The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

The future of digital music

In the previous post, I drew brief attention to Digital Rights Management software, and the various efforts being made to highlight that it is wrong / immoral / foolish, etc.

Some examples:

- The Sony CD’s that installed “rootkit” software on PC’s. This software attempted to manage access to the material on the CD. It also broke the Windows XP operating system, and hid itself, thus being hard to find. Sony eventually withdrew the offending CDs and offered a clean-up program to affected customers.

- Anything downloaded from Apple’s iTunes can only be played on an iPod. But if I pay for it, why can’t I play it on what I like, when I like, where it like?

- The new Microsoft attempt to unseat the iPod (Zune?) can transfer digital music from one player to another. When you do this, EVERYTHING transferred has the DRM information added – so the recipient is limited in what they can do. Even if the information being send is a home-made recording of great-aunt Betsy singing the national anthem, it still stops working after about 3 playings!

- And now, Windows Vista imposing built-in restrictions on what can be done with digital content.

In the meantime, the encryption used on DVD’s was broken years ago, and the beefier systems used on the replacement formats Blu-Ray and HD-DVD look like they have been cracked as well.

The long term future of digital music is back to the dim and distant past.

Copy protection schemes will fail, eventually, because one of the many laws of nature goes something like this:

What man can do, man can undo

Once upon a time, there was a time before recorded music. Ownership of music at that time was a vastly different concept to now.

Nobody much owned music – for some fairly obvious reasons:

- The only way to listen to music was to have some person perform it; and

- The only way to distribute music was in the form of written sheet music (and going back far enough, not even that).

Even with sheet music, a performer was still required.

Performers, and performances, came in various forms and flavours:

- The keen amateur playing at home, or perhaps in front of a small gathering;

- The traveling troubadour, going from town to town, or inn to inn, playing where they could to earn their supper / board / lodging / whatever;

- The court musicians for the wealthy; and

- The religious or church musicians, composing and performing for the local bishop and for the glory of their chosen deity.

Music, once heard, does not exist (as a sound) any more. It exists only at brief instants in time. Drawings, books, and things which can be passed through the ages are quite different. But the only permanent form of music, until recording, was sheet music – and even that was not universally accessible. Only those who could read music, and play an instrument were able to make use of it. Yes, there was money to be made in selling sheet music, but not a lot of money.

Before recording, their was only a vague idea of ownership – and perhaps that’s how it should be.

It was hard to own a popular tune or song that been around for decades, or hundreds of years. It was hard to own what was heard for a fleeting instant, and then no longer existed. Performers were paid for performing, and after that – no more. More reward for the performer required more performance.

Following the invention of recording machines a whole new industry was created – the record company. The situation with performers has been turned on its head – a single performance can earn a performer little up front, but also a share of the proceeds of ongoing sales – depending on the contract. Record companies have an interest in promoting musicians who come and go – fashion and foolishness in popular music make for more sales, more revenue, more profit.

Some musicians have now become obscenely rich, but many have not.

The record companies, with their attempts to prevent copying, are like King Canute attempting to turn back the tides.

Once upon a time music belonged to everybody and nobody. Cheap, easy, digital copying will make perfect copies available to everybody. The only way performers will survive is to do what they did before the invention of recording – by performing in front of an audience. And sure sorts out the good from the bad!

Eventually the record companies will either die or change the way they do business. They will certainly make less money – a lot less money.

The constant attempts to enforce what are fairly contrived property rights is doomed to failure. The future will belong to the populace, performers with real talent will survive – but probably not with the outrageous amounts of money they rake in now. Record companies will arrange distribution, but for such small fees that anybody will be willing to pay it, and the concept of copyright of music will eventually fade away.

How long? At a guess, somewhere between another 20 and 50 years.

Copy protection, content protection, and all that

There seems to be a bit of a movement getting fired up to draw attention to the various DRM (Digital Rights Management) / Copy Protection / Content protection schemes.

It seems that one of the major new features of Microsoft Windows Vista is DRM. This is drawing the ire of the free software movement, but some record companies are already giving up.

More at BadVista.org and DefectiveByDesign.

