trixtah: (Default)
There's a discussion over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books about people pirating huge quantities of ebooks and making them available for download. As I mentioned in the comments, I can see both sides of the resulting argument.
  • It stinks that people make money off someone else's work.
  • Traditional media has been crap at making stuff readily available online at reasonable cost.
  • For me, music downloads are a great try-before-you-buy method - but not everyone as ethical as I am in terms of getting rid of the stuff they have no intention of purchasing.
  • DRM is a fucking PITA - it doesn't stop piracy (obviously!), it increases costs, it restricts portability of the media, and it restricts media to those who possess the correct hardware or software for the DRM to work. That's the reason I won't use something like iTunes.
  • If you don't support the artists, eventually they will stop making art.
  • Most e-copies (especially of books) are ridiculously over-priced. I shouldn't have to pay the same for a e-version as I do for the actual media.
  • A lot of people download free stuff that can't be obtained otherwise (in other words, it's not available for purchase, in an e-version or the original).
What's the solution? Make high-quality media (including "uncompressed" versions) available for a reasonable price, free of DRM, and including as much as the back catalogue as possible. Amazon and their ilk have amply proven that "long-tail" marketing works. Out-of-print items are incredibly frustrating to obtain - if there's an e-version, there is no need for it to go out-of-print.

There is some movement underway in audio media, with sites like Magnatunes and Deutsche Grammophon modelling a new way of selling music. Acts like Metallica have amply demonstrated the idiocy of bitching about file-sharing without providing an alternative distribution source.

Regarding e-books, I also proposed an "online lending-library" on the SBTB site (since one criticism of the illegal downloaders  (of the many) was that they could read books for free at the library). Living in a city with a frankly crap library system, I can certainly see the limits of that thinking. However, a place that puts a big and broad selection of books online could be a winner. As a subscriber, you could purchase "book tokens" that entitle you to read, say, 10 books online for $5. Once you've "activated" a book you want to read, you have 30 days to read it (although maybe some kind of method of temporarily suspending your access to a book during that period, and then picking up where you left off could be useful). More popular books could require more tokens to "rent". Links should be provided to allow subscribers to purchase (non-DRM'd!) copies for permanent use. If you purchase a book, your reading token could be re-credited. Naturally, suitable royalties and costs would return to the author and the publisher (if the publisher isn't doing it themselves, which would be stupid for the large houses).

Can I imagine a publisher doing this in the near future? No, unfortunately. Baen is the only major publisher I'm aware of that makes an effort to make e-books cheap and appealing (with lots of free downloads). Since that model certainly hasn't seemed to have hurt them, it'd be nice if more publishers saw the light.
trixtah: (Servalan)
Despite the popular propaganda, most of NZ is not any further south than Australia is. Auckland (36°52S) is half a degree south of Canberra (35°18S), and 1½ degrees south of Sydney (34°S).

Wellington (41°17S) is 3½ degrees south of Melbourne (37°47S). Christchurch (43°31S) is not even a degree south of Hobart (42°54S). At 42 degrees, the length of a degree is 111km. Auckland is merely around 166km south of Sydney. ¾ of the country is thus in the same lats as the bottom half of Australia.

In other words, most of the people in NZ live in pretty much the same latitudes as most of the people in Australia. It is a bit colder in NZ over all, since it's surrounded by sea and is more mountainous. But it's not that cold.

(PS. I know plenty of Aussies who aren't so clueless - the ones on my flist, for example - but it amazes me to hear the same crap from people who should know better).
trixtah: (Default)
Despite the fact I am quite enjoying living in Australia (while Canberra has its drawbacks, they're minor in the greater scheme of things), I DO NOT WANT TO BE AN AUSTRALIAN. *ahem*  Seriously, I do not. While the place is fairly similar to NZ culturally, there are still some significant differences (treatment of the indigenous population being a glaring example). Also, while NZ was in the 1950s politically up until the late 80s, and a lot of kiwis emigrated here to participate in a much more liberal lifestyle, that difference has done a 180 degree swap - Australia doesn't seem to be politically that far away from the US at present, while NZ is a bit like Scandanavia-in-the-South-Pacific. New Zealand is my home and my refuge, still.

