Category Archives for Culture
When I was in primary school back in the 1970s, we had the police come to class and talk to us about a very important issue. Traffic lights. Well not the lights themselves, but the button for the walk signal. I remember it clearly because it didn’t make any sense, even as a 9 year old boy, although I did end up in career where logic is the primary skill.
Anyway, according to this “policeman”, as they were still called in those days, when you press the walk button, a timer starts counting down, and when the counter gets to zero, the traffic lights go orange then red and then the walk sign comes on. This made sense to me, the traffic would flow until someone needed to cross, and a simple clock and a couple of relays would probably have been the limit of the electronics around then anyway. Not like modern lights with multiple clocks all networked back to base for traffic congenstion logic.
But then it got weird. It seems the whole purpose of his visit was to warn us kids of something quite serious. To warn us not to press the button more than once. His logic, which I assume was official police curriculum, was that every time you press the button, the timer starts again. So if you keep pressing it, it will never reach zero, and you’ll never be able to cross the road.
This annoyed me for years afterwards because I couldn’t figure out how it could be so badly designed, or how he misunderstood the logic so badly when explaining it to us.
Obviously 40 years on it still confuses me, so if any old timers out there know what on earth he was talking about, then please let me know!
And so things have come full circle, as my 5 year old daughter had a “police officer” visit them at school this week. The topic? Stranger danger and the recent attempted abduction of a boy walking home from school.
Has society really gotten so bad that we have way more active pedophiles than 40 years ago? Or is it just, as commonly suspected, that we and our parents were simply ignorant of the threat? After all, pedophilia is genetic, so surely the per capita hasn’t changed? Or has society and culture simply made them more brazen?
I still wonder about the logic of traffic lights. Every time I press that button, a part of me wonders whether it has any effect at all. Every now and again I keep pressing it as an expression of anger at a world no longer as innocent as it used to be.
The policeman that visited us back then is now probably dead, or close to it. I wonder if he ever thought about what he taught us. And I wonder if he knew there really were more important things to be concerned about than traffic lights.
While sitting in the Sydney Childrens’ Hospital recovery waiting room, I found an old encyclopedia “The World and its Peoples” from 1978 which I actually owned as a kid, and I found the following quote under a photo (which I will spare you from seeing) in the entry for Antarctica.
Slain whale on the deck of a factory ship. Such vessels can take aboard whole carcasses and process them very quickly. Whaling in the Antarctic has declined rapidly with the near extinction of most humpback whales, caused by indiscriminate slaughter; most civilized countries have now abandoned whaling.
We went to Darling Harbour for Australia Day, so Molly could see Jay Laga’aia and friends on the kids’ stage. Well, the first song was “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands…”, followed by “stamp your feet”, “yell ya hoo!” and then all three. I was amazed at the number of sad sack fathers that just didn’t join in. They were happy to watch their kids do it, but sing along, clap, stamp and yell? Nope.
The old adage rings true, kids laugh around 400 times per day, and adults around 15. What happens to these disgruntled parents that makes them want to have kids but only from a distance? Two many hours couped up in corporate offices to think about having fun?
Regardles whether the parents enjoy it or not, the show is still for kids, their kids, and I’d have thought that by joining in they’d make their kids’ experience more fun. Jay was a slow starter and the crowd wasn’t exactly responding that well to his call and response, so even more reason to join in, to make it better for everyone.
I used to say this before I was a parent, and my opinion hasn’t changed, most people are just plain selfish by having kids, and shouldn’t be allowed to take on the most important roll we can have in life: bringing up a child.
Fat cat bosses and shareholders drink the same cream
Never in the history of the free market have shareholders complained because their shares increased too much. In the end, the fury about corporate salaries is simply an expression of unfulfilled greed – this time not by directors, but by shareholders.
“In economics, the marginal utility of a good or of a service is the utility of the specific use to which an agent would put a given increase in that good or service, or of the specific use that would be abandoned in response to a given decrease. In other words, marginal utility is the utility of the marginal use which, on the assumption of economic rationality, would be the least urgent use of the good or service, from the best feasible combination of actions in which its use is included. Under the mainstream assumptions, the marginal utility of a good or service is the posited quantified change in utility obtained by increasing or by decreasing use of that good or service.”
Irrational markets: people reject free money out of anger
The Ultimatum Game, in which test subjects respond to take-it-or-leave-it offers, has allowed psychologists to explore how humans handle issues like fairness and punishment. But a new study shows some people attempt to punish even when the rules of the game are stacked in a way that makes it impossible.
Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors
“Unfortunately, the only way to get a definitive answer on whether a particular use is a fair use is to have it resolved in federal court. Judges use four factors in resolving fair use disputes, which are discussed in detail below.”
Today I joined a most prestigious club, Ticketmaster haters who have also been fucked over by them. You can read more about Ticketmaster’s monopolistic practices on Wikipedia.
I rarely go to big concert events/shows. I’m not into mainstream entertainment, and large venues aren’t the best way to enjoy a performance. But once in a while, an artist visits us who for whatever reason can only do those big venues.
And so it was that yesterday I found out that French & Saunders, whose show I loved back in the 80s, were coming to Sydney at last to play the Capital Theatre, and as a farewell tour.
Worried that I’d only just found out, I went to the Capital Theatre web site (which subsequently tells you that it is designed for Internet Explorer 5, like who uses that these days?). Amazed that web sites still use “Enter site” links, I clicked and ended up on their internal home page. Strangely enough, there’s no link to buy tickets, weird considering that this is their core business.
