The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

South Australia Power

I was using Mr Google to try and find out how to totally and completely and utterly remove a Windows device driver (much harder than it seems).Instead, I found this by accident. All about electricity, generation, capacity, renewables, etc etc. enough reading to keep an engineer (or a greenie) going for an hour or two.

No idea who put this together but they have put in a heck of a lot of work. For better or worse, they seem to be a strong wind supporter.

Interesting: In Denmark, electricity costs 3 TIMES what it does (on average) in Australia. And, Australia has the second cheapest electricity in the world. Be grateful instead of whining about how expensive it is… things could be worse!

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Gee, I have a neat idea, let’s try and use a bit less.

Try these:

. winding the summer a/c thermostat up a degree or two (try 25 degrees – its quite comfortable), and winter thermostat back (try 19 degrees and put more clothes on).

. If you have ducted refrigerative a/c, turn off the rooms you are not using, AND CLOSE THE WINDOWS! [Amazing how many nut cases open the windows with refrigerative a/c]

. Turn off lights when you leave a room

. Turn off your computer when you go home from work

. Turn off the office lights at work if you are last out (!!!)

. If you must have “friendly” outside lights on at home, change them to low power fluoro types and use the lowest wattage possible

. See if you really need that old beer fridge, they cost a lot to run

. Use heavy curtains, and close them on really hot days or cold nights [how many houses do you see with few curtains?]

And I’m sure I could think of a few more…

State election

I hate elections.

OK – rephrase. I don’t mind exercising a democratic right to vote. What I really dislike is the bullshit that pollies come out with during election campaigns to try and get themselves elected. So many of them are so stupid and simplistic.

Right now, I wish the state Liberals would pull their collective heads back under their rock and go rot.

This bunch of useless tossers are trying to convince us to re-elect them. This same bunch of idiots:

. sold our electricity system (result: prices up, reliability of supply down);

. sold the state TAB for about 1 years earnings (result: it is owned by a company that values it at about 10 times what it paid);

. ran down our hospitals;

. spent a fortune on getting Motorola (now Freescale) to set up at Technology Park (now the incentives are not there, guess who is closing up shop and leaving town?);

. built a big new building at Marden for JP Morgan (who closed up a while back and now this lovely new state owned building is vacant);

. tarted up the Hindmarsh Soccer Stadium at vast expense so it can be used about 4 times a year, if we get lucky; and
. propped up the prices of the Holdfast Shores development at Glenelg by having the state Government buy a whole lot of the apartments (admittedly they were later re-sold – maybe at a profit, but why should the government be doing that in the first place?).
These same people whine about delivery of government services and promise they will do better, spend more, and charge less taxes. This from the people who promised not to sell our electricity assets. They could not lie straight in bed.

I’m not sure that Kevin Foley and Patrick Conlon are the nicest guys around, but they do seem to have a great deal of financial discipline. They seem to come out with a lot less crap than the Stone Age Mutant Whinging Liberals.

What I’d really like to see:

. Labor returned, but keeping a couple of the Independents AND ALSO Karlene Maywald (National) in the ministry.

. The Liberals retain enough members to keep Labor on their toes.

. Some of the more stupid Liberals lose their seats.

A big stinking majority is not good for political parties. The current state arrangements of a minority Labor government, relying on the support of the National Party and Independents seems to me to present a nice tidy pragmatic coalition, with little opportunity for any one group to go feral with their pet ideology. Long may this arrangement continue!

Telstra pay phones

Amongst all the hoo-ha about Telstra removing some pay phones, has any journalist reported that:

a. The pay phones proposed for removal are in clusters – so for example 2 phones alongside each other might see one of those removed;

b. Telstra has about 3 times the number of pay phones that it is obliged to have under its Universal Service Obligation?

Sadly, Telstra have not gone out of their way to report facts or try to defend themselves. And predictably the Federal Government and the usual suspects are not interested in these facts either – it gets in the way of their good story.

Sunset

From our deck, by the kitchen window, a few weeks ago…

Looks pretty good!

The energy co-op… story continues

Got my membership today for the SA Energy Co-Operative.

Rushed to the computer and signed up for the deal they offer through TRU energy.

First impression:

Electricity will present a pretty good saving.

Gas, on the other hand is very hard to compare to the current arrangement with Origin. I think gas will work out roughly neutral. If you have both electricity and gas on in your house, the deal is that you must transfer both to get the special rates.
Overall, it seems like a pretty good deal. There will be an annual saving – and not a bad one at that. The gas saving is marginal, if at all. The electricity and bonus rebates are better than a poke in the eye though.

White Whine

You will hear all sorts of BULL that white wines don’t age and should not be put aside.

