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Mike Macgirvin

Next Tuesday

  from Diary and Other Rantings
The first Tuesday in November. Everybody remembers what's important about that, right?

Right. Melbourne Cup Day. The entire nation comes to a screeching halt for a five minute horse race.

Oh yeah, there's that little presidential election in America; which is also held on the first Tuesday in November - except that's actually on Wednesday (Sydney time).
April Showers

  from Diary and Other Rantings
Somehow "October showers brings November flowers" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
Pennies from Kevin

  from Diary and Other Rantings
The title of this article 'Pennies From Kevin' actually came off the ABC radio today where it was used to describe the Prime Minister's economic stimulus package.

A little over four years ago I  wrote about finding a penny on the ground and actually picking it up. Was a time when I couldn't be bothered with the worthless things. They won't even buy you a piece of bubble gum these days.

In Australia, you won't find any pennies on the ground. None. They've done away with the worthless coinage. The smallest numismatic denomination is a five cent piece. In the super market and elsewhere the total is automatically rounded to the nearest multiple of five (unless you're paying electronically, in which case they can charge you the exact amount - as it doesn't require producing change).

Apologies. I'm actually going somewhere with this. Twice this week I've seen something shiny on the ground and reached over and picked it up. A two-dollar coin both times. That's enough to buy a beer.

I believe I will.
Weird. Just plain weird.

  from Diary and Other Rantings
I'm not making this up. Driving home today, just outside Kangaloon, there was a dead rat on the side of the road. No big deal, right? Just another big ugly dead rat.

This one was wearing a knitted pullover.
But did you get a photo? No one is going to believe you without proof. ;-)
Reference: Updating timezone files LAMP

  last edited: Fri, 28 Mar 2008 22:02:19 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Updating all the timezone stuff one needs on a LAMP environment: (necessary in Australia because they changed the daylight savings start date once again). I haven't yet been able to convince my hosting provider to go through all this hassle; and the tables are outdated - so Aussie visitors may see an incorrect time on some of my websites for the next week.  


# zdump -c 2009 -v Australia/Sydney | grep 2008
Australia/Sydney  Sat Apr  5 15:59:59 2008 UTC = Sun Apr  6 02:59:59 2008 EST isdst=1 gmtoff=39600
Australia/Sydney  Sat Apr  5 16:00:00 2008 UTC = Sun Apr  6 02:00:00 2008 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=36000
Australia/Sydney  Sat Oct  4 15:59:59 2008 UTC = Sun Oct  5 01:59:59 2008 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=36000
Australia/Sydney  Sat Oct  4 16:00:00 2008 UTC = Sun Oct  5 03:00:00 2008 EST isdst=1 gmtoff=39600

(If the first two lines contain 'Mar' instead of 'Apr' you've got old tables). e.g. this is what an unpatched system would report:

# zdump -c 2009 -v Australia/Sydney | grep 2008
Australia/Sydney  Sat Mar 29 15:59:59 2008 UTC = Sun Mar 30 02:59:59 2008 EST isdst=1 gmtoff=39600
Australia/Sydney  Sat Mar 29 16:00:00 2008 UTC = Sun Mar 30 02:00:00 2008 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=36000
Australia/Sydney  Sat Oct 25 15:59:59 2008 UTC = Sun Oct 26 01:59:59 2008 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=36000
Australia/Sydney  Sat Oct 25 16:00:00 2008 UTC = Sun Oct 26 03:00:00 2008 EST isdst=1 gmtoff=39600


# apt-get update

# apt-get install tzdata


# apt-get install php5-dev

[fetch and save]

# tar zxvf timezonedb-xxxxxxx.tgz

# cd timezonedb-xxxxxxx

# phpize

# ./configure

# make

# make install

# echo ""  > /etc/php5/conf.d/timezonedb.ini

# /etc/init.d/apache2 restart


# mysql_tzinfo_to_sql /usr/share/zoneinfo | mysql -u root mysql -p

(ignore all the errors from Riyadh{NN},, and
The end (?)

  last edited: Wed, 19 Mar 2008 07:25:09 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Those two or three people who actually visit this website may have noticed that I haven't done much with it lately. I think it's time to declare it over and done with - though I'll leave the archives here indefinitely should anybody wish to see the timeline of happenings.

