Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Meh...

Meh

A random word when people either don't know what to say, don't care, can't answer a question or are too drunk to form a coherent english phrase.

What a different culture we live in here in Australia...

I am referring to the recent activation of the WorkChoices legislation. There are many examples from around the country of sackings for no reason and more stories of sacking full time staff and rehiring straight away on lower casual rates. The IR reforms that have been put in place are allowing employers to be all powerful in the workplace and of course that power will cause some people to be taken advantage of.

Over in France there is a proposal in parliament at present to increase incentives for businesses to hire people under 26 years of age, but the changes will also make it easier to fire people under 26 years of age. The French people have gotten really pissed off about this. The changes aren't even as wide ranging as Howard's IR reforms and there are riots. The only thing Aussies seem to riot about recently is some lebbo going to the beach or some kid killing himself while getting chased by police (nevermind he was a serial offender).

Do people actually care about this? Or are they so scared they might lose their jobs or rock the economic boat so interest rates will go up and take their over-extended mortgage over their heads they just keep their mouth shut and mutter under their collective breath when Howard or their boss fucks them up the arse once again? Or are they happy with their lot and think that nothing will happen to them?

Then again they could be drunk...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Is Holden on the chopping block?

Although it is fairly wild speculation, an automotive industry analyst has put forward a suggestion that GM in its death throes may sell off Holden while it is profitable to help stop their impending doom.
The principal of international automotive strategic consultants Autopolis, Graeme Maxton, said GM was already taking desperate measures to avert the greatest crisis in its 98-year history and sell-offs of its better performing divisions couldn't be ruled out.

"If you look at in terms of pure economics, their investment in Australia must be under question," he said yesterday.

"GM is having to sell off the family silver and close down anything that is not economic to cut costs in order to survive for the next few years," he said.

The Detroit-based automotive giant had already begun disposing of its shareholdings in Japanese makers Isuzu, Subaru and Suzuki, despite these being strategically significant ventures, Mr Maxton said.

And GM yesterday announced it had sold its property financing arm, GMAC Commercial Holding, for $12.5 billion.

"All of these are desperate measures to stay alive. What GM is waiting for is when enough of its pensioners die off that it can re-fund itself and invest for growth again. But it's absolutely hidebound right now. It has so much debt and so many liabilities that it has to simply cut them loose," Mr Maxton said. "They can't do anything until their situation improves but they've got themselves into something of a death spiral because the more they have to cut, the more consumers stay away from their products, the more their market share goes down and the more their losses go up."

Mr Maxton acknowledged Holden was not in the same dire sales situation as GM's US brands whose combined market share fell to a historic low of 25 per cent last year. But he said that the more profitable Holden was, the more tempting it would be for GM to sell it off.

"The question for Holden is who would buy it. There are actually not many companies except maybe a Chinese maker who would buy it right now," he said.

I doubt that GM would try and sell off Holden. Holden is such a niche market product tied very, very closely to GM in the US that any company is going to have to pay GM a lot of licensing fees and parts costs would hurt too. I suppose the way to end the dependence on GM is to get rid of local production and buy in cheap badge engineered products from elsewhere. Actually quite similar to what Holden do with the Barina and Viva.

I wonder what the public reaction would be to the sale of an 'Aussie icon'?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New DVD... Ben Folds and WASO: Live in Perth

I added a DVD to my collection last week and only just had time to watch it. Slack hey...

Ben Folds and WASO: Live in Perth

I had fully intended to go this concert when it was at Kings Park, but of course when you have kids there are different, more important, priorities in place so I didn't end up going. I thought nothing more of it until I stumbled across this DVD on Amazon while looking for more detail on Ben's 2001 release 'Rockin' the Suburbs'. I had a Sanity music voucher from christmas that I hadn't used yet so I popped on down to Sanity and ordered the DVD (it was import only). I then waited 5 weeks for it to arrive.

