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Andrew Pollock


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Thursday, 02 October 2014

On Islamaphobia

It's taken me a while to get sufficiently riled up about Australia's current Islamaphobia outbreak, but it's been brewing in me for a couple of weeks.

For the record, I'm an Atheist, but I'll defend your right to practise your religion, just don't go pushing it on me, thank you very much. I'm also not a huge fan of Islam, because it does seem to lend itself to more violent extremism than other religions, and ISIS/ISIL/IS (whatever you want to call them) aren't doing Islam any favours at the moment. I'm against extremism of any stripes though. The Westboro Baptists are Christian extremists. They just don't go around killing people. I'm also not a big fan of the burqa, but again, I'll defend a Muslim woman's right to choose to wear one. They key point here is choice.

I got my carpets cleaned yesterday by an ethnic couple. I like accents, and I was trying to pick theirs. I thought they may have been Turkish. It turned out they were Kurdish. Whenever I hear "Kurd" I habitually stick "Bosnian" in front of it after the Bosnian War that happened in my childhood. Turns out I wasn't listening properly, and that was actually "Serb". Now I feel dumb, but I digress.

I got chatting with the lady while her husband did the work. I got a refresher on where most Kurds are/were (Northern Iraq) and we talked about Sunni versus Shia Islam, and how they differed. I learned a bit yesterday, and I'll have to have a proper read of the Wikipedia article I just linked to, because I suspect I'll learn a lot more.

We briefly talked about burqas, and she said that because they were Sunni, they were given the choice, and they chose not to wear it. That's the sort of Islam that I support. I suspect a lot of the women running around in burqas don't get a lot of say in it, but I don't think banning it outright is the right solution to that. Those women need to feel empowered enough to be able to cast off their burqas if that's what they want to do.

I completely agree that a woman in a burqa entering a secure place (for example Parliament House) needs to be identifiable (assuming that identification is verified for all entrants to Parliament House). If it's not, and they're worried about security, that's what the metal detectors are for. I've been to Dubai. I've seen how they handle women in burqas at passport control. This is an easily solvable problem. You don't have to treat burqa-clad women as second class citizens and stick them in a glass box. Or exclude them entirely.

[16:45] [opinion] [permalink]

Monday, 01 October 2012

On helicopter parenting and strangers in day care facilities

It appears that a recent incident at a different campus of the "preschool" (I call it day care) that Zoe goes to has gotten the attention of the Free-Range Kids blog.

Firstly, I need to say that on the parenting spectrum, I definitely self-identify closer to the free-range end than the helicopter end. I'm not sure that I'd let an 8 year old ride the New York subway on their own, but Zoe's not 8 yet, so I really can't say.

Sarah and I received the same email that is reprinted on the blog, on Friday night, and we were both (very) mildly alarmed at the situation, but not particularly concerned, mostly because it wasn't the facility that Zoe goes to. I'm not sure I'd be that much more concerned if it was, to be honest.

I did like the statistics that the parent quoted in response. I thought that that put things into perspective, but didn't really take abductions by estranged parents into consideration.

My one reaction to reading the email was, "why did they wait until after the incident to escalate it?" but then, from my own experiences in dropping off or picking up Zoe, I could totally understand not all the staff knowing on sight all the parents or guardians that do pickups and drop offs. This does lead to one asking how they know who to buzz in, but that's another can of worms.

Anyway, I read the 50 or so varyingly indignant comments on the Free Range Kids blog, and since they were talking about the company that I give a not inconsequential amount of money to, I feel the need to write a response.

  • it's a day care centre "chain". They have kids ranging from infant to pre-K (if I'm getting my grade terminology correct). It's not what I'd call a "school", hence they call themselves a "preschool"
  • having actually been to one of the facilities, I can understand the request to not mingle in the lobby. It's tiny, and it blocks the view of the doors from the front office, where an employee is usually buzzing people in from
  • I can totally understand the desire by the staff to not hold the door open for other people, even if we "know" them, because of possible changes in family circumstances. I would say that there's a difference between knowing someone by sight, because they're always dropping off or picking up their kid at the same time as you are, and knowing their name, where they live, etc. Having done pickups and drop offs, there are parents in both categories. I'll still hold the door open for a parent that we socialise with outside of "school", but I'll think twice now before doing it for someone who only looks familiar but I don't really know. I don't want to be the one who facilitates a future incident
  • I think a lot of the conservative position the day care management has stems from liability. I have no problem with that. If the shoe was on the other foot, and an estranged parent had walked in and taken their child, and the centre had a "locked door" policy, there'd be some uncomfortable questions to answer. I'm paying them a boatload of money, they say they operate under a "locked door" policy, I expect them to keep my kid safe

The whole episode raises the question: who was this person and what were they doing there? Some of the commentators hypothesize that they were casing the joint for a future incident, or just giving themselves an impromptu tour before placing their child there (Zoe and I toured before we signed up, but that was an official, prearranged thing). It really is unfortunate that the staff didn't challenge this person, but as I said, they probably all had to review the video surveillance footage together to ascertain that none of them knew who the person was. I consider this a bit of a deficiency itself, but I don't really expect them to all have photographic memory, especially if one parent mostly does drop off and pick up. The other (expensive) option would be to issue each authorized person with an electronically revocable proximity card, so they can let themselves in, but I feel that that's taking things to the extreme. They staff all carry portable radios. If they don't have a discreet "code" they can call when one of them sees a person they don't know, I'm sure they will have after this incident.

