August 29, 2007

Horse 800 - Correct. The Answer Is Maths.

Eight ladies go to eight shops at eight o'clock in the morning. Each lady wants to buy eight spiders. For each spider, eight spider shoes must also be bought. But they only have eight pounds between them. With each spider costing eight pence and each spider shoe costing an eighth pence each, will the ladies have enough change for the bus ride home? A journey costing eight pence per stop and made up of eight stops.

Price of Spiders:
8 Ladies x 8 Spiders = 64 Spiders
64 Spiders x 8p = £5.12

Price of Spider Shoes:
64 Spiders x 8 Spider Shoes = 512 Spider Shoes
512 Spider Shoes x 1/8p = £6.40

Price of Bus Fare:
8 Ladies x 8/p per Stop x 8 Stops = £5.12

Total Cost: £5.12 + £6.40 + £5.12 = £16.64

If they only have £8 between them, then they are £8.64 short not 8p as stated on page 3.141592 of your copybook. Write that down.

Imhotep is Invisible

August 28, 2007

Horse 799 - Law - What Is It Good For?

Laws, Rules & Regulations are all in essence one and the same. At their most basic level they define what should be or what ought to be normal behaviour for an entity. In general, laws are positive "is" statements backed up with a threat of a penalty for abnormal or corrupted behaviour.

In a legal sense, laws and rules are divided into primary rules (rules of conduct) and secondary rules (rules addressed to officials to administer primary rules). Secondary rules are divided into rules of adjudication (to resolve legal disputes), rules of change (allowing laws to be varied) and the rule of recognition (allowing laws to be identified as valid). All of which are aimed at regulating behaviour of both the people under it and the judges and interpreters.

The big question that then needs to be asked is why bother to regulate behaviour? What is the point? Laws exist because the behaviour trying to be corrected and stopped is either chaotic, unhelpful or damaging to the individual or entity or society at large. The sad fact of the matter is that if left to their own devices, every entity arrives at its own set of behaviours - sometimes with dire and grave consequences.

I happen to remember this from my Introduction to Law class and taken directly from Paul's letter to the Galatians:
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Any legal student will tell you that the ultimate goal of any law, even secular, is wrapped up within these words. It contains one very interesting word - justified. When anything including text, soldiers, facts are justified, it means that they are brought to line up. Co-incidentally a ruler also does the same thing.

Likewise the inverse of this (and what Paul expressly wrote) is that where the conduct and behaviour is already good and proper, the law by inference does not actually need to exist because the law only points out where a transgression has occured.

August 22, 2007

Horse 798 - Pure Bonkers

This week 30 years ago marks in my opinion the high water mark of Australian automotive history. The Holden Commodore was still about 9 months away with experimental Vauxhall Viceroys in development and the Torana was almost on its way out, and boy did Holden give the Torrie a send off.

Styled loosely on the Opel Manta the Torana A9X bristled with things that did not belong on a motor car: flared and bolted on guards, a dropped fuel tank, duck tail and that reverse bonnet scoop. This was a car will attitude, and just to make sure that it lived up to the looks, they shoehorned a 315bhp 5.0L V8 under the bonnet. Who cared if you couldn't get at some of the spark plugs without difficulty? Most people would only be seeing a pair of red lights and a number 11 on the pavement anyway.

To be honest, I didn't really like Brock because he drove a Holden, but his record of 10 Bathursts (you have to include the 24hr, it made 1000km look tame) and the
fact that he drove so well for so long is hard to ignore.
Even I have to admit that Brock in an A9X must have sent fear and terror into the chasing pack. It showed as well. Brock took both Bathurst and Sandown in 1978 and 1979 in the A9X. Although he did repeat the trick in 1980, the Commodore just looked... civilised.

OK, so Ford have swelled their prices and the Commodore has steadily grown now to the point where it's bigger than the old Statesman so I don't think either of them have any claim to being anything other than big saloons. Toyota only produce boring motor cars and Mitsubishi... just what is a 380 for anyway?