A longer post about the long term future of music rights coming soon…

(Thanks to Merovingian for the pointers and for the post about the cracking of the protection systems for the new Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats.)

Johnny’s turned to water!

Interesting times we live in.

After my previous rant about the complete lack of action from our fearless political leaders, Little John (aka Bonsai – the small Bush) has decided that the Commonwealth will take over responsibility from the states for management of the Murray-Darling Basin.

I wonder if this would have happened if there had been State Liberal governments?

Apart from the howling of the states about the loss of their rights, there is a more fundamental point: The States Have Made A Total Mess Of Water Allocations. They deserve a bloody great slap around the chops. Less whining and more willingness to DO SOMETHING would gain some credibility.

The only sense I have heard is from Karlene Maywald, the South Australian Government Minister for the River Murray – and a National Party MP in a Labor Government! She has been talking about the practical things that can and should be done – much along the lines of my occasional rants here.

A vast amount of money needs to be spent in NSW and Victoria to sort out their irrigation mess. If the Federal Government takes over some management functions and pumps the money in, that might yet proved to be a good thing. Similarly, if this stops stupid behaviour like the Queensland government creating new allocations on the Warrego River, this will also be a good thing.

Methinks there must be an election coming though, because Little John could, and should, have been doing this years ago. Strange that he suddenly sees the light with an election less than 12 months away. Toad.

In the meantime, Little John is urging the public to take shorter showers! Stupid turkey. Turning the great unwashed into the truly unwashed won’t make a fig of difference. Water used in showers is small compared to agriculture, industry, and gardens.

If Little John wants to make a serious difference, shorter showers is not the answer. It might promote a bit of feel-good, for a while, until knowledge, resentment, and B.O. set in.

In any endeavour of solving large and difficult problems, you ALWAYS tackle the parts with the biggest pay-off first.

In this case, over-allocation is number 1. Buying back licenses is how you solve it.

Inefficient agriculture is number 2. Better distribution, less open-trenches, banning overhead watering is how you solve it.

Industry is roughly number 3. This one is just plain difficult because each industrial user is different. Higher prices will encourage more efficient use.

Domestic / big city watering and gardens is ROUGHLY number 4 or 5. Again, hard to sort out but perhaps higher water prices would encourage more use of native or drought-tolerant plants.

Toilet flushing comes in somewhere around number 4, or 5 or 6, along with pools, spas and swimming pools. Toilets have a lot of improving to do. Toilets in commercial buildings are usually years old, poorly maintained, and vast guzzlers of water. Consider that most of the population work, there are toilets in the workplace, and these guzzle water while people are at work. While people are at home some work toilets are still guzzling because some of them are on a continuous fill & flush cycle – STILL!

We need a few people taking trips to Asia and Europe to look at the fully automatic self-flushing toilets that need no intervention. Maximal hygiene, minimal water use.

Finally we get to showers, washing dishes, and so on. Small impact. Sort the other stuff out first Johnno.

Public Orgasms

She Who Must Be Obeyed has been watching some of the tennis lately. Dunno why, it makes cricket look exciting.

But what really drives me out of the room is the grunting of some of the players – Maria Sharapova being the worst offender.

Ladies – there is a place for grunting. In public and on television in front of thousands (millions) is not it.

Please stop. It’s most unseemly.

Monarto

Rewind… after a weekend in the rain cleaning up our DISGRACEFUL bushfire hazard, now it’s time to revisit Friday.

Friday, I took a day on leave to spend with SWMBO and the little chilluns, seeing as school will be back soon and we really should do SOMETHING together before the chance is gone. By about next week the chilluns will be aged about 28 and bringing girlfriend #5 or 6 home for dinner – to giggle afterwards about the grumpy frumpy parents. But I digress. Again.

We went to the Monarto open range zoo.

Most normal people just find their way to the South Eastern Freeway, head toward Murray Bridge, and plant the foot.

But the South Eastern Freeway fills me with boredom, and besides, we needed to go South East and live North East. There must be a way through the hills. Mustn’t there?