Blogging is so 2002. Social nets are so 2004. I'm tired of it all. Seems the world has tired of my writings as well (or more accurately it's just another channel of stuff amongst the 200+ million channels of stuff to choose from on the web). Thanks to the RSS fiasco and a host of other factors (e.g. search behaviour, PageRank changes, my use of a 'non-standard' community platform, etc.), traffic has plummeted way beyond rock bottom. We're now down to 3 visitors a day on average, down from 100,000 back in October and even the 20-30,000 around Christmas.

There's no point anymore writing into space - as I mentioned a few weeks back. The photo albums for friends and family are largely unseen. Except for two of you, friends and family are too intimidated by online spaces to touch the place.

The community site has been a dismal failure - a lot of hard work wasted.  

It's coming up on one year since I arrived in Australia, and so much has changed. Work and family consumes my time, as it should (at least family). Work is what it is. Blogging and social nets are a thing of the past, and tremendous time-wasters at that.

It was fun. Now onto the next chapter - of a book which probably won't be written online.

I'm pretty much ranted out.
I figured when I got back from holidays and found that I had only missed one post that the end was near. Cheers Mike.See you over the fence one time.
And I, also, am spending my time in other areas of life, as it should be.Thanks for the opportunity to sample the blogging life, Mike. You made it easier than anywhere else I came across, and your help was invaluable. But I've learned and moved on, as have you. We have other ways to keep in touch, you and I, and for that I am grateful. Till then, stay safe!
An apology is in order

  from Diary and Other Rantings
Today the Australian government officially apologized to the aborigines for taking their children away a few decades back 'to give them better lives'.

However I don't think we're going to hear an apology any time soon for taking their continent away...

  last edited: Wed, 30 Jan 2008 21:37:14 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Still trying to figure out cricket. It's not as easy as one might let you think. For instance, here's the intro on wikipedia:


The bowler, a player from the fielding team, bowls a hard, fist-sized cricket ball from the vicinity of one wicket towards the other. The ball usually bounces once before reaching the batsman, a player from the opposing team. In defence of the wicket, the batsman plays the ball with a wooden cricket bat. Meanwhile, the other members of the bowler's team stand in various positions around the field as fielders, players who retrieve the ball in an effort to stop the batsman scoring runs, and if possible to get him or her out. The batsman — if he or she does not get out — may run between the wickets, exchanging ends with a second batsman (the "non-striker"), who has been waiting near the bowler's wicket. Each completed exchange of ends scores one run. Runs are also scored if the batsman hits the ball to the boundary of the playing area. The match is won by the team that scores more runs.


Sounds pretty easy doesn't it? Well keep reading:


The aim of the bowler's team is to get each batsman out (this is called a "taking a wicket", or a "dismissal").[3] Dismissals are achieved in a variety of ways. The most direct way is for the bowler to bowl the ball so that the batsman misses it and it hits the stumps, dislodging a bail. While the batsmen are attempting a run, the fielders may dismiss either batsman by using the ball to knock the bails off the set of stumps to which the batsman is closest before he has grounded himself or his bat in the crease. Other ways for the fielding side to dismiss a batsman include catching the ball off the bat before it touches the ground, or having the batsman adjudged "leg before wicket" (abbreviated "L.B.W." or "lbw") if the ball strikes the batsman's body and would have gone on to hit the wicket.[4] Once the batsmen are not attempting to score any more runs, the ball is "dead", and is bowled again (each attempt at bowling the ball is referred to as a "ball" or a "delivery").[5]

The game is divided into overs of six (legal) balls. At the end of an over another bowler from the fielding side bowls from the opposite end of the pitch. The two umpires also change positions between overs (the umpire previously at square-leg becomes the bowler's umpire at what is now the bowling end, and vice versa). The fielders also usually change positions between overs.

Once out, a batsman is replaced by the next batsman in the team's line-up. (The batting side can reorder their line-up at any time, but no batsman may bat twice in one innings.) The innings (singular) of the batting team ends when the tenth batsman is given out, leaving one batsman not out but without a partner. When this happens, the team is said to be "all out". (In limited overs cricket the innings ends either when the batting team is all out or a predetermined number of overs has been bowled.) At the end of an innings, the two teams exchange roles, and the side that has been fielding bats.

