Friday, 27 February 2009

Property prices and population falling in Dubai

Apparently the global financial crisis is hitting hard in Dubai, especially with property prices. However, the video I watched claimed "there is not a buyer in sight" and that prices have dropped "dramatically", while giving examples like an 800 000 Euro apartment dropping in asking price to 720 000, and having nobody even willing to rent it. Now, I might not have a great understanding of real estate, but it seems to me that if there are literally no buyers anywhere, then a 10% drop in price is not likely to bring them swarming in. With people fleeing Dubai so quickly that they're abandoning cars at the airport, it seems likely the place has a long way to fall yet.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course, lowering prices slowly is the way to ensure you get the best deal as a seller.
PPS - And crisis or not, Dubai is still a luxury place.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Corporate Zombie shirt

Spotted on Threadless, a Corporate Zombie shirt. He's hungry for dollars.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Aren't we all?
PPS - The plodding, handout-assisted banks of the US are being called "zombie banks", too.

Thursday, 26 February 2009


A quick thought: if DRM worked, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act wouldn't need an anti-circumvention clause.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Then again, if the law worked, we wouldn't need copy protection.
PPS - The arguments are getting a bit circular.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Google Reader fast now active

Today is the beginning of Lent, meaning my Google Reader fast is on from now until Easter. I think I'll manage, but I anticipate a sharp upswing in my television viewing and possibly increased Facebook usage. It also means that Friday Zombie Blogging may be links to less recent stories I've gathered in advance.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'll let you know how it goes.
PPS - We don't have internet at the new house yet, so it won't be a challenge there.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Home entertainment

In discussing how to set up our new lounge room, Deb mentioned the idea of getting a big flat TV to mount on the wall, to save space. I mentioned that this would not save too much space - the DVD player still needs to sit horizontally, so the same amount of floor is occupied anyway. The true futuristic option is to set up a home media server, rip all our DVDs and store them digitally, then set up a projector to beam them onto a blank wall on demand. The same goes for music.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Though, technically, ripping DVDs is still illegal.
PPS - When is that going to catch up with music?

Monday, 23 February 2009

The Aftermath

After the move on Saturday (thanks for the help, guys!) our new home is being gradually unpacked. The boxes are currently prioritised in order of frustration of physical positioning, so a few daily semi-essentials have been overlooked for now. Our second night last night was when we found our blankets, and I still don't know where my belt is. I have the other ones, but the black slide belt that I wear to work seems to have made a break for it. The lounge room has been rearranged two or three times, and the TV and DVD player still has a kind of "temporary set-up" feel to it.

The train to work is a new experience, too. By 7am it was already standing room only, and today seems to be shaping up into a warm one, so the walk from the station to the office was a bit unpleasant. In all, once we're settled in and getting used to the smaller space, I think it will be alright.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm starting to notice the little odd things about the house construction.
PPS - Like the power point position in the laundry, far away from the taps for the washing machine.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Filing some of my discarded blog posts

There's bits of my discarded blog posts that I should be recording in my personal wiki, but they're too small and disorganised for that. It would take me much longer to file them away than any individual benefit they would confer. But at the same time, each snippet could be part of a bigger picture, if only I had the tool to look at them all together, colour-coded and movable, to form the right connections between this and that random synaptic impulse. It's all too much effort to do without tags, and I don't have tags to use.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And I don't want to start another file or repository for them.
PPS - I've got too many things to track like that already.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombie Kittehs want brainz

funny pictures of cats with captions

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Picture via I Can Has
PPS - And a bonus picture from the same site.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The limited utility of the mobile web

Since I have only a low-end mobile phone, there are only a few tasks I can imagine wanting mobile internet for. Occasionally, while out and about, I would use it to locate services, such as an ATM, a restaurant or cafe, in rapidly descending order of frequency. I may use it to look up movie show times at nearby cinemas. Finally, I may use it to read news from the web while commuting, though exorbitant data charges discourage me from doing so. I presume that is the goal of high charges.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - According to Jakob Nielsen, "Using a mobile makes you a disabled user".
PPS - That's using a mobile for the web, not in general.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Cities are not for cars

