Archive for June, 2007

State Of Origin

Much like last time, I am contracting my state of origin tip to a random number generator. 1 for New South Wales, 2 for Queensland.

It picked 2, so my tip is Queensland.

Disclaimer: The random number generator has a 100% failure rate so far.


11 comments June 13th, 2007 at 06:12pm

The Phone Bills in China Must Be Enourmous

This article in the Winnipeg Free Press is good for a laugh. It would appear that they ran out of last names in China a long time ago, and China now have so many people with the same name that the Chinese government are considering some amusing measures to fix it.

To get an idea of how serious this problem is, 85% of China’s population share a mere hundred surnames…that would be like having the entire Sydney White Pages filled with just Smiths and Browns.

A quote from the article:

In April, a survey reported by Xinhua News Agency said that Wang was the most common surname in China, with about 93 million people sharing the name. That was followed by Li with about 92 million and Zhang with about 87 million.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences has reported that at least 100,000 people share the name of “Wang Tao”, the newspaper said, causing problems in daily life.

The solution to this, apparently, is to alter Chinese laws to allow children to be given hyphenated names (such as what I have). This would unfortunately take a few generations for the effect to take hold, and of course the problem there would either be only slightly fixed, or result in names that won’t fit on a page in the phone book. It also doesn’t help from a pronunciation point of view that many last names are very similar:

Under a proposal distributed to police departments around the country by the Ministry of Public Security, parents called Zhou and Zhu would have four options when naming their newborn, the China Daily reported.

Their child’s surname could be Zhou, Zhu, Zhouzhu or Zhuzhou.

The simple thing from my perspective would be to allow people to change their names so that you could have a larger set of names, however there seems to be some cultural issues surrounding that idea.

One thing I do know though, until it’s fixed, trying to ring Wang Tao when I forget his number is going to result in a large profit for a bunch of phone companies.


June 13th, 2007 at 10:50am


Thank you to the people who reported that the printable versions of the articles and pages on this website were returning “404 Not Found” errors instead of printable versions of articles following my WordPress upgrade on the weekend. I actually noticed it myself when I went to check something on the print layout on the weekend, but it was nice of some readers to report the error as well.

The weekend upgrade broke two things, the permalink structure for the print layout, and the WordPress plugin which produces the print layout.

For those of you who are wondering what I’m going on about, let me take you on a brief potted history of printing on this website. On the original website the layout printed quite nicely, it was a bit of a mess because the sidebar got printed with everything, but on the whole it was reasonable. After moving to WordPress and the Blix theme which this site uses, I noticed that the sidebar would print under the content, so I made a few CSS changes to prevent the sidebar from printing. Generally when people print a page of a website they are interested in the content, not the useless (on paper) links on the sidebar, so this tends to work quite well. The layout is very bland and basic, but it works.

The thing that does bug me about printing web pages though, is that all you get is a title, a date, the page as displayed on your screen, and generally a truncated URL making it impossible to find the page again three months later. On the screen a web page is fine, but on paper it tends to be lacking a bit of information, for example, generally a printed page will show links, but not tell you where they go, and because they tend to inherit the on-screen formatting they aren’t optimised for printing and tend to use more paper than they really need to.

The print layout view solves these issues by formatting the page neatly for your printer, providing the full URL in a font which doesn’t require a magnifying glass, and printing a list of links and the corresponding URLs at the bottom of the article.

The print link can be found between the end of each article and its comments (if there are any), and if you are going to print anything from this site, I would recommend using that function.


June 13th, 2007 at 10:12am

A few weeks ago I was asked to help test a new Canberra based website,, so I had a poke around, did a bit of testing and provided some feedback. At that stage I didn’t know how close it was to public release, so I wasn’t entirely sure if my first impressions would still be accurate when the site was eventually ready to go live.

Yesterday I was informed that the site is now live, so I had another look. There have been a few modifications, but ultimately it is still much the same as it was when I was asked for feedback, which in my view is a good thing.

The website is essentially a “dob in a bad driver” site, something that has been done a few times before, but this one is different, mainly because it is by far the most straight-forward website of its type, and as the name implies, is focussed solely on Canberra. The main benefit here is that a simple website which focuses on one area is much easier for users to navigate the site and do whatever they need to do quickly and with minimal fuss, and without the burden of being inundated with information about people in cities on the other side of the country.

When you visit the website you are greeted by a short list of recent reports, and information on how to report an incident, plus links to a page where you can search for incidents involving certain number plates or locations, and another page where you can sign up to the CanberraRoadWatch monitoring service.

