December 28, 2007

Open Street Map

I have been having a play with Open Street Map. It is an attempt to make a freely available street map of .... well the entire world. It's kind of addictive. It feels like you're exploring the frontier! Well, mapping it at least.

While in Tamworth I collected some GPS data for streets in Tamworth. You can see the results here. It was interesting to compare my mapping to Google Maps, NSW Lands Department maps and the tourist information map of Tamworth. All were different. At least I know the bit I did is correct because I went there.

November 25, 2007


A few of the councils around my area are doing council clean-up at the moment. I noticed today while driving past how many old TVs and CRT computer monitors there are out on the footpath.

Who wants an old TV when you can buy a nice new LCD or plasma? You can at least buy CRT televisions (and still a lot cheaper than an LCD or plasma), but how about a CRT computer monitor?

Apart from the issue of waste, there is the issue of what happens to the old CRT tubes. I suspect it is possible to recycle some parts, although I doubt it is easy. Ashfield council has a page on recycling electrical goods, although all it tells you is not to put them in landfill, and where you can take old ink cartridges. A search reveals that it is at least possible to recycle a CRT in Sydney. e.g. MRI.

November 24, 2007

Google Street View for Sydney?

Yesterday as I was walking to my car from Ashfield station I noticed a black Holden Astra approaching with some kind of apparatus on the roof. As it drew closer, part of the roof mounted equipment was clearly a GPS receiver. As it drove past the Google Maps logo was clearly visible on the side door.

What is going on? Surely Google's maps of Ashfield are up-to-date already. What I didn't appreciate at the time was the other thing mounted on the roof was a camera. Today the SMH are carrying a story Google's candid camera snaps Australia with a photo of a similarly equipped car (in blue). Google are taking photos at street level in Sydney for their Street View extension to Google Maps, already available for some US cities.

I guess I'll feature in Google's Street View once it is available for Sydney (probably some time next year).

November 05, 2007


Movember is upon us. It's great that all of you who are taking part are raising money for charity and all that, but please remember:

If you didn't have a moustache last month, it was probably for a good reason. That reason hasn't changed.

November 03, 2007

Google Mail + IMAP = good

If you are a Google Mail user you may have noticed that gmail now offers IMAP. Similar to POP, IMAP is a way for your e-mail application (e.g. Outlook, elm, pine etc), but IMAP also allows you to access your e-mail folders, while keeping the folders on the server. This means that you can see the same messages in your folders from anywhere you check your e-mail.

Gmail's implementation is a little different, as gmail has labels rather than folders. They have set it up quite well though: If you move a message from your IMAP Inbox to an IMAP folder this is equivalent to adding that label and archiving the message. If your label names have slashes in them ("/") then in IMAP this creates subfolders. More information here.

October 27, 2007

The Cat In The Hat short story

Robert J Lennon writes a short story using only words found in The Cat in the Hat.

"My mother was gone. It was a bump on her head, a big bump. I did not know; mother did not tell me. When she did, I fell. “No,” I said. “No, not you! Do not go!” But there was no way. She sank fast, that was good. I let her go."

The Cat in the Hat is designed to use only words a first grader could understand. A challenging task you'd think, to write a short story not for children using the same words. He does well.

Link (via boingboing).

October 23, 2007


It did seem a bit gratuitous, but Anthony Albanese left us a shopping list recently. Judging by the fact that he hadn't already filled it in, I guess he wasn't expecting us to do his shopping for him. But the problem was that he didn't include an address for the ALP (or any mention of the ALP for that matter) for us to return the filled in list so he could do our "shopping".

He had some people at the station this morning. Perhaps I should have stopped to ask them, and also to find out how we make payment once his future government delivers the goods (as it were).

October 17, 2007


"Next is one of those films that requires a second viewing." (Tim Hayes writes on IMDB) I saw it recently on a plane flight between Sydney and London, and I think I agree.

The premise of the movie is that Chris "Frank Cadillac" Johnson (played well by Nicholas Cage) can see a couple of minutes into the future. The FBI know there is going to be a nuclear terrorist attack, and so some agents decide that maybe he will be able to work out where it is before it happens.

The tricky thing is that Johnson knows that if you know the future then that changes the future. Think about it: You know that your friend is going to ask you something in 30 seconds time, so you walk away unexpectedly before he can ask. Now he isn't going to ask you. Did you change the future? In one sense everything we do changes the future.

Anyway, an intriguing movie.


Well "Halloween" is almost upon us again. I use quotes because it is not something normally celebrated or even remembered in Australia, but that is slowly changing. Toy shops stock Halloween costumes now, other shops have Halloween sales, it is mentioned in advertising, and I'm sure we'll see an increasing number of kids taking part.

As much as I disagree with the celebration of evil, I'm not sure laughing in the face of any kids who come to the door for trick or treat (see my post for last year) is going to be sustainable in the long term. I think I'm still formulating my Halloween strategy...

