediately eaten by a cat. Alas, the 90-minute delay resulting from finding his remains and handing his ID tag to the judges relegated Percy from first to third place.

Lazarus Laurel
To Julia Carson, who as her tearful family gathered 'round her coffin in a New York funeral parlour, sat bolt upright and asked what the hell was going on. Celebrations were short-lived, due to the fact that Mrs. Carson's daughter, Julie, immediately dropped dead from shock.

Silver Bullet
To poacher Marino Malerba, who shot a stag standing above him on an overhanging rock ... and was killed instantly when it fell on him.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Toilet Training


WorldWierdWeb reaches a new low - with an entire post about toilet humour. You know your toilet habits are a bit weird - you fold the toilet paper, never read anything, and wipe front to back. Other people somehow manage to do everything so nicely that even their... punctation symbols... smells like roses, right? Well maybe not. Get the truth from real people out there in the world, and compare your crapping capers to the rest of the world's, at BathroomSurvey.com.

And what are all the hidden, unwritten laws governing public toilets? If 2 men are already standing at the urinals, where do you stand in order not to look gay? Do you talk to the guy, or not? And what goes on in women's bathrooms, and why do they always go to the toilet in pairs? Check out the facts at this link here.

And if you think you know where to stand and where not to, take drinknation's urinal test to see if you've really got it all figured out yet.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Don't Call Us…


Ah, its a dream come true... or is it? After years of complaints about telemarketing, the Federal Government has finally established a national 'Do Not Call' Register which allows phone subscribers to add their number to a list of banned numbers for telemarketers. If anyone does make a telemarketing call to you, and your number is on the list, they face fines of up to $1 million. But the service went up - and straight back down. It was swamped by people wanting to register, and crashed (see Do Not Call list swamped).

Telemarketers are just plain rude. Sure, we all acknowledge that the best time to catch you is at home in the evening, but does that really give them the right to ring you at 1:00 am? Or to ring back the very next week when you told them you weren't interested? And what about your instructions to them to remove your number from their list and never call again - why is it none of these companies will, on moral grounds alone, obey this simple request?

It's about time that a register like this existed. There already were a few, in fact, like the one run by ADMA, the Australian Direct Marketing Association, but they were voluntary and didn't have the legislative teeth that this new, government-run Register, has. Unfortunately, its not all as sweet as it appears. For starters, how will the Australian Government be able to fine overseas telemarketers, since they are subject to the laws of the country they are calling from, not ours? And secondly, the Do Not Call Register makes exemptions for political parties and their members, religious organisations, charities, polling companies and educational institutions. Between them, those groups would make up 75% of the nuisance calls anyway. So although its a step in the right direction, its certainly not what it should be. My phone is my own private line to the world, and no-one should be allowed to call it if I choose not to let them. That includes pollsters, pollies, and beggars. I pay the rental on it, so why should someone else benefit from my expenditure without my permission?

Put your phone number of the Do Not Call Register

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

42 Million Ways to Waste Money

42, as we know, is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, but the big problem has always been - "but what is the question?" The Australian Government is about to spend $42 million on upgrading its website to allow users to create their own personal accounts and be able to log into them (see Feds to Spend $42m on website). It's an incredible amount of money, especially in an election year where the whole country's future hangs in a delicate balance. Big spending and overspending by governments is nothing new, but the sheer scale of this plan has me in awe.

For a start, let's get down to the basics - anyone with half a brain, PHP MyAdmin and a completely free webpage design program like iWeb can design and put online a website with personalised accounts. Add a couple of hundred dollars for web hosting and you've got everything the government just announced, for less than $1,000, including the time it took to do. That's $41,999,000 under-budget, and that's designing a site from scratch, not upgrading an existing one.

Let's look at the sort of hardware that kind of money could buy. For $42 million, you could buy:
93,541 500Gb hard drives.
352,941 ipod Nano's.
4,242,4242 music tracks from legalsounds.com.
28,000 top of the line PC's.
3,112 brand new Toyota Yaris cars.

