Barnaby no cardboard cutout pollie

Thank goodness for that.

I get Barnaby's sense of humour.  But, according to Barnaby, the Canberra Press Gallery doesn't like the terms he uses - terms that people on the street could understand. "Apparently that is more contemptible than giving the cardboard cut-out answer," he said.

The Queensland senator yesterday accused journalists of speaking a language that he dubbed "lingua Canberra" and of marginalising him for spurning their tongue and communicating as an average person.

He also compared Parliament House to a boarding school inhabited by people whose idea of what was important had virtually no relevance to the community.

"I'm not painted in the colours that they like," Senator Joyce told The Australian yesterday.

Senator Joyce said that, although Kevin Rudd had mastered the art of talking without saying anything, he would never embrace a similar style and would remain authentic.

Link here

Go Barnaby

The results are in.....

Well, well, well... it seems my brain was OK after all.
You see I did a sleep study test last week, you may recall I posted a picture of wires stuck on all the important parts of my body.
The results are in – severe OSA (obstructive sleep apnoea). 
Paula wasn’t surprised.  She has been complaining about the way I sleep for a fair while now.
I asked the doc how  this condition manifests itself.  He mentioned things like poor sleep, poor concentration, poor memory, falling asleep during the day, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight gain..... hang on a minute – I do have all those things, but weight gain?  Geez, and here’s me thinking all along that it was all the result of eating unhealthy foods; and lack of exercise! 
Now I have an excuse.
There were five of us doing the test at the same time.  I recall the nurse saying that they woke me up last because  I was sleeping so soundly – I thought I was too until the readings showed that my oxygen desaturation was down to 66%.  It should be around 95%
The report shows that I have severe respiratory related sleep fragmentation.  Whatever  that means.
Oh, and my PLM index is 95.4. 
Beat that you peasants!
I have to go back and see them......

Kelly's OK

I often tune in to QandA, you know, the panel show where the contestants and audience pick on the token conservative.

Well I was impressed with Kelly O'Dwyer, the Member for Higgins - Costello's old seat.  It was refreshing to hear this young politician speak her mind so open and freely.

I wish her well.

I might write to her and suggest she lose the Bronwyn Bishop look.

Change, Emo Change, and Mass Movements

In my day job I sometimes get involved in change, and change is hard to do well, at least for me. I puzzle over what are the factors that make change difficult. On the other hand, some situations make people (jihadis, for instance) eager to die for change and I wonder what separates these two very different responses. Why is it so hard to implement, for example, a new computer procedure but so easy for a Philadephia single mother to become Jihad Jane and join forces with assassins? What do the Sheiks (or the Nazis, or the Communists) know about managing change that I might benefit from?

In the last few weeks I've finished two books, each dealing with Change in their own way. One was written by a Ph.D., the other by a self-educated longshoreman, and I've enjoyed them both.

In Managing Transitions, William Bridges (Ph.D.) writes about the emotional impact of change and suggests that before people accept change they need to go through the emotional phases of transition: grieving the ending of the previous "normal", a chaotic empty neutral zone, followed by a willingness to come to terms with the "new normal".

Bridges goes on to point out that as the speed of change increases, people are increasingly dealing with multiple changes, each in their own phase - so that rather than dealing with one transitional phase in isolation, people are simultaneously in multiple endings, nuetral zones, and beginnings.

This was an interesting book, I've tended to see it as the "emo-change" book in the way it focuses on the emotional implications of change. It's certainly a balancing read for technoquants who see change management as a merely technical exercise.

While Bridges describes change as something difficult that people are adverse to, the second book discusses how and why people sometimes embrace major changes. In The True Believer, Eric Hoffer discusses the nature of mass movements in which people eagerly seek change.

Eric Hoffer is an interesting study himself. Born into a working class family, he went blind at age seven. When his sight returned at 15, his fear of returning blindness prompted him to read voraciously. He became a migrant worker, living "between the books and the brothels". When called an intellectual, he insisted that he was a longshoreman.

Hoffer's book The True Believer talks about a situation in which people embrace radical change: the mass movement. He analyses the motivations that cause people to seek massive change, and explains that it is people with poor self-esteem that initially support mass movements, and that for them their membership in a movement is more important than the goals of the movement.

Hoffer's book is brilliant. Written in 1951, it explains both al Queda and the Obama presidential campaign. He analyzes the reasons that some seek big change (low self-esteem, frustration, no creative outlet) and the reasons that some people are impervious to movements (high self-esteem, individual identity, a fully formed personality).

He charts the leadership of movements from the men of words, to the fanatics, to the men of action, and finally to the administrators. In Hoffer's book, which is quite non-political, resistance to change is attibuted to people who are people who are fully formed individuals - and apathy to change is attributed to people struggling for survival.

My take-aways from Hoffer's book are (1) marveling at the philosopher and (2) re-appraisal of resistance to change. Perhaps it's a good thing that some people are resistant to change, and perhaps those in that category are among our best people.

Maybe change shouldn't be easy. Maybe initiators should have to justify it, earn it, and work it.