No the A9X is/was the last truly bonkers car to be made in Australia - nothing since even holds a candle to it. Even if they did, it would be blown out in the whoosh.

August 21, 2007

Horse 797 - Can't, Won't, Shan't but will complain when someone else does!

From Telstra:

Broadband Connect
The Government’s 18 June announcement that it would give close to $1 billion of taxpayers’ money to SingTel Optus and Elders (OPEL) to duplicate broadband infrastructure and services that Telstra already provides has been widely criticised.

And rightly so. This funding decision is highly questionable for these important reasons:

It is one thing to artificially manufacture competition and welcome foreign investment into Australia, but this is a gift of a massive sweetener to a foreign owned company that has no track record of delivering services in the bush.

The Government is paying for technology that is not proven, will not provide the speeds that are being claimed, has serious coverage issues, and doesn’t meet the requirements of the people it is supposed to serve.

It is a massive duplication of services that already exist. The Government is wasting $958M of tax dollars to build a wireless broadband network when Telstra’s Next GTM network - a superior technology to OPEL’s WiMAX already covers 98.8% of the population.

Duplication of services eh? Hmm. But find this here:

Why would anyone ever invest?
Australia is the only country in the world where companies have invested money in modern cable networks, namely Optus and TransAct, yet both companies prefer to hook up customers to Telstra’s copper rather than their own more modern investments.

Because of a lack of investment, Australia is going backwards on all key measures.

We’re being left behind the rest of the world in terms of our ‘e readiness’ – the measure that looks at how well advanced we are as a country to participate in the information economy.

We’ve been languishing at 16th and 17th place in the world in terms of broadband availability for the past three years.

And we’re virtually at the bottom of the table when it comes to investment in all-important high-speed fibre.
The sad fact is that 10 years on and Australia’s telecommunication industry is not all that healthy.

Let me get this straight is Telstra arguing against duplication and piggybacking at the same time? Telstra frequently complains about competitors using its network rather than investing in their own. Yet when the Government subsidises another wireless network, Telstra complains of duplication. Which is it Telstra, piggybacking or duplication?

It seems the real fact here is that Telstra really wants neither. Telstra would like a guaranteed monopoly power to dictate prices and continue to enjoy super-profits at consumers’ expense. I happen to like the fact that when a tender was put out, Telstra admits that it wanted to spend $4bn in its own documentation but when someone else finds a 75% cheaper solution they're crying foul.

The simple truth of the matter from real world experience is that Next G doesn't actually work in real world examples. I would like to see an actual set of empirical tests at the 200km range from a base-station but not only have these never been provided (even to a Senate committee hearing) there is no intention of doing so. Anyway the cheapest solution for existing customers is long-line ADSL, which I notice isn't pushed on the Telstra website at all.

If Telstra won't provide a service then it should shut up about where Government money goes. Government money is handed out on a tender basis and if they didn't win a tender, then they have no right to complain. What does it matter in reality if the money goes to one company or another? Neither are answerable to the public.

August 20, 2007

Horse 796 - What's Good For General Motors...

Charles Erwin Wilson is a name which probably only a few people may still remember. I suspect that this man however is responsible for more of the story of the motor car than any other.

Wilson started his career as an electrical engineer and was working for Westinghouse. Although mainly famous for producing big electrical motors for lifts and escalators, it was Wilson's very first patent which shifted the face of the motor car forever - the starter motor.
The 1911 Cadillac was the first motor car to make use of the technology and soon got the jump as General Motors installed it across the board. No longer was it necessary to start a car by crank handle.

He continued to work for Westinghouse and due to America's isolation was able to design military equipment free from annoyance. At the end of the war, he was headhunted by the Remy-Electric Company which later merged with Delco and by 1922 was their head engineer. Within four years he became president of the then world's largest auto-eletrics company.

Because Delco itself was part of the General Motors group of companies and because of Wilson's business sense, he was transferred to management in GM itself and from 1929 to 1939 was Vice-President. During the war he assumed the role of President and CEO and because he directed the massive defence budget of the company, he was awarded the US Medal of Merit.

