Rant 'n' Rave

I saved this image years ago from a New Zealand news paper - a great set of characters. The text reads:

Mrs Iris Strickland - one of the few voices supporting the MP for Hastings, Mr David Butcher. Mrs Strickland said the National Government had hit superannuitants harder and she was now "living better than I ever have."

Clippping - The Hawkes Bay Herald Tribune - 1984

Newspaper clipping


It's All Been Done Before

It has - there's not a bloody original thought left in the world. Just try and come up with a catchy name for a web-site. Someone has always been there first. Pricks!


When I was a kid I used to look out the car window on long, boring, family holiday trips and watch the lolly-pop men at each end of the inevitable New Zealand roadworks - back then the concept of roadworks was to rip up the road, dump a whole heap of rocks all over the place and let the traffic pack it all down for a few weeks.

Anyway, on one of these trips, I thought up this idea (this is in the '70s) of portable traffic lights on a trailer at each end of the roadworks to control the traffic. Wireless technology didn't occur to me but I thought it would need long cables on poles so the wires didn't get crushed. I didn't realise what I was on to.


Phonetic Alphabet

There's a whole history to this alphabet and various different versions of it.

It's all out there on the web if you are interested in that. I've just put this up here 'cause I keep needing to remember it in the middle of a phone call and wish I had it with me... so here it is.

  • A lpha
  • B ravo
  • C harlie
  • D elta
  • E cho
  • F oxtrot
  • G olf
  • H otel
  • I ndi
  • J uliet
  • K ilo
  • L ima
  • M ike
  • N ovember
  • O sca
  • P apa
  • Q uebec
  • R omeo
  • S iera
  • T ango
  • U niform
  • V ictor
  • W hisky
  • X -ray
  • Y anky
  • Z ulu

Without the readability gap, the words are:

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Osca, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Siera, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whisky, X-ray, Yanky, Zulu.


The Bob Dylan Revue - fresh gigs

The Bob Dylan Revue

The Bob Dylan Revue are playing again this week in Sydney. Being a Dylan fan from his late teens, Douglass is a great choice to play the roll of Bob Dylan. There is an uncanny resemblance to the man himself. Douglass has a natural feel for the Guitar, Blues harp and that distinctive vocal style... even Dylan himself would be a little puzzled at first... but he'll come around.


Obscured Image in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Video?

Tom Petty video screen shot

I was flicking through Mr Grubber's fine RSS feed this morning (as you do) and found my way to the new song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - I Should Have Known It. I agree with the DF, it's a great tune. It's slick, pop-rock and I like it. It could be a shocker in less competent hands but Tom has such cred' in his delivery that it works for me. There are some contrived edits of the band interacting with each other but that's just a bit of fun.

Art aside, something in the background of one shot caught my eye. There's a poster on the wall that has been obscured about two thirds of the way through the video. Something legal didn't like I guess. Perhaps someone wanted payment. I wonder what it is - possibly a Marilyn poster?


Broken Lance

Saint George, later in life, meets another dragon and things don't go as well as they did last time.

Painting Broken Lance
Broken Lance

George has had a good life but when he gets older and a bit wiser he begins to question things he would have taken for granted previously. Where is my beautiful lance? What is my beautiful lance? Why is that dragon looking at me that way? The lance, a symbol of sexual and spiritual virility is broken, it's more of a snapped blind-persons cane. It's a symbol of beliefs, of a faith that's broken. These Lance paintings are about my father, poor bugger, he wasted a large part of his life fooling around with a seriously fucked-up religion, only to find later in life that he didn't have the resources to get past what he saw as a loss of faith. I said "What does it matter? So there's no God, move on to something else, open a bookshop or something". more...

Global Nuclear Disarmament Would be Nice

Global nuclear disarmament would be nice, I'd be happy about that, but what can you do?

Regan and Gorbachev in Iceland
Regan and Gorby in Iceland, 1986

Various people have had a crack at it over the years but they all seem to loose traction after time.

In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan came close to taking an unprecedented step. During the Reykjavik Summit in Iceland, they almost agreed to get rid of all their nuclear weapons - but that fizzled out.

Closer to home, in 1995, then Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating established The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. It had an opening statement declaring it was...