It seems when population densities get too large, cars are the first things to disappear, in favour of pedestrian access and public transport. Where the city is at its most dense, car use is actively discouraged with parking restrictions and fewer car-accessible road routes. It seems reasonable to assume that the car is not necessarily for inner-city driving, but for personal transport around the outer parts of the city. The inner, most densely populated parts of the city are for humans, not cars, reminding us why we build cities in the first place. It's not to have a nice place to drive, but to have a convenient place to live and work.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Sometimes private vehicles are needed in the inner city.
PPS - The problem is that with large populations, "sometimes" translates to a lot of cars.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A computer as books on a shelf

I'd love a computer that looks like books on a shelf. The screen, keyboard and mouse probably don't fit the aesthetic quite properly, but the main casing plus any external devices like modem/router and shared storage device should work. The small bits could be shrouded in book covers, and if I were ambitious enough, I could rearrange the actual innards of the computer to fit in a series of books, such as a multi-volume dictionary or small set of encyclopaedias. I would probably pick the book covers to match the device contents, too, like a self-help "better communication" guide for the modem, "Improve your memory" for the external storage and so on.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or maybe they should look like generic old leather-bound volumes.
PPS - That seems to fit the vision a bit better.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Computer keyboard to piano keyboard

I wonder if proficient use of the computer keyboard could translate into piano playing. Deb and I may buy an electric keyboard for our new place, and I'm sure we could both learn to play it with some practice. I would like that. Of course using language on the computer and using music on the piano are different functions of the brain, but maybe there's enough cross-over in the finger dexterity to make it worth a shot.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I may have to imagine "spelling" music on the keyboard.
PPS - But I would need to work on rhythm.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Moving house is getting real

I think the reality of moving house is starting to sink in for me. In one week, I will leave behind the only house I've ever called "home", as well as the suburb in which I grew up, went to primary and high school, and attended some of the best parties of my teenage years. I'm excited about getting our own place, but leaving this one is going to be hard.

We have started packing and trying to figure out what we take and what we leave for Dad and Anthony. We won't be able to fit all the furniture, I'm sure, and moving day itself is bound to be weird for me.

The stress is starting to build up, and I've put it into two muscles on my back, for safe keeping. It's not comfortable, but apparently that's all my body knows to do with stress.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Valentine's Day tomorrow hasn't crossed my mind nearly as much as it should have.
PPS - I think Deb is in a similar position, though.

Friday Zombie Blogging - The Umbrella Umbrella

Today is a rainy day in Brisbane, so it's a good time to invest in the Resident Evil "Umbrella Corporation" logo as an actual umbrella, from ThinkGeek. Not the most obvious game reference you can carry with you, because it's pretty much a red and white umbrella, but you can chuckle quietly to yourself if you want.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I saw someone with an eight-panel red and white umbrella this morning.
PPS - I don't think she meant it as a Resident Evil reference, though.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

If only

If I were one of the world's super-rich people, my summer home would be on a blimp, flying wherever I please and generally being eccentric.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Now and then, I'd probably terrorise the countryside with a round of floating golf.
PPS - Or just drift out over the sea to hear the waves.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Digital TVs lack variety

There is something deeply wrong with the current digital TV market. What sizes are available? Big. What colours? Black. How expensive? Very. These are your options. Now buy it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Not that I'd be upset to have one myself.
PPS - I'm sure I'd be quite happy with a big black TV if they weren't so expensive.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Diablo 2

I started playing Diablo 2 with Deb, mostly at the recommendation of her sister Mia, and much to the amusement of my brother. The graphics are blocky and the controls are tricky on my laptop with just a trackpad. Still, this game has a massive advantage over, say, World of Warcraft or City of Heroes: we can play offline with each other or we can play online for free.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm impressed that the game is still selling new copies this many years after release.
PPS - On the desktop, it demands that a game disc be in each of two drives before running.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Quickflix instant queue?

I wonder how long it will be before Quickflix in Australia has a similar feature to the "instant queue" of Netflix in the USA. This is a feature whereby movies are streamed directly over the internet to your desktop. Of course I expect them to come bundled in DRM, which means I can't watch them on my TV or iPod, only on my PC. This would be "requested" by the movie studios ("DRM or no content for you") and implemented by Quickflix as a CYA measure, even if it was not requested. I don't know the Netflix pricing model for this business, but I expect it would not be included in the monthly subscription either. If that is the case, then I might as well buy them from iTunes, even if those items are still under DRM.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess I'll have to wait and see on this one.
PPS - Unless someone from Quickflix comments here again...

