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10 February 2017

Australia must become more like failing economies

"Study after study has demonstrated that Australia relies more heavily on company tax revenue than other comparable countries and that the 30 per cent tax rate is increasingly out of step with global trends" - Phillip Lowe

Britain and the US are cited as examples of countries with lower tax rates. Which is possibly troubling unless one remembers that both of those economies are tanking and have been for some time. It's possible that a heavier dependence on company tax (which many companies don't) is what has helped the Australian economy survive the last 10 years with hardly a blemish. It also may be entirely unrelated, but there still remains no reason at all to be modelling our economic policy on Britain or the US. Soz imperial overlords - no offence intended.

10 December 2016

Woolworths vs ACCC

So it looks like the ACCC lost it's "unconscionable conduct" case against Woolworths. The judge didn't think there were any laws which covered the behaviour, so even if the behaviour of the Woolworths seemed harsh it wasn't actually illegal. However, I think the ACCC fought the wrong case. It was a classic case of extortion, no different in any fundamental way to organised crime groups extorting local businesses.

It seems that Woolworths wrote to it's 821 "Tier B" suppliers, demanding one-off payments to "support" Woolworths. The payments were not part of any contract or agreement. They were motivated by missed profit targets, that Woolworths had set for themselves. They demanded around $60 million and apparently received around $18 million.

In Australia, extortion is defined in the 1899 Criminal Code as:

    (1) A person (the demander) who, without reasonable cause, makes a demand— 
        (a) with intent to— 
            (i) gain a benefit for any person (whether or not the demander); or 
            (ii) cause a detriment to any person other than the demander; and 
        (b) with a threat to cause a detriment to any person other than the demander; 
    commits a crime. 

If following through on the threat "would be likely to cause, substantial economic loss in an industrial or commercial activity conducted by a person or entity other than the offender", then the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

The nature of the detriment doesn't need to be defined. The threat doesn't need to be made privately.

Woolworths said this practice is quite normal in the retail industry. The ACCC said if it's not illegal then it should be. "Competition experts" said to win the case, the ACCC would have had to prove that the behaviour went beyond industry norms. However, Coles has been to court for the same things and the two companies are over 70% of the industry. Which would suggest their behaviour largely dictates industry norms. Imagine if the ethics of all behaviour was determined purely by narrow peer group norms.

So in summary, they should have ran an extortion case.

13 October 2016


So I switched from Spotify to Deezer and then to Tidal and then back to Deezer. And I looked at Apple Music. And then I switched back to Tidal. Which is all very silly, since I don't even really have internet. But I would nonetheless say that Tidal is very good. It almost all works, like someone might want that sort of thing to work. Tidal even does cough

Except they all suck for parties. Even Tidal, but maybe it sucks less. Because not all those tempting play buttons break your party. With Tidal only some of the play buttons break your party.

I will probably switch back to nothing. Because, as I said, I don't really have internet. So streaming music services are something of a luxury.

16 May 2016

Concentrating Cuterie

I have decided to invent a new invention. I am going to dub it the Concentrating Cuterie and it works as thus.

Some background: I live in a caravan with a number of adorable wild mice. I love these little guys. But they also drive me a bit crazy. Because they eat my food. And drink my olive oil. And eat my pillows. And eat my cupboards. And eat my caravan walls. And humbug visitors. And smell not cute.

My recent efforts have been to discourage their constant presence by collecting them in little box tip traps, colouring in their tails with coloured markers, and walking them up the valley to a new home. It works quite well. It's nice to go for a walk. It's nice to see them run off into a slightly more wild bush. It's nice not to crush or drown them in death traps. However, it's not extraordinarily effective in achieving it's goal.

So my new plan is to develop a Concentrating Cuterie. I am not entirely sure about it, and it rather smacks of liberalism, but I am going to give it a go. Because I am a horrid product of my time.

The Concentrating Cuterie will operate largely like those slippery death drowning pool bucket traps that are so popular (but not with mice). However, instead of a drowning death in a bucket of water-logged little corpses, I'm hoping to soft-land the little guys into a nice straw-filled "home". It will have water and food and lots of adorable friends to play with. And as time goes by, I am hoping that the dispersed (and quite annoying) cuteness will transform into a concentrated (less annoying) cuteness hub.

