Thursday, November 05, 2015

I've changed my mind.

Did you ever have a random thought that actually changes your own (supposedly) deeply held belief in something? I just did.

I was re-watching Stephen Fry on Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show and he was talking about the "Body Farm" which got me thinking, as I do, about death. Or, more specifically, our traditions regarding burials.

I had a client who was, among other things (including a pillow manufacturer), an undertaker. He recommended me to other undertakers. At one stage I had 5 Funeral Director businesses as clients, one of which was for pets, another was specifically for the LGBT community (before they requisitioned a few more letters). Through these connections I learned a great deal more about it all than I was completely comfortable with.

Don't worry. I won't share all the gory details here, except for a couple of things…

Cremation is fucking revolting. One word: grease. It's also an incredible waste. All that potentially nutritious material being turned to useless carbon. Not to mention the energy consumption!

Regulations (especially in SA) stipulate that a body must be buried at 2m (ish… I'm fuzzy on details… it was a while ago… I'm drunk… reasons) - and at that depth there is no 'anaerobic activity'. There's no air and therefore no bugs, worms or maggots to break you down, even if they could get at you, which they couldn't because you're mummifying in a sealed container.

One of the businesses was the "Natural Earth Burial Something". He also formed an official "society" of which I became the founding member. We had an actual meeting in a function room above a pub. There were name tags. Someone took minutes. A reporter from The Messenger attended.

The concept was that, basically, people would be buried in shallow graves wrapped in shrouds. A tree would be planted in place of a headstone, and you would fertilise it. I loved this idea. This sounded as if it was exactly as it should be. A cemetery that becomes a forest.

For my contributions I was promised a free burial at such time as I needed it. Nice.

The South Australian government steadfastly denied him any licenses to do so. The law was the law and it was illegal to bury people that way. No. Go away.

So he moved interstate, where it IS allowed, and I never heard from him again. There goes my free burial.

But tonight I just realised something! Who cares? We bury everyone on top of one another in little square areas called cemeteries anyway. Who cares how lush a cemetery is? It's not like we're going to fertilise crops, is it? Just a couple of blocks, east of the city.

Just cremate me and be done with it (not yet, of course).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Buying an Electric Bike

68 days it's taken to get a fully functioning e-bike. 2 months and a week.

11 months ago I stopped registering my car. Working from home and living within 5 minutes walk of everything I generally need meant that, at $150 per month for registration, plus petrol, it was costing me about $50 every time I backed the car out of the driveway. Ridiculous. It's cheaper to take taxis.

But sometimes I want to go somewhere too close to bother with a taxi and too far to walk. I have a bike but I'm a fat, lazy bastard and so it has sat in the garage, gathering dust and cobwebs, for about 4 years. What to do?

Buy an Electric Bike! Cool idea, huh? If I got a folding one, I could even go further afield by riding into the city to catch a tram towards the coast or a train up to the hills. Brilliant! Plus think about the toy factor! I love a toy.

So off to Google I went. What do they cost? How fast do they go? How far? I looked at reviews and comparisons and lots of websites and YouTube videos and I found what appeared to be an absolute bargain!

A Cheetah 16" folding electric bike for only $499 (on sale for half price!) from Dillenger in Queensland. They looked cute! They said it would do up to 25kph and have a range up to 45km. Their website looked professional, they have separate sites and outlets in both the UK and USA, there were tons of reviews from happy smiling customers.

Day 1: On June 07, 2014 I ordered one, black, for $575.80 including shipping. The website says it should take 5 days. Excellent. I received no email from the company, only my receipt information from PayPal. No tracking code as promised. Nothing.

Day 6: On the 13th I emailed them and they sent me the tracking number and said it looked like it was going to turn up that day, which it did. This was a Friday. Friday the 13th.

Some minor assembly was required, which went fine, and it did indeed look very cool, I thought. Sturdy, well made. It weighed a ton! OK 28kg, but that felt like a lot.

I charged the battery, turned the key, nothing happened. On closer investigation I found a little hole that said "FUSE" and looked inside. Empty. Ah. That'd do it. I went through all the packaging, no fuse. Shit. I emailed the company again and told them I was missing a fuse, asked what kind it was so I could go and buy one. I was told to look harder, I did. Nothing. Then they said it was "specialised" and I couldn't buy one, they'd have to send it in the mail. They apologised. I couldn't try my new e-bike yet. I was sad.

