Tram Town
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Category: Apple
Mark has some interesting scatterlogical history on the fruit company in his 31/3/4 post. Believe it or not I'm not sure that I knew all of this.

Category: Music
More on the Yamaha voice synthesis product. I like the remark: "And if she ever gets into a contract dispute, there're always the control, alt and delete keys".

Category: Thorpe
Andrew Bolt wanders off a little bit in the middle of this article about Ian Thorpe, but he manages to reflect my thoughts nonetheless.

Category: Gilligan...
the one from the BBC, you know, the "sexing up" guy. He wrote a bit over a week ago that the war was not so unjust as you might have believed if you listened to the doom-mongers. I wish we could get at the original article.

Category: Education
Tim Blair pointed me at a truly authentic account of physics practical classes on Natalie Solent's excellent blog (which I should visit way more often).

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Category: Israel
Victor Davis Hanson provides a moral comparison entitled When should we stop supporting Israel?. Well worth the read but it will probably only be there for a couple of weeks.

Monday, March 29, 2004
Category: Poetry
Never understood it, me. But this one's a bloody cracker. Heck, Dave's place is chocka with good stuff. How could you but love the Paterson piece starting:
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just `on spec', addressed as follows, `Clancy, of The Overflow'.

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
`Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are.'
And, ignorant as I am I didn't know of Jack Mathieu, this perfect couplet (am I using the correct terminology?):
And he looked as full of knowledge as a thirty-acre college
I can't love the midi music that plays at some points in the journey, though.

Category: Pugilism
Do we really need to spend truckloads of money on DNA testing - can't we just count how many times they get hit in the head?

Sunday, March 28, 2004
Category: Food fight!
Tim Blair pointed me at an article in the Spencer Street Soviet about some UN-administered money that appears to have gone astray. The SSS article was based on some work by Claudia Rosett. She sure didn't waste her research on this one as similar horrific stories appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The National Review, the latter titled Kojo & Kofi - Unbelievable U.N. stories.

Corruption in the UN is no "dog bites man" but another issue came up in the SSS article. Apparently, during a kitchen staff strike at the UNHQ in NYC, the UN staff ransacked the cafeterias. Or not. Maybe they did only cause $8,000 of red ink in the UN books but it's much more fun than the billion-buck story.

Saturday, March 27, 2004
Category: Recycling
Outhouse Springs claims to be producing America's only recycled water. Unfortunately it is only available from a small group of twenty four Piggly Wiggly stores in the Charleston area.

Friday, March 26, 2004
Category: Fillums
Hmmm, The Passion of the Brian?

Category: Telly
Happy Birthday three-beam shadow mask tube.

Category: Web
The World's Longest Alphabetical Email Address.

Thursday, March 25, 2004
Category: Correctness
DB was a bit surprised that I had not posted on on the politically correct change to sign language. I had wrongfully assumed that everybody reads John Ray's PCWatch where he noted the change here. He also noted some interesting incidents pursuant to the "I'm a white, heterosexual male... I couldn't be more guilty if I'd done something wrong" school of thinking. For further reading, see Daphne Patai's book Heterophobia.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Category: The list
Helping fund a big spending president's re-election campaign would be questionable but Dubya is the least socialist candidate so Kelsey Grammer goes on the list.

Monday, March 22, 2004
Category: Ep. III
Rejected Titles for Episode III.

Category: Extraterrestrials
I've been running SETI@home for a number of years now and still haven't found a goddam thing. Looks like I've got famous company. Hope he's luckier.

Sunday, March 21, 2004
Category: Pitchers
Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London provided no surprises. It is quite funny and it's a pleasant enough adventure. You'd have to have come down in the last shower to be surprised to hear that the good guys win. It's biggest problem is that it tries to fit too much in to its 100 minutes. Oh, and also, continuity is a bit weak; no killers, but one moment he should be carrying his clarinet but isn't, the next moment he is. Quite a lot of that sort of thing.
By far the best feature is that it takes that old faithful character device of having an English character being a touch eccentric and exploits it to the max making pretty much every English character a complete loon.
Oh, and it's really difficult to find out who played all of the roles, even the relatively major character Kumar doesn't get a guernsey on imdb and it seems impossible to find out who played the Tony Blair and HMtQ lookalikes. The guy who played the Q role was positively disgusting (and the kids laughed very loudly).

