Filed under Curiosities

Losing a few pounds

I was woken yesterday morning by my flatmate, Reece, chatting to his friend on the phone. A few words drifted through: flight, Thailand, Monday, Johnny, f#*king. Being roused from slumber and it being the normal chilly, windy, rainy time to prepare for the ride to work, I left the cosy confines of bed and made my way one-socked downstairs to see what the hullabaloo was about.

My still-slighty-intoxicated flatmate informed me that after work (at a nightclub where a meagre hourly wage is supplemented by a not-so-meagre apportioning of liquor) he got online and booked a flight to Thailand for the coming week. He was going to go with his Irish friend Johnny who had exclaimed, in true Irish form, that the trip ‘was going to get f*%king retarded’. Reece was somewhat chuffed at obtaining return flights for only 700, only to later realise (at which point I’m still unsure) that he had indeed been navigating a British website and that the quoted 700 was in Pounds sterling.

It later emerged that he’d checked the price multiple times, oblivious to the fact it was preceded by a £ sign. He’d also passed on the right to purchase the ‘right to refund’ should something go astray. Fortunately, the exchange rate is somewhat favourable so that, even if his frantic post-booking ‘please scrap that and refund me’ email should fall on deaf ears, he’ll ‘only’ be out of pocket by around $1500.

The moral of the story, I guess, is: If you’re get booked for drunken driving, you’re a fool. If you get driven for a drunken booking, you’re on your way to becoming ‘f$£king retarded’…

What an interesting couple of days

It’s been an interesting week… there’ve been dramas, a return to gainful employment, relatives, concerts, the Phoenix-like (there really should be an adjective for that) rebirth of my Scooter Betsy, and intrigue.

I shall get around to the former in the course of the next week as we wrap up our stay in Brisbane but I’d like to turn to the intrigue thus presented…

In an age where many more people are blogging, becoming virtual residents and catching the Intertubes to various destinations of work and play, there is an increasing likelihood of your average Joe and Joeline running websites without a comprehensive understanding of their underpinnings and vulnerabilities. Internet hosts facilitate this through easy 1-click installs (occasionally more) of popular software to enable expression of thoughts (WordPress etc), artistic inclinations (photo galleries) and/or commercial enterprises (Joomla, Zencart etc).

Whilst a number of free websites cater for budding bloggers, photographers, entrepreneurs – and indeed have built vast communities and empires (think Flickr, Blogspot) through the provision of these services – there is something nice about the ownership that comes with one’s own website, be it a terrible one page contraption with flickering borders and gaudy colour schemes. There is also no question of End User Agreements or relinquishment of rights to images and/or text.

So I should not have been surprised that I am one of these Joes that took web security for granted and had my website hacked on what appears to be multiple occasions. It looks as though the Joomla software I’d installed on a whim (and whose suggested security measures I’d ignored) was hacked and, in one instance, had been supplemented with a fraudulent Paypal service that solicited details from unsuspecting Joes and Joelines to fund personal drug habits, armament of 3rd world warlords or worse.

Whilst removing the hacked files and reactivating my now empty binbilla.net domain, I also discovered this hack – replete with what I can only assume is an Allahphilic rap song, which appears to be separate from the Paypal fraud. Interesting eh…

In retroflection I’m just glad that there was nothing of import on binbilla.net and that it was not jameses.org that was jeopardised. For although I would likely get back most of whatever was removed/deleted/destroyed from this site, the thought of losing the words, sentiments, stories and memories that I’ve imparted on these digital pages over the last few years is not a pleasant one. That being said, I should really go and upgrade my version of wordpress, no?

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As a last little tidbit of funny in this somewhat dry post, I’d like to leave you with Senior Sergeant Greg Davies of the Victorian Police Association’s sage words on tasers.

“A lot of the reports in relation to tasers have been wildly exaggerated and I think if we set the statistics aside and just deal in facts, we will find that there are, according to some sources, no recorded deaths directly attributed to tasers anywhere in the world.”

The man’s a born politician!