I personally found the majority of the comments on the Free Range Kids blog to be on the extreme overreaction side of things. As much as I'm a believer in Free Range parenting, I think the day care provider has mostly reacted appropriately. Do I agree with their "locked facility" policy? It's my first experience with a commercial day care facility, so I don't have anything to compare it with. As I said earlier, I can totally understand where they're coming from in terms of limiting their liability. Previously, Zoe was in a "home day care" facility, without any locks, and I for one wasn't constantly worrying about someone wandering into that provider's home and abducting my daughter, so I guess the whole "locked facility" thing is on the more extreme end of the scale for me in the first place, but like I said, I'm uncalibrated for commercial day care centres.

I'd certainly like to see the primary school environment that Zoe goes to not be such a locked down affair.

[21:27] [opinion] [permalink]

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Queensland and daylight saving: the epic battle continues

I see that Queensland is making noises about daylight saving again.

I personally quite like daylight saving. I think it works great in California. I remember when it was trialed in Queensland, and I enjoyed it when I lived in Canberra.

I can't remember who told me why the farmers object to it so much, (no, it's not that they're worried about their curtains fading), but it was an interesting explanation:

Farmers work the land, from sunrise to sunset, not the clock. The pub, however still closes at the same time. If they're now knocking off work an hour later, but the pub still closes at the same time, that's an hour less drinking.

No idea how accurate that explanation is, but it makes for a good story.

Anyway, the point of this post is to say that I think the idea of carving the state into two timezones is insane. It should be all or nothing.

[22:34] [opinion] [permalink]

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Oh the irony

The website for Tourism Queensland's extremely popular promotion to find someone to be paid $150,000 to be an island caretaker for 6 months is hosted by a Canberra company on a server in Canberra.

So much for supporting local business.

(Small world, one of the Executive Directors was briefly my manager at CyberTrust, but that's the Canberra IT scene for you)

[00:06] [opinion] [permalink]

Monday, 17 November 2008

Watch this space

Those infamous Somali pirates have hijacked an oil supertanker

A Saudi oil supertanker at that. Carrying $100 million worth of oil, which I believe was headed for the US.

They've also got the Ukrainian ship full of tanks and what-not, which apparently pissed off the Russians.

I predict that real soon there's going to be serious action in that part of the world...

[23:15] [opinion] [permalink]

Sunday, 14 October 2007

QoTD: Nathan Rees

"As I have said repeatedly, Sydney's desalination plant will not produce a single kilogram of CO2 emissions"


I've got no problem with desalination being an energy pig if the energy is produced sustainably. And I like wind power.

[18:47] [opinion] [permalink]

Monday, 27 August 2007

On hydrogen powered cars

Russell Coker very effectively debunks hydrogen for fuel.

In my opinion, the only reason the oil companies and various shall we say pro-oil governments are getting behind hydrogen is because they know it's completely untenable. They can say "but look over here, we're researching clean energy" knowing full well that it's years away (if at all). It's a diversion, that's all.

Meanwhile, we've had perfectly viable electric cars in the mid-1990's, yet fast-forward ten years, and apparently it's only just become commercially viable to have hybrids. Talk about regression.

Something's really wrong with the world.

[23:30] [opinion] [permalink]

Thursday, 09 August 2007

Amazon Marketplace is less crap

After my venting yesterday I received an email from an Amazon employee who reads Planet Debian, and he pointed me at http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=537868, which covers how to make a claim.

I've no idea how one is supposed to directly find that page, as it didn't jump out at me when I went looking.

I've filed a claim, we'll see what happens...

[23:02] [opinion] [permalink]

Wednesday, 08 August 2007

Amazon Marketplace is crap

I ordered a book on June 26. It never arrived. It appears that Amazon doesn't want to get involved with such disputes at all, and tells you contact the seller. It doesn't tell you what to do if the seller never gets back to you...

[21:37] [opinion] [permalink]

Tuesday, 07 August 2007

Everybody hates Mark

So Mark doesn't like the SPI board election results and has decided to call the largish whack of people who didn't vote for him and tell him ahead of time or something "cowards".

Personally, I'm of the school of thought that if you haven't got anything nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all, but, well, here we are...

