Saturday, June 20, 2015

Friday Night Rants

This is an assorted collection of ramblings and rantings derived from various topical issues I've come across recently week. Let the ranting begin!

On the issue of technologies being lost to the world...
It is deeply saddening that various "discontinued" technologies and/or knowledge are disappearing from the face of the earth forever (e.g. the way that Polaroid film worked), all because the corporate overlords/holders of these have decided that it is "no longer economical" for them to continue that line of business. It should not be a surprise that I hate it whenever this happens, though I now accept that, for practical reasons, these companies shouldn't be required to keep propping these things up well past the point where doing so would lead to the significant harm to those organisations.

What is less reasonable is what happens to these technologies and/or knowledge after these decisions take effect. That companies are allowed to completely destroy all the associated knowledge, mothball it into perpetual non-existence, or sell these things on to other companies who will proceed to do the same themselves (i.e. destroy or permanently mothball, instead of making active use of it either immediately, or within the next 5 years) is sickening.

IMO, there should be laws around this which mean that if some technology or knowledge "of significance" is going to be discontinued (i.e. no longer produced, no longer made available for use), the owner is compelled/required to make this knowledge physically available in the public domain within 5 years of them not doing anything with the technology/knowledge involved. A softer limit of having an "embargoed copy" of this information in safekeeping in public domain (but not generally available to the public to action on) between 5-10 years after discontinuation would apply, if  non-trivial portions of this technology/knowledge are repurposed to be included in products that the owner is still actively using in their commercial operations  (companies would be required to publish regular statements on amounts of such tech in use - to justify continued embargoing of the info).

Some personal examples of annoying instances where things I like have disappeared without a trace:
* Tip Top's "Mint Chocolate Chip" Ice Cream from the 1990's (discontinued mid 2000's) - My favourite back in the day
* Crofters "Strawberry Cheesecake" (frozen, 4-pack of small cups) (discontinued mid 2000's at some point) - While Tip Top still makes the Boysenberry/Chocolate flavours of the 4-packs, and also the large strawberry ones, they don't have the small strawberry ones anyone, which sucks, as that was the best form factor!
* Wattie's "Cream of Chicken Canned Soup" - Original Recipe (discontinued sometime in the past 2-4 years) - The "new" recipe lacks a bit of "base" flavour while having some yucky sour-ish herb flavours;  it tastes worse than the Campbell's version (which I never really liked, as it's herbs were too strong too)
*  The coconut cookie/biscuits in the dark purple foil wrap they used to sell in NZ supermarkets from 1993-1996 ish
* Ernest Adam's "WWF Pandas" - Shortbread, Special Editions (~1994/1995 IIRC)
* Cobb and Co's "Crunchies" (appetizer) and "Bumble Bee Sundae" (desert)
* Mitsubishi Pen Co.'s "uni-ball eye" (UB-167 Black) inky pens (discontinued circa 2006/7) - Compared to other pens, these don't have a "pointy" tip, but rather a straight tip with the ball floating at the end, which means the ink flows smoother
* Laptops with keyboards like those found on my old Toshiba

In short, my favourite mantra applies here: "Change is bad"!

Other examples of things which are a shame for the world:
* Softimage
* The original Polaroid film
* Docs about how Disney's Paperman software works  [EDIT: fortunately, the wayback archive still has copies as someone had the presence of mind to get it to save off those files, as they're now gone with no trace]

America's "Guns and Security Paradox"
Sure, there are lots of complicated issues going on here - racial tensions, socioeconomic issues, gun control, security paranoia, etc.  However, what's clear to anyone with half a brain, and is especially clear to outsiders is that America really has a problem with their priorities when it comes to security/keeping people safe.

Why is it, that the "we love our guns" Southern Yankees keep getting away with arguing that it's a good idea that most Americans can still have guns lying around the place, so that every deranged madman can just walk into a shop/church/cinema/school/etc. and start mowing people down (at a rate of several a year), and yet, a single attempt by a guy to put tiny bombs in his shoes or underpants 10 years ago means that everyone all over needs to take off their shoes, get xrayed, and empty their stuff onto little plastic trays when passing through airport security checks?

