Thursday, 25 December 2008

Let's think laterally about refugee policy

I have a suggestion. It's not created out of any very deep thought, or even halfway decent consideration. It's just an idea, considered briefly, and thrown into the world to see what happens to it.

These are fairly indisputed facts:

  • There is a massive refugee problem worldwide, and particularly in Australia, which has become something of a destination of choice and has a large and ugly legacy of (concentration) camps scattered around Aus and the neighbouring region to highlight this.
  • This population of the displaced contains both political asylum seekers fleeing death or torture, and the ambitious opportunistic, looking for a better life in a more affluent society with plumbing and clean water, and everyone in between.
  • Australia spends quite a large amount of money each year, I believe over and above UN requests, in international aid programs.

Can you see where I'm going with this?

My suggestion for debate is this: whenever Australia accepts an asylum seeker, we take the cost of doing so out of our aid to that country. You chase your own people away, you can pay us to look after them.

Quite obviously, there are a huge number of arguments around carrot-versus-stick approaches to encouraging behaviour change, and I don't believe that punishment has any legitimacy as a useful tool. However, if we can link aid moneys to human rights performance indicators, can we get it past the moral philosophers, and should we?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Not just bad editorialising, but bad editing as well: road safety reporting

This is a tale about journalists who are Clueless in coup coup land, and the editorial slants that this reveals.

The problem is this article:
Fatal bikecrash tips Queensland road toll to 316 (Courier Mail). First problem: "bikecrash" is one word? Since when? "England test upset" might be (Drop The Dead Donkey, can't find the quote listed anywhere), but I have never seen "bike" and "crash" shoved so carelessly together before.

So far, we've got a bald and perfectly objective statement. Most fatal road accidents get reported in some way, so so far, so good.

However. If you read the article (it's not long), you will notice that they refer to "a man riding a powerful sports 1000cc motorbike". WTF? This is not standard reporting. I can not remember any mention of the bike that has crashed unless it is a scooter (please let's not argue about this, it's got two wheels and an engine, it's a bike) or there was a club run involved, or the journalist recognised the name "Harley Davidson".

This worries me for the simple reason that the Courier Mail is even less not adverse to editorialising news content than most outlets aren't.

Just lately, they have stated (quotes not guaranteed to be accurate): "Government backflip puts Queensland water supply at risk" on water recycling, which I heartily suspect was a backflip on the Mail's part, and have started giving heavy publicity to the whole issue of young carers (good on them, at least) in the news pages, because they support an annual fundraising event.

So this focus on "powerful sports 1000cc motorbike" (as though Robyn Ironside even knows the significance of any of those words) is a worry. Is the Mail about to start being nasty to superbikes? (Once they work out what the categories are?)
Are they going to start calling for power restrictions, without having the decency of targeting those fucking annoying import Japanese coupes and SS Commodores, as well?

What about "Heavy cruiser-style bike"? Or "low-powered scooter ridden by someone without a bike licence"? How about a little even-handedness: "Car collided with garishly coloured, loud bike with a rider in bright yellow leathers."

I await developments with depression.

I will also, I swear, keep an eye out for all bike accident reports in 2009, and will collate how many appear to be written with an understanding of the issues, with objectivity, or with evidence of targeting bikers. And, if I can, I'll analyse each one in these pages.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

It seems it COULD be worse, after all

Following a history of airline hijacking and bombings very nearly as old as airline transportation itself, Al Qaeda has managed to frighten airlines and various federal authorities into instigating a string of measures so draconian that it's hard to keep track of the human rights and logic violations at work.

But, it seems that it could, after all, be worse.

According to the highly entertaining History Without the Boring Bits, in 1972, Jack Jensen, of Fort Worth, Texas (surprise, surprise) suggested installing a hypodermic syringe underneath each seat, allowing hijackers to be injected with a disabling or fatal dose of... something, at the pilot's discretion. Airlines allegedly decided that passengers wouldn't be able to relax, and decided not to adopt this system.

We also have the problem that, quite apart from putting that authority in the hands of the pilot... Don't most terrorists stand up when they start with the whole announcing-themselves-and-making-demands schtick? Particularly if they know about counter-measures like that?

Random design comments

It's sad what you notice, sometimes.

Take The Dark Knight. Apart from being a disappointingly sketchy and shallow display of Christian Bale's talents, and a heavy - if fairly deserved - cutting to emphasise the recently departed Heath Ledger, although a more sophisticated human story than I was expecting, it also lead me to notice a poor bit of design on the world's most beautiful motorcycle.

The MV Agusta F4 has held that title, with little hope of anything supplanting it - yes, even the new Ducati 1098 - since it was penned by the fresh-from-the-916 master himself, Masimo Tamburini, as a 750cc superbike in 1998. Most of what's happened since has been evolution of components, and a string of limited-edition variants which sell for heart-stopping amounts of money. But it is
still arguably the finest looking motorbike on the planet - all the proportions are right, it's elegant with understated flanks and a touch of aggression about the fuel tank and the posture, and it has such a beautifully simple headlight that it still looks better than every incarnation of a Japanese superbike for the last ten years - even the best R1 couldn't quite match it.


While Bruce Wayne is riding through Gotham on his F4 (
Bastard!) I couldn't help but notice the tail.

The F4 has four stubby exhausts underneath the taillight, which look fairly cool, and the taillight itself is neat and sharp-looking. Unfortunately, there is a complete visual break between the two, and the whole back end of the bike just looks jarringly out of sync with itself, which is both odd and unexpected
from the man who gave us that sublime front.

Oh, well. Maybe he's not an arse man.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Minor nuisances from the mobile world.

There are (please don't be surprised by this, it would be really depressing) a huge number of applications available for S60-powered phones like the N95 which use network connections. In fact, even ebook readers can go away and talk to their own stores.

So it can be quite tedious to have to tell an application which connection you want it to use, between the mobile network and any local WiFi networks, every single frigging time.

And there is one, that's one application which handles this intelligently. Shozu. Specify connections, tell it which to try first, and it will then work it's way through the list. Which means that if I'm within range of an accessible and free WiFi node, I won't have to worry about getting slugged data charages.

Can't everyone else work this out?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Your daily dose of ludicrous: red pens

If teachers mark students' work with a red pen they run the danger of offending children because red is an "aggressive colour". See Courier mail.

I am nearly at a loss for words.

I can, in fact, hardly do better than the words of Deputy Opposition Leader Mark McArdle, who said:

"Given your 10-year-old Labor government presides over the lowest numeracy and literacy standards of any state in Australia, don't you think it's time we focused on classroom outcomes rather than these kooky, loony, loopy, lefty policies?"

Does it really soften the blow if your essay is returned so smothered with purple ink you can't read it, or the "F" is written in green, or you find "Rat shit" scrawled across the top in a fetching shade of mauve?

But wait, there's more.

Just to illustrate that Queensland seems to be adept at breeding proto-fascist governments of any stripe, see this brilliant piece of wartime-government evasion from our premier:

"Premier Anna Bligh called the question trivial at a time of "such economic peril"."