My ennui led to looking at a few maps, and a plan was hatched. The need to drop in at the bank saw us head to Modbury, stop at the bank, then up Lower North East Road to Birdwood. From there to Tungkillo and Palmer. From Palmer there is a road to Murray Bridge, but Monarto is about 25 km on the Adelaide side. Going into Murray Bridge and turning back seemed a terrible waste, and our map clearly showed a second grade road heading direct into Monarto (population 4, on a good day) off the Palmer – Murray Bridge Road.

I’m still not quite sure where that second grade road is. We found A ROAD of sorts, and went happily barelling off down dirt roads, figuring that they had to go somewhere. By this stage, son #2 was asleep, and son #1 was asking “Are you sure this is the right way”. Naturally both parents exuded confidence.

After the third intersection of dirt roads, all with names, none with destinations marked, and none appearing on the map, we took the only sensible course of action – we discarded the map.

30 minutes later, we seemed to be going up small hill, down small dale, and occasionally round and round. A full tank of fuel meant there was nothing to be concerned about, apart from hunger and the voice in the back saying “I thought you said it was only 5 more minutes”. By this time I was having some small doubts:

I wonder where the heck we are
I wonder where the heck we are?

Pressing on though saw us arrive at the exact intersection that you come to when leaving the freeway, and we were there! All that worry for nothing.

After the obligatory time, the family were adamant that we take the freeway home. But, mwah hah hah! I was driver and had other plans!!! We took the old Princes Highway, and came home via Woodside, Lobethal, Gumeracha, and Tea Tree Gully. The drive home was 90 minutes exactly. The same time that the freeway would have taken but a much more pleasant drive with a lot of countryside to look at, and a lot less traffic.

Obligatory pics, click to enlarge:

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Mulch – take 2

Today we had a visit by Mr Plod, the council fire officer. We have a clean bill of health (so we should, after Friday night mowing in the pouring rain, followed by Saturday and Sunday making it squeaky-clean and chopping up a few dead trees.

Sounds like it must have been REALLY bad, it wasn’t.

Mr Plod confirmed that we had been “the subject of a complaint” – in other words, dobbed in, by Mustang Sally the scorched-earth bikie desperado.

So, Mustang, this means war!

It’s MULCH you idiots!

A couple of weeks ago I was wandering amongst the fruit trees, looking at the ground.

This may seem an odd thing to do, but not where I live. When we moved into this house in 1991, there was nothing on the block of land at all – apart from the house, and 2/3 acre of Scotch Thistles and Salvation Jane (aka Pattersons Curse).
The soil here is terrible – about 30 cm of heavy clay with lumps of granite and limestone shale through it, laying over a solid limestone shelf, which in turn lays over many metres of limestone rubble.

Since we moved here we have planted about 25 fruit trees, and hundreds of native trees and shrubs. Every one of these required a hole to be dug, most of them needed a crowbar to break the ground. When young these were watered on a drip system, so we have a couple of kilometres of 25 mm black drip pipe buried, hundreds of drippers, and numerous points where these things are connected up to provide the occasional drink. As the plants get established, the drinks get less frequent.

So far so good, all terribly rural and boring and dull.

We have never, ever, put green waste out for council collection. Everything that we prune becomes mulch, so do the kitchen scraps, so do any plants that die. We make some of the mulch by grinding up smaller prunings using a grossly underpowered electric mulching machine, but a lot is just made by throwing the bits on the ground. If really keen, we might run over them a couple of times with the mower.
After doing this for 16 years, we finally have some decent organic matter on top of the soil, keeping the water in and heat out. As it decomposes it releases nutrients for the plants, keeps the bugs alive in the soil and helps water penetrate the soil better.

All this we all know and love about mulch. Again, terribly rural, boring and dull.

But back to my wandering around. I was admiring the ground, the amount of mulch on it, the fact that the soil condition after being so poor is finally looking reasonable.

Which brings me to today.

Today we received a notice from the Fire Prevention Officer on the local council:

Fire and Emergency Service Act 2005
Section 56 – Notice to Owner of Land

First and Final notice

Blah blah blah you are required to take the following action to reduce the risk of the outbreak of fire on the property, or the spread of fire through the property: by reducing all undergrowth, tree limbs and leaf litter from the rear of the property which may become flammable in the ordinary course of the season, to a hieght of 100mm (4 inches) and maintain throughout the fire danger season.