This is unmitigated bullshit.

A good white wine will age and improve. It very much depends on the variety and how well it has been made. As a VERY rough guide, Riesling & Semillon will age well, and have a very different character at 5 and 10 years compared to the day they went in the bottle.

I’ve just opened a 1996 Rockford Eden Valley Riesling. It is now quite a deep yellow colour – a bit like honey. All the typical acidity of a Riesling is gone. It’s more fruity, toasty and honey in flavour – really nice.

A white that will age is usually good drinking when young, and good when older. Pick one with plenty of acid, and if it has a Stelvin screw cap, so much the better – there won’t be any worries about dodgy corks. Put a few away and let them sleep.
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Don’t drink white wine straight out of the fridge (or worse out of a dunking in ice water). It is too cold and has no flavour. Only do this for cheap nasty rubbish you are using to get drunk.

For a decent white, pull it out of the fridge about 1/2 beforehand and keep it away from an ice bucket. It should be cool but not cold. Lots more flavour.

Joseph

After a busy day, I opened a Joseph 1994 Moda Amarone Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, to go with our roast lamb.

Firstly, the lamb, basted with honey, ginger, soy and lemon juice was very nice indeed.

And secondly, the Joseph was magnificent.

The “Moda Amarone” comes from a region in Italy where the grapes are partially dried before crushing and fermenting. This gives a style with a huge fruit character.

The Joseph usually needs a few years before drinking. This one came as a present a few years ago (well quite a lot actually). The cork pretty much fell apart coming out, but gee it’s been worth tucking away all that time.

(Thanks Dad)

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Due to EC regulations / threatened litigation, you won’t find the “Moda Amarone” any more. You will find the Joseph “Moda” though. It’s the same thing. Any designation that remotely copies / mirrors / emulates / reflects / resembles a European one is now a no-no. Sad.

Junior Cricket

This morning I was with my youngest son watching Junior cricket. This means it is for ages about 8 to 10.

We live in the northern suburbs where there are a lot of less-well-off underprivileged people and children. Because of poor organisation, not many of the other team turned up, and they did not have any uniforms (cricket whites). There were enough kids to make two teams, and everybody seemed to have fun though.

I was sitting there watching (and ignoring the dopey woman nearby playing with her mobile phone the whole time). There were kids playing, parents sitting and watching, the occasional passer-by stopping for a look.

I got to thinking:

- In spite of all the terrible problems in the world, it is good that people and children are still civilised enough to make the effort to get (mostly) dressed up in their whites and go out early on a Saturday to play cricket. It might be a bit slow, and boring for some. But everybody was trying, there were no bad tempers or kids throwing wobblies. No parents urging their kids to kill the opposition. Just making the effort and playing for the sake of it.

- some of the kids look hilarious, with the shin pads and helmet. Some of the kids are so small that all you can see is these great big pads, a tiny bit of abdomen, and a helmet. The kids have trouble running – it’s more like a waddle, but they give it their all. Next time I must take a camera!

How cold is -30 ?

Andrew has the answer, with this very neat photo.

US no-fly list

Shameful case of a Canadian citizen being arrested when flying to Mexico (and not stopping in the US) because their name appeared on a US no-fly list.

Really, the Americans are quite crazy.

(Thanks to Bruce Schneier & Crypto-gram)

Energy Co-operative

After checking it out and thinking about it for months, I’m joining the SA energy co-operative.

The deal they have set up with TRU Energy seems to give a discount of about 10% or so off the standing contract rates, and the rebates and whatnot are even better if you let them direct debit (which is fine by me cos I don’t have to remember to pay the bill).

It will be interesting to see how it actually works out.

Personal Finance Software #3

After getting quite grumpy, they emailed me back to say they would send my request on to the software developers :)

I had to get quite nasty, though…


Read the rest of this entry »

Old credit card

Cleaning out some old bank statements today.

Found the customer copy for my first ever credit card application, back in 1985.

At the time my total assets (including car at $7500) came to $11944, but thankfully I had no liabilities.

I was on the grand salary of $7641 per annum.

AWB wheat kickbacks scandal

Here is a completely different point of view about the Iraq-kickbacks-AWB-who-knew-what-oh-its-terrible-oil-for-food scandal.

After about 5 years of sanctions, Saddam was only getting food by sales of oil administered by the UN. The wheat shipped to Iraq was also done on contracts approved by the UN.

So when the wheat gets landed at a port in Iraq, it has to be transported. So… if after a few years of sanctions with pretty much no national income, how is Saddam going to pay for trucking it off to where it is needed?

Perhaps the inquiry should not be concentrating on “kickbacks”. Perhaps instead they should look at if the trucking fees where fair and reasonable.

