Thursday, 20 December 2007

Little things to want from a mobile phone

Something that would be nice, would be really nice from a mobile phone - just a simple device that you can make calls on, use a hands-free set and, hopefully, listen to MP3s - is a standard headset socket.

I'm serious. Getting away from Bond-esque dreams of combining GPS, broadband speeds, a web browser that can do full flash and AJAX and everything else, a high-speed text input system (however you want to do it) and, well, let's say a 5MP camera with an optical zoom (why aim low?), let's get back to basics.

I would like to be able to buy a good set of earbuds to replace whatever came with the phone, maybe a wired handsfree to save on batteries or something, and be able to plug them in.

At the moment, my Samsung uses a different socket to my girlfriend's Samsung, and I can't use the earpiece at the same time as the USB cable or the charger. Neither of them share a socket with any Sony-Ericsson, Motorola, old Siemens, BenQ, HTC, O2... So you're stuck with whatever you get given, which is frequently pathetic and, if you should lose it or not get given one to begin with, expensive.

I would like (although I don't hold out much hope) for my next mobile to use the same headset socket now used by radios, mp3 players, and computer speakers.

We can all dream.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

It's the little things... (yes, again)

Microsoft Office Outlook. De-facto standard for groupmail (email and calendar, for those of you who are lucky enough to have never heard that term) software in business. We are looking here at the Office 2003 version.

Go to the calendar view, and the sidebar on the right (unless you've turned it off), will show a mini version of that month, and probably your task list. Which, being me, is empty because my mind just doesn't function with task lists.

One reasonably useful feature is the ability to expand the monthly calendar list to show lots of months. So you do that, because you want to select something in the future. Then click on the title of the month you want.

WTF? No, you don't get that month displayed in front of you. In order to do that, you have to select a day, or range of days.

I must be tired: I can't really get up the energy to bitch about how uselessly and infuriatingly this breaks any reasonable conception of user interface user-friendliness.

So I'll leave with: Outlook, you suck.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

For god's sake, keep your eyes open!

It is a great and noble truth that a leopard does not easily change its spots. This gives an advantage to those who realise it, by allowing you to, reasonably confidently, predict the behaviour of complete strangers based upon how they've just been behaving. Or, any other evidence that comes to hand.

And as anybody who pays attention to being a road user knows, reading the traffic and other people's intentions is a vital part of staying alive and comfortable. As a motorcyclist, I am keenly aware of this even more.

Take this morning. Approaching a large multi lane roundabout, I noticed that the car to the right of me has the front of the bonnet staved in and pushed back, as though it had run under the back of a truck, but just not enough to damage anything vital. So I kept my eye on that car, and when the traffic passed and we could set off, I was cautious.

Which was good, because he zoomed off, cut it very fine missing the traffic going across the other way, and pulled in front of me without indicating, braking very late and hard behind the trunk in front of both of us.

Which, as I slipped sideways into a different lane and went sailing off up the hill and away, gave me a warm glow of satisfaction that I could guess how he had damaged his car, and had avoided having to take any evasive manoeuvres myself.

There's a lot of argument over what's the most important factor in the road toll, but from personal observation simply not paying attention is a good candidate for the top spot.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

It's the little things redux redux redux

It almost seems superfluous to suggest user interface improvements for XP, given how it's been replaced by Vista... No, wait. It hasn't. Never mind.

Problem: When you click on a desktop shortcut and the destination file has been moved, you get a message politely telling you that Windows has no idea what you're talking about, and would you like to delete the shortcut?

Now why the hell would I want to do that, if I've just asked to open that file or program?

What would be really
useful (big ask for Microsoft, I know), is if the warning dialogue box included the path of the file, to give you some idea of where you (or, in this case, my network administrator) may have moved the fucker to, so that I can find it and restore a working shortcut.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Little children should not suffer. Rant-warning.

Here's my 30-second take on the Stolen Generation:
  • Attempting to improve the living standards and future prospects of the very young: Good
  • Removing children from their families and putting them in foster care as a last resort if their living conditions are abusive and/or abysmal: Good
  • Using foster care as a whole-sale attempt to destroy an entire culture and language without first supporting that culture to grow and adapt to a changing world: Atrocious.
As you will no doubt see, the issue is a whole hell of a lot more complicated than that. If you can't see the complications, please move away from the keyboard.

And now that we have government investigations, a demand for an apology and compensation, and what appears to be a worrying tendency to use "the stolen generation" as a sort of holocaust-style catch-all attempt to induce guilt in mainstream Australia, we have this little scenario:
  • Girl, aboriginal, less than 10, gets removed from her community because she's being sexually abused: Good
  • Girl gets placed in foster care with a white family: If that's what was available, okay.
  • Girl, aged about 10, gets removed from foster care and sent back to her community because leaving her with a white foster family would be tantamount to "a second stolen generation": WTF?
  • Girl, aged 10, gets gang-raped in her community. FOR FUCK'S SAKE WHAT HAPPENED?
This beggars all belief. It really does.

Just to make the story complete, and to set this little girl up for just about the most miserable self-esteem and life anyone in this dubiously first-world country can have, the magistrate sentencing the pack of low-life throw-backs who raped her gave them light sentences, some of them even with no convictions recorded, because "she probably consented". Consent? THAT'S WHAT IT'S CALLED STATUTORY RAPE YOU BRAINLESS DING-BAT. The law should not care if she consented or if she just refused to express an opinion, she is under-age by federal law. Ergo, she can not legally provide consent. Oh yes, and the entire pack of rapists are pederasts.

I don't believe in punishment for punishment's sake, I really don't, but there are times when castration looks like being the only real option.

That magistrate's judgements are being reviewed. All of them. I can't bear to think what else may come to light now.

Monday, 10 December 2007

I can not tell you how much I want this

Steampunk laptop.

Too heavy and gorgeous to be portable, not even laptop, but I tell you I don't care.


Saturday, 8 December 2007

Hmm... peaty, and with overtones of bondage gear

First, a warning: If you don't know anything about the film "Preaching to the Perverted", go and find out before reading on. And if you're hideously disgusted, stop reading. Or not, your choice.

On that official movie page, there is a synopsis of the "performance artists" who appeared in the film.

This is the bit that got me:

"Luci The Axle Grinder or Lucifire as she is better known, chucked in her whiskey testing job as a research scientist for United Distillers to take a degree in contemporary dance. During that time she developed an unhealthy interest in semi-industrial power tools and an over zealous pyromania. She is working as a freelance performer either solo or with other performers such as Archaos, High Rise Rubber, the famous Coney Island Sideshow."

Excuse me? She packed in a job as whiskey tester to become a performance dance pyromaniac?

I think I'm in love. How do you get a job like that???

Friday, 7 December 2007

Somebody got paid to design this?

My partner and I have a new washing machine. It happened in a rush, courtesy of the old one breaking, and cleaned out my finances quite nicely so that I could save a couple of hundred dollars by paying cash (and shopping around served me very nicely, thank you) and not have to pay off another interest-incurring loan.

It is, because you'd be mad not to miss the opportunity, a dual washer/dryer. And it's marvellous. Put clothes in, press buttons, come back six hours later and they're clean and dry.


It's a front-loader, which it has to be to be a dryer as well, but one consequence of this is that it can't have a conventional, nice little accessible lint filter.

In fact, it doesn't have a lint filter. At all. Which surprised me a bit.

So now, instead of a small cloth bag that catches fluff and hair and rubbish like that and which gets emptied every other wash, it all gets flushed out with the dirty water. Or rather, doesn't get entirely flushed out with the dirty water because most of it collects in the drain hole of the sink you're draining into, building up until it clogs, and you come down and find that the sink is full of grotty water into which you must plunge your hand in order to fish out wet, slimy tangles of lint which would have been nice and compact if it had been in a filter, but which instead is partly foul and disgusting and partly escaped down the drain to clog up the works further down-stream and become even more foul and disgusting.

But wait, there's more. It gets even better.

There is a lint trap, in case there are buttons or coins or bits of bra strap rattling around inside, and this gets clogged with lint as well. And because this is an integral part of the waterworks inside the machine, when it gets clogged the machine stops working, which you find out when you go downstairs in the morning to fetch the clothes you put on last night and which aren't dry at all, but are sitting there still wet with the machine flashing "SE" at you on the display, leaving you with nothing to wear.

But wait, it gets even better. You see, in order to clear this lint trap you first have to get down on your knees and lever off a small plastic panel that is clipped on in a way that requires you to try and insert something thin into the gap, swear because it's too weak to lever off the panel, insert something sturdier, swear because it won't quite fit, and then just apply brute force. Our panel was removed entirely, and will not be replaced.

