The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Howard-isms are popping up everywhere!

Wednesday 14 November 2007 at 11:31 pm
  • There was a column in last Friday’s South China Morning Post responding to the Chinese prime minister’s claim that the economy here has had years of strong growth, and therefore his economic policy is awesome and can’t be faulted. This sounds strangely familiar! And as the column put it, just because we know A equals B doesn’t therefore mean X equals Y …
  • And yes, the Latham story died down and we’re back to the same-old of throwing a million dollars or so here, a billion or so there, and who really cares about keeping track of these expenses anymore?
  • Team Howard, meanwhile, seem intent on asserting that this election is about the future. I’m not convinced of that, and I doubt the punter on the street could ever be convinced. Is this really the best that Liberal strategists can come up with — after all, aren’t all of the Ruddster’s big policies about the future too?
  • I am missing this whole saga with BHP and Rio, which is a shame because it sounds mighty funny. “You’re undervaluing our company!” “No, you’re undervaluing our company!” … or something to that effect.
  • Finally I doubt there’ll have been much coverage in Australia of the successful float of Alibaba, the largest e-commerce venture in China (and one of the world’s largest). I was even tempted to write about a new Internet boom in Asia, except that the IPO happened alongside a massive fall on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Markets here behave in their own very strange ways …

The Verandah, pork-barrelling, and syndication

Wednesday 15 August 2007 at 9:14 am
  • I haven’t seen much comment about yesterday’s announcement from the new director of PIAF to dump the Beck’s Verandah and replace it with a “Music Box” on the Esplanade (presumably using the much-vaunted but really not that great stage built there by the City of Perth). I admire the goals of bringing the music closer to the city centre and strengthening the new urban axis along the underground line … but wasn’t a lit-up Concert Hall half the appeal?
  • Team Howard is going to drop two hundred million in the pockets of Internet filtering vendors to automate the task of supervising kids with Internet connections. Putting the politics aside (at least this is an opt-in policy), someone should tell them how the modern Internet renders such software useless. Many filters still use the old blacklisting method, which might have worked with old-school porn sites, but what about an XMLHttpRequest from Gmail with porn spam? And the vendors have only recently figured out how to monitor BitTorrent clients, nevermind the minefield of MySpace (block it to create a huge incentive to disable your software, or allow it and try to distinguish between innocent messages and porn spam friend requests …).
  • An anecdote: during a recent unexpected visit, a member of my extended family made a passing remark that “at least the Federal conservatives aren’t spending up big like Labor would” — and do, apparently, in the State. But I’m reminded of the striking similarities in both tiers’ budgets from May: no shortage of vote-buying, but at least both were responsible enough to not touch funds allocated to basic services. That is, assuming you don’t think those services need extra funding. (If ever I doubted the second-year lecturer who said class is a minor factor in Australian elections, I need only look at my family — it’s almost entirely working-class, but hosts quite a few Liberal supporters.)
  • Finally, for the LiveJournal users in the audience: ever wanted to read this blog from your friends page? Courtesy of Alex, now you can!

Two steps back … and half a step forward?

Saturday 9 June 2007 at 2:12 pm

Angela Merkel and George Bush at the G8 meeting in Germany; Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image

  • Yesterday’s announcement from the G8 meeting sounds awesome: US$60 billion! For the Global Fund! Tackling the worst diseases facing Africa! Yet although this is good news, it actually represents only a little bit of new funding, and it’s being directed to programmes that have an annoying tendency to draw the focus away from other public health concerns (i.e. yay your town is HIV-free! but no we won’t fix your crumbling hospital).
  • Among the other announcements from the G8 summit (including a very American-sounding statement about intellectual property) is an even greater non-event: on climate change, they’ve promised to enter discussions about what to do when the Kyoto Protocol expires, seeking “substantial global emission reductions” (which is as strong as the document gets). By normal standards of diplomacy I’d call this a success — but problem is, by the time normal diplomacy is finished, the battle may have already been lost.
  • Unrelatedly, here I was thinking Paul Murray’s column on Thursday was bad. Today he highlights that newspaper’s endemic lack of clue towards the Internet: whilst pretending he knows what he’s on about, he waffles about “credibility” before selectively quoting The Assault on Reason (taking an entire sentence to dismiss why Al Gore thinks the Web is good for democracy), and froths at the mouth about celebrity gossip without noticing that the Internet is a wee bit bigger than the home pages of Australia’s commercial news services.
  • Murray’s page was taken up yesterday by an infinitely more sensible article from former MP Phillip Pendal (who’s no saint, having once been anti-railway). He points out that the State Government ought to stop sitting on its hands with the Old Treasury Buildings and restore them to government offices, their original use. This really does make a lot of sense, particularly given how much office space the State rents and how horribly expensive that is in the current market. But its sensibility is exactly why I fear his proposal will be ignored.
  • From today’s report about the not-yet-released masterplan for the Amarillo site, I observe that there’s basically nothing new. It’s a huge area of sprawled housing in a region with more new housing estates than you can poke a stick at, there’s suggestion of a dense centre that might be kinda cool (maybe), and there’s the mention of “possible light rail” that has accompanied every development south of Fremantle for as long as I can remember.
    Update 14/6: I’d not noticed that the master plan has been buried on the DHW site for some days now.

Awesome tennis, but not on TV

Sunday 28 January 2007 at 9:08 pm

Roger Federer at Australian Open 2007; Creative Commons licence doesn't apply to this image

Props to Roger Federer for an utterly awesome Australian Open win. And also for being a great bloke — signing autographs, cracking jokes in his speech, chatting to his opponent after the match — putting to shame a certain Australian tennis player.

But a thousand curses to the WA management of Channel 7, who decided that the men’s final wasn’t important enough to show live. Using the three different live functions of the official site (each with slightly different delays!), this is how I ended up “watching” the final:

The Australian Open online scoreboard, PointTracker, and radio playback window; Creative Commons licence doesn't apply to this image

I can understand the reason why the telecast was delayed (which doesn’t make it forgivable) … and the more I think about it, the more I look forward to a future where TV is delivered over the Internet. Whether it’s GooTube or Yahoo! or Apple, or even Microsoft or AOL, the day that the first major sporting event is streamed live and in full will be a great one for fans.

Freed from the shackles of conventional please-everyone-in-one-stream broadcasting, I reckon that day will also spell the death of traditional TV corporations. They’ve lifted their game (in the US at least) because they’ve realised that DVD and video games let people see what they want when they want it. But unless there’s a massive change in TV industry politics, the quality new shows seem to be too much stopgap and not enough cure …


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! ;-)