Wednesday, November 17, 2010

google shows me where to go!

as reported by gizmodo & android australia, and announced on the official australia google blog itself, google maps navigation has arrived in australia as of today. and thanks to the recent gift of a 1GB/month mobile data on my current Telstra plan (who would've thunk it right?), i tried it out tonight on the way to dinner, as well as for the trip home where i went the "wrong" way a few times to see how it copes with rerouting on the fly. i'm happy to say it works pretty well, and seems to do a solid job of delivering turn by turn navigation. while i don't have a great need for a GPS/satnav unit, this new feature of my android phone is a most welcome addition. i'm liking android more and more :)

Monday, November 08, 2010

From Walkman To Facebook: How Tuning Out Led To Tuning In

an insightful observation on how the walkman and its successors have affected the way we interact with each other. some excerpts:

The Walkman and its offspring, such as the iPod, completely changed the way we experience music [and] the way we interact (or don't interact) with each other... transform[ing] millions of us into isolated walking zombies... Three decades later, we find ourselves seeking social connections through the very devices that isolated us in the first place.


now my music player comes loaded with the tools I need to claw my way back to a state of social interaction that is a virtual replication of life before I took my first walk with a Walkman.


Still I wonder if we wouldn't be better off occasionally removing the headphones, turning off the smart phones and returning to an age when we gathered around some over-sized speakers and social networking actually meant being together.

Don’t you sort of like the sound of that?
i do. read the whole article here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

the long awaited Froyo update (for Telstra Desire owners)

After being a "coming soon" item for what seemed an eternity, Froyo (aka Android 2.2), or more precisely the ROM upgrade customised for Telstra Desire users, was finally released on 26 October 2010. This comes about 3 months after Froyo was available to those who chose to root their phones. Was it worth the wait? Let's see...

For one, after all this delay with Telstra customising the ROM to fit in their software (some of which has its uses, others of which are just bloatware), and testing by them then testing by Google, they still can't get it right! I don't know whose fault it is, but it was with a sense of "I'm surprised but then again I'm not really" that I read of the many problems people had in getting the update to work, particularly those running Windows 7 - see comments at Gizmodo, Ausdroid including a followup post, and Whirlpool. I'm glad I didn't try the upgrade at close to midnight on the 26th - it probably would have been a long/sleepless night of frustration.

[BTW, I just read that the update is now available OTA... though that too may not be working properly... yet?]

I installed the update a day later using a WinXP machine. It went pretty smoothly and was done within 10 minutes. However there are some things (that I've identified so far) that didn't go as smoothly:
  • Inescapable blank screen after first run of setup wizard
    After the update completed successfully, the phone restarted and I went through the setup wizard. At the end of this the screen went blank/black. The only thing it seemed to respond to was the power button (to enter standby/wakeup) - and the only way I could tell something was happening was that the hardware buttons would light up / turn off. After a few minutes of this impasse I removed the battery, reinserted and powered on the phone. Things seemed to go ok from there.
  • Automatic data backup failed to restore
    I had automatic backups enabled, and according to the user manual, "after you do a factory reset or update your phone, you will be asked if you want to restore the backed up data after you turn on your phone." This did not happen, ie I saw no such "Restore my data and settings" dialog box. This might be related to the blank screen issue, but that's purely conjecture. Whatever the case, there seems to be no way to manually invoke the restore process, which is a pretty big fail in my books. Fortunately (and thanks to the various comments I had read up on), I installed MyBackup from the Android Market to do a backup of applications and data before attempting the update. This was not without its own issues, but for the most part it worked well and was much much better than nothing!
  • Lengthy restore times using MyBackup
    Backing up with MyBakup was a lot faster than restoring - we're talking minutes vs. hours here. The whole restore process took about 2 hours; contacts and calendar data took particularly long to restore. In hindsight (see below points), I probably should have skipped these two and relied on OTA syncing instead. On the plus side reinstalling apps was fairly quick and easy (though this probably could have been achieved using AppBrain as well, and not everything was included in the backup/restore - see ShapeWriter keyboard below).
  • Calendar backup/restore anomaly
    I have/had 3 calendars visible, my google calendar, wife's google calendar, and PC sync calendar. The MyBackup process appears to have saved/restored everything under my google calendar, so now my google calendar has a lot more entries and I'm showing a lot more duplication. I'll probably go through them and clean it up sometime when I feel sufficiently motivated. Oh and it's made my Outlook to/from Google calendar sync pretty screwed. It tells me there are some 2-300 entries to delete, and I'm not sure I want to do that big a batch at once.
  • Contacts backup/restore anomaly
    As with the calendar issue, it looks like MyBackup has saved/restored all my contacts (phone, google, and facebook) under my google contacts. Again, plenty of duplication to sort through. My contacts were already in a bit of a mess from when I first wrestled with the immature process of syncing contacts using HTC Sync, so I guess this hasn't really made it that much worse in comparison...
  • Strange Google Calendar behaviour
    I received an email this morning from myself for a calendar event from a few months ago. It was an event someone else created, and invited me to. My manager received an email this morninng from me for another calendar event from a few months ago, for an event that I forwarded from work to myself as a reminder (as I would be on leave the few weeks immediately prior to this event). I have no idea whether any other strange emails have gone out... This is probably the most unexpected side effect and I'm yet to figure out how this got triggered.
  • Lost ShapeWriter keyboard
    Would have been a lot more annoying if I didn't find a copy of the apk online - the app has been off the Android market since June 2010 and I couldn't recall how I installed it the first time round in July. May well have been via this link, from which I did the reinstall (v3.0.9). I should probably keep my own local backup copy...
  • Lost Credit Usage configuration
    Not a huge issue - rekey data from memory / check against rates stored on wife's phone/app. There doesn't seem to be a way to backup/save the configuration to a file, so the next time I'll just have to write the info down or rekey from memory.
  • Lost Timeriffic configuration
    Minor annoyance. There doesn't seem to be a way to backup/save the configuration to a file, so the next time I'll just have to write the info down or rekey from memory.
  • Lost mobile data usage information
    Mildly annoying but not a huge issue - I know that I'm way under my quota this month and only have a few days before a new month begins.
  • Lost Dolphin HD bookmarks
    I thought these were saved to SD, but it seems that I didn't actually set this up (had the add-on installed, but not configured). Something to play with later.
  • Photo numbering reset
    Photos taken by the camera are restarting at IMAG0001 for the filename, rather than picking up where the last one left off. There should be a config file that you can change to fix this, but I can't find it. Not a big problem as the photo gallery displays photos in time/date order, however I also discovered that all the pictures I took on 27/10 before the update are appearing with datestamps in the future! One has today's date (and a future time), the rest tomorrow's date... weird.
  • Lost UPM data
    UPM data doesn't get backed up by MyBackup. I restored off an old backup I had on SD, and so now need to try to remember what I've changed in the last few months since that first and only manual backup... and I'll look at setting up a remote sync for the data to eliminate this problem in the future.
Lessons learnt