If any of you have spent any time listening to Ben Folds' music then you will know that he probably doesn't have the greatest singing voice in the world, in fact I would have to say his voice is fairly average for a successful artist. But Ben's voice isn't what draws people to his music, it is the brilliant music and lyrics he puts together that does the job. If the voice does play a part in the attraction of Ben Folds, it would be the sincerity the obviously flawed voice lends to the songs.

The idea of teaming up with a symphony orchestra has become a fairly common event over the past 10 or so years, done properly it can be great, Metallica's S&M and Tim Finn's EnzSO comes to mind, done half heartedly it can be terrible. Ben Folds and WASO is definitely in the former category, the arrangements work so well with Ben's music in the most part complementing Ben's brilliant piano skills and only occasionally taking the lead.

If there is any downside to this DVD it is the direction and camera work, it can be quite jumpy and the cuts are too abrupt. It is rumoured that Ben is planning to do another tour of Australia this year with a symphony orchestra in each city so maybe this time they can up their production standards a bit. Even with the slightly low quality camera work and direction, the audio is excellent and makes the DVD worth having.

I have ripped the audio from the DVD so I can listen to it at work now. Thank you DVD Audio Ripper :)

Friday, March 17, 2006

You don't antagonise a crazy wog...

Fernando Alonso has put himself in the proverbial poo after making public the following thoughts in a press conference in Madrid in February:
"I'm glad that Rossi has tested with Ferrari because that means they have lost valuable time preparing the cars for the show they put on," the Spaniard told a news conference at a promotional event in Madrid.

"Let him come and drive. It will be good because there will be more media attention.

"Until we see him race we won't know his true potential, but it will be very difficult for him. He might finish fifth or even get on the podium some time, but I could do the same on the bikes if I was given a bit of time to practise."

Well Mr Rossi has responded the best way he could. He has given Alonso a challenge, a challenge that Rossi will probably win going by past performances.
"I read that if Alonso is able to make some practice then he can put a MotoGP bike on the podium with me," Rossi, a five times MotoGP World Champion, told Motorcycle News. "Well, I think we should drive a Formula One car, a World Rally car and a MotoGP bike, add the times together and then we will see who is the fastest."

In the last few months Rossi has top the testing times in MotoGP practice, done some very competitive lap times in F1 testing and also ran a Subaru WRC with reasonable success.

Good luck Fernando...

MOTOGP News - Rossi challenges Alonso!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Isolation must be a good thing...

...cos those Kiwis can come up with some cool stuff.

Instead of a cylindrical piston being slid inside a cylinder, how about a pivoting square piston engine?
A New Zealand company has redesigned the two-stroke combustion engine with the intention not only of overcoming the shortcomings of the conventional sliding-piston two-stroke engines, but also to produce a combustion engine that can better exploit hydrogen as a fuel.

The Pivotal engine replaces the conventional sliding piston with a pivoting piston, the pivot point of which is at the back of the piston. (See cutaway diagram) The piston pin position connects to the crankshaft via a connecting rod. The side surface of the piston forms the inner wall of the combustion chamber when the unit pivots up in the compression cycle.

The result, according to the company, is the elimination of piston rock or slap, improved compression sealing and reduced lubrication requirements.

Sounds like a really clever idea. They have built a 4 cylinder, 2.1 L prototype of the engine:
Pivotal joined with Mace Engineering to develop a prototype 2.1-liter four-chamber gasoline pivotal-piston engine, which produced 170 kW of power while weighing 65 kg — a power density of 2.6 kW per kg of engine weight.

If optimized for hydrogen fuel at an air/fuel equivalency ratio of >.6, Pivotal estimates the output to be in the region of 120kW–130 kW. This hydrogen output represents about 1.8 kW per kg of engine weight—still an excellent level of power density when compared to one of the best gasoline, naturally aspirated, automotive engines: the V10 BMW at 1.55kW per kg.