You then have two caps, one small and one large. The small one, it turns out, covers a drain tube. You see, because the lint filter is at the bottom of the machine, any water still inside will come gushing out when you remove said filter, so there's a drain tube which you can pull out to drain neatly into a bowel. Or you could, if you could get enough grip on the little plastic end cap to pull it out once you've turned it to the release position, which you can't, so you need to use pliers.

Fuck that. Our washing machine is sitting on a concrete floor under the house: Water can go everywhere, I really don't care.

So I just unscrew the big cap, which is the lint trap. Which, when removed, turns out to be have been blocked by less lint than you can pull out of your trouser pockets when they're fresh out of the wash.

Somebody got paid to design this?

Is this sour grapes or just stupidity?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, rates of christianity in Brisbane are falling. Which is, in my not-so humble opinion, a good thing. But here's the rub:

According to an Associate Professor of something-undisclosed, the reason is consumerism.

Yesssss, clearly the reason I don't go to church isn't because I believe they're morally reprehensible, factually wildly incorrect and attempt indoctrination to a degree that tips them over into child abuse, it's because I'm too busy shopping. LIke, oh my gawd, I totally never realised that!

Supporting this view, apparently, is the fact that the highest level of non-believing is in the "wealthy Liberal electorate of Ryan". I like that "wealthy Liberal" throw-away line there, but be that as it may, I can sense the echoes of Karl Marx rolling in his grave and mumbling "opiate of the masses" through his beard.

On the other hand, the churches are worried by people shopping around, and trying to find a church to fit their lifestyle.

Does anyone else think that if a church can't convince people that they're (eternally) relevant and important and correct, and that the other mob aren't, they don't deserve their worshippers and do, in fact, deserve to shrivel up and die like the leach upon society that they are?

Courier Mail report here.

Sometimes hitting people is the safest thing to do

What this says about human behaviour is quite frightening:

More crashes, fewer deaths: new Swedish road safety approach cuts road toll (ABC News)

The gist of the story is that by adding wire rope barriers you can cut down on the damage done during crashes, and by adding lots of roundabouts (otherwise known as "fuckabouts") you can make people have more minor crashes and therefore fewer deaths.

Now, leaving aside the fact that as a motorcyclist the thought of more wire road barriers (otherwise known as "cheesegraters") scares the fuck out of me (and if you can't work out why stringing a couple of lengths of wire rope between two rigid poles is bad for a motorcyclist, check out the MRAA's briefing notes), let's think about that for a moment.

What they're saying is that they can reduce the number of deaths (serious life-long debilitating injuries as well?) by shifting accidents from high speed to low speed. They're not talking about reducing the number of accidents, they're talking about increasing the number of accidents, but making them minor.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that these people are not sponsored by panel-beaters. Let's assume instead that if there are fewer serious accidents as a result (and the causal link is still an assumption) of more minor accidents, that it is the same group of people having the minor accidents who would otherwise be having the major accidents, and that means that there are clearly groups of people who shouldn't be allowed on the road.

I've always said so myself.

My mind is still boggling.

I'm not sure what to say. This (NSFW warning) was clearly always going to be a lolcthulhu of some sort, the question was only when.

Actually, the bigger question is: Who the hell paid for this picture to be taken?

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Suck on that, Hubbardians

My dislike of Scientology is almost turning into a personal crusade to laugh as much as possible.

Germany, a country that has already displayed its worth to the world by refusing the money-making venture (I can't even call it a cult) religion status, and making it difficult for Tom Cruise to film there (which should happen because he's Tom Cruise, but instead happened because he's a Scientologist, which is just as okay by me), is considering banning Scientology as a threat to human rights.

Suck on that, Hubbardians!

Do you salivate when your computer beeps?

Or do you scream at it instead?

Your computer is a Skinner box.

If you don't know what a Skinner box is, have a look at the wiki.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Study: Disadvantaged people aren't as well off.

There are far too many studies that should never have been done, should never have had the time wasted and the money spent, yet clearly need to be done because some people obviously need to be smacked about the head with a large fish before they get the message.

"A new report by the welfare group, Anglicare shows Tasmanian parents raising children with disabilities lack support, and often have to cut back on food and heating." - ABC News Online

Well, fuck. I'd never have guessed.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

One giant leap forward for science fiction writers

The number of science fiction writers who have posited a form of external brain storage, external interface, neural net that replaces your biological brain when it starts to die off at age 30 (unfortunate but true fact, there) etc., is immense.

The number of working computer models we have of an entire brain, which would enable this, is, um... 0. But give it time, give it time.

We've made the first step.

I can not stress enough how extremely cool I think this is. What they haven't said here is how far this will go towards diagnosing and treating deficits resulting from neurological injury, which is my current professional interest in the matter.

We'll get there, we'll get there.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Guaranteed ways to fuck with your productivity...

Find that 1300AD are now trading as Brothers At Arms, and find their website. There is sooooo much that I want...

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Telcos are idiots.

Why are telecommunications companies so incompetent at website design? If you log into Vodafone, you get a page called "My Vodafone" (Microsoft has a lot to answer for, and Memnoc himself could not devise a sufficient punishment) extolling all the things you can do, like pay your account online (ooh! innovative!) or manage your voicemail, or stuff like that.

Here's the thing:

None of the icons, and none of the list items, are links. You'd think, wouldn't you, when faced with a website, that clicking on an icon that said "My Account" would take you to said page, wouldn't you? No. Apparently not. Apparently Vodafone haven't heard of user interface enhancements like that, and don't like their customers. So you have to go to the unfriendly, badly designed menu list on the left and find the appropriate entry just so that you can navigate through the unfriendly, badly designed website.

Virgin Mobile are looking really attractive right now.

Ha! I can predict the future!

Well, not really.

But back on Thursday, July 12, in my post "The Great Global Warming Swindle Swindle", I wrote this paragraph:

"I'm not quite sure, these days, what to make of the Australian Democrats. They're consistently less unworkably extremist than the Greens, but as minor parties go they appear to have fallen into the trap of not being controversial enough to be visible."

Now what happens? They nosedive out of political life, losing both seats, if my news feeds this morning are anything to go by. I'm sorry to see Andrew Bartlett go (the only openly goth MP in Australia), but I can't help but think that they bought it upon themselves by, well, not bringing success upon themselves.

Which disappoints me, but I generally like the Democrats. Liked.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Get back to work, eunuch!

It's rare indeed for me to laugh at Dilbert these days, and I use it more as a barometer of how bitter people can be. But has anybody else felt like they're being treated like this by the government every time an election comes around?

Family friendly versus single people.

Squid punk? Squiber punk? Cyquid punk?

I really don't know whether to be disturbed, intrigued, fascinated, revolted or delighted, but I can't stop watching. Thank you very much for that link PZ Myers, you just completely ruined my thought patterns for the entire morning.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Repeat after me: Dickhead

If ever you needed any other reason to vote any particular direction in this rapidly looming election we've been tossed as a sop to our pathetic belief in democracy, may I present:

An attempt to invoke xenophobia that would make deep-south Alabama rednecks feel right at home.

We don't need email rumours that Barack Obama is a muslim, when we've got something even worse right at home.

Shame, shame, shame.

There are times when "can" needs to say hello to "should?"

There is no conceivable way in hell that you could convince me that this (Courier Mail) has any actual utility, I don't care how many "uses" it has. But damn, it's cool!

A watched universe never implodes

Just go and read the news report (Courier Mail). There are lots of comments I could make, but I think the elements of deus ex machina and "whoops" on a cosmic scale, to say nothing of hints of delusions of grandeur, are mostly self-explanatory.

iPhone opinions mount.

This is rather annoying. Somebody has just produced a better-written, more considered piece on why I'm not going to be lusting after the iPhone than I could have.

Go and read it at

This doesn't mean that I don't agree with Stephen Fry that using something which makes you feel all warm and fuzzy is not a reward in itself. But I tell you this: I don't care how well the animations work, anything which slides or zooms or spirals, and Apple have an obsession bordering on a dangerous fixation here, annoys the fuck out of me in
extremely short order.

I was in a Harris Technologies yesterday, and they had an iPod touch - iPhone minus phone - which I of course grabbed to play with. My god it's nice. It has better graphics than my home computer did a few upgrades ago. In fact, it's got better graphics than this workstation I'm being paid to use, and I do PhotoShop and InDesign tasks on this, with seven other applications open at the same time as well. But my God I could not live with that touch-screen software keyboard. Plus, I couldn't work out how to call up the keyboard and enter an address into Safari, which is kind of a problem, really.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Each one of you is proof that God-the-designer is a load of bollocks

I have had my rants before, although I'm not sure about on this forum, about the fact that the human body is the single best argument we have for the lack of existence of a designer God. The sheer incompetence displayed in putting together this sad sack of bones and disgustingly convoluted assemblage of organs is breathtaking. If the thought that waste products and sperm travel through the same pipes doesn't give you pause for thought, the female reproductive system should shock you out of any complacency.

