Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review of the ExoPC (so far - another work in progress)

I bought a slate (ExoPC) as an e-reader, travelling entertainment device and for portable Internet access. It's early-adopter stuff (drivers, drivers & drivers) and, while it does all the things I bought it for, it's far from perfect.

The ExoPC UI Layer. Very quick and easy to use, but also unfinished
Left side. There's a docking port underneath and a stand and stylus on the way.

For those interested in the tech side: Intel Atom N450, 1.66GHz, 2GB RAM, 32GB SSD, 1 x SD slot, 2 x USB, 1 x mini-HDMI and a SIM card slot with nothing behind it. Audio I/O 3.5mm. 1.3 Mp webcam. 1366x768 11.6" capacitive touch screen, 4 hours battery life, if you're lucky. Broadcom chip for HD video via the m-HDMI. Runs Win 7 32-bit Home Premium out of the box. Cost A$762 delivered from Canada.

So here's my rankings so far:

 E-reader 7.5/10
Pros - covers every file format, backlit, good screen size and resolution. Big plus compared to a Kindle is glorious colour. Magazines etc look great. Also the speed of screen refreshes/page turns is very quick. Some e-paper screens I've tried blank out for a ridiculous time between pages. I'm a fast reader dammit.
Cons - too heavy (nearly a kg), short battery life, occasionally dodgy touch screen. The touch screen issue has been reported by other users but seems to be improved by new drivers (for me anyway). It's actually quite a bit better than other capacitive screens I've tried and can only get better with, yep, new drivers.

11.6" ExoPC linked to 54" Panasonic. One cable.
Mythbusters from ExoPC. Quality is as good as the file allows

Travelling entertainment 8/10
Pros - runs VLC, MPC - anything really. Got a cheap cable from Deal Extreme to hook to HDTV and it works fine. 1080p video + audio to a 54" plasma looks great, audio out to an amp or headphones is also great. Just the thing for motels or apartments when we're travelling.
Cons - It'll do a flight to Melbourne but not an international. I'd give it 9.5 if the battery life was better.

HDMI cable on the left, 3G modem on the right. Slate with fingerprints in middle.

Portable Internet access 6/10
Pros - great screen, especially compared to a smartphone.
Cons - weight and size mean I won't use it easily or often on the go, but fine at the destination. Needs a USB 3G modem - which I have - but an internal 3G/GPS card would be better. Some owners have already installed these, thus voiding their warranties. Like it says on my t-shirt, I Void Warranties 8-). Battery life again means that I won't spend too much time away from a socket, but to be honest I don't anyway.

All in all, I got exactly what I expected and was happy to pay for. I haven't mentioned the very fast and easy, finger-friendly Exo UI layer or the App store (which isn't much at all yet anyway). Some early problems have already been fixed by driver updates, and more are expected. The UI layer gets better with each iteration but hasn't reached version 1 yet so again, more fun to come. The bottom line is that I've now read scores of e-books I've had for years and it looks way easier to cart off on trips than a laptop or even netbook so I'm happy for now. In a couple of years new screens, batteries and APUs will probably produce devices 10x better, but by then the $2 coins in my bottom drawer will probably amount to enough to get one so that's OK too. (Beyond price was the look on the teller's face when I produced a 50 year old canvas bank moneybag with 400 $2 coins to buy this one.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why do people have costume parties?

So this fellow is turning forty (40) and he wants a costume party.

So the beloved of my heart, mother of my children, Beast of Brisbane, Hammer of the Helpless, decided to let out her inner Morticia. Knowing the calibre of the other guests, I decided to be prepared as a Fearless Vampire Killer.

The "walking stick" is actually a concealed stake-cane. Note the narrow-eyed look of suspicion. You can tell we're married. This posting is for the amusement of Quokka, Morgana, Catty et al and should not be read by anyone else. Especially NowhereBob.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Important Scientific Breakthrough!

"Scientists are hailing a breakthrough that could lead to one of medicine's holy grails - a cure for the common cold.
Researchers have found they can attach tiny studs of silver to harmless bacteria, giving them the ability to destroy viruses. They tested the silver-impregnated bacteria against norovirus, which causes winter vomiting outbreaks, and found they leave the virus unable to cause infections." (from the Brisbane Times)

Formerly harmless bacteria, after studding

This discovery raises a host of important questions. However I intend to ignore all of them and ask these instead.