Out of a 2.1 L engine without forced induction, 170 kW is an amazing figure. But 2-strokes do have a much better power to weight and power to capacity ratio.

Article: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/03/pivotal_piston_.html
Drawing: http://bioage.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/pivotal_1.png
Flash Animation: http://www.pivotalengine.com/flashversion.html

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tosser of the Week Award

I think we can safely say that this guy deserves the tosser of the week award...
The accelerator has jammed, the brakes have burned out and I'm trapped in my BMW doing 130mph

Kevin Nicolle: 'I couldn't get the pedal off the floor'


A motorist was trapped in his car driving at almost 130mph for 60 miles after the accelerator jammed.

Kevin Nicolle, 25, was unable to stop the automatic BMW going at top speed after the malfunction on the A1.

His terrifying journey, which was followed by four police cars and a helicopter, ended when he smashed the car into a roundabout, flipping it on its roof.


Sounds like a pretty scary situation right? But not something that would cause you to go 60 miles at 130 mph. For someone who used to drive a 'lorry', you would think he would know something about stopping a vehicle in a safe manner. But it seems not.
"I had been driving for quite a while when I realised the accelerator pedal was stuck down," he said. "I had gone into the fast lane and I couldn't get the pedal off the floor. I used my hands-free phone and tried the AA to ask them what to do.

"At that point I wasn't panicking because I jammed my foot on the brake and that was keeping the speed to a steady 70mph.

"I told the AA I couldn't slow down. I thought they might be able to give me some advice but they told me to hang up straight away and phone the police. I dialled 999 and spoke to a woman and by this time I was starting to panic because the speed of the car had increased to 100mph."

Riding the brakes, not a good start...
"My brakes were burning out and starting to fail - that's when the speed really started to build," he said. "I could see the speed building to 120mph or 130mph. I remember starting to shake and freeze up. I was really panicking and broke into tears. I couldn't help it because I thought I was definitely going to die.

"I was trying to slip the car into neutral but because the car was over-revving and red-lining I couldn't do it.

"I couldn't turn off the ignition because it would have disabled the power steering and made it even more dangerous. I was even shouting at the other drivers to get out of the way, I was getting hysterical. The traffic was getting heavier and I had to take drastic measures."

At the start of the whole ordeal why didn't he just jam on the brakes as hard as he could and pull the handbrake to drop a lot of speed then turn the ignition off?

And it continues...
"I didn't deliberately try to crash the car to stop myself. I remember saying to the fireman, 'Don't cut my car, you'll damage it' but they were saying, 'Don't worry about that mate, it's written off'. I'd buy another BMW because, although there was a problem, it saved my life in that crash."

This guy must be so in love with his BMW.

I award Kevin Nicolle the 'Tosser of the Week Award'. Well done... moron.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Happy 2nd Birthday Calvin!


Donna's magnificent birthday cake

Calvin turned 2 on Saturday, hooray!


As you can see he has grown up a bit of late, he is losing his baby face and is now a little boy complete with Lego to build whatever he wants (currently it is 'big towers').

...we have normality, I repeat we have normality.

Aaahhh, things have returned to normal now. No, nothing to do with work or home, the Formula 1 season has kicked off and all is good.



If last night's Bahrain Grand Prix is an indicator for the rest of the season, then 14 (Malaysia, Australia and Japan are run in the afternoon our time) more Sunday nights during the year will involve staying up quite late. Pole position was surprisingly taken by Michael Schumacher after last years 'ordinary' season. Michael qualifying effort makes him equal with the late Ayrton Senna for the most pole positions. Michael now holds the record for the following:
  • Pole positions, 65 (equal with Ayrton Senna)
  • Race wins, 84
  • World Championships, 7
  • Consecutive championships, 5
  • Fastest laps, 69
  • Championship points, 1256
  • Wins for a single team, 65
  • Wins in a season, 13
  • Wins from pole position, 37
  • Points in a season, 148
  • Races led, 120
  • Laps led, 4664

Bahrain Grand Prix Results:
  1. F. Alonso
  2. M. Schumacher
  3. J. Button
  4. K. Räikkönen
  5. J. Button
  6. J. P. Montoya
  7. M. Webber
  8. N. Rosberg

Race report from Formula1.com:
The 2006 season burst into sensational life in Bahrain this afternoon, as champions past and present, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher, fought out a tense duel which resulted in victory for the Spaniard by only 1.246s.

