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15/04/2004

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Futher Details on Hospitals

Well I've now delivered the card mentioned below, when I went for my followup visit to the surgeon. This was a very quick visit, it was scheduled for 10 am, I got there at 9.45 and had actually finished and left the building by 9.59. This is despite having to climb over a fence to actually reach the surgeon's office. I'm sure that someone who really needed to visit the doctor could have had problems there. I suppose it stops loads of sick people from filling up your waiting room.

13/04/2004

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Mmmm This seems to be becoming a monthly Blog

Though I have an excuse, I've been in hospital getting my appendix out.

However I'm healing nicely now, except for the cramp in my neck and back that is unrelated (I assume).

As part of my recovery (well it sounds like a good excuse) I spent Easter at some spa resort in the Blue Mountains, that was rather overpriced as far as I could see, as the only special thing it had was a collection of hot baths and saunas.

However for Sunday dinner we were directed to a nearby French Restaurant, and when I say nearby it was 30 minutes of driving down dark one-lane, and occasionally dirt roads in the middle of the bush, turning "left when it becomes gravel" and that sort of thing, until we reached this lone house in the middle of the night. It was an old house, seriously old, 1823. And in it was the best restaurant I've ever been to. I started with the pumpkin and curry with lime bruille (sp?) appetizer, had the braised pigs trotters with mushrooms, scallops and truffle oil; followed by the rabbit topped with various french things that I can't remember (not fries!), and finished with pineapple, icecream and mint in a caramelised waffle. It was all served in a private room, with two waitresses on constant service, and a constant stream of bread, beer and water being supplied to our every whim.

Called Collitts' Inn, I heartily recommend it to anyone in the area who can find the damn thing (warning, the maps are pretty vague, you need a local's directions, at least at night). Though I should point out that it costs a bit more than MacDonalds, but until Macca's offers truffles on the menu...

So what was hospital like?

Not bad. Yes I had to sit in a chair for a whole day before they gave me a bed. But really, is sitting in a bed any better? And it isn't a matter of money, I have private health insurance.

I was most annoyed by noisy patients, but asking for a hospital without any other sick people in it is a bit much. At night I got a room to myself. (Well eventually, they sent me to the wrong room for about an hour.) Oh, and I was a bit hurt when the nurse came to get the drip out of my hand and wrenched the needle sideways within the vein as she was trying to get the sticky tape loose. THAT I could have done without.

But overall it was quite nice, they were far more service orriented than you would find in say an airline, and it was worth me sending a thankyou card when I left. (Not that I've sent it yet, but I've bought it, and it is in my bag waiting for me to actually send.)

10/03/2004

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The Passion of the Christ: Aftershocks

The opinion pieces and blogs are STILL going on about this movie, and practically nobody is discussing the lighting or the choice of camera angle. That isn't such a bad thing, the whole point of this movie was to get people thinking about Jesus instead of the latest pop sensation or new Mercedes.

However, a great deal of the debate is about the director's father, and how he prefers a latin mass. WTF? How is that relevant to anything? And people are coming out of the woodwork to tell stories of other people they knew who preferred latin mass, and how prehistoric they were.

Well I have a confession: My father has stated that he preferred the latin mass!

02/03/2004

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The Passion of the Christ

On Saturday night I got bored of listening to Verdi's Requium on the radio, and so went to the local theatre to watch Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

My impression? It was clearly the saddest, most moving thing I had encounterd that day. Which makes it the second saddest, most moving thing I had encountered that week. Or that year. Or for quite a few year's actually. (It was a very bad weekend. I won't be blogging about the REALLY bad encounter, at least for a while. Suffice to say there were parallels.)

Anti-Semitisim? I couldn't see any. I suppose if you really, really confused the story, so that you thought the Roman soldiers were Jews too, and then didn't realize that all the good, kind, sympathetic characters were also Jews, it would be possible to create in your own mind some sort of plot which was anti-semitic. But only if you were determined to do so.

It would take the kind of person who would ban Enid Blyton books on the grounds that in Noddy the Gollywog is the bad guy, and Gollywogs are black so all the books must be racist. No, actually it would be worse than that. More like the kind of person who could watch a Jackie Chan movie and conclude that because there were some Chinese characters who were bad guys that it was racist against Chinese.

It was a story set in Judea, in Jerusalem, where everyone was Jewish. Of course the "bad guys" will be Jewish. So were the good guys, and the neutrals. What was the alternative, to import a lot of Germans into the story so they could be the bad guys? (Actually there was a German: one of the Roman soldiers had blondish hair, blue eyes, and was called "Hans". But mostly people were Jewish, with some Romans.)