In many ways I think the monitoring service is probably the best feature of the site, especially for businesses with company car fleets (although as I’ve mentioned previously, the ACT Government’s car fleet seems to have been immunised against the road rules). The potential here for vehicle rental businesses is considerable.

Obviously the monitoring service has other uses too, such as monitoring the driving habits of new licensed teenagers, keeping tabs on people you lend your car to, and possibly even monitoring people you are investigating for whatever reason (hello private investigators…and perhaps ASIO).

I think the main benefit of this site is that people won’t want their car listed on there, so hopefully will behave sensibly…it may take them getting listed a few times, but with any luck, may help to make Canberra’s roads safer, and that can only be a good thing.


7 comments June 13th, 2007 at 06:33am

Photo Gallery

And it’s now online.


1 comment June 12th, 2007 at 11:45am


It’s that time of the year again when the debate over whether or not we should allow private use of fireworks in Canberra during the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend manages to rears its ugly head. It’s a debate with extremes, and regardless of the outcome, a large number of people would not be happy.

I’m personally not a fan of fireworks, they don’t interest me and I don’t feel any need to play with them. The mass public displays (such as those seen on New Years Eve) also don’t particularly interest me. That being said, I don’t think banning fireworks is the right decision, many people like fireworks and use them responsibly, it’s the minority of people who don’t that are the problem.

As it happens, most of the concern over fireworks revolve around fireworks which are already illegal. It has been suggested that these fireworks which are illegal here, may be being imported from the Northern Territory where the restrictions aren’t as tight. A black market clearly exists for fireworks, and in my view banning private fireworks outright will only strengthen the black market. The problem may be reduced, but the problem, rather than being mostly confined to a few weeks each year would become a year-round problem.

Of course there is also the issue of people who are using fireworks relatively sensibly, but manage to set fire to nearby grass or bushland. This stretched the fire brigade to the limit on the weekend. A solution has been suggested for that as well, and that is that the government should designate various places (such as public ovals) as firework zones, and ban them everywhere else. You could then have the fire brigade and ambulance on standby at these venues.

The idea has some merit, it would certainly reduce the strain on the emergency services and may even turn the fireworks into a more interesting community event than the current situation where everyone lets off their own fireworks in isolation. The issue with this plan is insurance. The government, by sanctioning places as fireworks zones, would invent an insurance issue, and naturally the cost of insuring such an event would be quite considerable due to the risk involved. Sadly all it would take is one idiot burning their arm or injuring a child and the whole idea would come crashing down.

If you can’t limit the fireworks like that, you could have a public display and ban private fireworks. It solves a lot of problems, much like an outright ban would, but it brings with it the same black market issues. I wouldn’t rule out a public display as an option, but it would be a bit superfluous seeing as banning private fireworks isn’t overly practical.

The option that I like is a better regulated option. Rather than having the fireworks on sale in every business that can be bothered getting a permit, for the entire week before the long weekend, you restrict it to a handful of specialist fireworks importers, and only allow them to sell the fireworks on the day that fireworks will be allowed. Then you restrict the fireworks to one night between 6pm-10pm, and only allow people who have applied for (and received) a permit purchase the fireworks, and then only in regulated quantities. The restrictions may seem onerous, but in my view, it would be the best way to stop the overly abundant abuse of fireworks. You could still have a public display on another night under these circumstances.

The fact of the matter is that for the next few weeks people will continue to let off fireworks, either because they innocently have some left over, or deliberately purchased too many fireworks so they would have plenty left over. Catching these people is nearly impossible due to the fact that once they let off the fireworks they scamper, and the police have no way of finding them.

The current system isn’t ideal, and I don’t think an outright ban is either, but I think the compromise solution I have suggested here would be a reasonable compromise for both extremes of the annual argument.


5 comments June 12th, 2007 at 09:19am


Of all the things that appear on this website, the thing that I receive the most positive feedback about is the photos that I post (I also get berated for delays in posting them) and I have, on multiple occasions, had people suggest that I setup a page specifically for the photos. I agree that this would be a good idea, however there is no logical way to do this (to the best of my knowledge) in WordPress. I could easily setup a category called “photos” and add any post containing a photo to that category, but that would just produce a poorly organised set of pages of photos…it would work, but would be a rather daft way of doing it.

If I jump back to the year 2005 for a moment, prior to setting up Samuel’s Blog I had a photo gallery running on a webserver at home. This was fine at home where I had a direct connection to it, but was painfully slow for anybody trying to access it from the rest of the world as I only had a 256/64k ADSL link at the time.