Well, Anna, if you can't focus on competing demands of government at the same time, resign.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

No, it really is about revenue raising

Queensland police, who appear to have noticed that their current speeding deterrents aren't working, are considering publicising the locations of mobile speed cameras, in an attempt to get people to slow down (Courier Mail).

Now, there are many arguments over the use of sneakily hidden (and don't ever try to argue that they aren't - hiding behind bushes, in gulleys beside the road, over the crest of hills...) speed cameras to monitor speed limits. There are at least as many arguments over what the speed limits should be, and how much speeding actually contributes to the road toll, but let's not go there right now.
The main complaint, in detailed form, can be summarised thusly:
  • There is no deterrent effect to random speeding fines turning up in the mail a couple of weeks after the event.
  • Therefore, there're obviously not serious about actually stopping people from speeding.
  • Therefore, they're not actually interested in the road toll.
  • Therefore, cameras are a revenue-raising exercise.
I think that just about sums it up nicely. Well, have a look at the nice, sweeping, general, claim in that article: If people slow down before getting to the cameras, and don't get booked, then funds received from speed cameras could drop by $30 million. I'll write that again, shall I:

$30 million

So: Every year, speed camera fines add up to somewhere in the region of $30 million, and people are still speeding, and the road toll keeps on climbing. Now, while I'm not in favour of conspiracy theories which claim that the government is doing this deliberately in order to make as much money as possible (medical costs from accident victims, let alone care costs, probably exceed that each year), do you think I would be justified in claiming that we can see here the mark of incompetence?

  • Item: People are still speeding
  • Item: The road toll is getting worse.
  • Item: They've only just now started trying something different.
Yep, doesn't seem all that competent an administration to me.

Now, let's get back to the more contentious issue of whether the police should be doing anything about speeding at all.

Please note, from the article:

A similar move in 2001 by South Australian police corresponded with a sharp drop in the level of speeding detections.

"But no independent analysis of the program had been done to link the drop with publicity of camera sites."

Notice what's missing? No mention at all of accident rates, or even safety in general, vague terms.

The entire article is talking about speeding, and narry a mention of "every K over is a killer" to be seen.

Which leads me to these three conclusions:
  • Incompetent or bored and careless journalists
  • A new editorial direction from the Courier Mail
  • South Australia didn't see a change in accident rates coinciding with this drop in speeding offences detected.
Now, I can think of two very good possible explanations for that last conclusion:
  1. It's not the speed that's the problem, it's the incompetence of the drivers
  2. The way people react to an approaching speed camera (braking, taking eyes of the road to glance at the speedometer, nervous twitch of the steering wheel, flashing lights at oncoming drivers who get distracted, etc.) causes crashes.
Obviously, those two are compatible, and indeed probably occur together more often than not.

Here's a thought: train drivers properly. Maybe when they're able to judge safe speeds, distances, and the behaviour of other road users, they might not exceed those limits quite so much.

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. That would require the government doing something pro-active and innovative, when it's so much easier to just try and punish, when any matric-level psychology student could explain that punishments don't work.

What I particularly love is the way that the Courier Mail is spinning this: "Revenue to fall". Oh no, if the police try something which might have an impact upon speeding, the government will be worse off!

Are they trying to be sarcastic? That's my job...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

That CAN'T be what the word means!

The prototype Ducati Streetfighter is the ugliest motorcycle it has ever been my horror to perceive. It look as though a hurricane swept through a junkyard and managed to assemble a motorcycle. It looks as though Ducati had a think, and thought "Well, the Benelli TNT is the maddest naked bike on the market, so not only will we have to build a bike more powerful than that, but uglier as well!" And, damn them, they succeeded. There are more jagged edges and conflicting shapes on that bike than on Honda's entire catalogue.

So please, for the sake of my sanity, explain to me how it managed to win 'Most Beautiful Bike Of The Show" in Milan?

Beautiful? Oh, please gods, no. How do you justify calling that "beautiful"? There's one beautiful angle on the entire bike - rear three-quarters.

What is this new standard of "beauty" that focuses more on eye-watering visual impact than upon, well, beauty?

I despair of humanity, I really do.

No, your irrational and childish beliefs are NOT special

I've already commented on my attitudes towards defamation and religion, here.

(Anybody who feels, at any point while reading this, that I'm a tool of Satan and have it all wrong and are being offensive, really should go and read that first, and then wonder if it's really worth your effort venting at me.)

Now, thanks to the Bronze Dog, I have been made aware that the world is imploding into a B-grade anti-utopian movie plot. The United Nations is condemning defamation of religion.

Okay, maybe you should go and read that earlier post of mine anyway, to get some idea of how complex the whole mess of "defamation law" is.

To start with, is it defamatory to speak the truth? The traditional judicial defence is that if a statement is proven true, it's not defamatory because it's not injuring your reputation, merely lowering it to the status it should have had already. Although in some jurisdictions you still have to argue that you were justified in speaking the truth.

So, if I were to say that the Christian church is basing its teachings (sorry, brainwashings) upon a book which has been translated numerous times, mistranslated, had sections excised and other sections added, and can not accurately be said to represent the teachings as delivered through Jesus: Is that defamatory?

If I were to say that Islam as traditionally and, in many cases, continuously, practiced is, by the standards of my culture, inextricably tied with pederasty, a justice system which has gross human rights violations built in not to mention a complete lack of understanding of human behaviour, and has been responsible for ongoing violatiosn of basic human rights (including hte one about being able to stay alive) world-wide: Is that defamatory?

Of course, I could add that Mormonism violates several basic precepts of my society to do with marriage and basic freedoms as well as having a belief system which moves me to laughter; I could add that Scientology was founded upon works of fiction written by a failed fiction author who is reported to have once stated "If you really want to make money, start a religion", that it has medically unsupported and medically contra-indicated practices, that it shows a complete lack of understanding of psychophysiology and is, in addition, rather silly and uses a basic voltmeter to try and analyse your soul. Besides which, Tom Cruise is a dickwad.

I could also add that the Moonies have given us an invaluable new term of away-with-the-fairiedom and that Sihks have one of the most absurd dress codes I have ever seen.

But what's the point? The world is so addicted to Arab oil that they have a political force over and above all rationality.

So here's what I would like to see: If the UN really upholds defamation of religion as being, like, wrong, let's see the Vatican sue the nearest large Islamic body for defamation. After all, you can't defend the truth-and-the-sole-truth of your religion without saying that others are wrong, can you? And hell, isn't calling a belief system which claims ultimate authority over truth, wrong, defamatory?

Pass the popcorn and, in case this gets completely out of hand, pass the Kool-Aid as well.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Here we go....

So: It appears that Barrack Hussein Obama, the first non-white president-elect of the United States of America, has made moves to appoint the first black Attorney General.

I have a proposal to make: The first person who says something along the lines of "See! They stick together!" or "This country is being taken over! Everybody go for your guns!" gets taken out the back and shot.

Link to ABC News Online story "Obama to appoint first black A-G"

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

So what they're saying, is that it's either fake, or they're guilty?