This work is to be completed by 1 February 2007

It goes on to describe the penalties, methods of appeal, and so on.

Now, I admit we have a couple of dead shrubs here and there, and a bit of leaf litter. It’s mulch! Well, the dead shrubs will be when we get around to removing them – but nature leaves them alone and I would like to as well. They still serve a purpose. It’s called breaking down slowly, and protecting the soil from erosion.
But first things first. Council quoted the act. The mystical powers of the world-wide information super-goat-track yielded the full thing. The council does in fact have the power to serve such a notice, and it is written appropriately. Damn! They did send it to the wrong address, but it seems under the act that this does not make much difference.

Figuring I’d better make a start in heading toward squeaky-clean, tonight I went out (in the rain!) to trim down the last of the uncut grass – a small patch about 3m x 1m had been left last time the grass cutter ran out of fuel.

While there I ran the grass cutter over as most of the smaller prunings, leaf litter and so on. This should break it up and get much of it under the 100mm limit. The bigger bits will be harder to sort out. Sending it off to the council for chipping is not an option, for two reasons: 1. I don’t want these pricks to sell it and make money from my discards, and 2. Some of the bigger bits of wood have termites, and I don’t want those to be spread to anybody else.

There are a couple of places where we could have done better. One of these is right up against the back fence, where one of the trees drops a lot of leaves, and where the guy over that fence has cut some of the branches off and dropped them back over my side!

I’m pretty sure this is the same guy who dobbed us in, because the back of our property is a long way from any road, and not visible from any road either. It HAD to be somebody who can see in, which only leaves two possible properties at the back. One of those has as much leaf litter and tree branches as us, the other is the home of Mustang Sally, the scorched-earth bikie desperado*.

Last weekend, Mustang was out setting fire to any last remaining vegetation in his neck of the woods (easy for him, his block is a lot smaller than mine). At the time I thought he was a mad bastard to be out lighting fires, given the prevailing climate and number of bushfires around. But I let it go. Looks like the bugger called the council when looking over my fence.

This means I’ll have to spend the next couple of weekends frantically trying to avoid a $10,000 fine by chopping old tree branches up small, to convince the idiots on council that it is not a hazard.

And next time Mustang Sally, the scorched-earth bikie desperado, is out burning in the middle of bushfire season perhaps it will be my turn to call the council Fire Prevention Officer.

(Murphys Law may yet apply. Who knows, perhaps Mustang Sally IS the council Fire Prevention Officer. He certainly does not appreciate mulch. His idea of well-tended ground is brown dirt after a liberal application of Roundup.)

———-

*Why the name? Why “Mustang Sally, the scorched-earth bikie desperado”? 12 months ago he had some old banger – not a Mustang. This sat in the back yard alongside the remants of a boat and various other pieces of junk. Over the summer, somebody was out cutting back the paintwork, grinding, polishing, and generally futzing about with a restoration job. The banger is now gone. Oh, and the guy has a chrome dome (bald head) and huge long bikie style beard. The name just seems appropriate.

Kilometre

Here in the wide brown land of Aw-stray-ya, we use the metric system of measurement.

Actually, it is Système International d’Unités (International System of Units, international abbreviation SI).

Anyhow, moving along and ignoring the French, the SI (aka metric) system uses PREFIXES to go in front of standard units of measure. The common prefixes are based on multiples of 1000:

(apologies to any Europeans who use “,” as a decimal point marker and “.” as a thousands separator – the exact reverse to most of the English speaking world, but that is a gripe for another day).

Anyhow, again:

kilo = 1,000 (10^3)
mega = 1,000,000 (10^6)
giga = 1,000,000,000 (10^9)

and so on.

There are some lesser used prefixes (for example, deca (10), hecto (100)).

The other common prefixes are the fractional ones, again, usually in multiples of 1/1000:

milli = 1/1000 (10^-3)
micro = 1/1,000,000 (10^-6)
nano = 1/1,000,000,000 (10^-9)

and so on.