Imagine my horror on learning that some Aussie MPs are suggesting that NZ unite politically with Australia. Ack! I don't have problems with the notion of a shared currency, if it's handled well. The current CER trade agreement works well (and is light-years better than any "free trade" agreement with the US, which the NZ government raises as a possibilty from time to time. God knows why). But as Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn points out:

... on the minus side there's the fact that our "shared values" aren't that shared. Quite apart from the obvious point of difference on race relations, there's also our divergant foreign policies and differing stances on Iraq, climate change, refugees, human rights, and the Pacific. Political union with Australia would mean losing our voice on the international stage, and would see our policy stance dictated by Texas-over-the-Tasman. And that's something I don't want a bar of.
Also, given the number of kiwi jokes that abound here (more than the other way round, I've noticed), why on earth would they want to have us? It's amusing there's still provision in the legislation that forms the Australian Commonwealth for the addition of NZ as another state. It's kind of sweet, in a way (ignoring the imperialistic aspect).
trixtah: (Default)
Ok, it's 26 deg Celcius at 11:30pm here in Canberra, and it's hailing. Hailing, I tell you. And no, I've had one beer and nothing illicit. This place is truly bizarre.

On a more ...something, I dunno... front, I saw Mrs Henderson Presents. I laughed like a drain. Judy Dench and Bob Hoskins are fab. Hoskins almost manages to carry off "debonair", which is an achievement. Will Young really surprised me with how well he did. Well, I was in the UK when he won whatever the competition was, so I really expected him to go the same way as Hear*cough*Say. He's got a nice voice, though, and his acting was adequate. And he's got a cute butt, what can one say?

I felt the movie itself lost momentum about 1/2 way through, although the ending was fine, and the whole plucking-of-the-heartstrings subplot did not work for me, at all. But it's definitely one of the top five movies I've seen in the last couple of years. Well recommended.

Also, I found a bloody awesome blog on Wellington City, called Wellurban. Lots of stuff on Wellington's urban life and its design. While the central city is a bit of a hodgepodge, there are some fantastic buildings and civic spaces. Wellington Library is the best public library I've encountered so far, anywhere, for example. It was one of my "tiki-tour" spots if anyone visited me there. (yes, we've established I'm somewhat strange).

Any blog that talks about sustainability and cocktails in adjacent posts is definitely for me. There are some great statistics. There are 154 bars in Central Wellington (which includes the CBD and two inner-city suburbs). When you consider that the the population of the greater Wellington region is less than 1/2 a million, you can appreciate that this is a lot of bars. As well as the fact that you can walk from one end of that area to the other in less than an hour. However, he makes a fascinating distinction between the city population and the metropolitan population, and comes up with this statistic:
                  City    Metropolitan
Wellington  160,000    450,000
Sydney      122,000    4,500,000

No wonder Wellington punches above its weight in terms of "cosmopolitan-ness". Ok, it doesn't matter how many people are in a town - you can have a hick town with over half a million in population. Even when it is the capital city. *ahem* However, I do think that a city has to achieve a certain critical mass of population (in a concentrated area) to feel like a "real" city. And obviously Wellington has it where it counts.

Oh, it's stopped hailing. The temperature has "fallen" to 23 deg, and is a nicely moist 79% humidity. Hell, this is the reason why I swore I'd never live in Auckland again. It'd be ironic if I got acclimatised here, and ended up living there when I go home. Actually, I love Auckland. It's just the 'burbs, the fact that I couldn't afford to live in the (central) places I love, the abominable public transport and the weather (humidity, mainly) that get me down. It's a gorgeous town. If you're not stuck out in the godforsaken urban sprawl.
trixtah: (Default)

Yay! My next door neighbours are having a party, which seems to have killed off my downstairs neighbour's music-making efforts. And the nice thing is that the music is groovy, being mainly bhangra (and the occasional Bollywood number, but I can cope with that from time to time).

