Archive for June, 2008

Crash!

This evening at about 8:05pm I rolled my car on Parkes Way. I was stupidly going too fast in wet conditions and lost control on a bend, the details are a bit hazy but I believe I hit the gutter and rolled once, landing in the left hand lane. It was impossible to move the car on to the shoulder so I tried to get it across to the median strip, however the car stopped with the rear wheels on the road.

Surprisingly I managed to escape with only a small bump to the head, and a slightly grazed shoulder and knee. The main body of the car survived almost intact whilst the boot and most of the front of the car were demolished. The police officers who attended the scene were surprised that I was still standing.

Thank you to the people who stopped to check if I needed any assistance, especially the couple in the ute who parked on the median strip to flash their lights at oncoming traffic to warn them about my car protruding on to the road on a blind corner…not that they all paid attention. Also a big thanks to a friend who took my call and sent me the phone number for a tow truck.

I’ll be heading down to the Civic police station tomorrow to hand in the accident report, it will be interesting to see what happens after that.

Samuel

2 comments June 30th, 2008 at 10:02pm

Robot proves that Samuel is a Chinese communist

I don’t know if any of you remember PodZinger as it came and went from the public spotlight very very quickly a few years ago, but basically it was a semi-promising new search engine which aimed to automatically index and transcribe podcasts. If it worked, it would have been a good way to find information in what is otherwise an awful medium to search.

But of course, it was doomed from the beginning as anybody who has ever used voice recognition software would have known. To get a computer to recognise a voice with any amount of accuracy, you have to train it. Usually this involves two steps, the initial preset “read these sentences” training exercises where the computer gets to hear you say things that is asks you to say, and then the ongoing “no, I said “cat” not “hat”, the hat is not in the hat, the cat is in the hat…no, the cat is not in the cat either” intermittent corrections which also help the computer to learn how to understand your voice.

The reason we need to teach the computer how to do recognise an individual’s voice is that everyone has a slightly different voice and a slightly different speech pattern…and if humans who are predisposed to understanding the speech of other humans have difficulty understanding people with accents, what hope does an untrained computer have?

As far as I can tell, PodZinger had no form of quality control…the robot listened to the audio, produced a mangled transcript of it, and nobody bothered to check the accuracy of it. A system where corrections could be submitted by listeners could have worked better, but I don’t think PodZinger were ever interested in having masses of voice samples floating around in their system, nor do I think that having masses of voice samples from different people would have helped with individual transcriptions.

So, why am I babbling about an ultimately failed search engine of little-to-know consequence? Because they’re still around under a different name (EveryZing) doing much the same thing, albeit with expansions in to the more profitable and sane market of search engine optimisation, and expecting people to pay them for it. Maybe the transcription software is better today than it was in 2007, but I wouldn’t be willing to pay them in order to test the theory.

I noticed that they are still around on the weekend when I was wondering if they are still around and was shocked to find that they are. They also have all of their old archives…and if you search for my name, you can be informed about my Chinese communist leanings by their transcription robot.

It has transcribed the Feedback segment from Samuel’s Persiflage #13, specifically the section from 47 minutes and 58 seconds. According to their robot, in that segment I said:

can go to get sort of course if you concentrate back podcasted Samuel Gordon Stewart — Communists the email address or you can leave comments in the China nights or irritants Samuels who supplies were sought to

Maybe the robot’s ears are blocked, because when I listen to that segment, I hear:

feedback to get through and of course if you’ve got some feedback, podcast@samuelgordonstewart.com is the email address or you could uh leave the comments in the show notes or go to the samuel’s persiflage website and

That said, I have been (jokingly) accused of encoding secret messages in Samuel’s Persiflage…maybe they were on to something…I would have to be among the last people on Earth that anybody would consider as a possible communist, so I would have to be the perfect vessel for hiding and broadcasting such messages.

It leaves me pondering the question: “Why am I giving the conspiracy nuts something to work with?”

Samuel

June 30th, 2008 at 06:10am

Samuel’s Musicians Of The Week

This week the award goes to the UK group “Free”, and the feature song is “All Right Now”.

