Sunday, June 19, 2005

The divide widens

This item from the BBC website illustrates the widening of the have/ have-not gap which is becoming a very serious concern to me. It highlights the fact that people in key service areas - especially nurses - have been taken for granted for far too long. And although the article is about British nurses, it is the same in NZ, and no doubt in other parts of the world. As the son of a paedeatric nurse, I know this all too well: My mother left the profession when patients started being referred to as 'clients'. She had over ten years of experience.
Nursing is a critical component in society's infrastructure. The health system is falling apart because of excessive and needless administrative burden, lack of sensible government funding (and before I receive any contradiction on this, my father currently is employed as a business analyst in a hospital), and pitiful pay for the people who get their hands dirty. I find it incredible that in 2003, while both nurses and teachers were demanding better rates, the politicians awarded themselves a pay increase of $20,000 a year each. The teachers got better pay. The nurses didn't.
So you know who to look to for answers when you roll into Casualty and are made to wait for hours because there are no staff to spare/ they don't have the equipment they need/ they don't have the experience to treat you effectively.
The frightening corollary to this article is that there are a growing number of decent, hardworking people who cannot afford (or don't know how to) get onto the real estate ladder. They fear the debt they will have to incur, and worry about their ability to pay off a mortgage. I personally dread the day when I will have to start looking for a house.

The other divide is also a concern, but for different reasons. Many people will be disenfranchised in the future because they lack computing skills. But I understand where they're coming from. Heck, I have been using computers for years, even to the point of doing a few computer science papers at Uni, and even I get confused about certain computing issues. The field covering computer knowledge is huge. You could not possibly hope to gain an appreciation for the depth of diversity covered by the term 'computing' without spending a reasonable amount of time studying it. I see this every day at Polytech, at my work, in shops, and at the public library, where people are constantly flustered, frustrated and panicking at terminals: "Where have my files gone?"; "How do I access your network?"; "What does 'Windows has encountered a fatal exception error at memory address 0x00fa98' mean?"; "I don't understand - Why doesn't it do what I want?"
I find myself divided into two factions - the engineering student, who likes technological challenge, and the practical humanist who yearns for simplicity. Why must the two be opposed?
Answer: Profit. If you did not want/ need a particular new device, then corporations cannot make money selling them to you. People are not employed making them. Tax is not collected.
This is the side of becoming an engineer that I'm least looking forward to - foisting products onto people who either don't need them or are happy with what they have now, all in the name of profit.
In other words, once you have stepped onto the bandwagon, it's really difficult to get off.
"Brough to you by New-And-Improved-O-Vision's Product-Service-O-Tron-MkII!"

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


You are worth 1 / 6,447,696,763rd of humanity as at 14th of June 2005 at 11:03:30 GMT, according to That's right, just 0.00000000015509414241353336 of the world's population. In engineering notation, you are roughly 155.1 pHu (picoHuman-units).

A bit silly? Perhaps. It makes you think, though: Is life getting cheaper? I mean, there are six billion, four-hundred-and-forty-seven million, six-hundred-and-ninety-six thousand, seven-hundred-and-sixty-two other people on the planet. All using diminishing resources like land, energy, food and hope. All clammouring to take their place. Most struggling to get there. Yearning to be acknowledged. I have heard many times that life is precious. But you would not think it to see the situation in many areas around the globe.

Thought for the day:
Even to be such a small part of life is better than not to be part of life at all.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Live 8 support

