news bits

public service announcement

If you own any appliances made by Fisher & Paykel; and they break down (as these things do)... Just get Fisher & Paykel to come and fix it. Fuck the people your Real Estate Agent "highly recommends".

That is all.

If you need me, I'll be in the fucking laundromat.

news bits | Big Kev's retail shift (September 25, 2003) - I had been wondering about this. Big Kev's stuff used to be in all the supermarkets; now you can only get one of the products (and not the shower cleaner which is the one i wanted...). Mundane I know, but it shows how important it is to buy good shelf space. For anyone who doesn't know: supermarket shelf space is all paid for. You literally buy your space. Eye level is the most expensive. | Stanbroke allegations fired (September 25, 2003)... all seems very odd. Although ultimately I'm mostly concerned that the standard of product at Diamantina's doesn't drop ;-/ | Sheep will leave port tomorrow (September 25, 2003). Seems this issue is going to be getting some more air time. There must be money in it; or the export wouldn't continue (long). Part of me can't help thinking it must be awful for the sheep; another part of me (that grew up farming deer) wonders how they keep the stock's condition up during the journey. Must be an awesome logistical challenge (think water and fodder for tens of thousands of sheep). That said, shiploads of stock periodically get rejected so the whole process can't be that smooth. | Chatrooms ignore MSN shutdown (September 25, 2003)... no, the entire internet will not shut down because MSN did it. There will always be a chat room somewhere. MSN is really just covering its own arse, trying to look like a good corporate citizen and hence ward off potential litigation. | Entertainment | Streisand bored with herself (September 25, 2003). The headline is funnier than the article, really.

Magnate's women call truce in battle for $400m - National - About freaking time. These people are horrible people.

On another note, yes I do get most of my news through the same two sites (well, three or four if you count the courier snail and sunday snail for local stuff). In Australia print news is all basically produced from the same sources; filtered through two main companies (Fairfax and News Ltd). So by going to those two sites you pick up both sides (on the web, the news is basically the same across publications for both groups). If you give a shit, check out Media Ownership Regulation in Australia: Major media companies.

I should probably mention my majors were journalism and philosophy, which is why i sort of give a shit :)

Update 2003.09.29 - I should really have said that yeah, we have the ABC news service as well; which is sorta independent (i say sorta since the government holds the purse strings and is slowly choking it to death). But I primarily go to the ABC for TV news and tend to forget to go to the website. Silly, really. Must get in the habit of checking ABC news again :)

news bits

Random things: cherry coke is good (far more subtle cherry "hint" than i expected), sadly the broncos are out for the year (hey, next year is another season :)), antipasto is good (but i think perhaps i've had too much in the last couple of days). Apparently there are now seven lj-ers with this blog on their friends list (four are a mystery since i can't look up who it is... :)). Jack still manages to surprise me by turning up in odd places. I'm going to have to get hold of Jennifer Government as I've seen quite a few good reviews now.

Not terribly random thing: despite being tired, i've stayed up instead of going to bed early.

Hmmm, blogger is now mostly free. By mostly, I mean you still don't get RSS feeds on the free plan; even though you can't get onto the pro plan now. But, there are a bunch of other nifty features I'll be playing with. Shhhhweet!

slashdot bits

news bits | Trade battle looms with Europe, US (September 10, 2003). The tangled battles of international trade... let's face it Europe, Japan and the US will never stop subsidising their farmers. If every other nation managed to present a united front, you might have an outside chance of getting them to decrease the subsidies; but I wouldn't bet anything important on it. | Laptop stolen in further security breach (September 10, 2003). With a bit of luck the sensitive info won't be *that* sensitive. When was the last time you saw a powerpoint slideshow that actually contained useful information?

Ethanol found to be bad for millions of cars - National - I don't know that anyone thought the working group would say otherwise, though. Nice sidestep to get the manufacturers to bear the cost of providing information to car owners. I would have thought one single call centre funded by the petrol companies would have been more appropriate; although could you trust them? HAHAHAHAHAhahah....ahh fuck.

Kisses heard around the world - linked purely for this quote.... People were shocked - shocked! - that two of the most publicity seeking people this side of Evel Knievel did something like this on a show known for publicity stunts. This wasn't shocking. U2's Bono kissing Justin Timberlake - 'that' would have been shocking. Maybe. ...I mean, really, did anyone *really* find it shocking??? Personally I think the media just wanted to run lots of photos of two girls snogging. - The Sydney Morning Herald | photo gallery | Signs of the time. Old signs around Sydney.

