Tuesday, 24 July 2012 - 6:24pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Tue, 24/07/2012 - 6:24pm

I seem to be making some more progress in adumbrating (word of the day) the contours of acceptable discourse in the Coffs Coast Advocate's reader comments.

In response to a story about LifeHouse Church successfully running some charity event for the needy, I made some comment along the lines of:

This achievement is all the more impressive when one considers the sheer logistics involved in ensuring none of the needy recipients are homosexual.

Get it? 'Cos the LifeHouse congregation are homophobes! Laugh? I nearly did.

The odd thing was that this comment was published, but a day or two later had disappeared. So we must conclude that this was a line ball, sent to the video referee for adjudication. Or if you prefer, the bowler cried "Howzatt!" and for a moment rejoiced in triumph, but though the bails had flown the umpire sternly shook his head, from underneath a pile of hats. There, I've exhausted my stock of sporting analogies.

I feel we are closer, but not yet close enough to understanding what the Advocate does and does not consider offensive, so my vigorous probing continues...

Saturday, 21 July 2012 - 8:49am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 21/07/2012 - 8:49am

I'm not sure whether I should be taking this personally. I've lost another final sentence of plodding curmudgeonly wit at some point in the Advocate's comment approval process:

Yes, the majority want to get all the nature out of the way of their view of nature. If you would care to run a poll on this you'll also find the majority want to be able to drive their cars right up to the water line so that they're never out of earshot of their Cold Chisel CDs, never out of reach of the next can of rum and cola, and never out of sight of the australian flags hanging from their car windows, painted on their children's faces, tattooed on their spouse's buttocks, etc.

This utopian vision of beach-as-bogan-car-park is likely not the objective of the Advocate's campaign here. When next you're on a beach, turn westward and peer through the trees at the expensive houses whose owners, estate agents, accountants, and assorted courtiers are the principle beneficiaries of "opening up" the view from the beach to your social betters and vice versa.

Excised this time:

A cynic might say that this "majority", in the sense of being the majority of the Advocate's advertisers, are the majority on whose behalf the Advocate is advocating.

At least this time a plausible motivation for the cut comes to mind without difficulty.

Friday, 13 July 2012 - 4:13pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 13/07/2012 - 4:13pm

Two quick points:

  • Compulsive Coffs Coast Advocate correspondant picman2 defies satire, and
  • The Advocate's comment moderation policy continues to baffle me.

picman2 posted another of his comments sounding like a particularly deranged version of the Stradhoughton Echo's Man O' the Dales, from Keith Waterhouse's sublime novel Billy Liar. (By the way, isn't it a shame that gone are the days when you could carry a novel in your pocket rather than a wheelbarrow?) The natural reaction to which is to engage in a bit of Pythonesque one-upmanship. Unfortunately picman2 leaves one without much further to go, so my effort fell a bit flat:

@picman2 Aye, an' all this were fields when I were a lad. Sigh.

God Save the Queen? Sheer luxury. In my day we had to sing the whole of Advance Australia Fair, even the verses nobody knows. With "Australia's sons" rejoicing - none of this political correctness gone mad. WITH only a bottle of warm milk with yucky skin on top to stop us dehydrating in the blazing sun before we got a chance to deposit 20c in our Commonwealth Bank savings accounts.

It's tragic that today's kids can't enjoy these simple pleasures for fear of council-appointed cyber-predators stalking and killing them for their sausage rolls and frozen Sunnyboys. All they can do is sit at home texting each other as their pants sink lower and lower with ennui. We are failing a generation, and acres of steaming ashphalt is going to waste.

So far, so hilarious. But the odd thing is I had another sentence-and-a-bit which was expurgated from the comment as published. From memory it went something like:

Childhood has gone the way of thrashing young backsides with the wooden spoon and washing out insolent mouths with soap and water. It's sad but true.