...persuaded that immediate and determined efforts need to be made to rid the world of nuclear weapons and the threat they pose to it.

Later on in 1989, in reference to the Canberra Commission, Keating said, "I wanted to put the authority of a sovereign government behind the push to rid the world of nuclear weapons" - I like that.

The current Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd seems to have re-branded Keating's idea, and in collaboration with the Japanese government, has launched the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND). It's a mouthful of a title but a worthy move, with the aim of reducing the number of nuclear weapons over time. It has a long term goal of eliminating them beyond 2025 - too long for my liking.

I much prefer Keating's "Elimination" to Rudd's "Non-Proliferation" but perhaps stopping the growth is a pragmatic place to start, what with the May 2010 deadline approaching for the review of The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Of course the United Nations were on the case from day one. The first resolution ever passed by the UN General Assembly, on 24 January 1946, was for the "Establishment of a Commission to Deal With the Problem Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy." They were to "...proceed with the utmost dispatch" to make proposals "for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction" - nice try UN.

There is one crowd who have actually had some success. The Nunn-Lugar project claims to have helped in the decommissioning of over 7000 nuclear weapons. Seven thousand! They also claim to be chronically underfunded, or in fact criminally underfunded. Just imagine what they could get done if we threw just a fraction of the Bush-Blair-Howard-Iraq-invasion-cash at them. Nunn-Lugar state a goal...

...to lessen the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, to deactivate and to destroy these weapons, and to help the scientists formerly engaged in production of such weapons start working for peace.

Barack Obama chairs UN Security Council
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe 
Barack Obama Chairs the UN Security
Council Summit on 24 September 2009

That's the practical stuff that needs to be happening. Nunn is also involved with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) who seem to be doing some good work. 

Revisiting Reykjavik would be a more dramatic place to start but perhaps a less idealistic proposal is to sink a few lazy billion into projects like Nunn-Lugar and NTI.

I know I'm probably being overly optimistic but there do seem to be a few glimmers of a positive new momentum for nuclear disarmament growing again. Obama is heading in the right direction by chairing a UN Security Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. It's the first time a US President has done that.

Earlier in 2009, in his first address to the UN, Obama promised three important things...

America intends to keep our end of the bargain. We will pursue a new agreement with Russia to substantially reduce our strategic warheads and launchers. We will move forward with ratification of the test ban treaty and work with others to bring the treaty into force so that nuclear testing is permanently prohibited.

We will complete a Nuclear Posture Review that opens the door to deeper cuts and reduces the role of nuclear weapons. And we will call upon countries to begin negotiations in January [2010] on a treaty to end the production of fissile material for weapons.

I will also host a summit next April [2010] that reaffirms each nation's responsibility to secure nuclear material on its territory and to help those who can't, because we must never allow a single nuclear device to fall into the hands of a violent extremist. And we will work to strengthen the institutions and initiatives that combat nuclear smuggling and theft.

If he just gets those three things happening he will have earned that Nobel Peace Prize several times over. Let's see what happens with those promises in 2010.

While Obama may be at the beginning of something new, some of our other institutions just continue to reinforce the same old thinking. Take the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for example, perhaps instead of the paradoxical statute of "...accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace...", we could lobby for someone who has been to the brink, like Mikhail Gorbachev, to be the head of a new United Nations body for Nuclear Abolition (UNNA). Screw peaceful use! Let's burry this crap for good. 

It will take a someone to make a move that is uncharacteristic of most of the conservative clowns mis-managing this stuff today. I suspect politicians are the wrong people to be running this disarmament show, their self-serving, small-minded, nationalism will continue to reinforce their little-dick militarism and get us nowhere. Take Chirac for example, who decided in 1995 it would be fun to screw the Pacificsome more with another eight underground nuclear tests - mutha-fucker! We don't need clowns like that in charge ever again.

We need a new paradigm of thinking to manage nuclear material. A structure that sits above nationalism and restates the purpose of the UN agencies. It should have two parallel streams of work, one to rid the world of nuclear weapons and the enriched material to make them and a second stream, to begin undoing the damage the nuclear power industry is inexorably storing up for future generations with waste from power generation that none of us can work out what to do with. We need a base-load of new thinking.