I forgot whether I put him last, but he was certainly ranked towards the back of the pack. Why? I don't like rabid people. Rabidly anything shows a lack of balance to me. Mark's rabidly anti-Google (amongst other things) (sure, I work for them, but I liked them before I went to work there, otherwise I wouldn't have gone to work there) and frankly, it irritates me. Almost as much as someone else I know being rabidly anti-Microsoft/pro-Linux irritates me sometimes.

Balance is good, and I'd rather have people on the board that I know, and I know in a positive light, over people that I don't know, or known I don't like. So I ranked my ballot in reverse order of people I knew I didn't like, then people I didn't know, then people I knew, then people I knew I liked. Simple as that. Oh, and I'm not a big fan of debian-legal, or anyone who purports to be an armchair lawyer on that list.

Sorry if that damages your precious ego, Mark. Now get back to bashing my employer, Debian UK, and pontificating about what's allowed to be in Debian.

(Oh, and I don't object to you having your own opinion, I object to you restating it over and over and over again. But it's your blog, and you're free to portray yourself to others however you please, just bear that in mind when you go standing in elections.)

[23:14] [opinion] [permalink]

Saturday, 04 August 2007

On Kevin Andrews' suspicions of Mohammed Haneef

I've been following this whole Mohammed Haneef thing back in Australia with some interest. The Government seems to have quite the track record for trumpeting some sort of national security thing around an election. First it was Tampa, then it was the children overboard affair, now it's Haneef. I expect this one's backfired a bit.

Kevin Andrews keeps coming out and saying it's suspicious how Haneef was trying to skip the country, or it's suspicious how he left as soon as the charges were dropped, instead of sticking around to see how the appeal went.

Let's see. If I had a new baby born in another country, that I hadn't seen yet, and I'd been incarcerated for however long it was, I don't think I'd be hanging around to find out the outcome of some bureaucratic bullshit in the country I'm not even a citizen of (but wouldn't mind being able to continue working in). I'd want to go see my new baby. I wonder if Kevin Andrews has any children of his own?

We have a track record of having some very cold Immigration ministers.


It seems I'm not the only one of this opinion.

[23:26] [opinion] [permalink]

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

We finished watching Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price last night, and, well, this user comment pretty much summed it up.

It was a fairly poorly presented, heavily one-sided piece of "documentary" work. A lot of their claims we're really backed up with anything.

I've no doubt that Wal-Mart is an evil mega-corporation, and we didn't really shop there much before, and we'll certainly never shop there again, but I would have preferred to have a seen a more balanced, better presented piece than what this had to offer.

There were a lot of "Mom and Pop" businesses going "wah wah, Wal-Mart stole my lunch", and frankly, that's capitalism for you, sorry. I can appreciate that the "Mom and Pop" businesses may have provided better conditions for their employees, but that didn't seem to be the focus of those stories, just that various governments provided subsidies for Wal-Mart to come in, and all of the local small businesses had to shut up shop as a result. At no point was there any discussion about sales-tax benefits to the cities that provided incentives for Wal-Mart to move in.

So yeah, the movie was an eye opener, even when taken with a large salt-shaker, but it could have been done a lot better. The user comments on IMDb are quite interesting in and of themselves.

[22:44] [opinion] [permalink]

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

What will it take for gun reform in the US?

This recent massacre at Virginia Tech reminds me of Australia's Port Arthur massacre.

That event was pivotal in reforming Australia's gun laws.

I wonder what it will take for similar action in the United States? One would argue it's a bigger deal, because Australia doesn't have a constitutional right to being armed, so presumably it's a bigger deal to override/amend in the US.

Still, at some point, something's got to change... This madness can't keep happening.

[20:44] [opinion] [permalink]

Wednesday, 04 April 2007

The Australian Government's starting to smell a bit fishy

Okay, so firstly, I thought the whole David Hicks situation (mainly the fact that it was starting to become a bit of a political hot-potato near an election so they got his trial hurried up) was a bit fishy (particularly the bit about how he's gagged until after the next election), but this morning, I learned that there's legislation to close the electoral rolls at 8pm on the day the election is called.

That stinks to high heaven! I mean how on earth could justify bringing out legislation like that? How does that improve anything? I'll be really disappointed if that just gets steamrolled through the Senate.

All this reminds me that I need to re-enroll to vote.

[23:51] [opinion] [permalink]

Thursday, 01 March 2007

On whacky spare tyre ideas

Russell Coker writes about not carrying spare tyres and relying on roadside assistance companies instead.

I had a similar idea a while ago when I had two of my tyres slashed. I was carrying a viable spare, but with two tyres out of action, it didn't do me a lot of good.

I got a tow to the nearest tyre place probably within a kilometre, but they had to order in the tyres to match what was already on the car, so I was left without a car for the remainder of the day and some of the next one.

I thought it'd be a great business idea to be able to call up for roadside tyre replacement, similar to how you can "holler for a Marshall" when you get a flat battery.

