Monday, October 31, 2005

Back in 5.... days...

Just a quick note to let you all there most likely won't be any updates to the blog as Donna, Calvin and I are taking off to Hamilton Island for 5 days. We are going to one of Donna's closest friends' wedding. Should be fun.

I will be logging the journey photographically like I always do and you can be assured you will see some photos. No slideshows tho. I'll let you view them in your own time without boring commentary.

Logging off now...

House Update #9 - All in all, it was all just bricks in the wall...


All the bricks are done, roof ready to go on... Posted by Picasa


This will eventually be our kitchen... Posted by Picasa


Imagine, a lovely 2 metre wide image projected onto this wall... Posted by Picasa

All the brickwork is done. The brickies flew through it. A total of 13 working days to put up all the bricks in a 300 sq. m. house. Well done.

All the roof trusses have been delivered. All they are waiting for is 3 steel I-beams to go over the familt/dining area to support the roof and it will all be go.

Tranquility... Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sensitive to fate, not denial, but hey, who's on trial?


A picture tells a thousand words. I don't think I need to add anything to this... Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The girl with the weight of the world in her hands



A friend's wife was complaining to her husband about her car and she asked for something for her birthday that goes from 0 - 100 in under 4 seconds.

I guess he's dead now...

I wanna get ripped off...

Finally, Apple's iTunes Music Store has been launched in Australia. Took them long enough.

The odd thing is the pricing of songs. In the US, single songs are priced at US$0.99 each, which works out to about AU$1.30. Now Apple in their infinite wisdom have priced Australian purchased songs at AU$1.69.

Does Apple think Australian's don't know what USians pay for their tunes? Or is it proof that Australian record company's overcharge us for the music they sell?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

House Update #8 - We be wildin' in the Bricks!


If looks like a house... Posted by Picasa

I took this shot on saturday before the weather turned to shit, not much more has happened in the last couple of days due to the weather.

I am torn between being pissed off at the rain for delaying our house and wanting it to stick around longer to keep the dust down at Rally Oz... Maybe it could only rain at night?

Bonus panorama pic:

Standing just outside where the home theatre will be Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 21, 2005

You wonda why they call U bitch

Way to go US troops. Even more reason for disillusioned young muslims to take up the cause and have some fun with RPGs, mortars or backpacks full of explosives.

And the really stupid thing is that these geniuses burnt the 2 militants in view of a camera. They knew they had a journo embedded with them. Morons.

Al Qaeda don't have to do a thing these days, the US seem to be hurting themselves in the most effective manner.

Probe into film of troops burning Taliban fighters - smh.com.au

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A time to be so small...

Media Stream Technologies is shipping a tiny x86-based platform for a range of space constrained embedded applications such as kiosks, mini PCs, and network appliances. The fanless eBox-3800sl and 3850ps feature a low-power Via Eden processor with support for Windows XP Embedded.




Media Stream lists the following key features and specifications for the eBox-3800:
- Processor -- Via Eden-N Nano, 800 MHz
- Memory -- 128 or 256 MB DDR RAM

Display:
- Integrated Via UniChrome 2D/3D Graphics with MPEG2 Accelerator
- 8 to 64 MB video RAM shared with system memory
- CRT and LCD outputs, 1280 x 1024 max. resolution with 32-bit color

Storage
- 1 EIDE UltraDMA 133 on 44-pin header

Expansion
- 1 X-PCI connector

I/O Ports:
- 10/100 Base-T Ethernet, built-in boot ROM, RXE boot, wake on LAN
- 2 USB 2.0, one on front
- PS/2 keyboard and mouse
- LPT and RS-232 (3850ps only)

Dimensions:
- 3800sl : 170 x 124 x 38 mm
- 3850ps : 170 x 124 x 58 mm

Power
- +5 VDC, 4.5 A max.

The 3850ps has enough space to accomodate a 2.5 inch hard disk drive.

Squinting faces at the sky...

Microsoft have been busy in their Redmond bunker doing some cool research. No, it isn't into any new versions of still born platform independent programming languages, it is into increasing productivity in the office, not Office(tm), environment.

