Monday, November 02, 2009

Last Post

This is the last post at this site - at least for the foreseeable future. I have decided to decamp from Blogger and set up my old domain. That place is also called Down and Out Of Sài Gòn, and comes with its own blog.

I doubt few people are reading this site after nearly a year of inactivity. But to those happy few who wish to read anything more by or about myself, please visit the new site. Cheers.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Reconciliation via bad arithmetic

From 52 to 48 with Love is three or so pages that shows Democratic voters (the 52) patch up things with their Republican counterparts (the 48) by holding up pieces of paper. The idea is to let the Red Staters know that they're not going to be ignored or mocked in the future. Examples are "Let's vow to be gentler, kinder and more understanding together", "one nation indivisible US", "dear 48, I will listen to you", and (eeewww) "dear 48, you complete me."

The spirit is admirable, but why do the page owners have to fib? It's really 53 versus 46, when you round to the nearest number. Is the extra 2 there to make the Republicans feel good about themselves? If so, it's a futile gesture; this kind of white lie inspires contempt from the "spite" voters. And why is there no reconciliation shown for the other 1 - the Libertarians and Greens? They deserve it more.

My message to the 48 46? No hard feelings, but what the fuck were you thinking? That's about as much as they deserve.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Remember, remember, the 4th of November...

Yes. Obama's going to win. Random guess: 350 electoral votes and 58 senators to the Democrats. Damn - I'm fascinated by the election - refreshing the browser every couple of minutes, and trying to chase down another link or two. Stop it. I tell myself. Most people are sleeping, and only two little hamlets in New Hampshire have got to vote . That's not literally true - there's been a lot of pre-poll and postal voting throughout the U.S. of A. But I still have to tell myself: stop chasing news that doesn't exist. Get some sleep. Hell, it's your wedding anniversary tomorrow - an early rise is in order. The results will be available soon enough.

So rather than procrastination and wasting time, I turn to writing to get my thoughts and emotions in order. What do my feelings tell me? Quiet relief - even contentment at the certainty of the outcome. No moments of ecstasy, no "Hallelujahs!" nor "Praise the Lord!", not even quiet weeping (common, I hear) at the sheer utter history inherent in the outcome. Perhaps a little wet-eyed when I heard that Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, had passed away on election eve. But that's just empathy; it would hurt, especially as she was as much surrogate mother as grandmother.

But at the end of the day, there have been other events in my life of greater priority and immediate import. My wife's surgery for endometriosis and other gynecological problems last Monday. (Successful, for now.) Australia's not-quite-a-perhaps-we-avoided-the-worst-of-a-full recession, at a time where I'm thinking "I should find a better job". My dissatisfaction with being a requirements analyst - a job work out what is required of software, when I feel could get paid more for writing the software itself. Finding that it's not so easy to get a programming job when you haven't done it for six years. Oh, fuck it - stop whinging - at least I have a job. I'm not in debt. I can even save a little. I can afford some magnanimity.

Good luck, Obama and good luck America. You're going to need every bit of it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Welfare Bastardry

Rudd defends 'hardline' benefits plan

Families face losing their welfare for three months if their children continually skip school, under legislation to be introduced to Federal Parliament this week.

Under the Federal Government's proposed scheme, regular school attendance will become a condition for receiving all welfare except the Family Tax Benefit.

If the legislation is passed a pilot scheme at eight schools will begin next year.

"Hardline?" I call it punitive. It won't prevent truancy in families who are rich enough not to need welfare - it's easier to skip school when both parents are at work. It won't help those unemployed who are dedicated to giving a better life for their kids. What it will do is penalise those families who are dysfunctional enough to be affected by the scheme. They may not be that many, but they exist. And if the parent(s) are that fucked up, then they probably don't get the crude cause and effect reasoning ("truancy implies no welfare") behind the plan. Given that, their kids probably need all the money they receive from the dole. Even if much of it is lost at the bottleshop or goes up mom and/or dad's arm, some of it may spill out into food and textbooks and uniforms. Cut off the cash, and you're going to have a lot more kids hungry in class. Unfortunately, empty stomachs are a poor way to motivate children to concentrate on their studies. From this, a small problem (truancy) is aggravated, as kids feel even worse at school. Their studies decline. They get picked on by richer kids for torn and worn uniforms (with mum and dad less able to afford to fix the things). Given the conditions, do you blame them for escaping school?

The only bright note in the plan is that it is a trial. Howard would haven't even bothered to experiment - he'd implement the scheme everywhere and le the chips fall where they may. But governments have a bad habit of ignoring bad experiences. I expect Rudd to pronounce it a success even if children are literally starving as a result.

Howard may be gone, but his authoritarian heavy-handedness lives on. Let Jarvis explain:

Thanks to Wombo for passing on the YouTube on this
Larvatus Prodeo thread.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm bored.

I'm the chairman of the bored.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Google Street View in Việt Nam?

Perhaps that's a premature question to ask at this time. Only four countries have Google Street View now, with Australia possessing the best coverage of them all. (Even Canada misses out, and that's a surprise. Located next door to the U.S., it's generally the second stop for new ideas and tech coming from there.) I know Google Street View would be mostly popular in Việt Nam. My wife told her friends about it, and they want one too. Mostly popular. But I see a few issues in the way.

If Google Street View comes to South-East Asia, it's likely to hit Singapore first, because it is small and thus easily mappable - and also prosperous. Then bordering Malaysia, which is a little less prosperous but shares a border and English - then Thailand. All three of these countries have excellent coverages under Google Maps, with Thailand's being utterly superb - it displays place names in the original Thai with their transliteration underneath. Both are represented well in Map View and Satellite View - all countries are displayed in the latter, but it's the fortunate few that have city streets shown in the former.)

Alas, Google's coverage of Việt Nam is lousy. It's not that it limits itself to showing highways, and misses city streets - let along missing the common hẻm - the alleys in which most people live. I expect the granularity - the detail - to improve in time, and the company has to start somewhere. What gets my goat is that Google makes mistakes with the place names they've written. There's an attempt to get the tone markers right (to its credit), but either misses a few or gets the letters in the wrong order. For example, Biên Hoà (a satellite city of Sài Gòn) is rendered as "Bein Hoa". It's like they got their information from an old encyclopedia. I can complain to them (and I will), but I also take it as a sign of how important Google considers the country. Not very.

Having said this, do I need to mention the paranoia of the Vietnamese government - the one who would be certain to nix any deal? I doubt they'd like foreign companies taking detailed pictures of their roads - no matter how pure their intentions are. It's not just the military angle, although Street View allows the United States China foreign governments to case the place without even visiting. It's the vested interests of the local party hacks that are endangered. Imagine if Street View could show roads as they really were? Not a nice yellow line on the map, but potholes and rubble where streets should be? And that the same people who were in charge of maintenance are suspected of embezzling the budget blind? I know these people are quite vicious when their interests, livelihoods, or lives are threatened.

Street View won't stand a chance.