Does this mean that people with piercings (and silver studs) don't get colds?

Can I avoid a cold by (a) Getting various body parts pierced? or (b) Spending a lot of time in close proximity to, say, some hot Goth chicks with lots of studs & rings?

Will body piercing now be available under the PBS?

And above all, how do they attach the studs?

Possibility 1 (fun)

Possibility 2 (boring)

Possibility 3 (Tiny silver studs also kill Zombies & Werewolves)
Sorry, must be time for my coffee.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Awww, the first snake of Springtime.

The birds were fussing out the front.

Turns out he didn't smoke

 It's like a painting, the eyes follow you everywhere.

Oh, and don't pick the orchids. 

A bit of video. Do you know how hard it is to wiggle your toes and hold the camera steady at the same time?

And a glamour shot of Goldie, just for Ms Cat. Sorry, no video. She likes bees, small birds and Jehovah's Witnesses.

 And just for Quokka . . .

The all new, improved Turkinator

The training continues . . .

By Sunday all will ready.

And for Quokka . . .

What Men Really Want

Well, the season of compulsory giving of inappropriate and unappreciated gifts is almost upon us. Everywhere that Consumerism is worshipped and advertising fills the air, Men and Women will receive socks, jocks, foul perfumes and tasteless lingerie. Now I can't (being hopelessly male) help with good presents for women. I guess it'll be back to "Skanky Sue's Hot Underwear Emporium" for me. But I can give you a sure-fire winner for men.

Behold! The 40,000V bug-swatter! Light, cheap, quiet (except for a sharp crack! as it does the job) and almost harmless*. Runs on 2xAA batteries - I use rechargeables of course. Being a bit green and all.

Now here we see an odd moth which has stuck to the protective (ha!) outer grid. You can see the highly charged killing & frying grid tucked away safely at least 2mm behind that. Most moths, mozzies etc hit the inner grid and disintegrate with a slight but pleasant charring smell. Caution! Do not dislodge moths like the one above with your finger, while pressing the button. I tried to import a couple of these from HK a while back and Customs confiscated them. Pikers! But my friendly local hardware shop (old-style, not Bunnings) got hold of some.

No male of my acquaintance has come to the house without trying this thing, turning to his partner and exclaiming "I want one!". It satisfies a deep, fundamental urge to hunt which is buried in the psyche of almost every male. Plus it makes cool noises and smells and kills things.

* Product should not be used on, by or near people with pacemakers or other heart problems. Or by anyone under the influence of alcohol unless it would be, like, really funny. And don't let your dog lick it like the guy in the hardware shop. He didn't come back for a really long time and he hasn't been the same since. The dog that is. And my wife just came and took it. 30 seconds later - "crack. Yay, got it!" I think we need another one.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Definition of an Optimist

My son's company received this laptop by courier. It came with a request for a quote to have it repaired. It appears to have been run over by a car, or possibly a truck. Now that's optimism.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Conroy's Filter - Public Service Announcement (2)

Use Tor for browsing - there is also a Tor button for Firefox. Used correctly, it provides safety and privacy for those who need it. Using it doesn't make you a pirate or a pedophile.

"Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.
Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor's hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they're in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they're working with that organization.
Groups such as Indymedia recommend Tor for safeguarding their members' online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommend Tor as a mechanism for maintaining civil liberties online. Corporations use Tor as a safe way to conduct competitive analysis, and to protect sensitive procurement patterns from eavesdroppers. They also use it to replace traditional VPNs, which reveal the exact amount and timing of communication. Which locations have employees working late? Which locations have employees consulting job-hunting websites? Which research divisions are communicating with the company's patent lawyers?

A branch of the U.S. Navy uses Tor for open source intelligence gathering, and one of its teams used Tor while deployed in the Middle East recently. Law enforcement uses Tor for visiting or surveilling web sites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs, and for security during sting operations.

The variety of people who use Tor is actually part of what makes it so secure. Tor hides you among the other users on the network, so the more populous and diverse the user base for Tor is, the more your anonymity will be protected."

(Overview from the Tor site, reproduced via Creative Commons rules)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lies! All lies!