One thing looked into was the use of multiple and large monitors. New York Times reported what they found:
For Mark and Czerwinski, these piecemeal efforts at coping pointed to ways that our high-tech tools could be engineered to be less distracting. When Czerwinski walked around the Microsoft campus, she noticed that many people had attached two or three monitors to their computers. They placed their applications on different screens - the e-mail far off on the right side, a Web browser on the left and their main work project right in the middle - so that each application was "glanceable." When the ding on their e-mail program went off, they could quickly peek over at their in-boxes to see what had arrived.

The workers swore that this arrangement made them feel calmer. But did more screen area actually help with cognition? To find out, Czerwinski's team conducted another experiment. The researchers took 15 volunteers, sat each one in front of a regular-size 15-inch monitor and had them complete a variety of tasks designed to challenge their powers of concentration - like a Web search, some cutting and pasting and memorizing a seven-digit phone number. Then the volunteers repeated these same tasks, this time using a computer with a massive 42-inch screen, as big as a plasma TV.

The results? On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly - and some as much as 44 percent more quickly. They were also more likely to remember the seven-digit number, which showed that the multitasking was clearly less taxing on their brains. Some of the volunteers were so enthralled with the huge screen that they begged to take it home. In two decades of research, Czerwinski had never seen a single tweak to a computer system so significantly improve a user's productivity. The clearer your screen, she found, the calmer your mind.

Now I have the justification for the 30" Apple Cinema Display or at least a 20" Dell Widescreen LCD here at work. I currently work on a 15" laptop LCD screen @ 1024x768. At home I use remote desktop to connect to the laptop so I can use higher res and a nicer keyboard. I definitely need the bigger screen here at work.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

House Update #7 - I just want to be in your panorama


Panorama from inside the activity room

As you can see, brickwork is progressing quite rapidly. The estimate from the site supervisor of two and a half to three weeks may not sound so silly.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Propaganda, you scare me to death

I can`t see many reds underneath my bed
But the fascists in the letter-box are messing up my head

Some nice lyrics that seems to fit the crap we keep getting from the government.

Even the government reckons that people will be worse off under the proposed IR reforms. When pressed the government released an example of where people won't be worse off under an AWA. The problem is, the example shows the problem with the reforms quite clearly.
The Government says that penalty rates, overtime, public holidays, lunch breaks and holiday and shift loadings are "protected by law". When pressed, it admits they can be bargained away but says that's no different to the existing situation.

That's false. One of the two key features of Howard's proposal is the abolition of the "no disadvantage" test introduced by Labor in 1993 as part of its enterprise bargaining revolution.

The "no disadvantage" test means that while there are indeed many conditions such as penalty rates and overtime an employee can bargain away, the employer must by law compensate them in some other way so that the employee's remuneration package is at least equal in value to the previous package.

That requirement will go under Howard's proposals. A perfect example of how this works was inadvertently given by the Government itself. Labor had raised in parliament the case of a Queensland employer who did a deal with his employees removing leave loadings, all allowances, penalties and public holidays in exchange for a minuscule increase of 16c in their hourly pay rate.

The Government triumphantly pointed out that that 16c per hour had been raised to $1.31 an hour by the Employment Advocate. But the only basis on which the Employment Advocate could make this decision was on the basis of the "no disadvantage" test, which under the new system will no longer exist. So under Howard's new system, the 16c would stand.

Why isn't the opposition and the other minor parties making more noise about these changes? For all we know they could be making some noise I suppose, it all depends on whether the editorial viewpoint of the media outlets allows them to report the concerns to us all.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

House Update #6 - I start my city with a brick...


Mmmm, bricky goodness Posted by Picasa


Building site from the street Posted by Picasa


Building site from our rear neighbours (no fences yet) Posted by Picasa


Our garage wall Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 14, 2005

Once, there was this kid who, got into an accident and couldn't come to school...

The Chinese march continues...

A new 4WD built by the Chinese company JiangLing has gone on sale in Europe. But there are some warnings coming from ADAC, the German automobile club.
The first Chinese car to be sold in Europe has scored zero — the worst-ever score — in safety tests.
The two-ton 4x4 scored zero stars in crash tests last week by the ADAC, the German automobile club, which carries out tests for Euro NCAP. “It had a catastrophic result,” said a spokesman for the ADAC. “In our 20-year history no car has performed as badly.”

What a glowing review that is...
Testers calculated that a driver would be unlikely to survive a head-on collision at 40mph, and in a side-on collision at 30mph the driver would suffer severe head and chest injuries due to a lack of side protection.