  • Don't trust Google/Telstra/HTC/software developers for things to work the way they should / you expect.
  • Don't be a pioneer - let others try the updates first and learn from their mistakes/experiences!
  • Don't rely on Android's built in backup feature to restore correctly (or at all??)
  • Don't use MyBackup to restore contacts or calendar items. It would (probably) be better to resync with Google/Facebook/PC.

Changes/improvements in Froyo

  • Apps to SD - yay! This is the main feature I was waiting for. Now I can free up some space on the phone / install Angry Birds :p Having said that I'm running out of space on my 8GB SD, what with my MP3 collection and various GPS related maps... but that's a problem for another day.
  • Additional options for screen unlock (password / PIN, in addition to existing pattern)
  • Screen lock delay option means AutoLock app is redundant (notwithstanding that AutoLock doesn't appear to work for Froyo users in any case).
  • Another consequence of the changed security settings is that the Curvefish LockPattern OnOff widget no longer works / just acts as a shortcut to the security settings screen. On second thought this might not have worked for a while... in any case a similar shortcut is available via QuickSettings, so LockPattern is redundant.
  • HTC App Sharing widget - I don't think this is necessarily part of Froyo but it's new to me, and seems a handy way to share applications with friends.
  • HTC Flashlight app - again not sure if it's a Froyo thing, but offers a bit more versatility compared to, and hence has replaced, the LED light widget.
  • Wifi hotspot - saw this on a friend's imported Desire last month - looks handy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Integral Energy - where's the integrity?

aka: some pointers about choosing an electricity supplier

a couple of representatives from Integral Energy visited my home, giving the impression that:
  • they were visiting homes in the area in response to complaints by residents about recent increases in their electricity bills
  • they are from a company owned by the NSW government, and will move homes back to the standard regulated electricity rate (and offer a 7% discount in addition)
  • they are in my particular townhouse complex at the request of the resident manager (and quoted the manager's name)
the more i heard, the more suspicious i became at just how... convenient the whole scenario was. who appointed Integral Energy to respond to consumer complaints about rising electricity bills? why would a NSW government-related company care about what happens in another state? in the end i realised they were just door-to-door salespeople looking to sign up new customers, leveraging the recent electricity price rise to be the good guys who offer non-inflated electricity pricing. but wait, there's more! there's a further 7% discount off the regulated price! but if you don't sign today, they aren't allowed to leave behind written details of what they're offering for people to consider before signing up later. i said that's super dodgy, a well worn sales tactic, and essentially means there's no point in continuing our conversation.

what irks me about this encounter was the way in which they presented themselves/the reason for their visit (totally misleading), and in particular some other quite misleading statements they made:
  • Integral Energy is a government owned entity, and as such cannot charge above the regulated rates. other privately owned electricity retailers can charge whatever they like. (giving the impression that you can only get the regulated rate with Integral / if you go with anyone else, you'll be paying more)

    FACT: The regulated, or notified price, "is available to all small electricity customers in Queensland no matter who their retailer is, or where they live." ( My understanding is that all retailers must make available to you a plan/option for the regulated price (a standard retail contract - see also They might not advertise or promote that fact, because they want you to take up one of their retail offers / market contracts, which may be at a price above the regulated price, with the additional cost typically offset by one or more bonuses or rewards.
  • my existing retailer's discount is calculated as a percentage off their inflated rates. Integral Energy is offering 7% off the regulated rate so it is the cheapest rate available.

    FACT: The current regulated rate is 19.41c/kWh (not including GST). Integral is offering 18.05c/kWh as their 7% off discounted rate, which is 19.85c including GST. the 8% discounted rate i'm currently getting is 19.65c including GST - this is about 1% cheaper than Integral's rate.
if you have no idea about electricity retailer competition in queensland, or are wanting more information about choosing a retailer / comparing retailers, the following resources would be a good place to start:
  • a Queensland Government website about the power to choose the power you use
  • a Comparator developed by the Queensland Competition Authority to help customers compare the prices of electricity and gas contracts generally available from licensed energy retailers in Queensland.
  • GoSwitch - a comparison service for gas and electricity
  • SwithSelect - another comparison website for (among other things) utilities

and if you really want to know, here's a copy of the Integral Energy Price Fact Sheet for
"Negotiated Retail Contracts – Residential Customers

i must admit their offer is actually pretty good from a pricing point of view, but their sales tactics are pretty underhanded. and there's a reason i didn't choose them when i was searching for a new retailer - i already found a better deal!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

weird phone call, weirder copyright agency behaviour

so i received a phone call this morning on my mobile from 02 9394 7696 looking for a Fran Beisler. the caller said he found the number on onlinebooks website, so i thought this is a wrong number right? no Fran Beisler here...

