No more pink walls

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    No updates to this blog in a while I’m afraid, things have just been far too busy to have had anything interesting (read geeky) to write about. That said, I am indulging and making this post purely to show off.

    On Monday 25th May at 8:37am, after a rather long day/night, Mel and I welcomed Spencer Bailey Stewart into the world. There were a few little issues throughout the night (Particularly towards the end) and he had some small hurdles to get over in his first hour, but since then he has gone from strength to strength and both he and Mum and now doing amazingly well.
    Obligatory Pic:


    Spencer Bailey Stewart

    He’s a very placid little man and would quite happily sleep through an earthquake, much to our delight. And yes, that is a little penguin he’s holding on to in that pic

    So that’s all really. I am very conscious of not becoming a complete baby bore so unless something actually worth writing about happens, this will hopefully be my only baby post for the sake of a baby post.

    So it seems that there’s quite the election ‘fever’ (yay sportsfans!) going around at the moment. Obviously the US election has had the bulk of the limelight and I have to admit to having followed it far too closely since late last year (Along with my election buddy, Soporific Frog. Thanks for the memories). Somewhat less grand (yet still of debatable importance) are the Victorian local council elections that are going on at the moment.

    I have a colleague who has, for the past few years, worked for both the Victorian and Australian Electoral Commissions and this has lead to some interesting discussions into the way things are run in the background. Here are a few of the more interesting (I think) tidbits:

    • There are a worrying number of minor ‘issues’ with the in-house developed election software they use. Certainly nothing that would alter the outcome of an election (I hope), but enough to make me wonder again, why software like this isn’t open source? Surely the best way to debug software like this is to publish the source 6 months before its used and wait for the feedback from a raving pack of civil libertarians.
    • As an example of the above, I present the following. You may or may not know that candidates are allowed to provide a 150 word spiel about themselves which is sent out with elections papers so that people get an idea of who all the candidates are. Now whilst there are some guidelines for this (ie no bad language, no personal attacks on other candidates etc) there is basically no editing of this allowed by the electoral commision, Eg if there’s typos or gramatical errors in the text provided, they will get printed verbatim. Now, given the number of candidates in these elections, the process is relatively automated in the software. It does a word count and, assuming all is ok, it goes through. Now a little bird tells me that the algorithm used in this software initially counted the number of spaces and used that to determine the word count (WC=N_Spaces+1). So, combine this algorithm with the fact that gramatical errors will not, as a matter of policy, be corrected, and you might begin to see a problem.
      Example: “Here is my spiel.Do you think its,any good?”
      So the above 10 word sentence, now gets read as being only 7 words long. Whilst this is a small thing, there are a lot of ‘small’ people who tend to stand for council elections that take this stuff very serously. It is also something that should’ve been picked up LONG ago. Now, I’m not suggesting this has altered the outcome of anything, but complaint from a candidate would cause great headaches for the electoral commission this late in the game.
    • The rules behind preferential voting systems are complex. Whist the premise itself is simple, there are an awful lot of edge case scenarios that have to be dealt with and these make it next to impossible for a human to accurately and quickly determine a result. Computers to the rescue! Specifically, a spreadsheet to the rescue. Yes, all the rules of this system have been applied within an Excel spreadsheet, which has then gone through appropriate certifications, then sold to the VEC, who plugs in votes counts and it spits out the winners. Whilst there’s nothing implicitly wrong with using a spreadsheet for this function, to me it just all seemed a bit amateurish.
    • Despite, all of the above, the VEC and AEC do a phenomenal job of running elections.  They enforce processes to cover nearly EVERY scenario and I have nothing but confidence in the elections held within this country. This said, hearing about all these procedures etc only makes me more concerned about the way elections are run in the US. So many things you read about that occur there simply leave me gobsmacked and I can’t get my mind around the fact that a country as developed as the United States, can’t even follow rudimentary (and commonsense) guidelines to ensure a genuine result. Craziness.

    Finally, I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention Mr Troy Anthony Platt, a candiadate for the Ballarat North ward. As mentioned above, candidates are allowed to provide a 150 word summary of themselves and, I can only assume, in the tradition of the Official Monster Raving Looney Party, Mr Platt has provided a most interesting blurb:

    Vote 1 Troy Anthony Platt, the Starmaster Ranger Wizard of the North ward. North ward Internationale Airport:Romamesque gothic style 5 gates Iternational, Marine Tera Aero tunnel,3 domestic gates, Immigration Hotel 888 levels, 100 security Home Defence Guards, 12 courts rooms, 3 lounges, two customs,motorbike race track,car race track,car workshops,zoo,swampland undersea living trials,Aquanauts harmonic shaft,16 medical centres,swampland viewing displays,horse stables,equestrian centre, Auditorium Entertainment facilities,7 theatres, stock exchange, chicken sale yards,multicultural university, 144 thousands jobs bringing in 101 billion yearly. Internationale Wathaurong Eureka Musical Sounds of Poetry Tour:Canada,USA,Ireland, UK,Spain. Eureka Stockade:The Movie Kristina Bumble Bee. isbn-1-4120-3222-9, A knights Fire Volume 1&2 ISBN 1-4120-6423-6, Fire exits, light fittings (radiation covers)Traffic hazards, customer service behaviour, 10 o clock public House lockout, seven drinks man/four drinks women, legalised canibis, touch one mate, touch waltzing Matilda

    The above was indeed published and distributed along with voting papers etc, to all members of the appropriate ward. Now, whilst such randomness maybe common in the UK, apparently here it caused something of a stir. Infact, this went all the way to the VECs legal council to determine whether or not it was allowable. It was eventually decided that it had not broken any of the rules (At least, the rules as they currently stand, ahem) and therefore it had to be published. Good for you Troy Anthony Platt.