I think that anyone considering purchasing one of these things needs their head examined. Maybe the ownership of these 4WDs could become an extreme sport. Instead of everytime you perform a BASE jump you risk your life, every time you drive to work, you risk your life. It probably handles like a bucket of snot so the excitement might not be there...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

...if it is the last thing we ever do...

Thanks to Rob over at Red Rag for outlining the difference between Unfair Dismissal and Unlawful Termination:
Unfair Dismissal is protection against unfair treatment by your employer. It encompasses discrimination, but goes further: your sacking must not have been “harsh, unjust or unreasonable”. It includes procedural fairness, which means the employer must give you some warning that your work is bad, and a chance to improve, before they sack you. If you’re accused of misconduct, you must be given a chance to respond (but if your response is unsatisfactory they are within their rights to sack you without a notice period). Importantly, unfair dismissal claims are brought in the Industrial Relations Commission, so they’re cheaper and speedier.

Unlawful Termination is much narrower. It protects you against discrimination (on grounds race, gender, religion, politics, union membership, family responsibilities) but that’s about it. If you can make out a prima facie case, the onus shifts to the employer, who will need to show (on the balance of probabilities) that your sacking was not for an unlawful reason. You need to make your claim in the federal court, which will cost you around $25,000 — $30,000. And remember, you’re unemployed now.

These IR reforms are starting to sound better and better for the worker, don't they...

Also outlined in The Age, is a list of scenarios where things will change before and after the reforms are passed. Here is one example:
Q NOT so long ago my wife was unfairly dismissed after other workers wrote untrue bad reports about my wife's work that the management believed. She took the case to the unfair dismissals tribunal (the AIRC) and won. She was financially compensated. How would such a case go under the new laws?

A IF SHE works for a company with up to 100 employees, she will lose her protection. The Government will amend the federal laws to remove protection against unfair dismissal for employees of small and medium business — roughly half of all employees.

The Government will also override state laws against unfair dismissal. It will even make it illegal for collective or individual agreements to protect workers against unfair dismissal. Any business lodging such an agreement would face a $33,000 fine.

By contrast, if she works for a firm with 101 or more employees, her protection will largely remain. But among the changes there is one exempting big employers from unfair dismissal claims if a job is terminated at least partly because of "operational requirements". It is unclear how wide this exemption will be.

The Government will retain the rarely used protections against unlawful dismissal. But these would not apply in your wife's case.

House Update #5 - It’s just a big mistake...

We have hit our first speed hump of our quest for a house. It seems the guys who pegged out the slab had the wrong plans and put the house 500 mm too close to the side boundary. So instead of 2000 mm between the house and the boundary of the block, we will only have 1500 mm.

The initial plan was to have it 1500 mm but because of complications caused by the retaining wall in the sewer run, there were some extra charges ($1,500) to be had. To avoid those charges we moved the house out 500 mm.

How did this happen? Well, it seems that National Homes submitted the initial plans to council for approval, so that means the slab doesn't have to be ripped up. Thankfully. We had every right to request the slab be ripped up and they start again but the house is where we initially wanted it and we don't get the extra sewer charges. Win-Win for us. Yay!

I have to say the site supervisor and the contract supervisor have done some serious bending over backwards for us on this issue and it has been great service. We all know there will be fuck ups in any large job, as long as they notify us of the issues straight away and work to resolve them quickly, we will be happy customers.

And we were given an expected completion date today too, somewhere around late Feb, early March next year. We were expecting mid April, another win for us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

We gotta get out of this place...

The government has finally released the detailed changes in their industrial relations reforms that they will be trying to push through in the near future. Booklet available here.

Here are a few examples of how this new system will screw over even more workers:
  • Hours of work
    From the booklet:
    WorkChoices will lock in maximum ordinary hours of work of 38 hours per week - an accepted community standard. It will be possible for ordinary hours to be averaged over a period of up to twelve months.

    Employees must receive at least the relevant minimum hourly wage as set by the Fair Pay Commission for each hour they are required to work.

    Additional payment for hours worked in excess of 38 hours will be a matter for awards and agreements.