the caller then said he was calling from copyright agency, and asked whether I knew a Fran Beisler. i said no the name does not ring a bell. the caller said i should check the information on cos that's where he got my number. i said thanks.

end of call.

i then went to look at - it's a website for buying and selling second hand text books, and indeed found a listing with my number! who is this silly Fran Beisler woman who doesn't know her own number and instead gave out my number… but hang on, this is actually my ad that i put up 3 years ago! so who is Fran Beisler? the author of the book…duh!

did a bit more digging to see who or what this copyright agency is. appears to be Copyright Agency Limited ( also belongs to CAL), and it seems like the caller is trying to get in touch with people who have royalties owing to them… sounds a bit strange to me...

anyway here's some info i found about them...
so it seems like this mob have been around for about two decades, and maybe aren't very good at doing their job... maybe i won't bother to ring them back to point out the glaring stupidity of contacting the private seller of a used textbook in order to speak to the author of that book.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

(the inaugural) brisbane open house

some people travel overseas to view old buildings, marvel at interesting architecture and smart use of urban spaces. next saturday (2 october 2010) brisbanites will have a local "free of charge and rare opportunity to discover the hidden wealth of architectural, engineering and historic buildings nestled around the city", at the inaugural brisbane open house event.

with a simply clever logo design that matches the event slogan of "unlock your city", i was keen to get on board and support this event which is made possible by its various sponsors and partners, and of course a team of volunteers. it's probably too late to sign up to be a volunteer for this year, but hopefully there's always next year and many more to come!

the concept is based on similar open houses held in london, new york, dublin, and borrows heavily from the resources of past melbourne open houses. for 2010, brisbane open house will have 20 buildings available for viewing/touring, and are anticipating about 10,000 combined visits during the day. see the event listing for a full list of buildings, where you can download fact sheets of each building. also available is a map and program for the day, so you can plan your visits. unfortunately some of the buildings are only open for pre-booked tours, and all these tours are full. but this still leaves 17 other places for you visit. so come along, bring some friends/family and support the brisbane open house objectives, which are to:
  • foster an appreciation and understanding of the value of architectural, urban design and design excellence
  • increase engagement between the city of brisbane and its residents and visitors through promoting the contemporary and historical architectural attractions of the city
  • create a sustainable annual event similar to that of london, new york and melbourne open houses
  • increase awareness of all aspects of the built environment - not only the architecture but also the urban spaces that occur between our buildings
  • promote public awareness of good design and environmentally sustainable design in the subtropical city of brisbane
there's also a "focus on BOH" photography competition running in conjunction with the event. details don't appear to be up on the website yet, but from what we were told at the volunteer briefing session, entries will be accepted up to 15 october, in one of five categories:
  1. exterior
  2. interior
  3. detail
  4. people/crowds
  5. series - up to 5 images of one building
there is a small monetary prize of $1000 which i believe is the total prize pool, so probably $200 per category.

ps. i'll be on volunteer duty at the first church of christ, scientist in the morning if you want to pop by and say hello :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

brisbane parks with basketball rings

thanks to a $20 voucher from team amart all sports (click here to join), i've decided to improve my meagre stock of sporting equipment. first up was some tennis racquet over grips for my weekly-ish hits. i put the rest of the credit towards a hand pump. the pump is meant to complement my next planned purchase: a basketball that i can use to shoot some hoops, which i haven't done for ages and occasionally get an itch to do. my preliminary inquiries suggest i'd best not hold too high hopes for my townhouse body corporate approving the installation of a backboard and ring on the existing tennis court. i might try my luck anyway, or see about purchasing one of those "portable" units and asking permission to leave it on the common property. failing that, it means going for a 10-15 minute walk each way to a nearby park where i've seen a half court and ring. there's also a ring on the open grounds of a nearby church, but i'm not sure how they'd like randoms using their property... again, i could just ask...

anyways, back to the point of this entry. i wondered if there was a list somewhere that would show me which parks in brisbane have basketball facilities. after a bit of searching, i found it on the brisbane city council website. well technically it's a listing of parks by suburb, which you can scroll through / search for "basketball", or any other facility you'd like to locate (eg bbqs, playgrounds, water, toilets, rebound walls, shelter etc). access it here: some facilities get their own listing, such as skate parks.

i was quite surprised to find that there are 3 parks within 15 minutes walk of my home with basketball facilities (including the one i already knew about, which was pretty busy the last/only time i visited). i happened to be driving near enough the other two this afternoon to swing by and scope them out, so now i'm all prepared to do some shooting. just as soon as i get a ball. until then, there's always basketball on the wii sports resort :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

the kids are all right (movie)

(another movie that i'm only watching because i got a free double pass to a preview screening.) the kids are all right is a movie about a family with two mums, their two teenage children from the same 'father', and what happens when the children seek out the sperm donor without whom they would not be. it's been labelled as a dramedy, and indeed there are some funny moments, and some dramatic moments (in addition to a number of sex scenes).

i have no idea why the movie is titled the way it is. i suspect that one interpretation is that in this atypical family, the kids are all right and the parents are not. certainly the two kids fairly normal, especially compared to the friends they are often seen hanging out with. the elder kid is an academic high achiever, and the other an athletic all-rounder. mum 1 is an overcontrolling doctor, mum 2 a much more free spirit type person who doesn't have quite an impressive nor definitive answer to the question of "so what do you do?". and donor-dad? a college drop out who eschews academic learning for doing, now restauranteur and locavore, and never married never divorced but seems to have a way with women.