Christchurch Rebuild
Gah! So. Much. Stupidity!

Our government (read: The Fat One + The Other Fat One With A Bald Head and Evil Arching Eyebrows) has a preoccupation with placing all their eggs in one basket. Examples include:
* The Economy - Wooo! Let's focus on dairy exports to China! "Rockstar economy" ... Yeah right! This year, China's done with that old plaything, has started clamping down on imports of the stuff from NZ, and demand for this commodity has dropped off significantly as other countries are now clambouring to satisfy the Chinese market's appetite for their products instead
* The "Auckland" issue - Let's just stand by and let Auckland get bigger than its bloated limbs can prop up, and pretend that the rest of the country doesn't exist. Oh, and we'll just continue pumping money there, just because, like, the big guy lives there, and most of his rich mates too.
* Schooling - Wooo! Let's merge 5 different schools into megaschools and "learning hubs" from cradle to grave - oh, and let's make them public-private charter schools too at the same time to boot.
* Tertiary Education Funding - No! We're not going to give you the money in one lump so that you can actually make the necessary repairs in one big swoop! (Heck, if you do that, you may manage to divert some attention away from our darling - Auckland). Instead, you're going to have to beg for each little handout (just before each political milestone), build us that "regional science centre" hub that everyone will have to go to do stuff), let us put managers on your boards, and then hold regular photo op conferences on call
* Science Funding -  Yeah, we're increasing R&D funding. But, it's practically guaranteed for the Crown Research Institutes and their pet projects anyway...
* CBD Rebuild - The CBD is going to be laid out as a series of precincts: "Justice and Emergency", "Innovation", "Arts and Performance", "Retail", "Green Frame", "Convention Centre", "Stadium", "Sports", "Health Services", and other stuff. Everything concentrated with these topics is located in the same area; what's not to love?!  

Well... doesn't anyone remember what actually happened during the quakes, when they cordoned off the CBD, and certain paths became inaccessible because fallen buildings or crippled blocked the way?! With this "precincts" plan, one well-planned/executed terrorist attack (or a suitable "Act of God") will take out all three emergency services (police, fire, ambulance), while meaning that you probably won't have any courts or lawyers left to hold the undead masterminds to account for it. And, if the roads around the hospital become blocked (say, a poorly managed marathon, a flooding river, quakes causing riverbanks to give way, etc. and all on the same day that a cricket match is scheduled at the Hagley Oval) your hospital is now cut off too. And that's not to mention the congestion and parking woes you're bound to get anytime more than one of the performing arts groups try to hold some shows at the same time.

Compounding this flawed "precincts" idea, is how the minister seems hellbent on destroying some of what the earthquakes haven't already munted. Specifically, Victoria Square and the Town Hall. They tried to bulldoze and "reformat" Victoria Square (into an ugly generic rectangular patch of grass - it is currently the most sculptural and interesting/distinctive of the inner city parks; the others are barren, wasted, dead spaces that no-one uses), despite the fact it was largely undamaged. Meanwhile, the minister has repeatedly yelled at people to just demolish the Town Hall adjacent to it, using threats of there not going to be enough money to build their favoured "arts precinct"  (bloody precincts again). For some reason, the minister seems to have some real beef with this part of town; perhaps because he'd "promised" the Maori to let them do certain things with the site in exchange for support on some other matters (i.e. the original plan involved talk of letting Ngai Tahu build fancy Maori cultural centre around there instead).  (If the minister could just apply the same level of force and aggression toward that bloody bishop and her flock of shady faceless black-robed creeps she keeps as advisers, the restoration of the cathedral would be well underway now, instead of being locked in a stalemate where the bishop refuses to even let protective measures be put in place to keep the pigeons and weather out until we can convince/force them to comply with the wishes of everyone else)

