Thursday, December 04, 2008

Inappropriate behaviour

On Monday night after basketball, the team always goes down to Percy's Bar in North Sydney for a couple of quiet beers. This last Monday was no different.

At some point during the evening I went to the toilet, and standing at the urinal was reading the advertisement on the wall. It was for Tooheys White Stag beer, which promises one-third of the carbs of a regular beer. The ad says the remaining two-thirds of the carbs will be sent to those who need it most -- Americans. Interesting ad, amusing, however, the thing which caught my eye was a QR Code, and the line which went something like: "Point your mobile phone's camera at this QR code, and your phone's browser will pop up and take you to the Toohey's White Stag website."

Now, I may be all on my own here in this opinion, but I am NOT taking my mobile phone out to take pictures of ANYTHING in a pub toilet. The places are scary enough as it is. And I am certainly not going to be browsing the net while standing at the urinal. I mean for starters, my phone is a Palm Treo, and needs two hands to operate.

What on earth were they thinking?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Cultural differences

I was looking through Kinokuniya in Sydney the other day. A labyrinthine, multi-language bookstore near Town Hall. I wandered from the English language fiction section over to the German langauge fiction section to test out some of my incredibly poor High School German.

I immediately noticed that the printing on the spine of German language books was in the opposite direction to that of English language books. To read through the titles, you have to tilt your head down to the left instead of the right. Cool!

My kids weren't impressed with this revelation. You try to teach children to enjoy the little things in life, but they are Generation Z (maybe Z+1?), and everything is either "mad" or "meh". This was clearly the latter.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

15 Things they don't tell you about getting old.

  1. It's harder to wake up in the morning.
  2. Your metabolism changes. Suddenly, cheesecake for breakfast, McDonald's for lunch and Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner is unacceptably bad for you. You actually eat the salads that come with the main meal.
  3. You can't go out drinking till late, sleep for two hours, and get up and run the City-to-Surf.
  4. You have an obsessive need to check your weight every morning.
  5. The words cholesterol and hypertension don't have to be searched for in the dictionary.
  6. Bad service makes you very cranky.
  7. The acceptable age range for attractive ladies gets wider and wider.
  8. You have to warm up at least 20 minutes for a 40 minute game, and still suffer 2 days of pain. If you don't warm up at all, expect 10 days of injury.
  9. The number of days suffering from the common cold quietly approaches, or even exceeds, the number of days spent without it.
  10. Your hair gets more wirey, and starts appearing in unusual spots, primarily nose and eyebrows.
  11. The antics of the school kids on the morning bus no longer amuse you.
  12. You doze off. Anywhere.
  13. The weekend is for doing nothing, as opposed to doing lots of things other than work.
  14. You still get pimples.
  15. When there is rubbish on television, you turn it off rather than sit vacantly waiting for something better to come on. And isn't there a great deal more rubbish on television nowadays, or is it just me?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sign of the times

Taking the girls back home on Sunday night, I found myself stuck behind these two cars going into the entrance of the Lane Cove tunnel. The first was this huge old Big American Car, straight out of the 50's, chugging along at about 40kph (or possibly 25 mph?). The second was a ute and obviously a "chase" car.

Once we got into the tunnel proper, I overtook them and drove on, and quickly lost sight.

About an hour later, on the way back after having dropped the girls off, just before the entrance to the tunnel, I spotted the Big American Car, abandoned by the side of the road. It has obviously only just made it out the tunnel before conking out.

Fairly symbolic, I thought, that the age of the big car is well and truly over.

Friday, June 27, 2008

School House names

On Wednesday, I was out at Josephine's primary school for a presentation, and hanging up behind the stage were the four house flags. I can't remember what the house names were, other than they were botanical. At my High School the houses were early Australian explorers, Blaxland, Lawson, Wentworth and some other intrepid soul. Hume, maybe?

I reckon for a Western Sydney school, you couldn't get better than having the houses named after motorsport people. What about Brabham, Doohan, Gardner, and Webber? Much more interesting than Waratah, Banksia, and the like!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Top 100 Books update

I'm now up to 32 books read. Refer to this previous article if you are not sure what I'm talking about.