Gulf War Syndrome. Probably the most notorious and suspicious health complaint of recent years. Distinct from cases of lungs being eroded by exposure to mustard gas, or confirmed cancer linked to depleted uranium (which many people claim is so weakly radioactive that you basically have to breath in the dust and have it sit in your lungs for years to be at risk), Gulf War Syndrome is a vague and poorly defined disorder (start ringing warning bells now) which afflicts veterans and frustrates diagnosticians. There are weirder dodgy diagnoses, such as Morgellon's Disease, but Gulf War Syndrome is much more widely known.

Most of the informed, knowledgeable commentary I've seen is that GWS is simply PTSD and other psychopathologies, and when you look at the list of symptoms - "persistent headaches, widespread pain, cognitive difficulties, unexplained fatigue, skin rashes, chronic diarrhoea and digestive and respiratory problems" - anyone with a passing knowledge of psychology or medicine in general should see that they are, all of them, possible as symptoms of a strong stress reaction.

And now we have this: Gulf War Illness is real, report finds (ABC News Online).

It has taken since 2002, but a Research Advisory Committee has finally come out and said "Well, there's definitely something going on, but we're not sure what it is. But, dammit, it's there".

Okay, sarcasm mode off for a moment - it's not uncommon for causes to be a bit vague. Just look at Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which has some MRI evidence backing it up. But the problem with GWS is that it displays some depressingly common patterns - self-reports of cognitive deficits exceed actual test resutls, which are age-group normal; the most common symptoms are common in the general population anyway; death rates from general causes are the same as for non-veterans; and, oh yes, my favourite: every major military conflict results in a large collection of veterans with vague symptomatology, a condition which was labelled "shell shock" after WWI and is now known as (drum roll please) PTSD.

So I remain skeptical of people who cry "Gulf War Illness!" when a good swath of tests has found no toxicology, no radiation, and no physiological abnormalities. The US government has an obligation to care for them, but the type of care which is most appropriate may not be what the veterans were expecting. Hey, some of them may even have picked up CFS by pure coincidence.

Have a look at Quackwatch or Wikipedia if you really want to look into the debate.

What stunned me about that ABC article, however, is the list of possible causes: A drug given to troops, pesticides used during the war (why? It's not like Iraq has forests the way Vietnam does, sorry, did), exposure to smoke from oil-well fires and low-level exposure to sarin gas during the destruction of captured stocks.

At this point, any personal injury lawyer or OH&S professional is jumping up and down and shouting about employer responsibility.

Basically, of the four options mentioned, one is the direct result of standard practice within the army, and I can't wait to see the legal shit-fight if that ever gets proven, and the other three are the result of the army failing to provide its soldiers with appropriate and adequate safety clothing. Try doing thaton a building site and see how long you last!

If this report is true, and there is or are physical ailments caused by any of this exposure, it is taking the concept of "friendly fire" to disturbing and innovative levels which not even the US Armed Forces had previously demonstrated themselves capable of.

Link to ABC News Online story "Gulf War Illness is real, report finds"

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Scumbags on the road

I had to drive into town this morning. I was gone about an hour, including time spent wandering around Supercheap looking vaguely at anything that might be interesting, and went straight there and straight back. So of course, I only ran into two annoying idiots.

The first one was a fat, silver-haired man with a golfing cover on the spare wheel of his little Suzuki 4WD. He drove at the speed limit where nobody drives at the speed limit, which you can't legitimately complain about, but then, approaching the big double-lane roundabout, he went into the outside lane and then attempted to straighten the roundabout by casually moving into the inside lane and then back to the outside on the exit, sweeping right across the road. I was very nearly drawn level with him when he tried it the first time, too. Illegal, dangerous, rude, inconsiderate and completely unnecessary.

The second one was a small, weedy man with a neat little almost-Hitler moustache and the crazed eyes of a bitter, small, weedy little man. He was driving an old 2WD Hilux ute, and had one hand out the window, resting on the wing mirror which, clearly, he was therefore unable to use to actually see what was behind him - you know, the general intended function of a mirror. Even more disturbingly, when I first spotted this he was running his hand back and forth along the top, as though caressing it. He then went around the last corner at about 30km/h. And the pulled over without indicating.

Scumbags of marketing

As I have to look after a Windows computer (these are my sins for having once done it professionally, oh so very long ago...), I found myself having to go and find a registry cleaner.

Here's a tip for you: If it says "Free download!" or "Free scan!", pray that one day you get to meet the company, so you can punch them in the face.

Yes, you can download for free, and you can scan for free and be told that you have 750 errors, but you can't actually do anything about any of them until you pay to register it.

I recommend, if you feel you need a good registry checker, Glarysoft Registry Repair. I have no idea how many other actually free ones are available, but that was the first one I found, and it seemed to actually do something.

It didn't actually fix my problem, which was Nokia Map Loader not running due to an Msvcr80.dll error, but unlike any of the ones I had to download and install before I found out that they were ass-bandits who expected me to shell out money only after running a scan, it was incredibly non-annoying.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

How to tell when a driver is not paying attention

Step 1: Find them sitting in the right hand lane, not overtaking, with nothing next to them in the left hand lane.

Step 2: Get right up close behind them, encouraging them to move over, to no effect.

Step 3: Give up, pull into the left-hand lane, and overtake on the inside (which happens to be illegal in this country, when travelling faster than 60).

Step 4: Notice that as soon as you go past, they wake up and move over.

only explanation that is at all reasonable is that they simply had no use for their mirrors, and were blissfully ignorant of anything not happening directly in front of them.

Incompetent, dangerous, idiots.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Reshelving incorrectly shelved books

Categories in bookshops may be at times arbitrary and a bit vague, but they are at least categories.

When those categories are violated, nobody at all is helped: People finding a book in the wrong section weren't looking for it and it's a nuisance, whereas people who were looking for it don't know where to find it.

And then there's incorrect categorisation that insults everybody.

Takes, for example, this:

Dissent over Descent is a desperate attempt to argue that there is scientific lack of concensus over the basics of evolution, that Darwin doubted his own theory, and that there is something to be said in favour of allowing religion into a science classroom.

If you're not already laughing and you need a brief overview of the legitimacy of that claim, go to P. Z. Myer's synopsis of a review, here.

So imagine my disgust, some time ago, when I first walked into the University, yes University bookshop and found it sitting in the "Science" section, nestled cheek by jowl with books by Richard Feynman, who must surely have been spinning in his grave.

So I moved them to the "New Age" section, where they belonged.

And then last week, I was once again the Uni bookshop, and checked, and lo and behold, they had once again been put in the wrong spot. Tsk, tsk.

So this time I got photographic proof when I moved them to the more appropriate spot:

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Headline of the day

Rogue wallabies terrorise aged home residents in Townsville

Do vehicles have souls?

If you take "soul" to be a psycho-linguistic, socially developed concept which operationalises and explains our experiences of consciousness, emotional experience and endurance of memory, and;

If you accept that consciousness, emotional experience and all other psychological processes are the result of extraordinarily complicated and rapid neural processes which may in fact even include the effects of quantum uncertainty and even superposition, then;

You can posit that vehicles, as machines which rely for their operation upon the complicated and carefully coordinated and tuned interaction of multiple disparate and finely engineered parts, do have a form of crude soul.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Note to budding superheros: Lycra melts and offers no protection. Wear bike leathers.