Well here we go again. Those evil, lying scientists are trying the old global warming con but I'm not falling for it. No sir, I've weighed the evidence on Fox News, read about the scientific papers from the Exxon Valdez Memorial Institute for the Unbiased Study of the Unchanging Climate and watched Glenn Beck. I know a communist plot by the New World Order when he tells me.

These white-coated frauds are just hustling for the meager, Mega bucks in, er, those Grant things, whatever they are. I've worked in uni labs and seen those so-called professors* snorting blow off the dainty insteps of their graduate students^. I happen to know for certain - because I read it on the Internet - that CO2 is good for plants, meaning bigger crops and no food shortages. Also, who cares if some glaciers melt? I wasn't using them, were you? We should be concerned about real problems like stopping the dozens of savage boat people, waving their AKA-747's and smuggling nuclear weapons in their nappies, and jumping queues right left and centre. I was jumped in a queue once and I missed the seat I like at the front of the bus. If these boat people are allowed to land, our queues will never be safe again!

Besides, Pastor Jim told us at the big thanks4giving service that believing in AGW is unGodly. Only atheist scum believe it, because WE know that God looks after his people and would never let anything that bad happen to us. He protects us from natural disasters and the works of evil men. (Some smart-alec kid started mumbling about tsunamis and holocausts but Pastor Jim's ushers took him out the back and his family got told not to talk to him no more. Don't reckon he'll disturb the faithful again!)

So if them scientists are so smart, how come they call it "undeniable"? I can deny it all I want. It's a free country isn't it?

*(So-called because that's kinda their job)
^(Parts or all of this statement may be untrue)

I want to write the Blurbs

I have a paperback devoted to quotes from Science Fiction and Fantasy books. It's called "Ghastly Beyond Belief" by Neil Gaiman and Kim Newman and there's a section dealing with the various kinds of blurbs on the back covers. Well, I just finished a classic (blurb, not book) and because I'm a cruel little man, I'm going to share. The book was "The Assassin" by Stephen Coonts (don't judge me, I just felt like a veggie read). Here is the annotated blurb.

Tommy Carmellini is a man who's known both sides of the law. (True)
But even as a burglar, he knew honour among thieves. (Never mentioned) Now firmly allied to 
the CIA, (Is "allied" the same as full-time agent?) he can still recognise a traitor when he sees one. 
(Great. Pity there are no traitors). And so tracking down Al Qaeda lieutenant (no, he isn't
Abu Qasim has become a personal quest (no, it hasn't).

While trailing Abu Qasim (he never does, nor does anyone else), Tommy spots an 
American mobster boarding a yacht in Capri. (There are no American mobsters, or yachts 
and Capri is never mentioned in the book). Tommy's boss - Jake Grafton (he is!) fearing links 
between the mob and Al Qaeda (no he doesn't. As above no mob, no Al Qaeda), sends 
Tommy in even deeper to investigate. (Not exactly)

Meanwhile Fioratti (who?), Tommy's mobster (nope), is busy planning a terror-for-hire 
strike that will make him rich beyond the dreams of avarice. (Maybe he is - in another book)
After all, global terror is big business. Some fight for their faith; others for cold hard cash.
Soon Tommy and Jake are embroiled in a stew of American and Russian mobsters,
(There. are. no. mobsters. in. this. book. And no stews and the Russians are all allies)
killers and thieves, and the clock is ticking. (Um, no thieves either)

So I'm puzzled. If it was the blurb for a totally different book that would just be a procedural error of some kind. But Grafton, Carmellini and Abu Qasim are all in there and Qasim is an Al Qaeda-like figure, there are Russians and a terror plot. So did the blurb-writer actually read it at all? If so, where did Fioratti and the mob come from? And why didn't Orion Books have the blurb read by an editor who'd actually read the book before sending it to print? These are all mysteries. Just not, you know, Meaning Of Life type mysteries.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Killer Turkey

Let me introduce Colin. He attacks almost anything I move in my (his) back yard. The best part is when I walk down to the back gate past his mound and he kicks leaves all over me. He also pecks the wheels on the mower, drags the hose around and even goes for palm fronds, as seen above. Can anyone send me a photo of NowhereBob?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Perils of Poor Planning

The highly organised (and esteemed) Quokka arranged breakfast this morning for some Burgers at the Pancake Manor. The food was fine and the company excellent, but due to an inexplicable error by the staff, everyone who ordered coffee was given instead some deeply unpleasant liquid which most of us found undrinkable. (Quokka ordered tea. Just saying.) Photos follow, except for Monster Yuppy who left early to catch up on his housework - something about dusting his credenza?