Actually, it's funny, I seem to have gravitated to the one apartment block in central Canberra where us honkies are a minority. Most of the inhabitants here are Indian, with a good portion of South-East Asians. They mainly seem to be post-grad students at the ANU (given their age, and the number of families that are here).

Speaking of matters "race", I've just noticed that the New Zealand Herald has been using pakeha to matter-of-factly refer to European-descended New Zealanders. This article, which is talking about the demographics of people flatting in Central Auckland, was the one that highlighted it to me, but on doing a Google, it appears that the word has been creeping in more and more over the last year or so.  About bloody time!

As you can probably tell, it's a Māori word that was used very early on in the colonial period to refer to us. Some kiwis find it vastly insulting for some bizarre reason, and mythology has spread in certain groups that the word meant things like "white worm" and so on (which was never the case). People like my mother hate it. But seeing The Herald use it, when they had avoided it for so long, gives me hope that the tide has turned. I love having a word that specifically addresses my cultural heritage. I am not European (and I so felt that when I was living there in Europe, if England counts). "White" seems to demand that there is a "black", and if Māori and Polynesians call themselves anything colour-wise, it's actually brown. However, there is one Māori word that I find insulting, and that is tauiwi, which means, simply, "foreigner". My family has been in New Zealand for 165 years. No bloody "foreign" about it, any more.

Getting back to The Herald, my god, what is happening? They're even using Ms as an honorific now. I wonder when that happened? They refused to use it for donkey's years, preferring to use someone's full name, no matter how uneuphonious it was in the sentence. And I think it's one of the reasons the Prime Minister refers to herself as "Miss Clark", even though she's married to Peter Davis. At least then The Herald could then refer to her using some kind of honorific, especially when she was in Opposition (and thus not the Rt. Hon.).

Anyway, getting back to the subject of music, the musical preferences of geeks were summarised in The Register sometime last year. Being Microsoft-qualified, I should apparently be into mainstream pop - and, actually, I do quite like Britney, but not for her singing, per se - but I seem to be quite firmly in the Linux camp, with large smatterings of DBA and CIO-ness. Really, though, these divisions seem to be more of a function of someone's age group when they hit a certain job level. I am so not going to become a developer (see, I knew there was a reason I don't have a programmer's brain), and if I do get into project management, I'll put myself out of my misery before I listen to the fossilised soundtrack on offer.

trixtah: (Default)
It's Guy Fawkes Night and they don't celebrate it here in Australia. What's up with that? Wikipedia reckons the "anti-Catholic connotations" are what stopped it here. It's funny, I don't recall us burning the Pope in effigy or distributing condoms outside Catholic churches in either NZ or the UK.

The fireworks in London are fantastic. They have big events in various locations where you can check out the displays, but the best ones are on the Thames. They have barges floating down the middle and let off TONS of fantastic fireworks. My favourite spot was standing on London Bridge (on my way home from work when I was working in the City), looking back towards Westminster. Although the view over towards Tower Bridge is just as good.

In NZ, they still sell fireworks to individuals, and I wish they wouldn't. The ones you can buy are pretty crap, since they've been watering them down over the years. But you still get horrible little boys tying them to cats and their grown-up equivalents setting fire to area of bush and various buildings. Other than sparklers, what's the point when you can look at big spectacular ones in a nice setting?

The best place to watch fireworks in NZ (that I've found so far) is in Wellington Harbour. It's a circular-ish bowl surrounded by steep hills, so you can find a good spot and the backdrop is spectacular. See what I mean! (slideshow of shots uploaded of this evening's display in Wgtn, with the port in the foreground).
trixtah: (Default)
Around 78% of New Zealanders have passports. 83% of British people have a passport (gosh! all those kids under 16 with passports). I can only get a rough figure for passports in Australia, but the figure cited is a million issued a year. Given 10 years for a passport's validity, that gives us 10 million passports, or around 50% of the population.