The PREFIXES, as the term implies, are put before the unit of measurement.

Thus:

kilo-metre = 1,000 metres
milli-metre = 1000th of a metre

So, why do people mis-pronounce that term used by almost every person, every day?

I mean the kilometre.

It is pronounced KILLO-MEETER (or, sometimes, KEELO-METRE – depending on where you come from).

It is NOT pronounced KIL-Oh-MET-ER. This is wrong, and evil. There is an Adelaide newsreader who says this, it drives me mad!

Repent all ye who say it wrong, repeat after me:

KILLO-MEETER

KILLO-MEETER

KILLO-MEETER

A short hiatus

I’ve gone stale. Nothing much to write about, not much inspires or moves me at the moment.

In spite of that, here are some general observations and comments about recent events and goings-on:

Comment spam

Spammers are evil detestable cretins.

Comment spammers, posting crap stupid comments on places like this, are worse.

Today, after all my anti-spam measures I find comment spam purporting to be from Google!

Why in heavens name would Google go posting comment spam?

And if it is somebody else doing it, why bother? What on earth is in it for them?

Completely insane!

The fuckwit over the hill with the high speed electric saw

I know you are a tradey and you need get interior joinery done on the house you are building.

But why do you have to continually start and stop your high speed saw, at 10:30 pm?

The high pitched scream carries a long, long way.

After having it all day, and now all evening, I’m itching to come over there and ram your saw up your backside. Preferably while it is turned on.

Dickhead.

Princess Diana

Can’t Princess / Lady Di be left to gently decompose in peace?

News the other day that the Brits are just about to re-commence the inquest into her death. How many inquiries, inquests, investigations, etc etc are needed. For crying out aloud, it’s been 10 years, she’s dead. Get over it!

Leave it alone!

Water

I suppose this one was inevitable. Water restrictions are in place in Adelaide, there is much wailing about the city maybe running out of water, perhaps if it maybe does not rain.

The usual suspects are full of the usual crap.

Media Mike is strangely silent.

The Opposition blame the government, and conveniently neglect to mention their complete failure to do anything about building water storage during their previous terms. Oh, and by the way, politicians CANNOT make it rain. Ever. no matter how much they talk. Or blame their opponents. Useless imbeciles.

The Federal and State Governments are making much song and dance about building a new weir across the lower reaches of the Murray. The effect of this would be to turn the Coorong (a pretty close to unique river / sea system, about a hundred km long) into a stagnant stinking cesspool. The resulting trickle of water diverted from the Murray – supposedly to safeguard Adelaide – will be so low that it will need to be pumped uphill to Adelaide, and being from the lower reaches, it will be very salty.

This one seems like a load of bullshit posturing so they can be seen to do SOMETHING, probably in the expectation that there will be such an outcry about the environmental vandalism that it won’t go ahead anyway. Like the leaders in Toowoomba, they can then say “But we tried”!

In the meantime, root causes are being ignored:

- Nobody is taking on the rural lobby groups and buying back water licenses

- Nobody is beating the crap out the stupid governments in NSW and Victoria who have over-allocated water licenses

- Nobody is putting in place capital works programs to shift the hundreds of km of open-ditch irrigation channels to pipes

- Nobody is trying to buy and close Cubbie Station, or any of the other profligate users of water for rice and cotton in the upper reaches of the Murray-Darling river systems

If anything, it’s worsening, State Governments don’t just have their heads in the sand, they have them buried firmly up their own backsides. Strangely, they can’t even smell their own shit: The Queensland Government wants to allocate 8000 Megalitres from the Warrego river for irrigation. The Warrego feeds the Darling, which feeds the Murray.

Mr Beattie, don’t you get it yet? Allocating more water from these river systems is insanity! And the Warrego is highly variable – an allocation when there is lots of rain won’t be useful to anybody (because of the… er… rain….) and when it’s dry apparently the allocation won’t be able to be used.

Talk about digging your own grave of bad publicity!

Idiots, idiots, all around.

Tour Down Under

Yes, it must be January. Find a place that’s hot, put a couple of hundred blokes in lycra on the road, sit back, and watch the excitement.

I’ve never understood the attraction.

