kūjin

29 August, 2010

When I first moved in here, I received notice of a development application for a Japanese restaurant just across the road. There are plenty of cafés in Elizabeth Bay but we could use more restaurants, and I was excited — I might actually get to go to a restaurant’s opening night! The application was approved, and not much seemed to happen for a while, but the work progressed slowly. When the signs finally went up the suspense set in, and they were ready to open on the 17th of August — about nine months later. We booked ourselves in for dinner, so as not to miss out. Rather than a short summary, I’ve decided, for the first time, to write a real restaurant review.

Restaurant: kūjin, 41B Elizabeth Bay Rd, Elizabeth Bay, 02-9331-6077
Cuisine: Japanese specialising in udon and teppanyaki grill
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday lunch 12:00–3:00 and dinner 6:00–9:30
Verdict: some great food, but beset with logistical issues

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Brumby

1 July, 2010

I sincerely believe John Brumby is an idiot. How is increasing the number of lanes on the freeway supposed to help people get to Tullamarine airport? Cars trying to exit bank up hundreds of metres onto the freeway in the morning already — regularly flying to work in Sydney has made me acutely aware of this, as I have to factor it in to my taxi trip time estimate. Increasing the number of lanes will help people going elsewhere get around the traffic jam, but it will do nothing to help people who need (or want) to fly. Busses might help mildly, but they would contribute to the congestion. Melbourne busses have a pretty dismal reputation, and my experience with them has been awful, so I’d still get a taxi. Why don’t you just bite the bullet and run a railway line under the terminals? It’s worked wonders in Sydney, and most people pay the extra $12 over a normal rail fare rather than catching a cheaper bus out of there.

Blaming Kevin Rudd for sliding popularity is also undeniably idiotic. You can’t blame Rudd for trains that run late (if at all) and break down, blowing the budget on unreliable and inadequate myki, mismanagement of the water shortage, the Eastlink toll backflip, failing to deliver on promised rail network expansion, rampant corruption, wasting money of F1 and Tiger Woods, and all the while just saying things like, “Victoria’s the place to be, and Melbourne’s the most liveable city in the world, mate!” Let me tell you, the better rail service, more accessible airport, desalinated water and generally more helpful police make make me less frustrated when I’m in Sydney.

It’s too bad the opposition has nothing to offer — Victoria is in a truly sorry state.

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Blacklisted Cabs

5 June, 2010

I don’t book taxis very often — most of my taxi rides are between Tullamarine Airport and Flemington in Melbourne, and you never have to wait long to flag down a taxi at either location. But the other week I happened to be at Werribee station on a Sunday morning, and I’d missed the bus by about ten minutes (stupid trains and busses that don’t line up), and the busses only run every hour. So I thought I’d call a taxi. Since I don’t call taxis very often, I need a number that’s easy to remember, so I called 132227 as it’s a convenient mnemonic. This was the old Black Cabs number, but they seem to have amalgamated with a bunch of other taxi companies and changed their name to One Three Cabs these days. But I will no longer be calling this number. I will make an effort to always find the number of another taxi company because of how shockingly bad their service has become.

I call them up, and get put on hold. I’m not too worried about being on hold for a little while, but the hold music consists of repeated radio ads for themselves that appear to be intended to drill their phone number into the listener’s head. What kind of stupidity is this? I know what the number is — I’ve just dialled it for crying out loud! Give me something distracting — elevator music, radio, ads for some other company — reminding me who’s keeping me on hold is not a smart move! I was on hold for about a minute when I got the ring of an operator’s phone. They picked it up, and then hung up without even saying anything. Nice going — I guess you just scored one more call handled. How many more until you meet your quota for the shift?

