Category Archives: Daily Adventures

Devastation in Japan

Like most of the world, I spent a lot of time on the weekend just shocked at the amount of damage done and the number of lives lost in Japan.    My thoughts and prayers are with all affected.

I seriously can’t fathom how they will rebuild the many towns lost.   It just seems like too large a challenge.   Surely there must be a number of small communities or small towns that no-one has accounted for yet?  *sigh* 

And then my heart sank even further when I heard that after the earthquake, then the tsunami, that there are problems with their nuclear reactors too!  What else can go wrong at once!   Why did they build nuclear reactors on land where there would be a high percentage of earthquakes?

And why is 2011 starting so badly?  The cyclones in Australia, bushfires in Perth, flooding and cyclones in Queensland, earthquake in Christchurch and now this.  

And to add to the bad timing or coincidence – last night, Wifey and I just watched the West Wing Season 7 episode last night where the San Andreo nuclear plant nearly had a meltdown.

Today I stumbled across this blog post by Dr J Oehman, a research scientist at MIT, describing the nuclear reactor situation in the most clear way I have read yet.    It’s definitely worth a read.

Donations can be made here:

Save The Children: http://www.savethechildren.org.au/what-we-do/emergencies/japan-earthquake

Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org.au/Donations/onlineDonations.asp

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Becoming Spiderman

It was my nephew’s 4th birthday this week! 

So on the weekend, we made a trip into Toys’R’Us to try and find a present.

Being a father to daughters only for 11 odd years, I have been brainwashed into “girl” toys – you know, Barbie, Bratz, dolls, cutesy stuff that is pink in colour, crafty things, diaries and stationery, bags, earrings, headbands, etc. 

But walking into the store with my mind on boy toys – ALRIGHT!  I could buy something like cars, scalectrix kits, remote control cars, boy lego, figurines, fake weapons and more.  Ahh, the stuff I missed from my fatherhood 🙂 

We ended up buying something I could not resist – a SPIDERMAN outfit! 

WITH FAKE MUSCLES!

When he had it on, I could literally FEEL the testosterone radiating from him. 

There must have been something magical about the outfit because as soon as he put it on, he was immediately posing, hands on hips – admiring his unbelievably huge muscles. 

Ahh.. boys…

Failing at Rubik’s 4×4 Revenge Cube

A friend left their 4×4 Rubik’s revenge cube at our place a few weeks ago.

Miss 10 and Miss 11 didn’t even take a second look at it. 

But it was there, on the table… staring at me..  DARING me… to try and solve it.

Everytime I walked past, it was as if it was taunting “COME ON!!  TRY AND SOLVE ME!  YOU KNOW YOU CAN!” in an evil Voldemort voice.

So I tried.

I wrote down the colours, and figured out which ones should go on which face.    But after doing 1 layer, this is as far as I got.

I was STUCK!! Aaarghhhh..   stupid cube.  I knew it..  I shouldn’t have taken up your Voldemort challenge.  Because I’ve now failed!

But aha!  Not yet..  I have a secret weapon – the “internet”.  I quickly punched up “Rubik 4×4 solution” into Google and found a whole stack of walk throughs.

I WILL have my revenge…   when I have some time..  maybe this weekend?  🙂

Updating the map on the Garmin Nuvi 260W

A few years ago, I bought my Dad a Garmin Nuvi 260W GPS.   It was a good GPS in its day – but I think now its interface is a little basic.

Well, it seemed to be working fine for my Dad until he wanted to go to some place up in Landsdale.   And for some reason, the Garmin GPS just did not want to navigate to a specific address up there.  It was as if the address did not exist.  Actually, it seemed like there were only 2 or 3 addresses on Landsdale Road!   What happened to all the other houses and businesses?

I thought that it would be a good time to update the maps on his GPS.   Luckily, when I registered the Nuvi, we were informed that he could get one free map upgrade!  Awesome!   (Although, I was thinking – shouldn’t EVERYONE get free map upgrades for their GPS?   I’m somehow getting free updates for my TomTom GPS on the iPhone.  Aarghh, it seems that some recent purchasers do get free lifetime map upgrades – http://www.smarthouse.com.au/Automotive/Navigation/E3S5J9V3)

So, the GPS was connected, I pressed the buttons to update the map, but no..   I got an error message saying that there wasn’t enough memory!

What the?!?

I’m scouring the net trying to figure out how to get around this.

There was some text on the Garmin website that said “In some instances, your Garmin product might not have sufficient memory remaining for you to load an update to the same map Data originally included with your Garmin product (or purchased separately, as the case may be), in which case you will need to select reduced map Data coverage for your updates.

Unfortunately, when going through the screens to download the maps, I only have one choice – full coverage of Australian and New Zealand!

In a similar thread on the Garmin website, someone seemed to indicate that the software will assist you in freeing up some space – but I didn’t see any prompt like this, maybe it’s for the Windows version only?