It causes huge disruption with numerous roads being closed, and if you want to watch, you see a flashing blur as a bunch of sweaty bike riders whizz past.

If you have to watch, do so on TV in the comfort of your own air-conditioned lounge room – in which case it could be on anywhere.

Still, I suppose it’s good for businesses in the city.

What really gets up my nose is how this “event” is able to close major arterial roads with no consideration of those who have to live and work around it.

I detest privilege, and this reeks of it.

That’ll do for now!

—-

Oh yes – follow that link above and read some more about Cubbie Station. Marvel at the size of their water storage dams, and how much they pay for their water!

Makes you sick.

Spike

It’s a hard life when you are cat:

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A summary of the life of The Spike:

Sleep.

Wake up early in morning.

Run around a bit.

Wake everybody up.

Eat.

Go crazy climbing, running, leaping. Get cuddled.

Eat.

Sleep.

Eat.

Sleep until evening.

Eat.

Go REALLY crazy leaping at shadows, chasing imaginary things. Do impersonation of the Warner Bros Tasmanian Devil.

Eat.

Sleep all night.

Repeat next day.

Son #1 liked the salad dressing

He liked it so much he had to lick out the bowl:

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You ever have one of those days?

Today was one of tho..o…o..s..s…e.. days.

Apart from the usual endless streams of bull, I had an altercation with colleague #43, it went something like this:

C43: “I need to talk to you about product X”

Me: “OK”

C43: “Well I have found all these definitions of things where product X can be used…”

Me: “OK”

Me: (looks at list)

Me: “Hmm. Well, this is not what we call these things, we do A, and B, and C.”

C43: “But well I found this on the net, and you need to look because what we call these things is not right.”

Me: “Well, what we call them is based on what they do, it might not agree but its down to how product X is used…. blah blah blah… blah…”

C43: “But that’s not what my web site says, let me show you.”

Me: “I don’t want to see, you have already shown me the list, we are not that same.”

(Our terms, by the way, come from a separate external contract where the contractor has defined the terms and operating conditions of the product, and otherwise designed it to our specification.

And… we have been working on this – us and the contractor – for 2 years, and we have produced hundreds of pages of documentation based on those terms…)

C43: “Oh, well, if you don’t want to listen there is no point me being here.”

C43 storms off in a huff.

Now strangely, out of this encounter, it’s me who comes home from work feeling depressed, grumpy, and somewhat pissed off.

I have my reasons for saying “no”, I don’t want to see something to back up your list, after all, you have shown me the list and I disagree. AND, I’m the senior manager and my time is valuable. We’ve got years of history doing things a particular way, and the industry we are trying this new product in has little standardisation. But I don’t even get a chance to explain all that.

Later visit from relevant project manager: “I’ve just had C43 all teary eyed because you’re not listening….” etc etc. Explain situation. Leave issue to calm down. Send email instead of talking.

Grr.

Sometimes, dealing with other people in the workplace sucks. Retirement is looking good.

Syderney-Hobart Yacht Race and other adventurers

There was something on the news this morning about a bunch of Yachties who had to be rescued – again.

After the Sinney-Hobart (many rescues), Tony Bullimore (1 rescue so far, lots of worry about needing to do #2), and numerous others, I have a suggestion:

By all means be an adventurer, just don’t expect to be rescued. After all, this is not real adventure. It’s not like these people are going off to places unknown, climbing mountains that have never been climbed before. IT HAS ALL BEEN DONE. The days of real adventuring, sadly, are over.

The current crop are doing it for whatever strange motivation they have, in the expectation the oodles of modern technology and navigation aids will help them out. And it they fail, or incompetence rules, then taxpayer funded search and rescue will sort them out.

Well… its time to stop.

You want to sail solo around the world? Sure. If you get shipwrecked or eaten by pirates, YOU DIE!

You want to climb mountains? Sure. You fall down a chasm, YOU DIE!

You want to trek through the Antarctic? Sure. You fall down a crevasse, YOU DIE!

Why should they taxpayer keep rescuing, and therefore funding, egoistical people who want their adrenalin rush?

What the heck is Creaming Soda?

