Tokyo, 23 December 2005: Mobile phone manufacturer SonyEricsson today announced it would ship its rumoured "double-back" model, the SonyEricsson B800i in Q1 2005 worldwide. The company also released limited specifications for the new product, a radical low-end product solution dubbed "double-back" because it features a camera on the front, a camera on the back, but no screen, keyboard, or interface of any kind.
"The B800i is a convenient solution for the problem created in the manufacture of our best-selling "double-front" K700i handset," said a SonyEricsson spokesperson. "By incorporating the extra backs left-over from the manufacturing process of the K700i, we've been able to bring the B800i to market, setting a new low price-point for consumer handsets and functionality in the process."
The B800i's twin cameras record everything in front or behind the handset at all times, leading some analysts to predict privacy problems as phonecam addicts take not just candid shots of unsuspecting strangers in bathrooms and changerooms, but also shots of themselves self-pleasuring during the act.
More certain to appeal to consumer's battery life, since the B800i features twin LiOn battery packs, one on each back.
To appeal to cost-conscious low-end consumers, and because it has no keypad, it's not possible to make outgoing calls on the B800i, but owners can accept or terminate a call by tapping the handset firmly against a solid object such as a wall, or by removing both of the batteries.
Thursday, December 30
Tokyo, 23 December 2005: Mobile phone manufacturer SonyEricsson today announced it would ship its rumoured "double-back" model, the SonyEricsson B800i in Q1 2005 worldwide. The company also released limited specifications for the new product, a radical low-end product solution dubbed "double-back" because it features a camera on the front, a camera on the back, but no screen, keyboard, or interface of any kind.
Waiting in vain for a train today, I watched a German tourist couple search in vain for a rubbish bin for the remaining half of their uniquely Australian sausage roll. ("Die is nicht wurst!")
They were looking for a rubbish bin on the train platform. How could this be? I remember the decision, post-9/11, to remove the rubbish bins from railway stations in NSW, citing the threat of terrorists leaving bombs or starting fires in them. Sadly, Germans are no strangers to terrorism; international and domestic, religious and political. Surely in Germany there are no rubbish bins in any public place, much less their railway stations.
Have the Germans, famous for their engineering, somehow invented a bombproof rubbish bin? Or does a few decades of living with the threat of terrorism instil a cavalier disregard for terrorist threats amongst the safety-mad Germans? It seems unlikely.
Instead, I suspect the German railways have sensibly decided that removing bins does nothing to reduce the terrorist risk; it just increases the amount of litter. After all, if I were a fanatical terrorist determined to place a bomb in the station, would the lack of a convenient rubbish bin really dissuade me?
"I'm terribly sorry," I can see myself reporting to my terrorist cell leader. "All that training you put me through in Afghanistan, the trouble we went to smuggling the components, the time we spent plotting� it's all been wasted. They've taken the rubbish bins off the railway platforms. I could have put the bomb on the tracks, left it in a toilet, placed it on the wrought iron beams holding up the roof, left it in my bag, or placed it on a train, but your strict instructions were to place it in a rubbish bin." If I was that stupid, the only danger I'd represent would be to myself.
I finished my large takeaway coffee, asked the Germans to follow me, and walked over to the platform attendant. "This is rubbish," I said.
"I know," he said. "Trains are running late and out of timetable order due to unusual weather conditions," he said, pointing to the sky. "The wind is coming from the northwest. That hardly ever happens. We're in complete disarray."
"�wegen des wetters?" One of the Germans muttered, looking up to the heavens.
"You misunderstand me," I said, passing him my empty coffee cup. "This is rubbish."
"You bought it here?" He shrugged, "We can't even make the trains run on time, and you expect great coffee?"
Buy a coffee at one of Central's many food shops, and you won't find a bin there, or on the platforms, or even in the nearby park. I had to hunt far and wide before finding one underneath the paper towels in the men's toilets.
Terrorists apparently don't go to the toilet, or, if they do, they don't wash their hands. I may have just single-handedly raised the alert level at State Rail from a manic Code Orange to a gibbering Code Red, but I owe it to my fellow commuters. Don't everybody throw your rubbish in there at once.
Thursday, December 16
All of Australia's Up In Arms Lobby are once again up in arms, this time to forbid the Council of the City of Sydney remixing of our national anthem in an attempt to make the turgid, pompous pap of a song into something more party-compatible for Sydney's famous New Year's Eve celebrations.
I've got no problems with remixing the national anthem in principle, in fact, I'd rather we wrote a new national anthem anyway, especially if we could get it to #1 on the charts in the UK and US and pump a bit of that foreign currency into our current account deficit.
But, oh my, the Sydney City Council remix is soooo horrid! It sounds like it's been remixed by a committee of bureacrats and ageing queers... exactly the problem, i'll wager.