There she stood in the street
Smiling from her head to her feet
I said “Hey, what is this”
Now baby, maybe she’s in need of a kiss
I said ” Hey, what’s your name baby”
Maybe we can see things the same
Now don’t you wait or hesitate
Let’s move before they raise the parking rate

All right now
Baby, it’s all right now
All right now
Baby, it’s all right now

Let me tell you now
I took her home to my place
Watching every move on her face
She said “Look, what’s your game baby
are you tryin’ to put me in shame?”
I said “slow don’t go so fast,
don’t you think that love can last?”
She said “Love, Lord above,
now you’re tryin’ to trick me in love”

All right now
Baby, it’s all right now
All right now
Baby, it’s all right now

I said, don’t you know
Oh yeah
All right now
Baby, it’s all right now
All right now
Baby, it’s all right now
All right now
Baby, it’s all right now
All right now
Baby, it’s all right now
All right now
Baby, it’s all right now
All right now
Baby, it’s all right now
All right now
Baby, it’s all right now

Samuel

June 29th, 2008 at 08:08pm

Updated: Explosives found in Hughes, residents evacuated: Exclusive Audio

Explosives were found in a home in Jess Place, Hughes yesterday causing police to evacuate residents while they attempted to safely remove the explosives. It is believed that the deceased resident of the house may have been collecting explosives for a number of years.

Residents were evacuated and handed this press release to explain the situation, while an ACT Government Evacuation Centre was setup in the Hughes Community Hall.

I spoke to one of the evacuated residents this morning:

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Download MP3

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the area, here’s an overview map that I created:
Hughes, ACT

The interviewed Hughes resident, who does not wish to be named, has also kindly provided me with a map of the affected area:
Explosives found in the suburb of Hughes, ACT
(Click image to enlarge)

Red is the confirmed initial roadblocks I saw at 3.30pm, with the one on Brand street to stop people walking into the area through the nature strip rather than a traffic road block.

Blue were the roadblocks when i returned at 7.

Orange was the staging area, I assume will be the same place today. Kent St was covered in emergency service vehicles there yesterday so it’s hard to miss.

Yellow is the house someone said they strongly believed was the house in question, however when I passed last night on my way home I don’t recall many officers at that particular house, it may have been the one above it.

The house shaded in yellow is number 4 Jess Place, and the one above it is number 6 Jess Place. I will endeavour to bring you an exact address. Update: Address detailed below End Update

Residents are expected to be evacuated again today as the police and the army work on removing the explosives. Further updates as they come to hand.

Update 2:55pmThe activity has certainly died down in the area and only a handful of police and explosives experts remain on the scene. Marked police vehicles are intermittently in the area however it is two unmarked vans which seem to be the resident official vehicles of the operation.

I can now confirm that the house is number 2 Jess Place, Hughes, shown on this map in yellow:
Explosives found in the suburb of Hughes, ACT
(Click image to enlarge)

The scene is very quiet and the word is that any evacuations this afternoon are likely to be confined to Jess Place and neighbouring houses.

2 Jess Place Hughes ACT
The police talk to a neighbour about the situation.

2 Jess Place Hughes ACT
Number 2 Jess Place, with the explosive-laden garage visible between the vans

2 Jess Place Hughes ACT
The scene from Birdwood Street

It’s a pity that I don’t have a time machine as the scene was apparently much more interesting last night, with many emergency service vehicles on the scene and a staging area which was being used rather than being completely cleaned up as was the case this afternoon. End Update

Further Update 10:21PM: No wonder it was quiet when I was in the suburb between 1pm and 2:30pm. The Australian Federal Police have issued a press release declaring the area safe:

Conclusion of Hughes incident
Saturday, 28 June 2008

ACT Policing has completed the search of a Hughes home for commercial explosives and military ordnance.

The search was completed about 2.30pm today (June 28) and all suspicious items have been removed from the area.

The items included a quantity of gelignite and a World War II era hand-grenade.

No evacuations of Hughes residents were required today.

Superintendent Matt Varley praised the Hughes residents saying, “We are grateful to all the residents of Hughes who were affected by this incident, for their patience and cooperation. This was a difficult situation which had to be dealt with in a slow and safe manner.