I wasn't told how long it would take but it's only tiny, surely a couple of days by post should cover it.

Day 10: 4 days later, on the 17th, I emailed again to get an ETA.

"Should be any day now. Was sent late last week…" they replied, which seemed unlikely since I'd only received the bike on the Friday before and had only told them about the missing fuse at about 6pm their time.

Day 13: By the 20th I got whiny at them. "You sent me a product that won't work and then use the slowest means of transport known to mankind to send me the part required to fix it. It has been a whole week - to get a tiny little fuse... This is very poor service indeed and I'm really not impressed."

"Should be there soon."

Day 17: I emailed again on the 24th. "Was definitely sent to you a 2nd time first thing Monday morning" they said, which again seemed unlikely because that was the day before and they wouldn't have known I hadn't already received it by then.

Day 23: It eventually turned up on the 30th of June, over 3 weeks, a dozen emails and some Facebook whining after I'd ordered the bike. I wanted to be happy that I could finally try out my e-bike but I was pretty much over it. The fun had been spoiled... until I gave it a go.

Oh yes! This was fun! If a little slow. And noisy. And kind of vibratingly gratey.

This model has a separate motor, not within the wheel but bolted on underneath the frame. It has a separate chain to the pedalling one and on this bike the two chains were rubbing against each other.

I looked at the PDF manual (that they only sent me after I asked for it) and saw how to tighten the drive chain, did that, made it worse. While doing that I saw how to horizontally adjust the motor position which would separate the chains. It was already nearly as far as it would go, but I managed to get it positioned so that they merely brushed against each other rather than scraped.

Day 24: The drive chain came off. That was fixable on the run in the normal way. It happened again, and again on the one trip. I took it home, tightened the chain again, out again and it was fine for 5 minutes until the chain came off again. And again. And then lots more times.

Day 25: The pedals stopped driving the bike. The chain was fine, something in the hub had disengaged and the pedals just spun free. I picked up the back wheel and bounced it on the ground and voila! Fixed. Next set of lights it did it again for a couple of turns and then engaged again.

Day 26: I download a speed app for my phone and test the bike again. It seems a lot slower than 25kph and it is. I'm only getting about 13kph. Children on pushbikes are overtaking me.

Day 27: The pedals permanently stop serving any purpose other than as footrests. The bike's rooted!

Emails back and forth, requests for photos of certain things, more emails. They really did try but nope.

Day 30: On the 7th of July they asked me to pack it up to be returned. I said I no longer wanted that model. It was much slower than advertised (they've since removed that speed from their site, as well as the distance estimate) and I'd lost faith in the whole two chains design - and since they'd released a new model for almost the same price which had a hub motor and 20" wheels, could I have that instead? Or my money back. I wasn't interested in having the current one repaired or any other replacement of the same model.

They agreed and instructed me to hold on to the battery as it would fit the replacement bike model as well.

Day 40: 10 days later, on the 17th of July I chased them up and was told they'd just received mine back that day and would have to check the condition before sending me a new bike. I couldn't see this being an issue as I'd only used it 5 times.

Day 41: I had a phone call from them on the 18th, a Friday. We talked models and features and price difference I'd have to pay and agreed on a bike that, he said, would be sent off that afternoon. 5 working days delivery meant I should have it the following Friday, the 25th July.

"We really want you to be happy!"

Day 51: Monday morning, July 28, I receive a cheery little email, "Your bike is on it’s way!" Which seemed disappointingly likely given that I'd been told it would be sent 10 days earlier.

"Has it only just been sent from you or do you mean it's going to arrive today? I was told (on the phone) it was being sent a week ago last Friday." I replied.

"Not to sure why you got that email - we’ll check around the office but it may have been a mistake, or a bounce back error.
Your bike did indeed leave last week however thats for sure.
Apologies for the confusion. You should have your bike within the next day or two."

I asked for a tracking number...

"Well that's interesting. According to that tracking number, the bike was only sent today after all!
This afternoon, in fact, hours after you assured me it had been sent last week and apologised for the "mistake" of telling me it had been sent this morning.
You really are full of it."

