Friday, October 29, 2010

Why are all men made to feel like fiends?

So I had a read over Miranda Devine asks: Why are all men made to feel like fiends? and it reminded me of something that I refer to as the
The Sweet Child of Mine Incident!
So basically the story goes like this, it was a glorious spring day in Sydney and I was sitting at the traffic lights in the old 4WD that I shared with brothers. The particular lights I was sitting at are in Rozelle, next to the classiest 24 hour pub on the peninsula, The Bridge Hotel, I was waiting to turn right onto Victoria Road. For those of you that don't the area, it is 3 lanes that can turn right onto Victoria Road, which is a major arterial road in Sydney, three lanes each way and always busy.

Anyway, I was chilling in the car with the radio cranked when my favorite song at the time, the Gunner's classic, Sweet Child of Mine blessed the radio waves. Needless to say I was singing along (badly) and having a good old time. While I was at the lights another car was in the lane next to me, I glanced down and there was a young girl, probably 6 or 7 years old sitting in the passenger sit laughing at me carrying on like a right fool.

I smiled.

The dad (well I presume it was the dad, some middle aged dude anyway) who was driving saw me smile and decided that it would be safer to tear off through the red light across 4 lanes of traffic than sit at the lights with me in the car next to them.

What the hell he thought I was going to do, in broad daylight on a busy intersection with people all over the place is completely beyond me, but it does kind of show how paranoid some people are.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The politeness of trams

Lies with the Bell.

Think about it a second, a tram dings you at the lights, it doesn't seem that bad. However if a car gives you a honk you instantly transform into a festering pile of meaty rage, The Oatmeal has summed it up quite nicely in picture form (you should really check out the whole comic)

But what cars don't have is (again summed up nicely by the Oatmeal) is a nice polite way to either let people know that they need to do something (ala the light honk above) or that they have been awesome. The Oatmeals prayers for a message board have been answered at ThinkGeek, but that doesn't solve the whole problem. How are you going to tell someone looking the other way something?

This is where trams excel, even when they are dinging their bell in anger it doesn't really seem like it. The "Murder-Pain-Wrath" that they may be projecting is totally nullified by the fact that its a ding.

The simple act of changing the sound makes the whole action go from

F!@$ YOU!!!!!!!

Jolly good show old chap, now if you wouldn't mind possibly getting out of my way that would be grand.

Ok, maybe its just me but thats how it seems.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This is what I've been talking about! License to Print Money

Solarmer understands my vision! At least that is how it seems when I read this blog post about them from

Basically they are aiming to bring down the cost of solar technology their aim is to create
very large plastic solar cells that are 10 percent efficient, have a 10-year service life, and can be manufactured for $0.50 per watt or less. 
This is exactly the sort of thing that I have been saying we need for years, who cares if your solar panel is 50% efficient if no one can afford to install it. The idea of mass producing lower cost and lower efficiency cells is perfect. I picture a product,


Thats right SolarBond, now the idea will be immediately apparent to all the Australian readers that are familiar with the ColourBond range of products from BlueScope Steel, but for everyone else out there ColourBond is a type corrugated steel roofing material that is relatively low cost and high quality and more recently with the production of Thermatech they are moving towards environmentally friendlier materials.

So the idea is this, if they could make "SolarBond" and even if it say cost 50% more than the equivalent non-energy producing roofing material and was only like 5% efficient then it could have a big impact. I'd happily pay that premium (still significantly less than the cost of dedicated solar panels) and have the knowledge that I was contributing a little to the energy production needs.

Now, the idea with installing this type of roof is not really to make your money back by selling it back to the grid while you're at work but it is one benefit. The main reason that I see (and this may be a hard sell for some people out there) is that by every new house having these panels we can significantly reduce the peak load fluctuations that these new houses cause. The single biggest unpredictable load on power networks now is residential air conditioning systems.

Now if most of these houses that have air conditioners also have "SolarBond" roofs then at the very time they are sucking in gobs of energy to run the air conditioners they will also be generating at their peak capacity. This makes it a whole lot easier to meet the increase in demand that they them selves are causing and by meeting this demand we can alleviate the need to adjust power outputs from stations that do not cope with change well, such as coal fired stations. This means that we can run them at better levels of efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of the energy usage.

Friday, October 22, 2010

On a voyage of self discovery

At least, I am attempting to cast off to begin the voyage. I'm tending to think that maybe it is a quarter life crises, but then that would have me living to 112 and that seems a little unlikely.

Anyway, I've to consider what my place in the world is, what I want to be doing in 5 years etc. I guess its probably a result of all the wedding planning that it going on at the moment. In doing this I have procured a host of self improvement, management and investment books.

