Tuesday, 9 January 2007


Thursday, January 29, 2004

Granddad by step.
Stepdaughter is about to have a kid so that sort of makes me a gramps, jeez I feel ancient now... %)
Cancel that, she's had it. At 4:30 AM Western Australian time on the 29th of January, little Shanice Isabella Rezmier Robinson checked in at 50.4cm, 3.3kg and yep she's quite cute as far as babies go.
I'm not a kid person, definitely not a baby person, but this one has the seal of approval...
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 1:25 AMposted at 10:14 PM Ted
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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

This is so sad!
In case you aren't up with my movements, I've recently gone halves in a mortgage with Trish. Prior to this I'd had two good stints of four or more years renting, then things got hectic and Trish and her kids and I moved five times in four years, with the fifth time being to this place. Along the way we'd moved from the inner Perth areas (which I quite liked) to this area and back, and I'd said I didn't like our current area yet here we are...
At the time we moved here first time, ADSL was a glimmer on the horizon, then we moved back to civilisation and got broadband, and when we moved back here it took our local telco Telstra about seven tries before they were ready to tell us they'd been lying to us for months and no, despite the website saying our area had ADSL, it too was a lie.
I had (and still don't have, going by Telstra's record of lying and delaying) no intention of getting DSL with them anyway, but it would have been nice if they hadn't been telling my DSL provider one set of lies and me another set...
The other day I checked it out, Trish works less than a kilometre from here and her workplace has ADSL. Four blocks away, you can get DSL. I checked Telstra's website for upgrades and even a place in the whoopwhoops called Yackandandah is getting DSL fer chrissakes, and we still can't get it here after more than a year of asking and trying... As far as I'm concerned Telstra can take a flying wossname at the full moon, if Australia had just ONE telco that wasn't using Telscum's cables under the ground I'd already have all my accounts with them, every phone I and Trish and the kids own...
I mean, I thought Yackandandah was a town out of a Banjo Paterson poem or a Jolliffe cartoon, yet apparently it's a town which is more technologically advanced than a suburb of a capital city... Tis a bit of a shame really.
Categories - ::/:: posted at 9:51 PM Ted
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Monday, January 26, 2004

Monkey Business
Thanks to my newest intern (work experience student to us Aussies) Trish and I were invited to the WA Chung Wah Association's New Year celebrations on the 25th. It was simply one of the nicest events I'd been to in a long time. I enjoyed everything. (Except the speeches by our local politicians... Hey that's always the way, who listens to those guys anyway?)
At the gate a gentleman asked if I was of the Police force, 'no' that I ha' anything to worry abou'..' and directed us to a parking spot near one of the biggest lanterns (3 metres tall) that I have ever seen, and overlooking a landscape scarrred by a VERY recent fire, some of which was still smouldering.
Oh yeah - I forgot to mention that the Chung Wah Hall is in probably one the most ethnically diverse blocks of inner suburbia, sharing the block with Macedonian Park, the Macedonian Centre, the Sicilian Society, and others. It's a small clue as to how much integration takes place in Perth. Oh yeah, we still have ethnic gangs, and oh yeah, there are areas where you find a more ethnically-focussed population, but on the whole the place is just 'oh yeah!' about it all and you'll find one of Perth's best dim sum restaurants two doors from Perth's best continental food supermarket and (until recently) flanked also by the best Lebanese cafe and just across the road from the Hare Krishna Food For Life kitchen...
The Chinese community here in Perth have a lot of talented people, as shown by the Lion dancers, the ribbon dancers, and over a dozen musical acts, all of which were in a word brilliant. A 'light luncheon' was served (but I still ended up as full as the proverbial boot) and then it was out the door and back to the reality that we were in WA not Szechuan or Canton...
We took our seats (and I mean literally took them, not too many free chairs so we carried ours to a likely looking spot after asking the row behind if this was okay) and during the opening speech we discovered that not only were we at the roundeye end of the hall, we were also amidst all the aforementioned political figures. Hmmm maybe not all *that* integrated...
Being sat next to the Commissioner for Police and his wife did tend to dampen some of my more exuberant exclamations, and I'm sure Trish was similarly a bit more wary of her flanking dignitary, whose name eludes me at the moment. Both our neighbours presented speeches, in any case.