Approximately 17% of USAians have passports.

Food for thought, eh?

(of course, the discrepency in numbers between the percentage of passports issued to kiwis and those to Aussies would be explained by Australians as representing the number of us NZers cluttering up their fair land...)

ETA: Some of my numbers are a bit off; check my comment below for updates. The proportions are roughly the same; my point hasn't changed.
trixtah: (Default)
I like collecting words. Nothing exciting or unusual, normally, but fun words. I won't necessarily use them, but I like taking them out and playing with them occasionally.

Australian and NZ English share a lot of the same idioms, but we do have a few significant differences. Australians seem to be more inventive with some of their expressions, especially when abusing someone (jocularly or not) - it seems to me like a real Irish influence, although why that is more so here than in NZ is somewhat beyond me. Maybe the stronger Scottish influence in NZ mitigated some of our creativity in language. Hm, it might also explain why Australians say "haitch" for the letter H, like the Irish, where we say "aitch" like everyone else.

There are a few terms I've heard so far that are particularly cute:

fanging - meaning starving hungry. "After we'd driven for 600km on the trot, we were fangin' for some greasies from the takeaway". Or, it can be used to describe eating: "Those chips were so great, we were fanging them down like no tomorrow". Obviously one usage is a backformation from the other, but I have no idea which came first.

thingo - instead of thingy. I mean, it's just cute, isn't it? I don't know if it's more of an Italian-Australianism, but I've heard several people use it.

hooroo - bye, seeya. Now, this is an interesting one, because it may blow my theory of the kiwi equivalent of hooray being somewhat derived from the Maori haere ra (goodbye, go well) out of the water. But there was quite a lot of cross-fertilisation between Australia and NZ last century, so the theory might be possible. An expression to describe a flying visit in NZ is "It was all just gidday and hooray", but I haven't heard anything similar here. It wouldn't rhyme either, obviously. Hooroo seems to be used much more here than hooray in NZ (which is dying out slowly), and really, is pretty dinky.

budgie smugglers - referring to a certain kind of brief men's swimming costume. That one's making its way across the Tasman as we speak, but it started here first. I'm not sure if I think of it as "cute", or more "repulsively cute". But it's certainly descriptive.

And that's all so far. I'm sure I'll accumulate a few more as time goes on.
trixtah: (Default)
Got to the Australian Museum, which was decent. They had a HUGE mineral collection, which is certainly the largest of any museum I've seen (and museums, I've seen a few). It's one of those sciences/hobbies that seems to have gone entirely out of vogue, and I wonder why that is. Part of the casulties of the academisation of sciences, perhaps: it's no longer cool to be going around chipping out your own rocks (not that many amateurs probably wouldn't ruin more than they manage to collect), or making your own incredibly detailed botanical watercolours, or seeing how many frogs you can galvanise with lightening. The trouble is that all those kinds of things have all been DONE, and you now need access to involved and expensive varieties of machinery and processes to make new discoveries. No wonder there is a dearth of interest in the sciences.

Getting back to the rocks, it's evident there was a great deal of sponsorship from the mining companies, which made great reference to the "pioneering spirit" of the early mineralologists... what they had to do with modern mining practice is beyond me. So, there are literally thousands of rocks of all shapes and hues. The exhibition was good at describing the elements that make up the various kinds of rock (it must be said that pyrite fascinates me the most -- how does iron and sulphur combine to produce that?), but left out what I would have found interesting, how people actually ascertained what elements composed the rocks. It could have talked about the early methods through to the modern ones, like weighing, finding specific gravity, hardness, reaction to acids, the streak test (the colour a mineral leaves when rubbed against a white ceramic tile, which is the ACTUAL colour of the mineral, regardless of oxidation), crystal structure analysis, magnetism, microscopy, and onto chromotography, etc. That all leads onto all kinds of science.