    Sounds nice and positive, right? Wrong, if an employee is on a workplace agreement then the employer only has to pay them for the 38 hours, if the agreement says no overtime then there will be no reward for doing overtime. Not all workplaces will be like that, but there will always be a number of employers that will screw over their workers.

    A government supplied example:
    EXAMPLE
    Georgina runs a motel in Hobart. Under the relevant award, she is required to pay her employees penalty rates for work in excess of the ordinary hours of work under the award (38 hours per week). In the new system, Georgina could offer her employees a collective or individual agreement which offers a higher hourly rate of pay for all hours of work, including any hours in excess of 38 hours per week, which absorbs penalty rates for any hours worked beyond 38 per week. Her employees would have the choice to accept the agreement or remain covered by the award.

    Counter-example:
    EXAMPLE
    Georgina runs a motel in Hobart. Under the relevant award, she is required to pay her employees penalty rates for work in excess of the ordinary hours of work under the award (38 hours per week). In the new system, Georgina could offer her employees a collective or individual agreement which offers the same hourly rate of pay for all hours of work, including any hours in excess of 38 hours per week, with no penalty rates for any hours worked beyond 38 per week. Her employees would have the choice to accept the agreement or remain covered by the award, which offers no penalty rates either.

  • Unlawful Termination
    PROTECTION AGAINST UNLAWFUL TERMINATION.
    Every Australian worker, regardless of the size of the business they work in, will continue to be protected from unlawful termination.

    Unlawful Termination includes:
    - Temporary absence from work because of illness or injury;
    - Trade union membership;
    - Non-membership of a trade union;
    - Seeking office as, or acting or having acted in the capacity of, a representative of employees;
    - The filing of a complaint, or the participation in proceedings, against an employer;
    - Race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin;
    - Refusing to negotiate, make, sign, extend, vary or terminate an AWA;
    - Absence from work during maternity leave or other parental leave;
    - Temporary absence from work because of the carrying out of a voluntary emergency management activity.

    Nowhere does it say that being terminated because your boss is having a bad day is unlawful. But if you are terminated and believe it is unlawful, you are entitled to $4,000 of legal advice...
    Employees who believe they have been unlawfully terminated will be eligible to receive up to $4000 worth of legal advice. This will be based on the merits of their case if they have a certificate from the AIRC and if they are assessed as having financial need.

    So you need to jump through hoops to prove there is a case and be on the bones of your arse to get that legal advice... How many people are even going to bother?
    Unfair dismissal laws will also continue to apply to businesses with over 100 staff, though workers will need to have been employed by the company for at least six months before they can make an unfair dismissal claim.

    Is 100 employees the upper limit of how many employees a K-Mart or Target store has? I can see who will get shafted by this law the most, young workers in the range 16-21 mostly work for smaller businesses as they have the ability to give them a chance. Allowing employers that hire young workers to be exempt from unfair dismissal laws will open up some nice exploitation opportunities.
  • Workplace Agreements
    A SIMPLER AGREEMENT-MAKING PROCESS.
    To reduce delays and uncertainty in agreement-making, a streamlined process will be introduced.

    All agreements will now take effect from the date they are lodged with the Office of the Employment Advocate.

    So once an agreement has been lodged it will start to operate and people can start working under the new arrangements.

    The current complex certification process for collective agreements and the approval process for AWAs will no longer apply.

    Varying or terminating of agreements has also been simplified. New agreements can now be varied or extended up to a maximum of five years or terminated by agreement between employees and employers.

    So instead of having any agreement looked over and passed by a body looking out for workers rights, employers can start screwing over their workers immediately. You reckon an employee will have much power to reject an extension of their agreement or the termination of agreement to make way for a new one? Without the protection from unfair dismissal laws, workers will shut up and take it on the chin so as to not rock the boat. Anyone who stands up to a malevolent employer will mark themselves for the earliest termination. It doesn't matter that unlawful termination laws will protect people who refuse to sign new agreements, etc. but there are other things that aren't protected by those laws.

    What is the function of the 'Office of the Employment Advocate' anyway? The naming of government departments is starting to become quite a lot like double-speak. Orwell would be proud...
Go have a read of the booklet to see how these changes will affect you...

And I have a new personal rule: If ever you see someone smiling in a government advert, be very worried...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Of tunnels and cheese...


