Thursday, 30 November 2006

Net Neutrality

Why would the US house of representatives vote against net neutrality? The telecommunication companies want to charge different amounts based on different internet traffic, like placing a massive toll on VoIP calls, for instance, to prevent the internet telephone business from competing with their traditional copper network.

I think the primary problem is marketing and education. When the representatives think "internet", they're not thinking about abstract traffic. They're thinking about websites. And when they think "neutral", they're not thinking about pricing. They're thinking about partisan politics, because that's their world. So "net neutrality" to a politician is more likely to mean "enforced non-partisan rhetoric on websites" rather than "no toll booths on the internet".

Even if they did understand the second meaning, they're unlikely to vote for it, because it seems to do with restricting the freedom of the companies who make the massive "campaign contributions" (ie bribes). So our likely scenarios are a misunderstanding or a misalignment of interests. Either way, without a change in tactics, we're likely to see US legislation supporting a selectively-choked internet.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There are many excellent articles on this subject available.
PPS - Including the Ask A Ninja video.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Crazy invention of the day

I was sitting in the courtyard having lunch with Deb yesterday. As the wind blew my serviettes and Subway wrapper away, I saw a tall building in the distance and had a thought. They should put power-generating wind turbines on top of skyscrapers.

Now, to me this is a good concept that deserves further investigation. It also seems like one of those ideas that someone somewhere must have had already. If someone has had this idea before, though, it must have been deemed either infeasible or ridiculous, because I've never seen city rooftop wind power implemented.

And I was correct: people have thought of this and actually done it before. However, as this article explains, the structural implications are too big a hurdle, making the idea generally infeasible.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess solar power is the workable alternative.
PPS - But until solar cells are more efficient, it won't make much difference.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Midvale School for the Gifted

I've noticed that the glass doors on the front of this new office building are a trap for young players. They are clearly and helpfully labeled "PUSH" on the outside, which is good, but the word is visible from the inside too. It says "HSUP", but somehow that goes unnoticed until you push on each door once. Then you re-evaluate your position and realise you've been reading backwards. I did this earlier, then I saw another of the building's tenants do the same. Thus I conclude it's not just me.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wonder how it is that we don't notice the backwards writing.
PPS - Could make an interesting psychology study.

Monday, 27 November 2006


I slept in this morning somehow. I was pretty sure I set an alarm, so perhaps I switched it off and rolled over back to sleep. In any case, when I looked at the clock for the first time, I saw 07:05, which is five minutes before I usually leave the house. Breakfast? Not today. Shower? Unfortunately, we have time only for the absolute bare essentials. I dressed faster than a quick-change magician, threw some food at the cat and hung out last night's washing like a whirlwind on fire. That was the real time sink. I got it all done, though, and made it to the bus stop in time to sweat and wheeze onto the bus like an eighty-year-old triathlete.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This post was composed entirely offline.
PPS - My network connection was not yet set up properly.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

The Sunday Mok - Party Party

Sunday - There were two engagement announcements in the morning church service including Deb and me. After yard work in the afternoon I had dinner at Deb's and we started watching The Empire Strikes Back. We finished it after the evening church service with Murrae and Tracey.
Monday - There's been very little on at work this week. Most of the time I've been working in advance on a project that is yet to receive funding. I had dinner with Dad and Anthony at home, then went to Deb's to plan wedding stuff.
Tuesday - I watched Fullmetal Alchemist during lunch at work because I'm way behind. Karate in the evening was a good workout. Afterwards, Deb and I went to Dad & Beth's for dinner and discussed more wedding plans.
Wednesday - I woke up early and disoriented, and couldn't remember the day of the week or whether my alarm had gone off yet. That happened again on Thursday and Friday. I took Deb to see the Cirque du Soleil production Varekai, and we both enjoyed it very much.
Thursday - With so little on at work, we started packing for Friday's office move. In the evening I planned the evening church service for Sunday. It's the first time I've done it, and I'm a little uncertain about it.
Friday - As I prepared to leave the office, I plugged in my flash drive to synchronise my personal files. The machine crashed immediately. I hope it's not permanently damaged. We played Spicks & Specks at youth group, which was fun.
Saturday - Deb and I went to a farewell party for Trent and Penelope, then to Mia and Sam's engagement party, to which we were late. We would have gone to my uncle's 60th birthday party as well, but times and places were not compatible with the other parties. In the evening we watched Stargate Atlantis before having an early night.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I received a good-natured chiding on Saturday for announcing the engagement by blog rather than phone.
PPS - That would mostly be because it meant a two-day delay for most people.

