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July 15, 2006

Brilliant error message

Error message from a Web site outage at fish4: "Unfortunately the fish4 Web site is unavailable due to the failure of a very expensive piece of Sun hardware. A Sun engineer is at the data centre but didn't think to bring the replacement part with him."

An honest, meaningful, comprehensible error message. Truly, the End Times are upon us.

July 15, 2006 in Web | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The last chapter of the history of the world

Twenty years after The Solitudes, the fourth and final volume of Aegypt is finally on its way.

July 15, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Mexican elections

Miguel de Icaza: "In a few contested districts the voting participation was not only 70%, it went all the way up to 142% (Chihuahua), 147% (Durango), 139% (Chiapas), 167% (Coahuila), 177% (Tamaulipas) and so on... Democracy in Mexico is very inclusive."

July 13, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2006

Have your say with National

Dear Christopher Finlayson,

I am not sure why you wrote to me to solicit my views on the great issues of the day, as you are not my MP nor even my prospective parliamentary candidate. Perhaps National have given up hope of unseating the ghastly Peter Dunne, and you happened to be geographically nearest. No matter. When National calls, I cannot but answer. So here are my thoughts on the matters of state that are keeping you awake at night.

1. Do you believe the Government should lower individual tax rates to provide Kiwis with better incentives to work hard and get ahead? Ooh, subtle use of push polling there. Of course, I would love to pay less tax. (In fact, I would like the Government to pay me money for working so hard! Could you swing that for me, Mr Finlayson? I'm giving up my weekend to answer your questionnaire: that's got to be worth a few bucks, surely?)

But before I tick yes, I'd just like to check that I've read the question correctly. You see, if I squint hard, it looks strangely like, "Do you believe the Government should slash services to the point where low-income families are driven to starvation or crime so that millionaires can build slightly larger swimming pools?" Hmm, I'm not so sure about that. And unfortunately, no doubt due to lack of space, you were unable to pose a couple of other questions regarding National's employment policy:

"Do you believe the Government should increase the minimum wage to provide Kiwis with an incentive to accept jobs instead of benefits, especially given that experience in the UK indicates that corporate predictions that such a policy would reduce jobs is unfounded and actually represents only a knee-jerk objection to a potential marginal reduction to their profit margin?"

"Do you believe the Government should defend basic employment rights for employees of less than two years' standing to provide employers with an incentive to employ the right people for the right jobs, rather than treating new employees as disposable resources who can be forced to accept reduced wages and benefits, threatened with the sack for no other reason than to intimidate them, and thrown out on their ear after one year and eleven months before they can acquire any kind of rights?"

I trust you'll be including these in future surveys. After all, you wouldn't want to go into the next election without knowing that the people were behind these eminently sensible policies.

2. A bill before Parliament seeks to restrict alcohol advertising on television so it can only be shown after 10pm. Do you support this proposal? I don't watch much television, but I don't remember seeing any alcohol advertising at any time, so this bill seems like a complete waste of time either way.

3. Do you think the amount of time the police spend on road safety as opposed to front line policing is: too much, not enough, or about right? Good question. I guess what this boils down to is, am I more worried about dying or being injured in a road accident, or about being robbed or murdered? And from what I've seen of Kiwi drivers, road accident wins by a mile. I've seen far more accidents than I have muggings, and that's ignoring the impressive amount of shockingly dangerous driving I've seen that hasn't resulted in a crash within my line of sight. And fatal pile-ups on the Auckland motorway or SH2 are so monotonously regular that I tell my family they're part of the official Kiwi way of marking public holidays.

I suppose if you want a reasoned answer I'd have to ask for comparative statistics on road deaths and injuries vs. "front line" deaths and injuries, but my gut feel is that the roads are the far bigger danger right now and it would be crazy to focus police resources anywhere else.

4. Do you support solo parents who receive the Domestic Purposes Benefit having to make themselves available for part-time work once their youngest child turns six? I'm not a good person to ask about this. I don't have children, I don't know under what circumstances the DPB is awarded, I don't know what the significance of age six is (e.g. guaranteed state schooling from 9am to 3pm) and I don't know what the cost and availability of childcare is. If you can provide this information, Mr Finlayson, I'd be glad to give you my opinion. But I think you'd be better off asking a specific question of solo parents on DPB: "When your youngest child turns six, what factors would prevent you taking part-time work?" Then you could construct a positive policy that allows solo parents to reconcile child-raising and employment.

Even better, you could ask employers, "How could the Government make it easier for you to offer jobs to solo parents on DPB whose youngest child has turned six? Especially jobs that are actually worth doing rather than just flipping burgers for minimum wage." After all, there's no point demanding that these women make themselves available for work if there's no work to be had.

5. How well do you think the new NCEA qualifications framework is working: very well, well, fair, poorly or very poorly? No idea. No basis for comparison. To be honest, anything below university degree is pretty much beneath my radar, so I'm not a good person to ask.

6. Do you think the drinking age should: remain at 18, increase to 20, or be 18 for bars but 20 for retail purchases? I don't see an entry for "I don't care what age people are as long as they behave responsibly." I don't give a damn if a bunch of 16- or 17-year olds get sloshed senseless on sweet cider while somebody's parents are away for the weekend. (I did that myself back in the day, which pretty much demonstrates how effective age-based restrictions really are.) I do care if drunken troublemakers harass or threaten me, but if that happens, I don't care if they're 17 or 57.

Frankly I'm doubtful if fiddling with the legal drinking age is going to significantly affect either alcoholism or antisocial behaviour. I don't have any smart advice on targeting the former, but if you want to target the latter, try enacting measures against antisocial behaviour rather than buying alcohol. If you like, have your measures state that drunkenness should be considered an exacerbating rather than a mitigating factor when sentencing for antisocial behaviour. But a blanket ban on 19-year-olds buying half a bottle of Asti Spumanti to celebrate their end of year exams doesn't seem particularly helpful to this old scarfie.

On second thoughts, I've drunk Asti Spumanti. On the grounds of taste, bang the bastards up.

7. Do you agree with National's policy that all money taken in petrol tax should be spent on building and maintaining roads? Another good question. Let's tie it back to questions 2 and 6, Mr Finlayson. Do you agree with my policy that all money taken in alcohol levies should be spent on subsidising alchohol advertising on television, and on building and maintaining liquor stores?

Actually, there's no end of fun we can have with this game. Do you agree with my policy that all money taken in GST should be spent on building and maintaining shops? Do you agree with my policy that all GST levied on book sales should be spent on building and maintaining libraries? Do you agree with my policy that all GST levied on shoe sales should be spent on building and maintaining the DOC tramping network? Do you agree with my policy that all GST levied on board or roleplaying game sales should be spent on local gaming groups?

Because, you know, if that's really the way you think, it looks like you owe WARGS about $40 against my purchases at Wargames Supply. And I can prepare you a further statement of GST levied on purchases at the Playground and on overseas imports. Because I'm sure your proposal is strictly about the general principle that tax revenue should be redistributed to those who pay the taxes, and not about special consideration for the road lobby, isn't it? So three cheers, Mr Finlayson, for your generous support for WARGS, Wellington Library and the DOC! You can send the cheque to our treasurer Nasia, postal address on request.

July 9, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack