Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Figures... Yeah.

I suppose, for certain values of "fair," this is fair enough. Like, if "fair" == "fair to the bigger companies, oppressive to individuals" then it's fair. Or if "fair" == "totally rotten scurrilous and invasive." There's a lot of ways you could say it's fair.

But those businesses that are "gaining an unfair advantage over competitors by deliberately avoiding tax" - I'd just about bet that they won't really notice this new campaign. You and I, on the other hand, we're prime targets for this. Haven't repaid a tax debt from last year of $100 or so, figuring you'll pick it upthis time around? Don't bet on it... While those dodgy businesses can shuffle employees around the phone extensions, afford answering and screening services, changing their phone numbers even, we with less resources can't move everyy time the Taxation Dept sends us a dunning letter, can't change the mobile number each time we get a "please respond" SMS or phonecall from "withheld"...

As if the depth they reach into our pockets with petrol excise isn't already enough. (And yep - for every tankfull of petrol you put in your car you're giving the government between $19 and $28 straight up.)

So how much of that money is going toward paying this call centre contract? How much of your taxes are going towards it? And when said call centre calls you and harasses you 10 -20 times in one day over what turns out to be an accounting error, will you get some of my tax back in damages?

And I bet this call centre will be exempt from the Do Not Call Register too...

Monday, 28 May 2007

VMoto: Milan 50cc vs Monza 50cc Shootout

I only say this because ScrappyV is very unwell. Because my trusty steed has had the magneto and oil pump replaced and subsequently turned into a Jekkyl and Hyde monster intent on throwing me under the wheels of rush hour traffic. Because of this, the VMoto head office took ScrappyV back this morning and gave me a loan scooter to get home.

All kudos toVMoto, this was a good move on their part, and I must say I fairly drooled at the chance to chuck a leg over a blue Monza. I was a bit surprised, I must say. Here's a scorecard:.

Milan: Speedo marked red from 35kph to 60kph, highest speed 60kph.
Score 1 for lack of bullshit
Milan: Top speed level road no wind: 65kph

Score 1 for effort
Milan: Acceleration: Gets to top speed in about 20 seconds

Score 1 for big heart
Milan: Fuel: Tankfull of fuel (5litres) gets me 100km

Score 1 for economy Fuel:
Milan: Small wheels you feel every bump.

Score -1 for comfort, sorry Milan
Milan: Drum brakes all around are reasonable for the machine.

Score 0 for brakes, not spectacular
Milan: Low CG, uncomfortable seat.

Score 1 for overall riding position and comfort
Milan: Scored: 4

Monza: Speedo marked red(ish) from about 50kph and goes all the way to 90kph.
Score -1 for total bullshit and misleading speedo markings.
Monza: Top speed level road no wind: 62khp

Score 0 for top speed
Monza: Acceleration: Gets to top speed in about 30 seconds

Score -1 come on, you're a more recent model your performance should be better!
Monza: Tankfull of fuel (unknown) gets me 70km by the look of it

Score 0 for economy - Why should I fill the tank every day?
Monza: Larger wheels but still quite bumpy.

Score 0 for comfort. Best score so far...
Monza: Disc brake front is overkill, not well matched.

Score 1 for brakes, 0 for matching to machine
Monza: High CG, slightly more comfortable seat

Score 1, because the high seating position is uncomfortable
Monza: Scored: 0

As you can see, the old jx-50 Milan wins hands down. And it's not for any other reason that I can see except that the Monza is not a well-designed well-matched machine. The higher seating position is not comfortable, needs extra structure which costs in weight, and the machine is heavier for a similar engine which leads to a clumsy and sluggish feeling vehicle.

The disc brake on the front is overkill for the Monza machine, and makes it a far more demanding ride in wet conditions. While the Milan's two drum brakes aren't wonderful, they are far better matched to the weight and speed of the bike and stop you in plenty of time. The only downside to the Milan's brakes is that many of them came with really crap compound and squeaked and were very embarassing but I believe the latest pads are far better.

More overkill, the Monza has an remoted alarm system. Totally over the top, and also given what I know about the tiny batteries fitted to scooters, what's the point? It will run out of peep in about twenty minutes, and then the bike will still be just as stolen as a Milan with the steering locked. I.e. you can't secure a machine that one person can pick up off the ground. Steering locks and alarms are pretty much lipstick on a pig in this case, VMoto take note we'd prefer it if there was a chain lock using the same key as the ignition welded to the frame somewhere.

