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Tim Connors: New Media

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
The Age published an article about http://theconversation.edu.au/, a new media outlet run by the former chief in editor of The Age. Not only have I seen intelligent articles on it, their editors and authors understand Creative Commons licenses.

Tim Connors: Mary Poppins

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
Small country towns and petrol. I should have learned by now. I was running short of where I expected to run low[1], but the maps told me there was a little town up the road with fuel, so I stopped there. It's Sunday. In a small town. That's OK, I've got 36km of fuel left according to the onboard computer, and a guy reckons a town 20km back there had fuel. I didn't see it, and it was a very small town, so I decide to push my luck and head over the mountains, where I know a town 63km away (Mansfield) has fuel. I've stopped before when the computer reckoned there was 7km left, and I really had 1.5L of fuel left, which should be good for 30km. So 36+30km should get me there with 3km to spare! Except that mountains take juice. So I absolutely babied it over. Then thought I was lost because of a GPS stuffup (problem exists between touchscreen and bike seat). I never went above 80km/h hour (and associated with the want not to have to roll on the throttle, is the want to not put on too much brake to waste too much energy. Not braking and mountains aren't really a clever mix). And it should have been a really fun road. I still hadn't reached the top of the mountain when the computer said there was 0km left. I couldn't listen to music, because I had to listen to the telltale signs of the engine missing or other signs that I should immediately turn off the ignition lest the fuel pump bearings burn up. Anyway, 20km later, no signs of trouble, and I roll into the fuel station. 1.5L left still.



I've got a Mary Poppins fuel tank.



Anyhoo, that blew the cobwebs away. 2 days ought to be enough holiday between jobs, right? Wish me luck tomorrow! I've reccied where it is that I'm working, so now I've just got to find out what I'm actually doing. Oh, and find a house.



[1] At Caltex in the main street of Wagga Wagga, I got the worst quality fuel I've ever got (5.8L/100km, for premium grade, despite traveling most of the time at the speed limit, and riding pretty conservatively (compared to the rest of my trip in NSW!). The previous fuel was 5.1L/100km, and the next fuel was 5.4L/100km despite only having the lower grade available)

Tim Connors: The wrong politic

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
It seems that Senator Carr didn't like the frank and fearless advice his public servants were offering him, and the Chief Scientist's position became untenable. Sure, you're not meant to offer that frank and fearless advice through the media, but what's the point of a having a chief scientist or indeed any publicly paid scientist if they're only allowed to tow the party line, and not allowed to tell the public what they need to know? We see this time and again. CSIRO researchers have been completely barred from making any public comments without going through the central media office. What's the use of public funding if the public research isn't allowed to be told?



Tony Rabbit wanted to remove the Chief Scientist's office because it was too political (I did read this in the SMH a few months ago, but can't find the cite). Senator Carr wanted to remove the officer because she was the wrong politic and was telling too much truth.

Tim Connors: Why I don't donate to natural disasters in Australia anymore

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
I donated towards the Black Saturday fires, and then the donation policy of Red Cross became "we'll forward donations to people with insurance and people with holiday homes that got burned down". I wanted my money to go to people who can't afford to pay for insurance, and certainly to people who can't afford holiday and investment homes. Insurance will cover those who can afford it. The rest truly deserve a break. The Qld flood donations are going to people who simply won't need it.



And as to who would pay for it, and whether Australia should postpone bringing ourselves back into budget surplus: If we didn't dump the mining rent resources tax, we'd be fine. Not only would the annual amount generated by the tax neatly match the amount that needs to be spent repairing Qld, but if it was framed ideally (ie, applied to all mining companies) it would come from companies that were largely responsible for the worsening of these severe storms. I.e., they wouldn't be able to externalise their costs onto the rest of society so much anymore - those that actually consume more would end up paying for the damage it does, which would then partly fund the mitigation costs we all endure. Actually, it should come partly from farmers too. What did you expect would happen when you clear the land of its natural ability to regulate water flow?



The guy who texted into JJJ talkback that we should just drop the National Broadband scheme instead, on the basis that it would be obsolete by the time it was built, made me laugh. Yes sure, if we don't build something, then the next thing we can't build would be even better!

Tim Connors: Wrong technological fixes to problems vol. #8123

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
Arizona state apparently spent $1B to attempt to automate the detection of people crossing a 53 mile section of the Mexican border.



If we expect the lifetime of such a project to be 15 years before the infrastructure completely falls apart and needs to be renewed, then in that same 15 year period, we can employ 33333/15=2222 staff at what seem to be typical US wage rates (neglecting inflation. But since the US economy is a basket case, I might be justified in doing that). In that 53 mile space, we could space 2222 guards every 40 metres in a line, or a bit more sparse if you wanted a grid of guards to detect tunneling.



<hint of sarcasm="maybe">

I'm sure most government spending is useful, and I'm sure the expense of the project could be entirely justified. I'm sure the article is just ill-informed.

</hint of sarcasm>

Tim Connors: Vale Purrple

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
I'm not having much luck selecting cats for longevity rather than character. Still, I'd rather character than longevity.







