Taking over the world

April 12th, 2011

I occasionally hear people, particularly SF readers, speculating on whether the internet will ever become sentient as has been the case in several SF works. In extreme cases it has been known to take over the world.

I have tried to explain that, the way it works today, this ain’t going to happen but to little avail.

For these people, therefore, I have recorded a typical machine conversation. Only the hostnames have been changed to protect the innocent…

Fred: are you still there George?
George: yes, I’m here. how about you Fred?
Fred: yes, I’m here
Fred: are you still there, George?
George: yes, I’m here. how about you Fred?
Fred: yes, I’m here
Fred: I’ve got a packet here for Bruce
George: give it here. I’ll pass it on to Ralph – he can deliver it
Fred: are you still there George?
George: yes, I’m here. how about you Fred?
Fred: yes, I’m here
George: Bruce said his packet never arrived
Fred: I’ll ask Charlie to send it again.
George: Ralph must have dropped it
Fred: again! he’s not very reliable
George: next time I’ll give it to Charlie to deliver
Fred: are you still there George?
George: yes, I’m here. how about you Fred?
Fred: yes, I’m here
Fred: I’ve got a packet here for Bruce
George: give it here. I’ll pass it on to Charlie – he can deliver it
Fred: are you still there George?
George: yes, I’m here. how about you Fred?
Fred: yes, I’m here

Frankly, I don’t think we have much to worry about.

Strange Business Model

February 15th, 2011

Sometimes I just don’t understand the way people run their businesses. Let me explain.

Usually I catch the train into work but, just occasionally, I need to drive in. Parking is hard to find but I discovered an abandoned building site – at least, it has been advertising new office space for years and nothing has happened – where you could just drive in and park. The ground was rough but it was free.

A couple of months ago, someone erected a small shed and started to charge people to get in. Either the owners had finally caught on or else it was a brilliant piece of private enterprise. Regardless, it was fair enough. At eight dollars it was still cheaper than the council-provided spaces.

In fact, the money was pretty irrelevant. What mattered was that, although the place was always nearly full there was nevertheless always room for one more. This was immensely valuable to someone who tends to get in a little late when all the public spots are full.

So. Last week, I was driving in and pulled up at the little shed with eight dollars in my hand. Sorry, says the man on the gate, we’re not allowing casual parking anymore. You have to pay for an entire month.

I will confess to having boggled. The huge area that was normally covered in cars was nearly empty as the following photo shows. Obviously they had been turning us away in droves at vast expense to themselves.

I think it was the stupidity of the whole thing that really got to me. If they had come up with some scathingly brilliant idea which involved my being turned away I would have been forced to admire it.

As it was, they are costing themselves well over one thousand dollars a day and absolutely everyone is worse off. Even the council didn’t make any more out of it because all their spots were already full. I ended up parking miles away.

I have been caught by this sort of thing before. I try and plan my life around everyone acting in their own best interests and sometimes people just insist on shooting themselves in the foot. Sigh.


February 15th, 2011

There is a place fairly near us that does "Reverse Garbage" which is a place where you get rid of old bits of things without paying a dumping fee and where you can go and cheaply buy things that people have dumped.

Robert has been having fun building marble rolls and Rube Goldberg machines recently so we took him along to buy some cheap bits of tubing and anything else that might be of use. While we were there, we spotted a rather dusty-looking pedal organ.

Click on the image for a high res version

A brief examination showed that it was still more or less working. The keyboard was intact and the various stops went in and out smoothly and it made a melodious noise when you pumped the pedals and pressed some keys. In fact, apart from a few dents it looked pretty good.

The price tag said $180. This seemed to us to be a ludicrously low amount of money so we bought it before anyone else found it. For another $20 we had it delivered and, two days later, it has arrived.

It was made by the Estey Organ Company in Vermont and imported by Naylor and Co. Estey (est. 1846) are apparently a well-respected brand and their better pieces can end up in museums.

This is not one of their major works of art but it looks pretty nice and, as far as we can guess, dates to somewhere around 1920 +/- 10 years. Our piano tuner also mends organs and will be coming around to check it out in a few weeks. He may be able to tell us more.

At the moment we are basking in the warm glow of what we believe to be a great bargain. And, even if it isn’t, we’re only down $200 and have a nice looking bit of furniture. Hard to go wrong really.

Paul is Dead

October 30th, 2010

Alas, Paul the Psychic Octopus is dead. The tentacled oracle, who successfully predicted the results of all Germany’s results in the World Cup finals, is no more. The Society of Psychic Cephalopods is mourning the demise of one of its finest members.

In a not uncommon confusion of cause and effect, many Germans blamed Paul for their loss in the final. In Spain, contrariwise, he became a national hero.

Paul even has his own Wikipedia page.

The conspiracy theorists have, of course, come out of the woodwork. A common theory is that another octopus was substituted for Paul who is still alive and living in luxurious retirement on the Costa del Sol.

Others suggest that a disgruntled German soccer fan poured poison into his tank from a hollowed out umbrella. Still others support the “lone spear-fisher” theory, in spite of the fact that the corpse had no visible injuries. Possibly the CIA was involved.