The under seat storage space seems smaller than the Milan's, and that's sad. Also there's no real shopping bag hook, the one on the Monza is almost a vestigial stump of a bag hook and in fact neither bike wins on this point. The Milan has a good solid bag hook but it is at such a bad angle that bag handles slip right off, and on both bikes the hook has been frustratingly placed so that only tiny shopping bags will hang, for all the rest the handles will blow right off the hook.

The Monza looks like it should be the better machine but *just* misses out. Where I can run around for a few days on the Milan before filling up, or manage two trips to Midland and back, the Monza forces me to fill up once before going to Midland and again before the trip back. Where I can carry a spare 5 litres of fuel, a bottle of 2 stroke oil, tools, spare riding gloves and spark plugs, and still have room in the Milan, I was hard pressed to put my lunch and my bumbag under the seat of the Monza.

And I have to confess that if it came down to a choice of which of the two bikes I trust mechanically, I'd still choose the Milan despite the recent breakdown it's had, because the Monza even sounds odd.

Hari Kari Sushi San

Things are bad for the Japanese government. I'm just sorry it wasn't the Minister for Whaling Research.

Look - they are having internal issues, this is obvious. It's a government falling apart at the seams, because, as with everything else, beaurocracy has been adopted and elevated to an artform.

I won't I won't I won't say anything else about the whaling fiasco and I won't I won't I won't say anything about Kyoto Protocols, I just mustn't. So I'll let you think about it all, and wonder how many issues were on Mr Matsuoka's mind besides just a bad voter swing.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

The Vital Difference

Most of you know I use a shyteload of tech to stay in touch. A lot of you also know I use (or used) two "webSMSenger" systems that purport to send messages to your mobile phone and accept SMS messages and forward them into the conversation on the server. Of the two, System A has few glamorous features, their server breaks down often, and the SMS gateway for Australia left us stranded for over a week. System B has glitter and polish, allows lifestream feeds to be added, and has recently caved in to mounting usage, not by crashing as the other one did, but by sneakily limiting features without telling anyone.

When I had a problem with System B, I left messages all over the place and finally got one petulant querulous and supercilious response from one of the developer/admin type people, and most of that response seemed devoted to telling me what a fecking idiot I was for not knowing all the stuff that he, an insider, knew and took for granted.

When I had a problem with System A, I emailed them and was actually a great deal more curt and abrasive with them, yet they treated my report with respect. I've since emailed them back and applauded them for their switched-on, userfriendly, and definitely brilliant support.

So you can guess which System I'll be pulling the plug on as soon as I post one last response to the admin guy's response... It goes into meltdown on a semiregular basis, yes. But each time it comes back there's some improvement. It may not be a glaring obvious one, but each shutdown signals some improvement has been made.

System A may not support hundreds of RSS feeds per user, but then let's face it the opposition only managed to do so by making that feature useless.

The web interface is quite simple and barebones - but then I will use SMS almost as much as I use that web interface.

And the SMS may have gone the way of the dodo for a week there, but it came back, and unlike System B's efforts, it IS there working right now.

I get friendlier support, a good bunch of friends, and besides, System A has lolkitties! How can anyone resist that?

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Empowered By Tech?

Noticing that the world is changing. (Takes a bow, realises people are laughing at him not with him, slinks off the stage.)

No, seriously. Just commented on the question of the day at Jeff Pulver's blog, and realised - I use around a dozen forms of IM on a daily basis, keep up several websites as well as my blogs, have dozens of other contact methods all involving technology, and use most of them to get things done in my daily life. On top of that I also put in a full day at a regular job, and no I don't blog at work these days or run regular IM sessions on the company's network, those are things I do in my spare time.

If (as tonight) I have a lousy dining experience, I blog it, and if it's a superlative experience, I also blog that. The thing is, my voice here online affects stuff IRL. I noticed that several of my friends who'd normally go to Fast Eddie's have made the effort to go to Pizza Bella Roma in Fremantle recently, and one has become a regular there.

If I have a suddenly insoluble problem at work or with one of my extracurricular jobs, I mentally go through the list of my friends on IM for someone who works on that stuff and can help me work it out.

What are Trish and I doing this evening? ebroadcast has the TV guide for the evening, the movie theatres' websites provide ideas for movies we want to go see, and Twitter and various others have lists of local events.

Nothing on TV, no new movies, and no bands or places to go have a "leadsinkerburger"? Luckily I also receive about 800 - 1200 articles a day via RSS feeds consisting of blog posts, world news articles, hardware and software news, tech news, and tips and tricks so I'll never get bored. I'll skimread between a tenth and a third of them, and fully read between 10 and 50 each evening.