How about we launch a "Remix The National Anthem" contest, take the winning versions and try to get them up on the international dance charts? How groovy would a country be if its national anthem was rocking the clubs around the world? Now that would be the truly Australian thing to do!
Wednesday, December 15
I had the misfortune to be fleeced of AUD499.00 today, just to crossgrade from MYOB's windoze accounting software to the Mac version. The Mac version retails for $550+ so I was saving a lousy $50 or so. Plus you've got to pay $100 a year just to get the latest tax tables, etc to download so your accounts balance out.
But buying the software online really showed me just how bad MYOB is at online customer relationships.
- Chose which over-priced option I wanted to pay for
- Logged-in with 8-digit product serial number and password instead of ID or email address and password!
- Entered my credit card details
- Lengthy wait, followed by confirmation that credit card transaction had been processed...
- That's all!
So hey, MYOB, where's my note telling me my software is on the way, how long I can expect to wait before it arrives, how it will be sent, etc? Where's the email confirming same? It's been an hour now! What the hell have you done with my money, you arrogant sonofas!
Friday, December 3
...then it occurred to me (with prompting from my friend Brad) that a public-spirited guy could do the same to raise money for the most common form of cancer in men - prostate cancer.
Except the prostate gland is internal, and the shortest route to that is up your bum. So I need a volunteer to stick a paintbrush up his bum and learn to paint with it (sorry, but more of a 'facilitator' than a 'doer', myself.)
Friday, November 26
Extraordinary news! Fairfax Digital, the online arm of one of Australia's two major newspaper publishers, has just launched a news aggregation site that scrapes the headlines from its own mastheads and those of others here and overseas. Called NewsBreak, the service is sure to raise a lot of eyebrows, and maybe they need to tweak the model a little more before it's really ready for primetime.
For instance, no more than a year ago, I was negotiating to pay for those same headlines from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the publishers of Newsbreak. I can't remember the rate they wanted to charge me, and I abandoned negotiations when it was clear it was unaffordable, but clearly someone out there was paying that much for them. Now, a year later, they're worth nothing. I suppose the prevalence of other sites - Google News, bloggers (including me) - scraping those headlines has eroded the value of headlines quite a bit, but still, it's a surprise to see the copyright owner engaging in the same activity, giving up the charade and admitting that headlines are worth only the ad impression and the pageview you get one someone clicks on the headline.
Also, Newsbreak doesn't limit itself to Fairfax publications, which is admirably realistic for a service that wants to be successful, but still, here's an Australian newspaper publisher, traditionally an inward-looking, incestuous, defensive, paranoid species of organisation, behaving like it's prepared to encourage its audience to consume news stories from rivals. When was the last time you saw a TV news anchor tell you to change channels to see more coverage of this story from a rival network? When was the last time a radio talk-back host encouraged you to listen to an alternative viewpoint on another radio station?
More astounding: the Newsbreak site even features stories from its arch-rival, The Australian (though not, it appears from the other arch-rival, the Daily Telegraph.) I know business development people working on those mastheads who are wandering around in a daze of confusion as I write this, expecting pigs to go flying past at any minute, this is such an extraordinary development. The About Us section of Newsbreak says that stories from The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald will always appear above those from other publishers, but still, how long does it take to scan a list of headlines sorted by topic and click on the one with the most interesting/sensational headline?
Interestingly, most headlines these days are still written by newspaper subeditors looking to fit a headline to a space on the printed page - that constraint still limits their creativity. On a site built from scraped headlines, the copy in the headline is all-important. So even though their own stories will appear at the top, I'm betting the publisher with the most sensational headlines will get the most traffic from Newsbreak. And Rupert's subs are known for being more sensational than Fairfax's.
Finally (though this is sure to change soon) if you click on a scraped headline on the Newsbreak site, it doesn't open the story in a new browser window as you'd expect, leaving the Newsbreak site in the background. Instead it takes you to the news page in the same browser window, leaving you to use the back button in your browser toolbar to get back to Newsbreak. Of course, you could also click on a link on that news story and stay within the newspaper website you've just been kindly directed to by Newsbreak. And what are the scraped news publishers paying for all this free traffic from Newsbreak? Not a cent, I'm sure.
Surprises me and delights me most of all because I (and others) predicted this would happen to news publishing one day, but it's great to see it happen before I die!
Thursday, November 25
I want Hummer - not the massive, inefficient, penis-enlargement-made-of-steel, 12MPG, fatal-to-pedestrians vehicle that lets every American pretend they're on active service in the Middle East.
Oh no, I want the fragrance. I want to smell like the great big 4WD death machine itself. I want to waft imperceptibly the subliminal pheromonal cues that mark me as a man not to be trifled with, a man who would get 12MPG and crush Daihatsu Charades under my enormous knobbly tires if they got in my way.
...Actually, I think this takes brand extension just one step too far. But if Ian Thorpe can help Giorgio Armani sell a men's fragrance that probably smells of chlorine and terrytowelling that's never quite been allowed to dry, then I suppose it's possible.
