Israel third on the moon

This article from Forbes says that all going well, by December 2012 a bunch of Israeli scientists will have landed a probe on the Lunar surface thereby making “the Jewish State the third nation (after the U.S. and Russia) to land a probe on the moon.” The story may confuse some people or lead them astray due to some subtle American linguistic imperialism. Israel may in fact be the third, but only after the Soviet Union and the US, not the other way around. The Soviets landed first, with Luna 2 in 1959. It wasn’t until Ranger 4 in April 1962 that the US reached the moon.

Funny thing is that after July of this year, the US will be incapable of launching their own astronauts into orbit. Only Russia’s Soyuz will remain.

Goodbye, Angus

The fallout of Borders bookstores falling into financial ruin in the States seems to be the downfall of a beloved bookstore from my childhood. Angus and Robertson were operating in Murray Street back before it became a pedestrian mall. In my early adventures travelling into the city to catch movies and explore, I’d more often than not end the day at Angus and Robertson flicking through reference books or the Sci-Fi section. I actually won a door prize for being the 100th person to pick up some particular book on display at the front of the store. Some guy with a microphone jumped out from behind a door and scared the shit out of me, yelling at me. I didn’t understand anything he said besides “The book is yours to keep!”. So I grabbed that book and ran as fast as I could out of there as if he was one of these “strangers” I’d been hearing so much about. After I ran a couple blocks I was able to process what he was saying. I’d won a book! It was called Danny Dunn and the Voice from Space and was the start of a small collection in that series.

Well, I can’t say times have changed much since then. Through my teens and into adulthood I’d often find myself at Angus and Robertson flicking through reference books and Science Fiction novels. The only thing that changed was the location. Angus was now across the street from their original location next to Old Mr Mitchum and his Corner Shop into a new flash multilevel premises.

But a couple weeks ago I saw they’d shut their doors and a little bit of me died inside. Salt was rubbed into the wound upon seeing the notice hung in their door:

On Adversity

Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.  -M. Kathleen Casey

If you’re going through hell, keep going.  -Winston Churchill

A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn. -Unknown

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.  -Mother Teresa

We do survive every moment, after all, except the last one. – John Updike

Music to make love to

I like music. And I like music playing when I’m “loving my wife in a very special way“. Most people have a list of tracks they rattle off when talking about their favourite songs to make love to. It might be songs from their youth, or the song that was playing when they first met their partner’s eyes across a crowded room. Or it could be a song that just “fits” somehow, stirring the right emotions. I don’t have such a list of songs. I’m more of an album kinda guy. Hey that’s right, ladies. It’s how I roll.

To this end, here are some of my favourite soundtracks to listen to while performing nocturnal marital duties. You’re not going to find any Barry White here:

Mezzanine by Massive Attack: This album manages to create a broad spectrum of emotions. It’s got ups and downs, it’s got fast beats and slow ones. All this culminates in the final act: Group Four. Seriously, between this and 100th Window if Massive Attack is rockin’, don’t bother knockin’.

High Times: Singles 1992-2006 by Jamiroquai: To hate Jamiroquai is to hate life itself. Jay Kay has the moves, the grooves and his tongue in his cheek and listening to the best of usually rubs off on the listener in good ways.

Adore by Smashing Pumpkins: Skip the first track, but from track two onwards you’ve got the makings of the perfect kinky bonking album.

Casual Gods by Jerry Harrison: Despite the dark but thoughtful and intelligent lyrics, it’s a great album to put on late at night. The music is hypnotic and layered, seductive and subtle.

Other noteables: Dummy by Portishead, Back in Black by AC/DC, The Crow soundtrack, Amnesiac by Radiohead.

Give them ago. You won’t be disappointed.

Ello. I wish to register a complaint

Dead Parrot

No, no. 'E's, uh, restin'

I surprised myself this week by writing my first ever letter of complaint to a business for bad customer service. I don’t really know why, either. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting old. Some people mellow with age, and I guess some people get more grumpy.

I’m usually a pretty patient kind of guy, but something inside me just snapped this day and as I was driving home I made the decision that someone’s gotta know that I’m unhappy. I think a few reasons contributed to my loss of self control including having to stand for most of my ordeal, and also having nothing to read besides magazines about Commodores. I mean really, Commodores are awful cars and a tyre place really should have more variety in their waiting room literature, but it’s something that I’ve come to expect living in the Peel region.

Having worked in retail I know that a complaint can ruin your whole day, but then again having worked in retail I know there’s standards of service below which you should not slip lest you incur the wrath of the customer. In Australia these standards are pretty low compared to, say, North America so you’ve gotta be pretty awful before someone will raise their voice in complaint against you.

Anyhow, onto the email:

I want to voice a complaint about service I got from Tyrepower last week. I called ahead and booked in to Mandurah WA Tyrepower on Tuesday 8th March for 10:30. I rolled up at the appointed time, ordered two front tyres and a front wheel alignment, handed my keys over and was told it’d be ready in an hour. I had taken the day off work and had hoped to be back at work for the afternoon.

I came back at 11:30 and found that it hadn’t been started which was disappointing.

It wasn’t until 12:30 that work started on my car. The tyres were put on, and the car was taken down off the lift but before I paid I asked if the wheels had been aligned as I’d asked. “Uhhh, no. But now we have another car in there so you have to wait”. It wasn’t until 1:30 that work started on aligning my front wheels and it wasn’t until 2:30 that I got my keys back and hit the road with no apology or explanation which was too late in the afternoon to go back into work.

