I'm all for the resumption of whaling

Last night on the news the Japanese delegation to the International Whaling Commission proposed a compromise that would see commercial whaling start up again. They want to allow coastal whaling in Japanese waters.

Now I'm actually all for traditional whaling communities continuing to hunt whales. But there's a catch: they have to use traditional methods. None of these steel-hulled, diesel powered boats. How about a canoe? None of these explosive harpoons. Try a hand-held one. This way we can be sure the people are doing it because of their link with tradition, and the numbers taken will be kept low.

I think this is a compromise we should push, if Japan is in the mood for compromise. My money's on the whales!

Agile: NOT!

Today's DailyWTF is The Great Pyramid of Agile which is really an attack on crappy analogies rather than agile methodologies. I don't have a lot of experience with agile development. I have a lot of experience with places that claim to use agile methodologies.

Just this week I turned down a second interview at a company that claimed to use agile. The thing that sent alarm bells ringing for me was that the only aspect of agile offered was "we do two week sprints". So what they're saying is they expect me to work 24 hours a day two weeks out of four, and still end up with a pile of crap.

The horror stories that are giving agile a bad name are all due to companies like this. They pick and choose the elements of agile that sound good: no documentation, no (up front, but they miss that bit too) design. All sounds good from a business perspective, and with the promise of it being a better end result and faster! Except that losing those bits needs to be balanced by other features: close iteration, self-documenting code, up-front tests, pair programming, actually doing testing.

So I'd love to see some agile programming where people are actually doing the whole process. XP sounds great, this new "lean" that's all the rage sounds nice, though once again the name is sucky and misleading.

What's really interesting about all this discussion on software methodologies is that we're talking about the meta of development. Realising that 90% of the problem is actually understanding what we're solving, getting a handle on what the customer is aiming to do. The take-home is that if you interview a programmer who shows no interest whatsoever in methodology, don't hire that programmer! Even if you use a crappy method of development, and most places too, having someone who's passionate about improvement can only be good!

I might go and talk to ThoughtWorks. Simon seems to enjoy working there and I've now met some of the people in the Sydney office. Might need to brush up on UML though.

Dawkins is right, if a little abrasive

There's been a lot of criticism of Richard Dawkins and his anti-theist, with him being compared to fundamentalists and proselytizers. Yes, he can be a bit abrasive and he can certainly offend people, but all he's doing is analyzing people's beliefs through the best tool we have: science. Probably the best critique was the hilarious South Park episode that featured him.

The thing is, we atheists don't want to convert you. All we want is to not have your religion forced down our throats. Stop assuming that believing in fairies is the default position, or that it doesn't need to be defended like any other idea.

In particular, there's a couple of things that really get up my nose:

  • Religion should be taxed like any other business. Genuine charitable activity, and this doesn't include business expansion ("evangelism") costs, can be tax free just like secular non-profits.
  • Don't go saying your morality is better than my morality just because your morality comes from your imaginary friend.

Hope you all caught The Root of All Evil? on ABC last Sunday. The second part is on this Sunday.

Fajita

Last night I made fajita for dinner. Apparently it's supposed to be the diaphragm muscle of a cow, but we had some rump steak in the freezer that needed using, which I cut into strips. I marinated the meat for an hour or so in lime juice, sugar, Susan's chilli jam, ground cumin, soy sauce and a little salt. I fried up some sliced onions, mushrooms and capsicum (sweet pepper) and reserved, then cooked the beef strips over high heat.

Served as a serve-yourself dish with tortillas, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and avocado. We didn't have any tomatoes, but a spicy salsa would do well with it.

Very very yummy! Next time I'll do it on the BBQ to reduce washing up and because there's more space than our fry pan.

Telstra moaning: the media finally catch up

It seems the media has finally caught up with the real story behind Telstra's rants and raves. If I were a conspiracy-minded person, I'd suspect that the proprietors were waiting until Telstra had booked all those lucrative full-page ads before reporting the story. Much more seriously, it's because the media really doesn't get the telco business.

For the benefit of foreign readers, Telstra is the incumbent telco in Australia. UK people think BT with a much more toothless regulator (LLU is still something of a dream here). Americans think if AT&T hadn't been broken up and was still in control. Telstra are frothing at the mouth in an attempt to get the government, in an election year, to make some kind of grubby deal that entrenches Telstra's monopoly and locks out their competitors. Fortunately, and this is unusual for our current government, they've stared them down so far.

And so today we have Why we all hate Telstra, where Mark Pesce (the guy with the American accent who's introduced, cringe-worthily, as a "futurist" on The New Inventors) bemoans the pathetic Internet access in this country. "Everyone in Australia's internet industries hates Telstra, ranging from quiet passive-aggressive fury to spit-the-dummy, foaming-at-the-mouth passion", he says. Something that certainly mirrors my experience.

I remember back when my brother and I got our first phone line installed, paying $300 (this is 17 years ago, so it was a substantial amount of money back then) to get the line installed, then coughing up $30 a month in "line rental". For this exorbitant fee, we were guaranteed nothing in terms of data speed. If our modem couldn't get top speed, tough luck. Telstra claims it invested to build the network. That's just crap, we the consumers paid through the nose for it!

Next is an anonymous editorial from the Courier Mail, Bully boy amigos which interestingly picks up on the xenophobic aspect of Telstra's advertising. Every time they mention Optus or the G9, they never fail to include the terms "foreign owned" or call it "Singtel-Optus", a formal name never used with consumers. What I always found ironic is that this is coming from foreigners Sol Trujillo, the CEO, or the PR flack Phil Burgess, both of whom are foreigners. It's quite amusing seeing them go for the jingoistic approach when they're both "not from 'round here".

So it seems the tide is turning. People are sick of the hysterical ranting from Telstra. I wonder if they're smart enough and will change the tone of their campaign?

TAFE needs to lift their game

I want to learn how to weld, as I think it's a useful skill to have. So I go to the obvious place for tertiary education, TAFE NSW who provide exactly this kind of thing. Sure enough, they have what looks perfect and in the right location for me, this course. Now do you think I can work out when the hell this course actually runs? All I can tell is that it's part-time, runs in the evenings and is 8 hours per week for 18 weeks.

So how do I work out what evenings it's on? There's nothing that I can find telling this kind of practical information on their. Doesn't give me a whole lot of faith in some of their courses.

Update: Will, you're commenting in exactly the manner I envisage. I don't have comments on my blog. I have too much to worry about without stopping blog comment spam. Send me an email! Your return email, as entered in the form, doesn't work.

Real estate dictionary

We're looking at houses and we've encountered plenty of real estate jargon. Here's some handy descriptions to benefit others.

  • cute and cosy: tiny
  • easy maintenance courtyard: concrete courtyard
  • stroll to shops, transport and ameneties: on a major road
  • great for first-home buyers: a lifetime of repairs or knock it down and build your second home on the land (courtesy of Kaz)
  • studio: answer the door, put the kettle on, change channels on the telly and surf the net all without having to get up off the toilet (ripped off from Guardian some years ago)

Got any more to add?