Friday, 24 November 2006

Friday Zombie Blogging

A high school production of Night of the Living Dead. Apparently it went rather well.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Other sources tell me they had to cancel plans to use real zombies.
PPS - Those rehearsals ended tragically.

The inbox stress indicator

A good gauge of how busy is my life at any stage is the number of emails in my inbox. I archive them when they're not needed anymore, so I only see what's absolutely necessary in my mailboxes. Usually I have about five for home and two for work. Sometimes, in a bad week, I'll average twelve to fifteen. Currently I have ten at work and fifteen at home for a total busy/stress factor of twenty-five. When I'm usually sitting at a seven, you can see how this would affect me. And while I know it shouldn't, somehow that doesn't seem to register.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think I'll get to archive a few of them today.
PPS - My work inbox will be nearly empty when I go home.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

They always pick the guy with the wire

Last night I saw Cirque du Soleil's Varekai, and I definitely recommend it. It was funny, thrilling and brilliant, sometimes all at once. It's like watching contortionists dancing ballet in zero gravity. I couldn't quite follow the story, though. As near as I could tell, there was some winged boy who fell from the sky, then had his wings stolen. He saw some animals, then I think there was a fire. In the end he got married. I guess the story isn't the most important part here.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There appears to be a video clip sample on the website.
PPS - Most of the music, as far as I could tell, was performed live.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Anyone got a prototype?

If ground-based use of tractor beams is feasible, they could be used to enforce speed limits in certain geographical locations such as schools. They could be used to prevent people from running red lights. Of course that second scenario means we need a bypass for vehicles that are allowed to run red lights, which just introduces a vulnerability into the system.

With sufficient smarts, a tractor beam system could be set up at a problem intersection to detect imminent vehicle collisions and prevent them or at least minimise their impact.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - These are the kinds of thoughts science fiction guides me to.
PPS - I have several more.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Could be a metaphor

Our section is allegedly moving down to a new office on Friday. I say "allegedly" because I went looking for the building over the weekend and couldn't actually find it. The two competing theories so far are that it's too confusing a place to locate without a native guide or that "new office" is a euphemism for "fired". I really hope it's the first one.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I can't imagine anyone going to this much trouble to just get rid of someone.
PPS - Even several someones.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

The Sunday Mok - Warp 1, Engage!

Sunday - Church in the morning, followed by grocery shopping and a nap. In the afternoon I went to the Enoggera Bowls Club to play rebound volleyball with nine of my school friends and associates. It was great to see everyone again, plus the exercise did me good.
Monday - I spent the week at work on the performance appraisal database and identity database. I think performance appraisals are nearly finished. At bible study in the evening, we just discussed the reading without the video and I passed on a copy of the Mosaic talk series "Life's Toughest Questions".
Tuesday - I woke up tired and stayed that way at work for most of the week. Karate in the evening was a little easier than last week. After dinner, Deb and I watched some Stargate Atlantis.
Wednesday - It was tough to get out of bed. My own fault, of course, for having late nights. There was a big storm around lunchtime, and I found it hard to focus all day. Deb and I had dinner at my place because the storm had cut power to hers.
Thursday - Dinner at Dad & Beth's was a really nice marinated roast, with apple pie and custard for dessert. I say this to make you jealous. My step-brother-in-law mentioned that I could have saved on my laptop purchase if I'd salary-sacrificed for it. This is why it's handy to know an accountant.
Friday - We took the youth group ice skating, though many of our regulars were elsewhere celebrating the end of their school year. We witnessed a marriage proposal on the ice which I knew I couldn't mention to Deb until late on Saturday.
Saturday - Deb and I went Christmas shopping for each other, which meant a little time apart and hiding store-branded bags afterwards. When we met back up, we looked at engagement rings. When we found one we both liked and saw that it fit perfectly, I bought it. We went to dinner that night at the most expensive restaurant we've been to. Good food, though.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Deb's face hurt from smiling so much.
PPS - I smiled a lot too.

