Friday, 31 October 2014

Plus-sized models: A few weeks with the iPhone 6 Plus (zomg unboxing video review)

Not every iPhone is used in a geometrically perfect, sterile white environment
The internet is full of conceited people who write conceited reviews of products and/or services in order to attract people to click on their content. For some, they believe a stinging critique of a particular popular product, like some form of digital tall-poppy syndrome, will render their own abilities (and web address hits) large.

I want to do no such thing. Instead of regurgitation of statistics and superfluous "feels nice in the hand" generalities, I am here to engage in a blitzkrieg of pith and (conceited) wit not for hits, but for my own gratification. Here goes.

The iPhone 6 Plus is rather large.

After owning it for a month, it no longer feels large and everything else feels small.

Its screen is 1920x1080 (or something), but due a deliberate quirk, renders everything at 2208×1242 before scaling down on the fly. Clever, but inelegant. Thus it feels a bit like a stop-gap in search of a higher-resolution screen (iPhone 6 IIs Plus S anyone?)

iOS 8 should more accurately be called iOSHATE for the feelings it engenders in the user community. I don't need to hang out in no support forums to know it's shit. (zomg appl its a knowen fawlt)

Safari crashes more than Mr Magoo on ice. And fuck me sideways, get rid of the fucking transition animations. Whether it's the PowerPoint-esque ICONS FLYING EVERYWHERE WOW, or the SOFT DISSOLVE (which is what happens when you turn off transitions), the phone feels more lethargic than Clive Palmer after walking up a flight of stairs.

iOSHATE is a generally buggy experience that transcends the specific nature of bugs and faults Apple and software engineers need for diagnosis reason. It's just shit.

Sadly, it's the first new iPhone I've owned that doesn't feel snappy. In the past, installing, say iOS 6 on an iPhone 4 meant dealing with frustrating slowness until a new phone came out. Then, whatever the new phone was, felt snappy and responsive. Now, the iPhone 6 Plus and iOSHATE feel slow from the outset.

For all these flaws, it's a great looking phone and the screen is very nice, notwithstanding the scaling workaround implemented by Apple. But enough of pleasant generalisations. Who wants those? Not me.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

An interview with Attorney-General George Brandis

How to Democracy: Welcome, Attorney-General.
George Brandis: It's good to be here.
H2D: I'm sure it is. Your fall guy in the House of Representatives, Malcolm Turnbull, introduced legislation for mandatory data retention today. Why did you not do it yourself, you yellow bellied coward?
GB: Well it is appropriate that Minister Turnbull do it in the House of Representatives, as it is the house of government and...
H2D: Yes, but the houses are co-equal with the exception of money bills, so why not do it yourself?
GB: I was busy.
H2D: You were busy?
GB: Yes. Buying Mr. Sheen. The reason for my purchase is not important.
H2D: So you were away buying Mr. Sheen while what is arguably your trademark policy was being introduced by a former investment banker and lawyer in the House.
GB: Yes. Look, those bookshelves don't clean themselves.
H2D: Tell me, does it irk you that Malcolm Turnbull is a better legal mind than you in every way?
GB: Malcolm makes a very valuable contribution to the team.
H2D: Team Australia?
GB: Well, naturally. Team Australia and the Government Team. 
H2D: You don't strike me as a team player, Attorney-General.
GB: How so?
H2D: Well, I just don't see you into your sports that much. More a, you know, bookish kind of guy. The type who would enjoy being in the stacks much more than in the stands.
GB: I enjoy all forms of enjoyment. After all, I was minister for sports.
H2D: Yes, shining moments I'm sure every Australian remembers. Moving on, the legislation introduced into the house today by the Spycatcher himself, Malcolm Turnbull...
GB: He wasn't the Spycatcher, Malcolm defended the Spycatcher. He wasn't actually the Spycatcher of the case.
H2D: Yes. I know, I just wanted to bring the conversation back to your legal mind again. So, Malcolm had the Spycatcher trial, he acted as a lawyer for Kerry Packer and led the Australian republican movement. What again qualified you for the position of Attorney-General, aside from what I assume is a large collection of John Grisham novels on your shelves?
GB: That's an outrageous line of questioning.
H2D: You're right it is, you anglo prick.
GB: What?
H2D: Sorry. Just being a bigot, you fascist pig.


H2D: Back to the topic at hand, can you explain to me and the rest of the country what exactly metadata is and what metadata will be covered by this law?
GB: Well metadata is about explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it.
H2D: Um, Attorney-General, I that's metaphysics.
GB: I know.
H2D: Do you?
GB: Yes
H2D: Because you seemed pretty sure of your self right then. Were you like attempting to have a joke or something?
GB: Well, I have been known to engage in some jocularity.
H2D: This isn't funny. In fact, if that was a joke, you should surely be taken out and shot. I don't know, probably by the Greens. They are after all, in your words, Nazis.
GB: I didn't say that.
H2D: Yes you did.
GB: No I didn't. 
H2D: You did.
GB: It was taken out of context.
H2D: You said you wanted to draw attention to the "extremely alarming, frightening similarities between the methods employed by contemporary green politics and the methods and the values of the Nazis". How on earth could that have been taken out of context?
GB: I meant the Greens have really nice uniforms.
H2D: You like Nazi uniforms?
GB: Well, I have an interest. There's a book on them if you...
H2D: No, thank you. Getting back to the case in hand, what the heck is metadata?
GB: I think you'll find that's explained perfectly well in the legislation.
H2D: Well, no, it's not. It's not explained at all. In fact there's almost no description on what metadata is, which sounds like either a) you've got no clue, or b) want it to include absolutely everything.
GB: Well that's not true...
H2D: Then tell me, what is metadata?
GB: Well it's all manner of data. But not the data iteself.
H2D: You mean metadata, not data.
GB: No, not data.
H2D: But yes, metadata?
GB: Yes, metadata.
H2D: You're just repeating what I'm saying aren't you, Mr. Brandis?
GB: No.
H2D: Yes.
GB: Web address.
H2D: What?
GB: Hashtag.
H2D: You're just saying random tech words now, aren't you Mr. Brandis?
GB: I'm afraid for operational reasons we can't share that information.
H2D: Attorney-General George Brandis, I hate you.
GB: Pleasure.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Would somebody please think of the children?

