Wednesday, October 31, 2007

OOOO three posts in one day LOL

Gotta see today's Joy of Tech
You can turn Steve Ballmer into Johnny Depp (sort of...)


And I don't know why the colour and layout are screwy...

... I think I may go back to using Camino...

Second World Country

One thing that I was expecting from Leopard (and I'm not sure why, as the advertising for Leopard doesn't mention it) was a crisper, faster, better iChat.  There really hasn't been much of an improvement in this area, and it's not really Leopard's fault.  Dad and I tried the whole presentation and screen sharing thing last night, and the app quit on us.  Not enough bandwidth.  Ferchrissakes, we're both on broadband!!!  But yes, folks, it's good ol' Telstra-governed, Australian broadband.

Mr Justin Vellejo, of the Daily Telegraph, wrote an article on October 20, 2007, in which he claims broadband in Australia is a "Third World Joke".

AUSTRALIANS are paying nine times more for broadband that trundles along 35 times slower than the world's fastest networks.  A report from the US has revealed Australia has become the Third World of broadband developed nations, ranking 26th out of 30 countries for its transfer speeds.  Sydney households pay an average $2.65 per month for one megabyte of service at a speed of 1.7 megabytes a second, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation's broadband rankings.  By comparison, users in Japan have the world's fastest broadband and pay a paltry 29c a month for one megabyte at a blistering 61 megabytes a second.  On a scale of speed, Australia is even ranked behind the Slovak Republic, which separated from the former Soviet country Czechoslovakia in 1993.

The problem with Leopard is that it was written in America.  For computers with American-speed broadband. or Japanese-speed broadband.  Or Korean-speed.  You get the idea.  I doubt we in Australia will be able to use some of Leopard's features unless it's at an ungodly hour of the morning when no one else is using broadband.

We're having an election here soon, and I'm gonna vote for whichever party is willing to drag us, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, broadband-wise.  And at least make us a Second World country.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Installed it last night and have been playing with it since....  I've read quite a few comments about it in other blogs, both good and bad; so far, I like it.  I've had a couple of hiccups with some apps, but they were easily fixed by either downloading up-to-date versions (oops... like Adium - updated from 0.89.1 to 1.1.3) or by typing in "Leopard 10.5" and the name of the app in a Google search and most of the time finding the answer to the problem and fixing it that way.

Front Row finally works with iPhoto (it never did under Tiger) but I can't work out how to turn off, let alone change, the muzak that accompanies the slide show, and just for once neither the net nor the help menu has been much help...  Not that I use Front Row much anyway, just to watch DVDs from my bed; so in the end it's a minor annoyance and not a major peeve.
I went through the list of 300 changes (on the apple site) and tried them out on my own set-up, and learnt a lot on the way:
1. In iChat, when you change the background to a video (for example, so it looks like you have an aquarium behind you, you really need to be sure that you're wearing different coloured clothing to what the back ground originally was (photo shows a dark background and a dark singlet...) or it gets a bit confused... and you end up with fish or whatever where nature never intended (you have to imagine that the fish in the background are actually a movie and they swim around behind you as you talk).

2. Stacks opening up from the Dock will only fan if the Dock is positioned at the bottom of the screen... But the Download Stack is a blessing, in that it gets my downloads folder off my desktop and still keeps it in a very accessible place (refreshing desktop icons uses a fair bit of processor power, and although that's probably less true nowadays than it used to be, why push it?)

3. Safari is a whole lot better, and I've changed back to it from Camino... for the moment...

4. Quick look ROCKS!!!  I can see the contents of a Word document without launching Word.  I can scroll through a movie or a song and see if it's the one I was looking for without launching whichever app I need to open it.  All good.

5. There don't seem to have been any improvements to Speech Recognition and Speakable items, but as my computing life doesn't depend on them it's no biggy - I guess one day someone in Cupertino will notice that what was revolutionary in 1993 (Plain Talk) is a bit passe now and it's one area of the Mac that could use some serious updating.

Well, that's my initial impression, 24 hours after installing...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We've always been at war with Eastasia...

Imre Salusinszky and staff writers from The Australian say "SCHOOLS have been complacent about the teaching of Australian history, Prime Minister John Howard said today as he launched a compulsory national curriculum.

Under the new plan, students in years nine and 10 will be made to attend 150 hours of Australian history lessons, and the compulsory teaching of Australian history will be a condition of the next commonwealth schools funding agreement with the states and territories, which begins on January 1, 2009."

Quite so. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps, though, before attempting to teach history, we should attempt to 'up' the literacy and numeracy levels in schools so that the majority of students can not only be told about our history but can also read and write about it as well? So that they can, for example, work out the number of years between 1901 and 2007? Heaven forbid that they also be taught to think critically so that they can draw their own conclusions from what they read... Yes, curriculum and standards are an issue.