I am baffled as to how any biologist, let along an anatomist, could possibly view the body in all its mess and think that an omnipotent, omniscient being was responsible for it. Surely any honest theologian who so much as opened a copy of Gray's Anatomy would pray that the blind groping of micro-mutation and the capricious battlefields of survival, reproductive fecundity and sexual selection were the cause, and not a deity deserving of worship.

Take just one example from the field of medicine: Cognitive fatigue. A debilitating symptom to have, and a symptom of what, exactly? Let's look at a short list:
  • Tiredness. Well, yes.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. A definitive symptom, in fact, of a syndrome we still can't explain but whose existence is beyond all doubt.
  • Fibromyalgia, which is a symptom of CFS as well - sort of a case of who gets the credit, really.
  • Any other post-viral syndrome, including polio.
  • Diabetes. I have had myself checked twice for this.
  • Haemachromatosis. I've had myself checked twice for this tricksy little genetic wrongness as well, and have found that I don't have it, but could give it to the children I'll never have, as a form of pre-emptive punishment for being teenagers and potentially choosing to listen to rap music instead of Fields of the Nephilim.
  • Any common old viral infection, but with particular honour going to Ross River Fever and Glandular Fever for trying really hard.
  • Chronic stress.
  • Depression, which can be a symptom of anything else on this list or indeed anything else either, including many of the other Axis I disorders.
  • Really bad levels of fitness. As self-abusive as I am about my current fitness, I'm not that bad.
  • Various heart conditions. Fun little thought that one, no?
  • Anything that can go wrong to the brain, including perhaps some of the above, and including aneurysms and diffuse axonal injury from concussion or viral infection (CFS and post-viral fatigue included, on the evidence of MRI studies).
  • Deficiency of the B-group vitamins, which is just one reason you feel lousy after a hard night on the piss, and don't bother trying to put vitamins in beer - alcohol inhibits absorption of vitamins so it'll just give you expensive beer instead of the expensive piss most people end up with when they take vitamin supplements and their bodies flush anything not immediately needed, straight back out again.
  • Liver failure, talking of beer.
And so on. Anybody wishing to make a definitive list would be well advised to set aside the next month for research.

Fatigue is a symptom of absolutely fucking anything, which is why it's so hard to pin down, and one reason it takes CFS so long to be diagnosed until the other symptoms start showing up, like chronic headaches and muscle pain and disrupted sleep which are all, oh yes, symptoms of just about everything as well.

God, if such a deity can be held responsible for this mess of soggy tissues we live in (and I use the word "responsible" in its most accusatory form possible) is not only incompetent, muddle-headed and a complete prick but displays a distinct lack of imagination at times as well.

I'm sick of it. With a medical rap-sheet that includes a highly unpleasantly depressing episode of post-viral fatigue on top of hay fever, eczema, gradually deteriorating short sight, a near certainty for arthritis and a family history that includes heart complaints, mental illness, cancer, glaucoma and kidney malfunction, I'm starting to get paranoid about every little symptom that now crops up, just in case I don't recover from that one either.

And now I'm struggling with concentration levels in a way that feels horribly like my post-viral episode and leaves me with what are probably also stress symptoms, like a constantly flushed face. Throw in that occasionally I'll have a day of unexpected activity and get sore muscles the next day that make me think of fibromyalgia, and it's hard to get up any motivation at all.

A lingering bloody-minded approach to barging straight through being sick helps there.

Bring on the medical scanners so beloved of science fiction, say I, although the way public health in Australia is going we'll be lucky to have hospitals that know where their first aid kits are.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Truly stupid IT decision

I know what you're thinking: Yes, we know. Which one this time?

Well, in Micro$loth Outlook there is a truly enraging printing options decision. If I open a message in a separate window, which I don't like to do because it just takes up more time, I can choose any printing options I like, specifically double-sided and stapled because it's a five page newsletter. If I choose to print the same message from the message pane within the main Outlook window, I can't. I just get the default printer settings.


Sunday, 21 October 2007

Stephen Fry broke my heart

No, not because I'm secretly gay and in love with him. You don't have to be gay to be in love with someone like Stephen Fry.

Because he is also, a man after my own heart, a man most appropriately after the heart of his dear departed and sorely missed friend Douglas N. Adams, a gadget freak. He's a techno nut. A mad lover of all things that go beep and, particularly, have an Apple logo on them.

And he shares my belief in Smart Phones, although a man who can say

"My motto is: I have never met a smart phone I haven't bought."

Is much closer than I am likely to get to satisfying his dark cravings. BASTARD.

Anyway, the reason he broke my heart is that he has dashed my lingering admiration for Sony Ericsson and my from-a-distance desire for the P1. Because a man who has owned one of every smart phone ever made calls it "
What a crushing, lowering, fury-inducing disappointment." And worse: "My disappointment in the P1i turned to anger as the real structural flaws emerged." "The awful laggardly horrors..." "The miserable nonsense..."

I'm going to go away and cry now. I can only hope that by the time I can afford a new phone, Palm have done something exciting again. Actually, the chances of that happening really will make me go away and cry now.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Why you? Well, let me be honest...

Thanks to the legendary Pharyngula, I am aware of the shop on A Girl and Her Fed, to whom I am now indebted for the all-time greatest response to histrionic personality traits. Having worked with personality disorders, had friends with personality disorders and become heartily sick of all of them, having left the mental health industry (more or less. Partly. Well, officially, at least) and no longer (most of the time) having to worry about massaging egos until we can push them in the right direction for self-awareness, I am extremely tempted to buy the "Bitter Jaded Cynic Pin Pack" (most of the way to the bottom of that page), just to get my hands on a lapel pin which says, say it with me:

"I am too old to think your self-centred drama is cute."

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

You can't make a video without breaking wowsers.

Hands up all those who remember the Goodies episode where they start off being asked to produce an S-E-/-\ education film and get pilloried for mentioning the word "gender", then end up with Bill going mad and blowing up the BBC?

Think anything's changed?


"THE BBC is in more hot water with parent and media groups branding its HIV awareness video disgusting and degrading." (Courier Mail)

HIV is disgusting and degrading. Your point?

In all honesty, there are two ways to get HIV: unprotected anal sex and sharing needles. The odds of contracting HIV through vaginal sex are about 1 in 5million. Gay rights and drug education groups have done an extraordinary job of raising awareness of a public health issue which really only impacts upon poofs and druggies, and I admire them greatly for it. I also applaud the BBC for producing a video featuring "GI Johnny and Captain Bareback".

Now tell me exactly how you are going to teach sexual health and safe practices without mentioning sex? Huh?

Get it through your neanderthalically thick skulls that abstinence programs don't work.(I apologise to anyone of Neanderthal descent who might have felt offended by that sentence).

Monday, 8 October 2007

T9 in a J2ME environment: Grrrrr....

A small rant:

I happen to like T9 predictive text. Of all my mobile-owning friends (strange to think that there are people, software engineers even, out there who still don't own a mobile phone), I stand alone. I find that using 10 keys to select from 26 letters can work, and work fast and well. Oh sure I have proof-reading errors, but that's not the technology's fault.

So I have been using T9 in java text editors (I'm even trialling a free-trial-period commercial app, just to see if it works any better than the cruder, free one I'm using). And I am not a happy man.

I thought at first it was the program, which didn't really make sense to me. It didn't make sense because, guess what, it wasn't the program's fault.

It might be Sun's fault, it might be Samsung's fault (probably is, actually), but: It's broken. Sometimes it will work, with 95% of functionality (you can't go back to a previous word, select it, and then change it, which is stupid and ridiculous). Sometimes it just won't work at all, and you get non-predictive text. Sometimes it will give you random letters from the keys pressed, with no dictionary rhyme or reason behind them. Sometimes you get the first half of the word random, and the second half predictive, but what good is that?

I am feeling very miffed. Let down, even. I have a phone which, cleverly and ingeniously, cripples every cool thing I think I can do with it. I swear it's actually malicious.

One thing ABC News Online gets consistently, horribly, infuriatingly, WRONG

No links, and not enough detail.

I want, when looking at a news item on a news organisation's website, to be able to click from that page to more information: The home page of the organisation mentioned in The article, perhaps, or the original press release. Failing that, I would like to be able to google it with the information provided in the article, without having to guess. Time and time again, this I cannot do with ABC items.

What's so infuriating is that when I find the press release, I sometimes get that information. A good press release writes the journalist's article for them, so that they chose to use your information and so that they don't get anything wrong.

The journalist should not choose to remove everything that is actually useful information, just so that they can show that they've done something.