These are the latest read:

  • As I Lay Dying — William Faulkner. This will either change or confirm your in-built views of back-country Americans. I liked this one very much.

  • Dune — Frank Herbert. I think this is about the fourth time I have read this one. A favourite.

  • Neuromancer — William Gibson. I find his narrative confusing in spots; probably a personal problem.

  • Scoop — Evelyn Waugh. Usually, it takes me a little while to get into a book and then I'm hooked. This was different. I initially thought it hilarious, I cooled on it in the middle, and got back to it in the end.

  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy — John le Carre. OK.

  • Wind in the Willows, The — Kenneth Grahame. Very English countryside kids story. I'm sure I have read this before, possibly?

And I'm still reading Moby Dick via Daily Lit. Page 100 of 252. Struth! I'll get there in the end.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A car accident

I was involved in an accident yesterday. No people damage, just to my car. Very annoying, with only this one surreal bright spot.

Tuesdays at petrol stations in Sydney (and possibly elsewhere) are just crazy now, reminding me of the petrol rationing times. Everyone lines up back into the street, blocking traffic, so they can fill up on what is supposedly the cheapest day of the week. Wow, one or two cents a litre, maybe $1.20 you saved for sitting with your car running for 20 minutes. But yesterday morning I was running on fumes only, and had no choice but to stop off at the Speedway Petrol Station on the corner of Falcon and Miller Streets to fill up my Civic. The arrangement of pumps at this station is unusual: since the station has access to both Miller and Falcon, the pumps are at 45 degrees to both roads, sort of cutting the corner if you like. I went round the corner and came back in, squeezing in behind a woman filling up, while a flat-bed tow-truck was filling up at the diesel pump alongside. He spent the whole time filling up on his mobile phone, which I thought unusual enough, seeing as there are always signs to say "Turn off mobile devices!" with the ubiquitous crossed-through red circle with the silhouette of a mobile phone inside. The woman left and I edged up to the front and plugged in.

We finished at the same time, he hopped into the truck still chatting away on the phone, and we both started to head out, him on the right, me on the inside. To get back onto Falcon Street we've both got to come back left at that sharp 45 degree angle. I decided to let him go first as he was edging aggressively into the traffic. But that wasn't enough for him, he had to cut across and he hit me while I was waiting there, ripping the front bumper up and almost off. The car was still driveable, so I headed out into the street, expecting him to stop up ahead. But no, despite my beeping the horn and yelling out, he was off and heading to the Harbour Tunnel turn-off, still talking on the phone! I had to accelerate and jump in front of him to get his attention, and then we went on a merry chase, me following, through the back streets till he pulled up in Ernest Street with his back end sticking into a "No Stopping" zone. One of those nasty red "No Stopping" signs that you know are going to cause no good if a cop comes past no matter what excuse you have. I had no choice but to pull in behind him.

He got out of the truck cabin, came back and spoke these immortal words:

"Hang on a sec', mate. I've got to fart."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The breakdown of society

One thing that scares me about the possibility of society breaking down, is the knowledge that I may have to use a filthy toilet. I don't handle filthy toilets well. Any occasions where I have to use portable toilets induce constipation. Camping or going away somewhere that doesn't have a proper sit-down are similar. I'm not referring to the stand-up situation but rather the sit-down. Obviously.

Cleaning and eating a feral cat--no problems. Sitting down on a warm seat--uggh.

Just another in a litany of my not-so-deep-down psychological issues.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Wrong route for an upgrade

I have a DLink DSL-504T DSL router at home connecting me to the internet, and I have got to say, I have never liked this box. It drops off for no apparent reason, and fails to reconnect automatically. The log is less than helpful and invariably shows the time and date as "00:00 Jan 1". The interface to punch holes through the router to me seem incredibly unintuitive. In fact the whole web interface thing is pretty confusing. Three times I have upgraded the firmware on it, and three times the upgrade has failed. Each time I have corrupted the device and it has required the "Corrupted Image" install.

