Tuesday, 3 July 2007

How to tell when a democracy is not yet mature

You get a headline like "Price of machetes drops after elections" (Nigeria).


I'll be honest: I don't know what actually means. But it sounds good.

Cultures have a way of surprising you. Take Japan: I have it on repeated good authority that the movie Lost in Translation was scarily accurate in its portrayal of the culture-shock experienced by Westerners. The country also has a reputation for being the most self-focused, in-group, racist culture in the world, to say nothing of the most scarily warrior-culture-focused (Europe has a tradition of honourable suicide, but has never made such a big - or compulsory - deal of it). I remember, faintly, that in a world-wide anthropological assessment of native cultures the Japanese were beaten only by New Zealand's Maori as the most aggressive. The Inuit (Eskimo) peoples were the least aggressive.

But then this happens: An international award for non-Japanese artists who practise the delightfully recognisably Japanese style of manga.

I heartily approve.

Monday, 2 July 2007

When you shouldn't have to believe your eyes

I have just started diving into a report on "Implementation of the report of the Report of the Queensland Review of Fatal Mental Health Sentinel Events" (It's a riveting read) when I found my eyeballs assaulted by the following sentence:

"The forms were formatted using Human Factors Engineering principles and were approved by the State-wide Forms Committee."

Ignoring the desperately-risible fact that Queensland Health have a state-wide forms committee:

WTF? "Human Factors Engineering"? I had to google it just to stop my brain spasming painfully. I found the Wikipedia entry, (note the note asking for an expert to say something) and saw the delightful comment that this phrase is used mostly in America. Everyone else calls it ergonomics. Well, that doesn't surprise me at all. Just what sort of a name is "Human Factors Engineering" anyway? Admission that engineers previously couldn't care whether humans or, say, camels were using their products? The reason why my Toyota's engine can be such a bastard to work on? A feel-good bubbluegum phrase invented by a Dilbert-esque cubical drone who needed to justify his existence and couldn't be bothered working?

And which principles? Apple have their Human Interface Guidelines (a name I have very little extra time for - I know, let's start a campaign in defence of non-human Apple customers), so do Amiga, so do Gnome and god-knows who else. Just saying "Human Factors Engineering principles" is a colossal cop-out of catastrophic proportions.

No shit, Sherlock, redux

The ABC Reports:

"A national report assessing Australia's water resources has found that governments are making important decisions without enough information."

Oh really? Gee, that's a surprise! And I thought the government assessed everything fully before acting with no regard for publicity, vote-buying, electioneering or political expediency, not to mention towing the party ideology!

I await with interest the report which says that MPs tend to vote along party lines.

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