This year it seemed that every local politician included a thankyou to the Nyungar aboriginal community, upon whose land apparently Perth is situated. I felt like standing up and yelling "hey there was a war here and they lost!" but as I said, sitting next to the CoP gave me pause enough that the feeling passed... Hey I never said I was politically correct, I am Austrian by birth and Australian by upbringing with a large slice of Arabic childhood and I think I stand just on the wild side of Hitler politically... %)
And it's the year of the Green monkey. also (it looks like from various almanacs) a Wood year, so yes it should be great for innovations and business - and I'm born so close the the start of the Tiger month that I'm part monkey part rooster, so we'll see what happens. It's the first year I've ever been given any red envelopes, %) and they are symbolic of money and success, so let's see if this year, I can make symbolism a thing of the past and reality of some of my ideas...
Watch this space...
Categories - ::/:: posted at 11:48 AM Ted
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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Gung Hee Fat Choi!
Happy Chinese New Year! Marking the start of the Year of the Monkey.
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Saturday, January 24, 2004 10:09 PMposted at 9:31 AM Ted
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Sunday, January 18, 2004

Remember Pride In Incompetence? Part Two.
Remember me posting about that subject a few months back? Well here's another company that revels in its own incompetence, a property manager for commercial properties who happen to be our landlords at work. (Neither is mentioned by name to prevent anyone working it out.)
We've been in the building for almost two years. Moved there in order to be closer to the Central Business District, and because the old premises had been allowed to run down to the point of looking downright seedy and filthy. (Why that's bad for business is in the Sandlot Shops article a few months back...)
About a week after the first half of the office shifted, I began to wonder why every cubicle had desk fans... Six months later when we shifted in fully, I knew... The place was hot! All glass, especially on a North facing wall in the Southern hemisphere, is a BAD idea...
We bought fans for our people, because the previous tenants took theirs with them.
I joined the Fire Wardens organisation in the building, and immediately began to see other problems. Like, the public address system was just plain outclassed in the building, most of the tenancies on most floors couldn't hear the announcements and in many cases, not even the alarm tones.
And in our first year there, the security system wasn't programmed for the New Years Day nor the Australia Day public holidays and so we were burgled of four laptops that first New Years, because that was a weekday and all the doors and lifts were wide open for business...
It takes a special kind of incompetence to fail to program a public holiday, and an almost fanatical devotion to idiocy to forget not only two public holidays in a year, AND THEN REPEAT THE SAME MISTAKE THE NEXT YEAR. I'm not kidding. And I'll almost bet that the Australia Day will be similarly forgotten this year.
Of course, we had police forensics in to check the floor, and they firstly and immediately pointed out that our 'deadlocked security doors' which we were told we had, couldn't actually reach the deadlock position and could therefore have been opened with a credit card provided one could get accesss to the floor....
Suffice it to say, we aren't and weren't impressed, we have spent thousands putting an alarm and door access control system on the whole floor of a theoretically secure building, and guess what, our system is the same model as the building's, and ours has never skipped a beat.
The fire wardens recently held a full evac drill, and the fire department rep who was on site with us presented the landlords with a list of fire system failures. Five weeks later we discovered that there were suddenly even more faults, most created by the landlord in the last few weeks. One involved cluttering the already tiny fire control room with blankets from teh freight lift.
I put those blankets outside the control room on tuesday and faxed the landlord to say that I'd taken this step because it had been reported for five weeks and that was too long a time to have such a hazard unattended, and would they please collect their stuff and put it in a store room not the control room.
Next day I got a call from the building super to tell me he'd be there that afternoon to put the blankets back as there was 'no toher place that was easy to get to' to put them in. I told him that if they did there'd be a charge laid under fire regulations. On Friday the super showed up with his manager in tow, and guess what? In the intervening time, the blankets had been pinched. Bad luck...
I imagine the super thought that with his manager there we'd cave in, but instead I sent them out with a few choice words (mainly about Australian Standards and fire safety equipment I seem to recall) and they left pretty much fuming and ready to explode but knowing they couldn't.
The building held its first tenants meeting that afternoon, and lo and behold even before we'd sent a letter to the landlords, things got done about some of the PA gear and other things we'd been asking about...
Not done properly of course nor has it been finished, but that's for the next tenants meeting to act on...
We'll see.
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, January 18, 2004 11:37 AMposted at 11:35 AM Ted
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Friday, January 16, 2004

Saying hi to the good dr conrad
Just saying hi to a good friend who's developing software here in Western Australia, and whose website is at metaplay here - take a look at Glyph in action...
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:17 AMposted at 9:38 AM Ted
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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Diagnosis, Doctor?
Okay, I admit I'm a computer geek not a biology or medical geek. But I worry sometimes, I really do. Where *did* that specialist get their qualifications? How come they call their office a 'practice', and why can't I get a refund if they get it wrong? Yeap these are jokes, and old jokes at that, but I've found that every joke has at it's core some grating element of fact and truth that someone just had to vent.
