Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Snivelling grub...

Probably the most exciting thing to happen in Canberra in a long time occured today.

But first a little bit of background. Last Thursday during parliamentary debate, Tony Abbot (Liberal attack mutt), called Kelvin Thomson (Labour) a 'snivelling grub'. When asked to withdraw the comment, Tony Abbot said 'If I have offended grubs, I withdraw my comment unconditionally'.

Today, during a speech by Tony Abbot, Julia Gillard motioned that the 'snivelling grub over there be not further heard'. As with Tony Abbot, the speaker of the house requested an unconditional withdrawal of the comment to which she echoed Tony Abbot's line of 'If I have offended grubs, I withdraw my comment unconditionally'. At which she was ejected from the chamber and is not to return for 24 hours.

The speaker has said that he banned Ms Gillard because the withdrawal was not an unconditional one.

I have few questions...
1) These are the people we elect to represent us and they act like children. Do we really deserve dickheads like this running the country?
2) Why isn't the speaker of the house an independent person?
3) Who made up the stupid rules that are followed in parliament?

Todays YouTube installment...

Today's theme is George W. Bush, Idiot savant and so-called leader of the free world. *COUGH* NSA *COUGH*

First one is a video of Frank Caliendo on what looks like The Late Show with David Letterman. Obvious humour but great impersonation...

Second video is a nice bit of stop motion animation generally taking the piss out of the moron...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How to win friends and influence people...

I think the current West Australian Minister for Education & Training, Ljiljanna Ravlich, is trying to immortalise herself in the state's history. In her infinite wisdom, she has decided that denim has an image of being 'fun' and should not be worn to school. To be fair, it wasn't her idea, it was the now Premier's idea back in 2004.
"When students are at school I want them to be dressed appropriately, ready to concentrate on the day's work ahead, not be preoccupied with the latest fashion accessory, the latest fashion style," Ms Ravlich said today.

"I think being out of uniform is a distraction."

To be enforced from the start of the school year in 2007, the ban will cover all forms of denim clothing: jeans, shorts, jackets, skirts, etc. One of her main reasons behind the decision is that denim clothing is causing students to take their mind off learning and concentrate on the latest fashions. I say bullshit, if the students aren't wearing denim fashions, they will just go and find non-denim fashions that will probably cost a lot more and require the student to be more focussed on looking after their new 'expensive' threads.

While on the topic of looking after your threads, I have another problem with this ban. It will make kids fatter. I lost you just then didn't I? Let me explain. I attended a school once where they had an official winter and summer uniform. The winter uniform consisted of these crappy grey 'slacks' that were really uncomfortable and at the time cost about $50 (I think, was a fair while ago) from the school clothing shop. Mum bought two pairs to get me through the week. The first week of wearing these pants, during lunch, I managed to get a massive grass stain on the knee whilst playing rugby with the boys. You would think a good soak and wash would shift the stain, but you would be wrong. Scratch one pair of school pants. I wasn't a popular son.

The other pair of pants lasted another few weeks. While playing brandy in the quadrangle, I slipped and fell on my knee creating a good sized hole in the knee of the pants and my skin. Scratch school pants number 2. The polls indicated my popularity had slipped further and was at an all time low. Even my two son preferred vote was in jeopardy. For the rest of the winter I was sent to school in jeans. Strangely enough, by the end of winter, the majority of students were also doing the same thing.

Back to my tangent, now that denim is being banned in schools, parents will tell their kids not to play sport or take part in any activity at lunch or recess that could cause damage to the pants. Lunchtimes and recess are times to play and burn up all the pent-up energy from the previous lessons, not to sit down quietly and be boring little shits.

Alternately, kids will be just like I was and end up ruining many a pair of trousers causing the parents to say 'fuck the government' and send their kids to school in denim.

I wonder if the ban applies to the teachers as well? Wouldn't bother some of my old geography and maths teachers though, brown trousers and brown jackets (some even with elbow patches) were the order of the day (everyday, that is) for them.