Janet, Quokka, Morgana
The New-Look Mayhem
The long-suffering Fifi & Greybeard
Empty plates, full coffees - says it all

The planning problem came later when we had a "where are you" call from the Degenerate Dining Club for lunch. We thought a hearty breakfast, a food-free rest and Xmas in July 70's themed dinner would be fine. But no, it was for High Noon and as usual the DDC had catered for 2.5x the number of actual diners. Of course we could have skipped a course or two, but they're all such damned good cooks. Rita had done a fantastic job, with tinsel, stockings, antlers, Santa caps, hideous rotating festive musical devices and an amusing dog. The star-shaped place-card-cum-chokkie-boxes were particularly, um, 70's. Peter clearly needed nourishment after last weeks heart surgery and did more than his share. Much more. Personally I don't believe they gave him a bionic stomach.

Between courses. Fi, Phil & Jenni

Bionic Peter, Jenni, Horrified Greg, Barbara, Phil, Antlered Fi

UNFINISHED (I'm away to bed without any supper, and possibly no breakfast)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to Deal with your Zombie Problem - in Australia

I’ve been inspired by the redoubtable Mr Barnes[1] to add a small monograph on dealing with Zombies for the average Australian. As he has said, the recent development of artificial life in the form of bacteria with completely synthetic DNA means that the rise of Zed and the Zombie Apocalypse cannot be far away. Much has been written on this topic from the American viewpoint but we are unlikely to have access to pump-action shotguns or indeed the apparently limitless supply of handguns found in the USA. We must therefore manage with what is at hand. This paper describes weapons which are legal in all states except Victoria. If you live there, you must either emigrate or rely on running very, very fast indeed. Or be the kind of Victorian whose family appears in Underbelly[2].

(Each useful implement or "weapon" has been rated on a scale of 0 to 10 because a “1” might imply that they could possibly be of some use, however limited. Because different weapons are better suited to some environments than others, explanatory comments have also been appended. Illustrations include a matchbox for scale. (This should not be taken as an endorsement of Redhead products.))

For simplicity I have assumed that Zed will arise in the night and that the morning of the Apocalypse will find us at home. Or at someone's home anyway. The unprepared will probably dress and set off for the station to catch the 7:40 to Central, unaware that Mrs Griggs at the corner is now an undead monster with a lust for cerebellar gooeyness.  They are doomed. Worse, they will add to the Z problem faced by the rest of us. Some may think to reduce this problem by preemptively beheading neighbours who show Z-like tendencies (I'm looking at you, Q). I do not recommend this, unless of course you have a foolproof method of body disposal. For example, it might be possible to conceal two or even three Irish backpackers in a single mildewed mattress during a kerbside pickup.

But I digress. If you are in the habit of checking news reports and your immediate neighbourhood for signs of Z, you're off to a good start. Now your first impulse will probably be to close windows, lock doors and arm yourself before even considering where to loot. This is good, but what if Z is already in the house or battering mindlessly at your pathetically fragile modern doors? In this case you must arm yourself immediately and destroy the invader!

Household objects, useless     Score = 0/10

Seriously, if this is all you have, take off your clothes, squirt steak sauce on your head and run outside shouting “Here I am, eat me!”[3] 

You really must do better than this. 

Strictly speaking the boot knife may not be one of your household objects but there are all kinds of families, eh? Note, this not the kind of Smith and Wesson which will help you in a Zed attack.

Household objects, marginally useful     Score 1/10 – 2/10

Now these are better but far from adequate. If you have only one old, slow Z to deal with, you might be lucky enough to reach the brain. Otherwise, practice your screaming and shambling.

Household objects, Marginal to Fair

Getting better. You have a real chance with some of these, assuming a reasonable speed and skill on your part. Chain saws frankly aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Unless they have a long bar, plenty of fuel and you have the upper-body strength to swing one around – forget it. Use the fuel for fire, transport or a generator.