The Register | The RIAA sees the face of evil, and it's a 12-year-old girl: The RIAA has nailed one of the most prolific file-traders in the U.S., filing a lawsuit against 12-year-old Brianna LaHara. ... She may look like a sweet and innocent child, but the RIAA says it's only going after major copyright violators at the moment. So you make the call.

Worth it just for the headline; but you should also read the story. The RIAA is apparently quite happy to sue a 12 year old girl for US$150,000 per song she downloaded. She thought it was ok to download whatever she wanted; since her mother had paid for the service. Seems pretty reasonable from her point of view. Hopefully the RIAA will drop the charges; not because they're nice, but because even the RIAA might worry about the bad press which will result if they take a 12 year old to court.

Apparently once in a while Google's servers take the digital equivalent of a whole lot of crack. For example.... Google Search: "gothic web design". This blog is the 11th result; just ahead of some gay pr0n sites. That's only the second page of results. Maybe the Google people have realised the world's attention span no longer makes it past the first ten hits; so after that they just have a randomising routine that makes shit up.

slashdot bits

The Kansas City Star | A SPACE ODDITY? Strange Kansas City marker part of world-wide mystery. Yep, a good old-fashioned mystery; like crop circles and Britain's horse shoes in the night. Except, far easier to explain - one guy with a van load of equipment could do it. It's an interesting read.

Slashdot | Haunted Houses Explained: Infrasound. This one is worth it just for the arguments in the forum... people still think "science" is about "truths". Think again, people - science is only about observed patterns. I can observe the pattern that a piece of wood burns when exposed to flame while a piece of metal does not; from this you can quite legitimately say that the wood contains Phlogiston and the metal does not. Scientists now "know better" and laugh at the quaint notion of Phlogiston. Yet, the scientific "truths" held dear right now are just our own versions of Phlogiston - we just don't have a better explanation yet. Many people who study science really can't cope with this idea. I did a Philosophy & Science subject as part of my degree... the philosophy students found it stimulating and interesting. The science students were mostly incredulous, angry, depressed or scared - they didn't want anyone to say that perhaps what they were learning in other subjects might not be true. To put it anther way; they had very closed minds. I wonder why you'd study science if you weren't prepared to ask questions? They also missed the fact you can be a scientist and still know that you are just working on the best explanations that you can form given current knowledge, equipment and beliefs. Yes; you can mix science and philosophy, just leave the religion out. People are willing to kill for religion; most people are just willing to get drunk for philosophy.

The Globe and Mail | Forward, into the past, where the state of Science Fiction is lamented. Why are people turning away from SF? Personally I blame post-2000 disillusionment. For decades, The Year Two-Thou-Sand was the benchmark of the coming modern age. We were meant to be living in an SF future by now; yet we aren't. We made it to space, then tried to go to war with it; now we just use it to beam television around the globe. We would have robots if DARPA could make a soliders out of them. We would save the planet if there was any profit in it. We could look to religion for answers if the different names for "God" stopped causing wars. Is it any wonder that people would rather read Fantasy? On top of that; people read less and less in any case. People now think they're all cyber because they like The Matrix; instead of thinking they're all cyber because they read Gibson, Sterling, et al.

Well slashdot sure cheered me up today ;)

Forgotten NY - photos of New York's forgotten details. The quality of some photos seems bad because many of the shots themselves are old... photos taken in the 70s and 80s really show their age; particularly now that we're used to seeing relatively high quality digital snaps. I recommend the subway shots; in particular The Future Was Yesterday.

slashdot bits

Spaceflight Now | Breaking News | NASA opens new chapter in supersonic flight - supersonic, minus the sonic boom. Go fast AND keep your city's windows. Nice. | Passwords multiply as users' rage rises... yep, "password rage". Which is why my organisation is working towards single sign-on. I'm worried that people still keep their PIN number in their wallet though. If you only remember one damn password, wouldn't you make it the one that unlocks your money?

Slashdot | Google Turns 5. Seems like longer, doesn't it :)

Slashdot | Kids Kill, Victim Sues Game Maker. Apparently we're still replaying this argument. Imagine if the kids hadn't had access to loaded guns...? Imagine if they hadn't ended up so damn bored? Imagine if they'd learned the difference between the console and the freeway? Imagine if they hadn't had access to an adult-rated game? Check out the Slashdot user comments (ignore the first few posts) for some funny parody work. I like this one best: Parents sue Mario and Luigi when their 14yo kid broke his hand while trying to jump and break a brick after doing mushrooms.

slashdot bits

Slashdot | RIAA Sales Compared to Download Statistics: According to an article at SFGate, although the recent crackdown and lawsuits have caused a 22% drop in downloading, the drop in CD sales actually accelerated during the same period.

