Communism: Inconceivable!

Vietnam is a land which challenges many of the assumptions I grew up building, e.g., water is drinkable and precious; showers come in cubicles; everyone pays the same price for things; a “sunny” day means unobstructed view of the sun.

Here, water is plentiful but only special water is potable. This is apparently true for lots of peole in Hanoi, not just the foreigners. I believe the Hanoi water company’s 2020 goal is to have potable coming through all the taps. Foreigners will probably still need to boil it, but for different reasons.

I’m actually still not sure if I’m showering correctly. There’s a shower-head, a bucket, and a floor drain, but no clearly delineated area for showering or way to keep the water from covering the whole floor. Either that or I’ve overlooked something and now my landlords think I’m a total grot…

Pricing is a whole topic of it’s own, but every foreigner here who comes from a non-bartering culture has a blog post about it so I won’t bother until I have something interesting to write.

It’s probably just Hanoi winter, but last time I saw the sun I was above the cloud cover. The other day I was thinking “Gosh, it’s sunny today,” only to look up and realise it was still solid cloud-cover, but somehow lighter… So I _think_ I can tell a sunny day from a cloudy day from a going-to-rain day, but I also thought that in Australia with about as much accuracy as a weather-rock.

More importantly though, Vietnam challenges my assumptions about Vietnam. Specifically, about communism.

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A week in Magic Kindergarten

Dear Princess Celestia,

CC: Anyone else reading my blog.

So I’m a week into my course now, more than one seventh of the way to magic Vietnamese fluency. Or something like that. Between work, classes, minimal homework, and an annoying head-cold, I’ve been pretty much flat out, which is lucky as I don’t have any other plans or commitments. (Or none I can’t procrastinate away, rather)

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TBBle Scarry’s Busy, Busy Weekend

Often my weekends start out with grandiose plans of what I might try and get done.

This weekend (and the preceding evenings I guess) saw me produce a Wine patch I was only playing with out of interest but which turns out to affect Warhammer Online, although I didn’t know it until after I implemented the patch, and a WIne patch I’ve been meaning to prototype for a while using XInput 2 to fix a long-standing Wine bug which also affects Warhammer Online.

I also got back to watching Life On Mars, although I’ve only managed one episode and a bit. It’s pretty damned good.

I also decided to make gyoza, as I have fond, alcohol-supported memories of the last time I made them.

I managed to lazy my cooking even more than usual. I’m using a recipe I picked up last time I made them off a site called The Food Palate by Deborah Rodrigo, whom Google has since informed me is from Sydney but both that site and her personal blog appear to have fallen off the Internet, sadly. However, I distilled (with the help of Kirky at work) the ingredients down to this:

Ginger, chives, chili flakes, coriander, garlic, sesame seed oil, soy sauce for dumplings, and gyoza skins

Ginger, chives, chili flakes, coriander, garlic, sesame seed oil, soy sauce for dumplings, and gyoza skins

Adding half a kilo of lean pork mince, and about a half-hour, you get:

30 gyoza, freezer-bound

So not as bad as the ugly cake I made recently, but still not spectacular. And unlike the cake, I don’t yet know if these turn out to be poison or not.

I expect that they’ll be delicious, and not even slightly poisonous. And unlike my cake, I’m not going to try to share them with anyone. ^_^

It could be worse, at least I seem to have not managed to poison my housemate’s lizards, Prime and Grimlock, whom I’ve been feeding while he’s away this weekend. I’m not sure how I could get “put grasshoppers into the box” wrong, but I don’t think I did. I think they’re pretty neat names for lizards, reflecting Mick’s inner geek, and his outer geek, although Prime seems to be larger than Grimlock which is to the best of my knowledge the wrong way ’round.

I was going to try and leverage in a rant about characters in children’s books with alliterative names at this point, and observe that one of my favorite authors as a young child, Richard Scarry happened to avoid that, but upon actually looking him up, I realise the characters whose names I’d forgotten quite often had alliterative names. The characters I remembered still had non-alliterative names, so it’s not as bad as some authors I can’t be bothered remembering, but I’ll chalk that one up as being disappointed by a childhood memory.

A less disappointing childhood memory turns out to be Piers Anthony‘s Incarnations of Immortality series. I read the series when I was quite young, and I’m only re-reading the first one at the moment, but it reminds me how good a writer he is, and why I loved his books so much as a child. Also because he’s alphabetically early on the shelves. I don’t know why I seem to do that. I think when I’m picking a new series, I start at the beginning and go until I’ve chosen one. So that favours the alphabetically early.

I’ve managed to get a whole bunch of reading done recently, which is good. Sadly, Borders now wants me to pay $7 on a $14 book to order it in from overseas, and it turns out most of the series I’m following keenly enough to actually order books are on that list, so I may end up having to do an Amazon order. Which is annoying, because I’m also looking for some DS games: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations appears to be discontinued in Australia and the US, and Impossible Mission never seems to have been released here at all. Along with wanting Race on DVD, I have a fair bit of overseas shopping to do, and the local financial climate is not exactly conducive to that. -_-

Anyway, the above is my documentation supporting why I should not be left alone for days at a time. ^_^

Edit: Fix images after changing hosting.