Now if this portion was excised due to being exceptionally leaden satire I can't imagine why any of the preceeding text was published at all. And it can't have been edited for reasons of concision, as the whole comment is less than half the size of the one it was replying to. Did somebody imagine I was implying picman2 or some other individual enjoys, or at lease endorses, quaintly anachronistic violence against children? As in past occurences of rejected "wit", it appears my faculties of reason are insufficiently baroque to detect the logic at work.

Streaming IS Downloading

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 30/06/2012 - 4:15pm in

The way that this issue is framed, even by people who should know better, is profoundly misleading. These are not "anti-downloading measures". Viewing data from a remote machine without first downloading it would be a very neat trick.

It is therefore nonsensical to ask "Is it okay to download this video without the creator's permission?" in this context. The creator has given you this permission. The question we should ask is "Is it okay for the creator (or some intermediary) to take control of my computer in order to delete some data after I've acquired it perfectly legally?"

AFR Metaphor WTF

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 20/06/2012 - 2:33pm

I only read the Australian Financial Review once a week (on a good week) these days, but I've held it in very high regard for a long time. For anybody interested in following events that have actual consequences, as opposed to celebrity gossip or party political sideshows, it's Australia's only quality daily newspaper. But lately I've been getting the distinct impression that standards are slipping.

I don't give a monkey's about how deranged the contents of the AFR opinion pages may be; opinion, whether genuine or paid for, is what the opinion pages are for. But unless I've a misleadingly rosy view of the past, I'm  sure that the AFR news pages have traditionally been pretty exclusively fact-driven, with any propaganda safely contained between quotation marks. In the last few months though I've been quite alarmed by, for instance, Washington correspondant Ben Potter writing what appear to be audition pieces for the Heritage Foundation that land not only outside the opinion pages, but often squarely on the front page.

And last Friday, there was this jaw-dropping gem from Europe correspondant Matthew Drummond about the coming weekend's election in Greece, headlined "Europe looks to its Lehman moment":

A ["radical left party"] Syriza win could be Europe’s equivalent of the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, which triggered the global financial crisis.

I'm sorry; exactly how is this an apt metaphor? I get that there's an implied threat that financial markets (i.e. the institutions which enthusastically engaged in the dodgy practices that actually led to the the collapse of Lehman and the ensuing crisis/depression) would feel compelled to punish the Greeks for getting out of line and the rest of Europe for letting it happen (no need, as it turns out), but how is an election result, no matter how undesirable, remotely like the inevitable implosion of a corrupt and and incompetent firm of moneylenders?

Now come to think of it, you could perhaps argue that a poor choice of government in Greece might be somewhat like the election of the government in the US that relaxed the regulation of financial institutions, thereby enabling the practices that led to the crash, but "Europe looks to its Clinton moment" lacks something in the dramatic zing department. Also, despite the passage of time, I still can't help thinking a "Clinton moment" is something altogether more sordid.

Somebody Else's Problem

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 17/06/2012 - 1:30am

Douglas Adams was quite wrong about this: If the problem is somebody else's, it's not invisible; it's endlessly fascinating. If the problem is our own, that is when we find ourselves somewhere between reluctant to and incabable of recognising it's existence.

This is why computer games are so addictive. They permit us the joy of finding a solution without the burden of having to live with it's conseqences.

Monday, 11 June 2012 - 6:32pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 11/06/2012 - 6:32pm in

The absence of this makes me cry.

Sunday, 10 June 2012 - 12:13pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 10/06/2012 - 12:13pm

I know we're all bored with 419 scam email, but every so often you find one that appears to be the work of a comic genius. Notable in this one I received this morning from Janet Napolitano of "HomeLand securities" are such authentic details as:

  • It's official because the lines are double-spaced.
  • The sublime malapropism "Fraud Monitory Unit", a department presumably concerned with scrutinising financial transactions and issuing dire warnings about dodgy goings-on.
  • The Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) was formerly known as the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC). Glad that's been cleared up. It could confuse a stupid person.
  • "HomeLand securities" has a "mandate from US Government to make sure all debts owed to citizens of American which includes Inheritance, Contract, Gambling/Lottery etc are been cleared for the betterment of the current economic status of the nation and its citizens as he has always believed “Our Time for Change has come” because “Change can happen”". And you were disappointed with Obama, weren't you? For shame!
  • "Once again i am so 100% sure of you receiving your payment at no any other cost as we have taking it upon our duty to monitor everything in other to cub cyber crime that is perpetrated by those impostors." Go Janet Napolitan@!
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	 Sun, 10 Jun 2012 04:52:24 +0800
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From: "Mrs. Janet Napolitano  of Homeland Security"<janet.napolitan@msn.com>
Subject: From HomeLand securities
Date: Sat, 9 Jun 2012 16:40:18 -0400
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X-OriginalArrivalTime: 09 Jun 2012 20:52:25.0127 (UTC) FILETIME=[C60FEB70:01CD4681]

From The Desk Of Mrs. Janet Napolitano
Secretary of US Department of Homeland Security Washington D.C.  
Email: janet.napolitan@aol.com

Attention Beneficiary, Records show that you are among one of the individuals and organizations who are yet to receive their overdue payment from overseas which 

includes those of Lottery/Gambling, Contract and Inheritance.   

Through our Fraud Monitory Unit we have also noticed that over the past you have been transacting with some imposters and fraudsters and some imposters claiming to be 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation.The Cyber Crime Division of the Homeland Security gathered information from the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) formerly 

known as the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) of how some people have lost outrageous sums of money to these Imposters. As a result of this we hereby advise  you 

to stop communication with any one not referred to you by us. 

We have negotiated with the Federal Ministry of Finance of Malaysia that your payment totaling $2,500,000.00 will be released to you via a custom pin based ATM card 

with a maximum withdrawal limit of $95,000 a day which is powered by Visa Card and can be used anywhere in the world for for withdraw or transaction.  

We have advised that this should be the only way at which you are to receive your payment because it’s more guaranteed, since over $5 billion was lost on fake cheque 

last year 2010. We have perfected everything in regards to the release of your $2.5 million United States Dollars to be 100% risk free and free from any hitches as 

it’s our duty to protect citizens of the United States of America. (This is as a result of the mandate from US Government  to make sure all debts owed to citizens of 

American which includes Inheritance, Contract, Gambling/Lottery etc are been cleared for the betterment of the current economic status of the nation and its citizens 

as he has always believed “Our Time for Change has come” because “Change can happen”). 

To redeem your fund you are hereby advised to abide to the insutruction below to enable the shipment of the Premium Visa Credit card and it back up document and the 

charge fee required to to pay the shipping and security insurance fee which is $200 only nothing more and no hidden fees as everything else has been taken care of by 

the Federal Government including taxes, custom paper and clearance duty so all you will ever need to pay is $200 only which is for the shipping and security insurance 


Fill in below with your personal information. 

Full Name..............

Full Address..............

Phone Number...............





Please get back to me with your personal information and also a confirmation email to know if you are sending down the fee which is $200 to me or not,so that i can 

send down the payment information in which you are to use in making the payment of $200 down to me. 

Once again i am so 100% sure of you receiving your payment at no any other cost as we have taking it upon our duty to monitor everything in other to cub cyber crime 

that is perpetrated by those impostors.  

Mrs. Janet Napolitano 
Secretary of US Department of Homeland Security
Address: 245 Murray Ln Sw # 14, Washington D.C.
Website: http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/structure/gc_1232568253959.shtm

Saturday, 9 June 2012 - 2:55pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 09/06/2012 - 2:55pm in

A few months ago I hit upon a workable ffmpeg one-liner to convert videos to a format my cheap LG video player understands. Of course I never made a note of it anywhere except my bash history, so when I next closed a bash session I'd had running in screen for months, the recipe dropped off the end of my bash history file. To avoid the subsequent hours of hair-tearing in future, here it is, as near as I can work out:

ffmpeg -i input.file -acodec libmp3lame -ab 128k -vcodec mpeg4 -r 25 -s 720x404 -vtag xvid -q:v 4 output.avi

(Corrections undoubtedly to follow.)