Hello in there... Posted by Picasa

Cheese! Posted by Picasa

Free speech, Free speech for the dumb, Free fucking speech

Woman Booted Off Plane For T-shirt

A Washington state woman intends to press a civil-rights case against Southwest Airlines for booting her off a flight in Reno after fellow passengers complained about a message on her T-shirt.

Lorrie Heasley was halfway home on a flight Tuesday that began in Los Angeles, wearing a T-shirt with the pictures of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a phrase similar to the popular film, "Meet the Fockers."

Heasley said she wore the T-shirt as a gag. She wanted her parents, who are Democrats, to see it when they picked her up at the airport in Portland, Ore. "I just thought it was hilarious," said Heasley, 32, a lumber saleswoman. And she felt she had the right to wear it.

"I have cousins in Iraq and other relatives going to war," she said. "Here we are trying to free another country and I have to get off an airplane in midflight over a T-shirt. That's not freedom."

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said the T-shirt became an issue after several passengers complained. She said the airline's contract filed with the Federal Aviation Administration contains rules on passenger conduct.

Heasley said no one from Southwest said anything about the shirt when she waited two hours near the gate at Los Angeles International Airport. And neither the pilot, nor other crew members, said anything when she boarded the aircraft, Heasley added.

After the plane stopped in Reno at noon Tuesday, she and her husband, Ron, moved to the front of the plane. Passengers began complaining about the T-shirt as they boarded. After several conversations with flight attendants, Heasley agreed to cover the words by cuddling up with a sweatshirt. When the sweatshirt slipped while she was trying to sleep, she was ordered to wear her T-shirt inside-out or leave. The couple chose to leave.

Allen Lichtenstein, lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada, said Heasley's T-shirt is "protected" political speech under the Constitution. The real issue, he said, is that the airline allowed her to wear the shirt onboard and then objected only when people complained.

Heasley said she is in touch with ACLU lawyers in Seattle. She wants Southwest to reimburse the couple for the last leg of their trip and pay for her gasoline, a $68 rental car from Avis and a $70 hotel bill.

Before leaving the plane, she said she was told the airline would reimburse her for the tickets for the last leg of the flight. After they got off the plane, they were told they'd be reimbursed only for the taxes on the tickets. After fighting over the ticket prices, the couple got a hotel room in Reno, rented a car and got home Wednesday afternoon -- about 24 hours after they left the plane.

"I have always flown Southwest everywhere I go," Heasley said. "I will never fly with them again. They can disrespect somebody else."

Monday, October 10, 2005

Looks like Earthquake Weather...

The media in Australia really pisses me off sometimes, the rest of the time it just annoys me.

After last weekend's bombings in Bali there was nearly blanket coverage of the events where 25 people died and a heap more were injured. Sure, it is a pretty bad thing to have some bombs set off in a deliberate act to kill. But when you contrast it to the earthquake measuring 7.6 that affected Pakistan, Afghanistan and India on Saturday, and it only receives a 2-3 minute bite on the news.

Nevermind the death toll is conservatively estimated at 18,000 people, it still doesn't command the same coverage that a bunch of dead extremists does. We all know that the media reports what they believe gets viewers, but does a terrorist attack really command that much more coverage than tens of thousands of people killed?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

House Update #4 - All in all, it is all just bricks in the wall...


Yay, we got bricks! Posted by Picasa


Soon, these will be walls... Posted by Picasa


Just in time for our slab party (tomorrow 11 am, if you are coming), our bricks have been delivered and there are lots of them. Now that things are getting moving, it is getting pretty exciting that we will soon have a house of our own.

I just hope the brickie crew is all ready to go...

Friday, October 07, 2005

What a tragic loss...


David Birnie

ONE of Australia's most notorious serial killers, David Birnie, has been found dead in his cell in Western Australia's main maximum security prison.

Birnie, 55, was serving a life sentence in Casuarina prison, south of Perth, for the abduction, rape, torture and murder of four women in 1986.

I'm sure there will be a lot of people turn up to that funeral, not to mourn, but to spit on his grave.

Serial killer, rapist found dead - NEWS.com.au

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI spec C Group N

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), a global manufacturer of transportation and aerospace-related products and the maker of Subaru automobiles, today announced that it would submit a homologation application to the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) for the finely tuned new Subaru Impreza WRX STI spec C to rally as a Group N vehicle in 2006.