"Completely understand your frustration but we are doing our best during a very busy time.
You bike will be with this week thats for sure. "

"Busy repairing all the broken bikes that must be returned, no doubt," I posted on my Facebook page, along with the above emails and a lot of ranting to demonstrate how grumpy I could really be.

Day 54: Facebook post, July 31: "The day after all my Facebook whining earlier in the week about the 'Leccy Bike, I got a long email from the company concerned. I glanced at it, noticed about 2/3 of the way down the words "diatribe" and "Facebook" and, further up, the phrase "we are not in business to piss people off" and closed it again without reading more.
The replacement bike turned up today. It's rainy and miserable outside so I can't even try it. Oh well.
That's yer update."

For a couple of days it bucketed down.

Day 56: August 2, I finally get to try the new bike, and it's great! And then the power cuts out on throttle but pedalling brings it on again. I go for a few rides about half hour each and, although the throttle fails a few times, pedalling always fixes it. I convince myself it's a design feature.

Day 58: Sunday August 3. I am hungover. I want KFC. I can HAVE KFC! I have an e-bike! KFC is about 4km away. I get there no problems and have a great deal of fun scooting around the parklands on the way. This thing DOES do 25kph. It's GREAT!

KFC is strapped to the rear tray.  Half way back the power shuts off. Pedalling doesn't fix it. It is now just a regular bike. A very heavy, non-geared bike which demonstrates some impressive resistance to being pedalled along. I can't get up even a slight incline. I get off and have to walk it home. My KFC goes cold.

Day 60: I have it on the lounge room floor, it's electrics spread out in front of me like colourdey spaghetti. Everything looks securely connected, nothing seems to be unplugged. No matter what I fiddle with, the little charge lights don't come on. Disgustedly I put it back together again. It slips off the beanbag I'm using to hold it at an angle and clunks down on it's side. The key in the side of the battery gets bent... and the lights come on.

I take the key out and the guts of the lock follow suit. Tiny little metal slotted plates and almost invisible springs swan dive into my deep pile rug. With a screwdriver I can still operate the switch though, turning the bike on and off.

Day 61: August 6. I decide to leave it permanently "on" and take the fuse out and put it back in to turn it off and on. Seems doable. I ride to some semi-distant shop, take out the fuse, buy bacon, put the fuse back in. Nothing. I pedal it home until I hit a slope and then walk it the rest of the way.

Day 62: I order another battery. This one, retained from the original bike, is clearly just as jinxed as the rest of the Friday the 13th bike was.

Day 68: Today, Wednesday the 13th August. The battery arrived. The bike is finally working.

I wonder how long for.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

KR Castlemaine RIP OFF

This is sneaky, rude and just not right and stuff.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

1 Designer + 98 Losers = 99 Designs

When I first heard about on TwitTV's iPad Today netcast, I thought it sounded like a great idea. As a freelance designer I saw it as a possible source of income.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, 99 Designs is a site where clients post their design jobs as a competition with a set prize. People submit ideas and, at a set date, the competition is closed and a shortlist of designs is chosen. There is some communication back and forth with the finalists and completed artwork is produced. A winner is chosen and they get the prize as payment for their work.

I joined up, picked something that I had an immediate idea for with a prize of $819. I spent most of a day realising my concept into a polished design and submitted it. So did nearly 500 other people.

Nearly all of the submissions were truly awful. Clearly there were a lot of people entering who were not designers. This made me feel better about my chances of winning. The competition was closed so the client could choose the finalists and then… nothing. Weeks of nothing. Then an announcement that the client had failed to make any choices so nobody would win. The end.

I mentioned my having entered the competition on Twitter and was bombarded with messages from strangers telling me that 99 Designs was evil and killing the industry and that I should have nothing to do with them. I read some articles and decided that they were right, although some of their reasoning seemed a bit "The Sky Is Falling!" I've come up with my own argument on the topic, based on hypothetical figures chosen largely to make the maths easy, which is as follows:

Let's say a client wants a logo, for which he is willing to pay $500.
Graphic designers charge $100 per hour when dealing with direct clients, so that's 5 hours worth of work.
501 designers submit designs for this job.
One design is chosen, the designer collects his $500. He's happy.