Incidentally, I've clearly been living here too long. I had to battle with myself to not write "tire" all the time.

[20:56] [opinion] [permalink]

Tuesday, 31 October 2006

On Australia's non-ratification of the Kyoto agreement

Australia's continued refusal to sign-on to the Kyoto agreement made the BBC World news tonight, and it got me thinking.

After seeing An Inconvenient Truth, and learning that Australia just doesn't rank when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, it's really a moot point whether we get on board or not (but for the record, I think we should anyway, to put more pressure on the US).

Beazley's taken the opportunity to say that if he got into office, he'd sign the agreement. But here's the deal: there are coast-to-coast Labor governments at the state-level. So what if Howard won't sign the agreement at the Federal level? If every state independently decides to legislate such that carbon emission levels are restricted to those of what the Kyoto agreement would require, then Australia has in essence signed on to it, whether Howard wants to or not.

So all Beazley has to do is show a bit of political will, and that the states can tell the Federal government what to do. I'd like to see it happen.

[20:49] [opinion] [permalink]

Sunday, 01 October 2006

On Linux Australia futures

I've been a bit busy lately, so I've only now skimmed through my linux-aus backlog, as well has had time to put some thoughts together on the whole AUUG/LA thing.

I will point out that I had a similar rant back in July last year, and a lot of what I said then still holds true.

So one of the problems is we seem to have too many organisations. OSIA, AUUG, LA, SAGE-AU, ACS, to name a few. They've all got a bit of overlap. They've all got different names (well duh) that imply different things.

So AUUG, as the Australian Unix Users Group, is losing is relevance. So much so, that the "About AUUG" page doesn't even discuss what the hell the acronym stands for. Somewhere along the line, they've adopting the tag line of "the Organisation for Unix, Linux and Open Source professionals". So they're clearly still trying to remain a "professional" body.

As is SAGE-AU. Clearly with a name like the System Administrator's Guild of Australia, it's obvious what demographic this organisation is for. Now of course a lot this organisation's members are going to be administering Linux. You could also argue they're using it as well. SAGE-AU is operating-system agnostic though, and doesn't really get all community about the operating systems its members administer.

Which leads us to Linux Australia. An organisation that (at least in my opinion) that is more about the community around the operating system than anything else. And in this case, by operating system, I'm talking about a lot more than just the kernel.

OSIA, on the other hand, is an organisation I haven't heard a lot about, and know even less about. The name though, pretty clearly suggests what they're on about. If OSIA didn't look like it was more about corporate members than individuals, I'd be saying that this is where a large chunk of AUUG members should go, if AUUG were to fold. It does leave a certain demographic out in the cold: ISVs that make closed-source software for Unix and Linux. Since, for example, CheckPoint seem to be sponsoring the AUUG conference, they obviously feel that they have some sort of affinity with the organisation.

Finally, there's ACS. Another organisation I don't know a lot about. I would think that maybe this could be another potential destination for AUUG members if it were to fold.

Back to Linux Australia, and whether that name is the best thing for the organisation. I personally think it is not. Linux Australia is way more about F/LOSS evangelisation and the community that exists around that, than anything else. To a lesser degree, it tries to act as the "mother LUG" of all the Linux User Groups around the country, but given the loose structure of the LUGs, this is more of an assumed position than anything else.

So what to call LA instead? Steal AUUG's tag line? "The Australian Linux and Open Source Community Group (ALOSCG)"? "The Australian Linux and Free Software Community Organisation (ALFSCO)"? Hmm, the second one could be mutated in "Alfresco". Cute.

Funnily enough, the same arguments apply to renaming linux.conf.au, however I'm not in favour of that. I agree with what Maddog said on the linux-aus list, about it being easier for sponsors to identify with something more specific like "Linux" than something more amorphous like "Free and Open Source software". I also think linux.conf.au has a pretty strong brand associated with it.

Finally, I want to bang the drum for organisational change.

There was some discussion about membership tiers. I think this is a good idea. I think having paid members (and some member services) would be good. It would provide Linux Australia with an additional revenue stream, and it would allow it to provide something to its members.

If there was a membership structure like "student" (which would be free), "associate" (paid, but cheap) and "professional" (paid, but slightly more expensive), you could allow all categories to vote, but give the paid members some additional services like a sticky email address, dynamic DNS hostname, maybe if LA got direct sponsors, the sponsor organisations could provide discounts to members like what SAGE-AU does.

I also think that if LA were to employ a full or part-time administrative person (like SAGE-AU did until recently) would also be beneficial. This person could do heaps of administrative stuff and coordination for the organisation, as well as be a resource for the linux.conf.au organisers, and be cheaper than having to pay an Executive President or something like that. it would allow for the organisation to go to the next level, and be a little less amorphous and have a tangible existence.