Make note: Intolerance is not discrimination - in fact, it's frequently the only non-discriminatory response available.

I have to say that my attitude regarding tolerance towards religion has changed a fair bit in recent years. I have become, in essence, quite thin-skinned towards any philosophical organisation which preaches intolerance, bad science, or bafflingly stupid denials of reality from flimsy foundations such as "we have a book which says that it's the word of a god who hasn't bothered coming back for a while now..."

I have heard, in recent years, of Christian medical practitioners doing things like refusing to provide abortions or even morning-after pills because they put their religious beliefs in front of their Hippocratic Oath. And they shall be known as "ass-wipes".

And now this, and I have to say that I'm not really surprised:

Muslim medical students prefer to fail exams rather than examine female patients or have anything to do with alcoholism. (Times Online)

My opinion is: Fail them. They have applied for study in a position which, they surely knew before they applied, would require them to do things that would be contrary to their faith, or that would assist other people to do things that would be contrary to their faith if not their patient's faiths (if you follow that sentence structure). To get all religious: As ye sow, so shall ye reap. Or: You made your bed, now lie in it. If you can't fill the basic standards of the job, don't do it. We all have to bend to keep going. It's all very noble to take a stand like that, I'm sure, but I'm positive that it's also very, very, stupid.

For fuck's sake, at what point does a country with a constitution that separates church and state (sort of: The Queen is the head of the C of E, after all) say: Enough. Your church will not impact upon the running of our state. If you can't play a role in civic life without allowing your church to disrupt that role, you can't play it at all. By all means take part in public debate: Run for parliament, lobby for change, but follow the rules.

This is part of a larger argument, which covers the treatment of immigrants whose culture leads them to behaviour which violates existing statutes, and again, my response is: You came here, you broke the law, deal with it. If you spit in Singapore, you're in trouble. If you make Nazi gestures in Germany, you're in trouble. You have an obligation to obey the local laws: To do, in Rome, that which the Romans do.

And to do in Australia that which the Australians do. You can't be married to more than one person at a time, you can't beat her if she goes out in public unaccompanied, you can't rape the locals because they weren't dressed the way you think they should have been dressed.

If you want to practice medicine without seeing naked female flesh (weirdo) or having anything to do with alcohol (which makes me wonder: Are you prepared to dispense medicines which have an alcohol base? Or use alcohol wipes to sterilise skin? Or use alcohol to sterilise instruments? Or use thermometers which contain alcohol?), then find such a country and move there. If the local environment doesn't suit, find one that does.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Palm has dropped the ball down an open sewer grate

I have previously written here that my interest in Palm as a future provider of my personal technology has been waning with their continued inability to deliver a worthwhile next generation software platform.

Well, they've really screwed it up now, as the Register reports with typical directness at the end of this article:

Palm admits new OS 18 months away.

My assessment: They're fucked.

We. Need. A. Parenting. Licence.

There's nothing particularly startling about this story: It happens all the time, or something like it, across America and parts of the world that don't even pretend to be advanced Western democracies. But maybe I'm just feeling less world-weary today:

Parents kick out 14-year-old girl for being bisexual. Girl shoots herself in the head.

The comment "The parents could have prevented this" is not so much redundant as breath-takingly idiotic. The state may have been able to prevent this by requiring a licence to breed.

"Examiner: If your son or daughter revealed that they held personal beliefs, sexual orientation or behaviour patterns that offended you, what your response be?"

"Prospective Parent: I'd kick the ungrateful bitch out!"

"Examiner: Guards!"

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

It surely can't be that complicated, can it?

I have just accidentally typed "iservice" into a Word document. Not surprisingly, it got awarded a little red line underneath it. The options offered to me were:


You will notice that "service", which I actually meant to type, was not one of the listed options.

Come on, not everything is related to IT language!

Sunday, 30 September 2007

What? Speak up! I can't hear you when I'm pissed!

I will (and frequently am) the first to remind people that sometimes obvious research needs to be done, just so that we can confirm what we all thought we already knew, and move on. But that doesn't remove the comedy value.

Drinking may dampen short-term hearing: study" (ABC News Online).

Oh really? You mean it isn't just the loud music that makes people loud when they're pissed? I'm shocked! You mean that a depressant which numbs all the other nerves in your body numbs your hearing as well? No!

Hell, a slight feeling of detachment, touch and hearing, is usually the first sign I have that I'm getting drunk. No "may" about it.

Monday, 24 September 2007

What I want from a mobile phone, redux.

Way back at the start of this blog, I jotted down, for the purposes of thinking out loud and for my record, and just in case anybody who actually work for a manufacturer stumbled across it and thought "Oh yeah..." (no, I have no delusions of relevance whatsoever), my demands of my next mobile phone.

Since then, many things have changed.

Not my requirements, but my opinion of the tools that will fill them.

So I thought it would be good, while I'm struggling to get any work done thanks to over-use related neck, shoulder and back pain and, to be honest, a small hangover, to revist my list, starting with the non-negotiables:

A proper PDA OS
. This can be one designed for a mobile, or adapted for a mobile, I don't care. If I'm going to put this much thought into this useful a device, I don't want to try and cobble all the extra functionality on using J2ME, as good as that is. I am no longer willing to consider Windows Mobile, for the simple reason that it uses synchronisation technology which, apart from being Microsoft-only, keeps being changed. Symbian is still good, and Linux may actually have a decent selection of available applications when it comes time for me to make my choice, with Motorola using it, Palm developing (still) a Linux-based interface and Trolltech soldiering on with QTopia for phones.

Broadband networking. This is a no-brainer: If it can't access, through whatever carrier I will be using, really fast downloads, there's no point in having most of the rest. That basically means HSDPA. No point in not using the industry standard.

WiFi. More commonly referred to as WLAN. I have, sitting at home, a wireless broadband router that services my partner's laptop very well from anywhere in the house (as the house is a 19th-Century Queenslander with thin wooden walls, this is not surprising). I also, at home, have basically no mobile reception and certainly not enough to be able to download any data more complicated than a scratchy voice signal (coverage maps only tell half the story. I think we're hidden behind hills). I want to be able to connect to the Internet via the broadband landline connection I'm already paying for, and check email or download ebooks or find out movie times or go through my RSS feeds and maybe even write erotic fiction on Google's servers without paying my mobile carrier for the privilege and without worrying about the signal dropping out halfway through.

A really good text editor.No, not word-processor. Text editor.

An SSH client. Why not? The cool-factor alone is worth it.

Touchscreen.The power I'm asking for almost requires a touchscreen to be useful. Scrolling through complicated web pages a link at a time will convince you of this if nothing else will. Admittedly, Opera has got this half-sorted, Nokia more so and Symbian apparently (thanks to Nokia) likewise. I still want a touchscreen.

Hardware number and navigation keys. PDA-style phones that have a huge touch-screen and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard are all very well and good, but I want to be able to use it like a mobile. It's convenient, it works, it can be done one-handed. And don't even think about mentioning touchscreen software keys. I'm not interested. My keys need to have tactile feedback. All you iPhone junkies can piss off.

The ability to slip into my pocket. This is difficult to reconcile with a screen wide enough to comfortably display webpages usefully and with a keypad that's useful for large amounts of text input: Witness current high-end Blackberries and Nokia's non-fold QWERTY phones. But the only people who need to hang things off their belts are soldiers, police officers, tradesmen and executives with defensive, gadget-based self-esteems. I will also accept iPod users who need to have the controls and earpiece cord easily accessible. If the mobile needs to use tricky engineering to make a keyboard fold out, good. If that makes it thicker than my wallet, bad. I would quite happily use a jacket pocket but I live in Brisbane and wearing a jacket is, to say the least, unusual. I want it to look like a phone, feel like a phone, and take up as much space as a phone. In this post-RAZR world, the bar has been set quite high - My SAmsung A701 may frustrate me at times, but I sincerely believe that it's the best piece of mobile design I've yet seen and I use it for email and text entry. Kudos go to Blackberry for the Pearl and Sony-Ericsson with the M600/P1: Both companies found ingenious ways of getting QWERTY keypads onto rationally-sized phones by halving the key count, fitting two letters onto each button.

SyncML/OpenML. I'm serious. This is an industry-standard, open synchronisation framework which allowed me to not only back up my previous Sony-Ericsson T630 to my Linux desktop, but manipulate the file system and clock settings and send SMS message from the computer as well. When that phone died it did so at such short notice that I didn't have time to examine my options as closely as I would have liked and didn't check this on my ultimate replacement, the otherwise extremely nice Samsung A701, assuming that it would be installed. Big mistake. No SyncML, no sale (which means: Windows Mobile, no sale).