I have an idea for a vigilante-style superhero comic.

It's called "Driver Education Rider and his side-kick, Orbiting Hyper Death Space Ray".

It works something like this:

  • Driver Education Rider is riding through traffic, minding his own business, when a large 4WD forces him to take evasive action by merging into him.
  • DER pulls up next to the 4WD at the lights.
  • DER: "Excuse me sir, but did you see me when you changed lanes back there?"
  • Driver: "Huh?"
  • DER: *PUNCH*
His sidekick, Orbiting Hyper-Death Space Ray, is in constant radio contact.

  • DER: "DER to Orbiting Hyper-Death Space Ray. Did you see that blue vehicle pull out of that side-street?"
  • OHDSR: "Sure did, skipper!"
  • DER: "Good work, boy!"
  • OHDSR: "Arf! Arf!"
Or, maybe not.

If I had any drawing talent at all I'd do a couple of episodes, for the hell of it.

P.S.: I toyed with the question of whether he should be "Driver Education Rider" or "Driver Re-Education Rider", but since most drivers in need of re-education don't appear to have been educated in the first place, I settled on DER.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

It Came From Beyond The Flyscreen

Courtesy of the Cairns Post, your daily monster!

I find this incredibly cool. It has all the elements of classic horror: Non-mammalian (and therefore scarier) protagonist, cute and fluffy victim, elements of Shelob (still fairly topical, don't you think?) and right in our own back yard! Run for the hills!

For size comparison, although the uncredited journalist at the Post conveniently left this out, that bird would be about 10cm long, and if you look at the other photos linked off that web page, you will see that they have carefully selected the one that makes the spider look biggest, and therefore scariest.

This is called not lying, because that would be dishonest, but Being Tricky.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The difference between 'Traditional medicine' and 'medicine'

This, from the Courier Mail, is a brilliant example of medical science at work.

Aboriginal man uses traditional medicine as an analgesic. Scientist observes, gets intrigued and, no doubt encouraged by the knowledge that tree bark has already given us one analgesic (that would be "Aspirin"), researches and finds chemicals with pain-relieving properties.

The downside to this is that it is still possible to patent a naturally-occurring chemical, but I will let my strong beliefs in open-access knowledge slide for the time being.

The difference between 'traditional medicine' and 'medicine' is that the former may have built up through superstition, or it may have built up through experience and observation, while the latter has built up entirely through observation, informed by experience: Rigorous, repeated, exhaustive, tedious and mind-numbing observation. Traditional medicine may work, to degrees. Medicine, with due regard for probabilities and individual differences, works.

And then a really crucial part of the article embedded, with depressing predictability, at the end: herbal products may be available within five years, but drugs could take 15 years because of the standards of testing required for approval under Australian regulations.

Herbal products, in other words, don't have to be tested safe the way that carefully tuned drugs need to be.

Remember that.

Link to Courier Mail article 'Aborigine, scientist find pain relief in marjarla tree'

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Queensland needs regulated at-fault driver personal injury insurance

Sorry for the serious title, but this is a serious issue.

I work, and despite trying to wriggle out of it, still work, in the community sector and in brain injury.

I am currently, as a result of a report I am writing for job no. 2, skimming through the add-on at-fault driver protection schemes that most of Queensland's licensed Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurers include with their CTP schemes as an incentive to get more customers.

CTP is automatically attached to vehicle registration, and it covers personal injury, up to and including permanent disability or death. As the medical expenses alone could run over a million dollars for a serious accident, this is a good thing, no matter how much it stings to have to pay half of your registration as compulsory insurance.

The thing is, Queensland (and most of the other states in Australia) have an at-fault scheme - if you were judged to have caused the accident which maimed you, you can fucking well pay your own medical and rehabilitation or care costs.

Which has resulted in the most extraordinary drain on the publicly funded disability support system, and far too many cases of family breakdown as families try to cope with long-term disability resulting from drunken street-racing or simple lapse of concentration.

Which is why the CTP insurers tack-on an at-fault cover, with payouts ranging from laughably inadequate to just about reasonable.

But they all limit themselves to physical, sensory or spinal cord injury. They specifically exclude, all of them, psychiatric illness or psychological disorders. And none of them even make any mention, exclusionary or otherwise, of brain injury. This is the bit that ticks me off. In the Civil Liability Regulation (Qld) 2003, Schedule 4 lists each category of injury covered by regulated, at-fault, CTP. And not only does it list brain injury, it lists Extreme, Serious, Moderate and Minor brain injury. Ditto for mental disorder.

What's going on here? Are they drawing an arbitrary line in the sand to cut costs? Are they counting on community ignorance of the appalling, debilitating effects of brain injury and quietly ignoring the issue? Or is brain injury, with its potential to demand lifetime care costs that make simple quadriplegia pale into insignificance, such a huge cost that they're running scared?

For added hypocrisy value, Suncorp Metway Insurance are a commercial partner of YoungCare, a new and very high-profile provider of 5-star (I'm not joking) age-appropriate (well, kind of) long-term high-care accommodation for young people with brain injury and other debilitating conditions. YoungCare advertised strongly on the brain injury issue. Suncorp appear to be refusing to acknowledge their client group.

Shame, Suncorp, shame, and shame on the rest of you as well.

May the madness please stop now?

(Update: links fixed)

It is not uncommon in this life for people with no basic knowledge of science/medicine/biology/you name it to grab hold of an idea with all the fixity of a tumour-free Tasmanian Devil grabbing hold of a large steak and, refusing to let go, get lifted off the ground by the Park Ranger of actual fact and be left without a leg to stand on.

There are creationists who can't seem to grab the simplest principles of evolution. Flat-earthers who can't grab the simplest principles of gravity. Moon-landing denialists who refuse to listen when people patiently explain away all the things that their earth-bound experience has trouble with.

But although these things may reduce the average level of knowledge or even intelligence of the general population, and may even faintly reduce the pace of progress or even stall it altogether through limiting community or political (and therefore financial) support, few wacko, woo-woo, denialist beliefs are quite so dangerous as the "Vaccines cause autism" crowd, who are slowly dragging us back from the brink of all-but-eradicating measles, whooping couch and others to the point where, once again, hospital beds and graves are being filled by preventable diseases and complications such as encephalitis or meningitis are causing very real long-term disabilities and, just for added irony value, potentially causing autism through pregnant mothers catching rubella.

I was looking, a while back, for a good website which collected their scatter-brained arguments and summarised the (really quite simple to understand, for the most part) rebuttals from actual science. There wasn't one, so I started compiling my own list of web resources

Well, now there is a website I can reference.

First, a bit of background: The whole stupid scare really got off the ground in the UK with a "professional witness" for vaccination injury lawyers called Andrew Wakefield. But the face of vaccination denialism in the USA, where most of the debate is happening, is a former Playboy Playmate and current actress called Jenny McCarthy. To add some proper celebrity endorsement to the united ineptitude of her cause, she's boffing Jim Carey and now
he's putting his foot in his mouth on a regular basis to back her up.