OK, but what of the other 500 designers? They get nothing. If each of them have also spent 5 hours on their work, that's a total of 2,500 unpaid man-hours that have been thrown at this client's job for free.

That is $250,000 worth of work that nobody is getting paid for.

Look at the design industry as just that, an industry, and consider the above figures. Could any industry sustain itself by providing over $250,000 worth of work for a mere $500 return? No.

Is it reasonable for a client to expect 2,500 hours of work to be provided to it for a mere $500 outlay? Of course not.

But that's exactly what is happening.

Yeah sure, we're not an organised industry, many of the people submitting designs aren't even designers, but so what?

The issue is that this sort of site completely diminishes the perceived value of what some of us, as professional designers, do. There is, well there should be, a lot more to creating a design for a client than fulfilling a typed out brief. The solution is only ever going to be a bit generic. Unfortunately most clients won't care or wouldn't know the difference. And why wouldn't the bulk of uninformed clients love the idea of having so much to choose from without having to commit to anything?

Ideally, designers will shun sites such as these. If we cut off their source of well designed material they will become known for what they basically are, an amateur design competition site, and genuine clients will continue to seek out real designers to achieve quality results. Yeah right.

We're all doomed.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Transient Ischemic Attack

If you've read the last post and been wondering what the results showed, it was probably a TIA, Transient Ischemic Attack. It's like a mini-stroke caused by a blockage in blood flow to the brain.

Apparently my CT head scan showed some narrowing in my cartoid arteries, which are in the neck, that feed the brain. So if there's a blockage you get a thing much like a mini-stroke, but it doesn't cause any permanent damage because it breaks up and flows away.

So that's good!

I've had to go and have a scan of my cartoid arteries, which was no big deal. You lie down, a woman (in this case) puts gel on your neck and pushes a thing around for a few minutes while you get to listen to variations on the sound of your blood pumping away and making squishy noises. Unfortunately I can't get a digital copy of that either which sucks. It sounded cool, I wanted to sample it and make something. Oh well.

Results from that will be ready in a couple of days and then I might have to see a neurologist - so more to come later!

But at least I can now confidently use Arnie's line...


...and later:
My arteries aren't blocked. My doctor said it must have been one of the smaller blood vessels further up in my brain. He also told me to "forget about it!"

"I could have one right now, sitting here talking to you," he said, "there's nothing you can do. I suggest you just move on..."

Um. OK. *Shrug*

Monday, February 04, 2013

Who am I? Don't even go there!

Sometimes it doesn't pay to think about certain things, like who you are.

I realised that this morning. This very weird morning. I was having enough problems with external stuff, the very idea of failing to know who I am was too scary to consider so I decided, quite deliberately, not to even try to remember my own name.

I'd woken up after a late night. Not a boozy, party night - just a quiet, wide awake, brain ticking over with unpleasant stuff I have going on, couldn't get to sleep before 3am night. I wasn't especially tired but I felt kind of blank. Went about the basic morning stuff on auto-pilot. Toilet, shower, washed hair, dried hair, got dressed. And then I realised I didn't know where to go. I couldn't remember where I worked.

Having discounted previous jobs and self employments of the past, I knew where work WAS, just not what it was called. This isn't good, I thought, but since I now knew where to go, I set off on foot in that direction.

Half way there (it's under 10 minutes stroll away) I went into the cafe where I buy coffee. The usual girl was there, I said hi, and totally blanked. Coffee. I know I want coffee. There's the 3 different size cups. I want the middle one. What does this place call the middle one? It's not a "Grande", that's the servo. Isn't it? "Um, sorry, having a brain fade day!" Um, it's got writing on it... medium! It's a medium. Medium what? White. I want white, and sugar. 1 sugar. "Ah, medium white, 1 sugar please." "Flat white?" Yes! "That's the one, thanks."

Back on auto pilot, walking to work. Why can't I remember anything? Test yourself. Who do you work with? Um... Margi! The boss is Margi. And the rest of the Margi family, husband, son... Names? Um... Oh! and that girl. Pretty. Sits next to me. We work together, She's been there for years. What's her name? Jess! No, that's the receptionist. She's on holidays. Argh.

