Monday, July 31, 2006

Crowd Sauce?

Okay, I know you're not supposed to click on your own ads, but I found this link to Cambrian House quite intriguing.

Remember those guys who bought Mikal lunch? well, this is them, so they obviously have a pretty smart marketing team. It turns out that they also have a pretty neat idea, too. Or rather than just one, about a squillion...

You know, If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me:
"Hey, you're a computer nerd. You know what would be really cool?
[insert some random weird person specific software idea]

Now I'm sure that would make you a million dollars!"
Well, then I'd have at least seven dollars. Which isn't really that impressive, but when you consider that there are at least 3 hundred thousand computer nerds out there, each with at least seven different [insert some random weird person specific software idea], Then that old longtail large number theory starts to kick in...

Cambrian House are offering a battle ground where ideas can play off against each other, and hopefully, the best ones will win. They'll then be built by enterprising developers, and sold in return for profit, which goes back to the developers. This is a cool idea, and the idea warz page, where you can see exactly what's winning (and more entertainingly, what's not) is an endless source of fun. Check it out.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Crawfish, Cowboys, and the Northern Lands

Well, it's been a few weeks since my family and I arrived here in America - during this time, so much stuff has happened, and I just haven't had much time for updates. So, here's the highlights of the last few weeks as they stick in my head. I'll try harder to post regularly, but I'm not making any promises...

My family settles into our new home for the next few years- an old, almost condemmned vinyl siding house with a faint smell of mold, and a backyard the size of a regulation soccer field, surrounded by giant green maple,oak and cherry trees.

Yes, That's the lawnmower. I already hate it.

I remember what it was like to move out of home, with borrowed furniture, mattresses on the floor, and never quite being able to find the exact implement you want to cook with. Our house is still very sparse, and has the unique, University-Student-two-minute-noodle Group House feel.

Home, sweet home.

Two Australian Software consultants walk into a crawfish bar in Corpus Christi, Texas. There, they are treated to an enormous mountain of shrimp and crawfish, while fat american cowboys complete with ten gallon hats and six shooters sing terrible karaoke to all time country and western hits. Fortunately, the beer was the "coldest in america", and before long they were singing along too...

My wife Alison and I discover exactly how expensive it is to maintain a life in America, and pay for the debts of our old life in Australia. All of our conversations consist of one of us being terribly disheartened and the other one trying to point out that it's not too bad. Roles are frequently reversed...

We discover that it's nearly impossible to live in Northern Virginia without a car. The car we were going to purchase is caught up in some beaucratic process involving the transtition of a Motor Vehicle title from Florida to Virginia, and is still unable to be registered in Virginia. I sneak out in it at night, unregistered, unlicensed, and uninsured to buy groceries in the 'stealth minivan'. I feel like a fugitive. (So far, I've resisted the temptation to join a gang...)

The quest for some bread that doesn't taste like raisin toast with the raisins removed continues. Americans seem to put way too much sugar in their bread.The grocery store only has about a hundred differrent varieties of bread, so I figure we have about another 92 possible chances.
And, so life over here continues to entertain, surprise and baffle us.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Numbers Don't Lie

Mathematics tends not to be seen as the most emotional science.

And yet, when I use a VOIP connection to hear my daughter tell me about her farewell party, 10,628 miles away, her giggle is being crunched into a string of 1s and 0s, and streamed across the Pacific Ocean to my ear, where it of course has a profound emotional effect on me - just as though we were together...

Somewhere, there's passion in all of that maths.

This Morning, I woke up early to stare at a yellow line and a dinky picture of an Airplane:

Which is having a similar effect - that dinky airplane picture is a live 3D feed of Qantas Flight 149 as it brings me and my family back together for the first time in over a month. Data like Altitude, direction, speed and flight plan are all available and charted in real time offers the live updates as a KML feed, available for viewing through Google Earth.
This must be one of the coolest uses of Google Earth I've seen (It does seem to be limited only to flights in US airspace though.)

If you want to track QA 149, the direct link to the kml feed is

(You'll need Google Earth installed - you can get that at

And to think that it's all just because of numbers, piped around the world.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Things that made me smile today

The 70+ year old lady I met in line at the store, who told me that she...
"...Really, Really love(d) Pink Floyd. I Think Dark Side of the Moon is the best album ever!"
The street signs in Virginia that say in boldface "DO NOT DRIVE ON SHOULDERS"

The black guy who was having such a great day that he offered to buy the shirt I was buying at Wal-Mart:
"You know, I could buy an alcoholic beverage for a complete stranger at a bar, and people would think I was a terrific guy! But If I bought a complete stranger a shirt, or some peanut butter at the grocery store, they'd think I was some kind of weirdo..."
The world cup presentation ceremony - after the game, the teams lined up to be presented with a medal from three important looking men in suits. One would give them a medal, one would shake their hands, and the third guy appeared to be there to give them a hug. Each player would get a big hug from this weird football official guy. Some of the players looked like they didn't want a hug, but they got one anyway.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Shocking Food Scandal

You know, this might alarm some of you. But in my endless quest for truth and justice, I've discovered something that is, in and of itself, quite shocking. Because I care about you all, I feel the need to point this out, for the good of mankind.

The TV Dinners, called 'Banquet' are NOT REAL BANQUETS!

In fact, they are actually, (And there's no other nice way to say this) - Extremely Disgusting.

When I was a kid, fresh out of home, and trying to figure out whether I should spend my rent money on beer or not, I found that I had this enormous other problem - food no longer just materialised on the table when I was hungry. So, I had to learn to 'cook' (well, prepare something that vaguely looked like food enough to keep me alive. It wasn't until I met my wife that she actually coerced me towards anything that actually resembled cooking. But I digress...)

And as I was 'cooking' my 'food', I used to lament the complexity of modern Cuisine.

"It would be better, " I'd say to nobody,

"...If human food was just like pet food - You just got one flavour in a can, and ate it!"

Little could I know in my 17 year old naivete, that such a product exists, and it's consumed by lonely bachelors with grubby microwaves all over the USA...

Tonight's gourmet entry was entitled 'Salisbury Steak' meal. Now, I've never seen a Salisbury cow, but I imagine it must be some kind of gelatinous lab mutation of a cow, stuck together with cardboard and gelatin. Ew.... See the picture on the box? Well, it looked exactly NOT like that. Looking down, you can see the shriveled, slimy thing that I managed to ingest without gagging resembles that picture about as much as a plastic tree fern resembles an accountant having a prostate exam.

There's something very sad about food that you look at, contemplate and after much effort and deliberation, the best thing you can say about it is that it should be able to successfully end up as poo.