Twisters, hurricanes, floods (oh my) - Computerworld. An ISP got wiped out completely during a tornado (we're talking complete destruction), yet only had 72 hours of downtime. It's what off-site backups are all about...!

news bits

The brazen airport computer theft that has Australia's anti-terror fighters up in arms - It's called social engineering; and it's becoming more dangerous than electronic hacking, because it's just so hard to stop. There's probably no way they could have stolen all that data by cracking the system; but they attacked the real weak point - bad security procedure and, basically, people. Result: they literally carry the data out of the building. Go read Kevin Mitnick's book The Art of Deception. You'll never give a video store your credit card number again (assuming you ever did). | Children 'safer with their dads' (September 5, 2003). A FEDERAL parliamentary inquiry into child custody arrangements was told yesterday that children were safer living with their biological fathers. Co-founder of the controversial Men's Rights Agency, Sue Price, told the inquiry despite the "maternal preference" of the Family Law Court in custody battles, statistics showed children were more likely to be abused, or even killed, when in the custody of their mothers. Basically the Men's Rights group is calling for a Shared Parenting approach, instead of a Mine or Yours approach. To put it another way, they're after equality and the best result for the children involved in custody disputes.

FOX SPORTS | League | Gala night cancelled (September 5, 2003). The NRL is bullshitting everyone trying to blame the players. The reality is the NRL yanked the event when the players refused to agree to a gag during negotiations (ie. give up what few bargaining chips they have). The players are just after a minimum wage for the non-star players - it'd be different if the big boys wanted more money. Let's face it, the NRL are not nice people; it's all about money and the top brass don't want to share it around with the people who actually take the hits.

Oh, and I did see this one - | Amphibious vehicle river tested (September 4, 2003). Cool idea, although people have enough trouble navigating peak hour on land. It'd be cool to fly the jolly roger though :)

ENERGEX - clean, green energy for your home. Grrr. You have to pay extra to get green energy; if you want 100% green energy you have to pay a LOT extra. It may be a pragmatic approach but it certainly shows they're not committed to the cause. Think of it this way - you pay extra, they use the money to buy green energy. So, I'm paying them twice for x% of my power... fuckers! They should be paying for cleaner energy; but they're sidestepping it. They built and/or buy from the fucking dirty coal power plants! (Most power plants in Australia use low-grade coal - shitty stuff that is low-yield and high-emission.)

Sigh. Still and all, it's the only choice at this stage (Ergon does the exact same thing). I sure as hell can't set up a wind farm on my rental property's roof :-/

Wired News: Teen's Felony Case Thrown Out. In short: the judge ruled that you have to show more evidence of intent than a piece of crappy fiction (PDF). If they'd found the kid in possession of guns, ammo and C4 explosive; then this would have been a different story. All they found was a kid venting his frustration by writing a story - but in America it seems that's not ok. I wonder if jocks ever write stories about beating kids up?

Come to think of it, I recall being read a story at school when I was a kid... it was a humourous piece about a teacher going nuts and killing the class for misbehaving. It was funny, everyone laughed. Nobody thought it was serious. Oh how times have changed. | Ban on health cover for golf clubs, CDs (September 4, 2003). In short - health cover included stuff like sports equipment to encourage lazy pricks like me to get out and exercise. But, oh the shock and horror, people claimed these benefits from their extremely expensive health cover. How could they be so evil? So rather than crack down on dickheads getting relaxation CDs, they're scrapping the whole deal.

I'm not especially surprised that the bottom fell out of this deal. I'm more surprised at the attitude the government and insurance companies have... Basically everyone was pressured to get health cover. Then they all bitched and whined because people promptly started claiming everything. Of fucking course you're going to claim - when you're seeing hundreds of dollars going out you're going to wonder what's in it for you, then claim whatever you can since you've already paid for it. On top of all that, it's not like it even pays for everything anyway - ask anyone with glasses if they still have to cough up a couple of hundred for decent spectacles (you know, something you'd actually want to wear every day of your life).

It'd be like getting upset because people claim car repairs on their car insurance.

Universal Music Group Reduces CD Prices - Sep. 3, 2003: NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Vivendi Universal's (V) Universal Music Group plans to sharply lower the consumer cost for compact discs, in an effort to bring customers back into retail stores and boost music sales. The move comes as the music industry grapples with a continuing decline in retail sales in the face of rampant piracy and other problems.

Holy shit, I never thought I'd see the day. A record company willing to try something other than suing college students and their own customers.

tiny pineapple | zeldminem The hat notwithstanding, how in the world could you confuse Eminem with Jeffrey Zeldman? One is a chart-topping artist whose work has redefined an entire genre and who has rabid fans all around the world that will travel thousands of miles to see him whenever he makes an appearance; the other is a rapper.