Here's an intersting thing. For most of my young life I lived in the Northwest of Western Australia, where flouride and chlorine were not routinely added to the water supply, and I thrived and felt good. Then I moved to the lovely capital of WA, Perth, and suddenly my skin developed red blotches, dry patches, it itched and burnt and hurt like hell and so I went to see my GP about it before I flayed myself alive with scratching.
GP was very good about it. 'Mumble snabbledegook allergic mumble snedgerish soap' he burbled at me, then flourished his pen and wrote me a prescription for coaltar products, liquid soap, and soothing moisturising lotion. I spent hard-earned cash on the products, took the whole shebang home and used it for months and months and months. In the process I acquired several shebang-loads of the stuff and used it religiously, waiting for the skin to clear up.
Six months and a few hundred dollars later, I threw the last crappy odoriferous crap in the bin and went back to normal soap and shampoo. My skin cleared up. I breathed a sigh of relief, and felt great for a year or two when...
Went back to the NW again. Came back to Perth a year later, skin began the same fandango again, and this time I was on the other side of Perth and seeing a different GP. He referred me to what I will, laughingly, refer to as a dermatologist and skin specialist. In fact this doctor is one of Perth's leading dermos, and he took just one look to confirm his suspicions. 'Mumble snabbledegook soap mumble snedgerish psoriasis' was his comment, and I officially had psoriasis, one of the most depressing disease in history. Only leprosy could have been worse.
He told me that the shebangs of stuff I'd used were of little use, made a little flourish over the precription pad as he prescribed steroid creams, sun, sand, and sea, and sent me on my way. Since I also lived right across on the opposite side of the city from the beaches, I had to modify that a little bit and set up a solarium area in the back yard where I could sunbathe without nosy neighbours snooping on me, and the shebang of creams I was on cost as much over the next six months as those special soaps and shampoos and creams had. And that was that. After almost a year, it settled down by itself.
Score so far - doctors nil, Nature two.
A few years later the whole thing recurred. The GP where I lived prescribed one tube of cream after another, some of them (as I discovered later) even dangerous if misused. Score: Doctors nil, Nature about fifteen.
Finally after a really bad bout, the GP sent me, as luck would have it, to the same dermatologist. 'Mumble snabbledegook old mumble snedgerish dry skin' he said.
'But hang on doctor, isn't psoriasis, sort of, for life? How come now I don't have psoriasis, and have old dry skin instead? Which diagnosis is right?'
'Mumble snabbledegook old mumble snedgerish dry skin' he said.
He did the by now familiar flourish over the prescription pad, and out came a whole shebang of the same coaltar and skin lotion products he'd told me were crap four years ago. Wow pharmacology must have made some advances in the last five years. Pity doctors hadn't... I threw his prescription in the bin at his reception on the way out, to a startled yelp from the receptionist, and won't go there again. Besides, it's settled down by itself again...
But where did he get a degree? A clue as to this man's mind could be seen on the bookshelf placed on the patient's side of his desk, containing (I am NOT kidding here!) the Dermatology Journals in hardcover, from about 1950something up to 1970something. Can you spell ostentatious wanker, children?
Are all specialists that useless? Obviously not, or they'd be out of business - no patients left alive you see - so there must be something to this specialising lurk. Just that I'm blowed if I've seen any benefits... My gastro specialist: 'No the acid you're experiencing can't be happening because you're taking medication X, and therefore you CAN'T have acid.' This after I've just told him that I know what hydrochloric acid tastes like from chemistry days, and telling him that this was acid.
WTF is he on? When one of my customers tells me that his PC won't boot, I don't tell him 'you have software X, therefore you computer can't actually fail to boot' - if I did, I'd be looking for work in about an hour after that. Come to think of it if I'd tried to fix a non-booting machine by replacing the mouse, and then unrepentantly saying 'Mumble snabbledegook bios mumble snedgerish motherboard' I wouldn't have a job either...
And what else did the good gastro doc say? 'Mumble snabbledegook hiatus mumble snedgerish look inside' he said, then came that flourish, and he booked me in for a dual (endoscopy and colonoscopy) at $800 for 30 minutes of one of his mates' time.
I threw it in the bin at his reception...
My GP laughed about him when I brought the story to him,,
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 1:26 AMposted at 9:18 AM Ted
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Electric Haulpak Wheels and Dutch Ingenuity
Hey the Dutch are developing a radical new concept - a wheel with an electric motor built in, so that it needs nothing else but a place to screw it into the chassis and a voltage. Now I'm all for innovation but this is hardly radical, mining companies will bear me out on this. What's surprising is the length of time it tookl before the technology made it into the mainstream.