Tweed Ride Pittsburgh 4/03 at 3pm

Tweed Bike Ride PittsburghPittsburgh's Premier Tweed Ride, Saturday April 3rd, 2010, 3pm.

The Tweed Ride starts at Doughboy Square (the confluence of Penn Ave and Butler St) and continues to Piper’s Pub on the South Side.

Pittsburgh's Tweed Ride is sponsored by ClankWorks (more on them shortly).

What is a Tweed Ride? A Tweed Ride is a bicycle ride featuring riders wearing traditional tweed garments rather than lycra or spandex; the bicycles are often older models; and if we're lucky, someone will bring along a penny-farthing bike.

Tweed rides have recently been seen in San Francisco, DC, and Los Angeles. Here's a photo from the November LA Tweed Ride:
LA Tweed Ride

Photo from the recent Washington DC Tweed Ride:
DC tweed bike ride

This leaves me with two questions:
1. Can I find a tweed sweater?
2. Is there such a thing as black-and-gold Tweed?
Do you pay cash money for someone to wash your car?

I have been paying people to wash my car for years and usually they do half a job because their mates show up so all they focus on is what you owe them and off they go leaving you to chamois the windows and paint the tyres black.

Today I paid $29 for someone to vacuum and wash the ute. I must be outa my mind.

But wait, let’s consider the alternative – me. Yep I’m pretty good at washing cars, even if the back complains. I stopped washing the car on the lawn at home because it was seen as wasteful. There is a washityaself place down the road, so I used to go there and spend $10 and do it myself.  I say 'used to' as I go to this other place now.

So is the 29 bucks for someone to wash your car extravigant?

Let’s break it down. For this amount of money I get the ute washed, dried and vacuumed. I also get a free mug of coffee; and I get to read the papers. So let’s deduct this from the total. Coffee is $3.80 and the two Sunday papers is $3.60. The net cost then is $21.60.

But there are other benefits to this activity on a Sunday morning. Today the boss was away and his wife runs the coffee part of the joint. As I walked in I was leaning over a bit, like an old bloke, to ease the back a little. In front of me were two young blokes, about 10 years of age. I deduced that one was her son. When she turned to serve me I started. “Where’s the big ugly bloke?’ I asked. I didn’t quite understand what she said (did I tell you that my hearing aids went through the wash?) but her demeanour suggested she enjoyed the joke. That was take one.

Take two. “This young bloke here is the reason my back’s sore.” Her demeanour changed, she looked worried - I guess she thought I was complaining about her son, which I was. “When I hopped out of the ute I saw this young bloke here and he was so ugly that he gave me a fright and I cricked my back!” I had everyone laughing. I was on a roll.

Take three. There I was sitting at the table reading the Sunday Telegraph on a beautiful Sunday morning when she came over with my coffee. “Did you put sugar in that?” I asked.

“What? There’s the sugar on the table right there,” as she pointed to the sugar satchels.

“Oh, OK, I’ll have to do it myself then!” I said in a complaining manner that us men are good at.

That’s when she hit me with the table cloth.

Social interaction on a Sunday morning ... priceless!

Oh, the ute looks great.....

SMH - Australian soldiers could be charged over Afghanistan raid

Gee, someone in the military is still assessing this case and we end up with a  headline like this

Let's look at some facts.

Our boys were sent on a mission to get a Taliban leader.
They were fired upon.
They retaliated, and some kids, as well as a grown up, were killed.

The rot needs to end now.

Are we at war or not?  Give our boys a definite maybe or something.

I mean this place is just a peace lovin' group of terrorists.  Yeah.  So much so, that when SBS did a hatchet job on this story, their reporters didn't actually attend the scene because it was TOO  BLOODY DANGEROUS!!!

Bring our boys home now.

No wait, send lawyers along with them - you know, the ones held bent on prosecuting our boys.  And maybe SMH and SBS reporters should be embedded with our troops as well.

Remember our boys are there because we sent them there.

Lefy media darlings seem to have a need to report any controversial incident as told to them by our enemies, yet at the same time they are too scared to go and find out the facts, first hand, for themselves.

Cowards, and they snipe at our boys from the safety of their media bunker here in Australia.

When journalists are embedded with soldiers their view of the world changes.  David Finkel did this in Iraq in 2007.  His book "The Good Soldiers" is a must read.  You won't be the same after you read it - oh, you will still abhor war, as I do.  But you will understand why we should not send our young men off to war unless we give them the resources, along with our support, that they need to win the bloody war!

"War is hell, decent men are often called to fight it, and their story is intrinsically worth telling." David Finkel 

I have a vested interest in the Afghan war.  My son is an infantry soldier who will be deployed there soon.


Live RPG removed from soldier
Beijing, which strictly censors the Internet and other media, has launched a crackdown on "illegal short messages", state media has reported.