October 14, 2007

ADSL for everyone (almost?)

Whirlpool has a link to a Herald Sun article saying Telstra is to enable ADSL on a further 211 exchanges. At home I have had ADSL for a few years now. It's probably not that long, but it's long enough that it's hard to remember what dial-up internet was like.

I know a few people who have moved house only to find that the place they moved to does not have ADSL enabled yet. For all the people who say that ADSL "1" is pretty basic, and slow by world standards, you really notice how much you rely on something when it is taken away.

The article is not clear on what proportion of the Australian population still can't get broadband internet, although it implies that it is small.

October 11, 2007

European Learnings

After a couple of weeks travelling in England and Italy I'm back, rested, and enlightened. Things I have learned:
  • The Italian word for Glad Wrap is pellicola ("film")
  • The Italian understanding of speed limits (OK - perhaps driving in general) is different to the Australian understanding. I have been back 2 days and no fines so far, although I have turned on the windscreen wipers when I meant to indicate about 5 times already.
  • When I lived in England a few years ago "push chair" was a pretty common word for what we call a stroller, but now it seems that "buggy" is preferred.
  • The English don't seem to commonly use the slang oyster to mean phlegm. It seems that it is quite safe to put an "oyster" card in your pocket.
  • Banning smoking in English pubs since July is GREAT!

September 05, 2007

With the Spring storm season approaching I thought this article was pertinent:

Nameless Hurricane That Much More Terrifying

The Onion

Nameless Hurricane That Much More Terrifying

MIAMI—Thousands have already fled the popularly dubbed "Hurricane That Shall Not Be Named," to escape its destructive winds and chilling impersonality.

July 15, 2007

Alvin Lim

It is with sadness that I report that Alvin Lim passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last week. I learned of this from this post that Hecta saw on

I knew Alvin & Michelle from our days at St Barnabas Broadway when I was still at university. Alvin & Michelle were my bible study group leaders for a while, and I remember our friendship fondly.

I remember once at their house in Lewisham (after a few minutes of Alvin & Michelle discussing it) getting called in to offer my opinion on whether it was necessary to polish wine glasses after they had been dried with a tea towel. (I was on Alvin's side - polish them of course!)

Our prayers are with Michelle and family at this time.

Update: John Anderson reports that Alvin’s memorial service will take place at 2pm Tuesday 24/7/07 at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Menai.

June 13, 2007


Man at Town Hall Station: How do you spell "digression"?
Me: What?
Man: How do you spell digression? Like, I'm here, and I want to go there, but I don't go straight there.
Me: Oh ... "d-i-g-r-e-s-s-i-o-n"
Man: Hmmm yes. Thanks.

I don't think anyone has ever asked me to spell digression at the station before, and I think I tend to think of a digression applying more to a conversation than to walking somewhere.

I was on my way home from a visit to the Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe last night.

Their Rauch Bier was impressive. They describe it as "a rich copper coloured lager with a dense caramel head and a sweet, smoked malt aroma & flavour. This beer is a unique balance of sweet toasty malt with smoked accents and a warming finish." A pretty accurate description.

The Belgian Chocolate Stout was also good.

Thanks for the introduction Bruce. A very pleasant evening indeed.

May 29, 2007


It seems that England have overcome their lack of success in the ICC World Cup and have "condemned the West Indies to the heaviest defeat in their 79-year Test history with victory by an innings and 283 runs in the second Test."

Good work! No - really!

May 23, 2007

Hello Pastor

If you are involved in music ministry at your church, or if you are the pastor of a church with any kind of music ministry I recommend you check out this phone message on Ship of Fools. From their site: 'This priceless voicemail recording was sent to us by a pastor who said, "Oh, have I been there!"'

That's my girl

Are you familiar with missed connections on craigslist? This blog ... kind of hard to explain, and it dates from 2006, but it's great.

May 09, 2007

Scary but true. Another fine story from The Onion.

May 05, 2007

More Geocaching

The closest caches are getting further away, but I managed to find Loantaka Brook #1 before breakfast. It was a pity there wasn't time to find more of the nearby caches.

May 01, 2007


I'm staying in Florham Park New Jersey this week, and so I headed out to find JASC before breakfast this morning. I don't think the streets in Florham Park are set up for pedestrians - there is pretty much no footpath (sidewalk) on most streets. Fortunately there was not all that much traffic early this morning. I saw the sunrise, 2 deer, and 2 squirrels (gray squirrels).

April 30, 2007

Celebration of Shad!

Were it not for my good friends in Doylestown taking me to the Shad Festival in Lambertville New Jersey today I might not know what a shad is. A shad turns out to be a fish, and I have a t-shirt to prove it.

The Trentonian says that shad used to be fished at Lambertville as they swam upstream to spawn. Eventually the pollution in the Delaware river got so bad that they stopped coming. Now the condition of the river has improved enough that the shad have come back.