Monday, November 22
There's nothing the ad sales team at ninemsn wouldn't do to help a client - Sally Millett has obviously agreed to model for her client's retail POS. I captured this on the T610's smudgy phonecam in BP Naremburn, so apologies for the lousy quality.
Hi Sal, love your work!
Friday, November 19
Delicious Library - on the surface, just another digital library program. Under the surface, one cool feature: promises to work with my Apple iSight camera, using it as a superfast bar-code scanner. Scan the bar-code on a book I own or a CD, and the program pulls down the product details from the internet and saves it locally. If it works, shouyld take less than an hour to create a library of the 300 or so books I have at home, and three hours to do my entire CD collection! I'll letcha know if it works as advertised.
Tuesday, November 16
You probably already know about BugMeNot.com because it's such an Idea Whose Time Has Come (IWTHC) but in case you haven't, you should (am I making any sense?)
Bugmenot is the solution for all those websites that ask you to register before you can get anything useful from them, and your registration details are then used for marketing purposes. It's increasingly common with newspaper websites, for instance, to require you to register with them before you can read a news story.
I understand where newspapers are coming from, and they have every right to do so. Just as I have every right to use something that subverts their marketing data acquisition, like bugmenot.com.
It works like this: people submit user IDs and passwords that are valid for the sites they use (bugmenot already has IDs and passwords for 36,558 sites). Then, when you want to, say, read a news story that requires registration, instead of creating a new user ID and password, you flip to bugmenot (handy extensions for Firefox and IE make it simple). Enter the URL of the site and hit 'show logins' and Bugmenot displays user IDs and passwords you can use to login with, get the story you need, and get out again, all without leaving a trace for the marketers.
Thursday, November 11
Picture this: in some parallel universe, the US government sends in the Marines and US Army to take out a band of militant religious fanatics who have fortified a town in Utah with the support of the local population and religious leaders.
The Government allows the armed forces to use tanks, helicopter gunships, air-to-ground bombs and bomblets, missles, depleted-uranium shells, and psyops. They have no meaningful way to distinguish combatant from non-combatant and generally choose not to discriminate. Humanitarian aid and independent media are blocked from entry. Hospitals and medical centres become the first targets of bombing and mortar fire missions. No ceasefires are allowed for evacuation of non-combatants, women, children and wounded, or for the burial of the dead.
It would never happen, would it? How come it can be allowed to happen in Shatillah and now in Fallujah? Is everything justifiable in the US's holy war against Islam?
And yet despite the brutality, we're supposed to believe that we're the agents of freedom and tolerance, and they're supposed to be the religious fanatics?
Stop the war, I'm on the wrong side...
Tuesday, November 9
CNN reports that a Florida team have taught a 'brain in a dish' to fly a flight simulator. The brain in question is a collection of only 250,000 rat neurons, dropped in a support solution and left to reconnect themselves.
Have to say, I know a few commercial pilots, and if you ask me, the job can probably done with only 150,000 rat brain neurons. I wonder what the other 100,000 neurons were doing? Planning to chat up flight attendants at the next stop? Managing the sharemarket portfolio? Ringing home?
"Hi Mom! It's me! Hey, I got that new job I told you about! Yep, no more running around the maze and pushing the buttons to eat for me! And I get a uniform and a briefcase! No Ma, I can't carry the briefcase, but it makes a great place to sleep, especially after I've chewn up the uniform and stuffed some of it in there. And I think I can probably sneak the whole family into the cargo hold and we can all go to Florida this year..."
So, how many rat brain neurons do you think it might take to replicate these popular job functions? (Put your entries in the comments field below):
- Marketing manager
- News anchor
- Toll-booth operator
Microsoft announced it has settled a suit with Novell over antitrust behaviour and agreed to pay them $536 million, so that Novell will pull out of an EU-sponsored action against Microsoft. This still leaves unsettled another Novell antitrust action against Microsoft with unspecified damages.
In recent history Microsoft agreed to pay Sun $700 million to resolve antitrust issues and $900 million to resolve patent issues over the next ten years, and in another case, agreed to pay $750 million to Time Warner (AOL) to get them onside.
But has Microsoft done anything wrong? Nooooooo... It's paid out a total $2.9 billion dollars to its competitors to gain their compliance, but it's done absoLUTEly nothing wrong.
Saturday, November 6
I have no respect for the world's most powerful nation if it can't even
get its colours straight. Watching the US TV coverage of the election
on cable, I realised all the US networks use red to indicate states
where the Republican party has a lead, and blue to show Democrat
states. That's ass-backwards, you fools! Everywhere else in the world,
the left is red and the right is blue! No wonder you drive on the wrong
side of the road, persist in using imperial units of measurement and
run the shoddiest election processes known to western democracy!