Let's say you are a Fortune 2000 company. You make software, you sell consulting services, and you dabble in hardware. You're doing well. Here's a hypothetical question:
Communist China offers you $50 million to develop software that can be used to track comments on web forums and to track the sender and receiver of "spam" email. To them, "spam" means anti-government, anti-harmony, the sort of thing that the people should be protected from.
  • Do you sell the government the software?
  • Do you choose to not sell the software?
If you're IBM, you sell them the software.

Tom Watson Would Be Proud

Grandpa would have been proud. This is the same company that sold the Nazi's the information system that automated the Holocaust. From Wikipedia:

IBM's subsidiary Dehomag sold the Third Reich unit record equipment and data processing technology and services. IBM played an integral administrative part in the systematic genocide of the European Jewish community from 1939 to 1944, by helping the Nazis organize and coordinate their efforts toward gathering and organizing all available information about their victims.

Specifically, IBM leased their unit record (punched card) equipment and support services to the Third Reich, providing a significant help in dealing with the massive administrative task that was the 'Final Solution', with sizable profits for IBM. IBM denies that it had control over its subsidiaries after the Nazis took control of them. Researchers such as Edwin Black found that in addition to the Dehomag connection, a large amount of the technology arrived via "a subsidiary in Poland, Watson Business Machines in Warsaw, which reported directly to the IBM New York headquarters."

The poster at the right refers to the "Hollerith" machines that IBM provided the Nazi's. Hollerith was the US census official who developed the punch card, and later founded the company that became IBM.

I really liked Google's decision to cease self-censoring Chinese search results, and I like it a lot more now that I've read about IBM's helping to control the masses (again).
What can I say?

These are some of the people I do volunteer work with – helping war veterans and war widows in their dealings with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Is it any wonder that they desperately need me?

Modesty prevents me from saying that I am the main man!

ps The proper quote is - How can I soar like an eagle if I work with turkeys.  But if I wrote that about this lot I'd be in deep shit.

Why I like gum trees

Have a look at Kae's Blog

Kae is a highly opinionated young lady who seems to hold views similar to mine. 

In her latest blog she mention a tree - Eucalpyptus Ficifolia - and posts some great pictures of this fine species.  It just so happens that it is also a favourite of mine!

I have two growing at my current residence.

Now in the early 70s I lived in Mathoura where I worked with the Forestry Commission.  I was a clerk and part of my duties ( they called me 'THE BOY') was that I sold trees on behalf of the Forestry Nursery at Narrandera.  It was here that I found a fondness for certain native trees.

Here's why

E. Ficifolia......

E. Macrocarpa, known as rose of the west...

Hakea Laurina - pincushion hakea

And lastly, E. citriodora - it has a beautiful white bark.  I have one growing in Tumut.  Probably the only one there as they don't like frost - so I nursed it through its early stages.  It is now 15 feet tall.

At certain times of the year the leaves give off a citrus smell.  You can rub the leaves and get a nice scent from the tree.

ps, the Hakea is not a gum tree.

It's Official - Brain Found!

Google Chrome, Donald Knuth, $1337 and Leetsdale PA

Google has just presented its top prize of $1337 to Sergey Glazunov for identifying a significant security risk in the Chrome Browser.

Google encourages developers to identify security problems with the browser, awarding some with simple acknowledgements and geek bragging rights, while awarding others cash up to $1337 (for “particularly severe or particularly clever” bugs). They've just awarded their first full prize.

Google's incentive program is a homage to Donald Knuth, author of The Art of Computer Programming (TAOCP). Knuth used to pay a finder’s fee of $2.56 for any typographical errors or mistakes discovered in his books, because “256 pennies is one hexadecimal dollar”, and he paid $0.32 for “valuable suggestions”. Given his near-mythic status in geek circles, these checks were valued way above their monetary value; computer scientists with both a PhD and a Knuth check hanging on the wall would sooner take down the PhD. Knuth was crowdsourcing before we had the word (or the web).

Times change, and even honorifics must adapt. Rather than offering a reward of $2.56, which was considered clever as all get out when it was first introduced, Google choose a top award of $1,337.

That amount may not mean much to many, but to younger geeks 1337 is the equivalent of LEET, a sort of geek pig-latin in which numbers substitute for letters in words.
  • 0 can be used for O
  • 1 can be used for I (or L)
  • 2 can be used for Z (or R and Ä)
  • 3 can be used for E
  • 4 can be used for A
  • 5 can be used for S
  • 6 can be used for G (or B)
  • 7 can be used for T (or L)
  • 8 can be used for B
  • 9 can be used for P (or G and Q)

What is particularly interesting to me is that the Pittsburgh region is the home of our very own Leetsdale (or L33tsd4le or even £337$Ð4£3 depending on your denomination). Why there's no annual Leet/1337 Festival escapes me.

1937 Copenhagen Travelogue

This is a 1937 travelogue about Copenhagen. It's very early color film, remarkable footage. At about 6:15 the urban cycling gets excellent.

The movie is a snapshot of its time (as movies are), and reflects the race (in)sensitivity of 1937.

Imagine that ratio of bikes-to-cars in Pittsburgh today. Of course, there'd be no living 40 miles from your job, either.

Are we all helpless or something?

If you got free insulation installed in your home under the government scheme, you must be worried that there may be a timebomb ticking in your roof.  When is the government going to fix this?

Why wait for the government?  You've already got a $1500 gift in free insulation and now you want more to fix a problem that may not even exist?

I know what I'd do - I'd pay for an inspection myself!  Yep, I'd cough up my own dough.

A radical plan I know, but hey, I'm that kinda guy.

Google Fiber in Pittsburgh

Google Fiber in Pittsburgh
Google is going to select a North American city as a testbed for a new high-speed internet network, and Pittsburgh wants to be that city. There's a Post Gazette story, there's a Pittsburgh Google Fiber website, there's even a photo of Mayor Luke with a laptop in the paper:

Google Fiber Pittsburgh
Insert No Child Left Behind Joke Here

It would, of course, be wonderful if Pittsburgh were selected. Somebody did a very nice job on the website. In particular, I love the bottom-of-the-page icon:

Google Fiber in Pittsburgh: We've Reserved A Seat

I really like this. It's got the Pittsburgh parking chair thing going, the colors in the chair are woven through the site, this is just excellent.

Please consider clicking here and nominating Pittsburgh.
(Google account required n'at). (note: link updated)
I have written before about my appreciation of Venn Diagrams and all that they imply. This diagram from Indexed seems particularly trenchant:

Life in a Venn Diagram, Power Chair, and Me

So the Aeron space at the intersection of 40's and power chairs refers to Aeron chairs, once a symbol of dot-com cluelessness and arguably the most trendy power-chair for those who accumulate such things. The Rascal Scooter, on the other hand, at the intersection of 80's and power chairs, is an electric scooter for senior citizens.

And I - (I who have an Aeron in my office, and probably a recumbent trike if not an actual Rascal in my future) - I am somewhere on the spectrum, as indicated above, inexorably moving left-to-right, at what seems to be an increasing rate. To have one's life represented in such a manner!

Idempotence - Reliability that Works

In many cases of messaging where uncertainty is undesirable (e.g., a timeout on a critical transaction request), the usual solution sought is "reliable message delivery". Apart from its theoretical impossibility, "reliable messaging" is expensive. One needs "strong queuing" products, which cost a lot of money.

I've been a fan of a far simpler approach - idempotence. We're really not after reliable message delivery in most cases. We'd often be happy to settle for certainty, i.e., we don't mind whether a requested operation succeeded, failed (or indeed, timed out before it could be attempted), as long as we know what happened. What we don't want is to be stuck, not knowing what happened and afraid to retry the operation for fear of unwitting duplication.

Idempotence is, of course, the property that attempting something more than once has exactly the same effect as attempting it once. Idempotent operations can be blindly retried in a situation of uncertainty, because one is guaranteed that the operation will never be duplicated.

The trick is to identify every transaction request with a unique identifier. Provided the receiver of the message is set up to check the identifier against previously-used ones, duplication of transactions can be avoided even if requests are sent multiple times. This is extremely powerful because it allows a requesting application to simply retry the request message in situations of uncertainty until a definite response is eventually received. There is no danger of the request being acted upon more than once.

Reliability is then reduced to an endpoint-based protocol. It does not require any special capabilities on the part of the transport. In fact, the transport can afford to be quite unreliable. Idempotence allows reliable messaging solutions to be built (and quite cheaply at that) on top of unreliable components!

Here's a one-page document that illustrates the concept.

Hopefully this should make it very clear that we don't need strong queuing or "reliable message delivery" to eliminate uncertainty. A plain web server, a database and a system of one-time tokens (UUIDs?) can solve the problem.

Missing diggers found after 44 years

The remains of two Australian servicemen missing since 1966 in Indonesia have been found.

They have been identified as belonging to Special Air Service Patrolman Lieutenant Kenneth Hudson, from Brisbane, and Private Robert Moncrieff, from Newcastle.
The servicemen were on a border security operation during the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation when they were separated from their patrol.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Parliament a joint-investigation team from Australia and Indonesia had found their remains.
"For 44 years the families and loved ones of these two soldiers have been left with uncertainty," he said.
"Now their remains can be brought home to their final resting place in Australia.
"Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones today as we honour the service of Lieutenant Kenneth Hudson and Private Robert Moncrieff."
Meanwhile, the Federal Government is preparing to announce the identities of the remains of Australian soldiers discovered in a mass grave in northern France.
DNA tests have been carried out on the remains of 250 Australian and British soldiers who died in the 1916 Battle of Fromelles.
Mr Rudd told Parliament the Government was poised to announce the results of the tests.
"The Government is currently in the process of contacting the relevant families," he said.
"Obviously for the families involved this will be momentous news and we'll make a public statement once the families have been contacted."