[22:30] [opinion] [permalink]

Thursday, 31 August 2006

A ramble about alternative energy and world affairs

Well John Howard said he wanted to start a nuclear debate in Australia. Seems it has already started on Planet Linux Australia.

I figure I might as well have a meandering blog post about alternative energy and current world events, since I've just been immersing myself in the best news I can obtain with my crappy cable package in a country not renowned for its awareness of world affairs.

Firstly, since there's been talk about nuclear power, I'd like to offer my thoughts on Iran, and how it's sounding like Iraq all over again.

People are getting in a flap about Iran enriching uranium. Iran says that they don't want "the bomb", they only want nuclear power to meet their energy demands. Now if this is true, then surely should applaud a country that sits on a chunk of the Middle East's oil reserves looking to use something other than oil for its energy needs. I for one don't know if you need to "enrich" uranium to use it for a nuclear reactor, or whether it's good enough "as is".

But let's just assume that Iran's intentions are as they have said, then it's going to be Iraq all over again. The US said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The US is saying Iran is enriching uranium for the purposes of making a bomb. So far the former claim hasn't been proven, so what's to say the latter is true either?

Let's say the nuclear debate in Australia determines that it'd be a good a thing for Australia to go nuclear. How is Australia enriching uranium for electricity generation any different to Iran doing it? (Other than Australia is in the Coalition of the Willing, and Iran is in the Axis of Evil).

Speaking of Iran being in the Axis of Evil, how is Iran supplying weapons to Hezbollah fundamentally any different to the US supplying weapons to Israel? Oh, and is anyone allowed to criticise Jewish people without being called anti-Semitic? Since when is invading a neighbouring country considered okay? I am so glad Australia is an island nation. These countries with land borders, sheesh...

Anyway, back to alternative energy. I'm a greenie, (with a lowercase "g") so I'm open to nuclear power, but it does frighten the willies out of me, with things like Chernobyl. I'd never heard of a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor until Paul wrote of it. It certainly sounds safer than previous methods of nuclear reaction.

But of alternatives. Wind, for example, doesn't need to be big and arguably ugly. These guys in the UK have made a very sexy and quiet wind turbine. I don't know how it stacks up in terms of cost or output to the traditional three-bladed wind turbines like what I've photographed in Southern California, but they're supposed to be quiet, which is apparently one of the (many) arguments that landowners like farmers have against wind generation in general.

This Australian company has come up with a very small, but less sexy wind turbine, that I believe to be fairly cheap.

Finally, in terms of generation, and I've written about this before, but I find the Tower of Power to be a fascinating concept in natural energy generation.

Where am I going with this ramble? No idea. I do think rapidly developing countries like China should completely leapfrog over the era of oil and move to renewably generated electricity. Maybe they can get the manufacturing costs down of the equipment, and it'll be less of a big deal in terms of cost for the rest of the world to adopt it.

Whew. What a ramble. Don't start me on flushing toilets with drinking water.

[22:30] [opinion] [permalink]

Wednesday, 09 August 2006

An Inconvenient Truth gets bad press Down Under

Film at 11

My friend Andrew brought this article in the Sydney Morning Herald to my attention today.

I was initially mildly incensed by it, then someone at work pointed out the author's Wikipedia entry, which led onto this Bulletin article on her. So it seems she's just a professional right-wing shit-stirrer. This other article she wrote managed to stir up some ire amongst the cycling community.

Still, I am glad to see that An Inconvenient Truth is coming to Australia. Well worth the watch. Now I need to go find where Who Killed the Electric Car is screening...

[20:13] [opinion] [permalink]

Saturday, 08 April 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore gave a talk on climate change at Google yesterday, and I was fortunate to be able to go and listen to him speak for most of it. On-call duties prevented me from hearing the conclusion, which was probably the best bit.

His slide deck was excellent. Overall, he wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know, but he had a lot of facts and figures to back it all up, and yup, the planet's royally fucked.

It's really reinforced my desire to be as environmentally conscious as possible while in the US, given that this country is the biggest offender. There's not much more we can directly do at home except try to switch to a green power provider, if one is available. According to the calculator, our household is already significantly below the US national average in terms of carbon dioxide production.

I wish Australia would get on board with the Kyoto agreement. Not that in the grand scheme of things, it would make a big difference, but it'd still be nice not to be one of the only two developed countries still with its head in the sand.

That said, I am very excited about alternative generation projects such as the so called Tower of Power currently underway in Australia. I'm very inclined to buy shares in that.

[16:10] [opinion] [permalink]

Wednesday, 05 April 2006

There's hope for Dell USA yet

Despite my dramas on Monday night with Dell USA, and I think thanks to the (much better) Dell APAC, I had my change of ownership expedited, and received an email today that it had been completed. So I again grappled with the abomination that is the US Dell support line. I might add that I could not find the number I called anywhere from http://support.dell.com, and had to rely on the dialled number history in my phone to call them again.