Some people have way too much free time...

This is one of the most elaborate fake trailers I have seen. Someone put some serious time into this...

Mind you, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Hollywood pulled this stunt to guage reaction for a Titanic sequel...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Yard work...

Geez, another busy week has come to an end. On wednesday we had a bobcat come in to remove a heap of extra dirt (a full truckload) and do a general clean up. All for the small sum of $300. Took just under 2 hours.

Turned out pretty well. I still have the number if anyone needs some clean up work done, let me know and I'll send the number through.

Now that the backyard has been cleaned up we have the ability to get out there and start establishing some gardens. That is what today was all about. Firstly I started laying out the bricks for the garden edges and used up all our remaining solid face bricks. Next Donna and I got stuck in and tried our hand at paving. We think it turned out pretty well. I just have to get some cement and fix the edge pavers in place to stop any movement.

Next on the agenda is to put the plants into the garden and get some mulch in. After that is to start on the garden around the back of the house and also the vegie garden. I can see my future before me...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A little OTT...

Watch the video below.

They could have done without the references to Hitler and Nazism and still made their point. That is why no one listens to these folk. Keep some reason in your argument and you might actually make something happen.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Saturday night...

Ah yes, another saturday has come to a close. Such a busy day today.

First off was a trip down to the pools for Calvin's swimming lessons. He is getting so good in the water. I can let him jump into the water from the pool edge and let him swim back to the surface by himself. He just loves going underwater.

Then off to the shops to do the grocery shopping. A lot of people don't like doing the weekly shop, but I find it quite therapeutic. Although there are the people that seem to be deliberately getting in your way constantly, it doesn't bother me. I just take my time selecting the food I like to cook with.

The rest of the day was spent pottering around home, cooking dinner (home made Shepherd's pie) and keeping Calvin under control.

Now I am sitting down watching Saturday Night Football and Collingwood is currently belting Geelong. Collingwood has a 59 point lead at half time, the Cats should be ashamed. Collingwood is playing brilliant football, their skills are great they just seems to be 2 steps ahead of everything Geelong is doing. Watching a football game where you have no direct affiliation to either club (I do have a soft spot for Collingwood though) lets you watch the flow of the game and how the umpires are controlling the game. The umpires tonight are absolutely woeful. The decisions, or lack of them, regarding mainly holding the man and pushes in the back have been real puzzling. There have been at least half a dozen incidents where a Geelong player has fallen on to the back of a Collingwood player and the umpire has either decided it wasn't worth paying a free kick or he is a blind fucking mole. They run a bit too quick to be moles, so that means they don't regard the incidents worthy of a free kick. Do these umpires have a different set of rules than what everyone else thinks they have? The AFL really needs to sort out the umpiring and bring it to a consistent level. At the start of the season, the umpires had zero tolerance on late contact with the ball handler after a mark was taken, by round 8 the tolerance levels are like the Australian public to John Howard, pretty much free to do whatever they want.

heat so bad it burned my wife's leg and Applecare says "RTM"

I found a link to a forum post on Apple's support site. I'll let the original poster set the story up...
I have a Macbook Pro, and my wife and I drove home from Disneyland yesterday. She had the MPB on her lap and was watching a movie from the hard drive. It got hot enough to actualy burn her leg.

I call Applecare this morning, they facilitate a repair by sending me a box... and John (the Specialist) actually said "In the manual, it says that the device shouldn't be placed on your lap." Granted the guy apologized for it getting hot, or as he said "overly warm", but holy crap! To actually try and blame us for this unit getting hot enough to HURT someone is ridiculous.

I've got all the usual problems. The whine, the heat, the random rebooting..... but it's my fault that I didn't read the manual.

They say you should always use it on a flat surface, well I have an Antec cooler with 2 fans and it still runs hotter than ****.