My good friends were kind enough to drive me to my hotel in New Jersey today, and on the way we stopped off to find a couple of geocaches: Riverview East and West Central Jersey Travel Bug Hotel

April 21, 2007


With a planned visit to the US next week (work trip) I have been having a think about the tipping culture in the US, and how much stress it causes someone not used to it. In Australia, as a general rule, tipping is not expected. Appreciated in some circumstances, but not expected.

In Australia if someone serves you in a department store he is just doing his job. Hopefully his manager appreciates what he does and he gets paid for it. Either way his remuneration is between him and his manager. Same goes for the guy who fits tyres on my car. Same goes for any service job. If one of those people turned around and expected that some kind of tip should be paid before the transaction could be concluded I would consider him rude. It's like begging in a way. Of course if someone goes out of their way to serve me above and beyond what is necessary I might be tempted to give some kind of monetary reward. Strangely this is much more acceptable in some industries than others.

I appreciate that there are a number of factors that make this whole equation different in the US. Particularly in industries where the rate of pay is set with the understanding that the employee will be able to suplement it with tips in order to make a living. The problem is my unfamiliarity with those situations where tipping is expected.

I don't think either approach is wrong or right, but probably a product of the prevailing culture and customs. The trouble is that coming from my culture to their culture it is somewhat more rude if I judge incorrectly.

I guess that's not always the case. Recently in Japan an American colleague explained how he offered a tip to a Japanese waitress in a restaurant. A Japanese colleague pointed out that he would not have expected her to take the tip. My American colleague explained that she didn't want to at first, but it was OK because he insisted she take it, and refused to leave until she accepted it. We explained that he had probably created a paperwork nightmare for her at minimum as she tried to explain the extra money to her boss, or perhaps a moral dilemma if she decided just to pocket the money!

April 18, 2007

April 02, 2007

More Tokyo

While I was in Tokyo the cherry blossom (Sakura - 桜) was just coming out, so I took a few photos on Saturday. People tend to celebrate Sakura by going out and having picnics in parks. In fact quite a few people staked out their patch of park with a blue tarp each night in Shiba park near my hotel.

Saturday gave me the opportunity to do some shopping. I headed to Hakuhinka Toy Park in Ginza for some ... toys, and also Ito-ya for some chiyogami or yuzen-shi (traditional Japanese prints on washi paper - make sure you go to Annex 3 of Ito-ya which is around the back from the main shop), and then to Bic Camera to look at some toys for me! The Honey Bee 15cm helicopter looked fun, but I didn't end up buying anything at Bic.

Saturday night was a flight back to Australia. I managed one of Qantas's newer Airbus jets that had the bed seats in business class. They are a league ahead of Qantas's older business class seats, but I still didn't sleep all that well.

March 28, 2007


I find myself back in Tokyo this week for my second visit in 6 months. It's strange the things I didn't realise I had forgotten about Tokyo. e.g. The crows that are everywhere in the city.

While waiting for the bus from Narita into the city I was watching some of the bus company employees loading suitcases onto someone else's bus when one of them suddenly turned around and lauched a big swinging kick at another of the employees. He then shouted at him and dragged him off. I guess he had transgressed in some way. Noone in the crowd waiting seemed to be to purturbed about this, although my fellow gaijin were careful to stand orderly in the line and wait paitently for our bus. Welcome back to Japan.

My hotel is not quite in walking distance to work, but rather a short ride on the Metro. I am near Shiba park (which seems to be fenced off and closed for some inexplicable reason), but it is still a nice spot. The cherry blossoms are just starting to come out.

The television in the hotel gets HD digital broadcasts. I hadn't previously thought that HD was such a big deal unless you had a huge TV, but the clarity of the HD broadcasts is significantly sharper than the analogue satellite channels (even if the digital channels are all in Japanese).

March 12, 2007

DST Dramas?

Have you had any dramas with the US changes to daylight saving time? In case you somehow missed it the US has moved forward the start of DST by a couple of weeks. Various people didn't realise that this might require them to do something to their systems to cater for this. Well - didn't realise until a few weeks ago.

Some people may remember that a few Australian states changed DST last year for the Commonwealth Games. I know I scrambled to patch everything then. I would have thought we might have learned from that... Oh well.

March 04, 2007


I ran into Paxman the other day at a wedding. I hadn't seen him in a while, and so he hadn't seen my short hair yet. As the Ebenezerling observed at the time, my hair has "white bits" now. Paxman commented that I look "distinguished" now. Is that the same as "old"?

February 07, 2007

January 27, 2007

Build your own iPhone

If you can't wait until June to get your Apple iPhone, check out Click the link "this will have to do". It is a PDF of a paper iPhone you can print out and assemble. Gizmodo has another version here.

January 16, 2007


In the Blue Mountains last week we found Hanging Rock and
Foy's Folly.

January 03, 2007

Tony vs Paul

I try to resist posting YouTube clips, but you really do need to see this one! Happy New Year!