in the end, i'm left wondering what the message of the movie is, or whether the 'father' is meant to be liked or not. the movie was a hit at this year's sundance film festival, which shouldn't necessarily be relied upon to raise your expectations too much unless you are into independent films, of which this is one, and the festival is many. i suppose that the number of known actors involved in this film gives it some weight, but it just doesn't hit any spots with this viewer. there are some truisms about the 'hard slog' that is marriage (though my kind of marriage involves a man and a woman), and how sometimes you tend to hurt most the one to whom you are closest. but i can learn / hear that type of sage advice and reflection elsewhere. definitely not worth the price of admission, though possibly worthy of a DVD rental if you're in the right mood. or just skip it altogether and watch / do something else. i don't think your life will be any poorer for it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

boy - the 2010 movie from new zealand

thanks to some free preview tickets, i went to watch boy last night. before watching the movie, i had
  • seen the trailer, which didn't particularly appeal to me - if i didn't already hold free tickets for the movie, i don't think i would have put this movie on my to see list.
  • heard that the movie is the highest grossing new zealand movie of all time. this made me somewhat curious to see the movie and find out for myself how good is really is.
  • seen increasing numbers of free tickets being given away/offered, which made me suspect that the movie is not really that good, but maybe had potential, so the marketing/promotions people are doing the hard sell to get many previewers to see the movie and get some word of mouth type advertising happening.
now that i have seen the movie, i'm thinking:
  • it's kinda quirky - i'm not really sure what it was trying to be, as there were some funny bits though i wouldn't describe the movie as a comedy, and there were some fantastical elements which jarred a bit with what could have been a drama, which is another word i don't think quite fits in describing the movie.
  • i don't know what the point of the movie/story was, or why it was worth telling.
  • i definitely wouldn't have been happy paying money to see this, and can only conclude that i am very unlike the typical new zealand moviegoer.
so... not exactly a glowing review... but i guess if you like new zealand movies and wackyish stuff, you might find this enjoyable. for me, it had some moments, but as a whole it was generally forgettable.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

turning 33 and 3 3rds

the week leading to my 34th birthday felt like a blur of activity:
  • monday afternoon i learnt that a friend who had recently arrived from overseas was experiencing some problems with the rental accommodation he had just moved into. this eventuated in us helping him move out of the place that evening, and into our cluttered 'spare' room that didn't quite have a lot of room. a long day and late night.
  • tuesday was the usual bible study group meeting at home, which we were tempted to call off when only one person was confirmed coming, but in the end 3 turned up.
  • wednesday was... i can't remember.
  • thursday saw us start work early and finish early, in order to do an afternoon tea catch up with another overseas friend who was in town only briefly. i was so tired by this evening that when i went out after dinner to run some errands, i drove past my usual petrol station before realising i was supposed to turn in to pump petrol...
  • friday was the combined family steamboat dinner for mine and dad's birthdays. i was fully ready to vegetate by the time people left, and thankfully wifey had already volunteered to clean/wash up.
  • saturday morning, after a fairly good sleep, saw us meet with a few other couples as a followup to a marriage conference we all attended 2 years ago. this was followed by yum cha lunch at a new (for me) restaurant nearby, before we parted ways and retired home to chill for a few hours and then head out again for a dinner with some other friends.
  • sunday morning saw another opportunity to catch up on sleep, eat a late lunch in the midst of preparing food for the church dinner that night, and then church and dinner itself.
the two dinners at the end of the week were opportunities for me to do something a bit different to how i usually spend / mark my birthdays, and i will (hopefully) write a bit more that them in due course. for now, i am undeniably in my mid-30s, and continue to wonder when i'll start feeling my age.

Monday, July 26, 2010

buffet dining

i've been looking into some options for all-you-can-eat type dining places where you can get plenty of food without paying (too) plenty of price, and not too far away from home. one place i had been to recently is
  • Sushi Station, 105 Vulture St West End, 07 3844 9688
    Their $22 weekend (Fri-Sun) lineup includes seafood items. From memory, the weekday lineup (sans seafood) is $20.
this was my first choice because i've been there before and thought the food was ok - not fantastic, but decent enough and with a fair variety of (cold) japanese sushi and (hot) chinese items, there should be enough to satisfy most palates. i asked about a group discount and was told this would only be available for groups of 30-40+ people.

googling a little further, i found a few other options that i hadn't previously known of (or maybe had come across but just forgot about).
  • Lychee Village (Chinese-Malaysian restaurant), 7-9 Allamanda Drive Daisy Hill, 07 3808 3899 or 3299 2333
    Superfeast Gold $20 Sun-Thu/$22 Fri-Sat etc
    Superfeast $23.50/$24.50
    Super value $19.90

  • Sunny Breeze (Japanese restaurant), Shop 24 Sunny Park Shopping Centre Sunnybank, 07 3344 6133 or 07 3344 6144
    this restaurant was previously known as Oshin. i've probably only ever been to it once (if ever), and have always had the impression that this was a pricier place. having said that, their buffets don't sound too bad in comparison to the others on this page.
    Wednesday dinner sushi buffet $25
    Sunday lunch or dinner shabu-shabu/sukiyaki buffet $25

  • Tibetan Kitchen, 1/59 Hardgrave Road West End, 07 3844 7355
    "for tables of six or more all-you-can-eat banquets are available" - there's no further info on their website about this, but i asked by phone and was told it is a $24 per head menu featuring a selection of entrees, breads and mains (the most popular ones) from their menu
looking forward to hitting one of these joints up shortly :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

as long as it's free for me?

i've been on the simplesavings mailing list for some time, which mails out a (savings) hint of the week. while i generally skim over most of the suggestions,  a recent one caught my attention because it highlights the truism that nothing's ever really free - it always comes at somebody's expense. sometimes that expense is something we're willing to accept eg. a store/company giving away free samples of their products. sometimes that expense is something we don't (care to) recognise as costing somebody something, eg. winning a lottery, whereby the only way somebody can gain is by other entrants losing. and so similarly for one anonymous person's view on hosting party plans:

It's a sad fact that I've been making my friends spend money, all for my personal gain. For years I invited my friends and family to my party plan nights. There were always great incentives - free products, special hostess gifts and discounts - the rewards were wonderful. It took a while for me to realise though, that my rewards were costing my friends and family money. Essentially, I brought them to my home with the very aim of spending money. Most likely it was on products they didn't need or hadn't thought about before, yet they left sometimes spending hundreds of dollars. Some only bought one low-cost item, probably more out of courtesy, not because they truly needed it.