It was Schumacher who led away at the start, chased by team mate Felipe Massa who held off Alonso’s challenge into the first turn. Alonso squeezed ahead before the end of the lap, however, and then had a narrow escape on the eighth lap when Massa spun under braking there and actually overtook the Renault while going sideways. Alonso braked hard in successful avoidance and continued his pursuit of the leading 248 F1.

Michael pitted for fuel after 15 laps, while Alonso went four laps further. However, that was not quite enough to earn him the lead as Michael had opened up a bit of a gap. They resumed their fight all over again, moving back to first and second places by lap 24 once Juan Pablo Montoya had finally refuelled his McLaren after a 23-lap stint.

This time the Ferrari went until lap 36, the Renault until 39, and that proved to be the turning point of the race. Now Alonso got out of the pits ahead of the German, but it was nip and tuck as they went side-by-side through Turn One. Alonso kept his nerve and emerged in front, and then made sure he avoided any errors for the remainder of the nail-biting race. One slip, however, and the order could easily have been reversed.

Into third place, from the back of the grid, came Kimi Raikkonen, who started his McLaren with a full tank and didn’t stop until lap 30, by which time he had risen to third place. That clever bit of strategy from the Woking team earned him the final podium place as the previous incumbent of the position, Jenson Button, could only chase the Finn home but never really got close enough to mount a convincing challenge in the Honda.

Juan Pablo Montoya was fifth for McLaren after a two-stop run, and then came the Williams of Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg. The young German was a star of the race; after a clash with BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld in the first corner on the opening lap, he pitted for brief repairs, losing 45s, and then staged a superb recovery. On the way he twice set the fastest lap, leaving it at 1m 32.408s. He passed Christian Klien’s Red Bull for seventh close to the end, to take two points on his debut.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Well, well, well, what have we here?

It seems that someone might have stumbled onto the possible cause of all the XBox 360 overheating and memory issues...
Arakon from the german modding community modcontrol.com informed us about a new discovery they made with assistance from the guys at gamestore24.de. They checked on 2 independantly bought Xbox 360 consoles and found that the protective layer on the GPU heatsink's heat transfer pad didn't get removed.

Great QA there...

Xbox 360 Overheating Caused by Protective Foil on Heatsink? - Xbox-Scene Online Web Community

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tax Cuts - A Simple Lesson in Economics

Tax Cuts - A Simple Lesson in Economics

This is how the cookie crumbles. Read it carefully. Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing
The 5th pays $1
Sixth would pay $3
The seventh $7
The eighth $12
The ninth $18
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day, and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." So now dinner for the ten only cost $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six, the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being "paid" to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings)
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings)
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings)
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings)
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings)
The tenth now paid $49 instead $59 (16% savings)

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But, once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth. "But he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!"

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore. There are lots of good restaurants in Europe and the Caribbean.

David R. Kamerschen, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Economics
536 Brooks Hall
University of Georgia

Seems like an academics way of making he still gets a big tax cut to me. The tone of the text is quite patronising too.

I don't see why we just don't have a flat tax rate, the GSTs flat rate was touted as a way that if you earnt more, you paid more, why can't income tax work like that. The tax bracket system we currently have does seem to favour those who earn the least. I reckon a flat rate of 25% (Singapore uses a flat rate of 15%) would work quite well and simplify the tax system at the same time.

Then and now...

As I approach my 30th birthday I have been thinking about what has changed over the last 10 or so years, and wouldn't ya know it, things have changed a lot. Some things not so much...