As I don’t know the numbers of any other taxi companies, I called again, and spent another minute on hold. This time I actually got an operator. She asked me where I was, and I answered, “The taxi rank at Werribee station.” She asked, “What street?” I answered, “I don’t really know. There’s a bus terminal on one side of the station and a taxi rank on the other; I’m at the taxi rank.” She said, “Well call back when you know the street,” and hung up. What’s the use of taxi company that doesn’t even know where taxi ranks are? Surely you have a Melway or UBD, or perhaps Goole Maps accessible? Don’t people call taxis when they know where the want to be but not how to get there? Also, the call centre drones seem far more keen on increasing the number of calls they handle than actually taking bookings, or being helpful.

So I asked a random girl who happened to be there if she knew the number of a taxi company other than 132227. She told me 03-9689-1144 was the local mob (West Suburban Taxis). When I called this number, I got an operator immediately, and they got me a cab in a couple of minutes, without asking me what the name of the street was. All in all, a far better experience. I don’t think I’ll remember the number, and I don’t know if they service all of Melbourne, but I’m definitely not calling 132227 again.

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Where’s my future?

13 February, 2010

It’s the 21st century: I should have a flying car, and a videophone, and a robot housekeeper. Well, I do have a videophone – a wireless one, in fact – but 64kbps H.263 is quite underwhelming if you grew up with images from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Back to the Future. But what’s really upsetting me right now is the flying side of things. I fly quite regularly, so I can no longer put it down do bad luck: flying in the 21st century is still unreliable at best. At least half of my flights are delayed or cancelled. I should be in Melbourne right now, but no, the flight was cancelled, and the next flight I can get isn’t until almost nine in the morning. How does this happen?

You never get good help, either. Everyone’s too busy to help, or claiming it’s not their job to help you. The Virgin Blue posters that say, “Our service measures up…” are just plain insulting. One thing that really grates on me is that there’s just about no way to get a refund if you’re not happy to catch another flight – they’ll only offer you a credit to spend on another flight. Well excuse me, I’d rather spend the money on something other than your poor service, thank you very much. In fact, I think the only way to actually get a refund is to ask your credit card provider to charge back the transaction (CBA will do this with no questions asked). I believe you’re within your rights to do this – they haven’t delivered the service you paid for.

You might think it’s just the budget carriers, but that’s not the case. I’ve had the same level of service from Qantas and United on international flights when things go wrong – no-one who wants to help, no reimbursement for inconvenience, and compensation only available in the form of credits or gift vouchers, as if you’d want to come back for more. Man, if we treated clients like that where I work, we’d be out of business in no time. Why do the airlines get away with it?

(And don’t get me started on Melbourne trains that don’t work when it’s too hot or too rainy…)

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Ethereal

6 February, 2010

I swear I must look like a ghost or something – people seem to think they can walk right through me! This one time, I was walking up the Sussex St ramp to the bridge from the city to Pyrmont, carrying a big bag of shopping, keeping to the left, and this guy was running down the ramp. He slammed into my shoulder and bounced off, across into the opposite railing. Then he turns around like he’s surprised and says sorry. Excuse me, but what do you expect to happen? Did you think you’d go straight through? Or were you expecting to knock me down and keep running?

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And?

4 February, 2010

C++ defines a bunch of aliases for operators. These are kind of cool, and they can make code more readable at times – for example you can write things like:

if ((dest bitor netmask) == bcdest and protocol == udp)

But in typical C++ fashion, they chose to specify it in a completely brain-dead way. The names don’t alias the operators they’re named for, but their actual punctuation representations. That means this is valid code:

Address parse(const std::string bitand repr);

The ability to do this doesn’t really help anyone, except lazy compiler vendors who want to implement the aliases as predefined macros. But it gives us all one more WTF, and another tool in our arsenal for writing obfuscated code.

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Naked

30 January, 2010

As of yesterday, my Internet connection has finally started working. It’s been unbelievably frustrating, and I cannot in good conscience recommend naked ADSL Internet – I honestly thing it would be a better experience to get Telstra or Optus cable. There are too many levels of indirection between you and the people who actually get stuff done with ADSL, and it would appear that communication is poor and contractors are incompetent.