When I thought about it, it's the same as taking my friends into one shop and expecting them to buy as much stuff as possible there, regardless of whether they needed it or not. How could I do that to my friends and family?

I have changed my ways now and don't host party plan nights any more. If I need something, I shop around for the cheapest price. I'm spending only what I have to (not more because I was offered incentives), I have more money left in my bank and best of all, my friends aren't forced into spending money on things they don't want.
i'm not trying to suggest that party plan or similar things are intrinsically bad, but the motivation that drives one to host such parties is certainly something worth careful thought.

Friday, March 19, 2010


'welcome' is a movie on the line up of the french film festival 2010, the brisbane leg of which is on now until the end of the month. i got to see a free preview of this movie last sunday at the palace centro cinemas on james st.

i found it to be a pleasantly surprising story. while not a movie i would unreservedly recommend or rave about, nor necessarily choose to watch myself if given a choice of where to sacrifice my movie-going dollar, it nevertheless served to raise pertinent questions of prejudice and social concern, as well as touching on the themes of love and commitment.

[warning: possible spoilers ahead]

the main characters in this tale are:
  • simon, swimming coach and former champion swimmer, who is finalising his divorce from
  • marion, simon's ex-wife, social activist
  • bilal, a 17-year old refugee from iraq who ends up in the french town (calais) where simon and marion live, and trying to make his way to england to be reunited with his girl.
in calais there are laws in place to prevent local townsfolk from giving assistance to the refugees. there are some people, including simon's neighbour, who (despite his 'welcome' door mat?) are decidedly unwelcoming of these outsiders. there are others who do show some welcome, like marion and her new man bruno, who try to give help within the confines of the law - they run a mobile food van/soup kitchen type setup for the refugees, but are careful to refrain from conversation with the refugees / standing on the other side of the serving table. marion also disapproves of the practices of a local shop which denies entry to any refugee, and of simon's indifference to their plight. and then there is a welcome from those who decide to help beyond what's allowed by law, regardless of the trouble this brings from unsympathetic residents and the authorities.

without giving too much more away, i thought that the story was believable and touching without being overly emotional. it raises questions without offering solid answers. the story ends badly for one of the characters, and suggests hope for others. it's difficult for me to recommend that one should watch this, but i think if one does watch it, one would benefit from the experience, and perhaps be prompted to consider how welcoming they are in their social contexts.

jury duty - the choosing (of jurors)

Empanelling is the way jurors are chosen to serve on a particular trial.

The selection of jurors is a multi-step random process. It is impossible to tell which jury you will be on...

The empanelling process is as follows:
  1. Cards showing the name, town/suburb and occupation of each juror are placed in a rotating box to mix them.
  2. The judge’s associate will remove the cards one by one and call the juror’s number and name.
  3. If you are called, walk to the bailiff to swear an oath or to affirm to fulfil your duty as a juror
  4. If you wish to affirm, or have a specific religious oath, alert the bailiff before entering the court.
  5. At any time before the bailiff begins to recite the oath or affirmation, the prosecutor may call out "stand by", or the defence counsel may call out "challenge".
  6. If this happens, you must return to the back of the court and another name will be called.
  7. If you are not "stood by" or "challenged" you will be sworn in as a juror and directed to your place in the jury box.
This procedure will be repeated with the names of those remaining until a complete jury is formed.

If you are “stood by” or “challenged” it is no reflection on your character or ability.

If you are not chosen to serve on a jury during your first empanelling process, you may need to go through the process again if another jury is required.
i heard that there are books written on the science of jury selection, though this may be more pertinent in an american context (see for example jury research and scientific jury selection). in any case i was rather unexpected to hear my name called out first, and so, not having the benefit of observing other people go through the process before me, walked to the front of the court thinking "i can't remember what i'm supposed to do/say!"

as i walked, i kept waiting to hear the call of "stand by" or "challenge", but this never came. then it was time to swear my oath, and got the response wrong... i was supposed to answer "so help me God", but forgot and answered "i do", cos all i could remember was that the statement/question started with "do you...", even though there was a "... so help you God?" at the end.

and so juror #1 was chosen. as the rest of the jury formed, the defence used up their quota of challenges, while the prosecution used none - i wondered if this was a sign of their confidence (or significant lack of) in their case that they felt it really didn't matter who/what sort of people were on the jury. a number of men were challenged, and the final jury gender ratio stood at 8-4 in favour of women. two reserves were also selected, i suppose because this was expected to be a longer trial - if anything happens to prevent one of the original 12 from being able to complete the trial, a reserve would stand in their place.

finally, once the jury was formed and the prosecution listed the names of the accused and the prosecution witnesses, the judge asked if any member of the jury had problems with being able to serve (eg because we know the accused or a witness). one lady asked to be excused, stating that she had strong views about drug trafficking, and was subsequently replaced by a new juror (not one of the existing reserves).

next up: more about the trial itself.

