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June 14, 2014

Where's ya bin? (14/6/2014)

There's this old joke.

Council worker to youth sitting in front of a house: "Where's your bin?"
Youth: "I's bin to Melbourne to see my sister".
Council worker: "No, where's your wheelie bin?"
Youth: "OK, I's weally bin in gaol for trying to steal a car. Police cars should have signs on them".

So where have I really been? My time over the last couple of weeks has been spent thus ...

An old book comes back to life (14/6/2014)
One of my favourite entertainers, the late Peter Allen, sang a song called "Everything Old Is New Again". He might have been singing about my literary efforts over the last couple of weeks.

I have edited and reissued in digital form a book I wrote a few years ago. Rumour has it that it was the best-selling non-fiction book in Australia in 1997. This isn't a new edition (because it's a historical record) but has been tidied up, some errors have been corrected, some places where I disagreed with the editor's edits have been reworded or put back in, and I'm generally a bit more satisfied with it than I was with the original printed version.

You can go here to read a bit more about it and buy a copy, or if you're impatient you can click on the button below and be taken straight to Amazon.

Get your copy from Amazon.

See more Argyle Sweater here

And speaking of (at?) SkeptiCamp ... (14/6/2014)

I will be speaking at SkeptiCamp in Brisbane on July 19 and I've been working on my talk. My topic will be something I haven't spoken about before, continuing my tradition of doing something new every time I appear at one of these events (titles of previous talks have been "Keeping your skepticism out of court", "Do be a dick", "We're so skeptical we can't be fooled", and "Getting yourself hated" ( a discussion of my hate mail collection).)

The usual practice for SkeptiCamp is that people turn up on the day and reserve speaking slots, but the unorganisers have decided to do things a bit differently for this one and have published a program. It's too late to get on the speakers' roster now, but you can still attend and participate. It's free, and food and cupcakes are included in the price. You can see details of the program and the event here. If you can get to Brisbane on the day I encourage you to come. There will be a lot of interesting speakers. Plus me.

I'm keeping the details of my talk a secret, but as a teaser here is one of the slides from my PowerPoint presentation.

And something to look forward to (14/6/2014)
I've started work on a new book. It will be an anthology of things I've written and talks I've given over the last fifteen years or so. I was a little surprised at how much material there was (and how little I got paid for writing it), so it will be published in stages. I'm experimenting with Amazon's Kindle publishing system using the first couple of chapters and the results so far have been encouraging but not quite what I want. It's a matter of learning how to do it, and if other people with less experience than someone who does IT consulting for a living can get it right I assume that I can get it right too. The working title is "Things I Think About", but as you can see from the early cover art things are still a bit blurry.

Anyone who has ever posted a question about a PC problem to Facebook will know that within a short period they will be given the useless advice to "Get a Mac" or to change from Windows to Linux. I had a similar experience with this. Amazon's preferred format for the original of the book is Microsoft Word. I happen to be rather competent with Word (I've taught it at TAFE) and I posted a comment about how I had to make some changes to get the Kindle book to look the way I wanted. Almost immediately I was told that Word is useless for anything (no, it isn't), that I should use LaTeX, that I should write it in Word without formatting and then use Adobe InDesign to lay out the copy, and, yes, that I should stop using Windows and change to Linux. Have I mentioned that Amazon want a Word file and they reformat it to the way they want Kindle books to look? As they used to say in the papers in Nature before the editors said "Stop that!" - further research is needed.

Then there's the book about management idiocy, gleaned from years as an external consultant ...

See more Jesus and Mo here

July 3, 2014

Sort of apology (2/7/2014)
The domain was unreachable from late on Sunday, June 29, to Wednesday, July 2, and visitors were seeing a message saying that the account had been suspended. This was caused by a bureaucratic and administrative problem at the hosting company. Annual renewal of the hosting contract was due on June 29 and was paid two days earlier, but the payment was not processed for some reason. It took me three days of emails and phone calls to sort it out (although it has not yet been fully resolved and the reactivation is temporary while an investigation takes place).

I apologise for any inconvenience, but I can assure you I was as inconvenienced as anyone. I had much better things to do this week than chase this up, including setting up a new laptop computer to replace the trusty old one that died after ingesting too much beer (don't ask!) and handling all the usual end-of-financial-year nonsense. Because I effectively lost a week of real working time I haven't had time to do much here, so I will be back on July 12 with lots of interesting stuff.

Don't worry, I'm not going away any time soon. There have been many announcements of the closing down of this site in the past. All of them have been inaccurate. I think my favourite was the threat by Tim Bolen, spokescloaca for quacks, who predicted in 2012 that the crooks at Doctor's Data would take me to court and I would be "gone from the internet, a bad memory, like a fart in an elevator". I'm still waiting.

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