Category: Slogan
"Could't think of a slogan"
On Yahoo News, it looks as if the Protest Warrior campaign has spread to Britain.
I found this at little green footballs where one of the commenters suggests that it is part of an Apple advertising campaign. It would make as much sense as most Apple advertising campaigns.

Saturday, March 20, 2004
Category: Latham
Epping Plaza is a shopping centre about half the size of Norflanz. It has NO bookshop. The one place I might have found a book was the newsagent but it was closed for stocktaking (yes, when they could have been exchanging goods for cash!). Now I know what your boy Mark Latham was on about. It's a funny thing, though, they all seemed to be able to read.

Category: Iraq & Saddam
An enormous Brain discovers some inbuilt bias at the the National Library of Australia.

Category: Rwanda
A fascinating story about French involvement in the deaths of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis in the UK Telegraph.
And... "A first-class foul-up" by the UN according to Kofi Kofi Annan. No surprises there.

Thursday, March 18, 2004
Category: Apple
Interesting collection of the last 20 years of Macintosh. (well it LOOKS interesting but I haven't looked too closely)

Category: Space
Even Stevens is a telly program on the Disney Channel. It is quite kooky and I have to admit to being a bit baffled by it. They're not afraid of going out there. I still don't know why, but on one program they had a choreographed piece about going to the moon in 1969. Read the lyrics. Heck, read all of the Even Stevens lyrics.

Category: Apple
I hadn't seen the Knowledge Navigator clips on-line before, although I remember them well from the time. I think the "original" was around 15 minutes longs FWIW.

Category: Climate
CO2 & Climate is an interesting site sponsored by a bunch of energy suppliers. It makes that clear in its easily accessible About Us page:
Greening Earth Society is a not-for-profit membership organization comprised of rural electric cooperatives and municipal electric utilities, their fuel suppliers, and thousands of individuals.
They're probably a bit cheeky calling themselves the Greening Earth Society but I guess that makes the point that increased CO2 in the atmosphere is not necessarily a bad thing for plantlife.
The site in general warrants a decent browse and a return every now and then, IMHO.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Category: Technology
USB Swiss Army Knife!

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Category: Old Computers
Some nice stuff about my first "PC"!

Category: Politics
When I took my children to school yesterday I noticed an AEU placard about 800mm * 600mm hanging at the main gate ON SCHOOL PROPERTY. It was relatively inoffensive reading "Public Education It Is Our Future", though the trend in the numbers we see would suggest the opposite. The usual small print authorisations by a bloke from the AEU appeared below the main text.
The placard is part of a campaign by the AEU against federal education policy and, in particular, Dr Brendan Nelson.
Given that the placard was clearly part of a union campaign it surprised me to find it hanging there so I queried the prinicipal by email. He told me this morning that the placard had come from the AEU with a note saying that it had been endorsed by no less than Lynne Kosky the state minister for Education and Training. No such endorsement appears on the placard.
Without having followed the issue through, I had assumed that the school, or some teacher within the school, was using school property to promote a particular union's issues. I believe most people would interpret it this way and I do not approve.
If Lynne Kosky has an agenda to push, I think she should make her own posters with her own endorsement and hang them somewhere other than our schools.
UPDATE: I contacted DE&T to determine whether the minister had given approval and was (very promptly) sent the exact memo which contains:
Circular 18/2004 Public Education - It is our Future campaign

The Australian Education Union has requested that schools display the Public Education - It is our Future banner as part of a national campaign to highlight the importance of public education.

The campaign follows the Government's Bringing Learning to Life schools promotion which highlighted the benefits now available to students in Victorian government schools.

School Councils and School Principals are advised the Department has no objections to schools displaying the banner.

Darrell Fraser
Deputy Secretary
Office of School Education
Sent to schools on the 12th of February.
UPUPDATE: So it wasn't Lynne Kosky though you have to imagine she had a hand in it. They just don't seem to get it. The campaign is not some sort of benign followup to the "Bringing Learning to Life schools promotion", it is a campaign to convince the punters not to vote Liberal because of its education funding policy. It is a political campaign and our schools are being used to advertise it. As somebody said to me this morning: "You are right - it's unacceptable, and an abuse of community facilities".

Category: Knowledge
One of my standard references these days is the Wikipedia. I think that much of what we now refer to as knowledge will one day be stored in the evolved version of what is now the wiki. Many readers are asking what the hell is a wiki. The Wikipedia says...