I've read the first couple of chapters of "The 7 habits of highly effective people" and I am currently half way through Dale Carnegie's classic "How to win friends and influence people". They are the sort of books that tell you the blindingly obvious and you kick yourself for not doing it already.

Today I found out about another book, "The Games People Play" which is apparently  which my old boss recommended as a good study of the consulting industry and large organisations in general.
"An important book . . . a brilliant, amusing, and clear catalogue of the psychological theatricals that human beings play over and over again. The good Doctor has provided story lines that hacks will not exhaust in the next 10,000 years"
which I think just sounds awesomely interesting and I am going to add it to the list.

Also required to go in the list is Senge’s Fifth Disicipline Fieldbook

Does anyone else out there have recommendations for me? I've got a few more at home that I haven't started into yet, but the majority of my book pile currently is focussed towards investing and fiction and well, I've got to get the money before the investing really gets going.... :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The problem with high res screens!

Is that OSes don't support changing the font size well enough.

I was reminded of this problem today when one of Jason Snell tweets rumbled across my desktop.

Ever since purchasing a Mac Book Pro (Check out my lame unboxing if you're interested) I've had the same issue that @jsnell has, basically I am resizing apps all over the place. And the only application that really supports resizing well is the web browser, for the most part web pages etc respond brilliantly to resizing the text and with the exception of the occasional site that doesn't handle it so well (such as it works pretty well.

The main reason for this is the ease of resizing, on Windows its as easy as holding control and scrolling and on the Macbook its even easier, just pinch on the trackpad using that awesomely intuitive two finger action that the iPhone gave to the world.

But other apps? Forget about it. Sure in Word you can resize with the zoom feature and that makes the document better, but what if you want to temporarily resize the menus etc?

What about other apps? Using a Air Twitter app? Better hope that the developers have put in a good text resize method.

Really there should be a good OS solution to this. You should be able to temporarily zoom, what if you want to sit back in your chair while surfing? Sure you can change the screen resolution, but that doesn't work that well on LCDs. And besides it should be as easy as selecting the desktop and pinching or scrolling away to adjust the size.

I feel better now that I have that off my chest.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So apparently you need a cheque....

If you want to go to Auction you need a cheque, a cheque that is worth 10% of the final price of the house.

Now, I don't know about you but to me this seems a little..... antiquated shall we say. I could conduct a survey of people my age to ask them if they have a cheque book but I already know the answer, with the exception of one friend that is living in the US not one of them will own a cheque book, ok maybe one or two will but the vast majority, in excess of 99% won't have a cheque book.

In the very, very, exceedingly rate case that I need a cheque I go and get a bank cheque and thats all fine and dandy, it works because I know in advance how much I need for the cheque, who to make it out too etc etc. That doesn't quite work for an auction. I suppose you could go and get one made for 10% of your bidding limit, but that doesn't work so well when you get out bid, or a little carried away and go past your 'limit'. Say you lose the bid, then you have dropped $30 or whatever it is that the banks now charge and all you've got is some expensive scrap paper or something.

Also, does a personal cheque strike you as a little, well bouncy? Obviously you're supposed to have the cash etc etc to back it up when you actually bid at the auction, but that doesn't always happen.

So why do real estate agents continue to stick with the crazy rule that you need a cheque? Whats wrong with a few thousand dollars via EFTPOS on the day of the auction (invariably a weekend) to indicate the intent to purchase and the commitment and then paying the rest of the deposit during the week, from a bank directly into the persons bank account?

Time taken to get money into Vendors account:

  • Cheque: Deposited on the Monday following the Auction, 10% in the account by maybe Friday but its a big cheque so the bank probably finds an excuse for it to take longer to clear so they can use the cash a little bit.
  • EFTPOS + EFT: ~$3000 on day of auction in Vendors account, buyer goes into bank on Monday morning then the remainder of the 10% in account by Tuesday morning.
Isn't it time Real Estate Sales where dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century?

While I wait for that to happen I am off to organise a cheque book.....

Long way to go

Long way to go, originally uploaded by tobyallen.

Another photo from Wilson's Prom. This one on the beach, I really love this shot, didn't quite nail the focus as I would've liked but still looks pretty awesome if you ask me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where's the app to pause the social stream?

Apparently there was a bit of angst amongst motor sport fans yesterday as Channel 7 'paused' the Bathurst telecast to cram its ads in, Bathurst delay angers viewers.

Now while there a probably many that want to discuss the pains etc of commercial TV and their ad interrupted sports broadcasts I am not going to do that here today. Really I would prefer it paused than to miss something crucial as has been the case in the past and so with that in mind....