Speaking of Crazy

Storm went to Kanye West’s recent concert at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre and told us that Kanye stopped the show twice: once because he stuffed up the lyrics and once because the camera angle wasn’t to his liking. Her word – diva.

A couple of weeks later and it struck me that someone would have captured it on a phone camera. So here it is in all of its laughable glory.

I have to admit

That last night, whilst dining at ‘The Vietnamese’ restaurant in the valley prior to attending a Black Keys/Gomez concert, I had a flutter of nerves when I realised that Gomez was sitting just a few tables over from ours. Adament that I would not repeat my starry-eyed babblings upon meeting Bruce Paige in the back of a cab and referring to him as Bruce McAvaney, I resolved just to sit and eat my meal and not reinforce the fan/celebrity divide. After all, they did appear to be slovenly, chubby, nerds who – save for being rock stars – would not likely be the first invited to one’s BBQ/wedding/baby shower. I must mention that Storm and Casey – mad Gomez fans both – made the point of sitting facing the boys leaving Cole and I the task of looking inconspicuous as we peeked over our shoulders for a gander.

I do, however, have nothing on this Gomez fan. Different Gomez, but still, you never know!

Me at 55?

Sometimes people do your blog writing for you. Take, for instance, H from my work who also provided the diatribe about Aurion ESS last month. Well it appears that he’s at it again, after goods he ordered from Perth made it to, well, Perth…

I just wonder if this is what I will become given another few decades of bitter gall.

From: H
To: Prestige Communications Dispatch
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2008 4:01 PM
Subject: Re: Your Consignment Number

Hi. Apparently Australian Air Express is unable to find my address. Strangely, Australia Post manages to find it every single day, without fail. So do I, even after a prolonged session at the pub. At any event, I’m informed the order is being returned to you. Can you please send it back to me. To make it a little easier on the geographically-challenged (and perhaps, I speculate, intellectually disabled) delivery people at Australian Air Express, could you send it to my office address, which is Level 25, 111 George Street, Brisbane. The security guards will not accept deliveries, so the delivery person will need to contact me by ringing XXXX at the security desk.

Might I suggest you employ a delivery service that actually delivers, rather than the clowns at Australian Air Express who fraudulently accept your fee for no actual service.

H

On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 9:18 AM, Prestige Communications Dispatch wrote:

When it comes back I will notify you. We will be sending it through Australia Post and it will arrive to your local post office.

Unfortuantly, to cover freight expenses. We will need to fill out a Cash on Delivery form. However, I’m not sure how much it will cost.

Brandon

From: H
Date: Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 9:51 AM
Subject: Re: Your Consignment Number
To: Prestige Communications Dispatch

Hi Brandon –

I agree that Australia Post has a record of competent parcel delivery that Australian Air Express can only approach in their dreams.

I am not, however, a happy customer. Let’s rehearse the facts of the case:

1. I pay for a premium express parcel delivery service from Australian Air Express.

2. Australian Air Express demonstrates their patent inability to find their own ar*e, yea even if they use both hands.

3. I receive in exchange for my money the following: zero, zip, nada, nothing.

4. I get neither a refund nor an apology for receiving no service in exchange for my money.

5. I have to endure a further delay on receiving my parcel.

6. I have to pay extra for this delayed service.

Put like that, it sounds eminently fair, hey? Not.

H

Standing out from the Crowd

One of the good things about the internet and the increased use of free media for self-exposition is the innovation and creativity it encourages. The pure numbers of people floating around the internet who are interested in a short video/blog post/tidbit that exhibits originality of concept and nice execution mean that talented ‘artists’ have a perfect, relatively cheap way of getting themselves known and talked about, and their ‘products’ purchased.

I guess the problem is standing out from the crowd. With a larger potential audience comes greater competition and a walk down the virtual shopping aisles of Youtube would have you quickly surmise that there are shedloads of very talented people with access to (at least) a video camera and a head of smarts. But, there is always room for those who have the motivation and originality to be a ‘first’, and those who spend some time surfing the net know that certain blogs, discussion websites and, increasingly, mainstream media (through their blogs/offbeat columns/video sections) lap it up. A notable mention on a superblog such as Boingboing has the potential to slam web servers as the many thousands of devoted BB readers click on through (e.g.).

