The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives


When I left University, 20-mumble or so years ago, I signed up at no cost to join the Alumni Association. For all that time, I’ve been receiving the occasional publication setting out what’s going on, new research, blah blah blah.

Some of this is good, some is bad. I’ve vaguely kept in touch with the University where I spent 5 years, and that gave me 2 degrees. Some of the administration and Vice-Chancellors who run the show day to day, have been good, some terrible. Some interesting, and some excruciatingly boring.

And along the way, I’ve been an occasional donor to the various appeals – money for library collections, but more particularly, funds for student scholarships.

I donate for a few very good and simple reasons:

- I was the beneficiary of Gough Whitlam’s free tertiary education; modern students (thanks I might add to a later Labor Government) are not so fortunate. My parents – who no doubt on reading this may disagree – were not hugely well off, and paying fees would have been either a huge stretch or meant I would not have gone at all;

- My wife is likewise the beneficiary of the free tertiary education – in her case, the parents were even less well off  - but ended up with three University educated daughters – courtesy of Gough or the once-generous government scholarship system;

- And finally – I only just managed to scrape into what I wanted to study. I crept over the cutoff score by 3 points in the equivalent back in those days of the TER. I think I was the lowest scored entrant that year – but entry scores don’t prove everything because I still managed 2 degrees (1 with honours and an invitation to two extra honours years in two other disciplines as well), and left with a bag full of distinctions.

Supporting students who are not so well off is something I care about. It helped me along the way, so the idea of giving something back for future generations matters – especially in the land of HECS, and fees, and parsimonious governments who make it much harder for students to study.

So it pains me when I receive the annual published list of donors – never showing dollar amounts – just donors of anything. And on that list I see the old lecturers, tutors, professors and staff. And bugger all of the students I spent 5 years of my life with.

I wonder what they think of the education and opportunities they received, and whether they are grateful for it? If they are – I’d hope now is time to show it. Most of my cohort should be middle aged and debt free – finding $20 to $100 a year to chuck in a scholarship find should be immaterial. And the help is immeasurable. Time to give a little back.

Gotta Wonder

A Lemon update…

The other day I took The Lemon for its service and check of the cooling system; where the Nice Men From Holden gave me the price of hoses and so on and said “it will cost X dollars”. But didn’t actually fix anything.

At the time I told them that I’d added a litre of coolant, and that it was dumping rather a lot of coolant on the garage floor. And I wanted it fixed. In spite of all that, they didn’t even really look at it, and didn’t want to try and fix anything – even when I asked them to when they called me at 4:45 pm.

I drove it home from The Nice Men From Holden, and got home with a rather unpleasant smell of hot engine coolant wafting around. Drove The Boy around the next couple of days, work on Friday, blah blah blah.

I seriously wondered if I’d make it home on Friday – the engine temperature was getting awfully high. This morning I added another litre of coolant and did a quick run to a couple of shops. Got home and did the bleedin’ obvious check: HAD A LOOK UNDER THE CAR.

There is coolant DRIPPING OUT… drip drip drip, about a drip a second. No wonder it pongs.

These IDIOTS at The Nice Men From Holden obviously didn’t even run the damn engine or put the car up on the hoist.

Total F#@$wits.

(For fear of libel suits I won’t mention their names here… anybody who wants to know a Holden dealer to keep well away from can email me.)

One of my colleagues from work put it like this: They probably have service KPI’s to meet – like turn-around time. So they do the smallest amount possible, meeting their performance targets, and fob it all off by saying the customer was informed. He’s probably right. KPI’s – the evil outcome of a misguided attempt to give customer service; which only result in the system being gamed and the customer being screwed.

A Car-full of crap

Today has been a run-around day. I’ve been running The Boy around from here to there and back again. Well, not quite back – he’s getting the bus home after much research of routes, and bus stops, and what not. I’m on standby in case the journey turns to custard. My morning only comprised 2 hours on the road – only another hour to go now.

Along the way I dropped The Lemon in for a service and to get a couple of faults fixed; “The Lemon” being the fond family name for the Holden Astra TS. If something can go wrong with that car, it will.

When I had to fill out the form for the work security guards (yada yada what’s you car make, model, and rego number…) I filled out that its “The Lemon”. I hope the nice security man managed to crack the merest twitch of a smile.

So far, The Lemon has had rear brake disks replaced (TWICE), the air-con compressor replaced, and both rear power windows replaced. The A/C compressor come in at a mere $1000, and you don’t want to know what power windows cost when they cark it. In this case, cark it means “make horrible snap noise”, and after that the window falls down. Jolly cold in winter I tells ya.