So, while it was somewhat interesting (and I don't really find rocks that interesting), it could have been made more so, although museums as a whole have definitely improved along those lines. But once again, it isn't exactly a trendy subject.

After that, I went to the Anzac memorial, which is on the way to the train station and got a bit weepy there, although the constant spiel in the exhibition area on the meaning of the Australian flag was somewhat irritating. I consider myself to be a fairly patriotic New Zealander, but really, the flag doesn't grab me. But maybe Australians are more like Americans in how they feel about it.

But, just to give an indication of what most NZers that I've encountered feel about the flag, let's play a quick game of spot the difference:


I can guarantee that 99.9% of the world will not be able to say which one is the Australian and which is the NZ flag. I have even encountered a number of Australians who can't bloody tell the difference. For the record, the NZ flag has only got the four stars of the Southern Cross and they are red in the middle. Australia has six stars, the sixth and six-pointed star representing the six states of the Federation.

So you can undoubtedly see why tons of NZers are keen on a campaign to change our flag. Ditching the Union Jack would be a good first step (since we're getting to the point where less than 50% of the population has ancestors originally from England/Scotland/Wales), but I'd be sad to see the Southern Cross go. The campaign is gaining some momentum, so it'll be interesting to see what results. I mean, making a change certainly worked for the Canadians. The trouble is that some of the flag debate is being tied up with the whole republicanism issue and muddying the waters, where the Canadian experience shows that the two issues are separate. Also, call me strange, but if we HAVE to have a bloody head-of-state, I'd much rather that she lives on the other side of the world and has another country paying for her upkeep.

So, yes, the visit to the Anzac memorial provided some food for thought. I also realised that I'd gotten my wires crossed on Anzac Day: my great-uncle who was killed during WWII was killed at El Alamein. It's the other great-uncle who was wounded in France. It's worth looking at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for interesting facts: both of my family members are listed there. The database which is accessible at the Imperial War Museum (well worth a visit when you're in London) has fuller details, such has the cause of death. My great-great uncle "died of wounds", which sounds like a horribly protracted process. Let's hope it wasn't.

Back to Canberra now, yippee.

Life in Oz

Mar. 26th, 2005 04:29 am
trixtah: (Default)
I was taking my car for a longish drive after the various fixings of mechanic cockups (just over an hour each way, non-stop, and she was humming like a top; it's luuurve), and THIS is what I found:

If you can't tell, it's a giant merino sheep (hey, I'm a real kiwi, I know what variety it is), in Goulburn, in the "heart of the Southern Highlands" of NSW. Guess what kind of farming the Southern Highlands is famous for. You know, I thought I'd get away from some of the sheep, living here rather than in NZ. Alas no. And look at the size of it. We have giant thingies in NZ as well (kiwifruit, carrots, L&P bottles... but nothing that dwarves cars like THAT.

[apols for picture quality. it was late afternoon and my phone camera is crap]

And here's proof (if anyone needed it) that all Australian women are NOT doormats:

She did 75km/h all the way to the highway onramp (in a 60k zone - I know cos I was doing 70). Big hair, long fingernails and blasting something loud with guitars all the way... :-)

ETA: Actually, that second picture tends to encapsulate the differences in gender relations between Aussies and kiwis -- a New Zealand woman would not bother putting that message on the tailgate. Of course it's her effing ute, if she's driving it!
trixtah: (Default)
I hear the rest of the world saying "what differences"? But there are plenty, mainly of nuance rather than being completely obvious.

Here's an interesting article based on a study of advertising in both countries, focussing on the semotics of our cultures. Very interesting. And containing number of grains of truth, IMO, particularly about gender. I've really noticed the "blokes and chicks" separate worlds here in Australia. I know I have a fairly idiosyncratic view of sexual politics, but the divide really isn't so marked in NZ.


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