So I click on the Shows menu link, and suddenly a second level menu appears for every menu item, in really small type. Reading through all the menu items, none of them mention purchasing tickets. The Shows menu strangely has two second level links Current show and Previous shows, as if for some reason people visiting their site would be more interested in shows that are no longer on, than ones that are coming up.
Under the Box office menu, there’s a Booking details link, so I click on that and are presented with information about the box office, such as when it is open, special needs information and a quite large and useless photo. At the bottom, finally, is a section titled Ticket sales, and then a link to the Ticketmaster site.
Before heading over to Ticketmaster, I notice that the Links links at the bottom of the page, is just a page anchor link to… the line above it, which is… a link to their disclaimer and privacy statement. Brain dead.
So on to Ticketmaster, who you would presume are in the business of selling tickets, and thus their primary concern would be the happiness of their customers for potential return business. Their monopolistic practices may well compensate for the fact that they don’t really care after all.
The first thing you notice about the Ticketmaster web site, is that there’s no phone number on the home page. Their business is selling tickets, so we can assume that what they’re hoping to do is push people towards web purchasing, so they bring their bricks and motar costs down. Problem is, most people would like to speak to a person in order to get the seats they prefer. Everyone is different, and an automated system is never going to be able to suggest the best seats for everyone, instead everyone gets the seats that they aren’t perfectly happy with.
Without continuing the long narrative, basically you have to click on the Help menu item. Then a page of about 30 links appears. Under Ordering Tickets, you click on Ticket FAQ’s, which gives you a long scrollable page of FAQ questions. Right at the bottom, under a heading unhelpfully titled Contact Centre, is the text “Find your local Contact Centre number to order by telephone”. So click on the Contact Centre link, and a page of Order by Phone information is displayed. The first phone number listed is General Events/Enquires, and that’s the phone number to call. You’d think customers would be happier if the number was on the home page and titled Buy tickets by phone.
Once you navigate the phone menus, for French & Saunders there’s a choice between Premiere seating, Reserve A seating, and Reserve B seating. In this case they’d actually got the costs for each around the wrong way, with Premiere seating as the cheapest, and Reserve B the most expensive. If of course you knew what each kind of seating was. The phone menus don’t tell you, the web site booking doesn’t, and the Capitol Theatre doesn’t. Here’s some news for you Ticketmaster, we don’t all work in the ticketing industry, so how about explaining some of these obscure terms to us?
The next problem, after hanging up because the phone pricing was all wrong, was that most of the shows had already been sold out. Not because they’d been on sale for a while, but because Ticketmaster have this great facility whereby Mastercard subscribers are given two weeks free run at tickets before anyone else. Remember that Ticketmaster is supposed to be providing customers with the tickets they want. Instead, they’re giving people who read their latest Mastercard junk mailout and thought to themselves “Dawn French, wasn’t she in Vicar of Dibley?” all the good seats. And then anyone who is s member of the My Ticketmaster program gets a week of booking tickets ahead of the general public.
So by the time normal people get to buy tickets, all the good seats have gone. That’s just plain fucked, and the only people to blame are Ticketmaster.
I don’t have a Mastercard because my bank supports VISA, so that’s what I have, a VISA. It’s completely fucked up that I can’t buy good seats to a British comedy duo because of the deal that my bank has with a credit provider. That’s insane!
Ticketmaster should be selling tickets to everyone at the same time. Sure, they’ll lose a probably large sponsorship from Mastercard, but they’ll end up keeping more return business. I’ve never bought tickets from Ticketmaster before, because of their bad reputation. This has just reinforced that, and I will now never buy tickets from them. And may the artists who support Ticketmaster, have really bad audiences whose only real interest is what other shows they might be interested in because they own a Mastercard.
Ticketmaster have a lot to learn about customer satisfaction. As do French & Saunders’ management.
I’m sitting here with Molly playing with her toys. Well she’s doing the playing, I’m just telling her fictitious stories about all the stuffed animals.
We have a bee on an elastic cord that bounces around like a, well, like a bee really, which is a nice educational touch, because bee in fact do buzz around in the air. So of course like a good parent, I grab the bee and go “bzzz bzzz bzzz”. But the reality for most parents is probably more like “bzzz bzzz bzzz, go away bee, or I’ll get the insect spray and kill you by squirting poison into your face”, which while technically still educational, is still not as preferable as the lie of the good old buzzing bee. “Look at the cute little bee, bzzz bzzz bzzz, look how it sits on your nose and doesn’t sting you, bzzz bzzz bzzz”.
Molly’s favourite though is an animal mobile, a little mirrored carousel with a cuddly pig, chicken and cow hanging from it by coloured threads. Molly loves to kick the animals around, and although she’s still a little uncoordinated at this point, she’s often able to grab one of the animals and put them in her mouth. Again, definitely educational, if not slightly inaccurate. While we do hang them up, we usually do this with the carcass once we’ve brutally killed them. I guess Molly’s just skipping the cooking bit.
So when is a good time to tell her than the bee isn’t really cute and can be a pest, and that the only things pigs, chickens and cows are good for are killing, cooking and eating? Or is it better to just say all this from the start, so that when told later on she doesn’t accuse you of lying? No wonder children are so good at lying, they learn it from their parents.