The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Now the madness is about trading hours!

Sunday 31 December 2006 at 7:39 pm

Despite its similarity to the daylight saving mess, there are entirely different reasons for why I’m so wary of the new push for deregulating shopping hours around Perth. Basically, we had a referendum less than two years ago, so even the stupid “the youngins haven’t spoken” argument doesn’t work. For now, we should probably accept the umpire’s decision and not make any major changes. (Imagine if the law was changed regardless: what does that say about the referendum process? Should we go changing the national anthem without a vote?)

I say this even though I reckon the referendum was entirely swayed by the independent grocer’s lobby and their “help us, we’re the underdog!” advertising. Of course, it deeply saddens me that the supposedly independent, David-versus-Goliath supermarkets were all either gobbled up or spun off into a single chain just a few months later in The Great Woolworths-Metcash-Foodland Deal.

However, I also don’t believe that the current laws should stay unchanged — because quite simply, they suck. My pet solution is to completely deregulate opening hours in the Fremantle and Perth CBDs (and perhaps other areas like Subiaco, Rockingham, and the forthcoming Cockburn Central), while keeping something like the current arrangements in the suburbs.

The argument that big chain stores will stamp out independent shops doesn’t apply in these areas (seriously, compare the independent CBD convenience stores to Woolies, and tell me you prefer the former). This change would mitigate the danger of shop owners making unfair demands of their employees, while also fixing, in one fell swoop, the problem of the Perth CBD turning into a ghost town after 5.30pm. Indeed, one of the arguments for extending trading hours is that it’ll help people “take advantage of daylight saving”, but that doesn’t make sense in the soulless artificial environment of suburban shopping centres. And heck, longer trading hours might even encourage suburbanites to visit the urban centres a little more often, which would hardly be a bad thing.


As the supermaxis hoon out of Sydney Harbour

Tuesday 26 December 2006 at 12:47 pm

This is one of the coolest uses of Google Earth that I’ve seen in ages: a KML file with data from the official Sydney to Hobart race site so you can track the yachts in 3D!

Tracking the Sydney to Hobart in Google Earth; Creative Commons licence doesn't apply to this image

That said, the site is a bit iffy at the moment due to what I’m guessing is heavy traffic. Considering that on the TV, the navigator of Wild Oats said she uses the yacht tracker on the site to know where the competition is (!), this is a touch disappointing … but still, very cool.

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Christmas decorations in HDR!

Monday 25 December 2006 at 8:28 pm

Just when I was trying to focus more and reduce the number of distractions in my life, I think I may be becoming addicted to playing with 32-bit HDR images in Photoshop :-)

Lit-up neon angel figure in Forrest Place, Perth

There is, of course, more to be seen in my Flickr account. That said, the other photos have a fair amount of not-quite-right-ness about them, because my kit is woefully inadequate to do this HDR stuff properly. So if I continue down this path, I may run out of money as well as time. Oh dear oh dear …

So anyway, Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, a pleasant Eid ul-Adha, and a prosperous New Year to y’all ;-)

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In the Christmas shopping madness …

Sunday 24 December 2006 at 8:57 pm

… I think someone was a bit hasty in programming their checkouts ;-)

Typing error in my receipt from Borders


The little nerdy hack that could

Saturday 16 December 2006 at 8:17 pm

So, um, the traffic to my hastily-assembled little rip-off from an xkcd comic has, er, grown quite rapidly of late.

Visit counts for's first five days

From Thursday afternoon (Perth time), I was already getting a couple of thousand visits courtesy of whoever it was that submitted to StumbleUpon (the plugin for which I always disable, because it’s so freakin’ addictive!) … on StumbleUpon Buzz

… on top of the half-dozen who visited from here and the 100 or so who came via the xkcd forums. Special credit must go to Doc Ruby on Slashdot, who was kind enough to post a link on a discussion thread that was only slightly related to the site, after I’d answered a comment that basically called for someone to create this site. That prompted a link on — giving me several hundred extra visitors and prompting enough curiousity to earn me a posting on Digg, which initially drew little interest but then suddenly shot on to the front page around midday yesterday. on Digg front page

The bandwidth-usage graph from my Web host says it all:

Bandwidth graph for during the Digging

This resulted in my little (and not that well-written!) PHP script getting twenty thousand visitors in the space of a few hours, and also led to it being linked to from all over the Internet.

In a testament to dual-core Opteron pow-ah, the server that runs (appropriated from Feedeye, with which I’m still fiddling heavily) has barely skipped a beat. In the peak of the Digging, the load average on that box barely hit 0.6 (except when it was also doing its regular RSS cooking tasks, when it jumped to 3 or 4).

My biggest regret is that, somewhat embarrassingly, there was a bug in the site’s CSS for most of yesterday that caused the mapping results page to look weird in Internet Explorer 7 (though strangely, I saw no mention of this from anyone). The blame here lies with IE7’s Supposedly Fixed Box Model on the one hand, and with me accidentally deleting the workaround I’d created on the other!

But aside from all this, the greatest delight of yesterday was an e-mail I received in the morning from Mr. Almighty Stick-Figure Drawer himself!

E-mail: I'm awfully happy to see what you've done to see what you've done with my internet map!

Incidentally, aside from Randall I’ve received an entire 5 e-mails about — everyone is just leaving their opinions as comments on the forums & blogs where they’re seeing the links. This is perfectly understandable, but makes it awfully hard for me to figure out what people think! ;-)


An experiment with a cat, a tripod, and HDR

Saturday 16 December 2006 at 5:21 pm

My cat, sleeping on a chair, in my first attempt at HDR

I’ve discovered High Dynamic Range photography in the last few days, primarily from seeing things on Flickr, so when I saw the cat being obligingly sleepy (and thus shootable at several exposures) I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Thus I present this slightly-higher-than-usual-DR photo as evidence of my first foray into this crazy world …

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