Friday, November 5
...of Afghanistan, Iraq, Ethiopia, Palestine, the Balkan states - any
of the nations he's already worked so hard to improve in the last
decade. And either Cheney or Rumsfield to be Minister of Health and
Education of whichever state Bush chooses to be President in - they can
fight amongst each other for the role. No biting, boys!
Monday, October 11
A great article from Wired 12.10 on "The Long Tail" - the theory that says there's all this unused value in the rare and specialist stuff people look for online. Paul McCarney and Gour Lentell from Decide Interactive have been preaching this for at least five years that I can remember. Great to see them being validated. Now to get more specialist and rare DVDs included on www.homescreen.com.au!
Thursday, September 30
Great essay "What the bubble got right" on useful positive learnings to take-away from the Internet boom-and-crash, by Paul Graham, who was a founder of Viaweb, a cool ecommerce hosting service acquired by Yahoo!, which became Yahoo! Store, which I found both liberating and frustrating in my time at Yahoo!. Paul's nevertheless a very, very smart guy.
Here's some snapshots from the history of Viaweb, one of the first-ever web applications (possibly the first.) The author's built his site using Viaweb - anybody who's used the Yahoo! Store interface will recognise the nav UI. How very late '90s!
Wednesday, September 29
School bonuses are outside-the-square
The Liberal party thinks it's a good idea to give money directly to P&C
groups to fund schools instead of to state governments? That's not
nearly outside-the-square enough for me! The Liberal government gave a
'baby bonus' to new mums, right? So why not give every parent of a
school age child an annual education bonus, but instead of getting that
cash in their hands (which they'd only spend on a new TV or a holiday
on the Gold Coast), make them choose a school to award it to.
Then replace the current school funding system with a government
contribution of a flat $/student amount, whether the school is public
or private. Let the schools compete for school bonus awards on merits,
marketing, or whatever they find works best for them. Let the parents
choose whether they want to put that amount each year towards a private
or public school of their choice.
It wouldn't just put public and private schools on a level playing
field for the first time, it would blow away the distinction between
public and private schools altogether.
If it works, apply it to hospitals too!
Ditto hospitals. It's a bit more complex because sometimes healthcare
can be life-threatening, but if people really want the choice of public
or private healthcare, let them make the funding decisions for
themselves. Keep nothing but the Medicare brand, and out of the money
usually spent on Medicare each year, give them a lump sum X$/year to
assign to the hospital of their choice, X$/year as a fixed health
insurance subsidy to the fund of their choice, X$/year to assign to the
GP of their choice, and $X/year that can be split up on a per-use basis
to spend on specialists, ancillary, pharmaceuticals, etc. Once the
money's run out, they have to pay for any additional health costs they
incur. Any additional health insurance you want you have to pay for
My bet is people will probably spend their money with the hospital
which is closest to them, which ought to re-adjust the funding problems
neatly so that the best hospitals service the most people, and people
in regional Australia make sure they don't live too far from the
medical services they need - nobody's forcing them to live out in the
My guess is suddenly a lot of specialists will discover they're
overpricing themselves and introduce more affordable pricing, people
will reward the best GPs on merit, and health insurance funds will
finally have to make financial sense rather than survive on legislated
It'll take some getting used to, and it won't always work perfectly the
first time, but fuck it, I'm for outside the square thinking!
Monday, September 27
Federal election coming up in two weeks, and in case I'm tempted
between now and then by the extraordinary $6.5b in pork-barreling
promised in John Howard's campaign launch speech, I've made a note of
some of the reasons why I shouldn't (and you shouldn't) vote Liberal on
- Sending SAS commandos to board and turn-back the Tampa, a container ship packed to the gunwhales with refugees rescued from a sinking boat, then parcelling them out as hostages to poor Pacific nations with the promise of massive aid assistance, so that it costs our taxpayers an average of $400,000 a month to keep each refugee there while the Dept of Immigration delays the processing of their applications for refugee status for as long as possible. Eventually, almost all the refugees are accepted into our country as potential new citizens, despite government ministers having accused them of throwing their children overboard to gain asylum, of being potential terrorists and carriers of disease at election time.
- Committing us to supporting the illegal US invasion of Iraq, allowing the US to detain our citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan without trial, and giving us no indication of when and under what circumstances our commitment to Iraq might end.
- Closing Australia's embassies in countries where political refugees might actually be able to apply for a visa, making it effectively impossible for refugees to legally come to Australia.
- Cutting funds to Medicare, public secondary education and tertiary education for ten years, and then promising to pump a few billion back into it two weeks before the election in the hope it might win you votes.
- The anti-terrorism fridge magnet.
- Spending more on assistance to private secondary education than is spent on the entire Australian university system.
- Riding roughshod over various laws to protect the commercial interests of the Prime Minister's brother-in-law in the Manildra ethanol affair.