Electric Chainsaw         Score 3/10

Little electrics like the one shown will sever gray, livid arms, grasping with blind malevolence through your boarded-up windows. Until the power fails.

Short Axe   Score 5/10

This is short but very sharp and heavy; nasty in confined spaces – a bit like me. Given a longer haft, this would be a 7/10

Household objects,  Fair to Good

Now we’re talking! Note that these weapons give you some reach so you can avoid those rotting teeth and the virus-laden saliva that oozes around them.
Sledge.        Score 6/10

Brush-hook.        Score 6/10

Axe.  Score 7/10

“Real” Weapons

In the words of Max Brooks, “shotguns are fine, but blades don’t run out of bullets”. Nevertheless we must consider several points about the blade (sorry).
  • To “kill” the Zombie, one must destroy the brain, though beheading is acceptable if the head itself is avoided. So the blade must enable us to reach the festering mass of hunger and rage-filled synapses and disrupt it, without getting bitten. Length is important!
  • Disabling a Zombie by the removal of, or severe damage to the limbs is very helpful. Hence a cutting edge is preferred, with one exception shown below.

Ideally then, we need a long, sharp blade which can lop limbs or heads or split a skull with equal ease. As we will see, not all blades are created equal – let the buyer beware!

Sabre (German, 1900-1918).           Score 5/10

Why so low? A nice sword surely but too light and too short. De-limbing and beheading would take more skill and strength than most of us possess.


Sabre (British, early 20th C).  Score 6.5/10

Longer and heavier, excellent bell hilt for bite protection and face-punching. Older readers may remember when “Wilkinson Sword” was a brand of razor blade. How are the mighty fallen. This is a Wilkinson sword, by Henry Wilkinson of Pall Mall, by appt, etc.

Cutlass (modern but “real”). Score 5.5/10

Sharp and strong. Pity it isn’t longer but surprisingly good at maiming and the removal of digits. No home should be without one.

Foil (French, Leon Paul)        Score 1/10 for novices, 7/10 for fencers.

A skilled fencer (hi Sarah) could put down Zeds all day with this little sweetie. Light as a feather and much better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Unless you happen to be one of the undead, in which case it’s far, far worse.


Two-handed sword (Modern but decent steel)  Score 9/10

This will cut a pig in half assist greatly in the early stages of the preparation of meat products. Flexible enough to bend into a semicircle, sharp and pointy. Best of all, it’s stylish and will discourage other survivors from messing with your stuff.


And a Personal Favourite - the Halberd  Score 9/10

This little sweetie has a shorter than usual haft for those confined indoor spaces, while giving a wide swing to keep the Life-Challenged at a respectful distance. The long terminal (love that word) spear can wreck that virus-driven Zed brain while both sides have skull-piercing spikes. Until the Apocalypse, just leave it near the front door in case of unwanted callers, in-laws etc.


Garbage Warning! Imitation, so-called weapons.

I bought this on the Net for $20-odd just to have an example of this trash. Otherwise it’s hard to explain to people the difference between a sword and a vaguely sword-shaped piece of cheap, low quality metal that tossers buy in fantasy shops. If you bend this “Sword of Zorro” just a little – very easy incidentally – it stays bent. Absolute rubbish. Avoid at all costs.

Still to come:
  • Turning your home into a lethal fortress
  • Convincing the examining doctors of your sanity
  • Escaping from a straitjacket
  • Looting - Brand-name or No-name. Should You Care?
  • Your Post-Apocalyptic Garden - Rose thorns can slow Zombies with careful planting
  • Potassium Hydroxide, Methanol and Zombie fat - make "true" Biodiesel which will run almost any unmodified engine.

[1] Watching, waiting, prepared.
[2] If you are reading this and your Victorian family was immortalised in “Underbelly” – well done you! No offense intended. Have a nice day.
[3] If for some perverse reason you should decide to practise this, choose your location carefully. Such behaviour is considered mildly eccentric in, say, West End, but may place you in immediate mortal danger in, say, Ipswich.

This graphic from a better man I stole . . .

