The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Eureka Day

December 3 is Eureka Day.

A day when we should all stop for a moment and celebrate a sacrifice that is little known, and even less understood.

A day when many will fly the Eureka flag, as a sign of remembrance and respect. And as a sign to all levels of government in our country that they should not go too far in removing some pretty basic rights.

And a day when The City Of Tea Tree Gully WILL NOT be flying the Eureka flag, because the councillors voted down a proposal to do so. Council voted the flying down for two reasons:

- It does not meet the state government protocols for flag-flying; and

- The flying of the flag “may divide the community” because it has been used (hijacked) by a few extremist groups.

So, councillors of Tea Tree Gully, perhaps you need reminding of a little history.

Start here: The Eureka Centre in Ballarat has an excellent history, and I quote:

The uprising by the miners and the Government’s attack on their Stockade in December 1854 was Australia’s only armed civil uprising. It was a battle over democracy and fairness and contributed to the spirit of freedom that Australians have come to regard as their birthright.

That spirit of freedom has been eroded, gradually, by a series of governments – with the passing of anti-terror laws, and other laws allowing imprisonment without charge, and trial without access to the evidence.

Our governments, and the elected members need to remember who put them where they are, and what it took to get the society we have. Democracy in Australia was not something that came automatically from Britian. It was built with difficulty, blood, sweat and tears. An important part of the formation of our democratic government was the Ballarat miners rebellion of 1854.

For various reasons, the miners felt that they were being taxed and treated unjustly. They created the Ballarat Reform League, with (amongst other things) the following political aims:

(1) A full and fair representation. [i.e. in parliament]
(2) Manhood suffrage. [in other words - everyone can vote]
(3) No property qualification of Members for the Legislative Council.
(4) Payment of Members.
(5) Short duration of parliament.

The charter of the Ballarat Reform League begins:

That it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws that he is called on to obey – that taxation without representation is tyranny.

The members of the League burned their miners licenses in an act of defiance of the Government.

At the time, a license had to be provided on demand, something that was not always possible because they were often kept in the miners’ tent, away from the wet and dirty conditions. However any miner found not carrying the license was immediately arrested and fined.

The burning of the miners licenses led, in turn, to the massacre of miners at the Eureka Stockade in a surprise night raid by the Victoria police.

The resulting rampage by the police saw innocent bystanders shot, the wounded being bayoneted, and much needless destruction of miners property.

About 22 miners were either killed immediately or died soon after, and a further 12 were wounded and survived. Casualties on the Government side were 4 killed and 12 wounded.

This is one of only two acts of defiance by Australian people against their government, and is the incident that had the largest impact on shaping our democracy.

Whilst the rebellion was over in 15 minutes, it led DIRECTLY to fundamental changes in Government in the colony of Victoria, and had a significant influence on all Australian Governments.

Some of the things we take for granted came about from, or were hastened by, the efforts of the Ballarat Reform League, and their leader Peter Lalor:

. short terms of parliament
. nobody needs to carry or produce identification papers or other government documentation to police on demand (generally you have 24 hours)
. true representative democracy
. the right to trial, to see and hear your accusers
. limits on powers of police
. fairness in dealing with governments and employers

Peter Lalor, leader of the Ballarat Reform League later became Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Council [Upper House of Parliament].

Today, the Eureka flag has no official status but is still used, over 150 years later, as a symbol of rebellion against Government excesses in Australia. And this week, Ballarat celebrates its position in Australia’s history, on the 155th Anniversary of the uprising.

Shame on you Tea Tree Gully Councillors. Know your country. Know your history.

——————-

Full text of the charter of the Ballarat Reform League.

Writing, FakeBook, Twitter and Crap

In correspondence with another Blogger – who has stopped – I got to thinking about writing.

Once upon a time there were essays – thoughful pieces of a thousand words or three, written carefully, taking time. There were newspaper columns – a shorter version of the essay. Then weblogs aka blogs, anything between an unstructured rant, a dump, and a one-liner. Then MySpazz, FakeBook and Twitter came along.

The trend in all this is length. The amount written drops successively, with perhaps the exception of MySpazz, where you don’t write anything at all apart from comments in somebody’s comments about How Coolz iz u dude?