Now that we have covered the boring bit, here is some car pr0n...





More picture here

Never lose your keys...

Or let them be damaged...

Replacement Key Prices and Delay Times
Alfa Romeo – $110-$180. Italy. 5 days.
Audi – $332. Germany. 7 days.
BMW 3 Series – $221. Germany. 7 days.
BMW 7 Series – $563. Germany. 7 days.
Ferrari – $400. Italy. 14 days.
Ford Falcon – $223. Dealer. 1 hour.
Ford Explorer – $170. Dealer. 1 hour.
Holden Commodore – About $80. Dealer. 1 day.
Holden Astra/Barina – About $80. Dealer. 2 days.
Honda CR-V – $426. Dealer. 1-2 days.
Hyundai Accent – $133. Dealer. Same day.
Jaguar X-Type – $347. Distributor (Sydney). Same day.
Jaguar XJ-XK – $520. Distributor (Sydney). Same day.
Lexus SC430 – $304. Distributor. 1-2 days.
Mazda MX-5 – $187. Dealer. Next day.
Mercedes-Benz – $250. Distributor (Melbourne). 10-14 days.
Mitsubishi Magna – $148. Adelaide. 1 day.
Mitsubishi Mirage – $124. Dealer. 1 day.
Nissan Pulsar – $248. Dealer. 1-2 days.
Nissan Patrol – $213. Dealer. 1-2 days.
Peugeot 307 – $125. France. 7-14 days.
Porsche 911 – $206. Distributor (Melbourne). 1 day.
Range Rover – $303. UK. 21 days.
Subaru – $300. Distributor (Sydney). 1 day.
Toyota RAV4 – $290. Dealer. 1 day.
Volvo – $400. Distributor (Sydney). 1 day.
Volkswagen – $129-$181. Germany. 7 days.

These prices are from 2003 so things could have, and probably has, changed since thing. And as security systems in cars are getting more integrated and comprehensive, I can only see those figures increasing.

Interesting to note is that if you ever lose your Range Rover key, you better hope the dealership can give you a loan car for 3 weeks...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Earthshine...


Earthshine 06/10/2005 Posted by Picasa

From NASA:
When you think of Leonardo Da Vinci, you probably think of the Mona Lisa or 16th-century submarines or, maybe, a certain suspenseful novel. That's old school. From now on, think of the Moon.

Little-known to most, one of Leonardo's finest works is not a painting or an invention, but rather something from astronomy: He solved the ancient riddle of Earthshine.

You can see Earthshine whenever there's a crescent Moon on the horizon at sunset. Thursday, Oct. 6, is a good night: sky map. Look between the horns of the crescent for a ghostly image of the full Moon. That's Earthshine.

For thousands of years, humans marveled at the beauty of this "ashen glow," or "the old Moon in the new Moon's arms." But what was it? No one knew until the 16th century when Leonardo figured it out.

In 2005, post-Apollo, the answer must seem obvious. When the sun sets on the Moon, it gets dark--but not completely dark. There's still a source of light in the sky: Earth. Our own planet lights up the lunar night 50 times brighter than a full Moon, producing the ashen glow.

Visualizing this in the 1500s required a wild kind of imagination. No one had ever been to the Moon and looked "up" at Earth. Most people didn't even know that Earth orbited the sun. (Copernicus' sun-centered theory of the solar system wasn't published until 1543, twenty-four years after Leonardo died.)

Wild imagination was one thing Leonardo had in abundance. His notebooks are filled with sketches of flying machines, army tanks, scuba gear and other fantastic devices centuries ahead of their time. He even designed a robot: an armored knight that could sit up, wave its arms, and move its head while opening and closing an anatomically correct jaw.

To Leonardo, Earthshine was an appealing riddle. As an artist, he was keenly interested in light and shadow. As a mathematician and engineer, he was fond of geometry. All that remained was a trip to the Moon. It was a mental journey:

In Leonardo's Codex Leicester, circa 1510, there is a page entitled "Of the Moon: No Solid Body is Lighter than Air." He states his belief that the Moon has an atmosphere and oceans. The Moon was a fine reflector of light, Leonardo believed, because it was covered with so much water. As for the "ghostly glow," he explained, that was due to sunlight bouncing off Earth's oceans and, in turn, hitting the Moon.