So I stop, sit on a wall and light a smoke. Drink some coffee. Look at my watch. I have 10 minutes to get it together. Start with something simple. What's my name? Shit, don't even go there, if you fail at that you'll never get off this fucking wall... Maddie! The girl I work with is Maddie!

Pleased with this breakthrough I get up and go to work.

"Good morning Derek!" says Maddie. Derek! Yeah, I'm sure I knew that. Right?

Margi comes in. "Morning... a funny thing's already happened, wanna hear? You know that job last week, where blah blah blah happened and you blah blah blahhed?"

"Um, not really, no. I seem to be, sort of, missing this morning." And I started to cry.

There must have been more conversation. No idea. Next thing I know Margi's run off and sent Geoff, her husband (Geoff!) to drive me home. I don't remember much about any conversation with Geoff in the car. I do remember him offering to drive me straight to the Medical Centre but I wanted to go home first. Try to get myself at least a bit together before dealing with that.

Anyway, he dropped me home. I finished my coffee, had another cigarette and walked to the Norwood Medical Centre to see my doctor. "Need more prescriptions?" Yep. I have a few things to talk to you about today though. "OK, let's do these first..." Well, while you're prescribing, I have this rash on my hands... "*looks* I'll give you blah blah." And it's on my scalp. Half my hair's fallen out in the last couple of months, I'm pretty worried about it. "Ah, OK *looks* hmmm... yeah, I'll give you blah blah blah." Thanks, and I couldn't remember who I am this morning, or where I work, or what coffee I buy or the names of the people I work with. And I cry again.

"I think you're alright really, just suffering from stress. To be safe though, go over to that section and they'll take blood for these tests *gives me form* and then go to the other section and they'll do a CT brain scan *gives me another form*. Come back Wednesday for the results. Take time off work until then *gives me yet another form*."

So I did all that and I feel normal again now. By lunch time I felt like me and I knew what I know. So that's good. I'm writing this down in case, for whatever reason, it all goes again.

Let's see what Wednesday brings.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Human beings are overrated.

Put another way, this could have been titled "Should any thing be allowed to determine the level of importance attached to itself without regard to what other things may think about it?" I suspect many of you would agree with me that the answer to such a question would be "no, of course not." We don't want cockroaches, for instance, being able to decide that the world is all about them and the rest of us have to change our lives, habits, homes and sanitary preferences to accommodate this creepy new ruling class, do we? Obviously not. Cockroaches may well be set to inherit the earth when we're gone but in the meantime they can all fuck off and die. I have no time for cockroaches.

People, however, have pretty much all decided that we are the most important things in the world, probably the universe, possibly even the galaxy, and this is despite the fact that we are actually even worse than cockroaches. Do cockroaches destroy their environment? No, they clean it up by eating whatever shit is left scattered about. Usually by us. Do they wage wars? Kill each other? Wipe out every living thing that gets between them and their dream of ever larger insect transportation device parking facilities? Do they even have insect transportation devices? Do they go about finding other insects that don't believe in their Mighty Cockroach Deity and bore them at their doorsteps with fairytales of Godroach and his magical Son, Cockus? No. They just eat shit and smell strangely of cucumbers.

Would a cockroach ask "If a tree falls in a forest and no cockroaches are present to hear it, does it make a sound?" No, because it's a stupid question. The people-centric version is one of the most stupid questions that has ever been asked.

It would be pleasing to say it was THE most stupid question but unfortunately it's merely one of many variations on the "everything is all about us" premise, culminating in the Mother Of All Stupid Ideas, Quantum Physics.

I do not claim to understand Quantum Physics. Nobody does. I have, however, read several books on the subject (hasn't everyone?). I read a huge book on String Theory and all I came away with is that String Theory is a perfect example of how many times you will have have to change an idea which makes no sense if you insist on being able to prove it with actual facts and evidence. Just give up and do something useful instead. It doesn't matter. It will make no difference to the lives of anyone, whatever the truth is, and you'll save us all trillions of wasted dollars if you simply go on the dole and stop wasting our time.

Modern science has, it seems, run out of ideas of how to do clever, useful things like provide us with light at night time or let us look at the world through a box in our living room without ever having to leave the house again (let's face it, there's cockroaches out there!), and moved into territory that was once the province of religion. In other words, science now specialises in stuff that is clearly wrong.