I'd like to think that half of my customer service experience improvement was because I only spoke to someone in India once. They were able to pull up my laptop's service tag now, and transferred me off somewhere else. Except that wasn't the right place, and so they transferred me again. To the wrong place. At least the second person I was transferred to was able to see that I'd already been transferred twice, and used some special phone system secret powers to transfer me to the right place at last.

I didn't even have to put up too much of a fight to convince them to ship me a new drive. When I told the lady on the phone that I'd run the Hitachi Drive Fitness Test and it'd failed the disk, and that it had been making nasty clicking sounds before that, she agreed to send out a replacement. Hopefully it'll arrive on Friday.

[23:28] [opinion] [permalink]

Thursday, 02 March 2006

Why we bought a Prius

Fortune magazine's written an interesting article on the birth of the Prius.

There were some interesting quotes in the article, like this one from Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan:

"Some of our competitors say they are doing things for the benefit of humanity," he says. "Well, we are in business, and we have a mission of creating value."

That just smacks of capitalist greed if ever I heard it. I mean, what this guy's effectively saying is "Fuck the planet at all costs, shareholder value reigns supreme". I wonder how the shareholders might feel about that when the next hurricane Katrina wipes them off the map?

Anyway, why did we by a Prius?

Well, originally, a Prius in the US looked cheaper than one in Australia, however after we were forced to buy one with the more higher-priced options (with a lot of options we didn't particularly want) just to get the options we wanted, and on-road costs, I think it works out much of a muchness, price-wise, when you take into account the exchange rate.

So cost (compared to Australia) wasn't a big part of the decision in the end. The main reasons (for me) were:

  • an environmentally conscious purchase in a country that likes to guzzle gas like it's going out of fashion
  • a US Federal Government tax credit
  • the ability to drive in commuter lanes with only the driver in the car (normally you're required to have 2 or more in the car)
  • a bonus from Google (to help defray the premium of buying a hybrid over a conventional gas guzzler)

In California at least, these things are selling like hotcakes for the above reasons. The Prius is the iPod of cars at the moment.

The fact that we get reduced fuel consumption/better fuel efficiency is a really just a bonus. Petrol prices in the US are already a lot cheaper than in Australia. We filled up the (11 gallon/41 litre) tank today at $2.439/gallon (or about AUD $0.85/litre), and we're getting around 45 miles per gallon at the moment. Petrol in Australia is up around the AUD $1.20/litre at the moment, I'm told.

The other thing that makes the Prius cool is that it really is a geek's car. It has an engine management system that doesn't try to hide itself. It's got a very obvious computer in the middle of the dash with a touch screen. It screams hack me!. Third-party mods already exist (if only I could get the temperature to display in Celsius).

Sarah was initially fairly apprehensive about getting the car because of the initial cost, given the timing of it with all the other expenses of moving. It was pretty tight, but she really loves the car too, and we managed to scrape by. She was concerned about its fuel efficiency for highway driving, because reports had said that it was more efficient in start/stop city driving than on the highway, but as we discovered from our trip to Phoenix, the car did really well. I think we spent about $60 in fuel for the entire trip.

The fact that the cost saving in fuel doesn't necessarily recoup the extra premium paid for getting a hybrid is a total non-issue (to me). The fact that a hybrid isn't insanely more expensive than a conventional car makes it a justifiable expense on the grounds of environmental sensitivity. These cars are only going to get more affordable and more mainstream if people buy them.

[21:56] [opinion] [permalink]

Wednesday, 01 March 2006

So who instead?

I've noticed a bit of whinging about Howard in the blogosphere of late.

I'm not a strongly political person, but I have to say, so if not Howard, who? Not Beazley. Not any other serious contender that has led the Australia Labor Party since Keating. I'm not even that convinced that Costello makes a fantastic successor to Howard.

I was fairly okay with Howard until the Iraq war, then I got seriously pissed off with him. Aside from that, and refusing to sign on the Kyoto agreement, and his general tendency to follow Bush around like a sheep, I think he (and his Government) have done a reasonably good job of running the country in the last 10 years. Look at the economy.

[22:53] [opinion] [permalink]

On movie advertising

Robert Collins: Actually no, we don't pay enough at the movies so that we don't have to be inundated with advertising. In fact, it's getting harder and harder for movie cinemas to make a buck, that's why the candy bar has such outrageous prices. It's the advertising that is their bread and butter, not the ticket sales.

[22:30] [opinion] [permalink]

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

On orthokeratology

Rob Thomson writes that he's going to give ortho-k a shot.

I used it for a number of years, and recommend it to anyone who wants to try it as an alternative to laser surgery. My experience of it was that there was a bit of trial-and-error getting the parameters for the contact lenses right, but after that, it was all good. The feeling of independence was enormous. I took up outdoor rock climbing. The ophthalmologist said that for some people they could get away with sleeping in them for one night in three, but I found I needed to sleep with them in every night to get good results.

