The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Russia, China, night buses, and the Google OS

Thursday 9 July 2009 at 11:30 pm
  • Ever wonder what American lawmakers do all day? Pointless dedications, apparently.
  • Meanwhile, President Obama has been off doing promising work to get new commitments towards nuclear weapons reduction. But I wonder: even with a superstar leader in Washington, is the Russian government really that keen on cooperating?
  • Hearing about the Rio exec detained in China worries me; Australia’s relationship with China is crucially important, and being that they’re a communist dictatorship it’s easier to anger them than your average liberal democracy. So while the scandal will inevitably pass, I hope no real economic damage is done. (Also, I’m chuffed that yesterday’s ABC article quoted my honours supervisor!)
  • In announcing yet more service cuts (sigh), the WA transport minister is quoted as saying taxis are preferred over NightRider; admittedly I never saw a full one of those buses, but seriously? You don’t think that could possibly be because the routes weren’t ideal or there wasn’t enough promotion? Heck, even the Bay Area (and most big US cities) run 24-hour buses on major routes that are slow-but-decent (despite the times I’ve seen shift workers outnumbered by creepy homeless people).
  • And finally, Fake Steve Jobs at his finest, explaining why Google’s Chrome OS announcement is barely worth caring about despite all the blog hype: “As Sarah Palin would say, the engineers at Google are ambitionistic about wanting to progress the world, and gosh, ya know what? That’s darn good for everyone.”
1 comment »

Budgets and Asian disasters and work and parties

Monday 9 June 2008 at 6:16 pm

So I have been naughty and working too hard, quite apart from being naughty with respect to this blog. Although we did squeeze out a new Lichen version a fortnight ago, and if or when things finish up at the day job I do believe the next version of Azureus will be sweet.

Some of the things I’ve been wanting to write about:

  • Oh how the honeymoon has come crashing down for the Ruddster and his peeps! First there was the Federal Budget, which was generally sensible but reeked of compromise in every direction (that, and an unhealthy obsession with Costello-style future funds). Then we have inflation egad, public sector overworking oh my, and premix tax eeek! But it’s okay: they had pictures of troops leaving Iraq to distract the masses.
  • Speaking of Budgets, WA’s was remarkably unremarkable given it’s what Carps will be calling an election on. I mean, sure there are billions being splashed about for infrastructure and whatnot, but that kind of announcement is kinda getting old. (Then again, I’ve documented enough times how poor the field is.)
  • It amuses me how much sound and fury has been generated by the plan for a national version of FuelWatch. Surely the logic should be simple: did it work in WA? if so, implement! … just like the other State policies that went national (TravelSmart, Go For 2 & 5, and others; WA actually does have a reasonably inventive bureaucracy. Not to say FuelWatch is perfect, but having foresight does make us all feel better).
  • If Burma’s military leaders were a little less skilled at crushing dissent, they’d probably have riotous mobs demanding their heads for the latest in a long line of cock-ups. Alas, they’re not, and so their country has become even more of a mess than it was. Compare the Chinese government, who have done a far better job handling their natural disaster — not to say the Communist Party are any good at logistics, but at least they didn’t get unfriendly headlines before the Olympics.
  • Onto less weighty matters: may I briefly say, I deeply dislike the new Google favicon? It doesn’t look Google-ey at all, making it that much harder to find searches amongst twenty browser tabs …
  • The WordPress party of two weeks ago was fun! There was schwag from Automattic! I met people from such diverse places as Connecticut and Sweden! And there were many more ladies than your average geek event ;-)
  • This, I think, is hilarious — who’da thunk a metro ride could be so rowdy! And it reminds me of how weird it (still) seems to see people downing beer on trains here, while the staff walk past not caring.
  • Although, speaking of, I felt sorry for the girl across from me on the last Caltrain service out of San Francisco after the WordPress party, whose parents were going off at her on the phone for riding the train; apparently nice girls don’t do that sort of thing …

Rudd in China, the GG, and transportey things

Tuesday 15 April 2008 at 6:37 am
  • The Ruddster didn’t do a bad job of communicating to the Chinese government their failings last week. Not that I expect this to achieve anything — he certainly isn’t the first leader to quiz ’em about Tibet — but it’s nice to see him not kowtowing. Although the greatest substance from this meeting seems to have been some muttering about clean coal, which won’t exactly save the world from Chinese pollution.
  • We are soon to have a new Governor-General, and like the bloke who appointed her, she’s from Queensland! (Oh, and she’s female.)
  • In the airline industry, I’m sad to see Oasis Hong Kong shut down — all the British backpackers I met in Hong Kong were raving about how cheap their fares were — and I wonder how many other airlines’ business models are in trouble.
  • Finally, I’m not yet sure that I trust Google’s Transit service, which recently added data from Transperth — apparently it takes twenty minutes to walk the platform bridge at Cockburn Central. And for all its flaws, the Transperth site is at least reliable in its recommendations since it knows about things like station closures. Compare to the Bay Area’s equivalent sites, which suck in general but also do wonderful things like leave me stranded in San Jose for an hour because a light rail station was being rebuilt.
no comments »