Purrple has been living with mum since Phred died, because cats always deserve fellow playthings, and I wasn't about to get another cat. The signs of her (presumably) cancer started showing in October, but the tests the vet did didn't reveal anything (he wasn't searching for cancer though). On Monday this week, she started showing other signs - that of kidney failure. In the end, she went the same way Phred did.



I didn't get to see her in the end - the curse of long distance part time veterinaries. He made the call, it could either be sew her back up, give her drugs, and transport her back to us, or put her down.



And it's only just hit me. I had to type that up.

Tim Connors: Reqium for a species

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
Yikes. I'm reading Clive Hamilton's "Requiem for a species. Why we resist the truth about Climate Change". (all tyops are mine)





To date, governments have shunned geoengineering for fear of being accused of wanting to avoid their responsibilities with science fiction solutions. The topic is not mentioned in the Stern report and receives only one page in Australia's Garnaut report. As a sign of its continuing political sensitivity, when in April 2009 it was reported that President Obama's new science adviser John Holdren had said that geoengineering is being vigorously discussed as an emergency option in the White House, he immediately felt the need to issue a "clarification" claiming that he was only expressing his personal views. Holdren is one of the sharpest minds in the business and would not be entertaining what is now known as 'Plan B'— engineering the planet to head off catastrophic warming — unless he was fairly sure Plan A would fail.





It is far easier, on the face of it (and certainly, politically), to perform geoengineering than to slow down the generation of CO2. So cheap that one country can afford it, instead of it being such a huge (political) task that not even all of the worlds countries acting cooperatively will be able to pull it off. So great, lets go servo the eco-system. Control Systems are easy, right? They never break into unwanted oscillations while you're still learning their response function.





The implications are sobering. In August 1883 the painter Edvard Munch witnessed an unusual blood-red sunset over Oslo. He was shaken by it, writing that he 'felt a great, unending scream piercing through nature'. The incident inspired him to create his famous work, The Scream. The sunset he saw that evening followed the eruption of Krakatoa off the coast of Java. The explosion, one of the most violent in recorded history, sent a massive plume of ash into the stratosphere, causing the Earth to cool by more than one degree and disrupting weather patterns for several years. More vivid sunsets would be one of the consequences of using sulphate aerosols to engineer the climate; but a more disturbing effect of enhanced dimming would be the permanent whitening of daytime skies. A washed-out sky would become the norm. If the nations of the world resort to climate engineering as an expedient response to global heating, and in doing so relieve pressure to cut carbon emissions, then as the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued to rise so would the latent warming that must be suppressed. It would then become impossible to stop sulphur injections into the stratosphere, even for a year or two, without an immediate jump in temperature. It's estimated that, if we did stop, the backup of greenhouse gases could see warming rebound at a rate 10-20 times faster than in the recent past, a phenomenon referred to, apparently without irony, as the "termination problem". Once we start manipulating the atmosphere we could be trapped, forever dependent on a program of sulphur injections into the stratosphere. In that case, human beings would never see a blue sky again.





Please read his book. The book goes down many paths -- human pyschology, politics, science. It's bloody depressing, but people need to understand why we not going down a better route.

Tim Connors: Health and Safety

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
It has always frustrated me that the medical profession and unions and the like are always pushing the health and safety barrow so much without critical thought.



Putting up safety fencing to the point that no one pays attention anymore, because they assume the safety fencing will always be everywhere (I am reminded here of work. You have to pay a lot more attention now lest your attention lapses when you go near a fence with a hole in it because the engineering simply makes it impossible to make everything safe). (I could rant how the unions have forced legislation on how brightly lit my office has to be, to the point where it hurts my eyes if I don't wear sunglasses, but I'm going offtopic here)



Putting sensors in cars that are so safe that you don't need to pay attention anymore, so that most people drive like they're driving a Volvo (I fear and loath the research into automatically driven cars − unless those cars all limit themselves to 40km/h or they legislate against cyclists and kangaroos from roads, the research will be a failure, safety wise). Rear view cameras being mandated in cars simply because a few people in 4wds are too stupid to look backwards before running over their spawn? How is that going to protect against a child that is lying underneath the car?



But when it comes to mandatory helmet legislation, it seems the medical profession are just blind and dogmatic, and lack any critical thinking skills.



The head of Montreal’s trauma unit, Dr Raziz, really needs to come out to Australia and have a look in the trauma unit of Melbourne's hospitals some time. There he'll see that helmets do very little against cars that hit helmeted cyclists; after all, the standards only test to impact speeds of 19.5km/h - a fall of 1.5metres without any additional velocity components of heavy blunt metal. Helmets do nothing when a cyclist is ejected over the handlebars face first into the tarmac, because their handlebars got caught in the wheel-well of an excessively high 4wd. Cars are driven recklessly by drivers who have never gotten used to, nor tolerated cyclists because most cyclists had been driven off the road 20 years ago precisely because of the legislation that people like him were trying to push. When you only look at one small part of the picture, you only see a very small part of the picture. Get out there and look at the big picture. Getting more people cycling is the solution.