Yep, that's right. For at least 17 years that I know of, mining companies have been using effing huge dump trucks with a centrally placed diesel generator and hub motors in the wheels. It saves having to leave space for a drive train and drive shaft and differential and leaves more for the money-spinner, which is the ore. Seventeen years or more, there have been trucks capable of carrying 200 tons driving around on hybrid diesel-electric power using an in-wheel electric motor on each rear wheel...
Have we been ripped off or what? Of course, cos that's how the money goes around longer. Also, those trucks were designed for brute hauling ability not for fuel economy - they really would suck over distances when compared to a few road trains hauling 200 tons between them.
But - the technology on a smaller scale is far better. There are things you can do besides adding thicker cables and bigger generators. And THAT'S where, if they play their cards right, those Nederlanders could score bigtime.
Instead of running the motors on a lower voltage, 240 - 440 volts sounds about right. Thinner cables can be used to the motors at higher voltages, saving a lot on construction costs. Charging that much battery would be much easier if you used a polyphase generator with each phase across a small subset of the batteries. That way you can also use solar panels without having to go to crazy lengths...
While you're at it guys, make the centre have three separate and independent sets of windings so that one failure won't cripple a wheel, and add decent position feedback and three computer drive controllers. Oh yeah - because we are using higher voltage and less current, our switching MOSFETs can be more efficient too.
It's important to have a computer which can tell at any instant just how many degrees the wheel has gone through, and which can put the wheel into different modes depending on what's happening - once you're cruising, why fire all three windings at once, why not just fire them in turn once every three revolutions just to keep the speed up? Or when moving slowly, use all three windings for smoothness and torque? and so forth?
'And of course if you're going to go electric and ecological you don't want air conditioning, do you?' Lemme tell you something sport, when it's 40 degrees celsius outside I damn well want an aircon alright! So the question is how would we achieve airconditioning given that we're on an energy budget?
Well there's an old idea that's been around for decades too - solar roof. In that, you mount a somewhat insualting roof about 2cm above the car roof and it keeps the roof of the car from reaching temperatures of 80 to 110 degrees C. Nope, I'm not kidding, you could cook an egg on the average car roof here in WA if you leave it parked outside in the sun...
Only - why stop at a solar roof? Why not make it a 'solar solar roof'?? Add solar panels on top, and instantly you're putting that sunlight to some use, and keeping the car cooler into the bargain. Now add decent heat reflective window tinting, because that's the other thing that heats your car up. While you're at it, how about a shade for the windscreen and rear window too?
Now that the car is some 7 - 12 degrees C cooler inside thanks to all that, put the solar roof to work driving peltier diodes in the roof. Cool air sinks down into the car and you can probably take off another 7 or so degrees C for the active cooling. That's 14 degrees less than the 50 or more degrees that car interiors reach, so now a much smaller amount of airconditioning power can achieve reasonable cooling. And you can realise a lot of energy saving if you have smart control over whether you need to cool the car or not. (If you're leaving it all day then you don't need to keep the inside cool after all.)
When you're moving, the gap between the solar roof and car roof can also funnel air over a small set of turbines or some other wind harvester and convert some of that over-the-roof drag into more cooling of the peltiers. (Or heaters in winter I suppose.)
Now here's a thought. I can run a generator off a biodiesel engine - all I need for this is old oil and a few chemicals, basically. Or I could run the engine of real gas like hydrogen or methane, and for methane I can actually keep a methane digester in the vehicle provided we're talking a larger transport here.
Like a motor home, I was thinking. If you build it with ground clearance and suspension in mind, and use those adaptive wheel motors all around and a smidgen of machine intelligence, you could let your Winnebago drive you around at a sedate pace, day and night... Mind you there would need to be slow lanes all over the place but if you don't have petrol to run that HSV then you're stuck in a slow lane. If the government thinks they won't need slow lanes then they have nother think coming.
Take a motor home cruise - let the AI drive - enjoy life in a slowly moving wagon, and do it for almost zero in petrol costs. Yes machine intel is that good now and already it can see better than we can at night, gauge stopping distances and car spacings better than we can, knows where it is thanks to GPS, and will trundle there at the best economical rate for tghe road it's on.
The point is - I've thought of these things, which means anyone could think of them. It means that in all likelihood, someone already has. And the real reason it hasn't earnt them billions is that petrol still doesn't cost three dollars per litre. (Although it soon may, then maybe this technology will take off...)
I hope I live to see it.
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:17 AMposted at 9:18 AM Ted
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