Thursday, 31 July 2008

Oh, yes, please!

It's a flying motorbike! Sort of!

Courtesy of the always entertaining Hell For Leather, who got it from The New Cafe Racer Society, who got it from Aircraft Maintenance Technology Online and the actually company is Samson Motorworks.

It's actually a trike and uses a motorbike engine (which isn't surprising, given the power-to-weight advantage that your average common-or-garden sportsbike has over, say, a Ferrari) but it's still cool.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Ludicrously stupid interface design decisions: Access 2007

Microsoft Office 2007 has many ludicrous design decisions, but how's this for brilliant stupidity:

While trying to debug a form, I opened the "Subform Field Linker" dialogue box from the "Link child fields" line in the Data section of the Property Sheet. And there was a "Suggest" button, so I pressed it to see what would happne.

What happened was that I got a dialogue box showing 4 possible plain-English versions of SQL statements, and "None".

Here's the problem: Each line said "Show Categories Query for each record in Categories Query using " and then ran into the end of the text field.

I could not read the end of the line.

I could not scroll the text field sideways.

I could not even expand the size of the pop-up window, and therefore the size of the text field.

There was absolutely no way that I could find out what each of the four suggestions actually was.

Monday, 28 July 2008

This is really sad

How petty can people get?

From ABC News Online comes Monarchists upset by beer ad. Go and have a look at the ad, then come back. I rather like that billboard - it's get a very nice old/steampunk aesthetic to it.

But monarchists whinging like the poms they're so fond of (sorry to my English friends here, you know I love you), because it says "Forget the monarchy"? And don't you love that question "Why couldn't they say 'Forget the Republicans, support the Publicans'?" Because then it wouldn't be as funny, you pathetic toad.

Honestly, are they so scared of the constitutional monarchy being unable to defend itself? I say let politics get darwinian, the way everything else in a Democracy is supposed to be: may the toughest and most popular system of government win.

Link to ABC News Online report

Sunday, 27 July 2008

You're spending my tax dollars on WHAT?

Bear with me, I need to vent.

I have just become aware of this particulare despicable little media release: Complementary Medicine Gets a Boost. From, of all bodies, the federally funded National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. If you go to that link, a bare-bones web page bearing the media release, you may notice the date, 1 April, and laugh heartily and think that it's a sly joke perpetrated by a bored website admin.

No suck fucking luck. The release also appears on 31 March, here. It's genuine. In fact, you can download the grants allocation summary from both pages.

You have got to be kidding me. $7million into research into Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM, for those of you not familiar with the lingo)? Why? Haven't we already got sufficiently absolutely none evidence to throw this aside, be frostily polite to those who complain that they can't get their homeopathy on prescription (when all you really need to do is turn on a tap) and concentrate on medicine that has evidence behind it?

And then we have Senator Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, quoted as saying

"There is growing testimony that complementary medicine can make asignificant, cost-effective contribution to public health inchronic-disease management and in preventative care."


Oh yes:

"Until now there has been a gap between those who believe in and use complementary medicine and the strength of evidence to support that use. Today's announcement is intended to help bridge the gap."

Well fuck, do you think the gap is because there is no evidence? Perhaps those who "believe in" CAM have as much justification for doing so as those who believed that drinking poisoned Kool-Aid when comet Hale-Bop passed would result in being picked up by a passing space ship?

"More than $2 billion is spent nationally, with up to two-thirds of theAustralian adult population using at least one product and one in fourusing complementary medicine services."

That does not justify spending money on it. I know we live in a democracy, but fuck: Isn't there some basis for evidence in public health spending? Let them spend money on CAM, and then support the doctors to explain their idiocy to them when the treatments don't work and they end up in hospital.

The projects funded by the NHMRC will deliver evidence-based studies,including clinical trials, to strengthen acceptance and integration ofalternative therapies into the health-care system.

Oh really? You mean you've chosen the outcome before conducting the studies? I rather think that "evidence-based studies" (why are we having any other kind when dealing with health issues?) won't "strengthen acceptance and integration" at all. Quite the opposite.

Not only does my private health insurer provide rebates for chiropractic services, but now my tax dollars are directed towards proving the unprovable.

If there was a major political party worth voting for, I'd be jumping ship faster than a rat on speed.

Link to the media release, 1
Link to the media release, 2
Link to the NHMRC main page

Serious, for a moment: Rights and responsibilities of journalists

What are the responsibilities of the media? What responsibility do straight reporters (of the not-investigative variety) bear? What necessity to examine the factual basis of the claims they pass on do they have, and if you are skimming news outlets for headlines that may interest your readers, do you need to vet them first?

I have now begun my education in journalism, and as one of my first post-graduate subjects is Law and Ethics, I will probably be finding this out very soon. I have read the MEAA Code of Ethics (here), and, being journalistic, it talks about openness, fairness, honesty and respect for the rights of others.

Let's move on and say that you are an organisation with a public safety or public welfare manifesto, committed to improving the lives of your members and in some way improving Australian society.

Should you report a news item which may damage this goal, simply because it is relevant to your members? Should you even include it in a list of news items culled at large from the media on the basis that they'll pad out a newsletter?

The reason I raise this question is because I have just gone back over newsletters from my old organisation, not having signed up to the newsletter with my private address when I left and therefore stopped being the one compiling the newsletter, and found an article which hits right at these questions. Should an organisation dedicated to improving the rights of a group of people with an acquired disability, report without prejudice a news item which claims that world-wide public health attempts to reduce the incidence of that disability are backwards, misguided and contribute to the problem?

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof, and a journalist investigating this story would do well to examine the presented proof extremely closely, when the claims go against national and international concensus.

My concern is that members of the public, looking for any attempt to discredit laws or practices they find personally inconvenient or uncomfortable, can and will jump upon any excuse to discredit them, no matter how crack-pot they are.

So: Should a disability organisation run the risk of making the problem worse by re-distributing without fear or favour? I have my doubts, I have my very severe doubts.

Link to Media, Entertaining and Arts Alliance Code of Ethics.

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