A team's score is reported in terms of the number of runs scored and the number of batsmen that have been dismissed. For example, if five batsmen are out and the team has scored 224 runs, they are said to have scored 224 for the loss of 5 wickets (commonly shortened to "224 for five" and written 224/5 or, in Australia, "five for 224" and 5/224).

Looking for Australia news - in India

  from Diary and Other Rantings
Strange that the recent decision to pull Australian troops out of Iraq received hardly a mention down under. Nor on the U.S. news sites. It's obviously not good news for the Bush coalition. But I fail to understand why they aren't talking about it here either. 'Let's just slip away quietly' seems to be the message.

Finally found a reference, on a website in India.
Actually, people and the media here seem kind of disgusted with Iraq and Afghanistan, wishing they would just go away. I suspect that's probably the main reason you didn't read anything.

What'd be interesting is if (when?) things start heating up again over there. I think at that point you'll have a lot of people getting really pissed about the whole thing and demanding a withdrawal. We'll see...
Hi Bruce - yeah, I understand the U.S. disgust. I really wasn't expecting to see anything in the U.S. media because it's a slap in Bush's face. But in this case it's the Aussies - we've got a new government that said by golly, we're leaving Iraq and bringing the troops home. They talked to Condi the other day and laid out the timetable. No hard feelings but this war sucks and we don't want any part of it. You'd think the government here would be trumpeting the accomplishment.
Happy Australia Day

  last edited: Sat, 26 Jan 2008 10:36:06 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Happy Australia Day - celebrating the landing of the first group of European colonists (actually convicts that the British were trying to get rid of) at Sydney Cove in 1788.

Wherein we ingest large quantities of alcoholic substances and roast all manner of meat products on the BBQ.  


Care for a kanga steak, mate? No? That's OK, we've got bangers and burgers too.
Coulda' sworn

  from Diary and Other Rantings
Coulda' sworn I saw a notorious hotel heiress in the foyer this morning. But then reality set in and I discovered it was somebody else - of course. You see, sometime in the last several months it seems that Ms. Hilton magically went from 'small and perky' to about a 38DD (dinner for 6) cup size; likely requiring an entirely new wardrobe as she would've literally busted out of any of her old rags.


Dang. Must be about 5 kilos of silicon in those things. Surprised she doesn't fall over.

The girl I saw was a dead ringer except for a) the distinct lack of bling, and b) the lack of such extreme cleavage.

Though I should note: One of the more pleasant aspects of living in Australia is that 'small and perky' is as alien a concept as American football.

  last edited: Wed, 16 Jan 2008 13:51:41 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
The latest headlines over here mostly revolve around one Corey Worthington; an otherwise unknown 16-year old boy in Victoria.

His parents went away and left him alone for the weekend. What do you expect happened next?  

Well, duh! The kid threw a party and invited all his friends. Then they invited friends. Before you know it, there are 500 teenagers doing what teenagers do when the 'rents are away. Par-tee!

The police were called in due to alcohol, vandalism, and I presume noise complaints. The kid is now facing not only criminal charges, but a $20,000 fine for the excess police that were needed to clear things up. I guess he can forget about wiping up the spilt beer and keeping it a secret from his parents.

They found out on ABC news.
I saw this 'kid' on one of the nightly current affairs shows he is enjoying the notoriety and hero status. Other kids will be applauding him sadly.

  last edited: Wed, 16 Jan 2008 11:24:50 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
I continually find myself fascinated by the dynamics of online social interactions. The latest episode was on a community for Australian bloggers. You would think this would be a good match for my interests - but you'd probably be wrong. It was interesting to watch as I got shunned from conversations. You see, I live in Australia, but I wasn't born here. One strike. Then I was asked what software I use to blog with. Well, it isn't WordPress, and it isn't Blogger either. Two strikes. I also voiced my objection to using trackware and monetization schemes. Three strikes.

You're out.

Now watch what happens when somebody who is 'out' tries to get involved in one of the discussions. This is the fascinating part. A lively discussion going on. I post something. The. conversation. stops.

Everybody moves to a different topic to avoid the pariah. On occasion a newcomer will respond - that is until they discover that they're talking to a pariah. Then. the. conversation. stops.