This is where the story gets interesting: Wilson as president of General Motors was invited by US President Eisenhower to step into the role of Secretary of Defence from 1953 - 1957.

During his tenure as the Secretary of Defense, Wilson managed the military as though it were a business. He was initially hesitant to bring about change without conferring with the President, so much so, that Eisenhower reputedly said, "Charlie, you run defense. We both can't do it, and I won't do it. I was elected to worry about a lot of other things than the day-to-day operations of a department." Wilson later brought about a programmatic shift in the armed forces in preparation for modern warfare, including expanding research and development, cutting the size of the standing army, and boosting readiness for a nuclear conflict.

Wilson I suspect took this note to heart and was able to co-erce the President into passing a rather important piece of legislation, the Federal Highway Act of 1956. Basically as the largest public works system in history, the US system of expressways would cris-cross the country and instead of taking 25 years to compete and costing $25bn, it took 35 years and cost $114bn.

At the end of Wilson's tenure as Secretary of Defence, he then moved back to General Motors and it's little wonder that as the expressways spread across America; with all of these lovely roads to drive on, people tended to buy motor cars. It's fairly safe to say that there is a direct correlation between Wilson's role as Secretary of Defence and President of GM. Certainly GM benefitted greatly from it and only until recently was the world's largest company.

I'll let you make up your own mind as to whether you think he was estute or manipulative. In terms of sheer dollars spent, this one man directed more of them than any other in the history of the motor car. Were they well spent? For Charle Erwin Wilson? Yes.

Horse 795 - Once in a Blue Moon

Man United have travelled to Eastlands and have come away with nothing. Former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson who on occasion had heated words with Sir Alex Ferguson on his first derby fixture has stolen 3 points in what surely has to be the sweetest thing since Sticky the Stick Insect got stuck on a sticky bun.

Man United have now dropped 7 points from their opening fixtures whilst their neighbours with this result go to the top of the league with the maximum 9 from 9. This is somewhat ironic considering that Kasper Schmeichel used to play for the enemy and on top of that looks like he's out of his depth. United have only managed a single goal from three fixtures and perhaps for the first time in 25 years are seriously beginning to look at the chasm of relegation.

Sir Alex himself before the fixture said that the winners will not straddle 90 points this year because the pressure to stay up is getting larger and larger. In fact the tide in England is slowly shifting to something akin to an Italian style game or "anti-football".

Brazilian midfielder Geovanni scored the only goal in this derby, and although United had enough corners to start a chain of convenience stores, they simply couldn't convert. City's back four played sterling football and managed to either stall or chip out when appropriate. The question remains whether this is just an anomaly or if Sven's boys can put together 25 of these performances.

The phrase "once in a blue moon" seems rather apt at the moment. Man City top? Whod'a thunk it?

August 17, 2007

Horse 794 - BBC Snooker Balls?

Kiss the red then screw back for the yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black.

I have inadvertantly stumbled on something this morning. Whilst looking across the BBC's website for upcoming radio programs, I find that someone has sneakily changed the logos with warning.

The implications for this are subtle. Radios 1, 2, 3 & 4 don't change their name. Five Live becomes Radio "5 live" in lower-case. 6 Xtra magically turns into Radio 6 Music and poor old BBC7 isn't sure whether it's BBC Radio 7 or BBC 7 or what.

If you compare them with the outgoing logos then you'd notice that they all had a separate flavour. 'Twould appear that the Beeb is going a bit stodgy again what with a new coporate voice "yelling" (?) forth. I can't belives that they spent £120,000 on the venture.

What do the listeners at Radio 4 think? They're notorious for writing in all over the world and complaining about everything. Radio 4 is listened to by Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Women, as opposed to Radio 2 who has Terry's Old Gits, Terry's Overseas Gits, as TOGs and Terry's Young Gits as TYGs.

Radio 3 is a vast improvement over the splodge that was. Mind you, only about 3 people listen to Radio 3 so who'd notice really.