- Making us the laughing-stock of the world by making our overseas representative someone as pompous, moronic and manic as Alexander Downer.
- Encouraging a public service culture that effectively isolates and persecutes whistle-blowers in the public service.
- Playing to the weaknesses in the national character; the greed, xenophobia, and selfishness of the Australian people again and again and again and again, just in order to get four more years in power.
- Spending the budget surplus for the next four years before we've even collected it, just to fund election pork-barreling.
- For not saying sorry to the Stolen Generations.
- For actually raising more taxes than any government in Australian history and doing almost nothing to reform our tax system, after promising to do it.
- For all those "non-core" promises from last elections that never got delivered on.
- For spending $120 million of taxpayer's money in this election campaign alone on political advertising masquerading as information, completely ignoring the Auditor General's recommendations in the report commissioned by this same government when it took office.
- For not implementing a ministerial code of conduct until forced to do so. For not enforcing it on ministers until forced to do so. For then watering it down to protect the remaining ministers in the government and their ongoing conflicts of interest. For fostering a culture of carpetbagging that thinks its OK for an MP to take their lover on a taxpayer-funded overseas holiday and lets her get away with it without even a slap on the wrist.
Wednesday, September 15
Here's a recording (Quicktime streaming audio) of the debut airing of Dexter & Sinistra, the first single from the new album. It aired on TripleJ on the afternoon of the album's official launch date, and lead singer, Brendan Gallagher got a great interview along with it, too!
Tuesday, September 14
It's alive! It's alive! I spotted 'Pacifico' by Karma County for the first time on the retail shelf yesterday in a shop in Surry Hills. Then I moved it from the bottom shelf to the top shelf, next to the Jeff Buckley.
Oddly anti-climactic moment, actually. I had daydreams of something ceremonial in a huge HMV or Virgin Megastore, with the band, the distributor, some bimbos, a lot of champagne and the hint of a long night of irresponsible partying to come. I guess as the impresario backing the project, the blame for it not happening that way is entirely my own. I'm my own cheapest bastard!
Instead I was rushing to the post office to send something and get back to the office before a meeting started without me. But it was still a special moment.
Now we just have to sit back and wait for the critical acclaim and platinum sales. You can do your bit too - you can buy it online at www.karmacounty.com.au - just look for the 'buy Pacifico' button!
A contemporary of mine, Stephen Langsford, is also building an online DVD rental business, called Quickflix. Got a lot of respek for the man, and he sure does care about his customers. See here how he personally intervenes in a customer service compaint about Quickflix on the aus.dvd forum - QuickFlix run by semi-trained monkeys.
Still, I wonder if it's wise to post your work email address - firstname.lastname@example.org - on a public forum?
Tuesday, August 31
Last night I checked into a sleep research clinic for a night on the monitors. I was there to establish whether my persistent snoring was a symptom of sleep apnea, and if so, whether it was doing me any harm (other than affecting my relationship with my wife.)
They put electrodes on my scalp to monitor brainwaves, electrodes next to my eyes to monitor REM eye movement, elecrodes under my chin to monitor mouth muscles during snoring, electrodes on my chest and back to monitor my heartbeat, electrodes on my calves to see whether I suffered "restless leg syndrome" (which really does exist), tubes in my nose to monitor exhalations, another on my upper lip to monitor humidity, and a blood gas monitor on my index finger.
Then they turned the lights out at bedtime and watched me through an infra-red camera as I took about an hour to finally get to sleep.
As you can imagine, with all that hardware and wiring, it was hard just to get to sleep at all. And when I needed to go pee in the middle of the night, I had to page the attendant to unplug me from the wall and into a portable monitor box. Oh, the indignity!
They woke me up at 5am, sent me home, and in about a week I have to go see the specialist to review my results. All the attendant would tell me this morning was that I was OK to operate heavy machinery for the time-being. Off to the bulldozer rental shop for me, then!
Tuesday, August 24
This chapter begins:
Troy knew he'd worked for technology startups long enough when, for the fourth time in a row, his employer went bust before he'd worked his way through his first box of business cards. Matt-coated, heavy stock, and wide enough to accomodate the ridiculously obscure job titles of the modern technology startup, nearly a third of a box of unused cards still mocked him from the box he kept in the top drawer of his desk. He'd barely made it to five industry breakfasts in this current persona; barely got his usual circle of professional friends to update their addressbooks; barely learned to roll off his own polysyllabic job title in a casual manner, as if he'd been in the job for more than six months. As if the company was actually a company, rather than a good idea in search of a customer.
He picked up a card and ran it over his fingers, really feeling the rough surface for the first time. It felt like recycled cardboard. Maybe from recycled business cards. Maybe even recycled from the three other companies where he'd worked, and failed to use all his business cards. Maybe there was a business in this - recycling business cards - picking them up in special branded bins from companies that had hit the wall, putting them through the recycler, and printing new cards cheaply for new startups. It would need a website. It would need a great brand. It would need some capital...