The news

Just a quick note because I don't have time to do a full Sunday Mok until later: Deb and I are engaged as of yesterday! We're both very excited, and the only thing we've really worked out so far is the date for the wedding: the 12th of May.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There'll be a few more details in The Sunday Mok later today.
PPS - Until then, feel free to speculate on various aspects.

Friday, 17 November 2006

Friday Zombie Blogging

Everyone's in on zombie movies recently. I realise it's been a little while since a high-profile release, but that bandwagon is still a-rollin'.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Personally I'm hanging out for World War Z.
PPS - And Diary of the Dead, of course.

Interactive sport

It occurred to me last night that video referees need not be physically present at the particular sporting event in which they are participating. Given the right technology, they could be lounging at home, reviewing decisions and reporting back as required.

Then I realised that, apart from actually having a say, that's just what the rest of the fans do. So why couldn't we farm out the video referee decisions to the fans? Then instead of yelling at the TV, we push a button and our voice is heard.

Obviously the biggest problem would be partiality - typically the team with the biggest fan base would get the favourable decisions. For the most part, I don't think we can actually trust the fans to be impartial, which would be the idea behind using more than one. Some kind of merit ranking would have to come into play. Perhaps votes would be weighted by seeing how often particular armchair umpires voted for and against their own teams.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The whole thing gets kind of complicated quickly.
PPS - Perhaps the home vote could just be kept as a statistic.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Reams of nonsense

With very little else to do today, and a modest amount of content there, perhaps it's time I introduce my other blog, Proverbially. It's basically an archived list of the original quotes I display on Messenger every day. There are an indefinite number still to come in the future. There are also lots more buried somewhere in my past chat logs, and I should really get around to digging them up some day. Enjoy!

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Perhaps, in time, these two blogs will become one.
PPS - For now, it feels like they should be separate.

Expressing excitement

One of the problems with text-only communication is that it allows only binary excitement levels, depending on whether or not you use an exclamation mark. Consider "That's great." versus "That's great!". Same sentiment, but when seen side by side, one looks apathetic and one looks ecstatic. So when writing such a phrase, you have to decide which end of the spectrum best expresses your enthusiasm level. It can be a tough decision.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Some people use multiple exclamation marks.
PPS - I don't get that at all.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006


Not all moments are created equal. Some moments demand attention, while others slide by without a thought. Some moments are the perfect time to stare at the clouds, and some are the perfect time to concentrate and get things done. Some moments are spoiled and some are saved. Some moments die while others live.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I feel like I should edit this into a free verse layout.
PPS - A task for a different moment, perhaps.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Thin desktops

There's an idea about internet service that's been around for a while that hasn't caught on. Basically, internet service providers sell you (as a service) a virtual desktop on their servers. That way your internet connection appears blazingly fast just because all your downloads are direct on the wholesale backbone and all you see is a view of it.

I think people (or geeks at least) will be hesitant to take up offers like that, despite bullet-speed downloads. They know how hard it is to switch service providers, and what happens if you decide to leave? If they want to, they can lock up your (virtual) machine and throw away the key, or "accidentally" lose the file. Probably worse than that is the security threat. Not that I imagine the service providers will take it lightly (at least not after the first lawsuit) but that the big media companies will see it as a goldmine. Every machine is then identified as belonging to a person, rather than today's semi-plausible deniability. Also, they can copy your machine and take it away for examination without ever having to inconvenience you. Big Media would dearly love to embrace this model of internet service, I believe.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The whole idea seems too problematic for the public.
PPS - That's probably why it hasn't caught on.

Monday, 13 November 2006

Life Inside the Asylum Casino

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes a clause against cruel and unusual punishment (ie torture). This has been pointed out to me in response to my methods for dealing with phone spammers (aka telemarketers). The obvious implication is that I am torturing these poor phone operators and denying them the basic human rights they deserve.

I'll admit that targeting the operators doesn't really get to the heart of the problem. The core problem we are fighting here is human greed, and the mechanism by which it is enacted is by the casino model - if you have enough customers and the probability of a sale times the profit from one sale is more than the cost of interacting with one potential customer, then you have profit.

We are all victims here. Everyone gets spam on the phone and by email. Unfortunately, by the time email spam gets to you, about the best you can do is delete it and get on with your life. With the telephone and the systems in place there, you can tip the scales of the economic interaction just a little bit. You reduce the number of customers (since you tie up one operator for a while) and you increase the average cost of contacting each person very slightly (because the time per customer goes up). Yes, you inconvenience the one poor marketer on the other end of the phone, but the important part is that the spammer overlord starts to feel the pinch. That only happens if everyone fights back, though.