Link from ABC here

Lieutenant Kenneth "Rock" Hudson, SAS, who was killed when he was swept away in a river crossing in March 1966, during operations in the Indonesian Confrontation.
Lt Hudson's remains were found in October 2009.
Private Robert Moncrieff, SAS, who was killed when he was swept away in a river crossing in March 1966, during operations in the Indonesian Confrontation.
Pte Moncrieff's remains were found in October 2009.

More information here

Hosko - a brave man

One of my Army boys, Mark Hoskinson, has just received a Commendation for Brave Conduct. An award conferred for an act of bravery that is worthy of recognition.  It is the fourth highest Australian Bravery Decoration.

I say one of my boys as I had a very good core group of soldiers while I was in Wagga with the Army Reserve - we still keep in touch.  These guys, like Hosko, are salt of the earth.  Hosko was a very good platoon sergeant - always willing to improve on what he was doing.  I remember chewing him out on more than one occassion.  He'd take in on the chin, bounce back, and do better next time.

You can't ask for more than that from an NCO.

This story is from Weekly Times Now

March 15, 2010
NSW Farmers Association grains committee chairman and Riverina farmer Mark Hoskinson has received a Commendation for Brave Conduct.

On December 21, 2007 Mr Hoskinson rescued six people stranded in rising floodwater at Kikoira near Ungarie, NSW.

In torrential rain and failing light, Mr Hoskinson rescued a mother and her three young children who were stranded in their car in a causeway.

High floodwater and strong currents caused water to flow over and throughhis four wheel drive vehicle and push it sideways.

Mr Hoskinson continued to drive on, reaching the neighbour’s property where he swapped his utility for a tractor.

The floodwaters intensified to the extent that the tractor was also pushed sideways with water penetrating the cabin.

Initially Mr Hoskinson was unable to locate the stranded vehicle or raise a response from its occupants on the telephone.

He persisted with the search in the dangerous conditions until the vehicle was found.

The family was still inside although water was lapping the windows and had seeped in under the doors.

Aligning the tractor with the car, Mr Hoskinson got the children and their mother out of the vehicle through the windows and into the cabin of the tractor and drove them to the safety of a nearby property.

Mr Hoskinson then received another call advising that two men who were also stranded in the floodwater which pushed their ute up against a tree.

He again drove the tractor and found them trapped with water up their windows. He placed a winch cable on their stranded vehicle and pulled them to safety.

A total of 44 people will receive the Commendation for Brave Conduct decoration but no one has been awarded the top honour, the Cross of Valour.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce has labelled them role models, saying it is a privilege to have them in our society.

"It is an honour to be able to thank them publicly for their brave actions," she said.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Australian honours system.
Onya Hosko
I've asked his wife, Helen, to send me a photo of the big ugly brute, these will do until I receive one.
My mind is racing big time to put a suitable caption here.  But due to respect for Hosko and his receiving the award, I'll bite my tongue.

Hosko sent me this photo, the years have not been kind, I wonder if that's the vehicle he rescued those people in?
Daddy was a star on The Dog Whisperer

Here was this 16 year old pit bull, you know, one of those agressive dogs that can't be trusted around kids, who changed my pereception of pit bulls - he was 'balanced' to use one of Cesar's terms.  Daddy's job was to sort out some of these troubled dogs that Cesar came across, and he did it with style.

Daddy would enter the backyard of a terrible nasty dog, completly ignore the other dog, sniff around here and there, mark some territory and then lay down.  The other dog didn't know what to do - but within a minute or so, they too were settled down and then they would become mates. Except that daddy was the boss.

I wish I had a dog like daddy.

This comment from Cesar's website sums up pretty well the love that people had for daddy...

I'm crying while typing this - i still cannot believe daddy is gone. i felt like i knew him. the most expressive face i've ever seen on a dog - i loved watching him help teach other dogs to become balanced. i especially loved how he looked at cesar - with such love and affection! what a dog - what a blessing. i wanted so much to meet daddy - just to hug him!!! and show him appreciation and affection of which he was so deserving!

my heart and prayers go out to the millans - you must miss daddy very much - i hope your love for him all these years can help ease your pain of having to say goodbye to him. you were all so very blessed - and daddy was blessed as well to have you as his family - what a lucky dog! god bless you all and thank you, cesar, for being such an inspiration to dog lovers everywhere! you have such a gift and we're all so very glad you share it with us!

iPadSaturday the floodgates opened and 120,000 people pre-ordered their Apple iPads, which is possibly the worst-named product in recent memory. (One woman journalist immediately exclaimed, "OK, so no women were on the naming panel, I see."

Exactly what they're pre-ordering isn't very well known. The specs that are available were updated just last week. Industry watchers are pretty sure that iPad 1.2 will probably have a USB port, and that iPad 2.0 will be able to multitask (that is, run apps simultaneously). PC Magazine's headline read, "iPad PreOrders for Idiots Only".

This leads to a discussion of the software release cycle, which has been adapted into a product release cycle. The software release cycle evolved from the 1960's IBM product test cycle.

Alpha Beta Gamma Omega testingAlpha Testing is testing done within the company, by people other than the engineers, programmers, and designers who built the product. It usually involves white box techniques, but can include black box and even grey box techniques.

