Monthly Archives: May 2007

podsnort, version 0.2

Well, here’s a first. I’ve dabbled in python before, but never released anything publically, and I’m sure when people look at the code, they’ll see why 😉

Podsnort is a simple, command-line podcast downloader. It seems to work for me, but as usual, YMMV.

(Oh, and it’s version 0.2, because version 0.1 was written in Perl, and I decided to dump it and start it again when I turned it into a huge, nasty mess).

Grammar watch: a whole nother.

Heard on the radio today: “Well, that’s a whole nother story”.

Aaaargh! I accept that language is fluid and can change, but no, no, no, no, no, no. That just grates, and it should stop, now.


In response to the news that the federal government is trailing the opposition by 20%25 in the latest Newspoll, Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce said today:

“More importantly, we’ve got to work harder, we’ve got to show people the view out of the front of the bus. [If we] show people the vision out of the front of the bus, [we] give people the reason to stay on the bus for another three years.”

Maybe it would help, Barnaby, if your government wasn’t trying to run people down with that very same bus.

And if that 60/40 poll result were to be accurate? The Daily Flute has a list of who’d lose their seats in the unlikely event that the swing was that big – and uniform. There’s plenty of names there that I certainly wouldn’t miss.

The Lives of Others

I went to see the German film “The Lives of Others” today, at the Nova in Carlton.

Unfortunately, they managed to bugger up the first five or so minutes of the film, by showing it with the wrong aspect ratio, which pushed the subtitles off the bottom of the screen. They stopped it, when someone informed them of this, and then after about ten minutes, fixed it, but they didn’t rewind the film to the start and when asked to do so, claimed that they were unable to. Frankly, I don’t believe this.

That aside, “The Lives of Others” is an amazing film. Set in communist East Germany, it tells the story of a playwright and his actress girlfriend, who become the targets of constant surveillance by the paranoid state’s secret service, the Stasi. It gives an insight into what life was like, living in a society where someone’s closest friend could be a spy, where everything one does or says is carefully scrutinised for hints of sedition – and how unchecked power can lead to victimisation.

The film even manages to give a measure of humanity to some of the Stasi’s agents; it reminded me of the sign in the Mauermuseum, near Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, that thanked the many borderguards on the Berlin Wall who intentionally aimed badly.

I thoroughly recommend seeing it, if you get the opportunity. Compulsory viewing for Cold War tragics like me, and still a damned good thriller, even if you’re not.

I have one further comment, but there’s a slight spoiler in it, so I’ve put it over the fold … (click on the entry’s URL to see the rest of this comment)

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Employers who treat their staff like children

Why is it that some employers treat their staff like schoolchildren? The following story was all over the news today:

This is the new face of work in Australia’s hotel and hospitality industry, where a template Australian Workplace Agreement is being rolled out that strips all award conditions and replaces them with a starting wage of just $13.47 an hour.

At the same time, workers at one motel restaurant have been given instructions not to wear perfume or aftershave, nor to rub their nose or even “pull at a slipping bra strap”.

A handbook distributed to staff also contains standards for grooming and hygiene, including bans on:

  • HAIR ornaments, necklaces, bracelets and rings (not wedding rings);
  • PERFUME and aftershave; and
  • RUNNING fingers through hair, pushing hair out of eyes, rubbing nose, scratching, adjusting clothing, yawning and “pulling at bra strap”.

From dire warnings about the consequences of not keeping one’s desk tidy, to stories of supervisors timing employees’ trips to the toilet, some employers just seem incapable of recognising that their employees aren’t five year olds. The above story, if true, is just too ridiculous for words. Now, while a number of those directives make sense for food handlers… yawning? Adjusting clothing? I imagine being sacked from an environment like that would be nothing less than liberating. (As an aside, I’m also intrigued by the differentiation between wedding-rings, and non-wedding rings. Another sign that unmarried people are second class citizens in Australia? Surely if it’s unhygenic to wear a ring around food, then a ring with a deity’s blessing is hardly going to make a difference).

And it seems that, time and time again, it is small business that is guilty of some of the worst offences. My apologies to any readers who own or work in a well-run small business, but let’s face it, you’re in a minority. I’ve seen examples of so many that are either run by nutjobs, have constant cash-flow issues and have trouble paying their staff, or simply just have some of the most brain-dead work practices that it’s a wonder they even managed to register a business name for themselves, let alone survive for a couple of years. Perhaps the process for registering business names is just a little too easy.