You can never expect to get best value out of the tax you pay, but paying $42,000,000 for a job that should only cost $1,000? C'mon, Australia, and especially our politicians - WAKE UP.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On Evil

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Evil prevails when good men fail to act. It has been made abundantly clear to me in recent times that the better the appearance of the man, the more evil he likely is. For a certain time of my life I daily hung out with druggies, thieves, alcoholics and whores; and never did one of them (nor I at the time, for I was one of them) consider what they did evil. The burglar setting out on a job was convinced in his heart that what he did was right, for no-one would be harmed, insurance would pay anyway, and it was only his right and just due for all the disadvantages that life had dealt him, though he would admit perhaps to being biased in his opinion. Reflecting back on that time, and seeing the events of recent weeks, I am caused to admit that some of the most worldly, rough and uncaring people in the world, were better men than some who stand upright and claim Christian virtue. When the unChristians are more honest than the Christians, we have cause to re-examine our whole world view.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Join the Army and Terrorize the World

Concerns have been raised over the mental health of soldiers serving in Australia's Armed Forces, with allegations that victims of post-traumatic stress syndrome are victimised, and that adequate counselling etc aren't available (read the ABC transcript). I've been hearing stories of psycho soldiers all my life, and certainly you can't even say the word "Vietnam" without the mental problems of veterans being raised next. Well pardon me if you disagree (as many of you will), but it all seems to me to be pointing out the bleeding obvious. You would have to be mentally unstable to the point of being insane to join the Armed Forces in the first place. Sure, all the advertising on tele makes it sound like you're signing up for the valuable leadership training, to discover your inner strengths, to learn new technology and be at the cutting edge of science, but the basic fact is that a soldier's job, fundamentally, is to commit murder, and to do it for no other reason than because someone else told you to. You train to kill people, and all the window dressing in every PR department doesn't change that simple fact. So before we go making too many accusations about the Army not providing counselling to its soldiers when they crack up, we should look at the simple fact that they weren't entirely sane when they joined up, either. Apparently though, the sort of violence and sadism which passes for "following orders" is excusable when you wear a uniform and get paid to murder people, whereas the psychotics in the general population, like the lunatic who gouged out his girlfriend's eye with a cattle prod or the sicko who tortured a 74 year old woman in her own home are condemned. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Next time that ex-SAS veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq in the ABC story has a traumatic attack, he should stop and think of how many of his victims are suffering the same thing as a result of his actions.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Scotty Finally Beamed Up


James Doohan, Star Trek's "Scotty", has finally made it to space for real. He died in 2005 aged 85, but this week his ashes, along with those of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and about 200 others, were launched into space from Spaceport America, a commercial spaceport, which charged US$495 per... er... ex-person. Star Trek Creator Gene Rodenberry had his ashed launched into space in 1997.

Perhaps at this point its worth stopping and considering how much of the science fiction and fantasy that Star Trek showed, has actually become real in the 35 years or so since the show was first envisaged. Yesterday I downloaded the latest episode of a TV show from a world-wide computer network, transferred it to my pocket-size ipod device, and watched it on the bus on the way into town, pausing only to answer my cell phone (half the size of Kirk's communicator). When I bored of that, I listened to a few of the 8,000 music tracks on the device. I watched the show through a disposable plastic lens in my eye which corrects my poor vision, and when I got home I heated food in 2 minutes in a microwave, a device unthought of in original Star Trek time, and brushed my teeth with a motorized toothbrush. Then I turned on the wall-size-image video projector and watched the News that had been on half an hour earlier, and skimmed the entire world's News headlines on the computer on my desk (which has 80,000 times more storage than the entire State Education Department computer system had when I was at school), where I noticed a story about Scotty's ashes and commercial spaceports trying to out-compete each other for customers. Because I was moved by the story, I wrote a few paragraphs about it and seconds later, anyone anywhere in the world could read my comments.