Beta Testing (following Alpha Testing) is user testing within a controlled situation. The product is not released to the market. A "beta version" is the first version released outside the organization or community that develops the product, for the purpose of evaluation or real-world black/grey-box testing.

As the Internet has allowed for rapid and inexpensive distribution of software, and as competitive pressure has decreased time-to-market, companies have begun to take a looser approach to use of the word "beta". Netscape Communications was infamous for releasing alpha versions to the public and calling them "beta" releases. Gmail and Google News have been in beta for years. This technique may also allow a developer to delay offering full support and/or responsibility for remaining issues.

With the ubiquity of the web, a lot of people know about alpha and beta products. There's more than just those two. Gamma testing is the third level of testing, generally for safety. Delta testing is the fourth round of testing, and Omega is the last round of testing. (This is the sequence of letters in the Greek alphabet). Unfortunately, Gamma testing is becoming a thing of the past, killed off by decreased time cycles, competitive pressure, and the myopic focus on quarterly profits.

Apple iPad alpha beta versionSaturday Apple started taking advance orders for the iPad (wifi not 3G), and 120,000 were ordered, sight-unseen, in the first 24 hours. People are willing to pay a premium to be an early-adopter and what is essentially a beta-tester. This in spite of the fact that the people who bought the first iPhone would shortly see an improved, updated version being sold for less.

For $600 you get a WiFi tablet with no camera, no Java, no Flash, no stylus, limited multitasking, and an Apple logo. For $600 you can also get a fully functional netbook. To a degree, such is the cachet of Apple and the major alpha-geek status derived from being the first person at the coffee bar with an iPad.

What's interesting is that Apple is selling a beta-test product to early adopters who are eager to participate in the process. Apple's not the only outfit selling a beta-test product to the public.

In the NY Times, Robert Wright blogs about Toyota and the increased tendency to conduct the "subsequent, de facto beta testing that is also known as 'selling the product and then reading the user forums'." I think the original Big Blue product managers would shudder at using Granny as a Gamma Tester.

In my time, the most egregious public-as-gamma-tester episode was the Boeing 737 rudder charade. There was a clear problem with the product that was not discovered during alpha and beta testing. 204 people died in these accidents between '91 and '94: United 585 (25 lost), Copa 737 (47 lost), USAir 427 (132 lost).

When the end users discovered the problem, the response was to keep the fleet flying (too big to ground) while the rudder hydraulics were reworked and updated. During the time between the discovery and the resolution, every passenger on a 737 was participating in an undeclared test flight. The government's bet in not grounding the fleet worked (in that we didn't have another disaster before the rudders were reworked) but IMO it was a terrible, cynical decision.

If the people pre-ordering iPads are happy to pay to be beta-testers, that's all good. But if they think they're buying a ready-for-market product, they're suckers.

Delta's PIT - CDG flight draws full $5M subsidy

Excellent post at NullSpace regarding Delta's direct flight, PIT to Paris.

The Pittsburgh Business Journal reports that the Allegheny Conference will have to pay the full $5 million subsidy to compensate for revenue shortfalls.

The agreement between the Allegheny Conference and Delta is a two-year contract stating that if the flight doesn’t reach a revenue threshold, the Conference will pay the airline up to $5 million during year one, and up to $4 million during year two.

  • The average load factor over the first eight months was 68 percent. Delta’s average load factor for transatlantic flights between June and January 2009 was 83.6 percent.

  • What the Conference projected as a $582 average one-way fare for a trip from Pittsburgh to Paris turned out to be an average $412 rate in 3Q 2009.

  • With about 407 daily passengers traveling internationally at PIT during the third quarter of 2009, about 88 of those utilized the Paris-Pittsburgh flight.

  • Two Indian cities — Mumbai and Bangalore — are among the top 10 destinations of the Pittsburgh-Paris flight’s travelers.

My take-away is this reflects a government inability to affect the marketplace. In a way, the Allegheny Conference subsidy contract was a non-government (NGO) stimulus to jump-start international service at the airport. After one year, it doesn't seem to be working. Maybe it's too soon to tell.

Or maybe it's a leading indicator for our other, larger government stimulus programs.

Anzac Day and Gay Mardi Gras Have a Common Problem

Finally the city's two big parades have something in common: the fight against absorption into the sloppy denim mainstream. After the Mardi Gras, Andrew Creagh, editor of the gay men's magazine DNA, blogged about the dreariness of the parade this year.

''I lost count of the number of entries that were just a bunch of people in jeans and T-shirts strolling along behind their group's dreary, saggy banner,'' he wrote.

And now similar complaints are being made about the evolution of the Anzac Day march. The NSW president of the RSL, Don Rowe, expressed this concern in a newspaper last weekend. ''Last year, there were a few young people walking with their hands in the pockets, wearing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt,'' he said.

In both cases the issue is about more than dress. It is about who belongs on the business side of the barriers.

Just as some believe the Mardi Gras parade is being taken over by well-meaning straights rather than gays, the Anzac Day march is being taken over by well-meaning descendants rather than veterans.