tweet no more

some thoughts on twitter from joel spolsky (from
Although I appreciate that many people find Twitter to be valuable, I find it a truly awful way to exchange thoughts and ideas. It creates a mentally stunted world in which the most complicated thought you can think is one sentence long. It’s a cacophony of people shouting their thoughts into the abyss without listening to what anyone else is saying. Logging on gives you a page full of little hand grenades: impossible-to-understand, context-free sentences that take five minutes of research to unravel and which then turn out to be stupid, irrelevant, or pertaining to the television series Battlestar Galactica. I would write an essay describing why Twitter gives me a headache and makes me fear for the future of humanity, but it doesn’t deserve more than 140 characters of explanation, and I’ve already spent 820.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

jury duty - the waiting

having received my summons, i checked the daily law list the day before the start of my jury duty period, and found out i wasn't required on day 1! what an anti-climax. i was notified that i needed to make myself available for a 2 week period, and imagined that i would have to go through a process for many a day whereby i would check to see if i needed to turn up, and when i did turn up would go through some period of waiting and if not selected for a jury repeat the whole thing the next day. this didn't quite turn out to be the case... i was required on day 2 and at 8:45am no less. some days i could still be thinking about getting out of bed at that time of day! this is a live blog of sorts of that day, as recorded on my PDA:

Bus trip went 7:38-8:30; it was supposed to arrive in the city at 8:16 but took longer to get on the busway. Glad I took an earlier bus. The walk from home to bus stop took >10mins, walk from stop to courts 5 mins.

Not much signage at the courts, walked in abt 8:35 to see queue for security screening. Guessed this was line for jurors based on notices (summons) others were holding. After screen, faced lifts - no idea where to go. Hoped someone else did. First stop happened to be floor 3, doors opened and saw sign for "jurors assembly area" - guess this is the right place!

Bailiff calling out instructions for registering and lodgement of paperwork, then the start of waiting. As the bailiff advised, nothing moves quickly in the law courts!

09:05 sheriff making introductory announcements.

09:25 deputy sheriff's turn. 10 min informational DVD. Recognise narrator's voice as that of Bruce Paige! NB. video is very old. 80s? stream of jurors wanting to speak to deputy - most applying for excusal?

09:45 waiting... DS says not offering comfort break cos half the room will disappear, asks us to wait around and he'll address us again in 2 mins. I need to go...!

09:53 deputy sheriff confirming jurors' availability for a 10 day trial (will go past originally advised 2 week period). I originally answered "unsure" on the computer during registration, but decided to say yes when asked again.

09:58 waiting again.

10:05 deputy sheriff confirming jurors' availability for a 7 day trial - surprising number of people opt out.

10:08 waiting again.

10:12 first lot of jurors being called and taken away for a trial. 5 more trials to go for today. Girl sitting beside me moves away - maybe I smell!

10:19 back to waiting after a comfort break (gents was closod for cleaning! Thankfully the cleaner finished fairly quickly) now showing channel 9 on the TV.

10:36 trial 2 jurors being called. At least 28 jurors required each time for empanelling process - 12 per jury plus 8 each for challenges and stand bys.

10:38 waiting, TV. Starting to feel hungry. Court sessions usually run 10-1, 2:30-4:30.

10:45 some jurors (presumably from 1st lot who were not empanelled) return to waiting area.

10:50 trial 3 jurors

and it was at this point that my number was called. some 30-odd jurors were then led to a court room where the trial was just getting under way. the defendant pled not guilty, and the empanelling began...

about jury duty

i recently finished my first ever stint of jury duty, and wanted to blog some thoughts and observations. so i'm going to start another mini-series on jury duty knowing full well that my previous one has stalled something serious...

anyway, a bit of background to begin with, taken from the queensland courts website:
Juries are an integral part of our legal system and are used in most criminal cases and some civil cases in both the Supreme and District Courts in Queensland.

Jurors are ordinary citizens aged between 18 and 70 years who:
  • come from all walks of life.
  • may not have any legal knowledge.
They do not have to decide on questions of law, or what sentence a guilty person should receive.

Juries listen to the evidence in court cases and decide whether or not the defendant is guilty or not guilty (or, in civil cases, who is at fault).

A jury is usually made up of 12 men and women selected at random.

The process for jury selection is as follows:
you do receive some (but not much) renumeration while serving jury duty, as well as reimbursements for public transport costs and a lunch allowance if lunch is not otherwise provided.

this was actually my second notification in the space of about six months. the first time i managed to be excused due to work commitments, but this time round i didn't have a valid reason and figured i'd go and fulfil my civic duty. as i subsequently discovered, there's more than one way to be excused if you really want no part of this process. but more on that later.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Lego - The Force Unleashed

wow, two star wars related finds in one day. the force must be strong within me ;) this is a lego stop motion video of a lightsaber duel. doesn't quite fit in my current template which i can't be fussed playing with, so click through to watch it on youtube itself.

stormtroopers 365

this is pretty clever... saw a link to What Stormtroopers do on Their Day Off on a friend's facebook message, and chuckled at the amusing photos. can't figure out what my favourite is, but here's an example of one of the shots, titled 'Are you sure it's a good idea?':

am currently working my way through the entire flickr photostream, which is still a work in progress (one photo a day for a year, started april 2009)

even if you are not a star wars fan, or don't know what a stormtrooper is, you'll probably enjoy at least some of these shots :)

ps. you need to see them with original titles/captions for full effect.