When you've got an hour or two to spare, go and watch some of those early Star Trek episodes. Remember that most of what you see on the show was intended to show the amazing things of the future, even though they look laughably ancient to us now. See for yourself just how lucky we are, to live when we live.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Triage Time


tri·age (noun) - the process of sorting victims, as of a battle or disaster, to determine medical priority in order to increase the number of survivors (dictionary.com)

Australia is going through its worst drought ever. Nothing new in that, people have been saying "this is the worst drought ever" since we first settled on this continent. But in the last couple of weeks, we've seen pictures of the Murray-Darling basin, which provides 40% of all food production in this country, that look like photos of the Simpson Desert. We've seen photos of 100 metre high dams with 10 km long dry lake beds behind them, where once were trillions of litres of water. And now we're actually beginning to evacuate entire towns because there isn't any water to drink, and it can't even be trucked in. Last week our Prime Minister said that if the basin didn't get rain in the next couple of weeks, all of the available water we do have would have to be diverted to the cities on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range, to ensure the survival of people there. That's a triage situation if ever I saw one. With no water at all for irrigation, the farms, towns and industries on the west side of the Range might never be re-established after just one season without water. And cutting off 40% of Australia's production might save the maximum number of people in the short term, but food prices would skyrocket, and the economy would be in tatters with the increased ratios of imported necessities.

It doesn't paint a very nice picture for the future, and there isn't much man can actually do when compared to the awesome whims of nature. All our Prime Minister, Mr Howard, could suggest was that people pray for rain. Australia's politicians usually avoid all mention of religion, in public at least, so Mr Howard calling for prayer shows the seriousness of the situation more than a thousand photos could.

That was a week ago, and after years of drought, its now raining. Not heavily, to be sure - perhaps enough to make a difference to one of the worst crises Australia has ever faced, or perhaps not. But either way, Christian or atheist, you have to wonder about the power of prayer when you see that rain.

Read the whole story at economist.com:
The Big Dry - Australia's Water Shortage

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fruity Flies


Oh dear, fruit flies have been found in Tasmania. The larvae was found in fruit bought from a Hobart supermarket this week - it appears a shipment of fruit intended for Queensland was accidently sent to Tasmania after a mix-up at a vegetable market in New South Wales. Tasmania has maintained a massively complicated quarantine system for decades in order to keep the fruit fly out of the State, even to the point of regularly seaching people and vehicles on the interstate ferries and airlines. Because, the authorities say, it would absolutely destroy our fruit industries if they ever got in. Except it obviously hasn't destroyed the fruit industries in NSW, because that's where the shipment of fruit came from, and QLD wasn't worried about it, because that's where the fruit was supposed to go. Fruit flies haven't destroyed their industries, but they would destroy ours somehow.

I well remember science class at High School. We did experiments with ether and... fruit flies. We knocked the little mongrels out, examined them under the microscope, and tossed them out the window whenever the science teacher's back was turned. I reckon every science class in the State did the same thing, but somehow we never managed to wipe out the Tasmanian fruit industry despite our best efforts. Of course, that was then, when Kids Were Kids, and this is now, when Kids Are Young Persons With Unique And Valuable Skills And Assets Which Can Enrich The Wider Community Including People of Diversified Ethnic Backgrounds And Those With Differing Abilities. Whatever way you look at it, one crate of apples with a couple of fruit flies in it isn't anything to panic about, unless there's government money in panicking. In that case, like the so-called fox epidemic, it's "goodbye common sense and keep those cheques coming."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Wrong Flag


Australia is often described as the 51st state of the US, because so many of our habits, and our standard of living, are similar, and because our Politicians generally do exactly what the US tells them to. Much of our TV is US-made, but you notice one thing in almost every program which we here in Australia should learn from. The Yanks show their flag constantly. It hangs from businesses, ordinary homes have flagpoles in their front yard, its everywhere. 'Old Glory' is an affirmation of their pride about being American, and a constant reminder of their patriotism. At the risk of adding one more piece of American culture to our own, I suggest that we Australians should take a leaf from their book in this regard, and show the flag more often. We DO show the flag on special occasions and sporting events, but I'm suggesting that, like Americans, we should show it more, personally.

Anzac Day yesterday was awash in Aussie flags, of course, as is every war memorial occasion. Its just a pity it was the wrong flag. At the time of the Anzacs and Gallipoli, the flag we went to war under was the red ensign shown here. If you're going to commemorate an historical event, how about doing it accurately? We already celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ (who was born somewhere nearer the middle of the year), and Easter as his death (it was his resurrection). Perhaps in 50 years we'll use roses for Remembrance Day because poppies are controlled plants now. Perhaps in remembering Auschwitz we will mourn for all those Muslims who lost their lives there, because the Jews now all live in New York. Perhaps we'll move Australia Day to April 1st, and we'll have a giant white rabbit in Anzac uniform driving a sleigh and handing presents out to Moms and Dads only, so that we can roll all our mistaken holidays into one.