He was wrong about two things:

First, the Moon has no oceans. When Apollo 11 astronauts landed at the Sea of Tranquility, they stepped out onto rock. Lunar "seas" are made of ancient hardened lava, not water.

Second, Earth's oceans are not the primary source of Earthshine. Clouds are. Earth shines because it reflects sunlight, and clouds do most of the reflecting. When Apollo astronauts looked at Earth, the oceans were dark and the clouds were bright.

But these are quibbles. Leonardo understood the basics well enough.

In the decades ahead, humans are going to travel in person where Leonardo's imagination went 500 years ago. NASA plans to send astronauts back to the Moon no later than the year 2018. Unlike Apollo astronauts, who stayed for a few days at most, these new explorers will remain on the Moon for weeks and months. In the process, they'll experience something Apollo astronauts never did: nightfall. A lunar "day" is 29.5 Earth-days long: about 15 Earth-days of light, followed by 15 Earth-days of darkness. Apollo astronauts always landed in daylight and took off again before sunset. Because of the bright sun, they never saw the soft glow of Earthshine at their feet. But the next generation of astronauts will.

And just maybe, on a late-night stroll behind the outpost, guided by the soft light of Earth, one of them will bend over and scratch something in the moondust:

"Leonardo was here."

What is old, is new again...

Here is the new Chevrolet HHR...

The same functionality could probably be provided by a normal medium sized wagon, it would use a lot less fuel too. For a car that only has a 4 cylinder pushing it along, it has a huge frontal area. There are some distinctively lazy American touches to this car, for example, the remote starter system. It allows you to start the car using the remote key from up to 200 feet away. I suppose it is for those people who wish to get their car nice and warm before climbing in during cold weather.

It looks pretty good, but that could date very quickly, just like the PT Cruiser has.

All New 2006 HHR: Cars: Chevrolet

Hoo-fucking-ray...

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have been out of the spotlight since the release of 'Batman Begins' and 'War of the Worlds', which mysteriously coincided with the announcement that Tom and Katie were dating and then engaged, now comes the news that TomKat are having a baby. It must be an immaculate conception as Katie has gone on record saying that she isn't up for sex before marriage. Maybe it was the evil aliens that live on Mars and Venus (according to Scientology Scriptures)?

When Tom Cruise professed his love for Katie he was seen to abuse a couch (see picture below), how the hell is he going to top that. He is really going to have to dive into his bag of 'Stupid Publicity Stunts', purchased from ACME of course (on the same page as the 'Pipe Full o' Fun Kit Number 7').


Another conspiracy theory going on here, but Tom is currently filming Mission Impossible 3, which is due for release next May. Let us say that Katie is already 2 months gone, that puts the baby's birth around the end of April, strangely enough just before the release of Tom's new movie. What a publicist's dream...

It is a good thing that Tom Cruise is a rich guy, cos this kid is gonna need some serious therapy when he/she gets older...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Alas poor Holden, we knew thee well...

With petrol prices climbing ever higher, sales of large cars has hit the wall. In one month alone the large car segment slumped 30 percent. And with the slump, it has once again crowned the Toyota Corolla as Australia's top selling car, a place it held in the early and mid-eighties when the domestic Holden and Ford products were especially shithouse vehicles.

Family cars run out of juice - Petrol prices bite - NEWS.com.au

Hi Def Rocks!

In an unexpected demonstration of how much more resolution you have on a HD TV signal, the US TV show 'My Name is Earl' has got itself plastered all over nerd sites with the following scene.



On the left hand side of the picture is a guy holding up a sign. On a normal TV this would not be legible due to the reduced resolution, but with HD TV you can clearly read the sign.



HD Beat

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

World, meet Google Office...

I would love to be a fly on the wall at Redmond if Google and Sun do announce a competitor to Microsoft Office...

It makes great sense having a word processor, spreadsheet, etc. as a web application. A lot of people don't use Word or Excel enough to justify the large expense involved, which generally means they grab the CD from the office and install it at home.

Next Up: Google Office?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Power generation...

On the weekend just gone, the WA Liberal Party held their annual meeting to publicise their future directions and show us all the puppet masters in the background of the party.