For fuck sake, if someone was one, stupid enough not to feel your leg burning, and two, disregarded warnings in the manual, and still want to complain, they can't be too bright. Most people have this notion that all portable computers come under the category of being a 'laptop'. In fact, the majority are 'notebook' computers and should not be used on your lap for an extended period of time due to the heat dissipation requirements. Stupid woman... I recommend reading the posts replying to this guy, the discussion gets a little heated and quite amusing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Look out weekend cause, here I come...

Well there goes another week. A week that has left me mentally drained. Is it a bad sign in your job when you really start to look forward to the weekends?

It has come to that really annoying part of any development cycle, the testing period. I seem to be fighting seemingly minor issues constantly and of course it doesn't help when a third party control changes how a series of functions work between minor version updates.

I hate testing, I hate doing testing. I hate getting testing results from people who don't know what pre-release testing really is for. In a perfect world I would happily do all the app design and some of the dev work but when testing comes along, because less resources should be needed for bug fixing, hand off the remaining work to some junior programmer. This would leave me to move onto the next project and start putting the ideas into a cohesive design.

Things are looking up though. The new version should be out the door by early July and we will start moving towards a series of rapid minor releases for all our products. We will be using the Scrum methodology with each Sprint being a block (probably a month) of work for a minor version update. Each Sprint will be focussed on a different product.

Anyway, I might head back to my bourbon and watch some more footy. It looks like Melbourne is going to give me my first correct tip for this weekends footy tipping. Go the Demons...

Here comes the neutron...

About time I say...

John Howard's advisors must be doing their homework well these days. 10 years ago it would have been political suicide to bring up the issue of nuclear power in Australia, but now with oil prices at record levels, the idea of nuclear power seems to be getting some traction with the general public. It seems that hurting wallets really changes people's minds on controversial subjects.

Mr Howard said the broad use of nuclear power in Australia was inevitable and the push for its uptake was gathering momentum.

"It could be closer than some people would have thought a short while ago," he told Southern Cross Broadcasting from the Canadian capital Ottawa.

"I hope that we have an intense debate on the subject over the months ahead.

"And the whole atmosphere in Washington, the atmosphere everywhere I go created by the high level of oil prices is transforming the debate on energy and alternative energy sources."

Asked if the issue could be addressed within a few years, Mr Howard said many countries would increasingly resort to nuclear power.

"And obviously as a major holding of uranium reserves that has potential benefits for Australia, not only here but also through our export sales," he said.

The timing of Australia's uptake of nuclear would be governed by economic considerations, Mr Howard said.

"Clearly the environmental advantages of nuclear power are there for all to see – it's cleaner and greener and therefore some of the people in the past who've opposed it should support it," he said.

When nuclear power stations are being considered, I do hope that Pebble Bed Reactors are the focus of the research. The inherently safe and self limiting design of PBRs will minimise the chance of any Chernobyl type events and nearly eliminate the use of spent fuel in nuclear weapons.

Who's Next!

Haven't we come a long way in the last few years...

The video below is real-time footage from a new game on a Nokia N93 mobile phone, 'Who's Next' is the sequel to 'One' which was available on the Nokia N-Gage taco phone. It is amazing that such 3D rendering can be achieved on such a device. Something that was unthinkable even a few years ago when 'Snake' was the most advanced game on your phone.
Who’s Next took advantage of motion capturing technology to make a realistic 3D fighter. The designers are proud that every move in the game can be performed in real life, if you’re an expert martial artist. Who’s next adds in weapons like nunchucks as seen in the demo along with fighting styles like Jeet Kun Do. Still in the works are customization options. Players will be able to customize their character to some degree by adding on accessories. Nokia hopes that players will be able to use texture mapping to design their own costumes. However, that feature may or may not be available in the final build.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

VIDEO: Michelin previews Revolutionary new Wheel/Tyre combination

Michelin shows a potentially disruptive technology which could be the future new standard for vehicles: an airless, integrated tire and wheel combination. It's called the Tweel (Tire/WhEEL).

read more | digg story

Friday, May 12, 2006

F-day tomorrow...

Yay! Since moving from the in-laws place and into the new house I have been without Foxtel. Tomrrow it has a triumphant return...