Towards the end, I started to become dissatisfied with my vision quality, and I'd moved to Canberra, and so was seeing a different optometrist to the one in Brisbane (who incidentally seemed to be a bit of a pioneer in the field). I couldn't decide whether to get a new set of lenses made with the same parameters as the old ones, or go through the expense and trial-and-error nature of getting refitted again. Then one of my lenses broke at the 2004 linux.conf.au so I went back to wearing spectacles for a while.

I was going through my phase of wanting to get into the Queensland Police, so I decided to get laser surgery, discovering later that day that they won't accept candidates until 12 months afterwards in case their eyeballs spontaneously vaporise or something.

In summary, I can recommend ortho-k as a non-invasive alternative to laser surgery, but its downsides are pretty much those of wearing contact lenses. Camping was one thing that was a bit trickier and more inconvenient. Having really goopy eyes in the morning was another.

[12:44] [opinion] [permalink]

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

On this surplus orange problem

Okay, this may be a bit naive, but rather than having farmers dump a quarter of their annual orange output, why can't the Federal Government step in, and using some of the money they'd have earmarked for foreign aid, buy the oranges and ship them to the nearest country in receipt of our foreign aid? Everybody wins.

[23:43] [opinion] [permalink]

Friday, 02 September 2005

On America's choice of building sites

I haven't fully comprehended the situation in New Orleans. This interview transcript helped improve it a little bit.

The one thing I have to say is, why the hell do you build a city of some half a million people (is it really only half a million? That's what Google tells me it is.) below freaking sea level?

It's up there with rebuilding a destroyed house in a place they call "Tornado Alley". I do not understand the logic. At all.

I can't begin to comprehend the sheer disruption to so many peoples lives. So there's supposed to be something like a million people displaced. Probably without homes to go back to. They're saying it's going to be months before those people can return. What do they do for work in the meantime? Where to do they all go? It's not like every motel between New Orleans and where-ever they all tried to shoot through to is going to be able to cope with that many people. The mind boggles every time I try and think of the sheer logistics of it all.

[23:40] [opinion] [permalink]

Friday, 01 July 2005

On the future directions of Linux Australia

So, there's been a bit of discussion about the future of Linux Australia.

I'd had absolutely nothing to do with LA until I got on the organising committee of linux.conf.au 2005, and even then I didn't really follow what was going on. I viewed it as needlessly political, when I really just wanted to get on with doing stuff. I became a member when I registered for linux.conf.au 2004 (heck it was free, why not?) but to this day, I'm not subscribed to linux-aus.

Funnily enough, I'm now one of the volunteer sysadmins for the organisation though, but then, that's in line with me getting on and doing things, so it's probably not that funny.

Anyhoo, Jon ponders throwing money at some dedicated warm bodies.

I've been a continuous member of the System Administrator's Guild of Australia since 1998, and this is the only other vaguely similar organisation that I have any experience with. Granted, SAGE-AU is obviously a fee-paying organisation, so it has a revenue stream to work with, but I get the impression that LA has a bit of money in the bank, and it too has a revenue stream, in the form of linux.conf.au.

For as long as I can remember, SAGE-AU has had an office/operations manager/admin type person, in the form of Lee Monet. She's fluctuated between full-time and part-time, and from all outward impressions, she's an integral part of the continuing operational viability of the organisation. She is also consistent from year to year, where the Executive aren't necessarily. She does a lot of the legwork for the annual conference as well.

I think if LA were to hire a dedicated person (call them what you will) even on an initial part-time basis, it would improve the effectiveness of the organisation, allowing the Executive to get on with the job of overseeing things, and making decisions, rather than getting bogged down in technical and operational details. I also think it would cost a lot less than the $100K that Jon considers it would cost for a paid CEO or secretariat. If I tried hard enough, I could look up the SAGE-AU financials to see how much Lee costs.

I guess what it boils down to is where does Linux Australia fit in in the grand scheme of things? I get the feeling that it's really come about as the umbrella for linux.conf.au, but is looking to do more with itself, but hasn't quite worked out what that needs to be. I'm totally ignorant of the history of the organisation, so I can only go by my personal impressions. I suspect that the various members of the committee that have come and gone over the years have differing views as well.

Does it want to be a super LUG? Does it want to represent users, developers, vendors, or all of them? Can it effectively represent all three groups at the same time? The Australia Unix Users Group seems to be trying to reinvent itself as the Open Source representative of the country, then there's Open Source Industry Australia, which I hadn't even heard of until linux.conf.au 2005, which sounds like it's trying to represent people trying to make a buck out of Open Source. And of course, the Australian Computer Society that swans around and tries to keep the ear of Government about all things IT.