So after spending 17 arms and 43 legs, The Lemon has another couple of small faults.

The T-bar automatic shifter has a button that you press in to change from Park to Drive, and so on. The knob pops out, and lands on the floor amongst ones feet, always at the most inopportune time.

And the poor dear is running a bit warm, and seems to be drinking coolant the way a wino slurps down cheap port.

So like I was sayin’,  I dropped it in for a look-see with the doctor today. Who just phoned. They did the service.

Yes, that’s right. They did the service. The T-Bar automatic transmission changer-knobby-thing can’t be repaired by itself, it needs a whole new assembly. $350. They need to order it from Melbourne. So that’s not fixed.

And as for the drinking problem. Well, there are a couple of hoses that are a bit weepy. One is $75. For the hose. The other one is $175. For a !#$% hose. And the expensive hose (that’s that latter, in case you were curious) is a bugger to fit – the trained mechanics take about 2 hours to sort it out.

So the drinking problem is not fixed either. But they advise getting it seen to soon, because if it splits completely it will be kind of catastrophic.

Err… ISN’T THAT WHY I TOOK IT THERE? I’ve been waiting all day for a call to say what it would cost, not expecting a call at the end of the day when it’s too late for them to just get in and do it.

Jeez… how do you get mechanics to actually repair something? Dimwits.

Now The @#$% Lemon needs to go back to the doctor again. This time to a backyard mechanic who will actually do some @#$% work instead of trying for the easy life.

(I think the next car after this one will be another Corolla. They seem to go forever.)

It’s just NOT good enough!!!

Ha ha – the campaign has paid off. Maybe somebody on the council was paying attention to my weekly postings…

Nudes are back in the City of Tea Tree Gully annual art exhibition!

Great Googling Gaggles of Bookses

There has been a great furore a-brewin over the dreaded Google getting out there and scanning books to add to the stuff they index, so us plebs can search it.

In general there seems little dispute about the desirability of scanning, indexing, and presenting whole books that are out of copyright. In other words, written over about 100 to 150 years ago. Pretty much everyone can get the reasoning – literature and knowledge that it inaccessible or out of print is suddenly accessible again: I don’t have to travel to some dusty library in Alexandria in order to ferret out an exotic tome on the legal principles underpinning grain transport in ancient Babylon.

Where everybody (especially publishers) is getting in a lather is about books that are still in copyright – in other words, younger than 50 years after the death of the author. That’s pretty much the vast majority of books in the world.

The concerns here seem to be twofold – how the deals are done with the copyright owners, and the general principle of digitising an in-copyright book in the first place.

The big trouble with all the excitement is the publishing industry need to understand their role. The publishing house has always been the middle-man between author and market – weeding out the rubbish, editing, arranging printing and distribution, collecting the money, paying the authors yada yada yada.

The publishing houses control the supply. So when you want to buy a book, and can’t because it’s out of print – that’s the publishing house saying “you want to give me money but I don’t want to take it. And if you are naughty and get that book and stick it on the photocopier then it’s illegal and I’ll get very grumpy with you.” Heads they win, tails you lose. In this case, so does the author.

Allowing books to be on-line, searchable, browseable, puts the power back in the hands of the readers. We don’t have to suffer the tyranny of distance (to the dusty library). Even better – by searching the content of a book we can find things we didn’t know we didn’t know. (A touch Rumsfeldian… think about it). Suddenly, knowledge and literature is available.

For books in copyright but out of print – nobody is going to lose money if the book is suddenly on-line. It wasn’t available, remember?

For books in copyright and in print, the approach used is to allow only a portion of the book to be viewed (but still a full content search). So I can see the few pages of interest when I want to know about Crypographic Ciphers, or All Animals Being Equal But Some More Equal Than Others*, or Accounting Standards, or Pipe bend radii in 1/8 inch mild steel pipes. And if I find that the book is useful, and available I can go buy it. Before search, I didn’t even know it was there so that I could buy it. Or I could only search a bookstore by title. Slow, dull, and requires great leaps of faith.

Book search and browse makes the world a better place – it puts more knowledge where it is most useful, at low cost. And those who want to buy now know what to buy. Copyright owners should see more sales, not less.

What’s the big deal? Get on with it.


* I”m pretty sure that the estate of George Orwell are being a bit difficult about his books going on line. Time to get over it, methinks.

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