Some matters around Perth, and Google in the fray

Thursday 21 June 2007 at 11:45 pm

Revised ING and Fremantle Ports proposal for Victoria Quay; Creative Commons licence doesn't apply to this image

  • This is the revised development proposal for Victoria Quay in Fremantle, and it’s a clear improvement on the original. But it’s still drawn the ire of Fremantle’s heritage lobby (including the deputy mayor) for being too big; it’ll apparently “drain energy” from the surrounding area. Comparing to ships and harbour cranes, this opposition makes so little sense that I can only guess these folks really don’t want anyone spoiling the view from the Port Authority building.
  • Speaking of resistance to change around Perth, Charles Landry is back in town and will be speaking with Carol Coletta (of the American group CEOs for Cities) at His Majesty’s next Thursday. The topic is “what Perth can offer the global community — in particular the dynamic, innovative and highly mobile 20 to 30-somethings”. Details here.
  • Ten points to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for stating the obvious in their report: those same young Australians are disillusioned with politics, partly ’cos they’re ill-informed, but mainly because they don’t trust politicians. The report goes on about civics education, but nothing short of Orwellian brainwashing will do unless MPs start reaching out to young people and, you know, actually responding.
  • It’s interesting to watch as Google develops to be (in some ways) more like a traditional corporation, such as by engaging in political lobbying. But when you’re the darling of the Internet, you use a method that will reach out to the young and the busy — a blog littered with YouTube videos.

Water, Web sites, and the World Bank

Thursday 17 May 2007 at 12:17 pm
  • My apologies to those of you waiting on e-mail from me — regular service might be returned shortly. Um, maybe.
  • On the new desalination plant, I am hesitantly supportive, although I’m scratching my head as to why building in Binningup is so much more expensive than Kwinana. I’m also at a loss to understand why yesterday’s West Australian claimed it was bad for the long-term — not being reliant on rainfall is supposed to be a good thing! (On that note, this is pretty funny.)
  • However, I agree that Maxine Murray is on to something in complaining about political influence in the public service: there’s certainly little evidence that Tuesday’s decision was made on formal advice. But everywhere I look there seems to be different opinions on whether this is a sensible solution or not, and whether it was right to “cave in to” / “acknowledge” / “finally listen to” pressure groups who didn’t want the Yarragadee tapped.
  • Deeper in the guts of yesterday’s paper lay an article about Twitter. It repeats the “X is the next MySpace!” cliché, and it muddles some terminology — but given that page 5 called Alan Carpenter the “predecessor” of Geoff Gallop, I can forgive that. It also quotes Tama, and therefore earns instant not-completely-clueless points ;-) Oh, and my take on how its owners intend to not go broke is the same as his — my four-year-old phone supports a vaguely similar service that never won much support, but Twitter could use its popularity to con phone makers into paying licensing fees for an enhanced interface or something.
  • I reserve judgement on the State Opposition’s “Plan for Perth” task force. As with the housing affordability task force of months past, there’s a chance it’ll produce interesting new suggestions and give the Liberals ammunition for the next election, but given that all we’ve seen out of them so far is cheap point-scoring that disagrees with anything and everything, I’m not holding out hope.
  • [World Bank ad entitled 'Women Empowerment'] The World Bank has been purchasing Adsense recently. (Like, WTF? A UN bureaucracy. Buying advertising. From Google?) I first saw this text ad on Pandagon, which is an increasingly-rare case of the big G’s matching algorithms working (I can imagine some readers of that blog might actually want to read their report), and a few days ago I saw this banner on PerthNorg. Is this an on-the-cheap attempt to improve PR in the wake of the ongoing scandal?
  • Finally, a geeky discovery: the Etchasketchist. I cannot begin to describe how awesome this dude’s blog and Flickr account are.
no comments »

A bug in Google?

Monday 3 July 2006 at 1:59 am

Here’s a random trick that gave me a few, er, seconds of amusement.

Click in your browser-of-choice’s search bar (I assume you use a browser sensible enough to have such a thing) and type a skeptical/ambivalent smiley, :-/

No search results, no navbar, nothing ...?

Somehow I doubt that’s supposed to happen …

(At least MSN and Yahoo! are kind enough to show a “no results found” message!)

no comments »