Saturday, March 13, 2004
Category: Actors
I suspect Vincent Gallo is going to be added to my list after having been pointed at this article by Slatts. I'm not convinced that I have found enough material about him yet. We'll call him an actor I provisionally do not despise. I'm gonna have to wait until I see Palookaville before deciding to move him onto the full list. That's gonna have to be an Amazon purchase unfortunately... no Australian DVD.
UPDATE: This Gallo bloke has a really interesting home studio!

Friday, March 12, 2004
Category: Jonathon Richman
That's a G.I.R.L.F.R.E.N, that's a girl friend, OK, That's something that I understand.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Category: Cell Phones
I just bought one of these. Maybe I should have held out for one of these, but then again I'm not sure that they're bluetooth.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Category: Kinky
Just in case you missed it.

Category: Knowledge (?)
Interesting article on encyclopedias. No surprises but.

Category: Actors
I had read this (you have to scroll down to the comment headed "Michael and Joan and me") in May last year but had forgotten about it when I was posting on actors that I don't despise. After a reminder from Tim Blair, Joan Collins is now officially added to the list.

Monday, March 08, 2004
Category: Music
A really nice article from the Grauniad about who is CD/DVD purchaser demographics.
Thanks Clive.

Category: ABC
I missed this item in yesterday's SSS because I was working myself up to enjoy a race that turned out to be a disaster. An Australia without Radio National would be like Formula 1 without Ferarri: way less boring.

Saturday, March 06, 2004
Category: Apple
Apparently exhaustive website dedicated to the history of the fruit companies' OS's. (And now I'll just wait for Mark to blog in about six weeks time about why TramTown didn't alert him to this!!)

Category: Politics
AEBrain is running hot today... Firstly a slant on John Kerry's senatorial defence record, and, on a lighter note, he points at The Historical Tale Construction Set.

Friday, March 05, 2004
Category: Flash percussion
BIG FLASH DOWNLOAD WARNING. This really rings my bell.

Category: VCAT
Following up a post I made a couple of weeks ago, the VCAT hearing on villification in a church setting is continuing and Piers Akerman has this to say...
Perhaps the most telling moment to date came just last Friday when Pastor Scot was asked by the Islamic Council's barrister Debbie Mortimer to stop reading passages from the Koran and just give verses because the readings vilified Muslims.
The article is well worth the read.

Category: Audio/Cell Phones
I'm not really sure what to make of this. I'm sure I could find some application though! "I'm sorry honey, I'm at an Aluminium factory/Wind Farm at the moment, can't talk".

Category: Technology Myths
A fascinating site devoted to technological achievements that don't.

Thursday, March 04, 2004
Category: Blogger retires
I was very sad to hear of the retirment of Alistair Cooke. AEBrain pointed me at a post claiming Cooke as "The First Blogger".

Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Category: Internet
It's a Gas! (Note: Oblique reference to a cardboard "record" given out with a specific issue of Mad magazine circa 1966 which I probably still have lying around some where -- no one will get this I'm almost certain).

Category: Passion/Christ(borderline) or maybe Things I Don't Understand
Dogs for Jesus !

Category: Theatre
The Gnu Hunter has a bit of a go at arts grants which includes some lovely word play...
In days of yore they had Wandering Minstrels. Today we just have Squandering Wastrels.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Category: A Fete Worse than Death
(I stole that from DB, BTW)
From Slatts, a pointer to John Ray who refers to the Brissie Sunday Mail on the fact that the traditional cake stall, be it on the high street, outside booths on polling day or at the annual school fete has been killed by beaurocratic bullshit (sorry mum).

It did happen some time ago in Victoria (on some Kennett of a day) but it is always worth noting when they take something precious from us.

Category: Our National Anthem
This is a nice site giving quite a bit of information about Advance Australia Fair including the four three missing verses. Britannia Rules the Waves!
As a matter of interest, though the lyrics were changed a little when it was finally adopted as our national anthem (eg "Australians all" replaced "Australia's sons"), "girt by sea" is still official, not "ringed by sea" as sung at my children's school each Monday.

Monday, March 01, 2004
Category: Big Pong
Whirlpool brings news of a somewhat less than honest (in my humble opinion) mechanism that Telstra is using whereby they have two different prices for the one product.
The two prices are for exactly the same plan; the only difference in the $59.95 plan is that it is $10 cheaper and currently being advertised.
However, if customers don't know about the price drop and ask to be changed to the new price, Telstra will continue charging at the $69.95 rate indefinitely.
I guess they have been doing this for years in the mobile business.
UPDATE: Story covered in yesterday's Courier Mail but nowhere else that I can find.
UPUPDATE: What were they thinking at the Courier Mail? An article on comms that doesn't quote Paul Budde! This is more like it.