But the biggest loser is BBC 7 who went from a rather clever vaudevillian mouth msade of sevens to this... elbow joint?

Perhaps the most sinister thing of all is the quiet thing behind all of this. The whole of BBC Radio is now known as the "Audio & Music Division". The whole point of 6 Xtra and BBC7 was to let people know by stealth that you couldn't pick them up by "radio" - what now?

BBC Radio 9, Radio 12? Perhaps it will come full circle and we'll get 247 but somehow I doubt it.

August 16, 2007

Horse 793 - Nine-Bladed!

Have you been following the race for supremacy in the men's razor category? Talk about competition!

Gillette launches the Mach3 with three blades.
Then comes the Mach3 Turbo - an upgrade.
This is followed by Gillette's Mach3 Turbo Champion - in a racy, Ferrari red. (It looks great on my bathroom counter, by the way.)

Not to be outdone, Schick comes out with the Quattro, featuring four blades. The Quattro hit the market just a few months after Gillette's Mach3.

Shavers are going to get more blades whether they need them or not. However, just like Moore's law (the observation that computer chips double in power every 18 months or so) it seems that technology as well as marketing determines the rate at which new blades are introduced.

Gillette responded with its new razor, The Fusion. It has five blades! Count 'em 1 2 3 4 5. And that's just on the front face of the shaving head. Get this, the Fusion also has an additional "precision blade" on the rear face of the shaving head. Excessive? Yes. Clever. Also yes! Who had ever thought of doing anything useful with the back of the razor blade cartridge.

I checked the price of a package of refill blades. At my supermarket the price tag was a whopping $33.95. And I thought that the Mach3 refills were sinful at $21.89 for the refill package. I actually feel guilty whenever I have to add razor blades to the weekly grocery shopping list.

I have not tried the Fusion yet... but I probably will. Gillette usually gets me with its marketing. Can anyone recommend a good home-equity loan to me? I'm going to need one if I have to begin purchasing Fusion razor blades.

What I want to know is what will happen in the near future? Six? For the demon shall bear a nine-bladed sword. Nine-bladed! Not two or five or seven, but nine, which he will wield on all wretched sinners, sinners just like you sir... hmmm.

Will we get to the stage of a 55 bladed razor which takes off the top 12 layers of dermis and then cauterises one's face? Surgeons in hospitals should be able to use 17 bladed scapels in case the first 16 missed. How closely shaven do you need to be anyway?

August 14, 2007

Horse 792 - Eight Minutes of Work

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you do something so perfectly that it scares you? Well I haven't had one of those but I've had something remarkably similar.

When I draw a comic, there's usually a rough sketch in pencil, followed by another overlay in pencil and finally a layer of ink; after inking, the original pencil is rubbed out and I'm left with a permanent image. Although I could use a computer to achieve the same result, that would mean that I'd have to a) buy a better computer and b) lug the thing around - for the old pencil and paper is still very portable indeed.

In general after I've rubbed out the pencilwork, it feels as though something has died inside the image. A little like it's heart and soul being snuffed out and all we have left is a facsimilie. Although you can try to add value back to the picture and reclaim a little life, it's never quite the same. This was odd:

My ultra-crappy scanner at work doesn't do this justice. Although there are obvious cheats in here and my perspective is probably most obviously faulty, there are two details which I wasn't expecting.

1. The roof of White Hart Lane's East Stand has taken on a drab almost sombre look, which is exactly what I was going for. The roof is looking quite magnificent in its crapulence.

2. The bald man and his mate weren't in the original sketch. They sort of wandered into shot (perhaps they'd bought tickets to the West Stand?). I think it's quite twee and especially the bald chap how they're conscious that the camera is turned on them. Yes they're breaking the fourth wall, but have I achieved that elusive fifth point of perspective where the audience actually interacts with the story?

Most frames I draw tend to be mid to close up because that's where dialog lies. When you take the "camera" back for an establishing shot, it's just possible that sometimes and just like in real life, there'll always be that one (or two) loons who has to get in shot.

I know, I'm often that loon.