The photo gallery remained in use when I setup Samuel’s Blog and was my primary image source before Google added image hosting to Blogger, this of course meant that images were slow to load, and didn’t load at all if my Internet connection died. The move to paid hosting in August 2005 made the photo gallery largely redundant as I was able to host the photos myself (along with other files which I was sticking on random servers I had space on until then). The photo gallery remained online and was linked to numerous times during the Spin Starts Here fiasco.

Recently I let the Dyndns domain name pointing at my home webserver expire, and since then the photo gallery has been sitting in limbo. Initially I planned on making a static version of it and placing it in a directory here (surprisingly easy in Gallery version 1 due to the availability of an “offline mode“), and then I started thinking about it, and much like every other project I come up with, managed to turn it in to something much more complex.

In case you haven’t already joined the dots here, I’m moving the live (not static) photo gallery to a subdomain of this website (announcement shortly). I have a few reasons for this.

Before I explain that, I’ll briefly explain the reason I’m moving the photo gallery to a subdomain rather than a subdirectory (such as is due to security. Gallery requires certain domain-wide settings that WordPress doesn’t, and whilst those settings alone wouldn’t make WordPress less secure, they would provide any WordPress exploit with more scope than they would receive under the current settings. The downside of this is that the photo gallery is unlikely to be archived by Pandora.

The reasons I am re-implementing the photo gallery are quite simple. Firstly, photos take up a heap of screen space on this blog, and as I like to take photos, I have to leave a bit of time between major photo posts to avoid forcing everyone to download a heap of photos (and scroll past a heap of them when they don’t want to see them). Having the photo gallery will allow me to upload a heap of photos to the gallery, select a couple of them for display here and give you a link to the rest.

Secondly, the delays behind me posting photos (especially major photo posts) has more to do with the time it takes me to create thumbnails, rename the photos, upload them, write the posts including all the thumbnails, links to the full size versions, alternative text, then make sure I’ve got it all right before finally posting it, than anything else. This is a time consuming process, and to be perfectly honest, isn’t particularly interesting, especially when I have heaps of photos (for example, The main Underground Cabling Tour post took hours to complete). The photo gallery can take care of resizing, thumbnailing (and even rotating) photos for me.

Thirdly, and you might want to refer to the previous link for this, the photos tend to get posted with minimal text and a lot of photos…it’s pointless to post much text as people tend to focus on the photos and ignore slabs of text, meaning the lengthy photo post is not an ideal format on a blog.

Fourthly, due to all this, I tend to make plans for photographic tours, and then never get around to doing them due to the time I will have to spend afterwards processing and posting the photos.

Fifthly, the gallery would be a logical way of displaying photos for people who only want to see the photos.

The benefits for you will be more frequent photos, less photo deluges on this blog, and less delays in me getting photos online (I might finally get the photos online from my trip to Sydney earlier this year, and possibly even the photos from John Kerr’s lunch in Terrigal last year).

To streamline the migration of the existing photo gallery I have conducted some tests and trials to eliminate any issues running Gallery on this website (which is running on a significantly different (and more up-to-date) configuration to the one I am running at home), and I will migrate the actual gallery later today, after which I will give you the address, and see about a few related cosmetic changes I have planned for navigation of this website.

For those of you who are interested, initially the photo gallery will continue to run on Gallery version 1, and will most likely be upgraded to version 2 at a later stage when it outgrows version 1. At that stage I will decide whether to just make a static version of the existing gallery or go through the upgrade process. That decision will depend on a number of things, and I’ll make that position closer to the date when I’m in a better decision to weigh up the pros and cons of each choice.


June 12th, 2007 at 06:30am

The Old Pacific Highway

Good evening Stuart,

I was very disappointed on the weekend when the blame game started over who was responsible for maintaining the Old Pacific Highway.

As far as I'm concerned, nothing could have prevented the tragedy that occurred there. All the photos and television footage clearly show that a lot of the ground underneath the road was washed away, and as we know whenever a flood washes away the ground underneath something, it washes away whatever was sitting on that ground as well.

It's absolutely terrible and tragic that a family got washed away in a car on that bit of road, but I don't think we can really blame any official for the road getting washed away, and I think we should instead focus on helping the family and friends who have been left behind with their grief.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart

8 comments June 11th, 2007 at 10:57pm

Synchronised Dimming

This morning I had a conversation with John Kerr around the time that a French Open tennis match was concluding. During our conversation John interrupted with the final result of the tennis match, and innocently asked me a leading question about the tennis players involved. I’m certain that the answer to this question was “yes”, but I didn’t really know and could only inform John that there a few sports I find more dull than tennis.