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    “Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

    Hiro used to feel this way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this was liberating. He no longer has to worry about being the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken.”

    Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

    I had a moment like this today. Just sat back in awe of someone elses work and realised that no matter what I did, how much money I spent, what mad crazy skills I learned (Even though I would never have the time to learn them)… I could never best what he had done.

    Unlike Hiro though, I can’t really say I found it liberating. In a way it was inspiring to see what is actually possible (Some of these things I never would’ve thought could be done previously), but it was also slightly depressing. Made my own efforts seem rather feeble.

    Anyway, if ever I needed an excuse to quote some Neal Stephenson, this was it.

    As suggested by Stewart Smith:

    • Grab the nearest book.
    • Open it to page 56.
    • Find the fifth sentence.
    • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
    • Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

    “The first step is achieved through effective marketing”

    from Systems Analysis & Design (Hawryszkiewycz)

    Yesterday I was reading the Wikipedia article entitled “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” which is a fantastic example of why our language is so utterly confusing and if nothing, a rather amusing read.

    The problem was though, that I think my brain somehow couldn’t shake the idea of these ‘homophonous phrases’ (See Wikipeadia) and I woke up about 5am wondering about one that was going through my head. It went like this:
    “Will, will Will’s will will Will’s will?”
    Which is, as far as I can tell, gramatically correct. It takes the form of a note, addressed to someone named Will, asking whether another persons will is doing what he intends it to.
    It paraphrases like this (Changing the name’s and words for similar ones):
    “Tom, will Joe’s last will and testament leave Harry what he intended?”

    The “will” breakdown as:
    1) Proper noun, starting a note addressed to someone named Will
    2) Asking a question (Eg: “Will you come to the dance with me?”)
    3) Proper noun, referecing a different person named William
    4) noun, the last will and testament of William
    5) verb, the act of leaving someone something in a will
    6) Proper noun, again referencing William
    7) noun, William’s intent

    Now I’m far from being an English major so if anyone out there can comment on it, go nuts. Its just something I found interesting, particularly considering that my brain just decided to make it up while I was asleep.

    This is purely for my own personal reference as its a bugger of a thing to find a solution to when you have the problem.

    The issue I had was with GRUB dual booting linux + windows (+OSX), which should never be difficult. The problem came about apparently because linux is on the primary drive while Windows the secondary. The error received when booting a ‘standard’ GRUB configuration is this:
    “Filesystem type unknown, partition type 0x7″
    When I say standard I mean somethng like the following:
    title Windows XP Professional
    root (hd1,4)
    chainloader +1

    The fix is to change the GRUB setting to the following:
    title Microsoft Windows
    map (hd1) (hd0)
    map (hd0) (hd1)
    rootnoverify (hd1,0)
    chainloader +1

    Which makes sense I guess, but I still think its an unnecesary step.

    Minor Updates


    I rememberd I had two other things to say about the Mighty Mouse.

    1) (And I realise this is a more generic OS X mouse thing) I CANNOT set the sensitivity of my mouse high enough in OS X! This drives me nuts. Its so close but not quite as fast as I have under Windows or Linux!

    2) Before I say this, I’ll mention that I think Apple does a fantastic job on software (Hardware too of course), but who the hell writes a mouse driver that is 152mb installed?!! Its basically the same size as that last update to OS X and only adds the tiniest bit of functionality. I would really love to know what the hell is in that thing.

    Finally, on a non-Apple note, I’ve registered for use with any projects I might decide to work on. Its also something of a communal thing so if anyone else has any projects their working on that need a home, just ask. Its not hosted anywhere yet but I want to get a CVS server hosted somewhere that I can point a subdomain like at. Anyone know any companies that do reasonable CVS hosting?

    I know I don’t use this blog much but, well, its week 13 and I WANT TO WHINGE! I’m sick to death of crappy software that doesn’t do what it claims to do! Software that just does not make any logical sense! This is promising software, it just hasn’t been thought out all the way through.
    I think that this maybe a product of the open source, distributed development model. I hope not tho.

    Anyway I’ve calmed down from earlier in the evening when i was throwing shit around in my frustration. I guess its lucky I don’t keep the server in the honours room. Such anger is unusual for me, i think its a result of me not having time to fuck about with things that aren’t working when they should. I know that I can do amazing things when i work under pressure. Both my body and mind seem to slip into another mode and just go nuts. But as a consequence it seems it takes a lot less than normal for me to snap. Still I enjoy doing this once in a while, it reminds me that I can be efficient when i need to be.

    So many people claim to have new beginnings so I’d like to make it very clear from the start that this is nothing more than a pseudo beginning. There’s really nothing new about it. I bought a new home in the real world, I bought a new home in the online world. I’m just moving into this one first. Like any new home, this one is still a little messy.

    I plan on keeing this blog private for a LITTLE while, but not long. So hello to anyone reading this a few months from now.

    I’ve been trying to forget about working and what the future holds for my employement, but it keeps niggling at me. Uni is starting to look up again and its enjoyable for the the first time in a while.

    Last night I was dropping frames, audio was perfect tho.

    the randomness ends… now.