Fakebook encourages a publication of “friendship” – whatever that may be. And commentary on what one is doing RIGHT NOW, thus leading to a glimpse into the lives of those our paths have crossed. FakeBook includes various applications – you can link in published blogs, play games, and so on. Food for a trivial mind.

Twitter goes a step further – the commentary of fakebook is about where it ends. The utterances are called “tweets” – perhaps because of a desire to mimic the Dawn Chorus of birdlife but also to avoid the obvious other name for an outpouring of trivia. Sorry folks, but Twitter is for Twits.

Little messages (“I’m in Paris eating a baguette”) are mindless, thoughtless trivia which is good for a prurient audience but does not contribute to humanity. It’s not thoughtful or thought-provoking. It just encourages more mindless muck for the peasants. No wonder Media-Mike likes it.

In a world of trivial crap, we need a resurgence of the essay. Unlike a Kevin Rudd essay – 6000 words of unintelligible intellectualising is going too far -  we need a bit more writing that is clear, structured and thoughtful, or at least amusing. Less of the quantity, more of the quality.

Driving me where?

Oldest son has a Learners Permit.

November has been abnormally warm for the last fortnight – with daytime highs of around 35 to 43 degrees. This has all been tiring and unpleasant, and so there has been no incentive to go spending time on a bit of driving practice.

So The Chap has had little learning or practice apart from the hour or so spent in getting familiar with a vehicle, starting and stopping, and going around a few corners. Slowly. With his terrified mum alongside.

Yesterday we spend a thrilling 1/2 hour in the deserted car park of a nearby (former) hardware store – speeding up, slowing down, braking, turning corners. Over and over and over. I think 1/2 hour was enough for us both.

Today we went and did the same again. Cornering is getting better, and thankfully, slower. Too much watching blokes laying rubber all over a test track on “Top Gear” does tend to be a little misleading.

After 1/2 an hour of pootling around the same ole boring car park – I directed him out and down a major-ish road –  only 100 metres but that was a fairly big deal… and then down into some local streets on the flat bit down the bottom of the hill. Speed humps, traffic-slowing chicanes, parked cars, bad signage. In other words – normal suburbia. After another 1/2 hour in this – it was time for cricket. A session of an hour all up is probably about long enough.

It’s beginning to sink in… situational awareness (”you forgot to check on your right… consider yourself flattened by an 18-wheel semi-trailer”), where the car is in relation to the side of the road (”don’t take out the tyre side walls on the kurb please, they’re $90 a pop”), and concentration.

Concentration is the big one, and I’m glad it’s him who said “You have to concentrate a lot, don’t you”.

Yes – sure do…

We both make jokes about how the “L” plates on the car are warning signs for everyone else. Of course, we all know also that this is EXACTLY what they are.

More fun times a-coming :)

Spam, management speak, waffle, or just crap?

I received this, in an email the other day:

We’re entering a new age where consumer applications are setting the standards for user experience, self service and efficiency by leveraging new innovations in information visualization and Web application development. Because of this change, our customers are starting to demand the same level of user experience and interactivity from their business applications.

Come to this webinar, sponsored by XXX, to learn how you can add content into your commercial applications using mashups, external apps and dashboard. We’ll be using ZZZ, an Eclipse-based reporting system. We’ll multiple ways to “mash” ZZZ into your commercial applications, including how to provide a complete, easily configured view of the enterprise through a dashboard interface.

Now that you have stopped screaming – this DOES contain a certain amount of software technology jargon. And I’ve been in the business since about the time that the dinosaurs started to die out, and I only understand about half of it.

Picking through the waffle here:

- “consumer applications are setting the standards for user experience, self service and efficiency”

Say what?  Does this refer to MS Word? That’s a consumer application. Or perhaps to Facebook, MySpazz, or (shudder) Twitter? NONE of these things set standards for user interfaces, except perhaps to lower that standard to new depths.

- “by leveraging new innovations in information visualization and Web application development”

Sorry, used the leverage word. In other words, everything that follows is meaningless garbage. And when we get to Web application development… is just a case of YAWN. Information Visualisation? Jeez this crap makes my blood boil. What the heck are you going to do? Show addresses and phone numbers in pictures instead of words? Show sales forecasts upside down? Show bank balances in stereo with bells on? People have been drawing charts and making pictures for about 17,000 years. Software lets us do it faster and easier, but New Innovations In Information Visualisation? Spare me FFS.