I really don’t care about tennis, the scores are mildly interesting, but the matches go on forever…twenty minutes is about the limit for me when it comes to watching tennis, after this I just can not possibly watch that ball getting hit backwards and forwards any more.

Oddly I can watch similarly repetitive sports, such as cricket, golf and lawn bowls for hours.

As the morning progressed, I started thinking about other sports which bore me to tears…the one that instantly sprung to mind was synchronised swimming which, to me, is probably the single most boring Olympic sport currently in existence.

However, when I mentioned it to myself, I accidentally said “synchronised dimming”, and this got me thinking, only a week or so ago the International Olympic Committee were considering adding skateboarding (another sport I can’t stand) to the Olympics in an effort to appeal to a younger audience, and naturally this got the more light hearted talkback radio shows discussing other sports people would like to see in the Olympics. This morning, after thinking of “synchronised dimming” I started to work out what it would entail as an Olympic sport.

The premise is actually quite simple. Teams of an arbitrary number of people compete in a light dimming competition. Each team member controls one dimmer switch attached to one light, and together the team have to put on a light show in synchronisation with whatever music they choose. I haven’t the faintest idea how the scoring would work, but I would imagine that if the dimmer switches were on a wall, bonus points could be awarded to the team that does the best dancing whilst controlling the lights.

I wonder, if I was to submit that idea to the International Olympic Committee, would there be any chance of seeing it in the 2016 Olympics?


June 11th, 2007 at 02:55pm

Letter To The Editor: You should not be allowed to have a website!

Samuel you are a disgrace to the Internet, your website nothing but a pile of garbage written by someone who can’t seperate his head from the trees, and you are WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG on EVERYTHING.

The Internet, like any medium, is here for people with proper minds to use for the dissemination of actual information and you do not do that, all you do is clog up the Internet with the nonsense that fills your head. I will give you some examples of how wrong you are.

You are wrong about climate change.
You are wrong about the ACT government.
You listen to the wrong radio station.
You can’t work out whether to capitlise every word in your titles or not.
You have a podcast where you talk about nothing for hours.
You are short.
You alter the results of all the polls.
You use Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer.
You argue with the people who leave comments.
Your opinions are always wrong.
You think people read your blog because they are interested in what you write.
You couldn’t think of a better name than “Samuel’s Blog”.
You can’t draw.

People like you should not be allowed to use computers or go anywhere near anything where your utter garbage and nonsense can be distributed to an audience. I will tell you now that all commercial radio should be closed because it is all filled with people who are wrong on everything EVERYTHING YES EVERYTHING and only the ABC left on because it has everyone who thinks with their brain and is correct about everything.

Television should be banned and the Internet should be moderated to prevent people like you who should be locked up from ever adding anything to it.

You are an idiot and must close your Blog NOW to stem the tide of your puerile nonsense which is bad for everyone.

Go away and don’t come back.


James Scolland

Even the terminally insane and those who just want to annoy me (I haven’t quite worked out which one James is yet) get to air their opinions by writing a Letter To The Editor…that one was quite amusing.

This is your chance to set the agenda on Samuel’s Blog, all you have to do is send a Letter To The Editor to Your letter can be about almost anything, and it can be from any part of the opinion spectrum, as long as there is some point to your letter. I don’t have to agree with your letter, but I am moderating, so the usual no defamation etc rules apply. For more details click here.


2 comments June 11th, 2007 at 07:13am

Samuel’s Blog Weekly Poll: The Queen’s Birthday

Today (Monday) is the Queen’s Birthday holiday in all states of Australia except for Western Australia, yet Queen Elizabeth II has her birthday on the 21st of April. Without going into a debate about whether the holiday should be forced on to a Monday, here is the poll question for this week.

Should the Queen’s Birthday holiday be held on or around the Queen’s actual birthday?

Total Votes: 25
Started: June 11, 2007

Last week I asked the following question:

What do you think the overall quality of television programming?

Total Votes: 29
Started: June 3, 2007

I have to admit that I was quite surprised that so many people share my view of television. I suppose it’s a good thing there is an “off” button!

For a list of all previous results, see the Weekly Poll Results page.


June 11th, 2007 at 04:26am

The things people say

Here’s a conversation I had with someone on the phone yesterday:

Them: (name of business).
Me: Good afternoon, I was just wondering what your dress code is?
Them: Anything from casual to formal.
Me: OK then, thank you for your time.
Them: Is that OK?
Me: Yes, that’s fine, thank you.
Them: OK, good bye.
(They hang up)

The stand out quote from them in that conversation is: “Is that OK?”