If the trucking fees that were inflated into the wheat price were reasonable, doesn’t that mean that the extra fee was not a kickback at all… perhaps it was a legitimate transport payment.

As far as I know you can only get a kickback when you make a profit (usually unwarranted) after costs.

Am I missing something?

Does anybody else even care?

Letting your users kick ARSE

Kathy Sierra has written a marvellous article about software (or products) and features, why some succeed and some fail, and why we should do some developments and not others.

Critical questions we should be asking in product design are “Why are we doing this” and “What will our users get from this?”.

If the answer is not “so our users can kick ass” (OK, she’s American, they don’t know it should be arse) then you have to question why you are doing it.

Now that I think about it, where I work most of the things we put into the products we design, have this as an ultimate reason. The method of “kicking arse” varies of course…

Why are we adding some of the current crop of features to our software?

So our customer can commission a site faster. (And do more jobs & make more profit, or bid cheaper, or go home earlier to see his/her family).

Why did we add some new features to some of the hardware / firmware products we sell?

So our customer can offer something that looks nicer to a home owner – less wall-acne. (The home owner has less unsightly gunge to look at every day.)

I’m pretty happy after reading this article that the approach we are taking for product development is generally heading the right way… very little we do is for its own sake… most is based around getting a sensible answer to the question “what benefit will our customers and users get from this?”. It’s not quite so hard-hitting as “so xxx can kick arse”, but the principle is pointing in much the same direction.

Christmas Hols

Aaarrrrrgggghhhh!

After all the trouble to load up the Christmas photos (with cropping and fiddling about), I forgot to put a link in.

Anybody want to know what Port Douglas is like in December / January? Take a look here.

England v France

Tim in California sent this. As Tim says, you need to know a few people from France and England to really appreciate it:

An Englishman is having breakfast one morning (coffee, croissants, bread, butter and jam) when a Frenchman, chewing bubble-gum, sits down next to him. The Englishman ignores the Frenchman who, nevertheless, starts a conversation.

Frenchman: “You English folk eat the whole bread??”

Englishman (in a bad mood): “Of course.”

Frenchman: (after blowing a huge bubble) “We don’t. In France, we only eat what’s inside. The crusts we collect in a container, recycle it, transform them into croissants and sell them to Britain.” The Frenchman has a smirk on his face.

The Englishman listens in silence.

The Frenchman persists: “Do you eat jam with the bread??”

Englishman: “Of Course.”

Frenchman: (cracking his bubble-gum between his teeth and chuckling). “We don’t. In France we eat fresh fruit for breakfast, then we put all the peels, seeds, and leftovers in containers, recycle them, transform them into jam and sell the jam to Britain.”

After a moment of silence, The Englishman then asks: “Do you make love in France?”

Frenchman: “Why of course we do”, he says with a big smirk.

Englishman: “And what do you do with the condoms once you’ve used them?”

Frenchman: “We throw them away, of course.”

Englishman: “We don’t. In Britain, we put them in a container, recycle them, melt them down into bubble-gum and sell them to France.”

Software technical support reply?

No reply from the technical support people selling that software…

If I don’t get a reply soon, I’ll switch to phase 2, which involves writing letters to their Chairman and CEO. It’s easy to find this information for an Australian listed company.

Death by Powerpoint

So many companies LOVE powerpoint for presentations.

Kathy Sierra has another well-reasoned article, here.

Unfortunately, it seems to be a way of life in many companies, and sometimes I’m forced to play the game of “Death by PowerPoint”. Doesn’t mean I have to like it though.

Sometimes (often) a simple outline and a chat around a whiteboard (or even better a BLACKBOARD!!) works far better when you want to communicate with people, have them understand, and get a bit of interaction.

And don’t start me on the Evils of E-mail.

Personal Finance Software (again)

I’ve just bought an upgrade to the latest version of some personal financial management software.

I can’t name names for fear of being sued for defamation (but send me an email if you want to know what it is).

The new version gives different results in reports to the old version.

The old version gives correct results for short term and long term gains in capital gains reports, and makes preparing that part of a tax return quite easy.

The new version gets the short term / long term split wrong under some circumstances. The result is that depending on the transactions, you might end up paying too much or too little tax. [Come audit time, the ATO take a pretty dim view on people who understate their income, so a bad calculation by this program ain't a good thing!]

So far my experience in reporting this as a bug to their technical support has not been fruitful, to put it mildly. A nastygram has now been despatched.

I’ll post further updates as they happen.

In the meantime I’m planning my strategy for when their technical support tell me for the second time to either naff off or pay $4.90 per minute to ring them.

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