Monday, February 15, 2010

too much buzz about google

i hardly manage to keep up with facebook, and sometimes i wonder why i bother trying.

so the introduction of google buzz just seems to be extra digital noise i don't need. not that i've really used it, but i found this comic about the ability to fix typos a bit amusing:

and i found this account highly disturbing: even though they've made some changes, i reckon i've seen enough to un-buzz my life.

see also

Friday, February 12, 2010

sand animation by kseniya simonova - talent and artistry i can appreciate

ok so it looks like i'm quite a few months behind the times in terms of finding out about this "news", and i've hit a sustained pause in my planned series on my recent singapore trip, so here's a quick detour:

i came across a video clip of ukraine's kseniya simonova via alaysia, and have to say had a similar reaction: wow. using sand over a light box, her constantly changing images "moved audiences to tears as she won Ukraine’s Got Talent". i'm not familiar enough with the context of ukraine's history, but felt sufficiently touched by the images in any case to want to record this on my blog. hope you enjoy (if that can be an appropriate term for) it:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

wedding frenzy (thankfully not mine :p)

The reason we are in Singapore this time is to attend the wedding of my sister in law, C, to M. Here is a potted account of the daytime events.

0636 It’s still pretty early, but I’ve woken up about 3 times so far this morning. There’s already activity happening outside and wifey is long out of bed. I think about doing a live blog type thing and decide to fire up the netbook.

0640 Netbook doesn’t seem to want to resume from hibernate. I think it’s the HDD problem again, which I’ll have to sort out when I get back to Oz. Hope a full reboot works…

0650 Now working on netbook after full reboot. Needs to hold out for another week. Loud (to me) chatting outside, I can hear my wife being a part of the conversation. Wonder when I should actually get out of bed.

0654 C’s ‘sisters’ are due to arrive in a few minutes. I think I should start wiping the sleep from my eyes. M is due to arrive with his ‘brothers’ at 8am to pick up his bride and go through the ‘negotiations’ to get past the front door. I’d better be dressed and fed by then.

0721 Time for breakfast. I feel like I’m in a house of strangers - many unfamiliar voices.

0736 The sisters have prepared some pretty nasty stuff for the groom and his men. Hope they don’t go overboard with these ‘games’. Time for me to make myself look presentable.

0747 Dressed and ready for action. The house is suddenly quiet. I’m going to stop being antisocial and see what’s happening.

0749 The closing of the veil by the parents being done. Photos with family and

0753 More photos - closeups of C’s nail art. Brothers are here.

0756 E touching up C’s mascara and attending to some last minute adjustments. Relatives starting to arrive too.

0803 The boys are congregating downstairs, while the girls realise they have no structure to their tortures I mean tests, and knock up a plan/sequence.

0806 The boys have arrived at the front door. Door bell rings. The negotiations begin.

0810 The flowers have been rejected, the ang pao has been rejected. The boys get to work on their first challenge.

0815 The brothers are now watching a video clip on the laptop - I think it’s a music video that they need to perform / dance to.

0821 Dance is done, and to reward them for their hard work, the girls serve some “snacks” for the boys. So thoughtful, eh?

0824 Thirsty? The girls have prepared some drinks too… meanwhile the boys continue on another challenge - something to do with unscrambling some letters to form a sentence.

0826 The door is momentarily opened to let some relatives through. The boys make a half hearted attempt to force their way through.

0829 Next game - photo quiz. See if M can recall details from some photos with the mystery sections covered up.

0831 The boys offer their third ang pao, the girls approve of the increasing figure. Boys enter.

0834 Photo quiz continues indoors. Each wrong answer results in some food/drinks to consume.

0841 Games over, drinks consumed. M moves onto the last hurdle - signing and reciting the love contract before he enters C’s room and sees his bride to be.

0844 Last last hurdle - M has to pass E’s test before she will let him in to finally see her little sister.

0847 M kisses his bride to be.

0851 The couple are now out in the living room and group photos are being taken.

0855 The brothers and sisters depart. Things are running on schedule. Those who remain at the bride’s family can relax awhile. There’s talk of playing mahjong… hmm…

0905 People retreat to the air-conditioned bedrooms. The mahjong table is out and ready for action. We have about 3.5 hours before the bridal party returns here for the bride side tea ceremony and lunch.

1102 Have been playing mahjong, finished two rounds. The caterers have already arrived to set up the food - we’re having Peranakan fare from Ivin’s the Peranakan specialists (, yum yum! More relatives have come and E says it feels like Chinese New Year.

1140 I’m sitting down to my meal. It’s nice :) Don’t want to overeat, even though I could definitely have more of this…

1223 We get word that the bride is back - tea ceremony will follow soon.

1301 Tea ceremony and lots of photos now done. Things are running ahead of schedule. Time for a bit of rest until the evening program.

1316 People are leaving. I think I’ll stop this now cos not much will be happening the next few hours, and when it does I won’t be near a computer so can’t really keep this up.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Not just another flight

We were originally going to fly with Jetstar for this trip, as they were having same sales at the time we were looking to book. However we were given an offer we couldn't refuse to 'upgrade' to the more expensive Emirates flights - total about A$17xx for 2 (economy class). Despite the odd departure (2:45am) and arrival times (~1am), it would be more convenient for us to fly direct and save on travelling time. Jetstar transits in Darwin - and we'll get to experience what this is like later this year. Another potentially cheaper option was AirAsia which we flew about 12 months ago - this would have required us to depart from Coolangatta instead of Brisbane, as well as transit in Kuala Lumpur. And so began my first experience flying with Emirates.
I should not have been concerned about whether they had video on demand, because their in flight entertainment system called ICE (information, communications, entertainment) digital widescreen blows everything else I have experienced out of the water! Among other things, it features:

  • a widescreen format for improved viewing, not the puny screens you might get in some other airlines (that is, if you get a personal screen at all...). The 10.6" screen is bigger than the one on my netbook!
  • touchscreen control - this was a bit hit and miss because I had some trouble touching the smaller buttons/icons, and I couldn't find anyway to calibrate the touch alignment (not that I looked very hard). Of course you can still use the more traditional control pad, which features a little joystick type thing to move the cursor.
  • over 1200 channels of movies, tv, music and games. There would have been a good 100+ new and recent release movies.
  • the ability to be used pretty much at all times during the flight, including take off and landing. My previous experiences with other airlines saw them turn their system on after take off, and turn it off before landing. Of course, during announcements and safety briefings etc the system is paused.
  • you can also do stuff like plug in your USB device to view photos, PDFs, play music(?) etc, though I didn't try any of these out myself.
  • oh and there are two cameras on the plane that show the downwards view and the forward view, which I found quite novel. At least that way you can feel more connected to your surroundings.