This last time was the most frustrating. Knowing I have had problems in the past I took all the extra precautions I thought were necessary. I downloaded everything I could, manuals, readme files, all versions of the firmware and the little recovery utilities, as nothing is more frustrating than realising that you need information from the internet when you are sitting behind a DSL router that is impersonating a brick. I read as many forums as I could about the process and the troubles that people had with the process. I made sure that I had a Windows XP machine to do the upgrade, since the documents were all XP-centric. They are even XP- and Internet Explorer-centric, which is totally opposed to my Linux and Firefox theology. I disabled the firewall on the PC as instructed. I ensured that the IP address was static and the network parameters were correct.

The instructions, I have to say at this point, vary wildly between being annoyingly vague and confusing to annoyingly simplistic. A lovely little photograph of the back of the unit to show you were the reset button is? A step-by-step that gives a few steps, then just a huge block of text, as if they got sick of the whole step-by-step thing? Instructions that are just plain wrong: "Enter the username and password..." What username? It doesn't ask you for it. Lovely little screenshots of an Interner Explorer login dialog box. Can't I use Firefox?

And after all this, I still stuffed it up. Somehow. I have no idea what caused it to fail this time. I started the firmware upgrade application and it stalled half-way through. I had to run it in "Corrupted Image" mode to get it to install. But eventually it installed and I was able to re-configure it and re-connect to the internet. The log still shows "00:00 Jan 1". '

This is my last Dlink product ever I swear. And don't get me started on the DLink wireless router I have.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An advertisement

My wife's new online business:

Don't question, just click and find out.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Classic fiction comes to XML

I was editing a XML datasheet today within Microsoft Excel. Not my preferred choice, but never mind. Excel saved the datasheet in it's own bizarre format, but I don't really care, it is XML in the end.

Afterwards, looking through the XML that it generated, I found this:

<style id="s21">
    <span family="Swiss" bold="1">

I thought to myself that it would be much more appropriate if the Style ID for this one was "Robinson."

Think about it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I obviously have none. Or only a limited amount.

I enjoy doing Sudoku puzzles, and so most days I get onto and submit my daily sudoku. They keep track of how many you've completed correctly out of the last 350 days. I am approaching the 250 mark with 6 incorrect out of the last 350 days. Looking back through my record, you can see blocks of days where I've gone down to The Farm, or to my brother's place in Melbourne, or on a Footy trip to Brisbane with Fincher or whatever. 250 is alright, I reckon.

And then I look at the list of people who have completed 350. That's every day for the last 350 days they have submitted their entry, correctly, mind you. No piddling little typing errors or mistakes like me — Struth! Two 8's in row 3!.

It makes my feel wildly inadequate. And more than a little curious about the sacrifices that have to be made in order to get your entries in before the daily cut-off. "Sorry sweetheart, I can't engage in sexual intercourse right now as I only have twenty minutes before the Sudoku cut-off time." — or — "No we can't explore the wonders of Kakadu National Park today because I have heard the GPRS coverage is patchy at best."

Reminds me of that fellah, Noah Kalina (Google's just great, isn't it?), who took a photo of himself every day for about six years. (YouTube is pretty good, as well.)

It's occurred to me that this is probably the first time I've used the words sexual intercourse in a blog post. [Have I stepped over some invisible barrier?] It's also occurred to me that I probably should edit the time above. Twenty minutes for sex and a sudoku? There's probably enough remaining time for a beer as well.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

26 Down, 74 to Go

Sometime around mid-September 2006, a mate mentioned that he was reading books from a "Top 100 books of all time" list. I thought that this was a great goal, and decided to do this myself.

The first thing was deciding which list I would consult, as there were at least a half-dozen I could easily find on the net, and additionally, each bookstore chain had its own take on which books made the list. So I decided that I would create my own list. To do this I grabbed about six different lists, placed them in a spreadsheet, and titles which appeared multiple times (Lord of the Rings for instance) automatically went in. This accounted for about half of the books. The rest I picked-and-chose, selecting a mix of ones I had heard about, or ones I had read a long time ago and liked, or ones where the title just intrigued me. I came up with two lists, my Top 100 and my 2nd lot, with 155 titles in the 2nd lot.