“This incident highlights the seriousness of collecting dangerous ‘souvenirs’ which put police and other members of the public at risk. The disposal of these items causes significant disruption to the community.

“If people are in possession of explosives in any form, they should contact police to discuss their safe disposal.

“I highly commend the officers involved in this operation for their hard work under trying circumstances,” Superintendent Varley said.

The explosives will now be disposed of at an undisclosed location by the AFP Bomb Response Team.

And so, without taking away from the seriousness of the matter, one of Canberra’s more interesting news stories this year, draws to a close. End Update

Samuel

June 28th, 2008 at 11:18am

But our accountant said half a discount is better!

Nick sent in a picture of this morning’s rather unusual discount at the Caltex Woolworths pertol station in Weston Creek:
Count to four...one...four

Maybe they forgot to change one side of a sign…
Count to four...one...four
Nope, looks like we can rule out that theory.

So, if the normal price is 165.9 cents per litre and a four cents per litre discount brings the price down to 163.9 cents per litre, that probably makes for one very happy accountant. It would certainly help with that profit outlook Caltex were so worried about yesterday.

I wonder if the “half of the discount is to be paid for by the purchaser” clause is in those “in-store terms and conditions” that the big green sign mentions?

Samuel

June 28th, 2008 at 09:44am

The Wheel is off air again

It lasted two weeks longer than I expected, but that’s made up for by it being axed effective immediately.

Channel Nine’s awful attempt to revamp Wheel Of Fortune by sticking the words “Million Dollar” in front of its name, having the tackiest set and version of the wheel that the show has seen in decades, and finding the worst possible host for the show, has finally met its fate.

I caught glimpses of the first show, forced myself to sit through the entire second show and attempted to watch it again in the second week to see if it had improved at all, and the result was my personal bewilderment that:
1. Somebody at Channel Nine actually thought that it was a good idea
2. Fremantle Media, who own the rights to Wheel Of Fortune in this country, allowed the format to be degraded and tarnished in such an awful manner.

Even though Channel Nine wanted a show to compete with Deal Or No Deal and give their news a better ratings lead-in, they shouldn’t have so blatantly targeted the show at a young adult audience. Wheel Of Fortune has never been a show aimed at a young adult audience, the key demographic is older, and if done properly it will attract others as well. Part of the key to this is the host, Rob Elliott was very good at it, so was John Burgess, the same thing applies to Andrew O’Keefe on Deal Or No Deal…they know how to host a game show and to interact with the guests in (at least what appears to be) a natural manner.

It also helps if you actually have a set which doesn’t look like you brought in the team from (the now defunct game show) Changing Rooms to decorate it, and having a wheel which lights up was just plain odd. Speaking of the wheel, why Nine had to revert to having the wedges cling to the pegs is beyond me as it made it noticeably difficult for the contestants to remove special wedges, and made the whole thing look rather cheap and nasty. I don’t know for sure, but it looked like Seven’s wheel had magnetic wedges as they weren’t connected to the pegs and were much easier to remove.

Also, and I doubt this affected the ratings at all, why was the wheel flat? Seven worked out many years ago that the wheel is easier to work with from a camera perspective if it’s tilted…it looks better on the set too as you can look across at the contestants and read the wheel at the same time.

Personally, I think Nine would have been better off with a more experienced host, a different timeslot (probably 7pm, much like Sale Of The Century/Temptation), and a less deranged production team. Originally the show was (apparently) promised to John Burgess (click here to hear Burgo’s version of events, as told on 3MP Breakfast, March 25 2008), he probably would have made a good host reprising his former role, or perhaps Bert Newton who is still on Nine’s books.

Sadly, Nine botched the show badly, and now after a less dramatic failure with Larry Emdur and Laura Csortan on Seven in 2006, Tim Campbell and Kelly Landry will be known as the hosts who finally managed to consign Wheel Of Fortune to Australia’s “Do not touch with a ten foot barge poll, lest you face the wrath of the ratings” television show bin. Wheel may return somewhere, at some stage, but after this disaster, you can be guaranteed that no television executive will be brave enough to go near it for many years to come.