Now, I’m not Mark Webber. I don’t drive a top of the line Red Bull RB6 Formula 1 race car, and I never expected to be in and out with new tyres in less than 4 seconds. I get that, I really do. But I would have hoped that by booking ahead of time and being told it’d take an hour that work would have been completed in the ballpark of the agreed time. I understand things go wrong, things happen and can take more time than expected and I can make allowances for this. But 4 hours to change two tyres and align the wheels is a bit long I think. Or am I being unreasonable?

One other point I want to make is that the $2 fee to dispose of the tyres was never discussed or agreed upon when making the booking, and no alternative was given when I was asked to pay. I understand there’s a secondary market for used tyres where rubber and steel are bought and sold as commodities to be recycled so to charge me $2 so Tyrepower can profit from this is a bit cheeky.

I will no longer be using Tyrepower for my own cars, and will recommend against Tyrepower to friends, family and co-workers. Thanks for your time.

Brian Hoover
Perth Australia

I sent this to the WA head office. The response I received so far has been along the lines of “Let me contact that office and I’ll get back to you” from the Retail Development Coordinator. But nothing in the days since then.

I’m probably wrong about the market for tyre recycling, but that extra little $2 gouge upset me too.

So, have I been unreasonable? Was it wrong to expect the appointment to be kept? Are my expectations of a 1-hour turnaround for two tyres and a front wheel alignment to high? Is it wrong for me to complain about this scenario? And just what is the state of affairs for tyre recycling in your part of the world?

Why you should not be worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors

I really hate idiocy of any kind, especially in news and current affairs shows. Well no, I tolerate idiocy in small doses and am guilty of idiocy myself, as anyone who reads my blog or is a facebook friend of mine knows. But there’s a few places where idiocy should not be tolerated, and one of those places is between the hours of 5 and 7 on the nightly TV news.

There is a lot of hype and even some stupid nonsense being thrown around in the media about the nuclear situation at Fukushima, Japan. If you don’t understand nuclear power, seek out discussions on the topic from the retired Navy communities, many of whom work on civilian reactors today and are discussing this issue in numerous places all over the interweb. A good place to start is the comments of this post at Bubblehead. Also see Dr. Josef Oehmen’s comments here, a very useful read for context and perspective.

A few details that everyone needs to know:

The reactors that are being discussed in the news were successfully shut down. The problems are related to post shutdown safety.

People who compare Fukushima and Chernobyl don’t know anything about Fukushima or Chernobyl. This is like comparing the safety, survivability, and resilience of kayaks to battleships. Everything that made Chernobyl a disaster (lack of safety, redundancy, political pride etc) is what is making Fukushima a successful containment of a serious problem.

This event in Japan is the worst case scenario. First you have a 9.0 earthquake, then you have this massive tsunami, then you have the freezing weather that compounds your water problems. In the case of Fukushima the earthquake knocked out the power, forcing them to move to generators. The tsunami came along and knocked out the generators, forcing them to move to battery power.

The battery power has very limited life, somewhere between 8-24 hours, and we are somewhere north of 54 hours on battery power now at the nuclear plants. Obviously that creates a serious problem with these old reactors that require electricity for cooling. By the way, it’s worth noting, the new nuclear technology does not require electricity to cool.

Observing that this is the worst case scenario and that Fukushima is Japans oldest nuclear power plant it’s worth highlighting that there is still no evidence that there has been loss of containment or a leak that represents a public health concern. The leaks to date have been controlled and regulated as part of the safety procedures. Keep your heads, people; all of the public safety being done from iodine to evacuations is part of the predetermined Japanese nuclear safety plan which can be found online (I have not found an English version).

The Fukushima plant situation is serious, but it is not some emerging catastrophe some are making it out to be. And not, it’s never going to become a mushroom cloud. NUCLEAR REACTORS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!

The only catastrophe is going to be for the nuclear power industry where sheep who don’t know any better believe the tripe fed to them from news services, who are in the business of making money from hyperbole and scaremongering. The sheep will vote for politicians who play on their fears, promising to not allow nuclear power to progress. Don’t believe the hype.

Japan earthquake and tsunami – Google Person Finder

A cousin of Suzanne’s who is living in Perth is married to a Japanese girl who hasn’t heard from her parents since the earthquake, which is really sad and quite a shock.

Google has put together a Person Finder tool where people worried about the plight of their loved ones can look them up by name, which is a great humanitarian effort from the search giant.

Prayer for Japan

Things we need more of, and things we need less of

Do you have the feeling, as I do, that in the tsunami of everyday life we’re getting too much of stuff we don’t need and not enough of what we do? Herewith my first set of suggestions about how to redress the imbalance:

We need less of this: We need more of that:
Information Wisdom
Shallow billionaires Passionate teachers
Self-promotion Self-awareness
Multitasking Control of our attention
Inequality Fairness
Sugar Lean protein
Action Reflection
Super sizes Smaller portions
Private jets High-speed trains
Calculation Passion
Experts Learners
Blaming Taking responsibility
Judgment Discernment
Texting Reading
Anger Empathy
Output Depth
Constructive criticism Thank-you notes
Possessions Meaning
Righteousness Doing the right thing
Answers Curiosity
Long hours Longer sleep
Complaining Gratitude
Sitting Moving
Selling Authenticity
Cynicism Realistic optimism
Self-indulgence Self-control
Speed Renewal
Emails Conversations
Winning Win-win
Immediate gratification Sacrifice

Via Tony Schwatz