August 11, 2007

Horse 791 - Harder Than Splitting The Atom

As I was perousing through the mounds of ex-rainforest that happen to make up my Saturday newspaper before consigning them to the multitude of coloured bins that festoon my back doorstep, I had to restrace my steps because something caught my eye.
After collecting up the myriad of colour supplements that fall out like confetti, and turning to page 8 of one of these I happened upon an advert.

Nestled between ads for battery-powered bookmakrs, clockwork pot-plants and incontenance slippers, there was: An ingenious device that finally makes the job quick and easy. One simple movement on the non-slip cushioned handles moves the stone and cuts the fruit neatly in half with no mess or fuss. A Mango Splitter!

This is further proof that the world has gone daft in the interim. You see there's only one real way to eat a mango and that's to stand naked in the kitchen holding the thing over the kitchen sink and hoping for the best, trying to sort of hide while the strange chap with the telescope from number 22 doesn't take snapshots and send them into the newspaper where you found the advert in the first place.

There should be one here on Monday, I have my mangoes ready and waiting. I do hope that the postie hurries up, but excited as I am at owning this marvel of the 21st Century, I fear I may end up cutting myself on the device.

Now that I think about it, the only person who I've ever seen successfully disassemble an mango without injuring themselves in the flesh was Poirot. I think that the reason for this was the David Suchet had been told how to open one by no less than HRH Prince Phillip the Duke of Edinburgh. Mind you, he's found a method which although is slightly more expensive still results in perfection every time...

give it to one of the servants to do it for him.

August 06, 2007

Horse 790 - Workplace Dis-Agreement

The Workplace Authority is running a series of advertisments on TV and radio at the moment which quite frankly are not only deceptive, but plain out lying to the public. I found this in an advert (paid for by the taxpayer) in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

No person, whether you are an employee or an employer, can apply duress to you in connection with an Australian workplace agreement. The application of duress in these circumstances is prohibited by law.

Generally speaking, duress means that someone puts illegitimate pressure on you to:
- do something that you are not obliged to do; or
- not do something you are entitled to do.

That is, the pressure must prevent you from exercising your own free will. Some examples of duress may be:

- a threat that you may lose your job if you do not sign an Australian workplace agreement;
- a threat by a new employer in a transmission of business situation that you may lose your job in the business being transferred if you do not sign an Australian workplace agreement as a condition of continued employment in the business;
- a threat that you may be demoted/lose work if you do not sign an Australian workplace agreement; or
- a threat to make unreasonable changes to your roster or location of your worksite unless you sign an Australian workplace agreement.

Hang on. Let me just recall this:
- a threat that you may lose your job if you do not sign an Australian workplace agreement.

Hmmm, the alarm needs to be raised here.
Under the Howard Government’s IR changes unfair dismissal protections were abolished for all people working in workplaces with fewer than 100 workers. According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 3.761 million Australian employees currently without any projection from unfair dismissal.

If you wish - 99% of private sector firms don't need to comply with unfair dismissal laws since businesses with up to 100 staff are exempt from unfair dismissal laws. ABS data suggests only 1.1% of private sector employers have more than 100 staff. This means employees in more than 575,800 private sector businesses now have no unfair dismissal rights under the Government’s new IR laws.

Companies with less than 100 employees CAN sack workers without cause and without remedy. If you don't sign an Australian workplace agreement they don't even need that as an excuse. Your job can be terminated without notice or cause, Workplace Agreement or not.

In short, the Workplace Authority's adverts are little more than a pile of shite. Please don't lie to us Mr Howard; please don't make us pay for your lies to be run in the media.

August 04, 2007

Horse 789 - Are Rich People Really Better Off?

A million dollars really isn't what it used to be.

Think about it. You're now part of an elite class of people. Somehow that holiday with the family in a cramped caravan in Kiama eating sausages and beans for tea just isn't going to cut it anymore.