And then, from time to time, I will walk the Concentrating Cuterie up the valley and after a brief desocialisation workshop, will release the little guys that want to leave, into the wild.

That is my invention.

Warning: Aggregate cuteness is not strictly linear with effectiveness of concentration.

18 April 2016

Pasta Dream

So for a very long time I've wanted to be able to make pasta like the nice Italian restaurants do, or like the fancy jars from those delis do. Those nice Italian restaurants make tomato into a whole other food. Usually when I make it at home it tastes more like hot tomato paste. Home-style tomato paste. I had a bit of encouragement from the jars of pasta we got for cheaps at Maggie Beers last year, which were apparently overcooked but actually delicious.

Anyway, last night was stay at home and finally watch Star Trek: Into Darkness night (about three years late). And I had to watch the last 45 minutes of the Hunger Games so it was the perfect night for experimental slow cooking. So I very slowly during the Hunger Games overcooked the onions until they were really brown. Then for the first half of Star Trek I overcooked the tomatoes in the overcooked onions. Smushed up olives and added this nice red wine I found, and then cooked it some more. Until that saucy passata was really thick and brown.

And by golly it tasted like those nice Italian restaurants. Maybe not quite as good as those Maggie Beer pasta jars, but not far off. So I am really happy. I ate so much of it - like three freaking bowls - but there is still leftovers. Which will make for a very good day I think.

25 November 2015



For other owners of Euromaid WM5, please be aware of the risks associated with the Babycare and Intensive cycle. While the Babycare cycle is quite safe for your baby, the Intensive cycle most definitely is not. It is a known flaw in the design of these washers that resulted in the Intensive and Babycare cycles being placed adjacently on the dial. So take care when setting your wash cycles. Note that the Daily XPress cycle is also OK for your baby but may result in shortened life.

3 March 2015

I Am Pilgrim

I am reading I Am Pilgrim, which is the thriller of the year by all accounts. It's racist and sexist, but otherwise not bad and very entertaining. It is about an America secret service agent who goes around the world torturing and assassinating people who annoy him, for the good of his country. He spends much of the book getting various folks in the secret service to found out private information on people. Every time Echelon is mentioned you can hear the author smiling merrily. So far my favourite part so far is when he's hanging out with the Saudi's:

I had read about it, but I had never actually seen the machinery of a totalitarian state in full flight. For anyone who values privacy and freedom, it's a terrifying thing to behold.


21 October 2014

Codeship CI + Symfony 2 + PHPUnit

We've just moved from CircleCI (which was excellent) to Codeship, because we couldn't afford the Github fees any more. It definitely wasn't as easy as CircleCI, and the UI isn't as tidy. But Codeship works pretty well so far. The Setup Commands for a Symfony app go something like this...

phpenv local 5.4
export SYMFONY_ENV=test
unzip -p app/Resources/Tests/ | mysql -u $MYSQL_USER -p$MYSQL_PASSWORD test
echo "xdebug.max_nesting_level = 250" >> $HOME/.phpenv/versions/5.4/etc/php.ini
echo "memory_limit = 512M" >> $HOME/.phpenv/versions/5.4/etc/php.ini
cp app/config/parameters.yml.dist app/config/parameters.yml
sed -i "s/database_user:.*/database_user: $MYSQL_USER/;s/database_password:.*/database_password: $MYSQL_PASSWORD/" app/config/parameters_test.yml

composer install --prefer-source --no-interaction
app/console doctrine:migrations:migrate --env=test --no-interaction

12 August 2014

Nominal Actual

It seems that the Australia government is beginning to end it's confusing practice of funding training providers directly and is beginning to use easily understood metrics such as ASCH (Actual Student Contact Hours) instead. This is a huge improvement over previous indicators such as Student Contact Hours which were simply not actual enough and much too easy to fudge.

In fact, the improvement is so great that I suggest the government enforce the practice of putting "actual" in front of every adjective it deals with.