Finally, a way to put the love and use of Meat in Scientific terms

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Conroy's Filter - Public Service Announcement

May I recommend Startpage Australia to anyone who finds the Conroy filter insulting, demeaning or ominous?

This is a Netherlands-based meta-search engine* from the company Ixquick. It claims to be the most private search engine in the world by deleting user IP addresses after searching, using SSL encryption and using an integrated proxy to anonymise all traffic linked through search results. In other words, if you search for "euthanasia help" through this engine, your IP address (and thus your identity) is not revealed to any site which you access by directly following the search page link. If you bookmarked that page and later followed the bookmark, your personal IP address would be visible to that site.The proxy part also means that your ISP - which will have to apply Conroy's filter - can't see your search terms and therefore can't block or record them. Proxies apparently work to circumvent China's Great Firewall as well as the Conroy Wall of Ignorance.

The European privacy consortium, EuroPriSe, found Ixquick deleted all non-personal information within 14 days, and awarded the company its first ICT-focused privacy seal in 2008, so this isn't like Facebook. They really seem to provide privacy.

No doubt there will be any number of ways of brushing aside this ludicrous filter but if enough people use this one, they may put their servers in Australia, thus improving its speed.

*Meta-search simply means that they submit your search terms to Google, Yahoo, Bing, Altavista, uncle Tom Cobleigh and all, and send back to you a summary of the results. Sorry if you knew that already. You can go back and unread the first sentence of this para if you're a fellow geek. Actually, if you apply that recursively, this would be the only sentence left and a very confusing one at that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Animals of Chelmer

So I get these two phone calls, pretty early & about five minutes apart. First one's a software problem (typical, the room's full of other people's PC's & laptops getting some TLC) and the second is the dear little old lady across the street, who has yet another snake problem. And I realise that for 30+ years, I've been fixing exactly these two types of problem, sometimes for the same people or organisations, though never at the same time. I seem doomed to be half mongoose, half nerd. So I thought I'd put up some snaps of  a few beasties I've known, removed or nursed to health.

This was the latest. A little carpet python from her garden shed.

Kind of cute, so I set it to guard the avocado tree.
 Now you see that hole there? That's yer problem. And yer see how he's all folded up like a spring? Well that means he's about to . . .

Um, yeah. OK, you probably shouldn't do that.

Now this one is a little bigger, though still a harmless carpet.

And these photos turn out to take forever to upload, so I'll resize some, add a few non-carpets, and get back.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Flash! Man Flu Exists!

It would appear, O possessors of the XX (aka Double-crossers) that we were right all along. The men of the planet await your apologies - collectively or en mass.

As it says on Spike Milligan's tombstone - "See, I told you I was sick"

iPad needs a new word?

Hmm, The Sun, The Australian and the Courier Mail as paid apps? I'm thinking Tabletoid Journalism.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A small Burger Breakfast

Menus here:

Your booking has been confirmed with Lock n Load (Westend)

Booking Confirmation (27UU)

Lock n Load (Westend) 
Mr Greg Randolph 
Sunday 28 March 10 
9:00 AM 
0412 xxxxxx
If anyone else can come (and all Burgers and Insignificant Others are welcome), leave a message here and I'll try to increase the numbers. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Attacks on Scientology

So Senator Nick Xenophon won't let up on Scientology eh? Xeno-phon or Xenu-phon? Coincidence? I think not!

This is also a little experiment. Do Scientology's enforcers troll the web for negative comments? Do they still put rattlesnakes in your letterbox? Does L Ron Hubbard's fiction stink, even unto high heaven - and I include the ludicrous Dianetics in his fictional oeuvre?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Blogs, Forums, Mailing Lists, Clubs and any other human collection

This is from 1996 when I was on quite a few tech & history mailing lists. Kind of the ancestor of the blog. Not my own work.

 Every list seems to go through the same cycle:

 1.  Initial enthusiasm (people introduce themselves, and gush a lot about how wonderful it is to find kindred souls).

 2.  Evangelism (people moan about how few folks are posting to the list, and brainstorm recruitment strategies).

 3.  Growth (more and more people join, more and more lengthy threads develop, occasional off-topic threads pop up).

 4.  Community (lots of threads, some more relevant than others; lots of information and advice is exchanged; experts help other experts as well as less experienced colleagues; friendships develop; people tease each other; newcomers are welcomed with generosity and patience; everyone -- newbie and expert alike -- feels comfortable asking questions, suggesting answers, and sharing opinions).