This post is leading somewhere, and that somewhere is the clever choice of an hitherto unsigned Manchester band to record a film clip for their latest offering in front of mutliple CC-TV cameras and then request the footage back through Data Protection legislation for mashing together. Although it is passed off as a way to produce a cheap film clip (“we didn’t have money for a film crew”) it is much more likely an attempt at something sufficiently original and creative to get the web buzzing. And it did just that… The Telegraph and BB picked it up and I’m sure countless other second- and third- tier blogs (such as this) will do the same. And so the opportunity to become the next OK GO has presented itself… Whether the Manchester band is canny enough to capitalise on its initial fame is hard to see; however, it has definitely given itself a fighting chance with its initial offering…

And when all’s said and done, it is a nicely made film clip (I did notice their use of a free moving camera – complete with CC-TV like lines and resolution) and the song is nice and catchy. So in praise of their efforts in embracing the ‘new’ advertising medi-um/a here’s the link 🙂

(And p.s. – cheers to those who’ve taken up the offer of email subscription; don’t worry mum… I’m on my lunch break!)

Flight Activity over the US

The are thousands of flights going to and from US destinations at any one time. One savvy fellow has created a graphical representation of these flights using algorithms. If you’re wondering what that bright patch is towards the bottom left, it is not an Australian destination but rather Hawaii…

The value of knowing

During my news roundup the other day, prior to doing any ‘real’ work, I stumbled on a news article regarding the launch of a new website. The spruik ended up slamming the website’s server such that using it on the first day was akin to cutting your front yard with toe clippers. However, what was on offer definitely made the wait beyond business hours worthwhile and come 5 o’clock I was knee deep in exploration…

You see, a curious mind and a tool for knowledge combine to make for dangerous times…

What was this site you ask? It’s called -On The House- and is a new kid on the block in the online real estate game. Now this little gem allows you to obtain the prices paid for a piece of property as far back as the 1970s for QLD (and occasionally further). What’s more, the information can be accessed for an individual property, or expanded to include all properties in a street or suburb! There’s even a radius function to let you look at property prices within a 1km radius of your requested location!

Now the information it provides is not in itself entirely amazing – it is readily available upon payment of a fee – but the ease with which information is readily searched and displayed is nothing short of awesome (and scary). Within a few minutes, you can ascertain what your parents, boss, friends, landlord, arch nemesis, paid for their house or apartment. You can observe trends within a suburb, street or even for the one block of land over the past 2 decades or so. You can see what those properties you had contemplated buying had ‘really’ gone for. Scared yet?

And so an hour or two was spent after work on that fateful day sating my curiousity for information about all things property and priced.

First it was my own house and houses on my street -> the big one with the tennis court recently sold for $2.7 million. 4 more properties on my street are > $1 million.
Next it was what friends and bosses had paid for theirs -> in most cases I actually knew but was using their information to verify the verity of the website’s data.
Next next was the search of all the houses I had rented in the past 8 years -> some appeared, whilst others appear to have been singularly possessed (and not by ghosts) for a number of years.
Next next next was a search of all those places I’d been interested in ‘buying’ (dreamily) to see what they finally went for -> some went for less than I’d hypothesised my bid to be
Penultimately was a suburb search to see where the really expensive houses are – > One house in Highgate Hill recently sold for $4.5 million (more than a lifetime’s earnings at Subway)
Lastly, I realised there was actually an academic utility in this glorious information in observing price pressures placed on towns like Moranbah – a town surrounded by mines and where real estate demand is phenomenal – to help centres like mine quantify the social impacts of (cumulative) mining operations in the region.

Let me sign off by saying the initial glee and euphoria of discovering such a treasure trove of information has worn off; still, how nuts is the internet!?!