And I know I'm not Teh Bomb in this technologically-enhanced new social fabric - for proof of that just watch the real masters of the matrix, the sub-twenties. At 50 I'm one of a very small percentage of my generation who truly use technology but I just don't have the stamina or the educated SMS Thumb to keep up. My typing speed is a lousy two-fingered hunt'n'peck 40 words per minute. My brain melts after a couple of hours of trying to watch TV, read news, answer IMs, email my friends, and keep blog articles flowing.

Is my life better for it? I really don't know,because I have nothing to compare it to any more. But I do know that it's easier, it's more interesting, and I can do a lot more of the things that I want to do in my week than most other people I know.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Blogroll Changed

As you may notice, my blogroll is seldom a static thing, I tend to add and delete as my reading tastes change or the blogs mentioned change their focus.

Lately, I've been reading the adventures of Melissa Maples in Turkey, and also reading Binnur's Turkish Cookbook Blog to get me in the right mood for Mediterranean food and fun.

I also found a great UFO blog in my travels.

Stay tuned, loads of things appear here unpredictably!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Another video of 9/11 released.

Very fast, very hard to catch the plane - but it's another angle of the 9/11 towers disaster.

Why is some of this stuff taking so long to surface?

Saturday, 19 May 2007

I'm in ur hungry, doing a macaroni

Gems from a Twitter friend, and one of the reasons I love Twitter:

(reversed so as to be in chronological order)
Housemate's lack of fear of speaking English is commendable; he just made lunch and said, "is our hungry possible? I did a macaroni to us."

@xxxxxxxxxx: we can has macaroni?

I'm in ur hungry, doing a macaroni.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

A Christmas Carol

We're not American here, not yet. Despite Bonsai Johnny Bush wishing it. And we're by and large a Christian nation, we celebrate Christmas. We came up with thongs and tinnies on the Christmas tree, and if we didn't invent Carols By Candlelight well I reckon we were just the earliest adopters.

And we're great jokers, we are. Which is why a little memory that tonight's quiz show shook loose is a little bit piquant. And some of us followed American comics other than MAD magazine...

Were you ever stuck in a school choir? And do you remember how hard it was to sing "while shepherds watch their flocks by night" when the loudest most tuneless and most clueless kid in the school, whom you of course got stuck right next to in the choir, tunelessly caterwauled "while shepherds pie their locks alight"? It's hard to sing the right words when someone is belting out the wrong ones right beside you.

All those things and several more came together in a flawlessly executed practical prank one day, in the late 90's. A few of us had gotten slightly pissed (well okay, a lot pissed) at the beginning of the Christmas break, and decided a Carols By Candlelight prank was for us. We planned it meticulously, too. Practised for quite a few nights and nursed hangovers the next day, plotted our positions in the crowd, everything. All we'd need on the night was one cue.

Now picture the scene. A medium sized (maybe several hundred) sized group on some community land in Perth, a sea of candles and smiling faces, music. Spread through the mob, three guys who had just one mission in mind, one thing to achieve that night. Wait for the cue. Wait for that one song, one tune. One carol, that was all we asked for, one carol.

For the first few carols we sang along like angels. Our turn was coming soon! Our turn was coming soon! and we watched the candles burn down, and suddenly, there it was!!!

Three voices in the crowd started, just far enough apart that no-one would connect us as a prank commando unit, but close enough together to be heard singing the same well-rehearsed lyrics. And suddenly,voices around us faltered, as if not quite believing what they were hearing. Were they, after all these years, wrong? While these new words were right? After all, one person - well he's that loudest most tuneless and most clueless kid, right? And two, well they could have gone to the same school together. But three, that's a paradigm shift...

The circles of confusion spread outward from us like ripples from stones. Suddenly a voice somewhere in the outskirts, in a very American accent, whispered "well Ah'll be daimmed!" and started singing along as the whole area around us fell silent - except, of course, for the loudest most tuneless and most clueless kid in the crowd who kept blasting out the normal version at full volume.

We meanwhile got several verses in before someone stopped the music. It started out as a little lost strain among the crowd, got positively BELTED OUT as almost the entire rest of the park went quiet except for us four, and then trailed off into uncertainty when the organisers unceremoniously pulled the music on us.

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wow of folly,
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!!!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin'
on the wagon, Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name....uh zzzizzi zuhwoo

Find the rest of the words and some backstory here.