For those who insist that things like "actual" hours is too restrictive, the government has also provided another metric. Which is my personal favourite. We now have Nominal ASCH (or Nominal Actual Student Contact Hours)1

1. Actual thing

29 June 2014

Puppy Neighbour


14 September 2013


So I'm going to Morocco today. In a few hours. I didn't get to bed super early, as often happens with flying around the world times. But I set my alarm for 6am and felt happy with things. At about 5am I woke up to a strange smell in my room. My room is very small. A bit bigger than a queen sized bed. And I sleep in a loft bed. So I'm not always sure exactly what's happening on the ground. I thought that the dog I am minding had dropped such a bad one that it had woken me up. So I opened the window, sleepily. The smell did not diminish. After some time, I decided it must be vomit. I waited a little longer just to be sure. Eventually, I climbed down out from bed. I found a rather deep pool of wee had collected in the lower end of my room. I'd estimate about 10 litres. I'm not sure how this is possible. It is puzzling. But I mopped it up nonetheless.

21 August 2013

Planet-huggin’ Dunnies

I've just finished building a composting toilet. A few people have asked me if it's hygienic. You know, it's home-made toilet and just through together on the weekends. From now on I'm not going to go through a conversation about how composting toilets are great and are usually really safe. I'm just going to show them our commercial water recycling system. It's an Ozzi Kleen. Cost a lot of money. Uses a lot of electricity. In theory, it converts kitchen/toilet waste water into lovely clean water. In practice, it jams a lot and dumps a lot of random shit (literally) into our nice native garden.

Just now, for instance, the system alarm went off. The buzzer is about 500 dB of whine (right above poor little Nina's bed), letting us know the water recycling is somehow unhappy. I often have to go check on the system and give it some encouragement. Today was a little worse than usual. All the compartments were full of liquefied shit. And it was blocking most of the passages, and wasn't getting pumped out of the final tank. This is both good and bad. You don't really want to pump 100 of litres of shit onto your garden. But then, you kind of have no alternative. The trick is, once you have mixed your shit with 1000s of litres of previously clean water what do you do when the system to process that water fails. Every month or so.

Well, after some investigation I decided I'd just have to try and pump the shit out onto the garden. Nina won't be back for another week, so I figured it shouldn't be too bad. So I filled up the final tank with water to dilute the shit enough to get through the pump. Then I got the pump going. Then the pumped got blocked again. So I turned off the whole system at the switch AND the circuit board. Because I'm not an idiot. Then I detached the pump from the outflow hoses to reduce the resistance. Then I turned the power back on at the circuit board and then the switch. I got sprayed square in the face by a shit-load of mildly diluted shit-water. I watched for a while, as shit-water sprayed about 4 metres up in the air, over the whole garden. Then I switched the system of again. Closed the cover on the recycling system to stop the electricals from getting all shitted up. And turned it backed on again. It sprayed for a while. Then it felt better.

The garden has got shit sprayed all over it, and also had shit-water evenly pumped across it by our carefully laid irrigation hoses. There is not a square foot of the garden which isn't a serious health hazard. And people should probably avoid being near me for a while as well.

Next time people suggest my dry composting toilet is a health hazard because it wasn't installed by professionals, I'm going to ask them to read this post and then come back to me.

Mud brick toilet

Buying Films

The other day I tried to by a film with iTunes. I tried buy movies for money every few months to see if it's possible yet. I know other people do it, but it's nevert worked for me. Usually some about having the wrong operating system or the wrong media player or the wrong codec. This time I spent $6.99 for some GI Joe film. I tried to download it on my poor old 3G dongle and probably spent another $10 on download quota. I was using an Apple TV which I friend gave us, so I thought we could watch it on the TV proper instead of mushed onto my bedroom.

After 3 hours it was downloaded and I got ready to watch it. It spent a long time trying to play. Eventually it said "You need a TV which is HDCP compatible" or some other nonsense. The TV is almost 3 years old, so fair enough I should have to buy a new one if I am keen to pay for films instead of pirating them. However, I didn't have time to pop down to the TV shop and buy a new TV so instead I just watched some pirated movie, which had been downloaded on a proper internet connection some time previously.