I consider it cruel and unusual for me to receive semi-automated phone calls from overseas to sell me things I don't want, didn't request and will not buy, and then to receive them again and again, over and over until the end of time. Is my only option to roll over and accept this as the usual state of affairs? No. Do I have to hang up immediately, thereby allowing the spammer to pursue better leads elsewhere? Hardly.

Okay, I can't defend the active teasing games, but I think the best thing you can do with a telemarketer is hold them on the line rather than hang up immediately.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The global spam machine can only be stopped by everyone working together.
PPS - And I mean every last person.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

The Sunday Mok - And I never cooked burgers again

Sunday - After I fed Meg in the morning, she came back upstairs, which is unusual for her. She must have been lonely. The morning church service was followed by a sausage lunch, chores and City of Heroes.
Monday - It seemed like several little things went wrong. I made a couple of mistakes at work, ate at home instead of at Deb's. Bible study in the evening was a bit unfocused because we were at Bridgit's place, which is also home to five puppies.
Tuesday - Deb's sister Mia came along to observe karate in the evening, then I had dinner at Deb's. We watched a little TV and chatted the evening away.
Wednesday - I'm trying to wrap up the performance appraisal database at work. The user interface needs more functionality for managing the organisational structure. Dinner at Deb's again and more chatting.
Thursday - I brought lunch with me to work, but forgot about it and bought another. After work I waited 75 minutes for the bus, then decided to walk and catch a different one. Deb and I watched some recent South Park episodes and Black Adder.
Friday - At youth group in the evening, we just hung out playing games, chatting and listening to music. It was pretty good.
Saturday - I slept in, went for a jog, played City of Heroes, then went to Deb's for lunch. She cut my hair again, even shorter this time. We went bowling in the afternoon with Murrae and Tracey, then watched Napoleon Dynamite. It's hard to tell if I liked it or not.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think I did.
PPS - It's just spectacularly slow.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Market This

Games to play with telemarketers:

Hello - Answer only the questions that can be answered with "hello". See how long you can keep them on the line. My record is about three minutes.

Pardon - Make them repeat everything at least once.

Questions - Repeat everything they say to you, but as a question. See how long they stay on the script.

The Silent Treatment - Put the phone down and walk away. Usually, the auto-dialer doesn't provide any way for the call centre minion to hang up, so they're stuck on the phone with you. If they really were calling with a legitimate reason, they'd hang up and try again. Note that this works best with a cordless phone rather than a physical hook switch.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My favourite is the silent treatment.
PPS - Yes, I know it's mean.

Friday Zombie Blogging

Video game characters drawn as zombies for a Hallowe'en contest.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't think characters that were already zombies counted.
PPS - Then again, I haven't checked out all the entries yet.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Urban Dead End

I'm growing a little bit tired of Urban Dead, the browser-based zombie game I usually play at lunchtime. Not because it's inherently tiresome (everyone knows I like zombies) but because I seem to have done all I can. There's more killing or more reviving, plus lots more searching, barricading and walking around. I have all the skills I need now, so unless I switch sides to become a zombie full-time, I'm stuck. If I did shuffle off the mortal coil, I'd immediately be able to buy all the remaining zombie skills, so there won't be anything to accomplish there, either. Maybe I'm just done.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And yet I still love City of Heroes.
PPS - There's more to do in CoH than Urban Dead.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

TV the way it should be today

Democracy is an internet television application. It's been out for a while now, gradually building up to a non-beta release. I thought I'd mention it because it embodies nearly everything I think television should be these days.

First, it works on my schedule, not one set by the local broadcast tower. If I want to watch my favourite program at 6am instead of 8pm, that's entirely up to me, and it's a function of the system, not an add-on feature.

Second, it's global. Broadcast television is bound to geographical locations and economic rationalising. If there are only 0.5% of people in any given area as a potential audience for a show, it won't get shown. If you take it globally with the power of the internet, 0.5% of several billion makes tens of millions of viewers. That's an audience any TV executive can get behind.