And yeah, some nice man came over to us and suggested we leave. No-one appreciates a prank when there are sacred cows involved apparently... And we three mates (never did find out who the fourth one was) had one more thing to tell the grandkids. Ah we're easily amused.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

The Google Cal Tango

I posted this a while ago, then had to take it back when they stopped it. Well, now it's back and looks like staying there- Google Calendar now has multiple reminders which you can set per event, and it has them on your secondary calendars as well as the primary ones now. Excellent!

Friday, 11 May 2007

Contracts Rule!

It's been a week, alright. Sorry have not posted but always takes a while to settle into a new contract. This one has not been an exception. Also, it blowed up my liddle scoota, which pisses me off mightily. Also, it's going to cost just short of $300 to fix, which is even more of an annoyance. But face it - by the time I do these repairs, the scooter will be almost new again. And it HAS had a very tough task to do. I tend to use my equipment intensively.

So anyway - I am one of two new contractors working for "a few weeks" at a large Government body in Midland. I'm actually enjoying this, my first exposure to a large (huge, even) IT team environment. I think I'm made for this kind of position!

In an interesting first week, I got to delete almost 200 Lotus Notes databases (and good riddance to them, too!) and made dozens of changes to the mail system, found a few problems and started the change management process to fix those, and helped nail a small trojan outbreak cos I've met that particular one before.

I've seldom enjoyed a first week on a new contract so much. Here's hoping it stretches out a bit beyond four weeks...

Friday, 4 May 2007

Google Roxxored For A While...

Hmmm maybe last post on Google was premature. The pretty dropdown lists for reminders, and the reminders being available on all my calendars, seems to only have lasted a day. Probably testing - but at least we know it's going to happen!

Apologies for anyone who went and checked after they put thingsback and thought I was crazy, but... Hang on, if you thought I was crazy then stuff you! No, apologies for all the people whose hopes rose only to be dashed by the GoogleCal developers, but it's still a good sign because I was able to successfully use all those features yesterday, and that means that aside from some tuning, the new features have all been written, and they worked! (I got several individually set SMS reminders today, that I set yesterday while the test was going on.)

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Google Calendar ROXXORS!!

A fair while ago I started to have some serious issues about Google Calendars - mainly, it had never heard of IE7 back then so I kept having to do other things to get it to come up, and then when GoogleCal caught up, I had to rebuild my machine on a much weaker laptop and lost IE7 anyway.

But other issues cropped up - useability issues, more and more of them. I got into their help forum and posted suggestions. And guess what? THE FEATURES ARE THERE NOW!

I was probably one voice in millions, but it's good to see. My main favourite feature? You can now turn on per-event which type of reminder you'd like - so I can set up SMS for meetings that I shouldn't miss, email for that reminder topick up flowers in the next few days, and pop-ups for work stuff. (At which time I have GoogleCal open so it can always make pop-ups.)

Thank you Google Labs!

I Can Has Grammar?

More weirdniz of the lolcats kind. lolgay gebrils. (sic)

I'm going to find my cat pics and pimp the hell out of them - I actually have a few that will make reasonable macros.

Will also give me practice at doing Picasa / Blogger things.

GroundBilby Day?

Nah nah nah! Not in the American sense as in "ground beef" but in the - oh yeah, also American sense as in "Groundhog Day, the movie." For the latecomer to things Aussie, this is a Bilby. We try and pretend they're as cool as the Easter Bunny but they aren't anywhere near as fecund as hares or rabbits, and they were pretty definitely not around when the pagans celebrated the Feast of Oestre...

Anyhow - have you seen The Matrix series? Of especial interest to me tonight was the scene where the cat runs along the corridor a second time and they figure out that there's a loop in the program. Of especial interest to me when I see the soap laying beside the soap dish, just like it was yesterday when I had my evening shower, despite the fact that I remember putting it back in the dish.

Hmmm in the process of having an almost identical sleepless night as last night, soap out of place in almost identical position, even the same chatter running through Twitter- er, no, hang on- the same chatter runs through Twitter all the time... Oh well...

Then I have a flash of memory, something about going to sleep after 5:30 this morning and then waking up at 7:30 to get a head start on the day's meetings, having a morning shower, and being so out of it that I missed the dish and even thought "shit that's gonna spin me out tonight!"

So Groundbilby Day turns out to be Teddles Gump. Damn I am exhausted!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Barren Heffwit

Heffernen - what a rude tosser... Gillard is like me, and like tens of thousands of others. We CHOOSE not to.

That way the kids that there are, will be valued and educated. Which apparently Heffernana is not.