And so the website to go to for a nice concise overview of the vaccination denialism nonsense is called, unfortunately for its international relevance,
Stop Jenny McCarthy.

Go there. Read it. And stop trying to abuse the concept of intelligence by saying things like "But vaccines have formaldehyde in them!" or "I hear what you're saying, but I just wonder why there are so many children being diagnosed with autism". Stop fucking wondering, and start listening to the answers.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Want more proof that conservatives can't stand public dissent?

Australian federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty (pronounced "Kelty") must be one of the more controversial figures in the Australian public service. He demands media blackouts and stumbles through poorly handled terrorism trials, yet he was on the right side of one of the two reasons why I feel disbelieving contempt verging on apopleptic rage for former Prime Minster of The White Picket Fence, John Howard.

The occasion was near the start of Australia's involvement on the absurdly not-even-wrong-ly named "War on Terror", when Keelty went on one of the discussion programs on TV to say something along the lines of "Well, if Australia's involvement might make us a target for terrorist activities, that's something that I have to take into account when considering public safety" and he got absolutely pilloried by Little Johnny for being alarmist. Now, as far as I'm concerned, I want the leaders of my federal police force to think "Hmm... Here's a major change in policy which, it has been suggested, might bring with it risks to the citizens of Australia. Let's look at that, shall we?" And when they do so, I stand behind every principle of openness that ever struggled to raise its head in a democracy, and demand that they let the public know that they're considering this and taking appropriate steps.

Strike one against John Howard.

Actually, strike two: strike one was when Little Johnny stormed out of a radio interview back when the GST election loomed, after saying that a question concerning the effect that the GST may have on the street price of Heroin was "I don't think that's a very appropriate question." Fuck you, Johnny. It was a question concerning a possible connection between your economic policy and a highly destructive and massively illegal substance. How is that not appropriate?

And now, this absolutely beautiful comment:

"A drugs educator says Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty would not have made remarks regarding the effectiveness of strategies to curb illegal drug demand under the previous federal government." - Keelty's drug demand comments amazing: educator (ABC News Online)

The synopsis is that Keelty has addressed a conference in which he said that the police can't rest on their laurels and point to statistics, but must find more appropriate and more effective strategies for countering demand for illegal substances.

If anybody is not cheering yet, you probably aren't the right audience for this blog.

The educator in question is Paul Dillon from Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, who has spent a fair bit of time on Triple J as a guest over the years, and who was quoted as saying everything but "He wouldn't have dared say something progressive like that when John Howard was in power."

I almost like Mr Keelty. I definitely like Paul Dillon

Link to ABC New Online article; Keelty's drug demand comments amazing: educator

Open letter to



The ability to install Firefox on a USB memory stick and run it on any Windows computer (or Linux using Wine - works okay for me!) is one of the greatest and coolest things I have ever come across.

I have plugins for Google Bookmarks (personal) and (work - there are historical reasons for this) so that I can share bookmarks with my home FF on Linux, or access them if some prick of an IT officer tries to lock off the USB ports.

Thanks to full support for plugins I get crash restore, I get sensible handling of tabs, I get tab scrolling with the mouse wheel and tabs loading in the background.

I had forgotten quite how much I relied upon this as I shuttled between Uni and two different jobs until I forgot my keys, and left them hanging in the door at home when I slipped out without waking my partner, and therefore don't have my USB key.

I am now approximately five minutes, or one more IE7 crash, away from complete apoplectic rage, tantrum and going home. I have now seen more IE7 crashes than spam, all in one morning, and I've only been clocked on for 87 minutes so far. I haven't lost anything, or links, but it's been a close-run thing (and thank you to Blogger, too, for autosaving!)

Please,, don't give up or fade away. I don't care if portable FF never gets the ability to update itself safely and I have to download and install the full file every time, I forgive it. I don't even care if I never need to install any other app (although... Gimp might be handy...). So long as I have my FF with me at all times, with my settings and my plugins and working how I need it to in order to be productive, I will forgive a lot.

I will never, ever, forgive Microsoft for IE7.

Yours Sincerely,

The absolute coolest thing I have ever heard today

Dave McKean illustrated Heston Blumenthal's Big Fat Duck Cookbook.


Thursday, 16 October 2008

Learn to merge or roast in eternal damnation the like of which not even Dante could conceive of!

Yesterday, while driving home, two different people acted as though they wanted to run me off the road and kill me while merging. Over the past week, I have seen so many incompetent examples of what should be a basic driving or riding maneuver that I despair for the continued safety of any road user.

And yet it's not that hard. It
shouldn't be that hard.

Merging consists of a few basic principles:

  • Find out what other traffic is doing. This involves looking.
  • Let traffic know what you're trying to do. This means your indicators. You know about them? Orange flashing lights on the corners? Make a clicking sound?
  • Check that nobody else is in the space you need to move into.
  • Move.
There now, it wasn't that hard, was it?

And yet, there are a few groups of people who have no idea of how to merge or how to cope when somebody else does. These groups are:
  • People who refuse to be polite or let anyone else take their bit of road, and rush to block them. These people are assholes.
  • People who don't seem to realise that anything is happening, and sit there being an impedient because they can't be bothered to lift off the accelerator a bit. These people are drongos.
  • People who expect other people to move out of their way, and drive into the lane without warning or any thought of checking to see if they can. These people are pricks.
  • People who are so nervous that they will put their indicator on and then sit there while other people politely make way for them, because they expect you to rush past and block them. You can even flash your headlights at some of these people and they don't get it. This is especially annoying because you're never quite sure if they won't suddenly move just as you decide the hell with it and accelerate past them. These people are sheeple.
  • People who crowd together while on the slip lane, so that there is no room to make a nice zipper after-you, then-you affair. These people are just plain idiots.
  • People who leave it to the last possible minute before dropping back when you clearly have right of way by virtue of being half a car in front, so that you're not quite sure until it's happened whether or not they'll take your bumper off. Or your rear wheel right out from underneath you, if you're on a bike. These people are cock-heads.
  • People who only give one flick of the indicator as they are moving. This may be because they have been told they have to use the indicator but don't understand why, but the rapidity with which they move suggests that it is actually because they are worried that if they give warning, they will get blocked by assholes. These people are twats.
And the two people who tried to kill me belonged to another group, and I would label them but the only sufficient insult I can think of is a bit too impolite for me to use in general company, so I'll just call them incompetent, brainless, bullying fuck-heads and leave it at that.

Both of them were in the left hand lane as we sailed into the start of the merging dotted line, one was in a van and one in an oversized 4WD with bullbar, and both of them were sitting behind my bumper but accelerated forwards until their front bumper was level with my B-pillar until they realised that they had run out of road, were driving on the verge (and, in the first case, were parents park to collect their children) and dropped back only just
barely far enough to not take my bumper off, and sat there at speeds up to 70, not dropping any further back as though it was an affront to them personally that they had to give way at all, until one overtook me when the road split into two lanes again, and the other one I managed to leave behind uphill.