History is written by the winners. That may have been true even up to 20 years ago - nowadays, history is written by the whingers. I'm interested is seeing exactly what and whose version of events will be passed off as history this time (given that the whole post-modernist pendulum has pretty much reached the end of its swing). Facts versus Opinion versus Political Correctness is also an issue.

But the issue that's making me twitch a little is the whole "you will teach what we recommend as 'History', or we'll cut your funding" suggestion. As George Orwell said, in '1984': "We've always been at war with Eastasia." (For those of you who are unfamiliar with this classic novel - read it. Or at least read the Wikipedia entry for a very basic overview.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jumping Beef

An article from AAP suggests that "Eating kangaroo meat instead of beef will help lower Australia's greenhouse emissions by reducing the numbers of methane-belching cows, according to a study by the University of New South Wales, which suggests a 20 per cent cut in beef production from 1990 levels, the equivalent of 15 million tonnes of methane."

"Beef production is chosen in this measure because it is responsible for the biggest share of livestock-related methane emissions," says the report, Paths to a Low Carbon Future."

Kangaroo meat is healthier than beef, containing less fat and more protein, but is sold as a gourmet food ('game' meat), with the appropriate price tag. It seems that 'jumping beef' is still (after all these years!) a bit of a novelty item in Australia!

Kangaroo farming is much more environmentally friendly than present sheep or cattle farming as roos require less feed, are well-adapted to drought, do not destroy the root systems of native grasses in the way that sheep do, and have much less impact on Australia's fragile topsoils (and let's not forget about that methane!)

Of course the status quo suits the beef and mutton barons very well - under the current culling quotas (not even considering farming), about 2% of Australia's meat production would be roo, if all the animals shot were actually used for meat (most of them are just shot for their skins which are exported to the States and Italy for shoe leather and the remains used as dog food in situ or left to rot). The small amount of meat that makes it to the shops is thus comparatively rare and therefore overpriced.

With the Big Drought we're having, I've sometimes wondered why the sheep and cattle farmers who are forced to chuck it all in and walk away from the farm because most of the stock has died or is so thin it's unsaleable, don't turn to roo farming? It's got a lot to do with legislation, and a bit to do with carefully fostered public perception of roo meat. The stock barons (squattocracy) can bring a fair bit of weight to bear on the legislation; and somebody has been circulating nasty rumours (for a generation or so) about how roo meat is a risk for toxoplasmosis and salmonellosis, and how it's full of nematodes. Roo meat can become infected with Salmonella, but it is not more prone than other meats, as long as the usual hygiene standards and practices are followed; and if any red meat is contaminated with cat faeces, it can transmit toxoplasmosis. About 5% of wild kangaroos carry a nematode, Pelicitus roemeri, in their lower legs, which is quite harmless to humans, but is unsightly...

When I was a kid, and money was a bit tight, we ate a fair bit of rabbit (another threat to the cattle and sheep barons, and funnily enough nowadays another gourmet meat at nearly twice the price of beef per kilo); roo wasn't legal to sell for human consumption in most states until 1993. Still, we got a taste of it occasionally, if someone had a friend who had a friend who'd been out shooting... it was pretty damned good (especially kangaroo tail soup!) I rather like eating meat a few times a week; I'd have no objection to eating kangaroo instead of beef or lamb, except that at its current price, my budget doesn't allow it. Paths To A Low Carbon Future is all very nice and fine, but until they bring the price down (or until beef becomes as expensive as roo, which will probably be in the very near future) I'll just have to stay being environmentally unfriendly and eating farty cow meat.

And before any of my foreign friends point out the obvious - yes, I'd like to go out and hunt it myself, but you need to have a licence to shoot roos, and the gun laws here are tighter than a nun's nasty... and I'm a pathetic shot with a bow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Dancing Lady

I first saw this a few years ago, and now it seems it's really been making a come-back: I've had it in an email, seen it on YouTube, and now even is getting into it! (if the gif's not moving, you can see it here, and for some reason clicking on it opens it in a new window and it moves there, too... I dunno ).

The deal is that you look at the gif of the spinning lady and the way you see her turning indicates whether you are using your left brain or your right brain (no, I don't know how scientific this actually is, but it's fun...)

If you see her turning clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa. Most of us evidently see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction.

I find that if I glance at text then look back at the picture, she'll be spinning anticlockwise (i.e. I'm using the left brain), then to get her to spin the other way, I glance at the photo on my desktop, and off she goes clockwise, exercising my right brain! Thinking of a maths problem versus thinking of drawing shapes has a similar effect. Kind of fun!!