- “add content into your commercial applications using mashups, external apps and dashboard”

Can I poke my eye out with a fork now, please? What the fook does this mean? Add content? What is to be added? Mashups? As in jam a bunch of crap in fast and see what happens? Sorry – you lost me there. External apps (that’s applications, outside of jargon speak). Well….derr….. that’s why we have green screen emulators into older character mode systems, and why we can insert things like web pages and other STUFF into documents, pages, and what not. How is this new?

And dashboard. Oh dear. The 1-page management panacea, specially designed to show everything important at a glance, complete with happy faces and ANGRY faces. Oh dear. Oh dear.

Not to mention the appalling grammar.

Is this what the software industry has descended to?

How sad.

A fine way to spend a Saturday

Youngest son was full of excitement. After Saturday morning cricket, he rushed home, grabbed his bicycle, and took off:

“I’m off to see Fred, don’t hold lunch for me, I’ll be back later.”

This happens now and again (and the names are changed to protect the innocent). Of course, every parents nightmare is to get a phone call to say their little scrumkins has been maimed / injured / bitten / run over. But you have to let kids go and do stuff.

The Lady Of The House had to work Saturday afternoon, so I was happily minding my own business when came the dreaded call from Fred’s mum:

“There’s nothing to worry about, he’s not hurt. He’s just broken a bit off a tooth, we’re bringing him home. It might be an idea if you get him to a dentist.”

Oh.

Righto then.

DSC_4768

Imagine my surprise – that’s not a piece broken off. That’s a front tooth snapped in half. He’d done the right thing and found, and salvaged the broken piece.

Now do you think the medical / dental profession are open on a Saturday afternoon? I rang the usual suspects – his dentist, then mine. Got plenty of out-of-hours numbers to call, none of which answered or were helpful. Eventually I found a dentist across town – 24 hour emergency – who could see us – only an hour’s drive away. We hoofed it off there, lugging our busted piece of tooth in a jar of milk.

The nice dentist, in running shoes and a polo shirt, took one look.

“Nah – the root is exposed. If we put it back together it will just break. There’s only one thing for it. Root Canal, then eventually you can get it capped or crowned. It’s going to cost ya though.”

DSC_4770

So, we’ve begun. The tooth can’t be saved but root canal + lots of messing about should mean that something can go there and eventually fill the gap.

The bill – for an hours dental work and step 1 root canal on a Saturday afternoon. A cool $680. And from what I’m told, there’s about two grand still to go. Oh joy.

Software and the internet

The internet has, without a doubt, changed the software business forever.

Once upon a time software was delivered by mag tape – great big reels of 1/2 inch tape that stored about as much as a couple of modern floppy disks.

Then.. we had floppies – umpteen generations of them storing from sod all to not very much – and I fondly (not) remember installing Microsoft Office 4.3 from floppies. There were about 40 of them, and the install took well over an hour, constantly shoving floppies into a PC.

Then there was the CD, then the DVD, with a few diversions into other tape technologies along the way.

These days, on-line delivery means you never need sell a boxed product. Everything can be downloaded, fast, and easily. The only challenge is registering that a user is genuine – painful but a problem that can be solved.

In my own case, I’ve had backup software up for download now from a dedicated web site. Thought I was doing pretty well originally to get 5 to 10 downloads a week.

Things have grown… In October (that’s last month) I had 423 downloads – that’s actual downloads, not viewings of the various web pages.

Here’s the monthly figures over the last few months:

May: 99

June: 112

July: 156

August: 144

September: 218

October: 423

It’s awfully hard to tell if the Google ad campaign (which was VERY expensive but that’s a story for another day) had a big impact in October or not.

But the moral of the story here is that having software which works, at a reasonable price, with ready availability – leads to downloads, eyeballs on a screen, and ultimately users who might even pay and become customers.

Who needs a boxed product? Who needs to burn CD’s? The internet makes software delivery a piece of cake.

All I need now is to extract a couple of dollars for each download and I’ll be a rich chappy. In my dreams.

Keep off the roads!

Oldest son sat the test for his (driving) learners permit yesterday.

He passed on the first attempt with about 3 wrong answers (I think you are permitted no more than 8 wrong answers – do worse and you have to sit the test again).

Now he’s an official learner driver. And I’m an officially worried parent.

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