Unfortunately, it is probably true that the ashes of the cremated Octopus vulgaris are, in fact, Paul’s mortal remains.

R.I.P. Paul, 26th October 2010. No flowers by request.

Brolga’s Knees

September 10th, 2010

Pamela had to have day-surgery on a knee at the Westmead Private Hospital. It is a fairly simple keyhole procedure known as an arthroscopy which always sounds to me like they put little spiders into your knee but I suspect it isn’t quite like that. Mind you, they do it under a general anesthetic so it’s hard to be sure.

It took longer than we expected so I sat and drank coffee in their enormous cafe/atrium area. It has a nice statue of brolgas to look at to pass the time.

Click on the image for a high res version

At least being a private hospital it had decent coffee.

After two days, Pamela is walking again. Wonderful stuff, modern medicine.

Sceptic System

July 18th, 2010

I really am a sucker for unintentionally humorous signs. Here’s another one I found in a restaurant near Gosford:

Talk about having your mind in the sewer…


May 22nd, 2010

Just a couple of signs I couldn’t resist sharing.

Kinder to Year 12

Being kinder to Year 12 is good. But this sort of implies they are meaner to Year 11 which is bad. Very confusing.

door closed

This one from work (company logo removed). I don’t see the point of it. If the door is closed then the sign is redundant. If the door is open then the sign is wrong. Under what circumstances could this possibly be useful?

These little things amuse my small mind.

Misty Mountains Cold

March 16th, 2010

As per last year, Pamela and I went up to Katoomba for the Blue Mountains Music Festival, an annual shindig devoted to folk/jazz/blues. Robert went off to stay with a friend so we had the weekend to ourselves. It was, of course, wet and freezing but that’s Katoomba for you.

The standout act for us this year was Truckstop Honeymoon, a husband and wife act playing banjo, guitar (him) and acoustic bass (her) and both of them singing. The name apparently came from the fact that they ended up spending their wedding night at the Tiger Truck Stop, somewhere between Lafayette and the Atchafalya Swamp.

They have four kids, who they usually take on tour with them (!) and many of their songs resonate with anyone who has children. Songs about marriage, families and life on the road. Classic stuff.

We also caught:

ℵ a group call Mojo Juju and the Snake Oil Merchants who do a sort of 1920’s speakeasy grunge jazz which was a lot of fun.

Dougie Maclean, a Scottish singer who is married to one of Pamela’s vast collection of cousins. Good Scottish folk music.

ℵ Vince Jones, a well-known Australian jazz musician, who was disappointing. Twenty to thirty years ago he was at the vanguard of jazz in Australia; now he comes across as an old man stuck in the past. He sang a number of self-composed protest songs which, although dealing with modern problems, were stuck in the now slightly embarrassing attitudes of the sixties and seventies.

Genticorum – a trio from Quebec who played and sang in the Québécois musical folk traditions. Flute, guitar, fiddle and a rhythm provided by the fiddle player by stamping with his feet while sitting down. This is apparently traditional and was surprisingly effective. They sang everything in French and although they explained it all beforehand, I prefer my lyrics in English. They were good though.

The James Valentine Quartet. James Valentine is an ABC radio host as well as a jazz musician and Pamela knew him quite well during her stint at the ABC so we had to go along. He plays the sax and plays it well and, once he got into the jazz standards and away from the more experimental stuff, was excellent.

There were a few other acts we would have liked to catch but we were pretty exhausted – there has been a lot of unrelated stuff in our lives lately – and ended up napping on the Saturday afternoon. Good fun, albeit rather wet and cold. But what’s a music festival without a little rain?

Grow Down

March 8th, 2010

I got this fabulous present for Christmas, which consisted of about 300 paper airplanes. Each day you get the instructions for building a plane, plus a sheet of paper printed with the appropriate markings. I have taken the kit to work and produce planes daily.

Some fly better than others; some are tricky to make; some are very odd shapes; and some are just beautiful. The one at the bottom left, called Moth, is one of my favourites but others include jets, bi-planes and spaceships. I don’t peek ahead so I have no idea what new designs are still to come.

Here are the first 30 examples:

click on the image for a larger version

The only problem I have, and I still have trouble believing this, is that none of my cow-orkers have any interest in playing with them. I mean, how can anyone just sit there when these terrific-looking planes are being thrown? It’s weird.

One of them even said something along the lines of, if your son was here he would tell you to grow up. I’m proud to say that Robert would do nothing of the sort and would be throwing planes around as fast as he possibly could.

It is a very bad sign for a software group when no-one is prepared to play anymore. I mean, what’s the point of being a programmer if life has stopped being fun? I am already looking around for another job.

Anyway, I have just one thing to say to these people:

Grow down! Look where growing up has got you.

Night of the Living Dead

February 13th, 2010

My apologies to anyone looking for information about the movie. I just had to share this sign from our local church.

Occasionally they show movies in the graveyard. This one shows that at least someone there has a sense of humour.

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