The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Useless, completely useless

While the family were telling bad jokes over the dinner table, my mind was wandering. And it landed on VCRs. As you do.

I think we bought our first VCR about 14 years ago. So about 1995, maybe ‘94. Whatever. Far from being top of the range, it was roughly middling, and set us back about $500. I well remember that amount, because it was about a weeks wages (after tax). Maybe a touch less. It seemed like a heck of a lot of money back then. The model with G-code was about $100 more.

That machine lasted for around 7 or 8 years. At one stage it broke, and we had it apart on the lounge room coffee table, in pieces for weeks finding the bit in the mechanical gubbins that had broken. It was some big toothed wheel thing with cam follower slots in, or something equally peculiar and mechanical. We could even, in those days, buy a NEW PART, rather than a whole assembly. The repair cost $3 because that’s what the big toothed wheel thing with cam follower slots in cost. Our labour to re-assemble it was free.

Likewise, it would stop playing after a while, because the heads needed cleaning. It had a special mechanical automatic-head-cleaner-ator, but this wore out after a few years. Head cleaning tapes didn’t work so I used to pull it apart and clean it with special head cleaning alcohol, in place of the automatic-head-cleaner-ator.

One day it died so badly that it was beyond repair. So we bought the replacement we still have. This must have been about 2003, or thereabouts. The new one came with G-code (wow!! a cool feature!). And it cost about $250. More stuff for less $$.

About a year ago we bought a hard disk recorder. $500 obtained digital TV, about 9000 hours of recording time, random searching, playback while recording. Blah blah blah. And electronic program guide. Even more stuff… more $, but allowing for inflation – far cheaper than that original VCR.

Which remininscences brings me to the point of this ramble. G-code. Anybody remember that?

A magic number placed in the printed TV program guides published in the newspaper. Enter the G-code and the machine would automagically select the right channel, start time, and stop time.

Two fatal flaws were glossed over in the rush to have the must-have feature:

- Firstly, G-code just coded the channel and times. There was no synchronisation with the transmitted signal. If the station started early, or ran late, tough. You missed recording bits of the program you wanted. And worse, in some places (like where I live) the G-codes would always enter Eastern Standard Time. Fine if you live in that time zone. Useless elsewhere.

- Secondly, for a program that repeated at the same time each week, G-Code could not code the repeat. So even if you entered the G-Code, you had to edit the programming of the machine anyhow.

And, if you had the printed guide (with the G-code numbers in) it was just as easy to enter the start and stop times with a 5 minute allowance either side. You got better results and missed less of your program.

And did anybody even pay attention to the copyright notice? It used to appear under the program guide and say something illuminating like “G-Code numbers are copyright by blah blah corporation and may not be used or reproduced without permission blah blah blah.”

THEY WERE JUST NUMBERS. Like 7. And 982543. HOW DO YOU COPYRIGHT A NUMBER? Idiots.

G-code was therefore, in my experience, completely useless. But it sold premium VCRs and must have made a packet in licence fees for Mr G, the inventor. Thank heavens junk like this is obsoleted by digital TV.

You did what, Mr Potter?

So yesterday afternoon / evening, we continued the long family tradition of going off to see the latest Harry Potter movie and going out for dinner afterwards.

We went to the Piccadilly, one of the few remaining Art Deco theatres still in Adelaide. It’s still been converted to a multiplex internally, but the biggest theatre is mainly the old upstairs stalls, and it’s quite large by modern standards.

As we arrived, the previous session must have just finished – hundreds of people were spilling out, heading away. We arrived with chaps to meet my parents – who were in the queue which stretched the full length of the downstairs foyer, up the stairs, and the full length of the upstairs foyer. In this theatre, that’s a very long queue. We managed to get seats together, and settled into the Swine Flu Incubation Chamber for 2 1/2 hours of Mr Potter and his wizarding fantasy madness. Talk about ending with a What The Heck. The final film better not be another 2 years away. We need to see it NOW.

When the film ended, I started counting people leaving. About 100 had already gone before I started counting, I counted 150, and the theatre was still half full. There must have been about 400 to 500 people in that session. As we left, the huge queue was forming ready to do it all again. The theatre must love this, the big hits are money for old rope.

After, we ambled down O’Connell St, trying to find a place to stop for a bite to eat. The first two restaurants we tried were full: “Sorry Sir, we’re completely booked out”. Third time we struck lucky. Recession? What recession?

Monstered

OK, I admit it.

We’ve been watching Masterchef – known in our house as MonsterChef. Nothing much else gets done.