People living in glass houses and NSW shouldn't throw stones

On today’s business list for the NSW Legislative Council the first entry is the NSW Attorney General, Mr Hatzistergos, moving to amend the Crimes Act and related acts with respect to throwing rocks at vehicles.

The ABC has a writeup about the intended new law as well as a story about two boys who were arrested for throwing a 2kg rock at a car. The article doesn’t say, but I believe this incident happened yesterday (I heard about it on the radio, along with the new law, this morning).

I’m not going to discuss the idea of a nanny state, childhood violence and/or destructive influences of video games, ’cause I’m actually at work, and don’t have the brain-space for it.

I will try and get the actual text of the law and its eventual fate if I remember to.

I also will have to remember not to go skimming rocks across any trafficked waterways in Sydney

Also, “Sisyphæan”, in case I need it later.

Edit: Googling for nsw bans throwing rocks pulls up knee-jerk from Encyclopedia.com as the fourth hit. ^_^

Edit: Crimes Amendment (Rock Throwing) Bill 2008 is now law.

Sin, Certs and Wans; or Sun Tzu VS Bikinis

I pre-ordered Sin Episode 1: Emergence on the weekend. It was cheap (AU$23 or so) and included a Steam version of the original Sin. This is partly my fault, I was hoping for a steamy version of Original Sin… (Sorry if you were hoping for a different original sin joke. ^_^)

I actually own Sin, but I don’t know where the CD is. The original box is still on my shelf. So I’m taking the opportunity to actually finish the game, since the new one is set four years later. And it’s still as I remember, one of the best-fun first-person shooters I’ve played… Dragged me right away from Half-Life and its expansion packs. (Although I’m finished Half-Life and Blue Shift now, and I think I’m close to the end of Opposing Force)

A recent topic on Slashdot about The changing value of certifications. Beyond the somewhat inaccurate summarising of the arcticle on Slashdot (certifications still attract a pay premium, they don’t actively hurt your career) I think a rather important oversight was made in much of the discussion (ie. that bit which survived my threshhold) — and maybe this was covered in the original research, I didn’t bother trying to track down the report mentioned in the article — that for some jobs a certification doesn’t attract a premium, because it’s a neccessity.

Certainly the terms of employment at CBIT require that I hold a certification of some kind within six months of joining. It originally specified MCSE, but they happily let me substitute my LPIC-1. I since discovered that my Windows NT4 MCSE is still valid, so I’m putting the MCSE upgrade on hold to get my CCNA done.

Then a lot of the posters proceeded to confuse certification with qualifications. Having both, I’m amazed that this happens. On the other hand, the people generating this confusion were usually on the “I didn’t need stuffy boring university or a do-in-my-sleep MCSD, I just walked in and told them how I’ve been running Windows since I was six and they hired me” side of the debate.

I’m going to get condescending here. I’ll let you know when it’s over. I really think these attitudes go hand in hand, and are usually closely followed by “Why won’t <large company> hire me as their CTO? I know as much as all these highly qualified lawyers and managers. They’ll fail now, and it’ll be all their fault for not hiring me,” and then later followed by “I’ve been working this same $30k/year first-level support role for ten years now, because management are too short sighted to realise that I was just too smart to waste three years on a degree.”Done with the condescending bit.

And sure, I myself have been guilty of this. I still am, frequently. I think most of us in IT do it to some extent. This is also how we end up with the armchair lawyers, armchair managers, armchair accountants and armchair linguists that pervade our community. (I pick those because I’ve done them all myself. Ranter, berate theyself. ^_^) It might be a symptom of the type of person who succeeds in IT (self-confident, multi-skilled and widely read/educated) as compared to those who fail (obstinant, unfocussed and arrogant).

So why certify? I do it partly because I love training and learning, and having something to show for it — Ignore that I waited five years to graduate my B.Sc — and partly because it makes financial sense. I like to read when I go to bed… It settles me down and clears my mind. However, a $20 novel will only last two or three days. My CCNA INTRO book has taken me over a month to get about half-way into… I think because it’s so dry, I can’t read more than a few minutes. Either way, good value for $50.

Flicking through Planet Linux Australia as I do when I forget how much time it sucks up… Between the sordid tales of a Power5 lying with a SunFire — Oh I wish I had a project to throw at them… Where’s my multi-threaded Sudoko solver? — I came across this gem of an idea for a Canberra-wide wireless mesh network. This is something I’d heartily endorse, and help with where I could… I’ll have to dig out my old Gungahlin-wireless-mesh plans…

A quick aside: Another Rich Web with PHP talk from Rasmus Lerdorf. The content aside, the template is sweet. The template aside, the content is fascinating.

Another quick aside: Digital cameras have their own digital signature. I’m not sure if this is even vaugely practical for any use, but here’s the original article‘s PDF. Someone in the discussion pointed me at a US Government scheme to convince colour laser printer manufacturers to encode printer identification data onto each page. It’s a scary world we live in.

Last aside… Two more links: One to make you cry: Even if the author is being facetious, someone somewhere belives this; and one to make you laugh: Every workplace should have a plan on its books for how to deal with Viking Raids.