All I could think of was how much scarier it would have been if I had been riding (which I only wasn't because an incompetent pack of pricks in Victoria hadn't sent me my new sprockets yet), and it was the closest I have ever come to wanting to hunt one of them down and ask "Do you not know how to merge, or were you just being an incompetent, dangerous

And there you have it - gross stupidity causes road-rage in others.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

So near, and yet so far

I have a new protective case for my N95. The last one, $10 and plastic, cracked and the crack lengthened and my valiant attempts to halt the decline were eventually defeated.

So I bought a new one, off eBay, for $11 including postage (actually $1, and 10$ postage). It's brushed aluminium, lined with plastic to protect the phone, and it looks rather swish and all the cutouts for buttons and ports are perfectly placed.

There are just there problems.

It doesn't protect the screen. It has no little plastic sacrificial window in it. I thought protecting the screen was the whole
point of a protector, but never mind.

The power button doesn't work. Instead of being accessed via cutout, the already recessed power button on top of the phone is pressed by a plastic button hinged to the case. Which doesn't work, no matter how hard you press it. I suspect that the hinge makes the extra button press on the correct button at the wrong angle. I suspect I will remove the plastic button, and use a pen.

It's already broken. Less than 24 hours after putting the bloody thing on, the plastic lining on the slide's cover is already broken top and button where it clips around the ends of the slide. I discovered this when I slid it open and it caught. Now, I have no doubt that a dual slide mechanism is difficult on clips, but
come on. That was the first thing to go on the first protector, as well. Can't anybody get it right?

Advice for people thinking of buying an espresso machine

Stay away from Krups.


I'm sure they make very fine other appliances, and very good anti-balloon guns (really. During the Prussian siege of Paris in 1870, the French got messages out using hot-air balloons, and Krups built the first anti-aircraft weapon in history to shoot them down), but they really don't understand coffee.

Which is a pity, but there you are.

There's something the matter with Moto Guzzi

There really is.

Once upon a time they built the Daytona which is, and I will brook no argument here, one of the all-time best looking bikes of all time, ever.

Now, they have a couple of different bikes and an increasing number of variations upon the theme of Breva.

Norge: Great tourer, but basically a fully-dressed Breva. Which is fine. Sport: Bit more entertaining than a Breva, but only really has a couple of different components and a little flyscreen. Which is not fine.

Not at all.

This is the company that beat up all comers in international racing from the end of World War II to the fifties, when MV Agusta worked out how to build bikes properly.

This is the company that produced a string of Le Mans models that still have a passionate following and the Daytona, which had a hand built engine for deities' sake.

This is the company that was rescued from obsolesence by Aprilia, who got bought by the immense resources of Piagio, and who now have gearboxes that work (only one neutral, fancy that!) and good build standards, and haven't sacrificed the handling that marks them as a bit special.

So how come, now that their basics are so good, and even their WWII-vintage engine is maintaining its relevance through clever updates and sound basic engineering, they keep turning out new bikes which are, well, variations on a theme? You can't look at the Griso and Stelvio and argue that they can't do something new when needed.

But the latest Sport is, as Hell for Leather point out, massively disappointing.

It doesn't have their most powerful engine. The list of changes from the Breva can be listed in about five seconds. They still haven't realised that the Le Mans evolved, and handed reverently to the Daytona, one of the sexiest sportsbike fairings ever, and have gone with a naked bike with a little bit of plastic on the headlight which looks tacky on a Ducati Monster which costs many grand less.

Come on. Do it properly, Guzzi. Make us proud. Return to your routes. Make a road-going version of the MGS-01 and build a bike that's worthy of a name like 'Sport'.

Link to Hell for Leather commentary, with underwhelming photos.

Because pirates are actually cool

For those who need a flowchart to spot the fecking obvious:

This is not just music from stores like iTunes, this is games via Nokia for the NGage system, where it was initially thought that if you bought a new phone in six months, you'd lose the ability to play the games you had paid for, unless you bought the exact same software again. This is entire computer operating systems, which disable themselves if you change three pieces of hardware (new hard drive, upgraded DVD burner, new graphics card, new monitor *ZAP!*)

To all those who think that draconian locks will alter human behaviour in any way
against piracy:

Fuck you!

Monday, 13 October 2008

That's not answering the question at ALL

Time for another: Rant by Request! Also: Rant by Proxy!

Televised car ads.

These are so infuriating that a week ago my girlfriend, in lieu of throwing something at our two grand flatscreen, said "I will buy the first car that has an ad which tells you something!"

Car ads seem to come in three flavours:
  1. Nice music, fancy photography, no voice-over or text which tells you anything more informative than a.) the brand, and b.) the model, both of which you need, because it was shot in a way that made it extremely difficult to differentiate that car from any other, or make out the number of doors, or work out if they were advertising a car or the horse that keeps getting in the way of the camera.
  2. Voice-over which throws in a lot of what sounds like information, but is actually just either a.) obvious just from looking at the thing ("With a 4-wheel drive heritage") or b.) so much par for the course that only the opposite would be worth mentioning ("An optional diesel engine"), or b.) nonsense that only sounds like English but actually isn't ("Power for when you need it most")
  3. Voice-over which attempts to swamp you with information which, if you pay close attention, you will realise is about as useful and relevant as the phrase "Part of a complete diet" or "May help prevent cancer of the left middle finger, if you're an Aquarius".
My complaint against number 1 should be fairly obvious.

Ditto number 2, which has the added sins against its name of not being faintly entertaining as a piece of video art, and insulting my intelligence.

Number 3 goes beyond insulting my intelligence and goes into an incompetent rendition of the French Knight's taunting from
Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail.

The format essentially runs like this: "Our new Fred GS has more power than the Frankelhoffer GL, more airbags than the Dogrooter SX, more rear leg room than any of the Boxsters, a longer warranty than the Fishwife CSi...." And so on.

Which, I suppose, leads me to assume that every competitor not named in each category has a better rating, which puts the car you're advertising second last at everything, by default. And I'm hardly going to buy a car which is second last at everything important, am I?

No, if you go down the comparison route then you open yourself up to me staring at the screen and saying "Yes, but your car is ugly as

About the only "comparison" that's safe is when you win an award. Car Of The Year from anybody who has a decent reputation (
Wheels, the collected total of European magazines, that sort of thing). That says something. Not much, admittedly, because I doubt very much that Wheels applied the Wolfhound Test or had my attitude towards badly designed controls, but it says something.

No, I'm afraid that if you're going to say anything at all in a car ad, your options are quite limited:

  • Brand
  • Model
  • Engine choices
  • Price
  • Seating and space
  • Awards (but be careful. "Most likely to be stolen and used in a ram raid", for example, might not work in your favour.)
  • Performance, but if you go on about 0-60 times I really will switch off. Fuel economy is good, proof of handling and ride prowess is good, saying that you are .5seconds faster to the speed limit than anyone else is irrelevant.
And that's about it.

All a dick-size competition will reveal about you is that you're insecure and trying to hide something.