 5.  Discomfort with diversity (the number of messages increases dramatically; not every thread is fascinating to every reader; people start complaining about the signal-to-noise ratio; person 1 threatens to quit if *other* people don't limit discussion to person 1's pet topic; person 2 agrees with person 1; person 3 tells 1 & 2 to lighten up; more bandwidth is wasted complaining about off-topic threads than is used for the threads themselves; everyone gets annoyed).

 6a. Smug complacency and stagnation (the purists flame everyone who asks an 'old' question or responds with humor to a serious post; newbies are rebuffed; traffic drops to a doze-producing level of a few minor     issues; all interesting discussions happen by private email and are limited to a few participants; the purists spend lots of time self-righteously congratulating each other on keeping off-topic threads off the list).

 6b. Maturity (a few people quit in a huff; the rest of the participants stay near stage 4, with stage 5 popping up briefly every few weeks; many people wear out their second or third 'delete' key, but the list lives contentedly ever after).
I used to bail out at 5, unless it was something I needed to stick with for professional purposes. Sometimes I think the Blunty/Burger blogs are creeping towards 6a. Hope not. Nothing much about online communities  has changed though, even since the 80's and strange things called "Bulletin Boards". We're still people.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Trip to Sydney - or - There and Back Again

Whew - little visit from the dog there. Now that I've got Global Warming pushed to the back of my brain again, something more cheerful. Unless you're Nowhere Bob.

The Woman of My Dreams decided a while back to go and see her Baby Brother in Sydney. As she is the captain of Starship Greybeard she needed only to turn to me, nod firmly and say the magic words "make it so, Number 2". I have never had the courage to ask her why she calls me that. I fear that I might not like the answer. Nevertheless & obedient as always I arranged flights and accommodation for us and her parents. Fortunately our driver picked us from the airport in good time and took us to the corner of an abandoned warehouse in Crown St until it was time for our show.

It was a brilliant idea on my part to employ a local guide, if I say so myself. Parking in that area of Sydney is absolutely appalling. I can't understand why they don't put a decent multistory carpark in that wasted green space near the Opera House. No vision these politicians. Our guide however knew a great place to park, right under those big front steps. The problem would be getting past the guards. Surely (I thought) they would allow a famous & well loved Holy Man to drive right in? Yes!

I did consider becoming the corpulent cleric Ayatollah Bin Lahdi, but that was too close to the Chasers stunt and I don't think that "lovable" was in his job description. But what of His Holiness the Dahlia Llama? Swiftly applying my amazing powers of disguise (for an explanation, see my forthcoming book "Seven Years among the Thespians") I transformed into the popular Tibetan. We drove confidently through the various barriers as I dispensed inane smiles, waves and blessings to all and sundry, and parked just outside the door. To be honest, our guide's appearance didn't help. With wild hair, tatts and sunnies he looked more like an off-duty rock star than a suitable chauffeur. Luckily my deception carried the day and I forgave him.

The performance was quite pleasant, if a little loud, and featured the works of the late J R (Johnny) Cash. I actually found my toes tapping at some points. The audience leaped about, shouting, clapping and whistling so I presume they were enjoying themselves according to the mores of their own culture. Our guide had provided excellent seats (local knowledge!) at the centre of the theatre, and just a couple of rows back - so as not to be sprinkled by the perspiration of the performers apparently. The nice people at the box office refused payment for the tickets, presumably as they recognised us as tourists.

After the entertainment our guide took us back to rest for a while. Just as the pangs of hunger began to bite he and his charming family ushered us to a delightful Italian place where we ate and drank rather too much for many an hour. And so to bed, rising thence to fly back to dear old Brisbane, cheerful despite our dreadful headaches - no doubt due to Sydney's suspect water quality. The moral of this tale is clear. If you must travel to strange parts and far off places, it is essential to find a first-class local guide to steer you past the pitfalls. I tipped him as we left and the poor fellow was absolutely speechless. And Bob? I told him about you and the "nemesis" business and he said something about "wishing you luck". Can't think what he meant?