The real psychopaths in the story were not Jews, they were a couple of Roman soldiers. Not that I've heard anyone complaining of anti-Italian bias.

SO... now that that bit is out of the way, what else is there to say? It is a very unpleasant film to watch. Like Schindler's list in that respect, you watch it as an education, not for pleasure. I noted some people going in to the film with boxes of popcorn and lollies. They must have a totally different reaction to me, that's all I can say.

The movie is NOT suitable for children, which I'll define as anyone who is still prone to nightmares or freaking out over a scary movie. Because this is about as scary as it gets.

It also isn't suitable for someone who doesn't already know the Gospels. I'm pretty sure that some of the scenes would make no sense at all to someone who didn't already know what was going on.

But I'm really glad I saw it.

16/02/2004

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Wisdom from the Strangest Places

An web newletter I subscribe to is Power News, a technical bulletin about vehicle design and modification.

Definitely not everyone's cup of tea and written in a very tabloid like style. But it contains some really good stuff, and not always about vehicles. A continuing theme is silly beliefs that continue because people don't think critically enough. This is the thinking behind the following comment:

Ironically, We Often Learn To Take Mental Short-Cuts In School !!

In school, most of the information we read is in textbooks, which are automatically assumed to be 100% correct. This effectively trains us from an early age to read for one just thing ... the memorization of facts. Once out of school, as long as information seems prestigious, it never occurs to most people that it should be questioned or analysed.

I've always maintained that one of the best things about my school is that some (not all) of my teachers were complete morons. Even in grades 5 or 6 I could tell that a couple of the teachers were just bullshitting us when it came to science. I knew that some of what I was taught was just wrong. I'm glad of this, it meant that I learned as a little kid that just because someone is supposed to be "the expert" doesn't mean they can't be wrong.

I should point out that some of the other teachers were great. Not because they DID know everything, but because they knew they didn't know everything, and so explained HOW to find stuff out, rather than just listening to what you are told.

The good teachers even backed me up when I pointed out the stupid teacher's mistakes. This taught me that if you are right, and you have proof, you CAN buck the system.

12/02/2004

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It's Hot

It has Finally gotten hot here in Sydney, and today lightning hit our office building, destroying the airconditioner. Really. I'm not making this up.

AND I had all these meetings with the US attourneys, so Suit and Tie were called for. And then the attourney comes in with half his shirt falling off. He'd caught it on the corner of a sign as he was walking into our office and had ripped his shirt to shreds. Normally this would be a bad thing, but today we were all rather jealous. (He mentioned that he would be adding a Hugo Boss Suit to his bill. It looked like a $20 shirt to me, but he was probably joking.)

We were also a bit jealous of the women. As usual, women can wear anything they like to work and no guy is ever going to get into a debate on women's fashion. With no AC and in a glass faced tower, suddenly the current appropriate women's business clothing consists of short skirts and sleeveless tops. They still have to wear stupid, expensive, ankle breaking shoes though.

Good News

Some good news from The Global Rich List

There are 5,945,683,435 people poorer than you.

Well that's the best thing I've heard all day.

06/02/2004

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I'm back, and I'm not happy

After my holiday, I came back to Sydney to find it still remarkably cool for this time of year. The grass was green, the birds were singing. I drove my car out to Epping to drop off some fellow travellers. On the way back my girlfriend asked if she could have a drive, she had her learners licence with her. So I found a quiet, wide, flat, back street. We swapped places, I checked she had her belt on, she adjusted the mirrors and seat. We slowly moved off. A car appeared, heading the other way. She panicked and jammed her foot down on the brake, only it was the accelerator....BANG.

Straight into the back of a parked new Mitsubishi Verada, which in turn hit a Corolla.

Not happy.

It's not that bad, she is covered by the insurance as she is more than 30 yo. But there is an $850 excess.

Noone was hurt, one advantage of a great big car with a long bonnet, not to mention both my car and the Mitsubishi have modern plastic energy absorbing bumpers, rather than old fashioned steel things that just go clang. There is the added bonus that was able to straighten the plastic bumper out with a heat gun and a bit of work.

She did manage to steer the car so that the roo bar on my car missed the crash and was undamaged, all impact being on the actual car. That was... not helpful.

Though now that I think about it, the mitsu had a tow bar, so a central collision may have punctured my radiator, and that would have been bad.

How Cool is This

It seems there is now the plans for an actual nuclear powered laser rifle on the web. A real, nuclear powered, laser rifle. With a 1500 metre range. Capable of 170 shots/minute on full auto.