Anyway, it didn’t surprise me in the least to find that the above Horror-Workplace-Of-The-Week story was about a small business (albeit, a member of a larger chain).

I recall the manager of one (of only two, fortunately) former small-business employer of mine giving a lecture to all staff about how they should say “good morning” to each other, every day … and then at another time, insisting that all staff report to him before they left each day, to make sure that there was no more work to be done; effectively forcing them to request permission to leave. It didn’t do anything for staff morale, although the facetious sounds of “GOOD MORNING” yelled across the room each day for the next week made for more than a few laughs; I suppose the theory was that if we were going to be treated like children, we might as well act like them.

vgremove, with no arguments…

…is just a touch overzealous:

# vgremove 
  Volume group "vg_data" successfully removed
  Volume group "vg_system" still contains 7 logical volume(s)

I’d expected it to act like lvremove, and just give me a list of options.

Warning: Debian sid + xen + initramfs-tools bug => unbootable

There’s a bug in initramfs-tools under Debian sid that can render your system unbootable, if you’re using Xen (specifically, I think it occurs if you have libc6-xen installed).

The patch supplied on the bug page fixed it, for me.

Penalty rates

My local hairdresser charges $5 more for haircuts on weekends than they do on weekdays. Cinemas often charge more for weekend sessions than for weekday sessions. Petrol prices rise on weekends. Hotel rates are regularly higher on weekends than during the working week.

The stated aim of the government’s “Workchoices” legislation, a name that becomes more inaccurate by the day, was to introduce “flexibility” into the workplace, so that employers could make employees work overtime and shifts without having to pay a penalty. If it’s so beneficial to the country that we have to make employees give up their weekends for the same rates they get on weekends, why isn’t this good enough to apply to businesses and the surcharges they apply on weekends? If their employees cost the same on weekends now, employers don’t really have a reason to be raising their prices, anymore.

Mobile Phone Etiquette

I don’t like mobile phones. It really hit home last weekend when I went for a long walk up Sydney Rd, and whilst standing at the Glenlyon Rd intersection, I had two people converge on me from different directions, both yammering away with their phones glued to their ears. Even the sound of the traffic was preferable to that of two inane phone conversations at once.

Unless I’m on-call, I generally have my phone on silent … if I even have it with me at all. So, at the risk of turning the weblog into an online version of Grumpy Old Men, here is my guide to Mobile Phone Etiquette.

  1. In a restaurant, your phone should be turned off, or if absolutely necessary, on silent with vibrate on, to alert you of messages. You should not take calls at the table, nor should you conduct SMS conversations with remote parties… it’s really not that entertaining for other guests to be watching someone type on their phone.
  2. Use an inoffensive ringtone, preferably one that actually sounds like a phone ringing. You might find it hard to believe, but that 10 second grab of Avril Levigne on a tinny phone speaker isn’t doing anything for your musical cred.
  3. Don’t walk away from your desk and leave your phone behind. I’ve worked in an office where this, combined with an incredibly annoying ringtone, had one co-worker threatening to flush another’s phone down the toilet.
  4. Enter cinema, phone goes off. No excuses. If you’re on-call, you shouldn’t be in the cinema anyway.
  5. Public transport: keep it quiet, and keep it short. The rest of us already know that you’re on the train and that you’ll be home in twenty minutes. I think the Chaser guys summed it up rather well.
  6. Don’t walk and talk, it results in you being oblivious to what is going on around you, and annoying people who are walking behind you. If your phone rings and you’re on a thoroughfare, duck down a side street.
  7. You don’t have to answer it. I’ve never understood those people who are so desperate for any sort of communication that they’d climb a mountain in twenty seconds to answer a ringing phone. If it’s important, then the caller will leave a message.
  8. Voicemail: If it’s important enough for you to leave a message, then say what you want. “Call me back” isn’t enough information for me to determine whether it’s worth adding to Telstra’s profits.
  9. Mobile phones are not a fashion accessory. You don’t need to buy a new one every year, and the money you spend on them could go towards a deposit for the house that your generation is whinging they can’t afford.
  10. Bluetooth headsets: yes, they do make you look like an idiot.

Cafepress won’t print random hex numbers

It looks like printing random hex numbers is too much for Cafepress. After this week’s digg fiasco, I created an image to put on t-shirts, and they’ve now taken it down. Come on, it’s just a number!

I suppose it could just have been an overzealous staff member, too eager to hit the censor button, so I’ve now created a larger image, and purchased a t-shirt, to see if I can get my hands on one before they get jumpy again.