Once upon a time I scoffed at this, but the convenience value of having it available means that you may as well. And I may as well specify 2MP minimum, while I'm at it.

Media player.
My current phone serves me well for MP3s, given how little I feel the need to listen to them (and, working on the phone for a large portion of the day, the time). I'm not even sure if it's possible to buy a phone that can't, these days.

JSR75. This is only if the phone has J2ME installed (which is also almost a given). JSR75 is a package of optional functionality for J2ME which includes file-system access, PIM apps access and camera access. On my mobile it's there (sort of) but, well, buggy. I don't feel like using a great technology if it's been crippled by leaving stuff out.

The optional, but nice, stuff:

The ability to use Google Docs through whatever the built-in browser is.
Unfortunately, I doubt very much that supporting web word-processing is anywhere near the top of any sort of priority list of any of the developers. It doesn't even make the grade for some desktop browsers.

A QWERTY keyboard. This used to be non-negotiable, but now I'm not so sure. A good predictive-text system coupled with the standard mobile key layout serves me well with the text editor I am currently using, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the easier navigation (you try hitting one of 26 keys as quickly as one of 10) actually improves speed and convenience (balanced by having to cycle through options on many/most words). There are three hundred different ways of doing QWERTY in a mobile package, some of them hideously ugly and inconvenient-looking, but consensus seems to be settling on tiny keys in a classic candy-bar one-piece layout, with a phone that doesn't even have to be much wider than the one I've got now, or a slide-out or fold-out landscape-mode wider keyboard which may or may not be easier to use. I've written large tracts of text on a Psion Revo QWERTY keyboard that people with small hands can touch-type on (I have seen this happen) and even on the distinctly thumb-only keyboard of my Sharp Zaurus SL-5500, which is not much bigger, and certainly no wider, than current offerings from Palm and Blackberry. At this point, I'm willing to consider options. I'm also willing to consider the unusual predictive system used by the two-letters-per-key Blackberry Pearl, as well as the two letters per rocker key arrangement debuted by Sony-Ericsson on the M600i and carried over to the much improved and rather tempting P1.

GPS. Well, why not? I can already use Google Earth, why not a proper GPS system? Nokia (among others) will already sell you several phones that will do this, and eagle-eyed watchers of the recent Casino Royale will have noticed Daniel Craig getting directions from his product-placed Sony-Ericsson. Pity he took his eyes off the road to do it. On which note: My partner and I are looking at bluetooth motorcycle intercom systems, and getting spoken directions from my mobile would be kind of cool :)

So what do I like? I like Palm's reputation, but have to wonder when they're going to do anything interesting again, which means: When the hell are they going to have their Linux-based OS ready? I like the P1 (a lot), but can't help but notice that it lacks HSDPA. Plus, I'm not sure about the keypad yet. I like Samsungs, particularly since they are using Symbian S60 a lot recently, but I'm wary after finding so many little points of incompleteness in my current phone. Plus, they're doing a lot of sliders, and I'd prefer flip for a non-QWERTY phone. I don't trust LG quite enough to buy their mobiles yet, but Motorola are growing on me, particularly since using Symbian neatly sidesteps their main fault: A bad user-interface reputation. Which leaves Nokia. A few months ago I started getting the unnerving thought that Nokia, a brand I prefer not to touch because they have all the flair and style of Volvo, may be the only people who know how to build a complete phone. I really hope they're not. Just to spoil things, the first Nokia I really was interested in, the Symbian-powered N76, is not HSDPA and the very neat split-QWERTY E70, apart from being as sexy as accountancy, has the same limitation.

That's still not a very detailed list - unfortunately, cutting out Windows Mobile as an option removed most of my short-list, even if I'm now looking at non-QWERTY devices. On the other hand, each of my previous phones have lasted me two years, so I've still got a year for the marketplace to improve. I'm confident.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Come on Randall, don't disappoint us now

Is anybody else counting down until we get an xkcd comic about this?

The velociraptor had feathers (

Thursday, 13 September 2007

The pace of progress

I have been riding for about three years now. I have been riding on a non-learner's licence for less than a year. In fact, since February. In that time, I have ridden, I realise, quite a good range of bikes:
  • 1986 Yamaha SRX250 - learner steed. My partner's first bike, the one she learned to ride on 18 years ago. Very nice old bike, shame about the chronic unreliability (hence taking so long to get my licence).
  • Unknown year Yamaha XV250 Virago. Loaner bike we managed to get out of a shop for me to ride up the coast once. Mini cruiser. Lovely engine, shame about the rear brake, front forks, lack of tacho and the chassis.
  • 1998(?) Yamaha TRX850. My partner's second bike. Just around a carpark. Shame about that.
  • 2005(?) Yamaha TDM900. My partner's current bike. Why Yamaha haven't put that engine in a sportier frame, to create a second TRX, I may never know but will continue to mourn.
  • 1994-model (built 1993) Yamaha XJ600 SecaII. My lovely blue bike. Shame about having too many cylinders, but then again many people actually like fours.
  • 2007 Honda VTX750 Shadow. Cruiser. I did my test on that. Lovely chrome, shame about the bike. And the chrome.
  • 1984 Suzuki GSX1100 Katana. One of the big, famous names in motorcycling. Our mechanic's bike, which I have while mine is getting services.
I have learned two things by riding all these bikes:
  1. The best way to get comfortable on a new bike is to take it onto a straight stretch of road, wind open the throttle and hit 100. It puts slow riding into perspective, and settles you onto the machine nicely.
  2. Some time around 1990, the Japanese learned a thing or two about handling. Not as much as the Italians, obviously, but the difference between the hero-bike Katana and my cheap-sports-bike XJ is so pronounced it's hard to believe that there's really only 5-7 years between the basic frame designs. The Katana is long, heavy and needs a firm and demanding hand on the tiller, with a disconcerting tendency to want to dive into corners and tuck the front wheel under. My XJ feels more responsive with half the power, and is certainly more poised and stable in the corners. I can only dream of what an Italian bike will feel like in comparison...

I've got a new pet

Do you like my new stingray? He's called Steve.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Almost, but not quite.

I am, being essentially a masochist, seeking a text-editor app which I will be able to use on my mobile phone, with its numeric keypad, using predictive text, so that I could write little bits without sitting at a full-size keyboard.

Because I can, basically.

But here's the thing: Without having a smart-phone, I have to look for J2ME software, which is fine because, apart from the odd little "Huh?" moment of not-working on my Samsung SGH-A701, it's all good and the screen is fantastic. But...

These are my options, according to searching on GetJar:
  • J2MEdit - bit confusing to use, because it' s a source-code editor, but very well made and once you get the hang of it, good. Pity that you can't get the files off the file system directly, and you can only email them to yourself (at cost) if you have an account with their website, which costs. So it's useless to me, because I'm a tight-arse and I'm not going to use it that much. Bastards.
  • NoteXP. Now this one was promising. Full colour, seemed slick, regularly updated. Pity I couldn't download it because the *.jad description file was wrong. Then, when I finally did manage to find a previous version on a different (and different language) website, I discovered that as cool as it is, it only takes _short_ notes. So isn't any good.
  • MicroReaderS55. Looks very cool, but only works on Siemens phones. Siemens don't even make mobile phones any more.
  • TinyOffice. Looks extremely cool, but although it doesn't claim to be limited to Nokia phones, it actually is. Won't work for me, complains about missing Nokia files.
So I'm stuck with:
  • TextEditor. Yes, it works. Monochromatic, but hey, why do you need colour for editing text? Pity it takes five minutes to start up, asks you for permission to read the filesystem seven times before actually doing so, can only accept a screen-full of text at a time, before you have to exit edit, save, and go back into edit mode, and uses its own filesystem hierarchy which the phone can't read, necessitating storing everything on the mini-MMC card and then taking that out, plugging it into the computer, and reading off that. Which is a waste of getting obexfs working.

Yes, I know I'm using entirely the wrong tool for the job. I just don't care.

The definition of irony

A snake being hired (albeit as a photo oportunity) to guard a collection of... Shoes. (ABC News)

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Can't we just say "That's sick, you're never getting out of jail"?

(Edit - linked to the story)

"A WOMAN who was sexually abused, beaten and forced to eat rat and dog faeces while being held captive in a home may be the victim of a hate crime."

Well, fuck, I'd hate to think that she was the victim of a regular crime. I mean, adding the fact that the sick fucks who did that to her were racists and she was black adds a whole other dimension of being insanely wrong that just wasn't there before! If they'd done it to her just because she was available, would that attract a lesser sentence? If they knew her and didn't like her, would that be any different to if they did it because they didn't like the colour of her skin? Would they be eligible for parole earlier if they were inclined to do that to just anyone rather than limiting that filth to one ethnic group?