Samuel

4 comments June 28th, 2008 at 03:58am

Tours of the Mount Piper Power Station

I must thank Stuart Bocking for talking about tours of the Lucas Heights Nuclear Reactor this evening because it reminded me of a story I saw on Channel Seven’s Sydney Weekender a couple weekends ago.

The Mount Piper Power Station is a new power station near Lithgow, operated by Delta Electricity, and they run free tours daily at 11am. Unfortunately they don’t allow anybody (except television travel programs) to take cameras on the tour, but it would be good to go there and have a look around anyway. Even though I don’t like power lines, I’m fascinated by power stations and substations.

The fact that it is free and that you don’t need to book makes me inclined to disappear to Lithgow on an upcoming weekend as I would like to see the insides of a power station. I’d also be interested in touring a telephone exchange at some stage…not that Telstra run tours of them, although it couldn’t hurt to ring them and ask I suppose.

I had a strange dream about touring a power station the other night. In this dream, if you drive through a tunnel somewhere near Gungahlin, you end up in a power station which has a “drive-by tour” track. I think I’d rather walk around a power station though…I’d see more and it would be much more interesting.

Samuel

June 28th, 2008 at 12:05am

Pet of the week

Good evening Stuart,

I tuned in half way through your pet of the week segment and I didn't know that you were talking about a pet…so I was a tad shocked when I heard a woman telling you that "Bindi is up for adoption and people can pick her up from the shelter". The first thought that popped in to my mind was "Gee, the Irwin's are getting stanger".

Thankfully that wasn't the case. Bindi the dog sounds like an adorable pet.

Have a great weekend.

Regards,
Samuel Gordon-Stewart
Canberra

June 27th, 2008 at 10:30pm

Satellites are glorious things

2GB‘s continuous call team are, for one technical reason or another, not currently being distributed via satellite. I wonder how many network stations are doing the same thing as 2CC and rebroadcasting 2GB’s webstream as a stopgap measure until the satellite feed returns.

One thing I really like about 2GB’s webstream is that it is almost broadcast quality, unlike many other radio station webstreams which sound like somebody decided to run some string between some tins. I’m sure the network stations appreciate the sound quality as well. Although if the person panelling at 2CC could just increase the volume on the webstream channel that would be great, because you are a very long way below normal levels at the moment.

This reminds me of a satellite failure a few years back in which 2CC rebroadcasted 2UE’s webstream overnight. Unfortunately, despite the better sound quality of the webstream being used this time, the sound quality of 2CC’s broadcast is roughly the same due to the levels being very low and the sound being partially obscured by static. Hopefully the satellite will be back shortly.

The other unfortunate thing about this outage is that the webstream is a bit behind the live broadcast, so it’s rather difficult to have the radio on and watch the match on television as the two don’t come close to syncing up. I might have to do what I do when I listen to 3AW’s AFL coverage online, and use a PVR to delay the television footage by the appropriate number of seconds.

Update 7:50pm: Somebody at 2CC reading this per chance? Thanks to the panel op for fixing the audio problems, that’s much better! End Update

Further update 7:55pm: I just went to synchronise the television with the radio coverage and found that they are already in sync. Obviously the satellite feed has returned. End Update

Samuel

June 27th, 2008 at 07:47pm

Disturbing dreams

I have previously mentioned the fact that one of the side-effects of the medication I am on is rather vivid dreams. To some extent this has taken the fun out of my intermittent and peculiar dreams because I am now being flooded by peculiar dreams and, as such, I’m not as inclined to share them as I once was.

In many cases, this is probably a good thing. In the last week I’ve had a repeat performance of a dream from about six-eight weeks ago where somebody hung himself in front of me and there was an awful lot of screaming in the room, I have a dream where I’ve been accused of being a stalker (probably justified seeing as I followed a person home from a paddock and knocked on their door so that I could talk to them), and this morning I had a couple odd dreams.

Sadly the mix of being awake for ten minutes or so during the night to check on the progress of a lengthy and mundane task that doesn’t want to work properly, then sleeping for 45 minutes and repeating the process, produces even weirder dreams, in my case I started dreaming about the work that I was doing. I had two strange dreams about this subject this morning, but I only clearly remember one of them now.