Matt Birney in his major speech made it clear that the WA Liberals are in favour of uranium mining and nuclear power in WA. Yes, the 'N' word was mentioned. The public has a largely unfavourable view of nuclear power. After Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and a few other minor nuclear accidents worldwide, power generated by the fission of uranium is fairly unpopular.

This may be the speech that will come back to haunt Matt Birney. When the next election rolls around, the Labor crew will use the spectre of nuclear power to scare the voters away.

I think that nuclear power is a very viable power source for WA, we have huge reserves that remain untapped and we have very large areas suitable for the placement of a reactor. Although the initial cost of setting up a reactor can be quite high, the cost per KWh is equal or less than a coal fired power station.

The waste from the power station will be a major issue, but again we have some dead empty space in the middle of a very geologically stable region just ripe for deep drilling for storage of the waste.

I remember hearing that coal fired power stations release more radioactivity than the average nuclear power plant, so I did some looking around and found the following passage (emphasis is mine):
Returning to the wastes from coal-fired electricity production, they arise because coal seams, over eons of time, have accumulated through precipitation a wide variety of minerals. The reactive organic content of coal creates the necessary conditions to trap these elements within the coal seam in recognisable streaks of thucolite, named after the radioactive thorium and uranium they contain.

The annual wastes from a 1,000 MWe coal-fired power station include several hundred tonnes of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, selenium and vanadium which retain their toxicity permanently, as well as the two radioactive elements in thucolite which have long half lives. The daughter elements they produce when they decay also contribute to the level of radioactivity in the ash.

Radon gas is the daughter element with the greatest mobility and because of its highly active decay products it presents the greatest radiation danger to nearby population. Compared with other naturally occurring sources the radiation levels are not high, but are still over ten times higher than the emissions from a nuclear power station of the same capacity.

It is interesting to note that a coal-fired power station discharges in its wastes more uranium than a nuclear power station consumes for the same amount of energy if fast breeder reactors are used. Here are the facts: Australian coals contain from 0.4 to 5 parts per million uranium, with a mean of 2 parts. The energy released by the nuclear fission of uranium is more than a million times greater than the yield of chemical reactions such as coal-burning. So one tonne of uranium, if fully consumed in a breeder reactor, provides as much energy as more than a million tonnes of coal. That much coal releases more than two tonnes (average) of uranium in its wastes. This may come as a surprise to many readers but is well known in the power industry.

In order to avoid giving a false impression, the more common non-breeding reactors extract only two or three percent of the energy of the uranium fuel, so the ratio drops from several million to a few tens of thousands. This still means that, megawatt for megawatt, the uranium in the wastes from coal-fired power generating stations is considerable and is about as radioactive as unprocessed uranium ore.

Although the emphasised part relates to the comparison between a coal fired power station and a fast breeder reactor, the amount of radioactive waste released from a coal fired power station is immense. Add that radioactive waste to the amount of carbon dioxide released per year by coal into the atmosphere and you have a very dirty power source.

We've come a long way baby...

But it seems Linux still has a lot further to go.

Here is quite a good look into what is required to crate your own Linux based Home Theatre PC (HTPC). Sounds like a great way to go doesn't it? Well, have a read and you will learn that setting it up isn't as easy as it seems.

When Microsoft have a Media Center edition of Windows on the shelf ready to go, installs with the normal ease of XP and just works, the Linux solution shows itself as a toy for the technically minded who has either a lot of spare computer parts or a lot of spare cash (usually both).

I am starting to look at things like this for use in my new home theatre but I can see that PVRs that cost $900 now, will cost a lot less when I am ready to buy. I am also hoping that the next gen units will integrate with a wireless network for streaming of other media files not recorded from TV/Foxtel/CD.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Oh dear...

21:47 - Here I am sitting down after a great night out for dinner, braised lamb shanks with mash, and I see on the news that 4 bombs have gone off in Bali.

This means two things... 1) the war on terrorism isn't working and 2) the war on terrorism isn't working.

So far 8 people have been confirmed dead... But knowing what most holiday places are like in SE Asia, the streets would have been full of traffic and the sidewalks full of pedestrians. 2 bombs have gone off in a 4 Seasons hotel and 1 in the Matahari department store. I can see that death toll climbing sharply.

UPDATE #1
23:43 - The death toll has now risen to 19 with 51 injured, one Australian has been confirmed dead.