While our political leaders wage war on one "death cult" overseas, another has been welcomed warmly to Melbourne.

The city is host to the International Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses, a millennial cult who believes destruction of the earth is imminent and that "No Door Knocking" stickers exist merely for decoration.

It is believed up to 70,000 will attend events held at Dockland's Etihad Stadium which include re-enactments of Bible stories and immersion baptisms.

While adults are more than welcome to enter into the suspension of logic and reason known as 'faith', what is concerning is the number of JW adults with purple-lanyarded kids in in tow.

Like a mother drinking and smoking while pregnant, these kids have no choice but to be inflicted with the bad choices of their parents.

What should be the most wondrous and eye-opening formative years of young lives becomes nothing more than indoctrination in a faith which considers independent thought a concept "introduced by Satan the Devil".

Hey, JWs, great parenting, setting your kids up to succeed at anything in life, so long as it's theological school.

JWs don't have evidence for this claim against independent thought. Like most religions, they don't have evidence for any of their claims, just a divine directive from on high. Still, that doesn't stop them using the scientific advances of free thinkers everywhere, such as jet aircraft and the Internet, to gather in Melbourne from all around the world to advance their asinine cause.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sex, Politics and Religion

The Eleventh General Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops has witnessed a marked shift in official Vatican rhetoric towards gay and lesbian members of the community.

Where the former pontiff Ratzinger referred to homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered", an interim report from the Bishops' conference states gay and lesbians have "gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community".

Wow. How generous of them. It sounds about as patronising as a vote-hungry politician talking about the mentally handicapped, but hey, it's better than being deemed morally evil.

Unfortunately, "gifts and qualities" seems to be where the uncharacteristic positivity ends. The Bishops' dispatch goes on to say while the church can probably try at some point to think about discussing accepting gays and lesbians into the church "community", they cannot marry, nor will the church alter its discriminatory foreign and charitable aid provisions. After all, people fighting for equality in the community are merely "inspired by gender ideology".

While the Vatican's shift in rhetoric is welcome, rational people should not be too quick to applaud it. Like a despotic regime, the Vatican has a habit of speaking nicely when people are looking, but returning to the status quo when backs are turned.

The current Pope, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been praised by some as a reformer, quite rightly in some regards. But he is still the head of one of the world's most conservative organisations. One committed, as ever, to its own mediaeval concepts of morality, sin and of total domination in this life and the next.

Take the Pope's own widely-reported comments on homosexuality ("If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?"). Praised as the mark of a new and open attitude from the Vatican, these remarks were swiftly followed-up with a statement that the Pope firmly believes in the sanctity of marriage; man and woman; homosexuality a sin...blah, blah, blah.

The song remains the same.

The Catholic church will not compromise any of its dogmatic obsessions, especially in the bedroom. Even these tiny alterations in rhetoric (concessions to humanity and reality, if you will) have brought swift and predictable condemnation from the most conservative of Catholic conservatives, some of whom have called the Synod's report a "betrayal" and one of the "worst official documents ever drafted in Church history".

But we should not be surprised. Despite the shiny new pontiff and his positive words, the Vatican still declines to co-operate fully with police investigations into child abuse, refusing most recently to hand over documents to our own Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. 'Disappointing, but not surprising' was the general consensus on the Vatican's decision.

And in the last bastion of medieval Catholicism, Africa, dozens of nations continue to criminalise homosexual acts and abortions. LBGT advocates are regularly persecuted and many have been found dead. All this in the name of the Vatican's loving god.

While it is genuinely nice to see a rhetorical shift in official Vatican attitudes towards gay and lesbians, it means nothing until it is backed up by action; action against the vilification and ongoing discrimination supported by many of the church's faithful against homosexuals. For that, I won't hold my breath. It doesn't seem a bunch of 60+ year old virgins will stop having their say in Catholics' sex lives any time soon.

And now a word from our sponsors

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott chatted with 11th-grader Guy Burnham during a tour of P-TECH on Wednesday. AARON SHOWALTER/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
It sounds all so benign, doesn't it? A major corporation "partners" with the government to fund an educational institution focused on "equipping" students with practical workplace skills.

Kids end up with practical, hands-on work experience and first-in-line for jobs at major firms, while corporations get to spread their own propaganda give back to the community and tap an enthusiastic source of labour. What could possibly go wrong?

Not a lot, according to education minister Christopher Whine, imploring Australians to bow down to their corporate overlords: "We could have McDonalds or IBM or BHP Billiton or Iluka or Santos or manufacturing businesses involved in their local schools."

I for one can't wait to see a science class 'presented' by BHP Billiton, Food Tech by McDonalds and Media by News Corp. It would actually prepare students quite well for the sad reality of Australian life.

In one fell swoop, the government would be rid of global warming, the obesity epidemic and any sort of human conscience respectively. And the federal government could redirect that wasted education funding to the states in order to focus on, you know, chaplaincy programmes and mass surveillance programmes. Winningest!

In order to meet the Coalition's stringent criteria for policy implementation, this particular education policy has no supporting evidence whatsoever.

Not like those pesky Scandinavians with their saunas, reindeer and consistently brilliant education systems.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

And now for something completely different...

...I completely agree with the PM. 

But I think we had different crazies in mind.