Somewhere between 12 and 5 (don't you just love that?) a Foxtel 'technician' will turn up and do his thing.

*sniff* I can't wait to have FoxSports, ESPN, Fuel and the Comedy Channel back. The Stargate SG-1 marathons on TV1 have also been missed.

I know I may sound like a bit of a TV junky, I don't actually spend that much time actively (or inactively) watching TV. With sporting events, I put something on and do stuff around the house and only really sit down for small stints. Although if it is a good game of football or a Twenty20 from Chennai, the stays on the lounge do get longer. And with the World Cup on soon (28 days), some quality soccer (yes Tom, same as football for you) will be worth watching.

And in Calvin's favour, Nick Jr. will also be back. I just hope that in these formative years he doesn't end up like the TDK kid... Must keep an eye on that.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What to do about high fuel prices?

Make them even higher...

Before you get your knickers in a knot over having to pay more to use your car and all the other costs affected by high fuel prices, let me explain.

What is the sole reason alternative energy sources are still regarded as novelties by the general public? Simply because oil has been so cheap for so long, people have gotten used to having their energy source 'on tap' and cheap, any attempts to show an alternative energy source (that is usually more expensive) have been ignored. When they have been taken notice of, it is generally in the form of a cockroach shaped solar car that has no link to the real world and is thusly thought of as a novelty.

Raising the price, even artificially through taxes) will make alternative power sources start to look viable to the general community. And as an added bonus, the extra tax revenue could be put striaght back into energy research programmes. Of course it will go through the normal channels and end up only a fraction of what was collected.

A couple of nice concepts that need more research funding:
    • Power Towers
      Power Towers (also know as 'Central Tower' power plants or 'Heliostat' power plants (power towers) use an array of flat, moveable mirrors (called heliostats) to focus the sun's rays upon a collector tower (the target). The high energy at this point of concentrated sunlight is transferred to a substance that can store the heat for later use. The more recent heat transfer material that has been successfully demonstrated is liquid sodium. Sodium is a metal with a high heat capacity, allowing that energy to be stored and drawn off throughout the evening. That energy can, in turn, be used to boil water for use in steam turbines. Water had originally been used as a heat transfer medium in earlier power tower versions (where the resultant steam was used to power a turbine). This system did not allow for power generation during the evening.
    • Solar Tower
      Solar Tower technology is not simply solar energy. Solar Tower technology is created when the sun’s radiation is used to heat a large body of air, which is then forced by the laws of physics (hot air rises) to move as a hot wind through large turbines to generate electricity. A solar thermal power station using Solar Tower technology will create the conditions to cause hot wind to flow continuously through its turbines to generate electricity.
    • Tidal Power
      Tidal power was used in medieval Europe to turn waterwheels, producing mechanical power. With the growth of the electricity industry it was realised that tidal power, like hydropower, could be used for electricity production. A barrier is built across the entrance to a bay so that the incoming flood tide rises to a higher level than that of the bay itself, creating a difference in water level or potential head. This potential energy of the difference in water levels across the barrage is then converted into kinetic energy in the form of fast moving water through the turbines located in the water passages within the barrage.
    • Hot Dry Rock Geothermal
      The concept behind HDR geothermal energy is relatively simple. Heat is generated by special high heat producing granites located 3km or more below the Earth's surface. The heat inside these granites is trapped by overlying rocks which act as an insulating blanket. The heat is extracted from these granites by circulating water through them in an engineered, artificial reservoir or underground heat exchanger.
  • Q: What's worse than being caught naked with an MTV host and Kylie Minogue's body double?

    A: Being caught anywhere with a hairy backed sheila...

    Shane Warne has been caught out again. Big deal I say. He isn't with his wife, so he can do whatever he damn well pleases. And we certainly now know what pleases Warney...,8659,19061223-23212,00.html

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    This rocks!

    I wish I learnt how to play guitar as a yougun...

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Is it really worth it?