So, if you ask me, the Australian IT/Linux/Open Source .org scene seems to be a bit crowded. Maybe LA could do worse than just stick with running a kick-arse conference? Is linux.conf.au even staying true to its name? Maybe the biggest return to its members would be keeping the conference cost low?

Just my random musings from the couch on a Friday evening...

[05:23] [opinion] [permalink]

Wednesday, 04 May 2005

On the state of law and order in the Australian Capital Territory

So Sarah's car got broken into last night and her purse stolen.

It's bad enough that the theft occurred in a dense townhouse complex, to a car parked in a driveway metres from our front door, but when the police were called this morning, they weren't even interested in coming out to fingerprint the car.

As Sarah said to me today, it means thieves can just go about doing their thing with impunity if the police won't even attempt to follow them up.

You'd think with a place as small as Canberra, that if everyone knows someone who knows someone else (i.e. 2 degrees of separation), that the criminal population would have to be well known to the police. You'd think with a bit of a concerted effort, they'd be able to wipe out a lot of theft.

It reminds me of another time (Christmas Eve in fact) when we were living in Ainslie. We were woken at around the crack of midnight by a nearby house burglar alarm going off. After it continued making an ungodly noise for about 5 minutes, Sarah called the police attendance number, and the police weren't interested in coming out, even though there may have been a burglary in progress.

I told my mate Nick, who is a cop in Queensland about it, and he said that up there, they'd make it a priority to attend such a call, as it meant they could potentially nab a burglar "in the act".

ACT police are so lax.

[05:10] [opinion] [permalink]

Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Oh dear God.

My tax dollars at work.

Now all I need is a GPS...

[21:16] [opinion] [permalink]

Sunday, 20 February 2005

Visa mini is insane

I'd seen some ads around the place for this new Visa mini card, but hadn't remembered to pull up a web page for it when I'd been near an Internet connection.

Today, I got an updated terms and conditions in the mail to add conditions for the new Visa mini card (not that I had one, but the same terms and conditions cover all credit card customers).

So it seems they are trying to accessorise the credit card. Why on earth would you want to parade around with your credit card (with presumably number showing to all and sundry) around your neck or wrist?

The thing that cracked me up to the point of writing this was the added terms and conditions. They've had to add stuff to direct customers not to insert their mini card in ATMs or full card insertion readers. Customers who do so will be liable for the cost of any resulting damage. What a joke. Not to mention that most card readers at supermarkets (well Woolworths at least, Coles isn't) are the full card insertion type.

[23:51] [opinion] [permalink]

Saturday, 05 February 2005

If they had half a brain...

Just reading an anti-phishing page of my bank, and they have this gem towards the bottom:

Please Note: The email address spoof@national.com.au must only be used to report suspected spoof emails or hoax websites claiming to be from the National Australia Bank. If you believe your Internet Banking information has been compromised, or you notice a transaction you did not initiate, change your Internet Banking password immediately and contact the Internet Banking Support Team via the details below:

This is after they have plastered the aforementioned email address all over the page a previous two times. Are they expecting the page skimmers the spammers use to abide by this directive?

[20:22] [opinion] [permalink]

Monday, 01 November 2004

If I were American...

  • I'd be outraged about the amount of money Bush has spent on a needless war in Iraq, rather than in my own country,
  • I'd be outraged about the number of American soliders who have died in a needless war in Iraq,
  • I'd be outraged that Bush hasn't done more to find Osama Bin Laden,
  • I'd be outraged that Bush won't ratify Kyoto, even after Florida's been half wiped off the map after repeated hurricanes, probably due to climate change (they'll consider towing icebergs up there to lower the water temperature instead),
  • I'd be outraged at how Bush has handled the American economy in general,
  • I'd be outraged at how Bush has negatively affected the world's perceptions of America, and
  • I'd sure as hell be exercising my franchise in this presidential election.

But then again, I was fairly outraged at Howard for some of the above reasons, and yet I managed to be in the minority in the recent Federal election, so go figure. Maybe I'm just out of touch with reality...

[16:24] [opinion] [permalink]

Wednesday, 22 September 2004

Pentagon plane crash conspiracy theory?

Sarah pointed out this "documentary", which raises some interesting points about the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, that I hadn't really given any thought to (probably because the WTC was more of an attention grabber).

It seems to be a plug for this website.

[22:47] [opinion] [permalink]

Thursday, 09 September 2004


So NASA's $264 million star dust gathering mission has come to earth with a dismal splat

What drives me nuts is if the thing costs so much money, and took so many years, and was so supposedly important, is why the heck didn't they put a bit more redundancy into the parachutes? What's the worst thing that could happen if say all three independent parachute systems decided to deploy? Gee, the headlines would say "Solar probe came to earth three times more slowly than expected".

Sheesh. I think the boffins at NASA are too busy being mental giants to think about the simple stuff...

[04:59] [opinion] [permalink]