As the competition has proceeded, it has (naturally) become more and more interesting, and when you have a recorder that allows record / playback you can skip the extremely long ad breaks.

Product placement and sponsorship anybody? The show must be a marketeers dream. Coles banners all over the place, and more steri-packs of Campbells Real Stock than you can poke a stick at. And Scanpans. And on and on.

But what really stands out, what I notice more than anything else, is how NICE the contestants are. To everybody. To each other. After watching Gordon Ramsay’s Hells Kitchen, the contrast is staggering. In Hells Kitchen, the contestants are mean, nasty, manipulative, lying, and just downright nasty. Masterchef is the opposite. Does this say something about Australians, or are they just targeting a different demographic?

Gah!

I just finished reading a novel by PD James.

More fool me I suppose. I just don’t like the rather prissy way she writes, I’d figured this out years ago. But I got bored and picked one up a week or two ago.

PD James is now in her 70’s, or thereabouts, and it shows. The style of writing is from a bygone age, when words were crafted for how they sounded, as much if not more than what they meant.

Here is an example, which I found particularly irritating:

An arrow in white wood with the words ‘Perigold Pottery’ painted in black was fixed to a post stuck into the grass of the verge.

This sentance, at first glance, seems just fine. Once you start to analyse the grammar, it’s actually very difficult to understand. There are 7 subjects (things being referenced) here: the arrow, the wood, the words, the paint, the post, the grass, and the verge. In a single sentence!

This could be be re-written: “A post stuck in the grass of the verge had an arrow, showing the words ‘Perigold Pottery’”. Or it could be trimmed even more, and just say there was sign. Why all the excessive detail? It was of no relevance whatsoever to the story.

There are more examples than I care to go and find, that above is only notable because my irritation level had risen to the point where I wanted to grab a red pen and start marking up changes to the text.

Modern writing tends to be tighter, more terse, and requires far less hard intellectual work to read. Desirable, when we read for pleasure or to escape the hard intellectual work of the daily grind. Don’t give me more of what I’m trying to escape from!

Gah!!!

Get with ponz…

Those who remember “Happy Days” would of course remember The Fonz, the coolest dude around. For somebody who was supposed to be about 17 why did he always look to be aged about 30? Ah well, yankee crap.

I had an investment in Great Southern Limited. The timber planations company. That went bust.

NOW, it turns out according to todays Financial Review,  the company was telling a few porkies. They started paying out the proceeds of timber harvesting a few years back, and found the returns were not as good as claimed. So to keep the timber scheme investors happy, they “juiced up” the returns by boosting the payout to existing investors using the funds supplied by new investors.

This is what is known as a Ponzi Scheme, and it is as far as I know illegal.

The best known example is Bernie Madoff who MADE OFF with a few billion dollars in the US, and has just been jailed for about 160 light years.

One has to wonder: why did the Australian regulatory authorities not wise up to the local Ponzi Scheme being run by Great Southern and its management?

And why are they not currently being prosecuted?

These crooks should also be in prison.

In the meantime… I’ve just written out the official notification to serve on the wreckage, asking for my money back. I don’t expect to see it.

And I’ll do a post soon about how much the corporate vultures, otherwise known as Administrators, get paid. That’ll frighten ghosts and have children waking in the night screaming in terror.

I didn’t invest in a tax-driven timber scheme. Just a corporate bond. That actually makes me a creditor to them, not an investor. They owe me back my loan.

Here be a lesson: don’t invest in anything that derives its appeal and business model from a cunning tax planning arrangement. Shades of Baldrick: “I have a cunning plan, my lord”. Look how they always turned out.

Tell em their dreamin

“Hmm, show me that bit of source code again”, I said, leaning through the car window and pointing.

The other guys shuffled things around a bit, and opened the file.

“Chocolate?”, I asked.

“Yep”, came a distracted reply.

I grabbed the chocolate, a block of caramel goo encased in soft milk chocolate, and popped it in the microwave. The lurid red, green, and yellow colours went round, and round until the machine went “ting”.

I passed the bendy block around. People broke, or perhaps, bent off a piece. When it came my way I just took the whole lot. 6 pieces of coloured caramel goop choc JUST FOR ME! I started on the first piece. Red, was it?  Yummmmmm. Second one was green, and the choc was soft, and the goo was gooey…

——- BZZT ——-

Then I woke up. Feeling slightly sick. Gee we dream some crap. Car windows? Microwaving a block of chocolate to make it soft and bendy? And where the heck was that microwave? Inside the car, or out? Source code? Chocolate with bright lurid colours?

But worst of all – caramel goo chocolate. Yuk.

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