But what of the bikinis, I hear you ask… Or would, were I narrating this out loud instead of in my head… And you cared about bikinis more than you care about Sun Tzu… OK. This is an IRC story. You’ve been warned.

On one of the IRC channels I hang out on, discussion turned to bikinis, and one of the channel regulars (Io) mentioned that she doesn’t wear bikinis.

Pseudo-aside: This is Io. I knocked up this image that same evening, as it happens. MSPaint’s so much easier to use than The Gimp… I did the whole image in the time it took me to give up the other day on finding a “Draw a square” button in The Gimp.

Anyway, it seemed sensible at this poit to consult with my new TzuBBot. TzuBBot being my Art-Of-War-based-advice-bot. Here’s the results.


03:00 < TBBle> TzuBBot: Any advice on the best way to get Io out of Brazil and into a bikini?
03:00 < TzuBBot> THE NINE SITUATIONS: 55. Hence he does not strive to ally himself with all and sundry, nor does he foster the power of other states. He carries out his own secret designs, keeping his antagonists in awe. Thus he is able to capture their cities and overthrow their kingdoms.
03:01 < TBBle> TzuBBot: Any advice on the best way to get Io out of a bikini and into my lap?
03:01 < TzuBBot> THE ARMY ON THE MARCH: 45. If a general shows confidence in his men but always insists on his orders being obeyed, the gain will be mutual.

The TzuBBot gives useful advice so often, it’s scary…

Final note: My goodneess, but the move from Yurika to Dino has made this website soooo much snappier!

Depressed atomic bombs

Seen on TV news tonight: Scientists have identified the depression-response gene which governs how well people handle stressful situations and how likely they are to lapse into depression. They are reluctant to advocate testing for this gene, as identification as a carrier may lead to the people at most risk of depression becoming… depressed.

I’m not sure if this is scientific responsiblity demonstrating the counter-argument to the people who claim that science should never have split the atom, since it lead to the creation of the atomic bomb… Or if it’s simply a news editor’s idea of a good story punchline. Either way, it’s nice to see that Australian news is catching up to the present day, the BBC article is not quite three years old. As opposed to the recent slashdot article about toxic toads taking over Australia… ^_^

Track… forward?

Things I’m tracking, hoping for good things:

GplFlash2
Open source, GPL implementation of Macromedia Flash 7. The developer has a blog, last updated in July.
Bazaar-NG
Revision Control Software from Canonical, who put Ubuntu together. Successor to Bazaar, which is the successor to arch. Also has a cool set of plugins growing around it, such as bzrk which lets you visualise your branches and then drill down into them, as well a the essential bzrtools.
a couple of bazaar-ng web interfaces
bzrweb (Not yet upgraded to bzr 0.1.1 -_-, you could otherwise see it on my bzr site) and a port of the Mercurial web interface, hgweb which I’ve not tried since it looks like the repository contains bzr as well, and I’m not clear if that’s because modifications to bzr were needed, or what. Also a complete lack of installation documentation, and the TODOs need to be done.
Vega Strike
3d space-flight simulator, along the lines of Wing Commander. Admittedly, I’ve only run this once on a 3d-enabled machine, and I managed to ram a mining station at full speed as I forgot that you need to accelerate against your line of velocity to slow down. But it looks promising. It already looks good.
Asterisk (‘*’)
Open-source PABX software. It does SIP, H.323, IAX2 (their own protocol) as well as interfacing to line-interface cards. I’ve actually got this set up on Keitarou, running SIP, but have no one to call me. I’m supposed to get this ready for voice-conferencing for anime.au comittee meetings… I’m also looking forward to further database integration so I can hook this up at BU and sell cheap VoIP calls. ^_^
IPv6
Anyone who’s dealt with me in an ISP sense (especially if you’re a supplier ^_^) will know I keep asking about IPv6. Because, dammit, it’s the future, it’s coming, and the sooner we’re ready, the sooner we’ll be transitioned. From home, all my machines can connect to Yurika over the ‘net via IPv6 with no speed issues (both here and Yurika are using 6to4 which, if more NAT routers supported along with Neighbour Discovery, would allow basically zero-conf setup of an IPv6-capable host such as Windows XP, MacOS X and of course Linux and BSD flavours.

Oh, the horror!

One last thing. Mad props to John Stanhope for posting and defending his decision to post the federal government’s latest effort in the war on freedom. It’s about time the federal government was reminded that they don’t get to keep laws secret from the people. They’re not a large corporation answerable only to their shareholders with only the board allowed to know everything that’s going on, they’re the elected representatives of the people of Australia, and when they get caught trying to sneak bad bad things past the Australian people hoping no one notices, they deserve all the suffering they get. Mind you, I haven’t read the draft legislation yet. But whoever the government sent to Lateline to try and dissolve the PR fallout did a pretty poor job. He seemed to be in denial that anyone else had seen the draft yet, evading questions like a minister caught deporting Australians for speaking a second language in question time. I can’t listen to question time any more, it’s just too frustrating listening to people arguing rhetoric pointlessly and making enormous leaps of bad logic. But I digress.