Eventually, somebody will find that they really wanted to be involved in this topic. But it is stopped. What do they do? They ignore my post. Reply to a previous post that didn't involve me. Then the conversation continues again, skipping over whatever I had to say. This happened over and over again on any topic that I tried to get involved in.

As a test I started my own topic - about feed sharing, something that interests me. Anybody want to share their feed? I've got a cool tool to do this, but copyright law forces me to ask. A previous post by a member asking for everybody's feeds to put into Google Reader (but not sharing them) had 50-100 replies. Maybe one or two folks would be interested in some free publicity seeing as how they love trackware and link love.  

Dead. Silence.

You can go to the websites of any of the members, and find lively and active comments - maybe 30-40 comments on what the person had for dinner last night or basically anything they have to say. They chase each other around the web leaving comments on each other's websites. It boosts their Alexa rating. But you see - I don't use trackware. I go to these places and join in the discussions. Hey, it's what I do. I've been doing it since before many of them were even born. But nobody comes back here. Zip. Zero. Nada. You see, it doesn't do anything for their ratings. (To be fair there was one comment last week by a forum newcomer, who then quickly vanished and never returned.) It also doesn't help them figure out WordPress (talk about hackware, go ask Terri).  And I'm (originally) an American. Aussies like Americans for the most part - as long as they stay on their own side of the ditch.

The community zooms in popularity, everybody feeding off of each other, everybody increasing their ratings. Except for the pariah. Don't go there. Don't talk to him. He's not one of us.  

Oh well, live and learn. Life goes on.

Somewhat related I also find it fascinating how they build their community site. A WordPress blog (of course) with a freeware forum bolted on the side. Yeah, I did something like that once. It's fine if your website will only ever contain a forum and a blog. But if you want to do anything more elaborate, you're stuck with these two packages that don't integrate well. Been there.

There's much better community software available that all works together and doesn't have so many holes. But alas, it wasn't my decision to make and it's a free world for the most part.
Update: Now I'm getting emails from the forum administrators admonishing me for 'spitting the dummy' and disturbing the other members. My recent posts have been removed. My most recent post was basically 'the polite thing for me to do is quietly walk away'.

I'm deeply sorry if the other readers are disturbed by my failed attempts to interact.

I can solve that problem.
Hey Mike,

I think you've got the wrong end of the stick. One post of yours was removed, the one where you essentially accused the members of the forum of racism against you because they did not all give you permission to share their feeds. It has nothing to do with your not being Australian, it has to do with people not wanting to share their feeds. And one person did agree to your sharing their feed.

[I postulated this (my birthplace) may have been one reason for the pattern of exclusion behaviour which manifested itself in most places I participated, onsite and offsite; this topic and others. Maybe it's because y'all don't like my shoes.

My bad for not acting sooner.

There is a natural process of exclusion which occurs in every social group - and it isn't pleasant to be on the brunt end. It's not your fault - I'm not the target demographic and somebody has to be an outsider for there to be an exclusive group. Yin and yang.

Racism is a strong word that I did not use. I believe I used the word 'shunned' which reasonably accurately describes the behaviour I refer to.  

The simple fact is that if I was born in Adelaide, used WordPress and Alexa we wouldn't be having this conversation.  

...Those interested can share their own feed. I tried to explain this a few times previously, but I really doubt anybody noticed.]
I sent you a private message, not an email. In that private message I said many things as you are aware. I would ask you to step back for a moment and take another look at that message, perhaps when your judgment is not clouded by anger.
[FYI, private messages are sent via email. No biggy.]

We do not want you to leave the forums. It's your choice. You are more than welcome to be a part of the forums and there is no racism at all. Discussion does not stop in threads you're a part of, either.

If you wish to walk away we can't stop you. I'll be sad to see you go - my personal hope was to include you in the moderator team down the track. It's your decision.

[I'd rather get a root canal. This is something systematic that you can't change and I really do not enjoy. I'm sure everybody will be much happier not having me around.]