There is only one thing worse than being ignorant of our history, and that is thinking you know it. As Mark Twain said, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”

Australia's Forgotten Flag - The Red Ensign

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Anzac Day 2007


The Anzac tradition - the ideals of courage, endurance and mateship that are still relevant today was established on 25 April 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was the start of a campaign that lasted eight months and resulted in some 25,000 Australian casualties, including 8,700 who were killed or died of wounds or disease. The men who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula created a legend, adding the word ‘Anzac’ to the Australian and New Zealand vocabularies and creating the notion of the Anzac spirit.

In 1916, the first anniversary of the landing was observed in Australia, New Zealand and England and by troops in Egypt. That year, 25 April was officially named ‘Anzac Day’ by the Acting Prime Minister, George Pearce. By the 1920s, Anzac Day ceremonies were held throughout Australia. All States had designated Anzac Day as a public holiday. Commemoration of Anzac Day continued throughout the 1930s and 1940s with World War II veterans joining parades around the country. In the ensuing decades returned servicemen and women from the conflicts in Malaya, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam, veterans from allied countries and peacekeepers joined the parades.

Anzac Day Official Site
Educational Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Audio Downloads
Anzac Day entry on Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Inglish as She is Goodly Spoken


You may laugh at the title, but today's heading is actually the name of a real book. We often laugh at foreign languages, like the French swear-phrase "Sacre blu", which literally means... as you might guess... 'sacred blue'. Why 'sacred blue' should be their equivalent of English's 'f^%@!' is anyone's guess. And what about foreigners trying their best to write signs in English using only a Local-Language to English dictionary, and some of the hilarious signs which result? See engrish.com for heaps of examples. But when its all said and done, you can't really blame them for having trouble. These are just some of the reasons why English is so hard to learn:

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full it had to refuse more refuse.
There is no time like the present, so he thought he would present the present.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
He did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
The oarsmen had a row about how to row.
He was too close to the door to close it.
A stag does strange things when the does are present.
After a number of injections my jaw became number.
The artist saw a tear in his painting and shed a tear.
She had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
An army chef decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

And of course, there are no eggs in an eggplant, and no apple or pine in pineapple. Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square, Guinea pigs are neither from Guinea nor are they pigs. Writers write but fingers don't fing. A slim chance and a fat chance are the same thing, so are quite a lot and quite a few. But overlook and oversee are very different. You fill in a form to fill it out, an alarm goes off by going on, when the stars are out you see their light but when the lights are out you see nothing. And why do you wind up a watch to start it, but wind up a story to finish it? Why is a parcel that goes by car called shipment, and one by ship called cargo? And why do you drive on the parkway, but park in the driveway?

Monday, April 23, 2007

One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night

A man came up to me in the street today and pointed a key at me. I said "Don't start anything, mate". "What's it to you?", he demanded. "It's a two-letter word to me", I said, looking daggers at him. He dodged the daggers and snarled "You wanna make something of it!?" "Can't make much out of it", I said, "except maybe ti, and that doesn't make sense anyway." "No", he replied, "besides there aren't enough letters in that to make sense". "This is stupid", I said. "No", he replied, "THIS is stupid", holding up a piece of paper with the word stupid on it, "but I see your point." "Sorry", I exclaimed, and did my loose fly back up. "Right then", he said, "I'm off", so he went off to the right, while I left to the left. Unfortunately his right was my left and we ended up back where we started from. Some days you just can't win.

The post-title comes from that old poem: One fine day in the middle of the night, two dead men got up to fight. Back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other. A paralyzed donkey passing by kicked a blind man in his good eye, cracked his head on a rubber wall, fell into a dry ditch and drowned them all.

And let's not forget that creepy ghost-story: The other day upon the stair, I saw a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today! Oh how I wish he'd go away!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

And Now, Good News!