I don't care if a racial/religious group was being targeted. I don't care if they did it because she had the wrong team jersey on. I don't like jews, but that's because they follow a religion I find patently absurd, and the difference between me and neo-Nazis is I have long hair, I once nearly dated a jewess and I don't fire-bomb synagogues. Motive, in a crime like this, has just got to be entirely secondary to the nature of the crime itself, or the world's more fucked than even I assumed. If I knew - and I do know - that there are people out there capable of carefully planned, long-term torture of other people for any reason whatsoever, not belonging to the target group is not going to make me feel any safer, or any less like wanting to see them restrained for the benefit of the community as a whole. Prison may be defended as a deterrent (wrong) or as a rehabilitation facility (doubly wrong), but one of the most important roles it plays, and we see this every time a paedophile is released, is that of protecting the community outside the prison walls.

If psychiatry can fix the intention, good. If behaviour rehabilitation can fix the impulse, fantastic. If not, get them the fuck away from me.

I could explain why the notion of "hate crimes" and indeed "affirmative action" tips far too easily into reinforcing the discrimination, but I don't have time right now.

My favourite ironical email address

I apologise for the use of the word "ironical", but it fit.

Disability Services Queensland have a Complaints and Prevention Unit. They have an email address (naturally). It is "" (No, I'm not going to link it). Read it out aloud.

How to judge the quality of news media

Start with sensationalism. The use of sensationalism is generally a good way to assess the quality of your news media.

Take this story, announced in the Breaking feeds of both the Courier Mail and the ABC: Victorians under the age of 18 will be banned from getting "intimate" body piercings under proposed new government legislation. At present, piercings need parental consent under the age of 16.

How is this headlined by two major news media organisations in Australia?

Courier Mail: Nipple rings to be banned for under-18s.

ABC News: Govt plans under-18 piercing ban.

Hmmm.... The ABC headline is misleading because non-sexual piercings will be allowed but, let's face it, the Courier Mail headline is, once again, from a newspaper which doesn't have the guts to run a page-3 girl.

Actually, not all nipple rings are piercings, so the Courier Mail headline is doubly misleading. They've forgotten about the nippular equivalent of cock rings.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

It's an Apple what?

Wow, the first major redesign of the iPod since the first one, and I'm not counting moving the buttons to the wheel or repackaging the Nano or giving it a colour screen:

iPod Touch.

It's shiny, it's cool, it's.... An iPhone with different innards and, from the looks and common sense of it, not particularly different at that. It has WiFi, so it doesn't even go without all radio hardware. It looks like it's got a (presumably modified) version of the same OSX-lite operating system complete with Safari and, by peering closely, I see the YouTube client as well, it presumably has the same storage hardware, it's obviously got the same touch screen and, one suspects from that page and without even reading anything, the same motion-sensing automatic screen reorientation. iPhone does the music player stuff, so that's all clearly the same. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, an iPhone with the phone part excised. Maybe the microphone and speaker as well.

This is why Apple is doing so well and can offer so many cool products: They know how to reuse everything. Why develop a new case if you've got one to hand? Everyone thought that the iPhone would look like an iPod, but no, they've been cleverer than that: Bring out a new image-raising product and make the iPod look like that, instead.

Actually... If this has WiFi... and if that version of Safari can handle Google Docs... Can you get a wireless keyboard to talk to it? I'd be interested!

Normally I would laugh and move on, but this one I have to share.

Please, please, PLEASE use pdfs

Here's a tip for everyone who has to electronically distribute newsletters, flyers, announcements etc. and wants to do it in a pretty format that email alone won't cover.


In particular, do not use brand new Word that spits out a .docx which is a zipped xml collection that older Word (which is most people, particularly in the cash-strapped non-government service sector) can't open without going to Microsoft and downloading a plugin, after first downloading all the available other fixes, and who's got the time for that? I had to email one newsletter to myself so that when I got home I could try and open it in OpenOffice, and that only complained about the format being incorrect and the file not being valid.

Acrobat may be expensive, but PrimoPDF is free and so is OpenOffice, which comes with its own PDF exporter. I use PrimoPDF because it's faster than Acrobat, and so far it's worked flawlessly. The saving on network traffic alone will make sysadmins like you, and the ease of use for your recipients will stop them from having such a low opinion of your competence at your job that you'll have sabotaged yourself for the next year.

Thank you for your consideration.

Art imitates Life

This is massively cool. There is so very little that cannot be imagined that has not been tried, even if unsuccessfully or not for very long, by the forces of random mutation assisted by natural selection and a soupcon of luck.

Remember how the aliens in, um, Alien(s etc.) had two jaws, and the big one which could take your head off would open and a small one capable of biting your nose off would come off purely, it would seem, to terrify people even more before killing them. Maybe stressed meat tastes nicer.

Nope, that wasn't a new idea either.

Moray eels do it too. (Courier Mail)

Yay! Go evolution!

Ironic physiology

I enjoy finding aspects of the human body that either don't make sense our are counter-intuitive or counter-productive. Well, I don't always enjoy this, since a lot of it directly impacts upon me. The design of knees, for instance. Or the massive susceptibility to error of the eye (how the hell can Intelligent Design apologists claim that the eye "must have been designed". They're denigrating the whole idea of an omnipotent designer!)

And now this:

Chronic sleep deprivation is increasingly damaging the male libido. (Courier Mail)

Umm... What's one of the most effective methods of getting to sleep???

Monday, 3 September 2007

Quotes of the times.

As an insight into my mental state recently, these are my two favourite quotes at the moment:

"I'm sorry sir, I appear to have bypassed my good-taste chip" - Kryten, Red Dwarf, just after saying "We could go back to Dallas in 1963, stand on the grassy knoll and shout 'Duck!'"

"I've always been of the opinion that people who never see any justification for the death penalty are showing a lack of imagination." - my colleague.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Horse flu demonstrates how extraordinarily lucky we have been with bird flu.

It's amazing how simple things can bring an entire house of cards tumbling down.

I have just been on the phone to a dog breeder we are about to collect another hound from, and the conversation turned to the equine influenza which has just struck a fairly startled Australia and cancelled a couple of early season horse races.

Here's what the media hasn't really reported so far, mixed in with what little it has:

The infection rate is 100% upon exposure, and the mortality rate is 40%. It's air-borne, so fences alone will not contain it. It can survive for up to 24 hours on humans, but up to 36 hours upon clothing, so just separating horses and not people will not contain it.

Consider the impact of cancelling some races: TAB employees have not worked. Caterers, security guards, carpark attendants, bookies and their runners etc. have not worked at the races. Horses can't be exercised while they're in lock-down quarantine, and after 10 days a race horse starts losing condition. Expect Melbourne Cup to not happen this year. At all. If a horse gets the flu and is in the lucky 60% that survives, it can have heart or lung damage, which means that it will never race again. People have spent $2million on a foal, kept it and trained it for 2 years, at several thousand dollars a week, and may never have it race.

Now consider rural communities: Everyone has horses. They can't visit each other. Real-estate agents can't work because they can't visit properties. Vets can't visit properties. Without phones everyone would be isolated. People have to set aside clothes just for feeding their horses and just for leaving the property, and then strip off, put the clothes in plastic bags, shower, sterilise wherever they've walked, put on different (clean) clothes to do the shopping, spray disinfectant (industrial peroxide is good) on their car underbodies and tyres before leaving the property, and just to be on the safe side after returning as well.

It's out in Queensland, thanks to horse movements. Police have already stopped people violating quarantine and fined them large amounts of money, and you can bet that it will continue to happen.

Human beings are not, by nature, sensible when it comes to diseases. Remember the American who was thought (incorrectly, luckily) to have a rare and virulent form of TB and evaded detention to fly home, putting the entire plane and his entire country at risk?

If H5N1 ever does take off, or anything else for that matter, we are doomed.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Where were you on the night of 2000 years ago?

It appears to be ten days since anything has interested me enough to share, which says far more about how stressed and zonked-out I've been over the last few weeks than it does about the state of the world in general (although I do not wish Equine Influenza upon any horse, I did get a chuckle about hearing that police horses in Sydney would have to pull a sicky from APEC).

But this cannot be passed up:

A christian group in Kenya wants the Kenyan High Court to declare Jesus' crucifixion illegal and his conviction null and void. (Link to Curious Snail).

Stop me if I'm wrong, but... Isn't the crucifixion a fairly major and, indeed, central part of the christian mythos? I am not now and have never been christian, but I seem to remember hearing something about "died for our sins." Something like that, anyway. It's really going to cock up the back story if they manage to convince people that it was really never supposed to happen.

And for once, I like a piece of writing in the Courier Mail:

may redefine the quest for closure."

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

I should use what instead?