Thar she blows!

  from Diary and Other Rantings
The big drama in these parts has nothing to do with presidential politics or mass shootings. We're all watching as Greenpeace chases the Japanese Whaling Fleet across the Southern Ocean. Passions are running hot, they've all got guns, and it's quite possible that somebody is going to get seriously hurt before all is said and done.
More strange critters

  last edited: Thu, 10 Jan 2008 16:35:55 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
The summer has brought out all manner of strange creatures I've never encountered before. Huge black nasty bugs that look like they bite, and they try incessantly. Worse than the flies, and they look downright dangerous. One thing you learn quickly here is that anything that looks dangerous - probably is.  

Curl worms - we've found a bunch of these in the yard. It's a grub, but these things are monstrous, half an inch thick and three-four inches long. Similar to the tomato bugs you'd find on occasion in the states. I hear the aborigines eat these when there's nothing else in the bush to live off of.

Think I'll pass.

Next, I think they're called 'cicadas' (sp?)  - which are the loudest cricket like things I've ever heard. If you wander through a grove of trees, the sound level can approach the threshold of pain. You can't sleep if one of these decides to sit outside your bedroom window.

I've already described the 'R2D2 bird'.  But the summer has brought even stranger noises. There's a 'crying baby' bird that sounds like a newborn kid with soiled britches. And now - all day I've been hearing the sound of a 56k modem connecting and establishing sync. It's coming from outside the window. Walking around the campus, it turns out that it's coming from the treetops, not from an office window. I'm just gonna' call it a 'modem bird' until I figure out a better name...
China to ban ultra-thin plastic bags

  from Diary and Other Rantings
China has moved to ban ultra-thin plastic bags as a packaging material, citing environmental concerns.

This move on the surface sounds laudable. However I note that here in Australia, the skinniest plastic bags are sought out by consumers as opposed to the more durable bags and wraps manufactured overseas.

I was informed it was because those manufactured here, especially the micro-thickness bags - are in fact bio-degradable. Perhaps they're cellulose instead of poly-eth or poly-prop. I haven't researched it enough to know. But perhaps there might be potential for a booming export market in bio-degradable containment materials.
The headlines the last couple of days are that Australia wants to ban plastic bags as well - so perhaps I was mis-informed about the bio-degradable bags.
Pyro Technica

  last edited: Tue, 01 Jan 2008 08:42:34 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
I think that the Sydney Harbor fireworks display takes the cake as being the world's best. What is interesting is that they manage to maintain the title year after year and leave the competition in the dust - when you would think that at some point somebody would start to catch up. Apparently the way to stay on top is to double the amount of explosives every year. Last night's display was totally awesome.

What you would think of as an awesome grand finale anywhere else in the world is just the background display here. What's more, that's what's happening on just one barge in the bay. Now imagine taking your most awesome spectacle, and having it happen simultaneously on five or six barges in a line down the harbor, all of them completely synchronized - to each other and to the background music.

Then if that weren't enough, you've got the display on the harbor bridge itself - the centerpiece. The spectacle here is completely over the top.  Some of us were surprised to still see the bridge standing at the end. Wave after wave of synchronized streams of light shooting into the sky along the length of the bridge.    

part 1




...One has to wonder if the U.S./Baghdad campaign might have turned out differently had the Sydney pyros been put in charge of the 'shock-and-awe' part.
St. Stephens Day

  last edited: Wed, 26 Dec 2007 09:13:49 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Today is the feast of St. Stephens, otherwise known as Boxing Day in commonwealth or former commonwealth countries. In the U.S. it's simply known as the day after Christmas.

Here it's a major holiday more or less on par with the day before.  It has its origins in British social class, where you gave gifts to equals on Christmas, but gave them to lessers on the following day. Receiving a gift on St. Stephens Day would certainly be ego-deflating, as it would mark you as a peasant or serf.  

Anyway - in Australia, it's more famous as the day the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race starts. We might go up to the top of the escarpment a bit later to watch them all sail by.
Christmas Eve

  last edited: Mon, 24 Dec 2007 22:25:04 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
We dropped over to the local Anglican church for the Xmas eve service - which consisted of showing a movie about the events that transpired a couple thousand years back, interspersed with Christmas carols every five minutes.

Topped it off with the obligatory 'Silent Night' but with a twist - we got to choose whether to sing it in English or aborigine.  We had the words for both, along with a tribe from the Northern Territories leading the way.

  last edited: Sun, 16 Dec 2007 22:56:57 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
What's that? Tastes like shit.