    Then and now...
  • Then, my alcohol bill was greater than my fuel bill each week, now, I am lucky if I have a couple of bourbons or bottle of wine each week
  • Then, I was earning ~$125 per week, now I am earning more than 10 times that
  • Then, I had no debts (HECS didn't count), now I have a mortgage, a car loan and a credit card
  • Then, I lived at home with my parents, now I live with Donna's parents (not for much longer W00T!)
  • Then I did some Access 2.0 development work on the side, now I do .NET development with a bit of Access 97 on the side (sad really...)
  • Then, my days were spent going to lectures and tutorials interspersed with acting like a big kid, now I go to work and go home to a kid
  • Then, I weighed 125kg, now I weigh 95kg
  • Then, I had long hair, now I have none
  • Then, I took life for granted, now I try to enjoy every second of it

Thursday, March 02, 2006

House Update #20 - Holy shit, we might be just about finished...

No pictures today folks, too many tradespeople about the site to get pictures lately. They seem to get a little edgy when one carries a camera into their work site.

Well, we are booked in for our 'Pre-Completion Inspection' or PCI for short, 7 am next Tuesday morning. Will have to get up at some silly sparrows fart hour on a day off but oh well, we all make sacrifices to get what we really really want. For those that don't know, a PCI is the check the owners do to make sure all the work requested has been done to a satisfactory standard and make sure all fittings, tiles, powerpoints, etc. match what was requested in the plan. We already know of a few things missing that need seeing to but we will note them on Tuesday.

We have done a few walkthroughs of our place in the last couple of weeks and the progress is amazing, we now have:
  • Panellift door
  • All tiling finished
  • Stove installed (rangehood and oven waiting on electrician)
  • Plumbing is complete (toilets flush)
  • Exhaust fans installed
  • Had a full house clean (must remember to make sure sliding glass doors are open before walking through)

And today the cable for the estate wide TV system was installed (as well as a free cable modem connection point) and the paving was started. Not much left to do now at all. Things like oven, rangehood, shower screens, sliding wardrobe doors, ceiling insulation, plaster patch and site clean are the only big things left to do.

Then our work starts...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Things are looking up...

Well it seems the WRC may have a chance at a mini-revival with the very recent news that Suzuki plans to enter the WRC in 2007. After doing well in the JWRC with their Ignis and more recently the Swift, it seems like a fairly logical step up for the small Japanese carmaker.

I bet the WRC company is glad at the news as well, after losing Peugeot, Citroen and Skoda at the end of last year, the doomsayers may well be silenced. When Suzuki join next year, they will join Subaru, Ford, Citroen (rejoining after a sabbatical) and a couple of private top level teams in competition for the WRC championship.


Suzuki SX4 WRC Concept (Credit: Suzuki)


Suzuki confirms WRC bid.

The Suzuki Motor Corporation has finally revealed its future rally plans, confirming at the Geneva Motor Show that it will enter the World Rally Championship from August 2007.

Having revealed the first picture of the SX4 model last week, the company has determine that it will be put to use in the WRC, rather than just as the next challenger for the Junior World Rally Championship, in which the marque has proven so successful over the past few seasons. The announcement coincided with the launch of the road-going SX4 in Switzerland.

The Rally Sport version of the new car has been developed alongside the retail models, and a JWRC version will now be the focus of further detailed development and testing to increase its competitive potential ahead of the proposed WRC challenge next season.

Exact technical details of the SX4 WRC will be revealed as it builds up to its first competitive appearances, but the current specification includes a new two-litre turbo charged J20 engine, which already provides torque of 65kg.m at 3000rpm and 320bhp at 4000-5000rpm. A new all-wheel drive system is being developed for the WRC car by Suzuki, and will include mechanical differentials front and rear and an electronic version mounted centrally. The car is expected to run a five-speed sequential gearbox.


Crash.Net WORLD RALLY: Suzuki confirms WRC bid.