Every time I try to pay for popular culture I end up coming to the same conclusion. It's sufficiently difficult for edge cases that I wouldn't bother. And for some reason, I'm usually and edge case. Either Linux issues, Mac issues, slow computer issues, slow internet issues or issues with medieval TVs from 2010. I have many experiences now of paying for films and music, but never actually getting to watch or listen to it. Or listening to it for a while, but then being told I can't anymore because I got a new computer.

This is definitely not to imply we entitled to consume popular culture for free until it becomes easy to pay for it. I don't think we are entitled to anything. However, consuming popular culture for free is incredible easy, reliable, consistent, fast, flexible and cheap. The sanctioned alternatives are none of those things. And I don't actually have any ethical issues with illegal bit copying. I prefer paying for things, because I quite like about trade. I'm happy to give talented rich people more money if they find it affirming to receive more money. But in the scheme of things, it doesn't seem enormously important.

If paying for things was only slightly more difficult than getting those things for free, I think I would try paying for them. And one day soon it will probably happen.

27 June 2013

Chosen with Twitter Bootstrap

Combining Chosen and Bootstrap needs some tweaks to get the widgets to match.

.chzn-container-single .chzn-single {
  padding: 3px 6px;

.chzn-container-single .chzn-single div b {
  background-position-y: 6px;

.chzn-container-active.chzn-with-drop .chzn-single div b {
  background-position-y: 6px;

.chzn-container-single .chzn-single abbr {
  height: 15px;
  background-position-y: 5px;

.chzn-container-single .chzn-single abbr:hover {
  background-position-y: 5px;

.control-group .controls {
  min-height: 40px;

7 June 2013

Setting up CircleCI with Symfony 2.3

I've just set up my latest Symfony project on CircleCI and it's working really well. CircleCI is very good, and the staff are amazingly helpful (even though I haven't given them any money yet). I spent a morning trying to set up Travis, without any luck. Seems to be some issue with private repos owned by organisations.

If you're trying to do your parameters the new Symfony 2.3 way, it takes a little extra work. And if your tests need the database, it takes a tiny bit more.


    version: 5.4.21
    - composer install --prefer-source --no-interaction
    - cp app/config/ app/config/parameters_test.yml
    - app/console doctrine:database:drop --env=test --no-interaction --force
    - app/console doctrine:database:create --env=test --no-interaction
    - app/console doctrine:migrations:migrate --env=test --no-interaction


  database_name: circle_test
  database_user: ubuntu
  database_password: null

Using environment variables didn't work that well for me, because I've got a local testing environment as well. So keeping two versions (local and CircleCI) of the testing parameters file seemed to work better. I'll still probably use environment variables for production, although that would be something else that didn't get tested.

4 May 2013

Elmo loves mailbox


12 March 2013

Integrating Hero Framework accounts with Vanilla Forum using jsConnect

This is something of a hack, but it is pretty quick and easy. I've never used Smarty before, but it's pretty flexible (and slightly evil).

I put this in a Hero template called authenticate.thtml and mapped it to /authenticate. I installed the jsConnect module for Vanilla, set the secret and it was basically done. Seems to work for regular and embedded forums.

{assign var=secret value='985d2f9eb57a8b55db3c04c20272bce9308764b0'}
{assign var=client_id value=$smarty.get.client_id}
{assign var=callback value=$smarty.get.callback}

{if $logged_in}
  {assign var=member value=['uniqueid'=>$,'name'=>$member.first_name|cat:' '|cat:$member.last_name, 'email'=>$, 'roles'=>'member']}
  {assign var=empty value=ksort($member)}

  {$member['signature'] = $member|@http_build_query|cat:$secret|@sha1}

  {$member['client_id'] = $client_id}
  {assign var=member value=['name'=>'', 'photourl'=>'']}


18 January 2013


This is my review of Argo, although just written by someone else.

And the winner is … Islamophobia

30 December 2012

Excluding men’s shorts

Excluding men's shorts

25 December 2012

Found your car in river

Found your car in river

Some folks I know had this left on their car one time. The back story kind
of tells itself

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