He slammed the card down on the desk so hard his fingers hurt and the lid of his laptop juddered for a second. God, what was wrong with him?
Monday, August 16
This occurred to me while listening to another iTunes user's collection
on our office network: it would be cool if someone else's music was
slightly quieter than your own, the volume varying according to the
network 'distance' between you and the other person. Or perhaps it
would be better to add a little bit of echo to it. Obviously it would
be something you'd want to be able to turn on and off as a preference,
and it would be off by default, so as not to annoy anyone.
I would also like to try doing some personal broadcasting, using my
iTrip FM transmitter module, and get a few friends to try and tune in
via FM radios in the same room. Everybody on headphones, and me the DJ.
Totally quiet in the room but everyone listening to the same music.
Only problem is: where am I going to find that many people who like ELO
and Boston on the same mix? ;-)
Mike Carlton, weekend columnist in the Sydney Morning Herald, calls him "Lord Downer of Baghdad", which apparently makes our foreign minister, Alexander Downer, seem less stupid than he really is. How else to explain Downer's ridiculous and inflammatory outburst that North Korea has long-range missiles that could hit Australia, on the eve of his embarking for a trip to Pyongyang for talks?
What a tool! What a plonker! The Defence Dept analysts really have to be more careful when they're making jokes around Downer, because he's clearly not getting the joke and thinks they're being serious.
Here's somebody who actually knows something about whether it's possible, and some analysis about whether the North Korean test facility would even pass muster as a temporary field for crop dusters if it were Australian, much less a long-distance ICBM test facility.
Really, what's the chances of a missile hitting a populated region at all along Australia's northern coast? Assume a missile would be at maximum range, basically falling randomly out of space, and this would be an untested launch - the North Koreans never having fired anything even half that far ever before. The North Koreans would have to weigh up the risks of accidentally hitting South Korea (meaning: World War III), Japan (ditto), Hong Kong and Singapore (whoops-a-daisy!) or Indonesia (on pretty good speaking terms) en-route. We'd certainly have to piss them off mightily before they'd give it a crack. Granted, Lord Downer's doing his best to do just that. I take it these won't be peace talks!
No, the only way the North Koreans could get a missile as far as Australia would be if Lord Downer were persuaded to bring one home in his luggage. Which, considering the size of Lord Downer's retinue on such trips, and his evident gullibility, is probably possible. "Oh that?" says Downer to the customs officer, "The Korean ambassador told me it was a jumbo-sized cocktail shaker!"
Besides, the way the Howard government keeps redefining our northern territorial limits to ward off the evil Muslim terrorist boat people, North Korea's missile designers better keep adding more mileage pretty fast. Australia shrinks with each passing year of Howard government.
Dear Kim Jong-Il: in the interests of international peace and harmony, do us all a favour and hang on to our idiot foreign minister. Next time you do get a chance to test a missile, strap him to the top of it. He's a "warhead" in the worst sense of the word.
Wednesday, July 28
Excellent idea! Any time there's a guy called Bob on a United Airlines flight from Sydney, turn that damn plane around, divert all other aircraft within 1000kms, carpet the airport with security and emergency services, and while we're at it, shadow it with fighter aircraft to shoot it down lest Bob attempt to parachute to safety!
Bob is dangerous! At least, Bob Garcia is. Well, perhaps 'dangerous' is over-stating it. Definitely nuts. Positively emotional. Listen, I've known him to do some pretty crazy things, and he drives like God looks out for Michigan Argentines, always-on-the-cell-phone, always-looking-at-you-telling-a-story-instead-of-watching-the-road. Don't ever let him at the controls of your 747. In fact you don't want him on the plane with you for 14 hours back to LA, especially not if the wines are complimentary.
Oh wait... you mean if we divert it back to Sydney we're actually flying the suspected bomb back to the centre of a city of four million people? And how can it be that we don't have any fighter aircraft capable of scrambling and intercepting a lumbering fully-laden 747 that's still 90 minutes away from Sydney? What if ALIENS ATTACK!?!?!? Have you people SEEN the film Independence Day? OK, by happy coincidence Will Smith is here publicising I, Robot, but that means nothing unless he's got some meaningful air transport - do you expect him to flap his arms? I LIVE UNDER THE FLIGHT-PATH!
So now I'm monitoring new eBay listings, waiting for a shoulder-launched surface-to-air weapon to be listed. You don't see them too often on eBay here in Australia but eBay Argentina? Well, that's a whole freer marketplace. As my friend Bob can tell you.
I'll take care of my own aviation security issues from now on, thankyou very much Mr John Anderson, Federal Transport Minister. And if a United Airlines pilot isn't over-reacting when he thinks "BOB" scrawled on a sick-bag is a bomb-threat, I'm sure you won't mind me bringing that puppy down with a heat-seeker between the exhaust vents. Over your house.