What should be a solemn day is coming to look more like grandparents' day at the local primary school. The RSL is taking action to address this issue. In a statement released on Monday, Rowe made it clear that there were no plans to ban descendants from the march. However, the organisation would prefer it if descendants would walk at the tail end of the march, grouped together, so that veterans are not swamped.

''What we are saying is that the march is held for the sole purpose of paying tribute to our veterans,'' he said.

''And if the veterans are not being seen by the public because they're surrounded by family members and descendants of other servicemen and women, then the public can't pay tribute appropriately and the television audience can't see them.''

This seems utterly reasonable to me, especially if you consider the reasons for the request. The march has become so big that some veterans are waiting in Martin Place for two hours before it is their turn to march.

This is especially bad for air force veterans from World War II, who are in their eighties and nineties, and march behind the navy and army.

''If descendants would agree to take part at the tail end, those veterans would be able to start and finish much earlier, and not be forced to wait,'' Rowe argued in the statement.

In spite of the reasonableness of the RSL's request, the organisation has faced much criticism from descendants. Critics argue that families just want to honour relatives who have served. It is the descendants who keep the march alive. The tradition will dwindle and die if they don't take part.

Whether it is the Mardi Gras or Anzac Day, whatever happened to the idea of showing support and appreciation by watching from the sidelines?

Why isn't waving and clapping enough? Why do people have to take over an event to show support?

At least in the case of the Mardi Gras, the result of the everyone-gets-to-march attitude is an event that is a little more boring.

In the case of Anzac Day, the result is an event that totally misses the point. Whether you love the military or hate war, it is in no one's interest to treat war as anything less than grave. And yet this is what is happening in the way we treat Anzac Day.

Anzac Day at Gallipoli has become another party on the Aussie backpacker circuit, like Oktoberfest or Glastonbury. The Kokoda Track has been reinvented as a destination for corporate team-building, encouraging the idea that war service is akin to a character-building feat of physical endurance, when so often it actually means sacrificing physical and mental health.

When the desires of families are coming before the welfare of the veterans they are supposed to be honouring, something is seriously skewed.

Even if there are families in which veterans really want descendants marching alongside them, let's hope they don't forget the veterans further back in the march, wilting in the sun as a result.

And let's not forget that whether it is a solemn march or a fun parade, neither is much of an event without an audience. There is honour in standing humbly on the sidelines.
From the SMH.  Link here 

I often have lunch with Larry.  He works in Wollongong and when I go to DVA, which is not far from where he works, I call him up for lunch or coffee – his shout of course.
The other week I called and he was outa town, he was down the coast somewhere and I was busy the other days he suggested.
I rang him this morning,  “Lunch at 12” I said.
His response, “I’m in London, just arrived, I’m at the airport.”
I recall his saying at some time or other that he had a son or daughter living in London, let’s face it, I’m not a good listener.  I complained to him that my call from my mobile was probably costing me a packet. 

When I got to the VAN office at DVA I related the story to them.  One of the guys said that my mate is responsible for the cost of the transfer of the call to London.
I phoned Larry back.  I got his answering machine, so I told him at length that he needn’t have worry about how much my call was costing me as he was paying for it.  I kept talking for about three or four minutes.
What are friends for?

Google Bike Maps - Pittsburgh to Boston Trailhead

Google has announced that their Google Maps application now attempts to provide bike routes. The routing algorithm prefers to use bike paths, lanes, and sharrows, and attempts to avoid hills and highways.

This is great. I asked it for a route from Pittsburgh PA to Washington DC and it routed me via the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal.
Google bike map, Pittsburgh to DC

Among bicyclists familiar with riding from Pittsburgh to DC, perhaps no other topic is as continually energetic as, "What is the best way to get from The Point to the trail in McKeesport-Boston?"
  • There is the Ft Pitt bridge, Station Square to Baldwin Trail, ~andcastle, and then 837 past Kennywood to the West Mifflin trailhead group.
    • There's a Jail Trail, Hot Metal Bridge, Baldwin Trail variation.
  • There is the Second Avenue, Glenwood Bridge, 885 to 837, Kennywood, West Mifflin contingent.
  • Finally, there's the schism group that believes it's irresponsible to advise any transient cyclist to ride north of Boston. (that's my denomination)
This discussion generates more passion than Helmet Wars and even the Recumbent Question. I thought it would be interesting to see which path Google picked from the Point to the trail in McKeesport or Boston. It choose this:
bike map, Pittsburgh Point to McKeesport or Boston bike trail

This is intriguing - Google choose the Second Avenue route out of downtown, followed by an unexpected direct (and hilly) route from the Glenwood Bridge to Boston PA. It works, and it's lower traffic than 837, but it'd be a lot of work on a bike loaded with panniers.

My review of Google Bike Maps: It's not as good as knowledge of the local area, but if you're unfamiliar and trying to plot a route it'll be a worthwhile tool. It would be wonderful if you could export the Google route into a Garmin GPS for on-bike navigation, but I realize that they're selling 'Droid phones so the GPS export probably isn't likely.