This totally highlights an idea that I had, you need to be able to pause and replay your social media streams. This should be a feature in Seesmic or TweetDeck or which ever Twitter or Facebook app that you are using. Ideally as well everyone out there would tag there tweets so you could selectively pause sections of your social media stream.

In this instance it would be great if you could connect to a service that Channel 7 provided that controlled your streams so that when they went to an ad it was paused automatically and resumed at the correct place when you returned.

At the very least Channel 7 and V8 Super cars should provide a page that has the aggregated stream of V8 tweets and updates from the likes of Craig Lowndes and controlled it for you.

To take it further it would be cool if I could record a show on my PVR, say the final of Master Chef and then get a replay of tweets/fb updates when I watch the show, being able to see peoples comments as they make them in relation to the show, having it so the tweets etc where paused and resumed and fast forwarded along with the show on the PVR.

Obviously this is a bit more of a challenge than the initial idea but it should be the ultimate aim. Basically my PVR settings should filter stuff out of my stream for shows that I am recording and then spurt them back out at me when I am watching it. It would be awesome.

The only drawback would not be being able to participate in the conversation, but that is the price of watching a show later and not live.

Also, I'd like to apologise for my Blog Barf earlier today, I clicked publish instead of Save Draft when I just wanted to keep the link for later so I could write up this post.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pot, Kettle, USA

To continue the theme I started with my last post, And this is why the US is Screwed. I thought I'd point out  three quotes from an article in todays Australian.
Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, on Wednesday rejected US and EU calls for a significant rise in the yuan, saying that it could prove to be a "disaster for the world".
On the same day, Tim Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary, said that a "damaging dynamic" of large economies keeping their currencies undervalued could push up inflation and produce asset bubbles.
The United States has been increasing the pressure on the Chinese to allow the yuan to rise, amid disappointment that it has increased by only 2 per cent against the US dollar since an apparent loosening in Beijing's currency regime in June.
So, if I'm reading this right, when you combine it with the Fed discussions saying that they will soon embark on another round of "qualitative easing", the US is basically saying 

"Hey China, we don't like the fact that you're controlling the Yuan but we're doing the same to our dollar. Shame on you, Yay us!"

Seems a little hypocritical to me!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

And this is Why the US is screwed

They still don't realize the error of their ways. To demonstrate this I highlight a post from Christopher Joye's blog this morning (He's the MD of Rismark and pretty clued up in general about global financial and housing markets, worth following his blog if any of this interests you) the post is a quote from Adam Carr of ICAP (Market Broker) to quote the quote:
... [US] Treasury Secretary Geithner’s comments are anything to go by. Without even smirking, he said that exchange rates should be flexible and that large countries with trade surpluses (ie China) should allow their currencies to appreciate, rely less on export driven growth and stimulate domestic demand. ie America’s economic problems are the fault of the Asian economies and in particular China
Basically the Secretary of the Treasury is saying that because other countries are better fiscally than the US they should get the blame for the US's financial wobbles. Not that the US did or is still doing anything wrong at all. That the whole world should value the US dollar about all else. Reading other articles on the value of the US dollar you sometimes see a bit of shock that the dollar is depreciating and they aren't sure why, well this brings me to another article, this time from the Daily Reckoning (a contratrian ecomonics/markets blog) which highlights the Feds latest plans to fix the economy
It said that its first round of "quantitative easing" (AKA money printing) was a great success and that it planned to do more.
Great! For those of you unsure what quantitative easing is its printing more money, basically if you inflate things enough then the debt isn't so bad. To put it another way, if you owe say $300k on a house and suddenly your wage becomes $150k instead of $50k it'll be easier to pay off (ignoring of course the fact that all your living expenses will now be around 3 times as high as well and then there's the interest...)*
So the economic powers at be are on one hand confused  about why the US $ is depreciating and on the other hand artificially depreciating it. Basically they are economically bipolar.

In all of this discussion one should also consider whether Gold is really approaching record highs or the US$ is just tanking. Anyway, thats enough out of me.

*Some of you may recall that Quantitative Easing was Pauline Hanson's idea for fixing Australia's foreign debt issues as well. Which lead to the joke about why don't we just print US$ instead of Australian as they are worth more.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Well now this is a surprise....

Virgin Blue's checkin/everything system is back up and almost 12 hours earlier than predicted. More info here.

To be honest I am a little surprised that they managed to pull it off, let alone so far ahead of schedule, I guess a pessimist set the time line, which is better than an optimist.