The dream started at some sort of backyard function where I have apparently made a clear request for people to not close the lid on my laptop because if that happens, the task it is performing will stop and I will lose a lot of work. Jump forward in time a bit and I’m being harassed by a bunch of gnomes to set up small tables, with a threat of being sued if I don’t do as they say. After a brief argument I walked back to my laptop only to find the lid closed and a girl from one of my primary school classes walking away from it. I ran over to her and questioned her about it, and she claimed that she was perfectly justified in her actions by the fact that I had once touched her property and she was therefore entitled to retribution.

The organiser of the backyard function them walked outside and started telling me off for my task now being behind schedule, for not watching my laptop more closely and for arguing with people when I was clearly in the wrong. I started screaming something about how I was going to commit suicide and that I wanted everyone to leave me alone and not try to stop me. Naturally they didn’t, they called the police instead. I quietly crept out the front and grabbed some keys from one of the police officers before stealing one of the police cars…at which point the police starting shooting at the car and the dream ended.

I’m starting to wonder if these dreams are going to become any less peculiar any time soon or whether they are just going to keep getting weirder. I suppose I should take some comfort from the fact that these dreams are merely works of fiction being generated by my head and they have nothing to do with reality…but it’s hard to take comfort in that, when I know that my head is generating the ridiculous and disturbing scenarios.

Samuel

June 27th, 2008 at 05:20pm

Chief Minister survives no confidence motion 11-6

I ended up spending some of the afternoon at the Legislative Assembly watching the debate surrounding the no confidence motion tabled against ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope last week. In the end, the only people to support the motion were the Liberal opposition.

The Chief Minister survived the motion 11 votes to 6.

Oh well, there’s always the election on the 18th of October.

Samuel

June 25th, 2008 at 06:26pm

Receptionist via video link?

From my spam folder:

From: Sid Is
Subject: Why you should never hire a receptionist

Before you hire an expensive professional receptionist . . .

Try our Remote Receptionist™ Service
for seven days, absolutely FREE!

CLICK (URL removed) for a free trial
CLICK (URL removed) for more information

or CALL (phone number removed)

Who says that the best professional receptionists have to cost a fortune?

When you use TelAssistants’ Remote Receptionist Service, we’ll put our team of top-flight, highly-trained professional receptionists to work for you. And at an extremely low cost that your small or mid-sized business can easily afford.

How do we it? Easy. Our super-qualified receptionists work remotely from our suite of offices . . . but your clients will think that they’re right outside your door. We answer the phone using your firm’s name, announce and transfer callers, and take messages or place calls in voicemail upon request.

But don’t take our word for it. Put Remote Receptionist Service to the test right now. Click (link removed) and give us a try for seven days, absolutely free, with no risk or obligation of any kind. Use your own phone number or ours. All we ask is the chance to prove that TelAssistants’ Remote Receptionist Service is the perfect answer you’ve been looking for.
________________________________________________________

IMPORTANT: Remote Receptionist Service is NOT an impersonal answering service or a anonymous call center. Our mission is to provide highly personalized receptionist services to clients who require the highest standards of professionalism no matter where they’re working. (link removed) and put us to the test, risk free.
________________________________________________________

Today, it doesn’t matter where your receptionist sits – in your office or in ours. All that counts is that you get exceptional service and professionalism at an extremely affordable price. Our Remote Receptionist Service delivers this and more!

According to answers.com, “receptionist” is a noun meaning “An office worker employed chiefly to receive visitors and answer the telephone.”

It could just be me, but I don’t think having a receptionist greeting guests via video link is going to look very professional. Perhaps they will have a budget non-video-link version where they put a phone at reception with a sign pointing to it saying “To talk to receptionist, lift handset”.

I suppose it could be worse, they could have all of their “receptionists” in an Indian call centre: “Welcome and pleased be us for calling office the Mr. Andrew. Do having tell of what for you call and hold?”

Such strange offers make their way around the planet in spam emails.