Tuesday, July 27
According to ZDNet Australia's Angus Kisman, Telstra's online campaign to promote its fetchmemovies.com.au DVD rental site has unexpectedly led it into the murky waters of porn advertising!
Seems the marketing folks at Fetchmemovies paid another firm to input all the title names of all the DVDs they have in stock into the search engine paid search advertising programs. So that, for instance, if you search for "Sex: The Annabel Chong Story" (a documentary about a porn star) you get a link to that movie on Fetchmemovies. Unfortunately, you can also just search on "Sex" and you'll also get the link to Fetchmemovies every once in a while.
It can be pretty tricky doing a good job of marketing tens of thousands of DVDs - I can say this from experience working at www.homescreen.com.au but this is something Fetch's marketing agency should really have filtered out, given the sensitivity of Telstra to porn-related issues.
Tuesday, July 20
Best way to see everything at the zoo: climb on dad's shoulders and stay there all day. Unfortunately, your Dad starts to crumple about mid-afternoon, and has to be stretchered out of the zoo by evening, but hey, it was worth it for that awesome look at the animals.
Wednesday, July 14
Tuesday, July 13
The Hon. Joe Hockey MP
Canberra ACT 2600
July 13, 2004
Thanks, but no thanks, for the fridge magnet. Not even the list of handy telephone numbers could make it useful enough to warrant me sticking any politician's face on my fridge, much less your smug, chubby mug.
Is this a trend? First, the "How to spot a terrorist" fridge magnet, now the "How to spot Joe Hockey" fridge magnet? Government by fridge magnet! I look forward to the "Joe Hockey, Shadow Minister for Small Business and Tourism" fridge magnet you'll be putting out under the coming Latham government, listing the fridge magnet ideas you had queued up ready to go, including:
* How to help a potentially dangerous Muslim terrorist and their family settle in Australia now we've granted them refugee status at last
* Healthcare gap ready-reckoner
* Our US Free Trade Agreement concessions (very small magnet)
* Important sporting events calendar (where to find your Prime Minister this week)
* Recent pork-barrelling in your electorate/industry
Meanwhile, do us a favour and stop spending my taxes on sending me the junk mail? And stick the fridge magnet where the fridge light don't shine.
58 Northcote Street
Naremburn NSW 2065
Things that should have been obvious to me when I first bought my iPod but which I've only now figured out:
(1) Don't rate music you don't like. At first I thought I should rate music I don't like as one or two stars. Problem is, I soon ran out of space to distinguish between tunes I really like, and tunes I really, really (or really, really, really) like. At first I was complaining that Apple should really offer half-star increments, then I realised that I just shouldn't rate bad songs at all. Preferrably, delete them from your iPod. I mean, you've still got them on CD, right? ;-) So you don't need to keep them on the iPod too unless you're a " total album experience" kinda person.
Sunday, July 11
Every month I pay my Telstra Bigpond cable internet bill, and every month, when I turn the page to check the payment options, I begin to tear my hair out. How can it be that the largest ISP in Australia can't get it's act together and allow me to pay my bill using BPAY?
As a small businessperson (and small businesses don't get much smaller than mine) even I can use MYOB to let my customers pay their bills using BPAY. Here's Australia's largest company, with other divisions (mobile phones, landlines, etc) that allow you to pay using BPAY, but the ISP business - arguably, the division with customers most likely to want to pay online using BPAY - can't do it.
To add insult to injury, while Bigpond lets you pay online using credit card, they've started charging you up to 1.69% to pay with your credit card. Incredible! And I'm a shareholder of this massive sauropod of a company? I'm so embarassed!
Don't bother ringing customer service to ask why, they wouldn't have a clue. The reason probably lies in some complex inter-Telstra political dispute - one middle-manager that can't get along with another, or perhaps a billing platform built on one stupid-arse Microsoft system that can't talk to the stupid-arse Java system the ISP logging system runs on.
Wednesday, June 2
Why doesn't Apple offer a Bluetooth wireless headphone set for the iPod?
Apple makes a beautiful Bluetooth cordless keyboard, and a Bluetooth cordless mouse. Apple has also been the first software developer to do a really tidy and intuitive job of adding Bluetooth synchronisation to its productivity applications, iCal and Addressbook, via iSync. I own a SonyEricsson T610 mobile phone, with Bluetooth cordless headset, as well as the Apple Bluetooth cordless keyboard and mouse, and I'm a total believer.
But my new iPod comes with a set of earbuds connected to the iPod via a length of cable that twists, gets knotted, doesn't quite stretch as far as I need it to, and which will inevitably wear out long before I get tired of the iPod. Is there some technical reason why Bluetooth makes perfect sense for cordless headsets mobile phone headsets and yet isn't a good solution for cordless headphones?