Some may citicize the wisdom of putting such plans on the internet in the middle of a world wide war against terrorism, but the evidence so far of any terrorist trying to use technology more sophisticated than a retractable knife is that any attempt to build a nuclear powered laser rifle in a basement in the Gaza strip will result in mass radiation poisoning and laser flash blindness among the terrorists, but little or no danger to anyone else.

Anyway, so now we have laser rifles, where is my flying car?

06/01/2004

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Blogging Notes recorded over Christmas

I just met a young woman and her husband. He seems depressed and grouchy, but if I were 65, overweight and ugly, and I had a 28 year old, slim, blonde, pretty wife, and she was divorcing me, well I would be depressed too.

They were on their final holiday together before separation, so I guess it was a friendly breakup. Grouchy though.

Location

I am currently helping the girlfriend check out all the Oxford Street fashion shops. Technically this is for business reasons, but she seems to be enjoying it too much for it to really be work.

I am occupying my time playing 20 cars. This game, described in detail in the book Cryptonomicon consists of watching as the next 20 cars (or girls (as in the book), or whatever) go past and you choose the best one. The secret is that you have to choose the best one WHEN IT GOES PAST. It's no good getting to number 20 and saying "actually, number 3 was the best". You have to choose the best one as it passes. Then you keep going to number 20 and see if the one you chose WAS the best. If it is, you win, if not, then you loose. The book goes into some detail how the procedure matches the game theory behind many real life choices (eg. Choosing to accept job offers). Indeed some mathematicians have gone into this in detail to establish that the best strategy is to wait out the first 37% of the range (7 cars in this case) and this gives a good idea of what the best on offer is likely to be.

In the process I am getting a look at everyone's personalized number plates. Some show some evidence of thought eg:

05/01/2004

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A Happy New Year to All

And to all a Good Night. Or something.

Well that's meant to be for Christmas, but I wasn't blogging just then. Because I was showing signs of having a life, so I spent Christmas day surfing at the beach, followed by a barbeque under some trees with accompanying beers and wine.

Not to mention the traditional Christmas traffic jam at 45°C that resulted in my car blowing a radiator hose so I parked my car at the side of the road and left it there as we all piled (5 of us) into a tiny little car (Mitsubishi Mirage) with completely inadequate air conditioning, to complete the 5 hour trip to the beach. It isn't normally a 5 hour trip of course, but there was the traditional Christmas traffic jam to deal with. My car was fine when I picked it up on the new year.

Note this wasn't "Holidays" or "Mid Summer Feast" or "Yuletide", it was Christmas, with midnight mass and everything. What sort of person hated Christmas so much they want to pretend it doesn't exist? No doubt someone who was on Father Christmas's "Naughty" list for their entire childhood.

Which brings up a second point, the Red and White figure with all the presents has a very tenuous connection to "Saint Nicholas". He is clearly "Father Chrismas", the old North European Pagan God of the Mid Winter, who merely changed his name when he saw which way the wind was blowing (and that the wind was scented with the smoke from those who the Christians disagreed with (not that this was anything new, the old Pagans used to burn people alive all the time, as a religious ceremony, the "Christian" burnings were just another pagan ceremony that the common folk really enjoyed (those who weren't burned that is) and so rather than trying to ban it, the Church just changed the name and called it Christian. Unlike the Christmas tree (previous burned with someone tied to it, or just festooned with their entrails (now tinsel and streamers)) the witch and pagan burning was never a good idea and was quietly dropped after World War 1)).

23/12/2003

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Doing it Tough on Tropical Islands

George Bush may have done it first, but John Howard really knows what an Australian soldier wants at Christmas

"I didn't bring a turkey," said Mr Howard, who was roundly cheered at the regional forces base in the capital of Honiara when he announced he had brought 4000 cans of beer on his VIP jet for the 800 Australians spending Christmas on the tropical islands.

19/12/2003

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Censored Songs

Jingle Bells: At a chinese party the sound system was playing Jingle Bells, but this included all the censored verses.

What's that, you didn't know Jingle Bells had censored verses? Neither did I.

Sure enough, there they are, ones about using the one-horse-sleigh to pick up girls, take them to lonely spots, do all sorts of naughty things with them, and finally work that poor horse until it died. I am ABSOLUTELY SURE I've never hear those bits before.

And don't get me started on the censored part of "All things bright and beautiful".

