How to treat your customers

When phoning to ask for a piece of information, unless you are sure the customer has screwed up, don't use language like "you didn't give us your..." as if you are in the wrong, you give the impression you are blaming the customer. Instead, assume you screwed up somehow or there was some miscommunication. Language like "we don't seem to have your..." is nicer.

Yes, my recruitment agency lost my Tax File Number Declaration. They phoned me with "you didn't give us your Tax File Number Declaration" when in fact I did. In their office. And handed it to them. Signed. With my Tax File Number on it.

Kind of interesting that they've discovered this today, when I was told my pay would be in my account by Wednesday.

Recruiter blacklist: Sapphire Technologies

I applied for a job advertised by these recruit-scum. Turns out they're flogging training, not jobs. I didn't hear from them, and saw the same ads getting posted day after day so I assumed there was something odd about them.

Just now I had a call from them trying to sell me training. Scum!

A quick look shows they're still advertising these illusory jobs.

Wonder if this breaks any laws?

What happens when you microwave silica gel?

Found in a can of "Mexican spicy peanuts" from Thailand, one of those little packets of dessicant. As well as the usual "Do not eat" notice, it also says "Do not microwave". Talk about red rag to a bull! Now I wanna know what happens when you microwave this sucker.

Answers through my contact form and I'll post them here. Make it fast or this contract I'm on might come to a short, sharp end when I blow up the staff microwave.

Update 10 Oct 2006, 17:10 AEST

Roger advises:

I've microwaved silica before with no ill-effect.  It should be
done with a glass of water alongside as there isn't enough liquid in
the sachet to absorb all of the microwave energy.

The reason for the warning may be due to that, orto discourage the
idea that they are reusable, or because they contain something more
sinister that really shouldn't be microwaved.  Whatever the reason, if
you try it, I'd suggest a glass of water on the side, and don't
inhale. :p

Well Roger may be onto something, assuming it's Silica Gel... Seems some of them add indicator chemicals, which could be nasty. Though why they would add them to a closed, sealed container is anyone's guess.

These spammers try everything

Wow these spammers are tenacious. I woke up this morning with a bunch of spam sent through my contact form, which was built specifically to avoid spammers getting my email address. Interesting that they'd bother hitting this, since it's clearly just designed to send mail to me alone, not a wiki or anything.

I wonder if this is being hit by human beings or by robots? I've put in a rather easy question to test this, and I'll see if I continue to get spammers this way. If it's human beings (presumably third-world cheap labour) it would be very difficult to avoid.


I've been using a mobile phone calendaring service for the last six months or so. It's really rather good because it integrates into the Nokia calendar I use on my Nokia 6630, and you can synchronize it with the web version. It's a lot easier to enter stuff in the web interface than on the phone, and the interface is better.

The SyncML interface means you can enter calendar entries from either place. So if you're sitting at your desk and someone sends you details of a party, you can add it right in. But if you're out and about, you can equally easily look up your availability and add a new item. Very cool.

The developers are very receptive to bug reports and feature requests. I found a bug with recurring events (specifically, Critical Mass which is last Friday of the month) and they responded and fixed it in a couple of weeks.

Apparently ical support is on the feature list for a near-future release. This would allow me to subscribe to various events from other websites. I'm thinking NSW public holidays and fixtures for Sydney FC and the Socceroos.

So all around, a very cool service. For those of you who require buzzword-compliance, the UI of the web stuff is suitably AJAXy.

I believe their business model is to sell the service to Telcos as an add-on for their customers. At the moment, and they claim forever into the future, it's free. Regardless, if they were to fold tomorrow you could always sync to another SyncML service from your phone as a migration path.

Clueless web designers are everywhere

Martin Brooks is audbly seething about clueless web designers who can't even write browser detection Javascript that works across all the (narrow range) of Windows browsers they support.

These people are everywhere. I just went to fill in my timesheet for the contract I'm doing through Kelly Services (well, they're one of the intermediaries anyway). This is the message I get:

For optimal performance, this product requires Internet Explorer (IE)
5.0 or above. Earlier versions of IE or other browsers may be used
however you may not access full functionality.

Of course a timesheet is a really complicated piece of software. I mean, you've got to enter the time you started, the time you ended and the time you spent on lunch for every day of a whole week. This kind of bleeding-edge functionality just can't be done in your ordinary, plain-vanilla browser, you know!

The reason they've used this message is they have some "helpful" Javascript on the page which means that once you've entered the four-digit, 24-hour clock time into the field, it automatically moves you to the next form field. Because tabbing is definitely beyond the average user.

Except that if you make a mistake and click back into an already-filled field, the magic Javascript tabs you to the next field. So you have to--entirely intuitive this--click into the field before the one you want to edit, and the Javascript magic takes you to the field you actually want to edit.

Wow, you certainly couldn't do useful stuff like this in a cross-platform manner without spending megabucks, I'm sure!

Summer Lamb Couscous Salad

This is a quick and easy summer salad that I've been making for years. It's tasty, healthy and dead easy to make. I find it's particularly suited to those long, hot summer evenings when you don't want to be making anything too complicated. Quantities are pretty approximate, so I wouldn't bother measuring stuff.

British cooks be careful with the commonly-available sweet chilli sauce. It's way too spicy, so use less or get hold of the much milder Thai stuff available in oriental supermarkets.

Serves 2


  • 2 lamb fillet slices
  • 1/2 cup sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1.5 cups couscous
  • 1.5 cups boiling water
  • Juice of six lemons, or limes to the same volume
  • Salad vegetables, julienned for the carrots, cucumber, pepper (capsicum) types


Cut the lamb into 1.5cm-wide strips and mix through with the ground cumin, half the sweet chilli sauce, a liberal grinding of pepper and half the lemon juice. Leave to marinate an hour or more, covered in the fridge.

Mix the remaining sweet chilli and lemon juice into a sauce. This is easiest done in a sealed jar, but can be done with a teaspoon in a little jug if you want to be classy.

Heat a frying pan to very hot with a little oil. Fry the lamb strips until a nice golden charring is on each side. The sweet chilli will caramalize. Discard the remainder of the marinade.

Prepare couscous by placing an equal volume of couscous and boiling water in a bowl and covering. Leave for a few minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Serve in bowls. First the couscous, then the salad vegetables, finally the lamb strips. Allow diners to add the sauce to taste.

Got some work

I've finally got myself a job, doing content management at AAPT. Should be an interesting gig. It's interesting it's taken me a while to get work. The usual experience of recruit-scum being all hot for you and then never hearing from them again. I would have thought the "I can start tomorrow" part would have helped, but it's all taken a while.

Anyway, this contract takes me through to at least January, so after we've saved a bit we should be able to rent outselves a house. Woo!