The one thing it doesn't do is payment for content. I would accept paying one dollar per show to download and watch on my schedule, as long as it's not locked up inconveniently. And as long as it has absolutely no ads. That would be equivalent to buying a DVD of a TV show and finding it's got all the broadcast ads still in it. That's a rant for another time, though.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Democracy has no pay system because they believe in gratis and libre media.
PPS - And that's fine by me.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

South Park and Atheists

Atheists net-wide have recently learned a lesson about South Park: sooner or later, they will come for everyone, including you. The recently-aired episode (ending with "to be continued") featured famous evolutionist and atheist Richard Dawkins in a couple of compromising positions. Boing Boing has the skinny, including a comment from an offended atheist and another who's more easy-going. And that's the lesson: either you're confident in your beliefs and can laugh at them while still holding them true or you're insecure and can only laugh at other people.

That being said, of course, sometimes people say things that you just can't laugh at, no matter how mature or confident you are.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The evidence, in this case, is that the episode was funny.
PPS - I'm eager for the next installment.

Monday, 6 November 2006

Diametrically opposed

It's common enough to find shops advertising Kosher and Halal food for sale. That's relatively easy, because they're rather compatible (as far as I know). I wonder what would happen if another religion rose in popularity and had incompatible food rules. For instance, say this new religion requires all meat to be cooked in milk (not Kosher). What do the stores do then? Have separate Kosher and Anti-Kosher sections?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That's the only sensible solution I can think of.
PPS - Unless stores want to specialise in one or the other.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

The Sunday Mok - Remember Remember

Sunday - After the morning church service, Deb and I did the weekly grocery shopping. I spent the afternoon playing City of Heroes. I cooked dinner and helped with a drama in the evening church service.
Monday - I took leftovers for lunch and didn't quite finish it all. After dinner with Dad, the weekly bible study was at my place. Only Deb and Mia came besides John. It felt like I spoke more than usual.
Tuesday - I coded the basics of a travel and market experience report for the performance appraisal database at work. I returned to karate after a couple of weeks away, and it was a noticeable drop in performance. I've had a pretty sore back for the rest of the week.
Wednesday - I had to redesign my identity management code to better allow for expansion. It would have been good to get it right the first time. I had dinner at Deb's and just chatted for the remainder of the evening.
Thursday - Dinner at Dad & Beth's, followed by Fun With Dick and Jane on DVD. My blue card unexpectedly arrived in the mail.
Friday - I was able to go back to youth group in the evening because of my blue card renewal. We had to change plans, unfortunately, because it was raining, and I got the job of waiting at the pool to direct people back to the church. It was good to be back.
Saturday - I played City of Heroes in the morning until Deb called. We went out to lunch and did some shopping for the Mexican-themed dinner in the evening. My piñata costume, created by Deb, won me a cactus.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My last cactus died.
PPS - I don't know if I over- or under-watered it.

Friday, 3 November 2006

The Case of the Misplaced Milk and the Upset Cat

Meg the cat woke me at 01:15 this morning for some reason. After taking her downstairs and returning to bed still half-asleep, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. I checked everything I could and rationalised the rest, and finally got back to sleep. This morning the milk (delivered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) was halfway across the front lawn instead of on the doorstep.

So I guess the only explanation is a ninja milk-botherer stopped by very early in the morning.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm not even sure that the milk had been delivered by that time.
PPS - As far as I know, it could be delivered my magic elves.

Friday Zombie Blogging

Having a late Hallowe'en party? You'll need some decorations. Like a zombie vomiting into a barrel.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Nothing says "Welcome!" like zombie vomit.
PPS - The video is not quite worth the effort.

Thursday, 2 November 2006

It's either sad or funny

How to tell if you are over-tired:
1. View this moving picture.
2. If you made any little sad noises such as a drawn-out "aww", it's time for bed.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Apologies to those who have seen this already.
PPS - It makes it worse if you imagine facial expressions.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Out of the loop

I am terrible at keeping in touch with people. Absolutely atrocious. If you are my friend, chances are that I have almost never called you. Some of you will have been lucky enough to receive a spontaneous email. Most of my friends are in the "I see them at parties" category.

I thought I should mention this because it seems, from that point of view, that I neither value nor appreciate my friends. That's completely untrue, but it really doesn't look that way. So here's to all my friends, whether I see you once a week or once a year. May our paths cross much more often. Cheers.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Having said all this, hopefully I can work harder at it.
PPS - I miss you all.