I'd just like to say that this picture illustrates one very good reason why building a web browser that can truly take it's place among IE, the Mozilla offspring and Opera, is really fucking hard. Konqueror (Debian testing) can't yet:

Oh yes, and Google? It would be really clever if you recognised that somebody was connecting from Linux and didn't recommend Internet Explorer.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

P.S.: What this says about my chance of finding a mobile that can cope with doesn't bear thinking about.

Health Conditions You Never Knew You Had Until You Were Told

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Saw a reference, googled it, laughed quite hard, desperately tried to find something authoritative on adrenal glands that wasn't trying to sell herbal supplements....

To be honest, I love Internet quizzes that attempt to diagnose things. Yes, even the ones that say "This is not intended to replace a diagnosis by your doctor" at the top, as though it's going to make a difference to how people use it.

I found one on, in the (cue warning sirens) Alternative Medicine section. Some choice questions follow:

"I often feel tired after exercise, rather than energized." - Exercise how hard?

"I crave sweet or salty foods" - Does chocolate count?

"I am frequently irritable, negative or pessimistic" - Can I count enduring personality traits here?

"I often have trouble getting up in the morning, even after going to bed at a reasonable hour." - Define "reasonable".

"My body temperature feels off balance or I get hot flushes." - Should middle-aged women be excused from answering this one?

"I drink more than one 8oz cup of coffee every day" - I have mitigating circumstances!

"In my free time, I'm often too tired to do anything that involves going out of the house." - Does low care factor count here?

And my result?

You answered 11 items out of 16 correctly.

Your score is 69%. Your adrenal glands may be in overdrive."

Give me a break. "Correctly"? Were they paying attention when they put that together? And 16 questions is enough for a 2/3 response to result in the diagnosis of "overdrive"?

I can, however, now confirm that according to the Internet I have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, Adult ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and I'm a woman, a fact which would greatly surprise my girlfriend if she found out about it.

Monday, 20 August 2007

This is your brain after using drugs for a long time

"Brain Dysfunction blamed for Addiction" (Courier Mail)

Okay, avoiding for a moment that "blamed" in the headline, with all its nice little connotations, the gist is that "researchers" (doesn't even say which department they're from) at the University of Melbourne have found an under performing frontal cortex in people with long-term addictions, resulting in a reduced ability to control impulses, reduced self-control overall, therefore reduced ability to counteract addictive behaviours or substances.

Now, there have been many arguments over the years about "addictive personalities", many of them with a physiological component, that all seem to boil down to an individual finding a behaviour or substance that balances the negative effects of a slightly off-kilter physiology or a crap life. And for various reasons, including people grabbing the wrong end of the stick and accusing such theorists of wanting to excuse behaviours that they're just trying to explain, many of them are decidedly controversial and non-PC.

So this is a study I like - it finds something that correlates with known behavioural or cognitive issues which can all be seen to have a bearing on the behaviour in question - i.e. addiction. My immediate question, however, is: Is this a predisposition or a consequence of neurological injury caused by long-term intake of toxic psychotropic substances? The study was looking at drug users not, e.g. sex addicts or compulsive gamblers, and we know all too well the ways in which long-term usage of licit or illicit drugs can mess with your grey (and white) matter.

Well, apparently that's the next line of research, and about time too I say, although I'm not sure how they plan to tell if it's injury or a bad roll of the genetic dice (maybe looking for more global damage?)

I am, however, overjoyed to see that perhaps there will be meaningful behavioural strategies used for addiction, instead of strategies based upon untested theories or ideologies.

And if anybody does think that I'm trying to find excuses for people: grow up.

The big question is not whether somebody has a mitigating factor for behaviour, it's their reaction - to seek (or accept) help or to continue with behaviour which is destructive to their physiology, finances and relationships and which may, by the time they're offered help, have got them in serious trouble with the law.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

"Oh, I see you've had your leg off"

Biker fails to notice missing leg - Courier Mail.

By itself, that headline is worthy of note, but then you read the actual article: "He felt excruciating pain, but did not notice that his right leg was missing until he stopped at the next junction, the paper quoted local police as saying."

Huh? Right leg, if the Japanese have their bikes set up as we do, is rear-wheel braking and, well, balance. Surely you'd notice something. Presumably he either doesn't use the rear brake a lot or didn't need to at that point. In fact, just cornering would reveal the loss of that foot anyway.

What was he on?

And did he fall over when he stopped?

Edit: Whoops, fixed the link.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Well, when you put it like that...

In 1964, Soichiro Honda insisted that all the marine engines produced by his company would be four-stroke on ecological reasons: "Because the water raises rice and the fishes live in the water, I don't want to contaminate it," he claimed.

Sounds so simple like that, doesn't it?

Dogs won't shit in their bed, why do we humans keep on doing it?

Friday, 10 August 2007

Clay Bennett

I really, really meant it.

From Royston with love

I love British tabloid journalism:

The 'honeytrap' girls who find out if your man will cheat.

I don't really think I need to comment on that.

Isn't "wrapped in the flag" a BAD thing?

Oh Telstra, how many reasons are there to hate thee?

Outsourced customer support, arrogant business practices, the general bad reputation of BigPond Internet, the outsourced customer officer who rang me to ask why we were no longer using Telstra, no longer being a public company, expecting us to pay line rental and maintenance charges on hardware built using tax dollars, Sol Trujilo's immense personal paypacket...

The latest is: Nationalistic, jingoistic advertising.

I have just seen an ad in the Courier Mail, from Telstra, attempting to prove that they are superior to Optus (It's never a good sign when a company gets personal with their opposition, is it?). At the top of the page were two pictures: The Singapore flag (Singtel Optus) and the Australian flag (Telstra).

Fuck you, Telstra. Frankly, I'm more likely to trust a Singaporean company.

"Her touch was electric"

The lengths to which people will go to get their jollies (pun intended, and if you don't notice the pun you're a lot more innocent than I give you credit for) is sometimes extraordinary, and with several billion people on the planet the range of fetishes and paraphilias is awesome.

Mind you, not everyone's aware of this: Mind Hacks was surprised to find that people like electrocuting themselves during sex (of course, most people prefer not to go quite that far).

Um, yes, they do (Not entirely SFW).

Cute, cuddly, curly-haired cock-up.

Poor Valentino Rossi. It's not easy being one of the most talented men ever to ride a motorcycle. Seven world championships, the first man ever to win a title in all three GP classes, third all-time most successful race winner, but it's all starting to fall apart.

Last season he lost the title to Nicky Hayden because Yamaha couldn't give him a chassis that worked properly, and then when he had it within his grasp he lost his grip at the last moment, sliding across the tarmac on his arse, watching the most miraculous comeback in history ride off into the distance as a Yank stole the thunder. This season that little boy Casey, second year in the big league, the one who kept falling over last season, is out in front because Ducati built a faster bike, and stayed out in front because, against all the odds, he can win a fair fight. Even crew chief Jeremy Burgess, crew chief to Doohan before Rossi, has come out and said that Casey has all but tied it up.

And now he's wanted for tax evasion.

Not the first major-league sportsman, won't be the last. But, according to the press, it should never have happened not because he should be able to afford competent accountants but because he's cute.

A personal plea: Please, for the love of whatever god you hold holy, realise that there is a difference between looking good and being good, between skill and personality, between skill at riding a motorbike and skill at accountancy!

In what parallel universe is this statement anything but risible: "“There is a special sorrow ... in discovering that even a boy who is young, lucky, a genius in his field, the freshest and most unusual among personalities to have come out in recent years, is mixed up in the same old intolerable muck that makes this country unliveable,” a
la Repubblica columnist said in a front-page editorial."

Luck, genius and minty freshness have nothing to do with the quality of your accountants, and never has and never will. I remember years ago that the English were baffled by the fact that Shane Warne, a master of the most subtle of the arts of cricket, was such as an objectionable trailor-trash yob. Hey, guess what? A delicate grip bears no relationship whatsoever to a delicate personality or, for that matter, a grip upon reality.

Ben Collins is a junkie, Jason Akermanis is a wanker, Shane Warne is a dickhead and Valentino Rossi has at the very least been given bad advice by the people trusted to look after his affairs while he spends 7 days a week concentrating on exploiting the laws of physics.

Deal with it.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Hey! Google isn't perfect after all!

To be fair, this is probably Firefox's fault. But it might not be.

I have one Firefox window open, and as many tabs as I need. I'm diametrically opposed to JWZ on this. And I have all links, except from the address bar or the sidebar (and I can't work out how to make that one cooperate) or that are within the same website, open in new tabs. All of them. Bookmarks from menu or sidebar or toolbar: New tab. Websites external to the one I'm on: New tab. Links opened from external programs: New tab.