Update (courtesy of Mike from the GAP Yahoo Group): there's a third-party Google-Maps to GPX exporter at:


I typed the word UGLY into Google and this is what it revealed....

Women who have experienced childbirth know the level of pain I am going through right now, exept that mine is in my back and all over the rest of my body - even my head hurts.

It all started out so well ... I had nothing in my diary today.

So I checked the mail, then went off to the square. I put my prescriptions in at the chemist, picked up the paper at the newsagent, ordered a coffee and sat down and read the paper while the ‘scripts were ready. I sit near the entrance to the coffee shop so that all the young chicks can ogle me when they walk past.

This is the life of an old fart.

Back home and I knew that the lawn needed mowing, but before I should do that, some pruning needed doing first. Otherwise I’d have messy stuff all over a nicely cut lawn. I am not allowed to use the electric pruning thingo. I should be dead now, twice over. That’s how many times I have sliced through the electric cord. Thank goodness for earth leakage units. Or maybe God is not ready for me yet.

The pain in my lower back was starting to let itself known, but I’m a tough old bastard so I kept pruning. I am aware that Paula isn’t particularly happy with my pruning skills because she uses words like ‘denuded’ to describe the results of my efforts.

I managed to mow half the lawn in the front yard, I’ll do the other half tomorrow when the back settles.

After lunch I did some more hero work by getting Paula’s new treadmill out of the ute and into the back room. I knew it was heavy when the two salesmen groaned and grunted as they loaded it into the ute. All I had to do was to angle it onto the trolley, stagger around the side to the back door and ease it onto the back room.

Am I outa my mind?

Yep, when Paula came home she wanted to put it together. I suggested after tea would be a good time. Well it’s now after 10pm and I am a physical wreck.

It’s OK so long as I don’t move.

Who writes the instructions for these things?

Hold the bolt spacer (79) inside the lower end of the right upright (78). Insert a M10x96mm bolt (5) with an M10 start washer (8) into the right upright and the bolt spacer. Repeat this step with a second bolt spacer (79), M10x96mm bolt (5), and M10 star washer (8).

It’s easier to understand what they are talking about if you read the instructions out aloud in an American accent, as the unit was designed in the USA.

Three bloody hours it took to put it together – and it works!

I’m on my second rum now to dumb down everything that is aching. I have a rule – don’t write on the blog after more than two rums, so I had better sign off.

I may have to skip exercise class in the morning, on second thought, I can’t do that as the Navy Gym Boys will have a go at me for being a wimp!

As you can see, I have a very, very, tough life.....

Take Your Child To Work Day: April 22nd

In this week's news we've seen a lot of discussion about taking your kid to work and showing them what you do, and even giving them a little bit of experience at it.

As this 1968 documentary from the REMCO Corporation shows, kids have been training to work at Kennedy Airport for at least 42 years:

Needless to say, the tone of this year's Bring Your Kid to Work Day (BYK2WD) is probably going to be slightly different. Mark your calendars, Thursday April 22nd.

Images of Earth

These are not actual images - they are digital composites.

Story in the Daily Telegraph here

I lived in Mathoura in the 70s, indeed two of my boys were born in Deniliquin.  I worked for the Forestry Commission and I saw first hand how the red gum forests were managed for sustained timber yield as well as other activities including recreational pursuits.

Frank Sartor is putting an end to it.  And why not.  Let's lock it up for future generations, besides, loggers are eco-vandals, right?

Ian Danckert is a broken man. He won't tell you himself, but you can hear it in his voice.

For more than 70 years his family has owned and run the Gulpa Sawmill in Deniliquin.

But the family business is set to close for good after the State Government announced this week it would protect more than 100,000ha of Riverina red gum forests from logging.

The decision is expected to cost as many as 1200 jobs and will decimate towns in the region already reeling from the decade-long drought which forced the closure of an abattoir and the largest rice mill in the southern hemisphere.

"We feel like road kill on the road to the (state) election," Mr Danckert, 56, said.
I guess Frank Sartor knows best, especially when he is chasing the "green" vote.  They are more important to him than  Mr Danckert and others like him who have a special relationship with the red gum forests.
A leading safety expert says a crackdown on speeding is not the answer to reducing the road toll.

The vice president of safety development for Mercedes-Benz, Ulrich Mellinghoff, says crash avoidance systems, better roads and more roundabouts would do more to cut the road toll than tougher speeding laws.

The approach is in direct contrast to state governments in NSW and Victoria, who have been preaching the "speed kills" mantra as the number one panacea for the road toll.
"What we have seen is there are a lot of very different reasons for accidents. Sometimes it is not the high speed, it is the wrong speed. If you limit the speed, the driver often thinks all they have to do is drive the speed limit and they don't have to think," he says.
It was better to put the responsibility for driving at the right speed on the shoulders of the individual driver.
Link here
So how is our road toll, by the way?

Click on the image for a larger one