If you put a cat in a box and don't feed it, it will die. It will not stay even theoretically alive just because you haven't opened the box to find out. All possibilities do not remain simultaneously suspended simply because you haven't witnessed the results of your asinine cruelty. Frankly I'm glad you're dead Mr. Schrödinger.

Anyway, back to the tree in the forest thing. I am aware, as most people tend not to be, (as it is always being misquoted and, in fact, was never even said by Bishop George Berkeley, to whom it is attributed - so perhaps misquoted is the wrong word), that the tree is supposed to be on an island with no animal life whatsoever to hear its fall. This does not make it any less stupid a question. It does, however, change the reason for the stupidity from being that other things, other than mere people (who don't, it must be said, have the best hearing in the animal kingdom), would still hear it even if a person didn't (though this reason still applies every time some twat brings it up as something that makes sense even with the presence of other living beings on the island or forest). No, the reason it is still stupid is that it could never happen and it doesn't matter anyway. There is no such thing as a tree without so much as an aphid on it. Anywhere. Even if there could be, the ocean is full of stuff with the ability to hear a tree falling. Whales can hear shit from hundreds of kilometres away.

It's no use spending your lives arguing the implications of an action occurring within a set of parameters that cannot possibly exist. Please stop it.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

And another neighbour pisses me off

Dear Inconsiderate Neighbour,

I wish to complain about the barking from your dog. I was woken at 6.33 this morning by it and by 7.30 it had become so bad that I gave up any further attempts at sleeping and got up. I am obviously not pleased about this.

This is far from being the first time that this has happened.

You are either deaf or your house must have double glazing because your dog barks throughout the day and night and yet you make no effort whatsoever to keep it quiet. Clearly you are not even trying to train your dog to behave and this is unacceptable in a residential area.

This is not the dog’s fault, it is yours. Your lack of action on this matter is not only causing distress to your neighbours but it also constitutes neglect of the animal as it is obviously being left outside on its own most of the time.

Be aware that I am logging the times and dates when the barking annoys me and I will be complaining to you on a regular basis, and keeping records of my complaints. At some time I will present this evidence to the council who will then notify you and you may be fined. If the situation continues then the dog may be taken from you. I know exactly how this works because I have been through the process before.

I would prefer not to have to bother with all that, it’s tedious and a pain. I love animals and have no desire to upset your family. Nothing would please me more than for you to take a proper interest in fixing the situation yourself, without me having to proceed with the process outlined above. I highly recommend Bark Busters to you. Friends of mine had great success with their methods.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

End of Financial Year Report

For the first time in over a decade I am completely up to date in all of my dealings with everyone. Even the tax department!

I don't owe anybody a cent, I have no unpaid bills, no unfiled tax returns.

I've even paid the ATO all the money I DIDN'T owe them but they wanted anyway as tax on money I didn't even earn but hadn't bothered to fill in their bloody forms to say I hadn't earned it. They say I SHOULD get some of that back (and we're talking $12,450 that I had to pay over the last 12 months so it's not insignificant) but I'm not holding my breath. I'm sure they'll find a way to keep all of it because they seem to love to screw me over.

By my reckoning, the ATO owes me about $8000 back from the above plus 3 tax returns totalling about $2500 = $10,500. A boy can dream.

What's the bet I get nothing? I'm putting the odds at about even.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sick clothing for kids dressed to kill

AN Australian company is selling baby clothes featuring Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden and Ivan Milat.
The range of garments, in sizes from 000 rompers for three-month-old babies to T-shirts for children up to 12, has sparked international outrage.
The Ivan Milat baby romper has a picture of his face and the slogan: "Australians Just Love Backpackers"...

Link to article & comments

Grumpy of Norwood Posted at 3:43 PM June 11, 2011
If I saw a baby wearing a Charles Manson T-shirt it would undoubtedly be the funniest thing I had seen that day. Seriously, the kids don't know who these serial killers or, worse still, politicians are. The images are meaningless without knowledge of the background story. It isn't corrupting them. It only means something to an adult viewing it and if those adults are offended then it only shows how thin skinned they are.
Comment 49 of 55