Some other posts on the net start delving into removing or moving files off the GPS.   And I started playing around with this.   One useful thing about the Nuvi is that the files inside it appear as a USB drive.   So I could see that it only had 33MB free of 250MB.   Not good.

I first copied ALL the files over to my laptop, and then progressed to deleting off Voice and Text files for languages that my Dad wouldn’t need and deleting off the example images in the JPEG folder.   I might have even deleted the gmapprom.img and gmapprom.sum files (the pre-loaded maps).

And then it was all OK!  The update worked fine.  The GPS still booted up and had maps on it.

And it found the weird address in Landsdale that my Dad was looking for.

So, if you’re having problems updating maps – check out how much free space there is left in your GPS, take a backup (copy) of everything on there, clear out unnecessary files, and google “gmapprom.img” if you need to move the pre-loaded maps off.

New queueing strategy in Target and other stores

At the front of the Target checkout queue

Notice the new way the queues to the checkouts work in Target, K-Mart, Big W?   Everyone is in one big queue, served by many checkouts – rather than separate queues for each checkout.

Does it really work?  The line is dismally longer, making me feel like it’s going to take a really long time based on my previous experiences.  Target sneakily makes everyone walk past their confectionery and other knick knacks.  However, it seems that the line does move more often.  But do you wait any shorter than you used to?  According to queueing theory – the study of queues – you’re meant to!

By making everyone queue in one queue only, in a FIFO (first in first out) mode, this is meant to reduce the average wait time and improve the feeling of all those in the queue.

Think about it:

  • The customer to be served next is always the customer who has been waiting the LONGEST.  In this regard, it is fair.
  • A side effect of this is you don’t end up comparing the speed of your queue with the one next to you.   EVERYONE is in the same queue, being processed at the same rate.  So you should be happier 🙂
  • And since there is only ONE queue, you don’t have scan all the queues to figure out which one to choose.  There is only one to choose!
  • Hold ups in one register will not hold up the next person in the queue as they will be served by the next available register.   In the old system, if one queue was held up, then EVERY person in that queue would be held up too, magnifying the cumulative waiting time for all customers.
  • Because the one queue is being serviced by multiple registers, it moves faster, hence giving you, the customer, the perception that the checkout register people are actually working.
  • The shop can open up another register with no need to re-organise the people in the queue.

So Target thinks they have improved their queueing system, and they have!

But can their system be improved?

Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Introduce some indication to customers how long it will take to get to the front of the line.   This is done in Disneyland and some other queues where it can take a long time.  Maybe it’s not required in Target if the wait is only a few minutes, but around Christmas time and big sales time, placing a notification like this will help let customers tune their expectations, and hence make them happier.
  • Always staff the registers closest to the queue first.   On the weekend, I noticed that many of the registers near the queue were empty.  The problem with this is, once register X has finished with the last transaction, they press their buzzer to call the next customer Y.  But if register X is far away, there is much lost time waiting for customer Y to reach the register.  The registers farthest away might have to wait 15-30 seconds for the customer to make their way to them.  This is wasted time.    They didn’t have this problem with the old system since the next customer was probably just a metre away.    If I were Target, I’d do some measurement of how long each register spends between customers and see if there is a correlation between time and where they are positioned.

Some other posts I stumbled on that you may also find interesting:

Queueing Theory in Action – http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ericlippert/archive/2009/08/20/queueing-theory-in-action-plus-frogs.aspx
How not to design a Supermarket checkout – http://www.katherinealsop.com/2009/11/17/how-not-to-re-design-a-supermarket-checkout/
The Checkout Line – Why is it so slow?  – http://www.betterprojects.net/2011/01/checkout-line-why-is-it-so-slow.html

Vendor Bids at an auction

Yesterday, I was a sneaky beak and poked my head in at an auction for a house across the road.

I had never been to an actual house auction before.   There was quite a large gathering, maybe 25-30.   But it seems that most people there were locals or neighbours!   There only seemed to be a few people actually interested in bidding during the auction.

The thing that caught me by surprise was when the auctioneer put in a “vendor bid” and the price rose by $100k all by itself!!   I thought to myself, “What the? How and why would the vendor want to bid on his/her own property?”   And then he proceeded to ask for any raises on that at which someone did.   I was most confused!

In the end, the highest bid that was passed in hadn’t passed the reserve price and so the highest bidder has first dibs in negotiating with the seller.   The auctioneer insisted that the property was going to be sold that day – I don’t know how as the highest bidder doesn’t need to move any higher right?

I obviously don’t know much about auctions and would need to do heaps of research before buying or selling using one.   They’re not that common here in WA.

Have you used an auction to buy or sell a house?  Would you do it again?

Here’s a few links I found that seem to have useful info about auctions:

http://www.lawyersconveyancing.com.au/auctions.asp

http://beachandbay.com.au/realestateblog/the-vendor-bid-vs-the-reserve-on-auction-day/

http://www.jenman.com.au/BS_B_Auction.php