Bad breaks

A week of IT

Bad breaks

Are executives at Telecom accident prone? Theresa Gattung got hit by a vehicle last week. Fortunately, she suffered only minor damage to her leg. A few years ago Tom Burns of Ameritch, one of the companies that bought Telecom in the early 1990s, got bowled over by a Wellington bus. Burns was thrown wide of the bus, breaking several ribs. The final indignity was when Wellington City Council sent him a bill for $1,000 for breaking the bus’ window. Telecom lawyers soon fixed that.

Flash dance

The recent election was marked by wildly vacillating polls. One day, National was 7% ahead, according to a “random” voter sample, the next, Labour was pronounced in the lead by a similar margin; and sometimes both led at the same time — according to two different polling firms.

We suppose the canvassing could be said to have indicated the very close finish we eventually got. But surely it must have dented the public’s faith in polling?

Not so, says a spokesman for pollster Colmar-Brunton last week, telling a National Radio interviewer “the science of polling” was still valid.

Sceptics might say “science” is rather stretching the description of anything involving cantankerous human beings. But we may have the answer.

Perhaps the public are not really a bunch of “reef-fish” dashing back and forth between parties (a memorable David Lange metaphor).

Remember flash-mobs? Groups of people persuaded by text and email messages to turn up at the same place and indulge in eccentric behaviour?

Some mischievous person could have been organising a flash mob of voters. “Tomorrow, if the pollster phones, you’re all voting National. If the call’s from the other crowd, it’s Labour, right?”

Swash your buckles

Arr, me hearties. E-tales wanted to show its support for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19) but needed a technology angle to keep that swarthy seadog the Editor happy.

And what better way than with the shaggy dog tale that is the Tale of the Good Ship Vasa.

It’s 1625 and Sweden is at war with Poland. Good King Gustavus Adolphus orders a new fleet built (arrrr), among them, the Vasa — tipped to be the biggest warship of its day with its 64 guns.

The project went well — until the boat actually launched into Stockholm harbour, where a wind caught it, she turned and heeled over slightly and millions of litres of water rushed in through the gun ports sinking the vessel.

Arr, we did warn ye ’twas a sad tale.

The blame can be laid with that old IT scoundrel, Project Creep. The King kept adding new features and more guns and, sadly, the Vasa was too top heavy to sail. A sobering note for all project managers. For pictures of the ill-fated Vasa, check out www.vasamuseet.se.

iNcompatibility

A E-tale contributor was somewhat exasperated recently when a kind iPodder sent him an M4P music file, with the exhortation: “Listen to this. It’s really good!”

“I can’t,” the E-tale hack replied. “It’s an Apple locked music file.”

“Nah, I can play it on my iPod ... must be because you’re using Windows. It’s not compatible,” responded the Cult of iJobs Child, jamming her iPod earphones further into her auditory equipment.

Abstract fun

Afraid the fun has gone out of tech? Sometimes long for a bit of homely garage charm? Well, check out the buzzscope website and lose yourself in the world of comics and fantasy. We particularly liked the homely picturespread from the recent Baltimore Otakon anime convention — which was so popular numbers were capped at 22,000.

It all looks a bit Star Trek convention but the costumes are cuter — garage-made, a grown-up version of school play costumes. There’s a wider range than with Star Trek dress-ups and lots of costumed young ladies as well as gentlemen.

Check out the streetfighters with papier mâché weapons, the pneumatic maidens in their girdled glory, the trogdors, chaps dressed as schoolgirls, the girl dressed up as a fluffy cloud, pikachu, the Darkstalkers, and the Jesuitical Neo. We at E-tales particularly liked the abstract approach taken by one participant who came as several tetris blocks.

Sausages, sailing and that sexy equation

To celebrate the recent centenary of Einstein’s theory of relativity the UK’s Guardian newspaper provided an overview of the theory and the man and to some of the best books on both. That pic of Einstein as a white-haired old chap shows his human side — something writer Palle Yourgrau picks up on in his book, saying Einstein was pretty grounded and “as satisfied by a good sausage as by a good theorem”. His famous equation was also once described — by feminist Lucy Irigary — as “a sexed equation”. Not a lot of folks know that.

E-tales is edited by Jo Bennett. Send your tales of wit and woe to etales@computerworld.co.nz

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