Samuel

June 25th, 2008 at 05:23am

It certainly doesn’t seem to be getting any hotter

For one reason or another, I can’t remember why now, I was looking at data about Canberra’s hottest days a few days ago, and I found something rather interesting…none of the hottest days are in recent years:

Canberra’s Hottest Days
January: 1968 (31st)
February: 1968 (1st)
March: 1965 (3rd)
April: 1968 (12th)
May: 1967 (10th)
June: 1957 (3rd)
July: 1975 (19th)
August: 1977 (30th)
September: 1965 (26th)
October: 1967 (28th)
November: 1959 (23rd)
December: 1957 (25th)

All of these exceptionally hot days occurred in the years 1957-1977, with the years 1965, 1967 and 1968 taking seven of the twelve places. Surely if the planet is warming we would see some, probably the majority, of years coming from the 1990s and 2000s…perhaps Canberra is just unusual, how does Melbourne stack up?

Melbourne’s Hottest Days
January: 1939 (13th)
February: 1983 (8th)
March: 1940 (11th)
April: 1938 (5th)
May: 1905 (7th)
June: 1957 (2nd)
July: 1975 (30th)
August: 1982 (29th)
September: 1928 (28th)
October: 1914 (24th)
November: 1894 (27th)
December: 1876 (15th)

Well that’s interesting, nothing after 1983, with two thirds of the hottest days occurring before 1950.

So, what does this prove? It proves that even if the planet is warming (which it isn’t), it’s been hotter and we all survived, even prospered. Makes you wonder what all the hype is about doesn’t it?

Samuel

June 24th, 2008 at 01:47pm

Somebody was (allegedly) in a bad mood

If, in the list of charges, the following appeared, what would you think was the person’s original (alleged) offence?

The man was arrested and taken to Liverpool Police Station where he has been charged with [..] assault police, resist arrest, fail to supply details to police, give false details to police and [..].

You would probably expect that sort of thing to appear in the list of charges for somebody who was drunk and got in to a fight, or perhaps somebody who was on drugs and was caught trying to rob a chemist. So, did the person in this case fit those or any similar categories? The New South Wales police don’t think so:

About 12:40am, a police vehicle patrolling as part of ‘Operation Taipan’ allegedly detected the man’s Toyota Corolla hatchback travelling west at 133km/h as it passed through a 70km/h zone at the toll point on the M5.

The Corolla was intercepted in Heathcote Road at Moorebank, where police discovered the 30-year-old driver had two passengers, a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl who was apparently not properly restrained.

It’s a perfect alleged example of “how to make things much worse for yourself”. Adding assault police, resist arrest, fail to supply details to police and give false details to police to a rap sheet which already contained exceeding the speed limit by more than 45km/h and having a passenger under the age of 16 not properly restrained is definitely not the way to, should you happen to be found guilty, successfully request a reduced sentence…it certainly didn’t help this person to get bail.

Samuel

June 24th, 2008 at 12:08pm

Go away! The RTA website is sleeping

The helpful message I received from the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority’s website at 4:15am when I attempted to register for an e-pass, in order to pay for my trips through the Sydney Harbour Tunnel on Sunday:
You may not register to give us money between 12:30am and 6am

Apparently they don’t like people submitting orders between 12:30am and 6am. If they only accepted electronic orders during standard business hours it would almost be understandable. If they didn’t accept order between 12:30am and 6am on one day per week while they performed system maintenance it would be understandable…but to block orders every single day between those hours sounds like premium quality red tape to me, in other words, a rule for the sake of having a rule. I’m just surprised that the times aren’t more exotic, perhaps they could block orders between 12:27:48am and 6:04:27am in their next revision of their website…maybe they should block them between 11:36:53am and 2:43:18pm for an executive lunch break as well.

For a city that is trying to make all toll roads electronic and cash-free, this is a very poor effort.

Update: A few hours after originally writing this article I went back to the RTA website to register for an e-pass, during the registration process I gave them my email address so that they can email a copy of my invoice to me. Despite this, they want me to print the “registration successful” page containing my E-Toll Pass ID and Receipt Number for my reference. They have my email address, why can’t they just email the information to me? End Update

Samuel

June 24th, 2008 at 10:13am

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