I suppose though, that there is a pretty good possibility of the whole thing falling over in a big heap again, but here is hoping that they have it all sorted out, after all I have to fly with them again at least once so that I can use my flight credits and to be honest I actually usually like their service etc at least for flights between Sydney and Melbourne.

What? They're cancelling flights again!

What a crock! Yup, in part of the continuing saga related to the complete failure of their Navitaire 'New Skies' booking system two weeks ago Virgin Blue is cancelling more flights.

I talked about the planned downtime in a post on Monday, This really is Virgin on the Ridiculous, which as you can read there seems to be a terrible display of system and software engineering that makes me a little ashamed to be in the industry. The need to cancel flights screams to me that Virgin Blue still hasn't got a good backup check-in and booking system organised. While apparently they've accommodated everyone
 "...on other flights and they will depart within an hour of their original departure time."
I am curious why they couldn't with a week or so notice fix the problems associated with speed of check-in in their manual backup process to the point where they didn't need to cancel any flights what so ever. Perhaps it is purely a cost saving exercise, there being no point to fly the extra flights, but given that they usually have these extra flights running and presumably full enough to justify, it seems that it is because they expect delays in the "manual" check-in system again.

So as this saga continues we continue to see flaws in both Virgin Blue and Navitaire, no system switch over should take 32 hours but really Virgin Blue should be able to handle the normal flight load on their backup system with advanced notice to bring in extra staff etc.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

If AFL wants to win the hearts of the League states it needs harder hits

Basically the Eastern Seaboard of Australia likes to see people getting pummeled. This is from a diet of Rugby League and Rugby Union that the sporting fans in Queensland and New South Wales are brought up on. It seems to me that the AFL would do well to try and introduce or allow some harder tackling to try and attract the thuggish brutes like my self that originate from outside the borders of Mexico (For the uninitiated Victorians New South Welshman offer refer to Victoria as Mexico).

I read today that they are introducing a new rule (or really a new interpretation)
■ Not punishing players for high contact against an opponent if they were going for the ball, or if the contact was beyond their control.
To me this seems like a good start, but I don't think it goes far enough. I'm not sure whether a rule change or an interpretation change is required but I say if you've got the ball you should be fair game for any clean hit. If you're carrying the ball someone should be able to pick you up and dump you on your arse! Basically they need to change the interpretation of a legal hit to basically cover what you can do in a game of Rugby Union (I say Union because I dislike shoulder charges in League that seem to be more aimed at maiming than stopping a players momentum).

The off the ball rules are good as they stand and probably don't need to be changed, just ball in hand tackling could be intensified. And for all the naysayers that say you don't know where the tackle is coming from like you do in League and Union then I challenge you to go out and play a game of Union or League you don't always know where the tackle is coming from but if you have the ball you expect to get tackled, its that simple! Further to the point, there is a lot of off the ball stuff in AFL where you don't know where the hip check is coming from and all the players seem to handle that pretty well.

The AFL purists won't like the change, but it would make the game more compelling to the brethren from North of the border.

Miniture Regrowth

Miniture Regrowth, originally uploaded by tobyallen.
Here is another shot that I captured on the same walk as the previous photo, I love the DOF on this.

If you want to see the previous photo check it out here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This really is Virgin on the Ridiculous

Virgin Blue Minor Incident Report

So, I'm sure by now if you're reading this blog that you have seen my thoughts on the Virgin Blue check-in/reservation/booking system fiasco (Here they are if you missed them, Virgin on the RidiculousMore background on Virgins IT Systems and Naive Navitaire). It just got a little more ridiculous in my book, they are still using their backup system, which in itself is pretty poor form, and they are planning to switch back over to their main system tomorrow. Here is the statement.
Online and telephone reservations services will be unavailable from 9.00pm AEST on Tuesday 5 October;
  • Check in for domestic flights will open two hours before scheduled departure time; three hours for international flights;
  • Web check, Kiosk check in and Check-mate will close at 8pm AEST on Tuesday 5 October through to 5am on Thursday 7 October

That's right, they expect the switch over to mean that their system will be down for1 day and 8 hours or 32 hours altogether during which time they will be checking people in manually and the phone and online reservation systems will be down.

How crazy is that? So not only did it take Virgin Blue and Navitaire 21 hours to switch over to the backup system apparently it is going to take them 32 hours to switch back to the 'primary' system. What a crock! What an absolute shambles! Is the system that badly designed that they have to untangle a mass of inter related crap instead of changing a few key routers or something like that to switch between the two systems.

I can understand that it would be complicated but anything more than a few hours seems crazy, can't they get the primary up and running in parallel and then flick a switch?

Anyway, thought you might all appreciate an update on the tom foolery.

Friday, October 1, 2010