It's funny if you're a web geek.

Dilbert | 2003.09.03 Suddenly, Mike the vegan pounced. Hehehe. It's so true. Sorry, vegans - this is everyone else's point of view. Don't get confused and think people are disrespecting your choice - they just want to eat. Flip side is damnit I wish all restaurants would provide vego and vegan options.

Mental note: must go to a vego restaurant and ask for the "meat option".

Greets to Robert for the meat option line. | $16b plan to beat traffic gridlock (September 2, 2003). None of this addresses the CBD traffic snarls. So much traffic is piped straight through the CBD or along the Riverside Expressway; yet traffic in both directions gets down to one or two lanes in several places. In some places, two heavy traffic streams cross each other - sure, there might be three or four lanes; but it's total chaos as everyone tries to cross-merge.

Adding tunnels and bus lanes won't help. The public transport options in Brisbane will fail until they are a) cheap, b) reliable, c) co-ordinated and d) reasonably quick. Currently they are expensive, totally unreliable and the different types of transport don't co-ordinate their services. If you have to catch a bus then a train; you'll probably get dropped off five minutes after the train ran, requiring a 25/55 minute wait. If you catch a ferry; you'll discover they arrive in the City at poorly chosen times - eg. 7:55am (awfully early for a 9am start) or 8:55am (too late to get to work for a 9am start). Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

So, fuck it. I drive. I take the one single route I can take, which sends me through the City. At least it's comfortable; it's still faster than catching four buses a day; it leaves when I leave; it's considerably cheaper for me to park at work than catch buses; and I don't get sneezed on by inconsiderate passengers. If I worked in the CBD I could probably cope with bussing it; but I'd hate it.

The rebirth of comics - Web comics offer many other new reading experiences, although most concentrate on innovative content rather than technical tricks. This trend towards more quirky stories makes web comics a vehicle for artists who don't want to write superhero comics for an adolescent audience. Instead, many web comics deal with complex subjects, use strong language and deal with issues that parents would rather shield their children from. By doing so, they not only attract a more mature audience - often comic fans in their 20s and 30s who have outgrown superheroes - they have found an audience willing to pay to access content online. This makes web comics a very attractive proposition for artists, as the web makes it easy to publish their material, is much cheaper than printing their own comics and also makes it possible to make more money from online sales than would be possible if their work were handled by a publisher.

Anyone can publish a comic now. Anyone with net access can read it. While I never bought any comics/graphic novels while I was a kid; I read several online comics every day. So what are the odds - pre internet - that I could get a chuckle every other day from a comic drawn by a airsmith in Alaska? Not bloody high. But now I can and do.

A quick bit of random Roman history - the Third Punic War. If anyone has ever made a reference to Carthago delenda est! -- Carthage must be destroyed!; this is what they're talking about. Basically, the Roman Senator Cato bitched about Carthage long and hard enough to get it razed. Generally the reference is made relating to Cato's ability to work his campaign catch cry into absolutely any statement. | Blaster suspect first to be charged (September 1, 2003). While I have no real sympathy for virus hackers; this kid basically just did something dumb. Sadly he'll cop a hefty sentence for that mistake; since people still have a weird (over)reaction to what they consider "hacking". Keep in mind he didn't write the virus, he just modified it... plus he made it really easy to track the attack back to himself. So he's hardly a master criminal - he's just an unhappy kid who felt marginalised (according to people who knew him).

In years gone by an antisocial kid would probably have got in trouble for some minor offense - vandalism, shoplifting or whatever. It's just the scale of the petty crime that's changed things here. An unhappy kid releases a virus; thousands of people are inconvenienced. If he'd thrown a rock through a window; it wouldn't be news. Just another weird social effect of the modern world.

Update: another article, which goes into more depth - High school student who threatened online world -

In the modern world with global communications, it's amazing how one person can now have such a huge influence within their field. Case in point: Jeffrey Zeldman Presents: The Daily Report - W3C Markup Validator 0.6.5 Beta #1, aka the "Zeldman made us do it" edition. Zeldman is just a guy in New York with a well-written weblog and a couple of books to his name. But he leads an amazing double life as a web standards guru.

Stepping away from Zeldman, the news itself is fantastic. The W3C's enigmatic validation service has been a key point of failure in the fight for web standards. You can tell someone to validate their page, but if they can't make head or tail of the explanation of errors; then they're going to go back to their old ways. Now, it seems we'll finally have a user-friendly validation service. At least, theoretically that's how it could go.