I have yet to hear a knowledgable answer to that, although it may be instructive to note that mainstream manufacturers of cordless stereo headphones all seem to plump for either a radio-powered (RF) or infra-red (IR) solution. Both those solutions suffer from obvious problems: RF is subject to interference from anything with a coil and a current, and IR only works with direct line of sight, within close range.
I've owned both RF and IR headphones, and experienced these problems first-hand, as well as power-management issues that ultimately persuaded me that RF and IR cordless headphones are more trouble than they're worth. Most importantly, neither technology has an easy solution for dropping to low-power consumption mode when not in use, while maintaining a connection. Neither technology is digital, meaning reception varies greatly according to the environment, and while RF provides a high-quality signal in ideal conditions, it is also consumes quite a lot of power and burns through batteries at a frightening rate.
Bluetooth audio headphones would consume less power while not in use, while remaining connected to the iPod (or WiFi-equipped Mac playing iTunes, for that matter.) The connection would be digital. The headphones would be paired with your iPod, meaning nobody else could listen in, and you'd experience no interference from other Bluetooth iPod users in the same room.
While we're at it, what about a Bluetooth connection for synchronising the iPod with iTunes too? I don't always need to be charging my iPod, and anytime I don't have to connect a cable adds to the lifetime of the connector.
I can only assume there's some technical reason why it can't be so. Meanwhile, I soldier bravely on with a Griffin iTrip FM adaptor, which is handy for the car but a sad joke with the home stereo - way too low-fi to be any good.
Come on Apple, add some Bluetooth to the iPod!
Wednesday, March 3
March 3, 2004
RBHM Commercial Lawyers
North Sydney, NSW
Just received your letter of 26 February regarding the successful conclusion of Jones versus Parking Infringement Bureau, and wanted to write and thank you for your assistance in this matter.
I would have been an innocent victim of the system without you as my representation. I would have been crushed by the inscrutable and inexorable wheels of public sector revenue raising; out of pocket; my record forever stained by crimes I never committed.
So, you're worth your weight in parking infringement notices, possibly as much as twice that. Just thought you'd want to know.
Monday, March 1
Lately I've been haunted by a recurring dream. Hands up if you've had this one too:
I'm the oldest reporter on '60 Minutes', just barely hanging on to my gig despite my age, with a combination of ruthlessness, exploitation, savagery, botox and hair dye.
Only, somewhere along the way I've become a little senile, and because everyone around me is a toad, a yes-man or a fawning aspirer, nobody has pointed it out to me. And then one day it announces itself as clearly as the nightly news.
The whole 60 Minutes team is recording an updated version of the opening credits, where each reporter sits in closeup, reciting their name. To get the whole team-thing jazz happening, the producer has us all in the same studio at the same time (for the first time that I can remember) and we're sitting in identical chairs, each about 10 feet apart - just far enough apart so that the egos don't collide too often.
"I'm Credible Middleweight", says the first, "I'm Serious Female Reporter", says the second, "I'm Token Sex Appeal", says the third, and then it's my turn. The camera cuts to me, and I'm supposed to say, "And I'm Trustworthy Anchor, and this is '60 Minutes' but my mind is a complete blank. Nobody has thought to autocue this.
"I'm... uhh... I'm... errr... Oh no, who the hell am I?... I'm... no, shutup, it's on the tip of.. oh, for chrissakes, CUT!"
Weird dream, huh?
Friday, February 13
Start by giving Change an affectionate pat on the shoulder. Or, if you've never met before, try a handshake - Change is very approachable. Now you've made physical contact, take a step closer, and *really* embrace Change - wrapping your arm around his neck and pulling him into a headlock.
Quick, before he has any time to react, punch Change in the face a few times, hard. Then push away, hanging onto one arm, bend, and back into Change's hips, pulling the arm over your shoulder and Change onto your back.
Now, pull down and twist in one fast, graceful move, and Change will flip over your shoulder and land hard at your feet, face up.
Take the hand of the arm you grabbed and twist it up and back, locking the wrist and elbow tight. If you're wearing strong shoes, take this opportunity to land a few hard kicks in the kidneys, ribs or groin. Once you're done kicking (or if you don't have the right shoes) drop one knee onto Change's throat, taking care to restrict - but not crush - the windpipe.
Whisper a few choice words of discouragement.
Now, on your way out the door, ring Status Quo. He's going to love this story. He'll want to buy you a few drinks, and he's a very funny bastard.
Thursday, January 22
Noticed a correlation today between guys with completely shaved heads and the little roll of fat between the back of their heads and the top of their necks that bulges out with a little crease in the middle when they tilt their head back, like a little mini-bum between the shoulders.
Is it a medical condition that arises from excess UV penetration of the scalp, or is voluntary baldness a mental thing caused by something excreted by the roll of fat, like aluminium in your deodorant gradually causing Alzheimer's?
What came first? The chicken, or the guy with the egg-shaped head?