I had about 30 titles overall that I had read previously, but decided I would re-read each one of these in addition to those I hadn't read.

Of course, the American lists favoured American authors and the English lists favoured English, and there was hardly any Australian literature at all, even in the Australian lists. What was interesting were the crossovers, where an English list would have an American author or vice versa.

This is what I have read so far:

  • Animal Farm — George Orwell.
  • Atonement — Ian McEwan. Coincidentally, I was reading this at the same time the movie came out.
  • Austerlitz — W. G. Sebald. Exhausting.
  • Big Sleep, The — Raymond Chandler. Had to see what all the fuss was about.
  • Brave New World — Aldous Huxley. My favourite at High School.
  • Captain Corelli's Mandolin — Louis de Bernieres. A little disappointing. In the end, I just couldn't imagine the characters behaving the way they did.
  • Catch-22 — Joseph Heller.
  • Clockwork Orange, A — Anthony Burgess. It took about a third of the book to "tune in" to this. But once there, a good story.
  • Deliverance — James Dickey. Creepy.
  • Godfather, The — Mario Puzo. I thought that this was a bit patchwork. Sometimes the writing was good, sometimes not so. Story was rollicking, though.
  • Hobbit, The — JRR Tolkien.
  • I, Claudius — Robert Graves. Now I just have to read Claudius, The God.
  • LA Confidential — James Ellroy. I'll have to see the movie now.
  • Magician — Raymond E Feist. Marathon. This edition had all the bits that he originally had to chuck out when first published. I reckon he could have left some of them out still.
  • Memoirs Of A Geisha — Arthur Golden. After seeing the movie.
  • Midnight's Children — Salman Rushdie.
  • Mort — Terry Pratchett. I may have missed the humour in this one.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four — George Orwell. The rats in the cage. Uggh.
  • Of Mice And Men — John Steinbeck.
  • On the Road — Jack Kerouac.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest — Ken Kesey. Another one where I am going to have to see the movie now.
  • Pride and Prejudice — Jane Austen. I think I must have read this about four times now. Every time I do, I pick up more subtle humour than the previous time.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five — Kurt Vonnegut. I wonder if he took a leaf out of Joseph Heller's book?
  • Spy Who Came in From the Cold, The — John le Carre.
  • Trial, The — Franz Kafka. Pretty good for an unfinished book.
  • Ubik — Philip K. Dick. I found it interesting that this particular work of his was on two lists. Aren't there other, better, Philip K Dick books.

Looking at this list, it seems rather pathetic for eighteen months of reading. I guess I should keep in mind that I am not reading these books exclusively, and I still have to spend an inordinate amount of time reading technical books. One of the titles Pride and Prejudice, I read in an email-per-day format as 149 parts from DailyLit. This service sends you a new part every day, and each email includes a link to send the next part immediately. I ended up reading quite a few of the final parts in one sitting while sick in bed with the laptop. Not the ideal way to read a book, but if you keep at it, you get there in the end. The current title I am reading like this is Moby Dick. Part 19 from 252!

So at current speeds, I'll be finished around October 2012.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The most confusing article ever?

I'm sure it isn't, but it certainly is very confusing.

I challenge you to read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, and understand, on the first read, exactly which Beltrame did what and to whom. When the author says "Beltrame" without clarifying it with "Mr" or "Mrs" or "Miss" or even "Romina", do you know whether it is grandfather, mother or daughter easily? Or are you, like me, tracing back through the article to get clues from the surrounding text.

It just became too hard, and I gave up. Surely it would not have been too hard for the author, who I am sure is intimately aware of the details, to add in little hints on each occasion, like the relevant Beltrame's first name or title. Either the author is lazy, or I am just too stupid.

I haven't completely ruled out the second.