What a strange question…it’s their dress code. What were they going to do if I said “no”? Change the dress code because a random person rings them and tells them to? I doubt it.

Update: Clayton Northcutt has pointed out a deficiency in my logic which I can only attribute to being quite tired at the time. See the comments for details. End Update


8 comments June 9th, 2007 at 08:14am

Some people still have manners

Regular readers would know that I can be a bit of a nark, and grumble about things of minimal importance (perhaps this or this would be a good example) from time to time. This seems to happen more regularly than me praising something (such as the resolution to the first linked grumble) and I, as a result, tend to strike a lot of readers as a bit of a grumpy nutcase. Well today I have a positive story.

I don’t know about you, but when I see a small group of people (or a parent with a pram, or an elderly person) walking along a narrow passage way, I tend to move out of their way rather than trying to squeeze past them, usually when I do this the people I have made room for walk straight past, almost as if they were oblivious to my existence. I don’t mind this, and in fact I am quite used to it, so much so that I generally don’t even think about it.

This afternoon I was in Dickson at around 12:40 and was walking through the carpark adjacent to the swimming pool. One section there is quite narrow and three women from CITEA (Construction Industry Training and Employment Association) who are based a short distance from the swimming pool, were walking along a particularly narrow path, so I moved out of their way…they, to my absolute astonishment, said “thank you”.

Admittedly it was only a minor thing, but they are the first people to say thank you to me for moving out of their way in months…and as silly as this may sound, I would like to publicly thank and congratulate them for having the courtesy and manners to say “thank you”.

They may only be two simple words, but they have an enormous impact, and I therefore would like to say to the three ladies from CITEA who were walking through the Dickson Pool carpark at 12:40 this afternoon…thank you, your courtesy and manners have made my day.


June 8th, 2007 at 04:14pm

The Peculiar T-Shirt Makers Won’t Get Many Sales

I was trying to avoid writing anything about Paris Hilton’s jail sentence, however it’s very hard to avoid hearing about the story over and over and over, and therefore hard to not think about it. One thing did occur to me though that I think is worth sharing with you.

Late last week I walked past one of the stores in Westfield Woden and noticed that they were featuring t-shirts in their front window with the slogan “Free Paris” on them. The t-shirt annoyed me, as I can’t see any good reason why Paris Hilton shouldn’t spend time in jail for her criminal activities. In hindsight I would like to have started ranting and raving loudly at the front door of this store, although it wouldn’t have achieved anything, and I tend not to be quite that extroverted.

The one good thing I can see here is that the people who produced these t-shirts have just lost their market. Ms. Hilton’s release in to house arrest in her mansion is about as close as you can get to a full release without releasing her, and will probably be suffice for the people who wanted her released. I can’t see the t-shirt sales going anywhere now, unless the stores add an “I” and a “d” to the t-shirt with a marker pen so that it reads “I Freed Paris”…but even then I can’t imagine that many people would want to buy a shirt which has been written on (autographed shirts excepted).

I’m not going to comment on Ms. Hilton’s mental state, which is apparently the reason for her more lenient house arrest sentence, however I will defer to the following quote from the fictional mayor of Arcadia Waters, Col Dunkley, from the television programme Grass Roots, as a seemingly adequate description of her psychiatrist.

“You can always find an academic who’ll swear on a stack of bibles that he agrees with you.”

Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh…but I just find it peculiar how often this psychiatrist will jump to Ms. Hilton’s defence, and say whatever he needs to say in order to get her out of a tricky situation.


June 8th, 2007 at 12:26pm

Mathematicians, Economists and a Train

This week’s Friday Funny comes from Ray. Ray says he is a “mathematician with a sense of humour”…I’d say he needed it for this joke.

Three economists and three mathematicians were going for a trip by train. Before the journey, the mathematicians bought 3 tickets but the economists only bought one. The mathematicians were glad their stupid colleagues were going to pay a fine.

However, when the conductor was approaching their compartment, all three economists went to the nearest toilet. The conductor, noticing that somebody was in the toilet, knocked on the door. In reply he saw a hand with one ticket. He checked it and the economists saved 2/3 of the ticket price.

The next day, the mathematicians decided to use the same strategy – they bought only one ticket, but the economists did not buy any tickets at all!

When the mathematicians saw the conductor, they hid in the toilet, and when they heard knocking they handed in the ticket. They did not get it back.

Why? The economists took it and went to the other toilet.

Do you have something you would like to contribute to Friday Funnies? If so, email it to All contributions welcome!


June 8th, 2007 at 11:08am

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