According to the blurb that usually accompanies the picture, LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS are: uses logic, detail oriented, facts rule, words and language, present and past, maths and science, can comprehend, knowing, acknowledges, order/pattern perception, knows object name, reality based, forms strategies, practical, safe; and RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS are: uses feeling, "big picture" oriented, imagination rules, symbols and images, present and future, philosophy & religion, can "get it" (i.e. meaning), believes, appreciates, spatial perception, knows object function, fantasy based, presents possibilities, impetuous, risk taking.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Kitchen Renovations

I usually have a couple of projects going at any one time; that way, when I get the shits with one I can move onto another and come back to the first later with a refreshed attitude ("It can't be nearly as bad as the one I've just done..."). One of these projects has been renovating the kitchen, the majority of which I did earlier in the year (see blog) and which, with a change of flooring, I have finally finished (yay!).

Originally, I discovered, the floor had been partly polished wood (in the dining section) and probably lino (in the kitchen), which had been glued straight onto the original, unsanded floorboards. At a later date, someone had covered the entire lot in masonite sheets (3 x 4 feet each, held down by nails every couple of inches around the edges and a couple in the centre of each sheet for good measure) and a most interesting pink/beige lino - not the old linoleum lino, but that plastic sheet stuff that wears easily and rips when you move a fridge across it incautiously (oops... d'oh!). Did I mention it was pink? Eeeeuw...

On one of my weekly trips to the recycling centre at the local dump, I noticed that someone had donated a truckload of Italian tiles in various sizes and colours, and so I dug around and eventually got together a sufficient number to do the kitchen floor (the dining area now just has a wooden floor like the rest of the house). $10 a box, 17 tiles in a box (they're quite large, at 31 x 15 cm), tile cement left over from the bathroom renovations last January, and a couple of tubes of pale fawn silicon - I think I got out of it for just under $100, if you include the flapper disk for the angle grinder that was necessary to remove some of the more obvious unevenness on the wooden floor (which, you must remember, had never been sanded back with the rest of the floors in the house). Smug mode kicked in when I found the same tiles at the local hardware shop for $7 each - I'd paid about 60 cents... love my recycling centre!

Stripping off the old floor took a couple of nights, a pinchbar, clawhammer, much bad language (but no broken fingernails!); the actual laying of the tiles took a couple of hours (and 24 hours for the tile cement to dry), and then I siliconed the gaps between them and have ended up with a tiled floor that has only a few silicon cat paw prints on it ( which will scrub off) and is NOT PINK!!

Looking back, it really was pretty easy - I can't imagine why I didn't do it earlier! Now, there's the entrance room to be tiled, the back stairs to be sanded back and oiled, and my bedroom ceiling to be done; and I need to clean out the shed, do a bit of gardening... Stuff it - I'll have another cup of coffee first and surf the 'net for a while. THEN I'll get into it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Depending on your genre, this acronym may mean Rocket Propelled Grenades or, in this case, Role Playing Games. Many, many moons ago when I was but a wee 8-bit sprite (so, back in the late 70s...), my friends at school would occasionally indulge in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, which was pretty new back then. Of course, these were played at a table - computer games were sort of limited to 8-colour PacMan (in a pub) and primitive versions of snake and Pong (on our Microbee Z-80, where they had to be loaded into the machine's memory from a casette tape :-) - and our family was unusual because we had a computer at home...) Mum used to game with the folks at work - their choice was a game called 'Diplomacy', and while not strictly speaking an RPG in the modern sense, it involved 'being' the country (and they occasionally dressed up to look the part - her costume one time as 'Turkey' was incredible!) I never really got into RPGs myself, but associating with gamers from an early age gave me a kind of understanding of them if not actual appreciation.

So I felt considerable glee when I came across that Oldie-But-Goodie on YouTube recently, Summoner Geeks. I first saw this clip after a mate had played through the Summoner game on the playstation - "Get a load of this!" It was screamingly funny back then, because although neither of us played RPGs, most of our friends did - and it wasn't that far off real life, we both knew people like that...

Now, 30-odd years later, the RPG thingy has come home to roost again as the Eldest Daughter is heavily involved in (table top!) D&D and has managed to snare the interest of the Youngest Daughter. The Middle Daughter is much more interested in FPS (First Person Shooter) games, in which RPG takes on a totally different meaning... And then we have the Guild Wars and WoW addictions... Yes, I have three TTBs (that's Tech-Talking Babes for the uninitiated).

My kids are all geeks: computer-literate, pale-skinned beings with incredible hand-eye coordination, who can carry amazingly complicated maps and storylines in their heads, and talk about characters in the games they're playing like they're old friends; the real friends they've made through the games that they play, whether face-to-face or online, are almost like war buddies - I mean, they've been on campaigns together, faced incredible odds, and lived through it. And they've probably learned more about human communication, relationships and negotiations through these interactions that they would have learnt in the real world in 10 years, because the games are intensified vignettes of life.

My kids are geeks... and so am I, and so were my parents before me... Ain't it grand!

(And while I can still outrun them, I have to put a link to this!)