Shrunk & Trite - The New Grammar

The phenomenon of lolcats is pretty much the history of easy photocaptioning. Ever since those silly stickers came out that you could wreak havoic on your family snaps with, people have been finding new ways to be funny with words and pictures.

I don't think it's any special form of communication, although Anil Dash Blog has several articles on lolcats grammar which are quite amusing. I do think though that just as our elders had to catch up to "hep cat" and "hippy" and other language structure and grammar changes, we are now developing the next wave of communication.

Via the medium of BBS mail and SMS and email and IRC and IM, we have approached a new form of minimalist communication which nevertheless has a rich set of rules and syntaxes, and it's fun to trace the development of the language Skynet will speak when machines grow up..

Follow more lolcats grammar rules on ICanHasCheezBurger.Com and we can see the history already behind the online communications.

Still not convinced? Grammar Girl has an article on Twitter grammar do's and don'ts at her blog but I think she just missed the good pun with her name, "Strunk & Twite" does not do Twitter justice, a better title might have been "Shrunk & Trite" - much as I love Twitter I find that "I can has cheezburger!" is just not what I want to know when I want to know what my friends online are doing right now...

Anyhow I has my own lolcatz vying for my attention with much tailz n purrz so I can has catz time, and this is as good a place as any to say Hay guise! CYAZ! lol!

Peril-Sensitive Drive Train!

Those lolcats have been at my scooter, my beloved VMoto jx50 Milan. "I'm in your wheels stealin' yur tractions" it said to me in perfect lolcat grammar.

Today I had about 50km to cover on various errands, and I estimate that for 40km of that distance, it rained. Glorious rain the like of which Perth hasn't seen in a while, but still, I wish ot could have been abit better attuned to my itinerary...

Seems that VMotos might have peril sensitive belt drives. Mine definitely acted to reduce the risk of me doing mad driftz away from traffic lights, at any rate. As I got to the CBD (naturally - why would it happen anywhere else?) I actually thought I'd burned out the centrifugal clutch as the little motor revved and revved and the scooter inched away from the lights much to the annoyance of the taxi driver behind me.

After an hour or more of sitting out of the rain at my doctor's surgery though, it all came good again so I surmise that water in the belt drive is not a Good Thing for Mitey Milan. And here's why I was at the surgery, by the way. Yes I am available for your writing needs, just contact me I am happy to freelance for you too.

On the way home, I avoided flooded spots on the road and had no more trouble, so I suspect that the Douglas-Adamsesque behaviour was just a fluke. But I'm going to keep an eye on ScrappyV for any hint of a personality from now on!

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

I Am Mr Angry To My Politicians!

I don't currently have a car. I have my little Vmoto 50cc scooter and use that as sparingly as possible. Now - even on something as tiny as this scooter, I pay a registration fee. Part of that fee goes to the Police department for tracking the vehicle and paperwork, part goes to them for policing the roads to make it safe for me to ride. (Which doesn't happen but you've probably read one of my "all drivers are dickheads" articles)

Part of that whacking great fee (did you know that motorcycle and scooter riders pay relatively more per wheel per cc than car drivers? A LOT more?) goes to road maintenance. I've always thought that the petrol excise pays the rest of the road maintenance bill, but I'm wrong.

Tonight I received a phone survey on this topic. Cars, environment, roads, safety. Have your say, yada yada yada. In among all the questions and statements, I discovered this little gem:

38c/litre is the Government's excise on petrol. Each time you fill up the average car, you're putting $19(!!!) into Government coffers. And do you know how much of that twenty bill finishes up paying for road maintenance? Try $4. Yep, 8c/litre of the excise is spent on roadwork.

Kind of puts it into perspective doesn't it? Each time you fill your tank Mr Howard laughs at you, and buys two more supersized McDonalds meals so he can be more like his American heroes.

HHGTTG Comes True

http://tinyurl.com/29s75p - peril-sensitive sunglasses to follow, Douglas Adams you were right!

Why I Love Twitter!

"Conversation" tonight:

GRUM: stupid McQuote of the night: "Sorry sir, you CAN'T order ranch dressing - it just DOESN'T work that way!".

GRUM: 30 seconds later: "Sorry sir, we're out of Italian dressing - would you like to try Ranch?" WTFYARGH!! honestly, why does stupid follow me?

ME: @grum: I has stoopidmagnet!

GRUM: @teddlesruss: you do? where can i have it? I LOVE magnets!

ME: @grum: it's only good at attracting stoopid to one...