Something that makes people feel safer, but is not actually safer (bicycle helmets) just leads to risk compensation. Forcing people to wear helmets is anything but safe. The choice to wear helmets should be your choice, and your choice only (or your parents, if you are of an age that it is deemed that you can't legally decide for yourself).



A far more effective piece of legislation to introduce would be to ban vehicles from having a bonnet of height more than that of your typical sedan. The aggressivity ratings of 4WDs is unacceptably large, so they have poor crash compatibility with other road users. If only the legislation worked to minimise risky practices rather than forcing passive safety and adopting other practices that lead to risk compensation.

Tim Connors: Conga line of suckholes

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
I've got a higher respect for ex-leader of the ALP, Mark Latham than I currently do have for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Attorney-General Robert McClelland.



Conga line of suckholes indeed.

Ben Leslie: Google Maps Fun

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
Google maps is fun. Google maps API is even more fun!



Just so many cool things to do. My first Google maps hack lets you draw routes on the map (or sat image) and print out the distance associated with it. I've got some other cool things coming up, but I thought I'd get that one out now.



Oh, it is currently centered on work's new building, but zoomed out to see most of the city.

Ben Leslie: Python Generators

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
Didn't understand the coolness of python generators today. I wanted to generate a list of

files in a directory. Previously I had to write a class and do __iter__ tricks. Now I can

simply do this:



def file_walk(path): for dn, ignore, files in os.walk(path): for fn in files: yield dn + os.sep + fn

Ben Leslie: Python decorators

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
I love Python because it is so easy to write unreadable code in.



I wanted to handle sub-commands and didn't want to go to all the hassle of

maintaining a dispatch dictionary. So I decided I could be really seedy and

do:



globals()[args[0]](args[1:])



However this sucks if someone picks function that wasn't intended as a subcommand.



Python decorators to the rescue! My main problem with the dispatch dictionary was

having to update commands in two places. So with decorators I can do this:



commands = {}



def command(fn):

commands[fn.func_name] = fn



@command

def foo(args): pass



and then



commands[args[0](args[1:])



and I don't have to be so seedy. Of course I'm sure people still won't understand

what I'm doing, but thats ok ;)

Ben Leslie: Hoary Hedgehog

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
Today I decided to join the droves trying out hoary. I would love to say it was simple seamless experience, but it wasn't.



Not that it was particularly painful find you, just a couple of little annoyances.



Firstly SATA didn't quite work for me. My BIOS has somethign called "combination mode", which seems to make the SATA disks appear like normal ATA disks as well as SATA disks. Which confused the hell out of the kernel. By setting it to "Normal" mode in the BIOS this problem went away.



The other problem was buggy media. The CD seemed a bit scratchy but after retrying about 5 times it finally worked.



Anyway seemed to work and let me get at a terminal. I haven't got rid of the GNOME stuff and installed ratpoison yet, but this will mainly be a remote

login box anyway, so I don't care too much about the GUI.

Ben Leslie: Switching ALSA audio outputs

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
While its all well and good mixing audio output, so you can hear both the CD you are listening too, and

the audio stream from a VLC stream, it can get kind of confusing listening to two things at once.



So I to write a simple shell script which would mute the currently active output

stream, and unmute the other, which I could then easily bind this to a key in ratpoison.



I thought it would be easy, which it was, but the result is fairly gross. Surely someone can show me a better way

to do this:



#!/bin/sh if [ `amixer cget iface=MIXER,name="PCM Playback Switch" | tail -1 | cut -d\, -f2` "==" off ]; then amixer cset iface=MIXER,name="PCM Playback Switch" 1 > /dev/null; amixer cset iface=MIXER,name="CD Playback Switch" 0 > /dev/null; else amixer cset iface=MIXER,name="PCM Playback Switch" 0 > /dev/null; amixer cset iface=MIXER,name="CD Playback Switch" 1 > /dev/null; fi

Ben Leslie

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
Yay, I got my paper into LCA 2005. Hooray!



In other news I picked up my big day out tickets today. Hooray!



Finally, I leave you with a great (very nerdy) quote from Ted Ts:



The way the kernel will deal with C++ language being a complete disaster (where something as simple as "a = b + c + d +e" could involve a dozen or more memory allocations, implicit type conversions, and overloaded operators) is to not use it. Think about the words of wisdom from the movie Wargames: "The only way to win is not to play the game".

Ben Leslie

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
So instead of going to SLUG last night, Jamie and I went and played pool at the Clare Hotel. Anyway, long story short, it turns out we aren't the only

ones who play the penis game in Sydney.

Ben Leslie: FTA is bad mmmkay

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
This is just depressing.

Ben Leslie: Rage -- ZZ Top

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
JJJ should simulcast rage again.

Ben Leslie: have cable!

Mon, 2014-08-25 02:26
of course i dont have a computer yet. i have a nice new powerbook on order which should show up soon.



so anyway this post is coming courtesy of my palm pilot connecting to cable via new dlink 624+ wireless router.