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.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

"Solar power and zero-gee sex"

NASA has green-lit another shuttle mission. NASA has been in the news a bit lately - a sex scandal involving an astronaut having the hots for another astronaut, astronauts drinking on the job, sabotage...

So they're hoping that the public will focus on the job and stop obsessing about the scandals (link from ABC Aus).

I don't know about you, but what this member of the public is thinking is "What are they going to get up to this time?"

Strange insights into the way minds work

I have just sat through a meeting with a representative of an accreditation agency, examining my (well, my department's, which means my) progress against a Quality Action Plan.

Ignore the title, that's bad enough but ignore it for the time being.

We were talking about collecting demographic information on clients, and I stated that we now had the systems in place, paper and electronic, to collect ethnic status on clients where appropriate.

"What about indigenous status?" He asked.

Huh? I'm sorry, I thought "ethnic" referred to any racial/cultural grouping, Anglo-Saxon included? I thought ATSI status is a specific ethnic status. Apparently not. I carefully worded a response indicating that yes, we did do that, there was even a specific box for just that (discriminatory) purpose, but I was also very careful to make mention of ATSI being a sub-set of "ethnic". He appeared happy with that.

I'm not entirely sure I was happy with his question.

Once again, it's the little things that really piss you off

I have a fondness for full-screen windows, which means that Alt-Tab (in any environment I'm playing in - don't know what the OSX options are, don't get a chance to play there) or some form of pager or taskbar is how I navigate between programs. And I have an almost irrational need to minimise/hide a window I'm finished with so that I know it's out of the way, instead of lurking ready to unexpectedly be there and take an unwanted mouse-click when I'm least expecting it.

This is just one of the numerous good reasons I have for my intense loathing of programs that (are allowed to) jump up and steal focus, obscuring what I was concentrating on and receiving seventeen key clicks before my brain catches up with first my eyes and then my hands.

One consequence, however, is that I will ask for a program to open, jump to another program to check on something while waiting for program1 to respond, wonder where it got to and, if I'm on WindowsXP at work, hit Windows-M to minimise all windows and display the desktop.

Here's where it gets entertaining. Warning or dialogue boxes don't get a taskbar entry, so you don't know they're there. And if I hit Windows-M when a box is sitting waiting for action (press OK or enter a password, usually), I don't get to see it. So I try and open the same program again, which does nothing, because I haven't responded to it yet.

So I have to use Alt-Tab to see if there's a dialogue box I don't know about...

Which quickly becomes annoying. Then graduates to infuriating.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

I hear Spike Milligan singing "Eat more fruit!"

This is far too funny on so many levels:

Indian cops go bananas over necklace thief (ABC)

But honestly, at that point wouldn't you try surgery? With a khukuri, if necessary.

We're a suspicious bunch, aren't we?

There is nothing that will not make us think "Methinks he doth protest too much!" Or, alternatively, "Hey, what are they trying to pull?!"

Surprise, surprise,
the Federal Government's new Industrial Relations advertising campaign is making people more frightened, not less.

I myself have, on numerous occasions, thought "Oooh, I hadn't considered
that possibility!"

They really don't have a clue, do they?

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