No news is good news, they say. And certainly a look at world news today indicates that it must have been a very good day indeed. The authorities have called off the search for the crew of a catamaran near Queensland. Or to put it another way, they're not looking for some people who weren't on a boat that wasn't where it should be. Kevin Rudd, Opposition Leader, is not releasing any information about IR. And there's a possibility that the bodies of two young women, found close to where two young women went missing last week, could be them. Mufti is still defiant, just like he was yesterday. Victoria's health chief has said the source of a salmonella outbreak at a Melbourne nursing home may never be found. Islamic prison gangs may be cracked down upon, because it is feared they might be forming gangs behind bars. There could be no irrigation water for farmers in the Murray-Darling basin if rain doesn't fall. Queensland's borders will remain open, says Deputy Premier Anna Bligh. And the first blind pilot to fly half way around the world hasn't arrived yet in Darwin.

Does anyone else notice a trend here, to report News that isn't actually based on anything happening, but on things that didn't happen, might happen, or won't happen? These weren't stories specifically chosen from a larger list to illustrate my point - the above are genuinely the first 9 stories in Google News (Australia) today. When did the media decide that there wasn't enough actually happening in the world, and start to report on anything they liked, whether it happened or not? From a young age I was taught that the essence of writing a report was to know Who, What, Why, Where, When and How. Nowadays, it must be Nevermind, Perhaps, Anyway, Maybe and Whatever.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Beamer Breathes - Just


Not a lot of chance to blog anything today because Kierran has been hogging the computer all day playing Runescape, but it did give me the opportunity (or perhaps 'push') to get outside into natural light for a change, and I opened up the BMW for the first time in 3 years. She's been sitting under a tree, was covered an inch thick in leaves, twigs, etc, and I wasn't sure whether to be more worried about the 1 foot huntsman spider dropping down the back of my neck, or the snake living underneath. Luckily neither showed. She was dead as a doornail, of course, but when I jumped it from the ute the motor turned over and the status panel shows green on all systems. Things didn't go quite so well when I took the battery out, though, and put the ute's in - I had sparks everywhere as I attached the neg lead, and smoke started curling up from below. A lot of twigs and debris had made their way into the engine bay, so it may have just been them catching fire, or it might be a serious short somewhere from corrosion of the electrical system. Either way, I high-pressure hosed out the entire engine bay and put the original battery on charge; with so much moisture in there it will be a week before I can give her another try anyway. But it says a lot about Germans engineering, I guess, that I had no doubt in my mind at all that if I had a charged battery, she'd start straight away, even after 3 years of being left to the elements.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The East Side of Town

Pardoe Downs, Ravenswood, Bridgewater - every city in the world has an Eastside. The part of town where the lower classes live, the dole bludgers, unemployed, single mothers, druggies, slums and no-hopers. In almost every city in the world, these people live on the east side of the town, for one simple reason - in general, thats the way the wind blows, so all the smog and pollution drifts that way. These are the areas where everyone is on the lawn bitching at their neighbours, all the lawns are 2 feet high, and the marijuana, beer and cigarettes are bought before the rent is paid. Two kids have an argument in the playground and it comes to "my dad can whoop your dad"; at 3 pm at the appointed place and time only one man turns up, to find he's supposed to be fighting himself. Its the sort of area where a man can have 2 six year old daughters who aren't twins. On Father's Day the men have more houses to visit than if they were trick'n'treating on Halloween, and a kid can live in the wrong house for a week before anyone notices. The dramas that are played out daily are the source of every soap opera ever made; a wise TV producer would forget ideas like Big Brother and just install cameras in every house in the suburb, but the problem then would be how to edit it all down. A week's life in the Eastside would make a year's TV. Not that I want to get stuck into them or paint everyone with the same brush, I've been an Eastsider myself. You might think some of the above is funny, if you've never been an Eastsider. But satirical or not, its 90% true. It's not necessarily a bad thing, either. However disfunctional, this is where real family life is happening in modern society, with single or defacto mums popping out well above the average 2.6 children, and the kids leaving home in their mid teens. For all the dramas and personality shaping, THIS is where the majority of our next generation are coming from, for better or worse.