All a nicely shot piece of video art says is that spent money on the advertising that should have been spent on that nasty cheap-feeling bit of plastic that covers up the fuse-box.

That's not really answering the question, is it?

A basic principle of both justice and democracy is openness: Justice has to be seen to be done, and citizens of a democracy have to know what's going on in order to make informed decisions.

In fact this is so important that in Australia our only guarantee of freedom of speech is a High Court decision that any legislation which impinges against our access to, or participation in, the political process, is unconstitutional.

This principle underpins the whole concept of Freedom Of Information (FOI) laws, as well: Essentially, FOI laws give citizens the right to access government information, provided it doesn't breach another individual's privacy. Or it's under a special ministerial order. Or, they can't be fucked and they're going to charge you a quarter of a million to dig it up and photocopy it in the hope that you'll give up and go away. Or, they've managed to hide the fact that it exists at all.

Unfortunately, not all government departments appear to be aware of this. Have you ever tried to get meaningful statistics out of Queensland Health? It's a good exercise if you're ever feeling warm and fuzzy towards the government. It took me several hours to even find the right contact numbers for the statistics department who could, if they chose, charge me to type in an SQL query and email me the result.

In fact, the only Queensland government department who is really open and informative is, not surprisingly or surprisingly depending upon your attitudes, Justice.

The biggest problem with this whole openness principle, however, is just how badly people misuse or debase the power of the Internet to let them fulfill their obligations in this direction easily and cheaply. 

Take SEQWater. Once upon a time, you could find out the current south east Queensland dam levels, which are given out in the news and the newspapers and generally bandied about as a percentage of the whole, by going to their website and clicking on a nice prominent button. 

Now, if you go to their website, you click on a nice simple and easy-to-find menu bar entry, you get a much fancier system which gives you totals for each dam, a graph of each dam by percentage and a graph of each dam by total capacity (and it's a little scary to see just how much we rely on Wivenhoe), and you can even view by date. Very nice, very informative, but...

What happened to total percentage? It ain't there!

The single most meaningful and commonly used statistic to gauge the health of a fairly critical and more than a little sick component of civilisation as we know it in Queensland, and you can't get it anymore. 


What is the point of running email billing like this?

Phone companies.

Can't live without them, can't burn them in effigy with any real sense of satisfaction.

I have Vodafone for my mobile, and AAPT for my home phone. Each one has a billing cycle of the calendar month. And each one waits a full
week after the end of the billing cycle and making the bill available online, to tell me that my bill is available online. Which frequently means that I've paid at least one of them before they let me know about it.


Thursday, 9 October 2008

Rhetorical question time!

How come, in D&D type games, you can successfully poison creatures made out of stone, fire and wind?

Religion: Warping rational thought for millenia

This particularly execrable piece of news came to my attention courtesy of, and it has been stewing since Monday as I wondered if I had the energy to say anything about it.

But dammit, it pisses me off far too much to pass up.

Abortion bill's rights 'breach' (The Age) (Take a few moments to work through the grammatical structure of that headline. I'm not going anywhere).

It opens thisly:

"THE Catholic lobby has escalated the pressure on Victoria's lawmakers by claiming the bill that proposes to decriminalise abortion is in breach of the State Government's charter of human rights."

Now, you could be forgiven for assuming that they are claiming that it breaches the human rights of the unborn embryo.

Uh, no. Nothing so selfless, I'm afraid.

They are claiming that it breaches the human rights of

There is a clause in the bill which requires doctors who have a conscientious objection to performing abortions, to refer pregnant patients to doctors who are fine with that.

Now, this to me is entirely sensible, and reinforces the right to self-determination and informed decision making of the patient, while neatly stepping around forcing doctors to do something they object to.

I will, for the moment, give the doctors a free pass on the question of whether or not they should be allowed to object to performing standard medical procedures and still be allowed to practice as doctors. We'll waive that objection, and move on.

Because the Catholic lobby believes that requiring a doctor to make the entirely sensible and professional decision to refer a patient on if they are unable to make a medical decision in the face of personal issues, is depriving them of their right to religion, conscience and opinion.

In case you haven't worked out by now, I don't agree, and my opinion on abortion is entirely irrelevant. Let's examine that statement in detail:

First of all, it claims that religion requires doctors to enforce their own standards of behaviour and morality upon other people, regardless of good medical advice. Now, this is hardly surprising, although it's a bit surprising to hear them actually admit to it, but I put it to you that this behaviour is depriving the
patient of their right to opinion, conscience and self-determination. Resolve that conflict, you bigotted fucks.

Secondly, their claim is that forcing a doctor to refer a patient to a doctor who will perform a treatment that they find morally objectional is depriving them of their right to conscience. No, it doesn't, it deprives them of their right to enforce their conscience upon other people. It says nothing about their right to
hold that conscience. If you can't practice medicine without letting your stone-age beliefs in a giant invisible sky-fairy get in the way: Suffer.

Thirdly and finally, they are claiming that forcing a doctor, etc., is depriving them of their right to an opinion. I am gobsmacked by the thought that they may actually be serious about that claim. I can barely even begin to imagine the chain of reasoning which lead up to that claim. I sincerely doubt that there is anything in that bill saying "You can't say 'I don't agree with abortion, so I'm going to have to ask you to see another doctor' ". Which would satifsy their right to
express the opinion which they hold. You can even hold an opinion and remain absolutely quiet about it. Forcing you to act in a way which is mildly contrary to it, instead of flagrantly contrary to it, does not impact upon your right to hold it, and if legal advice is contrary, I have even less opinion for legal common sense than I already do.

In fact, this bears sickening premonition-of-doom resemblances to pharmacists in the US who refuse to dispense contraceptive pills, and islamic medical students in the UK who refuse to touch female patients.

In both cases, as several writers with more experience in the field than I pointed out at the times, these behaviours prevent the medical professionals involved from
doing their jobs. You cannot refuse to dispense a legal prescription on religious grounds and still call yourself a pharmacist. You cannot refuse to tough 51% percent of your patients and even be a doctor.

Furthermore, Catholic Health Australia's spokesman has this to say:

""We hope the upper house does not put Catholic hospitals in the position whereby we will be forced by law to operate in contradiction to our code of ethical standards," he said."

Fuck off. They're not your
ethical standards, they're your moral standards, and morality is not something that has been settled by long and careful debate between professional peers. It's something handed down to you from a pulpit by someone who had to go to a college to get indoctrinated into having their capacity for rational and logical thought warped, so that they can accept the spoutings of an anachronistic institution in Rome which holds sacred a book which has, over the centuries, had most of the good bits excised and core points of current dogma conveniently added.

It's just not good enough.

But heark, there is light in the tunnel, and this time it's not an oncoming dragon:

"Some doctors at Catholic hospitals have told
The Age they supported the clause because it was needed to protect women from fanatics."

Cheer to the hills! The actual medical professionals, instead of just the league of old, biggoted, bitter men in skirts, shows some sense!