Category: DVDs
An article in the Fin which I can't point to unless you are a subscriber so I will provide a summary...
Prices cut as DVD sales rocket - Mar 01- Neil Shoebridge

The DVD software market has been one of the fastest-growing consumer product categories over the past three years. Sales rocketed from $69.6 million in 2000 to $798million last year. But aggressive, relentless discounting by retailers is threatening its future.
DVD prices have dropped 20 per cent during the past three years and DVD distributors are worried that price cuts of up to 50 per cent on new-release DVD titles are conditioning consumers to believe that no DVD should be priced at more than $30.
New DVD titles, which carry recommended retail prices of about $45, are routinely discounted to $30. The main culprits are mass merchants such as Coles Myer's Kmart chain and Woolworths' Big W, which use DVDs as loss leaders to generate customer traffic.
At this stage, the price cutting is not affecting distributors' wholesale prices, revenue or profit margins, as retailers are carrying the cost of the discounting.
But it is making some retailers reluctant to devote precious in-store display space to new-release DVDs and prompting some to focus harder on selling old titles, which are less profitable for distributors.
"It's crazy," said one DVD marketer. "Consumer demand for DVDs is exploding, but the retailers are slashing prices to the bone and destroying their potential profits.
"There's no need for such deep discounting. People would still buy DVDs if they were priced at $35. The longer the heavy price cutting goes on, the more DVDs will become devalued in the minds of consumers."
Releasing its December-half results on February 19, Brazin - the owner of the Sanity and Ezy DvD chains - said that although Sanity's sales were stronger than expected, the "competitiveness of the DVD market has compressed gross margins".
Compressed is an understatement. Many DVD retailers are making no margin on new-release titles, as the price cutting by Big W and Kmart - and, to a lesser degree, other retailers such as Sanity, HMV and Coles Myer's Target - forces other retailers to follow suit.
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment released the DVD of Terminator 3 in December last year with a recommended retail price of $46. The mass merchants immediately started selling it for just below $30.
"That sort of pricing worries us, as it sets up the belief among consumers that all DVDs should be under $30," said Dominic Remond, Columbia TriStar's marketing director.
"Recent research showed that people are starting to believe that. And the deep discounting makes some retailers reluctant to devote display space to new releases, which are the drivers of the market's growth."
With DVD players now found in half of Australian homes, most DVD distributors expect the software market to keep growing. How much it will grow this year depends on the depth of price cutting by retailers.
DVD software sales jumped 249.2per cent in 2001, 106.7 per cent in 2002 and 58.7 per cent in 2003.
According to DVD marketers, the rapid growth was driven by the collectability of DVDs - which consumers regard as easier to collect than videotapes - good sound and vision quality, the appeal of special features such as out-takes and interviews with a movie's cast and crew, and broad retail distribution.
But the enthusiasm with which mass merchants have embraced DVDs - and the resultant price competition - is a double-edged sword.
"The discounting is a very short-sighted strategy on the part of the retailers," said one distributor.
"Yes, it drives volume growth and pulls people into their stores. But over time, it devalues the category. Weaning consumers off such deep price cutting will be very, very difficult."
Kmart expects the DVD market to grow between 30 per cent and 40per cent this year, driven by new products, the collectability of DVDs and price cutting.
Mark Clark, divisional general manager for entertainment products at Kmart, said the DVD sector was one of the most competitive in retailing at the moment.
"It's very hard for a retailer to differentiate a DVD," he said. "We can't add value, so discounting is about the only thing we can do to get a point of difference.
"We know that low prices on DVDs will make people switch retailers."
A fairly complete summary, I will allow.

So... They're selling a whole mess of DVD's, the value of the little Au$$ie battler is going up, retailers are happy to sell discs at a low price and consumers appear to like products when they are cheaper. It disturbs me that these distributors are so confident of their monopoly position that they say: "Weaning consumers off such deep price cutting will be very, very difficult". Parallel importing and destruction of the region code nonsense is essential.

Category: RSS
There's nothing particularly new in this technology except, perhaps, the fact that it is a "broad" standard and in some medium-term time frame we might expect to see it on most of our client's desks.

Category: Banners
These guys just wanted to get on TV. I found it funny but you need to be a Simpsons watcher to get it.
I found that at the After Grog Blog where I also found this from the crossword commentariat.

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