    In a mixture of environmental goodness and nerd curiosity I have been looking into renewable energy sources for the home lately.What I have found looks good on the surface, but in the end it definitely makes you question whether it is really worth it...

    I found this cool 400W windmill that just attaches to your roof (no need for tall towers) and is a generally reasonable AU$1190. This item set me on the trail for setting up a house using renewable energy.

    I then started looking into what sort of battery requirements are needed to store the wind energy you can capture. To power an average home, you need about 10kWh per day to meet all your general needs without sacrificing the luxuries. If we take this battery (306 Ah @ 100 hr cycle or 255 Ah @ 20 hr cycle) for $949. To work out how many of these batteries you need, you take the amp-hour figure of the intended batteries and multiply by the voltage. So using these batteries on a daily cycle, 255 Ah multiplied by 12 V gives you a figure of 3060 Wh or 3.06 kW.

    So to power an average home using these batteries, the minimum requirement would be 4 batteries, of course this would only power the house for a day, I was thinking 3 days of backup would be a safe figure to aim for so that means 12 batteries (AU$12K, ouch). Using the above windmill, if the wind was blowing for 24 hours per day, you would get 9600 W of 'free' power.

    As we all know the wind doesn't blow constantly, in the last week here in Perth there hasn't been much wind to speak of so one windmill definitely wouldn't supply the power you need. We need to get the shortfall from somewhere. That leaves us with a few options... 1) add more windmills 2) add more batteries 3) add another power source and 4) supplement from grid power.

    Option 1. Adding more windmills
    Not a bad option at *ONLY* AU$1190 each, but there are limitations to roof space and neighbourly tolerance to the whooshing noises of windmills.

    Option 2. Add more batteries
    A very expensive option but still viable, having more than a weeks worth of backup power would help smooth out your charge/discharge cycles but you had better have a lot of room for the batteries to be installed. Having a basement would be good for this. 7 days of batteries would be somewhere near AU$28,000...

    Option 3. Add another power source
    Adding solar power to this set-up would be nice, but again there is a large cost involved. You need to decide how much you are willing to spend to get your power for 'free'. If you bank on getting at minimum 4 hours of direct sunlight in winter per day and assuming that the solar panels take up half the charging requirements, you would need about 1200 W of solar panels to meet that need. Using this panel as an example (125 W for AU$1100), 10 of these panels would be needed. The cost would be a tidy AU$11,000.

    Option 4. Supplement from grid power
    Supplementing you battery-sourced power with grid power is a totally cost effective solution. Plus you can opt into green-power programmes where you pay a slightly higher rate per kWh (14c versus 17c per kWh in the case of Western Power) for your electricity but the power utility places that extra into installing more renewable energy sources such as large scale solar and wind farms.

    If we take the most cost-effective solution from the above options being a single windmill, 3 days of batteries and supplementing from the grid only when needed using green power, you have a cost of approximately AU$13,000 just for the hardware, you still need to install and connect the system and purchase an inverter to convert the 12V DC into 240V AC.

    The general lifespan of a windmill and battery set-up is in the region of 20 years, so per day over the 20 years, it would only cost AU$1.78/day. Compare this to purchase power from the grid at 14c/kWh and you reach a figure of AU$1.40/day. Add 30c for green power. Only those with a very big environmental conscience would even bother to go to all this trouble, nevermind the horrendous up front costs associated with it.

    Reducing the battery backup to 1 day would reduce the 20 year cost to AU$0.68/day. In Perth, this would actually make a little bit of sense due to Perth's reputation for being quite a windy city. During spring and summer when we get those days that have the sou'wester blowing non-stop, you could reduce your dependence on the grid to nothing. Also in winter when the cold fronts move through you get two to three days of howling winds.

    Setting your house up for renewable energy is a bit like installing a solar hot water system, for a majority of the time you don't need to use any form of fossil fuel based power but when needed you have a nice backup system. You are cutting your power bills back significantly and also reducing emissions. In the end, I suppose every little bit counts.