Even better:

""The clause is there to stop the random fanatic sabotaging a woman's access to abortion," he said. "Most doctors are decent and honourable, and work around (a conscientious objection) to find a way that patients' needs are met. But some allow their consciences to trample over the rights of women, and it can lead to horrible outcomes.""

Well yes, exactly!

And, much further on (bad way to construct the article, in my pre-professional opinion), this gem:

"Health Minister Daniel Andrews said "effective referral" was medical best practice, as determined by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and recommended by the Victorian Law Reform Commission."

yes, it is. If you are unnable to perform a needed or requested service that is legal and does not violate other medical best practices, then refer on. Fundamental rule in psychology, medicine, you name it.

There is a large section of the community which is still trying to act as though the Enlightenment never happened, and "secular" is a concept that doesn't exist.

Can't we just have them declared a dangerous sect, and be done with it?

You don't have to be mad to listen to this, but it helps

Over at Mind Hacks, Vaughan has a very entertaining post on the mental health associations of heavy metal album covers.

Now, I'm not a big fan of this: It tends to trivialise some quite serious suffering and confuse the issue. But, then again, I'm not a big fan of heavy metal either.

What does really depress me (not-pun intended) is that there are some extremely cool album covers there, but the music will undeniably be shit. I used to have a
Cradle of Filth album cover as a desktop background, but got rid of it when I actually listened to some of their stuff. I couldn't look at it the same way again.

But, then there's Fields of The Nephillim to make up for it.

The unfortunate results of not proof-reading official communications

"The recycling bin has been introduced to help investigate ways to reduce costs and the environment"

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

It takes a dog owner to really understand

My partner and I daily play a game called "The Wolfhound test", in which we walk or drive past any station wagon or similar load-carrying vehicle, look at it critically and ask "Can you fit Wolfhounds in that?"

We currently have three, including the puppy, and the middle aged one, who is pure-blood, is abou 32" (if I remember correctly) at the shoulder, and is pressed hard by the current Commodore wagon.

And Holden have now released a range of "Sportwagon" Commodore wagons which would barely pass a Border Collie test. Bastards!

We're thinking that we'll be stuck with a small van.

You see, here's the thing: A station wagon is for what, exactly?

Answer: Carrying big loads, and other people, while driving a vehicle with car dynamics and car comforts. A ute is okay for loads that can get wet or withstand wind, and you only have one friend. A van is okay for bigger loads that need to be covered, but you can still only have one, maybe two, friends. 

And a 4WD vehicle, of the traditional kind like a Discovery or Land Cruiser, is just plain crap.

I mean, honestly: It's too tall to have decent dynamics and braking, it's so tall that it's fucking rude to other road users, who can't see past you, which makes you dangerous, it's too heavy and with aerodynamics too crap to not drain your wallet for fuel,  and it's got a small load space anyway, because it's short because it's supposed to be able to go off-road. A 4WD has two purposes, and two only: Going heavily off-road, or revealing to the world that you're arrogant, insecure and a bit thick.

So where does that leave the big dog owner who has friends and doesn't want to leave their dogs out in the open on a dual-cab ute because they're just stupid enough to try and jump off? Commodore or Falcon, and I'm worrying about Commodore these days. Even the halfway vehicles like Subaru Outback/Forester or Volvo XC90 suffer from load spaces too short. And height-wise? 

Yep, we're going to end up with a van.

Random comment...

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnamese national hero, was a pastry sous-chef in Paris and London!

I have just been watching The Hairy Biker's Cookbook and damn I want to ride around Vietnam eating everything in sight, now!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

How to solve the world's problems with one simple personality bug-fix.

I am seriously beginning to think that one of the biggest problems with the world today is the "I don't, so why should you?" mentality, also known as the "I do, so you bloody well will as well!" mentality. Can be referred to as the "I refuse to live and let live, because I'm a nosy, self-righteous, biggoted prick" mentality as well.

There are no shortage of examples:
  • Homophobes who try and get homosexuality outlawed or branded.
  • "Right-to-life" activists who refuse to honour the right of abortion clinic doctors to life.
  • Any door-to-door evangelist.
  • Any evangelist, actually.
  • Pretty much anybody who ever uses the phrase "family values" to justify anything.
  • And so on.
But nowhere, surely, is this illustrated in such a petty fashion as in a quote at the bottom of this article: iPod use causes rage amongst fellow commuters. (Courier Mail)

Although the title might suggest that too much sound leaking out is pissing people off, the actual point of the article is far more bafflingly WTF than that:

" "The non-users in this study, while understanding the need to 'escape'... seem to resent or take issue with this use because the PMD user fails to communally experience the aural soundscape," Mr Walsh said."

(Personal Music Device, in case you were wondering)

Communally... experience... aural... soundscape... YOU FECKING WHAT???

Now, honestly, apart from the tautology of "aural soundscape", are you seriously saying that people are annoyed because they're sitting on public transport and somebody doesn't want to listen to their conversation? I don't know if I'm experiencing more incredulous bafflement or depressing doom-of-the-human-race disappointment.

Commuter was quoted:

"I don't want to have a couple of things welded to my f---ing ears (so) that I can't hear anything else that's going on."

Fair enough, sir, that's your opinion and clearly you are a man of opinions at least as strong as my own, but... Your point?

You don't want to be cut off from everyone else, so iPods shit you, but this is relevant to everyone else how?

If someone started to groove along to the music and elbowed me in the floating ribs, I would be ticked off. If they started singing along, I may be moved to express an opinion on that point. If I could hear their personal choice and didn't agree with it, I would be annoyed if it was loud enough to be inescapable, but my first choice would be to grab my own headphones.

But being annoyed because somebody is sitting down, by themselves, and chooses to tune out? That's just petty.

This is, I strongly suspect, illustrative of why ideologies, predominantly religions but with a strong recent showing from anti-theistic political belief systems, have tried so very hard to fuck up the planet for the rest of us.

Link to Courier Mail article

N.B.: None of this is to be confused with anti-smoking or pro-helmet laws. These are based upon public health debate, not private interests.

Never let the bastards know you exist.

This is really unpleasantly sneakily nasty.

I get a lot of spam at my job number 2. A lot. As in, I had spam coming in between my email address being created and my computer being configured, a process of about five minutes.

I have sent literally nobody an email using that address, because I can't access it remotely, so I just use my gmail address.

And this morning, after a week of not being here, I had 85 "spam" and 25 "junk", or thereabouts.

So I'm quite aware of spam at the moment, and then I delete one message, and get a note saying that the sender has requested a read receipt, and do I want to send one?

For those of you who may not know: Spam doesn't just get sent to legitimate addresses. It gets shot-gunned to addresses, based upon likely addresses built up out of name databases. If you ever reply, however, or in some way confirm that this address actually works, then your address goes from being a may-as-well to a very valuable commodity, and you will never be free of spam for as long as you use that account.

The good part here is that receipts like this appear to be a Microsoft invention, or at least something that I have only ever encountered using Outlook. If you use a different program, particularly a web-based system, you probably don't need to worry.

Which basically means that the most vulnerable people are those in a uniform corporate IT environment.

As they didn't already have enough pain to be going on with.

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