I needed a brand-new service, as there was no existing POTS or DSL line – only Telstra cable and CATV. There was a lengthy waiting period, and after the installation date, I called an electrician to wire up a socket. It turned out the MDF hadn’t been tagged. After much arguing, Internode sent someone out to tag it properly. However, I had to call out (and pay) an electrician to jumper it. So if your ISP tells you your MDF or boundary point is tagged, don’t believe them – check for yourself before you call out an electrician.

At this point, I had a socket connected to the correct cable and pair, but still no DSL. Internode insisted that I find an analog telephone to listen to the line. I want naked DSL – why should I need an analog telephone? Anyway, I discovered that I had a POTS service of some kind, and even found out what its number was, and told Internode. They informed me that they needed a technician to come and “perform tests”. It took another week for the guy to come out, and he didn’t arrive on time. He just confirmed what I’d told them: my socket was connected to the correct cable and pair, but had POTS service. Apparently they don’t believe their customers.

After this, it took another day for the exchange to be patched correctly. I now have a working Internet connection, but my high-speed ADSL2+ here is barely faster than my plain ADSL1 in Melbourne, and I now have to fight for a refund for the period when I was being billed for a service that didn’t work. If you’re thinking of getting naked ADSL, save yourself the trouble and get something where a single vendor is responsible for the whole solution. Cable Internet or ADSL with a Telstra DSLAM would be a whole lot less trouble.

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Tiger

30 November, 2009

Technology is definitely very good for making people lazy. I’m now too lazy too cook rice in a pot on a stove, so I need an automatic rice cooker. Now that I’m getting my Sydney pad set up, I need one to use up here. Having experienced how bad a Kambrook rice cooker is, I decided it would have to be one of the two brands I’ve had good experiences with – Panasonic or Tiger. I initially tried finding one at Bing Lee, as they’re supposed to be the cheapest place for appliances, but they didn’t have either of my preferred brands. Fortunately, I found a shop with a Tiger logo on the sign just across the road.

On entering the shop, I asked the lady which Panasonic and Tiger rice cookers she’d recommend, to which she replied, “You don’t want Panasonic – they’re made in China.” She seemed to think that being made in China on its own is reason enough not to want to buy a product. Not that it’s poorer quality, less reliable, or anything concrete – just that it’s made in China. The fact that she was Chinese herself added an element of irony to the situation. (She doesn’t stock any Chinese-made rice cookers anyway, so she doesn’t really give you a choice.) The designers at Tiger seem to think being made in Japan is an important feature, too: it’s written in block letters right above the control panel on the one I ended up buying.

I’m a sucker for gadgets. I really should’ve saved some money and bought the basic model that just cooks white rice, because that’s probably all I’ll ever do. But for just $69 more I could get the new model that does white rice, brown rice, scorched rice, congee, steamed vegetables, stews, oden (おでん), and more. It also has a timer, a clock that keeps and even displays the time when it’s unplugged, and a user-replaceable power cord. How could I turn down all that extra awesomeness? Now I can’t wait to move in, so I can cook something in it! (I know, it’ll probably just be steamed white rice.)

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Internal Conflict

11 November, 2009

(Just some background – at work we use DVCS with a one-branch-per-feature policy.) You know when you’ve got a few source control branches on the go, because you’ve been splitting time between a few features, but you’ve kind of been neglecting one, because it doesn’t feel like the most important thing to do? Don’t you hate it when you pull the latest mainline onto your neglected branch, and there are like a million changes, including adding/deleting/renaming files and major refactoring, and you get a bunch of merge conflicts? You’re thinking, “Why do people have to change so much all the time?” and you just want to blame someone. You know what makes it even worse? When you take a closer look at the list of changes, and realise it’s all the stuff that you’ve been pushing on to the mainline.

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Mean

10 November, 2009

You know those people who say things to the effect of, “One in two people has below average intelligence,” with a really smug look on their face? The satisfaction they seem to get from flaunting their fundamental misunderstanding of statistics makes it pretty clear which side of average their intelligence falls on.

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