You're going to need a nanny and holiday in exotic places like Milan or Seychelles which all sounds lovely but if you do that for 20 years at $50,000 a year then all you'll have to show for your original million dollars will be a suntan and sent to a nursing home by the selfish brats that you've spawned to replace yourself.

No I'm afraid that to be rich you need to be even richer these days. You need a bank balance bigger than your tax file number. By which case you will have traded up for a new set of friends who want to attend charity auctions and strange people who come asking for money so that they can start a business venture farming ostriches in Canada.

Your wife would become increasingly bored with the whole range of garden parties attended by people who are famous for being famous, while all of your old friends are down at the local pizzeria with a bottle of $5 plonk having a whale of a time and then carefully splitting the bill afterwards.

Money doesn't buy happiness; nor does it rent it for very long. It might buy you a better class of enemy but who really cares if the radio from your Festiva gets stolen?

I belive that I have a solution. Please send your burden of money however massive to me, where I'll quietly dispose of it in Milan and Seychelles.

August 03, 2007

Horse 788 - The Case of the Pot Calling the Kettle "Black"

Pot v. Kettle was a landmark racial discrimination case, giving people the right to make hypocritical statements without fear of retribution. It began as a civil rights case, as Kettle alleged that Pot "did not let Kettle work at the Pot's store solely in the basis of colour". What made this Supreme Court case unique was the fact that the Pot himself was black, as was the Kettle.

Kettle entered the Pot's store (which shall remain nameless) for a job interview. The interview was flatly denied by Pot, citing "irreconcilable differences". Later Pot amended the reason, saying that he mixed up his divorce papers with the job application. Pot clarified, saying "Ain't no black object gonna work at my store, no siree."

Kettle filed a lawsuit with the Local Civil Court. The lawsuit was immediately accepted and when they went to trial, many boring legal motions occurred, and eventually it was taken all the way to the Supreme Court.

Deliberations went on for weeks. The main issues were many: Does somebody have the right to discriminate against people of their own race or creed for their race or creed? Was Kettle's immediate lawsuit justified? Are inanimate objects included under the principles of juris prudence?

Eventually a massive media frenzy surrounded the case. Many rallies for both sides were held in the streets butsurprisingly, the case was not politically charged. Rather, culinary preferences charged the arguments. People who liked tea generally were on the side of Kettle, whereas people who also liked tea but preferred it in a pot were on the side of Pot. None of the chaos mattered, however. It all came down to the Court's decision.

In a surprise, Pot won the case in a 5-4 decision. Later investigations would later reveal that one of the Supreme Court judges thought that the ballot paper was an order form.

The effects of this case were twofold:
1.Inanimate objects were put under the "OK" list in the Discrimination Articles
2. People were allowed to make utterly ironic and hypocritical statements without fear of a tarnished reputation.

To this day, no inanimate object has held a major political office (with the exception of Al Gore). There have been attempts at a re-hearing for several years, but to no avail.

In popular culture, references to the case are common in instances where a pot (or kettle) makes a foolish statement in which they criticise a kettle (or pot) for holding the same traits as the pot (or kettle) making the statement.

August 01, 2007

Horse 787 - New Boots

When you have worn a set of boots for a long time, the the insides start to conform to the shape of your feet. Wearing a pair of old boots is a familiar sort of warm experience; kinda like returning to an old friend. Driving a motor car is also largely about feel. From the way that different people cut the clutch plates to the overall ergonomics of the car itself, the way the gear knob comes to hand and the general layout across the instrument panel.

In the words of James Allen, I had a "new set of boots" fitted to my Ka. Whilst tyres are the most critical safety item you can fit (because they are the only point at which the car makes contact with the road) when tyres get old, they don't feel that much different to a brand new set at all. What changes isn't so much as how the car feels but the level of confidence one has in chucking it through corners and traffic.

In a very small car, this is even more marked. A big car doesn't easily communicate its attitude on the road, but as people will attest who have sat in my Ka, you quite literally feel everything.

Interestingly what I feel the most about new tyres, was having a walletendectomy. At $126 a corner, I felt that immediately because the surgeons knife cut deep... into the lettuce.