Furthermore, there have been other threats about funding: Such as forcing the city to commit to building several large "white elephants" (e.g. convention centre, new covered stadium, new central library, giant sports barn) while freezing the amount they are willing to contribute towards those and other projects (including fixing roading, pipes, etc.), even as the costs slowly start to blow out. Even where money has been promised for these (convention centre, sports barn), they have recently been holding back those funds (in the form of delaying when those projects would start) - for public perception, they promised a "surplus" in the budget, so a surplus there will have to be. Making things worse is that, due to this "funding shortfall" from the ballooning costs, the council has been put under pressure to carry out another aspect of the government's blasted agenda - flogging off assets... not just any old assets, but ones that most would agree are pretty key strategic assets such as the airport, port, and power lines companies. Not only do these have monopolies over their respective markets, but they also turn a healthy profit ;)  Again, there has been pressure to "sell them off" to pay up to cover the shortfall, with no option to negotiate shifts in the funding balance.

Other stupidity around the place includes the baffling lack of coordination between different roading contractors. Just recently, their were reports that a road that had been finally repaired after 4 years (complete with brand new pavements), was dug up and mutilated again with patchwork potholes just 2 weeks later by the bumbling idiots (yep, probably the same team who severed the power cable outside on one of the hottest days of the year, and couldn't figure out what was broken until sunset) putting in ultrafast broadband cables (another government initiative).

The design of the bus exchange is also a real head scratcher: what on earth were they thinking when they thought it would be a good idea to have a busy bus terminus with laid out so that you have two narrow rows of bus lanes in a semicircle, and the busses have to reverse out of the boarding bays (located off the inner lane; reversing busses end up passing ithin inches of the busses in the outer lanes)?! No wonder there have been 13 crashes in less than 2 weeks of operations so far! Oh, and get this: they placed the loading doors so that they faced into the cold southerly breeze! Way to go suckers... way to go...

Detached / Partially Detached Toenails Suck
Gah! Why on earth did that narrow 1mm sliver of toenail on my little toe have to flake off like that?! The pressure pain on the toe for the week following that unprovoked incident (though I did stub that toe quite hard into a chair leg a month ago, with little effect at the time) was some pretty excruciating stuff. It wasn't as bad as the absolutely nightmarish sharp "reflected" pains that danced between different teeth on the 6th night after having my wisdom teeth removed (i.e. on the night before I was due back in the dentist's chair for a post-op checkup).

That post-wisdom tooth removal pain was absolutely unbearable - it was so bad that I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemies. It was like - hard jaw-clenching while icy cold and sharp pointed metal spikes are being driven into one tooth, then another one on another side of your mouth, then another, and another, over and over again, pain occasionally shooting across the roof of your mouth from one tooth to the other, and sometimes occurring on more than one tooth at once... and all this was going on for what seemed like ages - perhaps several hours in the middle of the night, making it way too painful to move to make the trek out to down some more painkillers; I was basically reduced to curling up in a tight ball by the pain. It was such a relief when the pain finally started to fade off at last... That was like 2 years ago - also in the first 2 weeks of June (.

This time though, the pain was more of the "deep/intense pressure" bearing down on the toenail (vs "sharp" pain) that just seemed to keep boring away. So, it was not quite as bad as the wisdom tooth incident. but it was bad enough that I was practically breaking out in cold sweat, and looked paler than a ghost in the bathroom mirror just before calling it a day at an extra-early hour (as the pain just made it impossible to concentrate on anything anymore). Luckily, I managed to fall asleep relatively quickly despite the pain, and it had largely calmed down by the morning.

The scariest part about this is that it's going to take several months for that blasted toenail to fix itself, as toenails grow really slowly. This is made a bit worse by the fact that it is said that that "detached" bit won't regrow in place; instead you'll have to wait for the rest to fall off/be pushed off by the newly growing nail (at least that's what it sounds like will have to happen... I'd prefer it to not do that, but it seems I don't really have much of a choice about what it's going to do, going forward) :/

Fortunately, over the past few days, it's been getting less sensitive/dodgy feeling, so I don't have to limp around as badly as I did last weekend (argh! that really took quite some effort limping around from one end of the mall to the other!)

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