I read on the BBC that there is a fair bit of opposition to Bob Geldoff's planned Live 8 concerts, and although I admit there are probably alterior motives for the concerts going ahead (eg the stars get to make money), I have these questions for the nay-sayers:
  1. Would you be willing to travel hundreds of miles and pay for transport, tickets and accommodation, to see a bunch of artists that - while they may be great performers and artists - you have never heard of?
  2. Is it not logical to target people with money to spare (middle-aged professional baby-boomers) as the potential punters for said concerts?
  3. Who benefits if the concerts don't go ahead?
I do agree with Baaba Maal, who says that more Africans should be involved, but note that he sees the pontential sales of records by African artists at the chief concern. And if Damon Albarn, whose recent work is rampantly commercial, is unimpressed, how much of his income and time is he shovelling into charities for Africa?
What a bunch of ingrates! Geldoff could have just walked away from the situation. His character shows through his actions. It takes a person of good moral standing to do the right thing in the face of criticism. No, the concerts don't do much to combat the corruption that is rife in many ailing African nations, but I don't think that was ever a likely proposition. As for Albarn's comment that the events will perpetuate the idea of Africa as a "failing, ill" place, I think that the real culprit is western indifference and the aforementioned corruption. These are the reasons that Africa is falling to bits. Years of civil war and tribal slaughter. Failing crops and land mines. The spread of AIDS because the people just won't heed the consequences. Who can stop all that?

Thought for the day:
"All that is required for evil to prevail, is for good men to stand by and do nothing" - Edmund Burke (paraphrased)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Dinner out

E. and I celebrated our 7th anniversary last night, by going out for a meal at Torenhof, a local Belgian pub and restaurant. It was great - we haven't done anything like this in ages.
There are now six (I think) such bars in NZ, three in Auckland, one in Wellington, one in Hamilton, one in Christchurch. The fellow that owns them all buys up pub fittings wholesale in Belguim and freights them back to NZ to be reassembled into authentic Belgian-style bars.
Certainly, the Belgians seem to have it sussed when it comes to good beers. Noteworthy are the likes of Hoegaarden (White and Grand Cru), Duvel, Leffe, and of course Stella Artois. I'd recommend any of these, especially with a bowlful of freshly steamed mussels in Dijon mustard and blue cheese sauce.
I spotted a beer with the tantalising name 'Lucifer', and couldn't resist trying one. (There was another one named 'Delirium Tremens' which sounded equally as interesting, but I left that for another time...)
We had oysters Kilpatrick to start with, and the pots of steamed mussels and bread as a main. Following that, there were the obligatory waffles with fruit compote.
A good evening.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Operating system = Cup of coffee

I have decided to stop selling distributions of Linux and start giving them away. If you feel like giving me a gold coin donation or buying me a cup of coffee in exchange of an entire operating system, I'd really appreciate it.

By way of contrast, Windows XP sells for something like NZ$550. That's quite a lot of coffee.

(Sorry folks, Christchurch only. I can't afford the postage to other places.)

Experiment suspended

Ok. It hurts me to do this, but since IE is so totally broken and does not adhere to the CSS box model, I'm reverting back to the 'Minima' style again. Please, please use Firefox. It's better. So much better.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Ecstasy and despair

Unlike the beer, I am bitter. Maybe because I drink a lot of coffee.

It is my consolation. I live for coffee, books, music, sex, computing, freedom and engineering - not necessarily in that order, and sometimes in combination. (The coffee-and-sex combination can get messy. It is preferable to experience these not quite simultaneously, but with only a short delay in between. In any case E. prefers tea. She is a heathen and philistine, but I love her anyway.) I count a day a good day if I have experienced any of these things, which luckily for me, is nearly every day.

I guess I'm a coffee enthusiast/ snob. There are a lot of good cafes in Christchurch, if you know where to look. Some of these are: Reload, which is upstairs in the Bus Exchange, C-1 at the bottom of High St, Le Cafe at the Arts Centre, and East's Books on High St (who also sell - wait for it - books!). Starbucks has no chance of ever winning me as a customer. I just don't understand why anyone would subject themselves to their thin brown water, at greater expense than anywhere else. They just don't get it. Black! It must be strong, and black, like drinking hot volatile bitumen. And as for those who prefer a large trim-milk half-strength latte in a bowl... Why don't you just fart into some hot milk?

I love the almost opiate buzz I get on the first sip, and despair the thought of instant sludge. Life's too short to drink bad coffee!