I ended up watching 3 movies:

  1. District 9 which I thought had a decent plot, with an ending that leaves the story wide open for a sequel which I fully expect to be called District 10 (for more reasons than one).
  2. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen which was a bit of a waste of time. I started to fall asleep during this movie (by which time I was at least 6+ hours past my typical bedtime). So I paused it, took a nap, and continued watching when I woke up.
  3. Michael Jackson's This is It I'm not a huge fan of MJ - I like some of his music and fully acknowledge that he was one skilled and talented individual - and missed most of the media storm that accompanied his passing because I was in China on an IT support short term missions trip at the time (maybe one day I'll get around to blogging my half finished offline entries from that trip), so felt kinda distant from it all. While I'm generally happy to hear his songs, I'm glad I didn't pay to watch this at the cinemas during its limited release.

Anyways, back to the flight itself. Some other miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The cabin crew speak a LOT of languages... I didn't keep count, but I think the announcement listed close to 10, if not more.
  • I'm not sure if the plane we were on had just been turned around from another flight, but the seatback pockets weren't thoroughly cleaned/restocked. Minor quibble, but the pedantic me notices these little details.
  • There is good foot room in the seats to stretch out. The space taken up by the equipment for the entertainment units is not as bulky as other airlines I've flown with.
  • Speaking of the seats, they recline better than other airlines I've been on too. Both the upright and the seat pan (not sure if that's the correct term... the horizontal bit you actually sit on) move when you recline, instead of just the seat back. Looks like the plane I was on had their new generation of ergonomically designed Economy Class seating. Yay me :)
  • Even the fold down trays were a better design - these planes had a double fold, so it takes up less vertical room when folded up. Not sure if it's related, but I guess this means more space for the screen :)
  • Along with the headphones, you get a set of stickers that you can place on your seat to indicate one of the following if you want to sleep:
    1. wake me for meals
    2. wake me for duty free shopping (though I just realised I didn't see any of this at all... maybe it was while I slept, but that would have been an odd time to have it)
    3. do not disturb
  • Having said that, they did not hand out any comfort/amenity packs, eg with stuff like eye shade, ear plugs, socks, toothbrush etc, which I would have expected given my previous overnight travel experiences. I can only assume this would have been available on request...
  • Otherwise the service was fairly good - wifey said before the flight that I should ask the cabin crew to hang my suit bag, but as we got to our seats, a stewardess offered to hang my suit, so I didn't even need to ask.
  • Food wise I thought the meals were reasonable without being fantastic. The snacks we were served after takeoff included a choice of chicken or lamb pie, which turned out to be tiny - I probably could have done with another 1 or 2. They also served a choice of whole fruits, which I don't think I've had on any other flight. Having said that, I think my banana was a tad underdone.

Overall I think it was a definitely value for money flight - compared with the likes of Singapore Airlines or Qantas (both of which I've flown for this route), you are getting more bang for less buck, and that's a win in my books! I'll definitely consider flying Emirates again, assuming the travel budget doesn't consign me to only the budget airlines.

Another flight to Singapore

Here's something new - I'm going to attempt to blog my way through my current trip to Singapore. It won't quite be live, but I'll aim to update roughly daily, and see how I manage to keep up with the discipline. The first entry was written offline at the airport before we flew off. See all entries/follow the journey at

21 January 2010 1:45 AM
Location: Emirates Lounge, Brisbane International Airport
Waiting to board our flight to Singapore, which doesn’t leave for another hour. The airport was very quiet when we arrived just before midnight - no other flights were scheduled to depart before ours, and then there’s nothing until 6-something. Or is that 8-something? I can’t read the departures information screen from here.

Packing was a journey itself. My plan was to pack most of our things on Monday and Tuesday night, leaving Wednesday night relatively relaxed. That was until the addition of a tray of mangos Wednesday morning, followed by another tray in the afternoon, and then another bagful, plus some passionfruit. So now I was staring at about 70kg of stuff… good thing Emirates has a standard allowance of 30kg per passenger! In the end I repacked about half of what had already gone into the suitcases, shifting some 10kg into hand carry luggage. So that left us with a ~32kg suitcase, a ~22kg suitcase, 2 hand carry bags of about 6 and 7kg respectively, a backpack (mostly containing the netbook), a handbag (wifey’s), and a suit bag. Edit: pic on left taken at our destination. I take some comfort in that the bulk of what we’re carrying is for other people (ie gifts), rather than ourselves.

There’s a free wireless access point here in the lounge, provided by Emirates for its passengers. But I have no idea where you’re supposed to get the password from. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but in the meantime I can only conclude that the free wifi is an enticing, but ultimately useless service.
edit: I think this might be a service only for (ie passwords are supplied to) first and business class passengers...

We’ll be boarding soon. The flight’s not very full. Seating on the plane is in a 3-4-3 configuration. We’re booked into one side of the middle ‘4’ section, but I hope there’s room around us to be able to split up and spread out across a bank of 4 seats for some sleep. I don’t think I can handle an all-nighter, even though I’ll be battling to extract maximum value from the onboard video on demand. It had better be VOD…