Yes, I know it’s pink stuff with bubbles, but what is it supposed to be?

When I was child it was one of those rare treats from the school canteen, about 5 cents, or maybe 10, bought a glass (!) bottle of fizzy pink stuff, which tasted – well – pink.

Not much seems to have changed. It is still available, the kids still seem to demand it, the bottles are now plastic instead of glass, and the price has gone up a little.

Many years later, I’m still in the dark, though. It’s pink – but what is the flavour supposed to be? And it’s called Creaming Soda. OK – the Soda from soda water – ie bubbly – I can understand that. But Creaming?

Best Breakfast – ever

This is one of those strange recollections that comes back now and again, a true story, naturally.

About 6 or 7 years ago I was working for a large company in Adelaide, and the thing we were building had to be installed in an F-111. But the F-111’s are based at RAAF Amberley, near Ipswich, outside Brisbane. As a consequence there was a great deal of travel to and fro, and many frequent flyer points were accumulated – about the only good thing to come out of doing a lot of flying, though it did take another 5 years to actually use them for anything. But I digress.

At the time of installing equipment in F-111’s, with all the attendant tribulations of making sure a plane does not fall from the sky, we had some kind of problem which meant I had to fly to Brisbane at a moments notice one Friday afternoon. To avoid disrupting schedules we had to work all weekend.

Saturdays on a RAAF base are pretty quiet, but Sundays are DEAD. I mean totally dead. There is not a soul to be found apart from the odd patrolling guard. And this led to the big problem of the day: where to get a feed. There was simply nowhere open, and especially for a civilian wandering around. The actual installation work was being done by Boeing, in one of their hangers, so we had access to their tea & coffee room, and somebody had a key! Bliss! We could feast all day on M&M’s from the Boeing fridge, at about $2 for a very small bag.

Needless to say, there was an early start. By Sunday afternoon, about 5pm, after being on the job for about 9 hours with only expensive chocolate crap to eat, we were famished. We were staying in Indooropilly at the time, and there was about a half hour drive back. Somewhere along the highway back from Ipswich we found a SHELL service station (I’m sure it’s still there) with a big sign out: “Breafast, all day”. This looked just the ticket, so we pulled in at 5:30 pm, and asked the rather startled attendant for breakfast. Bacon, a couple of eggs, sausages, grilled tomato, toast, and tea. Lots of it. Must have made her day, these two wierdo’s having brekky, but after a weekend of M&M’s for us this was bliss!

Christmas Tree

Spike likes the Christmas tree. For climbing. Up to the top. :)

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My Cubicle

We all know large open spaces are lousy places to work (but companies persist in herding us in, like sheep). Strange how the managers don’t have to work in the pig-pen, they seem to score offices for themselves.

A step up from the completely open room full of desks is… tah dah… THE CUBICLE. A bunch of reinforced cardboard walls that split the open room into a series of small pens, designed to make us feel the space is ours.

Cubicles come in two versions: The DeLuxe, with walls up to about 5 feet high (roughly the top of the shoulders of the average sized person), and The Standard.

The Standard is what you get when the boss is told they need cubicles, but they want to keep everybody in sight or under control. Of course, they won’t ever say that’s why they chose The Standard, they will describe it as “fostering open communication” or some other euphemism for making a distracting and noisy workplace. The standard has partition walls that go about 1 foot (30 cm) above the top of the desk – just high enough to stop things falling off.

Either way, The Cubicle bears an uncanny resemblance to the kind of pens that pigs are raised in. Ever seen one of those? Probably not – there is a reason most people don’t know how intensive livestock raising works. It has nothing to do with cruelty to the animals, and more to do with figuring out that the animals are treated better than a lot of people in their cubicles at work. At least the animals get fed for free, and can lie down sometimes!

If you ever get a choice, go for The DeLuxe cubicle. At least you get a tiny bit of privacy when you sit down.

For a really good discussion about working environments, I cannot recommend highly enough “Peopleware” by DeMarco and Lister. It’s been in print for about 20 years, and is still very applicable.

But anyhow, for all those with crappy jobs and horrible office cubicles, watch this. You might get a chuckle.

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