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.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Around the World

Andy Warhol said that everyone in the future would have 15 minutes of fame. He was almost right, but he didn't stop to consider that with world population going up and up and the amount of hours in the day staying the same, that time would have to be divided amongst more and more people and so each would get a little less fame time. Currently I think it averages about 2 days if you're a politician, 1 week if you hire a shonky tradesman and get it shown on Today Tonight, and 2 months if you carry drugs into a foreign country in a surfboard bag.

Having a look at the ClustrMap of visitors to my blog always gets me thinking. Sure, there are blogs out there which get gazillions of visitors, and which quite frankly are far more interesting than mine. But this one man, with his ordinary thoughts, has had someone nestled into a cold bay in northern Canada reading his words. Over in Alaska, on some cold winter's night, someone sat up late over a cup of coffee reading. Down in South America, someone read the words of a man who will never see what they are privileged to have outside their window, the magnificent Andes. In the deepest jungles of Africa, in the poor nation of Ethiopia, in the rich affluent society of Dubhai, and in the overcrowded cities of India, people looked at my page. Across Europe from one end to the other, people who speak a variety of languages read what I wrote. In Russia, once a police state, people have read my words. And even in Alice Springs, the desert centre of Australia, someone visited me.

It's all rather humbling. Thank you, and may the Great Bird of the Galaxy roost on all your planets.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pathetic Portables

There are a lot of good reasons why you'd buy a portable DVD player. My kids enjoy being able to tuck themselves in a corner with their favourite movie and a pair of headphones, and I tend to watch a movie or an episode of Star Trek at bedtime every second day. They're particularly useful for people with contact lenses - you can take your lenses out before going to bed and still watch a bit, because you sit so close to them.

But... and its a big but... don't expect value for money or long-term use, or you'll be disappointed. Mine is a Shinco SDP-1750A, cost $185, and 9 months after I bought it, the screen died completely. I took it back to Harvey Norman and 3 weeks later, instead of repair, it was replaced with an entirely new unit. That one lasted 3 more months, and died 3 days after the original 12-month warranty ran out. Harvey Norman wouldn't come at replacing it because the warranty had expired, and the replacement one hadn't come with its own 12 month warranty - that applies from the date of original purchase, not the date you got this particular unit. So on average, for your $180, you get 6 months use, or in other words, one of the cheapest portables costs you $1 a day.

I bought both kids a Dick Smith branded portable. These were a little more expensive, and given the experience with Shinco, I took the option to extend the warranty to 3 years, which added considerably more to the cost. In the 4 months they've had them, no problems so far with the units, other than the extremely poor design and function. All the basic things the kids want, like cursor keys to select a particular episode, aren't on the unit, only on the remote, and the remote often isn't anywhere to be found. I have often found that I put a movie into one of theirs, and can't play what I want. Picture zoom, screen ratio changing, even chapter skipping are all unintuitive or not on the actual unit at all. To top things off, the screen is mounted high on the flip-up panel with a large blank space between it and the hinge, so that lying on the floor watching it, the kids are bound to get a sore neck from craning forward too much. Overall, the Dick Smith ones are poorly designed for their intended function. If the designers had actually bothered to put a disc into the player and watch it, these faults would have been evident. As for the long-term reliability, I'll post an update if and when one of them develops a fault.

The lesson here is evident - if you want a well designed, reliable portable DVD player, pay the extra money and go with a good brand name like Sony.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Weather Wars

Curse these Western Australians, they've invented time travel and won't let the rest of us have it. Not only that, but are they using it to solve the great mysteries of history, to seek the advice of the legendary Solomon, or take a photo of a dinosaur that doesn't look like it was made by a kinder kid with a clay kit? No, they're wasting it on clouds.

How do I know? Because I got a phone call earlier today from a friend in Western Australia. WA is 3 hours behind us here in Tassie, so it was 2 pm there and 5 pm here. It was raining in WA, according to my friend, and in 2 hours that raincloud would be here in Tassie, since weather almost always travels west to east. That means that the rain would leave WA at 2 pm, and arrive here at 4 pm. And I can tell you, an hour ago it wasn't raining here! But now, thanks to the WA'ians and their secret time machines, it apparently IS going to rain here an hour ago now.

I tried to explain this to a mate from the USA on MSN, but didn't have much success, which is hardly surprising because he is 18 hours behind me. So not only was he taking 18 hours to answer my questions (duuuh), but I was answering his 18 hours before he even asked them.

Whoever came up with the Greenwich Mean Time and time zones ought to be shot. Once, everywhere in the world you went the time was 'Now'. But now, its then there and now here, and its only now there when its then here. Perhaps someone should nuke Greenwich completely off the map, but then would anything exist any more anywhere at all, or would that be the End Of Time?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sign My Petition

These bloggers, what can you do to shut them up? I know you really don't want to be here, and you're being forced to read this against your will. So what better way to get me back, than to add your name to the petition I've started on Add your voice now and get these useless blogs off the internet and back into the secret diary hidden under the pillow, where they belong!

Petition to take bloggers off the internet, at

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Back to the Blog

Alright Sue, stop complaining. After a break of a few months to have a really crap time, I've decided to add an entry. If you're really, reaaaally nice I might add more than one this year. A few ups and downs lately... some disappointments over getting my daughter for Easter, which didn't happen until a few days after Easter and got me all depressed. Secondly, things in the organisation I'm a Board Member of have gone from bad last year to much worse now. It's being sorted.

All that's pretty serious, so here's the "feelgood" blog post. Like most sensible people, I have a Miglia TVmax attached to the computer so that I can record live TV directly. It's a great product and the compression ratios for video are amazing, I can fit just over 3 months of 24 Hr/Day TV on my hard drive. Given that there's only about 2 hours of TV a week actually worth watching, that means you can record things forever. One of the really nice things about it is that it uses an Electronic Program Guide (EPG) called IceTV, which allows you to set programs to record with a single click, or indeed record every episode of a show if you like. Its nice, easy to use, and very powerful. There is just one catch - the price.

IceTV costs $13 a month, and that's just way too much to pay in a place like Tasmania where there are only four channels. Luckily, they have a free month's trial option, and even after it expires you can use it for a while, so for now at least, I don't have to pay.

One of the nice things about IceTV is that they write their own program description, and its probably best to describe these as "hidden extras". Many of them give me a laugh, because the guys or gals who write them don't serve up the usual drivel, they tell it like it is. Take, for example, these:

Police Files Unlocked
Footage from police cameras is cobbled together to make a cheap program about the general public's lack of respect for road rules and law & order in general.

Media Watch
Everyone loves it until they're on it. Media Watch turns a critical eye on the Australian media in general, and journalism in particular.

The giggles are the same and you could argue they they're better groomed at Today. However, it's six of one half a dozen of the other really. A magazine style format with a smattering of news, current affairs, celebrity goss and the scandal of the day to get the early morning juices flowing.

Gotta love it. Keep up the good work, guys.