But Google doesn't cooperate. It hasn't always been like this, and I'm not sure who changed what, but links from a Google search open in that tab. Unless I middle-click, which means open here. But then a link might be going to open in a new tab instead, which means they will now open in the same tab, which is what I didn't want. Or look! A Google preference to open all links in a new page! No, sorry, doesn't work: They all open in the same new tab.

This is getting quietly but persistently fucking infuriating. And it happens on both my XP box at work and my Linux box at home, and not all behaviours do that. So I'm blaming Google until informed otherwise.

There is a fine line between genius and...


Seriously, this post exists purely for the almost entirely pointless reason of arguing quite emphatically that at no time should you ever say "There is a fine line between genius and madness" or "All genius is tinged with a little madness" or anything of the sort.

There is a vast and depressingly tragic gulf between genius and madness. Madness is not nice, not cool, not helpful and should not be bandied about like that. Madness leads to drug abuse, unemployment, violent paranoia, homelessness and alienation. Madness leads to jail time. It is possible to be an absent-minded professor, but it is not possible to be a mad genius. It just doesn't work like that.

Thank you.

Best pro-piracy comment EVER

This is, by itself, excellent news:

BBC Brain Story series available online.

But check out Vaughan's comment, the second one down. Fantastic!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

What I want from a motorcycle.

I think I have now been riding long enough to start putting down some experience-based reasons to prefer certain features in a motorbike, rather than "sexy", "X likes it" or "hey, that sounds cool!"

Therefore, this post is pretty much me thinking out loud, and for as much for my own future benefit as for any sharing of opinions.

Therefore, when I replace my 14yo 600cc Yamaha with a brand new bike, it will:

Have two cylinders. I don't like four-cylinder bikes. The way they produce their power is just wrong. I have ridden Yamaha's TDM900, and the engine makes me a little bit weak at the knees. I like my engine, but at any speed it has to be revved to 6,000 to do anything, which means gear changes, and I'd prefer an engine for the road to be much more flexible, not to mention the better feel, sound and engineering elegance of a twin. A few weeks ago I rode the TDM into town to try and find a bulb for the XJ. I don't think I got out of 3rd gear - 2nd would do everything except trickling along at walking pace - cruising comfortably at 60km/h and getting to 120 before redline. Now that I like. I would be prepared to consider: I would talk to Triumph about a triple.

Heated grips. I'm not going to argue about this. My hands are my weak point for winter riding. I would quite happily risk frost-bitten cheeks and wrap a scarf around my neck if only my fingers would keep working. I have winter gloves plastered with very sophisticated brand-names, and they're not enough. I need heated grips, dammit. I would be prepared to consider: No, I wouldn't. This is not negotiable!

More power. Do I really have to explain this one? It doesn't even have to be bigger: A brand new 650 V-twin from Suzuki or Hyosung (engine designed by Suzuki) gets 160% of the power of my 600c four. That'd be enough. For about a year (evil laugh). I would be prepared to consider: Why bother compromising?

A comfortable riding position. My current bike has an old and cheap frame, old and cheap engine, old and cheap brakes and suspension that showed its limitations even when it was new, and yet is quite capable of getting me in serious legal trouble even with my inexperience and fear of pain. Therefore, riding around town in a racer crouch is a pointless exercise in pathetic penile-insecurity promotion. I want to be able to spend two hours on the bike and not be crippled by cramp. I'd like to be able to spend four hours and be comfortable, but that's got more to do with my physical fitness than the bike. This basically translates into what I've got now: A little bit sporty, but still easy. Which basically means a sports tourer, which is what I'm leaning towards anyway. I would be prepared to consider: A dual-sport with an upright position. I know full well how dynamically capable they are, but the position would take me a while to adjust to, particularly the height and the pendulum feeling you get leaning into corners.

A good range. At the moment, you can buy a hoon bike that has a range of 90km. What the fuck is the point? I ride that to and from work each day. The TDM can go for more than 500km, which is very nice, the XJ for 260km at least, which is comfortable. A big tank makes life easier. I would be prepared to consider: Compromise only if it was really worth it.

Flexibility. Must be able to go hard. Must be able to go far. Must be comfortable. Must be easy at slow speeds and stop-start traffic. Why compromise? I would be prepared to consider: No, not necessary. Bikes nowadays are so good that unless you want to race regularly, there is no point in not getting a jack-of-all-trades. The capabilities of the cheap TDM are so far out of my league that splitting hairs is an exercise in wanking, not usefulness.

Rough road ability. I don't mean a Long Way Round BMW or KTM, I just mean happy dealing with dirt. I'm in Australia, ferchristsakes. This is where TDM/Tiger/V-Strom comes good, even on road tyres. I would be prepared to consider: This is one area where I'm not fussed, but it could be the casting vote.

Adjustable suspension. Come on. If I can buy fully-adjustable-everything suspension on a $1,000 mountain bike, why am I stuck with not even being able to adjust preload on the front forks of a $13,000 motorbike? Even the best chassis will be let down by the factory specifying suspension that isn't suited to the rider, or the rider and their pillion and their long weekend luggage. I will be prepared to consider: Realistically, I'll probably get small amounts of adjustability only at whatever price I'll be prepared to pay.

Luggage. If it came with factory luggage, great! Right now, Suzuki are giving away a three-piece set of hard, lockable Givi luggage with most of their touring bikes, the bastards. Right when I'm not in a position to take advantage of this! Hyosung give away soft luggage with their GT650S, which happens to be my favourite of their bikes anyway, and all Triumph tourers, including the rather interesting
used-to-be-a-dual-sport Tiger, come with hard panniers standard. I would be prepared to consider: Buying it separately, of course I would, but why put yourself out of pocket needlessly?

A bit of design flair or passion. Why the hell else do you buy a bike? Unless you're weird and go only on utility (and the BMW dealership will be happy to meet you), you buy a bike on emotion as much as anything else. The final decision will never be fully justifiable on logic alone. Logic would have told me to buy a Honda because they're always the most reliable when I was looking for a first bike, but I refused to do this because Hondas are unattractive, sound bad and are built by Honda (I'm sorry if you have one - remember, these are my opinions only). So instead I got a merely very reliable bike. I like the alien look of the TDM, but not the clunky proportions of the V-Strom, as good as the Suzuki is. No, I still won't get a Honda. The Ducati Multistrada, while it may have been designed in Pierre Terblanche's "weird" phase, has solid amounts of highly entertaining character. The BMW F800 is covered with clever features, as well as looking rather nice. Even the butt-ugly R-series BMWs are distinctive instead of bland. And when Hyosung can sell a very sexy 650 for $9,000 there really is no excuse for putting up with bland. I would be prepared to consider: No. I won't. (Incidentally, I will also put "sounds really good" in here, and a V-twin means it will. Even the Japanese are building fantastic sounding twins now, and they took a long time to understand).

Clever. See above - without a bit of engineering cleverness, I'll find it difficult to be impressed by a bike. I would be prepared to consider: No, not here either. This is one major reason I like the BMW F800, actually, even if the forks are conventional.

It works really well. I mean, seriously. I don't mean "can't pick a fault", I mean "don't have to swear at it". Ducatis still have a lingering aura of unreliability, so I'd be cautious about getting one (and the wankers who own and sell them don't help, either). Moto Guzzi have fixed their gearbox problems and now work perfectly, but, frankly, they're no longer as interesting as they used to be. Who changed the styling? Where is the true passion of the Daytona, one of the sexiest bikes ever built? Traditionally, this requirement was hard to reconcile with the above two - BMWs didn't have much passion, Japanese bikes didn't have any, and Italian or British bikes kept breaking. Luckily, none of that is true any more, and the field is wide and glorious. I would be prepared to consider: Don't even think about asking on this one. The answer is no.

Semi-faired. I don't actually like fully-faired bikes, and having dropped one I don't want to have to worry about putting a big crack in an expensive piece of plastic, not to mention having to remove anything just to clean the engine or check the fuel filter. I don't like naked bikes - uncomfortable, ugly and inefficient. I like semi-faired bikes, bikini fairings and the like. See TDM and TRX, F800, GT650S or (ooohhh, I feel a bit light-headed) the Guzzi Daytona. I would be prepared to consider: This is a flexible requirement: It has to make me happy to look at it. The touring version of the F800 is less attractive, but if it worked better for me I'd get it.

A power outlet. Yes, bikes can come with a cigarette-lighter outlet for accessories like CD players, fridges (not joking - actually, I wonder if you can get refrigerated panniers yet?) electrically heated riding suits (again, not joking) or bike-to-bike or rider-to-pillion intercoms (damn nice idea). May as well! I would consider: Not really relevant, this is a wish, not a demand.

Picky bastard, aren't I? Luckily, I still have two years to see what the market does.

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