Friday, 6 February 2009

Custom made vs standard retail

I quite like the idea of unique, custom-made furniture, whether DIY quality or outsourced master craftsmanship. Why does everything need to be mass-produced and sold retail? The internet is perfect for putting us in touch with craftspeople who can produce just what we need to fit the space we have. It's more expensive, of course, but it appeals more to my sense of individuality than does run of the mill, assembly-line stuff.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Plus it's guaranteed to fit the space you have.
PPS - Custom doesn't even need to mean "hand-made", really.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Hello Kitty cake

A zombie Hello Kitty birthday cake, for disturbed children.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or if they're not disturbed now, they will be.
PPS - I guess that makes it for everyone.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

I'd like to be using e-books, but...

There are three reasons I am not currently purchasing my books in electronic form. The price, the device and DRM.

For the price, publishers are currently charging equivalent costs for an e-book as they do for the paper copy, which vastly inflates their profit margin mostly because they don't want e-books to cut into hardcover sales. They would make more money if people bought the e-book instead, and more people would buy it if it were even a dollar cheaper.

As for the device, I don't have something that I have with me everywhere and allows me to use any e-book reader software. My phone is the closest, and I have, in fact, read two free books on it, but the experience did not convince me to go so far as to purchase anything. Frankly, I will end up using either my phone or my portable media player, assuming either one is capable and my other concerns are met.

DRM, or copy protection, is the final sticking point. I don't want to pay for e-books only to have them locked to my portable reader. If I wish, I want to read sitting at my PC, then transfer the bookmark to my portable reader to take on the train with me. When that reader wears out and my PC dies, I want my e-library to come with me without having to repurchase the books.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Textbooks on something like the Kindle would make a killing.
PPS - This rant mostly inspired by a long article on e-books.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The cat on the roof

I heard someone speaking outside my window this morning. The same intonation over and over: "Michi! Michi!" like calling a name. I poked my head out the window and indeed saw that it was a woman calling to her cat, evidently "Michi", on the roof. As she walked back and forth, the cat mirrored her position, but made no move to come down. "Come on Michi, come on." No visible response.

It occurred to me that the cat had no reason to leave the roof. With no immediate concerns - or at least none that could only be served from the ground - the roof is as good a place as any to be. And with a person walking up and down calling your name, it could start to feel a lot like worship. "I will parade before you my magnificence, that you might marvel at it and call my name in admiration." Why would you ever stop if that's what your world feels like?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm sure leaving the cat alone up there would have achieved faster results.
PPS - I didn't get to see how it ended.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Why do you believe that?

I like engaging in theological debate, but the opportunity only rarely presents itself. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to more deeply explore the reasons for my beliefs and the specific ways they differ from the beliefs of others. It strengthens me. Whatever you believe, you must be able to argue for it logically. If your beliefs are true, they can stand up to even the most intense scrutiny.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Face to face is better than online for these discussions.
PPS - I don't intend to start such a discussion here.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Dream: is Bigfoot dangerous?

I don't often post my dreams here, because it's weird enough already and usually I don't remember them. Last night held an interesting one, though.

I was a zookeeper at a kind of a free-range exotic animals park, and we had a pair of creatures that, for all intents and purposes, were Bigfoots (Bigfeet?). Anyway, we weren't sure if they were dangerous to humans, so as we were locking up one night, and letting our sasquatches run free in the park, they happened across a group of elderly people, one of whom fell down. The male looked up in interest and started towards the fallen person. I was watching by the open door, fascinated. The creature gathered speed, bounded right over the fallen person without a glance, charged past me through the door and out into the city. Oops.

So there was a meeting of zookeepers, some of whom had followed Bigfoot's trail up to a point, and gathered various clues in a sack that I was to present to them. The first thing that caught my eye was a pair of women's gumboots, which aroused some interest from the other keepers. This was followed by pair after pair of children's boots, evoking greater outrage with each pair. Bigfoot was clearly eating children!

At this point I "remembered" the twist in the story, despite being in it myself. Anyway, as it turns out, Bigfoot had found and adopted a human child, who was crying. Bigfoot, being observant but not that bright, noted that other human babies had shoes and were not crying, while his had no shoes and cried all the time. The solution was clear: baby needed shoes. So Bigfoot was stealing shoes from other babies and giving them to his, only to find that they were, apparently, the wrong shoes, since the crying continued. Thus resulted the long trail of discarded shoes, a missing baby and a very confused Bigfoot.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I presume we caught him, returned the baby to his mother and all ended well.
PPS - I didn't dream that, but it seems the way things would go.