Get the power stations managed by a central global body, no one can own them any more, make nuclear power the possession of the globe. It will be a while before we can completely replace those things with clean energy options, but we have to start heading that way now rather than building more of them. If you want a nuclear power plant in the interim, it has to be managed by the one international body, the land it's on is excised from the national boundaries - no chance to get in there and start bomb making classes again.

Further to this we should link the possession or suspected possession of nuclear weapons or the material to make them to trade in a similar way to a carbon tax. Every gram of nuclear material you are suspected of possessing will increased a hefty tariff on your exports. This way there is an incentive for transparency, and for all nations, including the US, UK, France and the others holding on to this shit, to be seen to be giving it up. Now I know this is crazy talk, I have no idea how you would administer a tariff like that - but it's an idea.

Here ends my potted history of nuclear disarmament. Sweet dreams and throw down your guns.


ClickToFlash - dumb-is-good

Clicktoflash screenshot

A while back I made a decision to stay away from using any Flash in building this web site...

I am deliberately avoiding the use of Flash. The misuse of flash in web sites is responsible for some of the most ridiculous, frustrating and avoidable usability issues. So, dumb-is-good could be the motto here.

So I was pleased to see the new ClickToFlashplugin for Safari today and tried it out straight away. It elegantly blocks those shitty flash impositions all over the web. You gotta be happy with that.

Because NetNewsWire on the Mac uses WebKit, the plugin also works there too - twice as little flash trash has got to be even better.

I guess it's not Flash that's the problem really, it's the crazy overuse of it ruining user interaction that gets me. I know there are sites that are totally Flash driven that will just be blocked but then I generally loose interest in them in a few seconds anyway. I'm sure in a few days I'll find a number of situations where having Flash blocked will be a pain... but I'll give it a go.


NetNewsWire 2.0 for iPhone Unusably Slow

NetNewswire iPhone app icon

I recently upgraded to the latest version of NetNewsWire for the iPhone. Like many out there, I had been eagerly awaiting the new version 2.0 that would sync with Google Reader. Having my desktop feeds back in sync with the iPhone was going to be one of life's small pleasures

...it was not worth the wait.

In short - NetNewsWire 2.0 is unusable.

The software has numerous design flaws and seems to be faulty in many ways. The biggest issue is the time it takes to load feed data. It's so long my short attention span has moved to other things (like watching paint dry in the shade) before the first blank screen has refreshed. It's a huge step backwards from the previous version in my opinion. When I say slow - this is on the iPhone 3G over 802.11g wireless.

Of course it's free so you'd be a prick if you complained too much but they are trying to flog the no-adds version for a couple of bucks and this is not making me feel inclined to cough up.

Issues I have with it are:


  • the unread badge count doesn't work - mine has been stuck on 940 for a few days
  • slow as all fuck in many screens
  • the Show/Hide Feeds takes for ever to show up
  • Show/Hide Feeds doesn't work - after unselecting numerous feeds and going back to the feeds list it starts to download everything again. Sometimes they stick sometimes not.
  • it has crashed a few times
  • and when it crashes the feeds are all selected on next launch - which in turn takes for ever
  • when selecting or de-selecting feeds in the Show/Hide Feeds, feed icons seem to come and go from the left, not just the one being clicked.

Design issues

  • no sort order for feeds - in particular the sort-by-attention option
  • no unselect or select all button in the show hide feeds
  • Show/Hide Feeds is a flattened list of all feeds - why not follow the convention of many other iPhone apps of having an edit button, leaving the hierarchy of feeds and their folders in place and adding the delete, hide, add option in that view?

I could go on...

Admittedly it's easy to slag things off in a blog after minimal testing. I have tried a few times to limit the number of feeds in my list (82) on the iPhone to see if performance improves but even that has been difficult to achieve with it crashing and turning them all on again.

It leaves me with the impression this is one of two things

 - either a rushed job by good developers whose work got compromised by some crazy deadline promised by the boss 

- or they don't care about this product any more but felt they had to knock some crap together to keep the punters off their back.

Let's see what transpires.

I'll be looking for a new feed reader, perhaps the google offering will do.



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