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18/12/2003

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Cultural Imperialism

A lot of people complain about socalled "Cultural Imperialism" by which they mean "allowing other people to look at books and TV shows written by people who are a different colour than they are". But this is a real example here. The Taiwanese are having dog meat banned, because some people don't like other people eating it. It's one thing to ALLOW someone to experience another culture, it's another to pass laws enforcing it.

A related example is westerners demanding that Japan bans the eating of whales, just because our culture finds whales cute. Needless to say the people who are loudest about protecting whales are exactly the people who condemn Cultural Imperialism when it involves allowing people more freedom, rather than less.

17/12/2003

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Two Fists, Too Curious

No, not the (apocryphal) porno movie, but the Original action flic, Too Fast, Too Furious, the Sequel to the Fast and the Furious. I saw it last night, and was pleasantly surprised.

Rather than the standard sequal trick of losing what was good about the original in order to make it a star vehicle that sucked, TFTC kept and expanded on what was good (Fast cars, fantastic racing scenes, hot chicks wearing very revealing clothing) and dropped the brooding prettyboy star (Vin Diesel). What a refreshing change!

They even got a stunt director who knew something about the laws of physics, so we didn't have physically impossible stunts like the people hanging on to the roof of a car as it crashes to a stop at 20 g. OK he didn't know anything about electrics, so we got those stupid scenes with the tri-polar giant tasers, but that was a small price to pay.

What errors there were (besides the tasers) were explainable away. There was a scene where some worked, nitrous injected, EVO Lancers are racing against some old Big-block Yankee musclecars. The guys in the Mitsubishis point out that "the Hemi is making 425 and the (muffled) will break the speed limit in 5 seconds, we can't beat them in a straight fight". Now here the movie guys have ASKED someone who knew, what these cars could do, and used the right numbers. That is pretty much the correct stock figures for the cars in question assuming he meant 425 horsepower and 0-60 mph in 5.0 seconds. The problem of course is that NONE of the cars in the movie were stock. They were supposed to be illegally modified street racers. So they should be far more powerful and faster than the figures quoted. The other problem is that the Mitsubishis are almost that fast as standard anyway. Any wildly hotted up EVO will match 425 horsepower, if not more, and being a much smaller car, will be heaps faster.

Of course, if we assume he meant 425 hp AT THE WHEELS, or even 425 kilowatts at the wheels, and 0-100 mph in 5.0 seconds then it all works out. Likewise, in the actual race, the smaller cars do prove to be faster after all.

There is nothing as ridiculous as the scene from the first movie of an ace mechanic looking under the bonnet of a Toyota Supra and being surprised to find a Toyota Supra engine.

So we are left with is just more Fast cars, more fantastic racing scenes, more and hotter chicks wearing more revealing clothing, hot chicks driving fast cars, and all sorts of tasty goodness. No major plot, but that would just distract from the visuals.

At this point someone might just wonder why I keep calling the women in this movie "Chicks". Watch the movie, they aren't ladies, they aren't persons of the feminine gender, they are chicks.

In Favour of Traditions

The Greek Olympic Commitee is saying that rather than trying to match Sydney in terms of how big and spectacular the Olympics are, they'll be emphasising the tradition and ancient roots of the Olympic games.

Well I for one will be watching if they reintroduce the traditional rule that all competitors must be nude. Especially womens volleyball and female wrestling.

Just Can't Get Good Help Anymore

Yobbo tells us that Qantas is both a phonetic spelling of how it should be said (think about it) and the worst airline in the world. He backs this up with his story of his terrible experiences.

Yes that's bad, yes that's annoying. No that doesn't come near some of the airlines I've been on.

Aeroflot, the Soviets, back in the days when they were soviets. Flight from Singapore to Moscow, with stopovers in New Delhi and Tashkent to make it a full 24 hours. No drinks. Nothing. Not even water. And it was hot and dry. No drinks in the Airports either. When they informed us there were lifejackets under our seats, we checked: One guy had a life jacket, the rest had been sold off by the aircrew for hard cash. A passenger with confirmed, checked in tickets was refused entry to the plane because it was full. (He thought it was because he had been rooting a senior soviet politicians wife, so he was HAPPY to find it was just them being greedy bastards.)

Air Nugini. People bringing live chickens and DEER on board as hand luggage. It wasn't the deer shitting on the floor that annoyed me, it was their ANTLERS poking me in the legs. Actually that was kind of interesting so that flight wasn't too bad.

On another flight we had the plane doors not closing so the "engineer" tied it with some wire.

Not that I'm saying Quantas doesn't suck you understand, just that Yobbo's flight wasn't that bad compared to others.

Still no reason that we shouldn't get rid of hostesses all together for all the good they do. Should lower the fares a bit too.



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