Thursday, 31 May 2007

Commitment Fee

Last night Deb and I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End in the Gold Class cinema at Indooroopilly. But what I want to talk about is the booking fee they charged me to reserve the tickets.

When I called up during the week to book, I mentioned that I had gift certificates. The phone operator replied that there was now a charge of $2.75 per ticket to book for Gold Class over the phone. My immediate gut reaction was that Birch, Carroll and Coyle are money-grubbing. I probed a little further and learned that the booking fee does not apply if I come to pick up the tickets in person, and this just confused me. Why charge a booking fee for one specific contact channel?

So I did some thinking about it and decided that it must be what I'd call a "commitment fee", meant to ensure that phone bookings result in actual sold seats rather than just hopeful reservations. If you've paid something for the tickets, they must have found, you're more likely to show up. I didn't feel any better about the system, but I understood it.

An idea struck me later. If the object is to ensure that people show up for their bookings, then it's only the ones who don't show up that need a prod. But how do you charge a fee only to no-shows? My solution is to refund the booking fee when the customer shows up. That way the incentive is maintained - enhanced, even - and my ire at the situation is completely removed. Problem solved.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It'll never happen.
PPS - But I plan to write a letter.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Lost and found

In mid-March, I found a flash drive near a bus stop. I printed a flyer and hung it up there to see if I could find the owner and, of course, had to include some contact details. I put my mobile number on there. The first call I received was from an incredulous girl whose only explanation for the flyer was that the police must have forced me to do it. She didn't quite believe that there are people in the world who would try to return lost property of their own free will. After our brief conversation, she sent me a four word text message: "You strange, nice person.." I just hope she would be led to find out what makes a person like that. It's a seed moment, and I have the impression that I'm just part of a much larger story here.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course it's a larger story.
PPS - It's a life story.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007


For some bibliophiles, it might be handy to keep their reading list elsewhere and have it managed by the library. Each item could be delivered by mail as the previous one was returned. In essence, it would be Netflix for books.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Not sure how much you could charge for it, though.
PPS - Probably just postage.

UPDATE: Lifehacker linked to BookSwim on 23-Aug-2007. Their base plan is $20/month for 3 books at a time.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Married Life

So far I'm enjoying married life because so far it involves a holiday and getting tons of presents. I'm all on board for more of that, but I'm aware that's not how it goes. It would be impossible for me to know what I've gotten into just yet, but living with Deb so far has been good. We're still arranging our bedroom and other bits and pieces, tidying up and moving things around. When it all settles down, I'll have time to think.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - For now, unpacking and sleep.
PPS - I predict at least a month before things are completely settled.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging: 28 Weeks Later

I've recently seen 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to 2002's 28 Days Later. First impressions were that it was a bit heavy on the gore. I've struggled to understand why I see zombie movies at all when I'm not a fan of gore, and I settled on the survivor stories. I like seeing how people hold up under life or death struggles. Zombie movies provide a setting of a well-defined yet somehow unpredictable enemy.

In 28 Weeks Later, post-zombie England is being repopulated by the US army, but one immune carrier of the Rage virus starts a new outbreak and the fragile reconstruction comes to an unfortunate end. Everyone becomes a target, not just for the infected humans, but for the "peace-keeping" snipers too. The story follows the children of the immune woman, whose blood may be the key to fighting the deadly infection.

The story plays out well enough, except perhaps for the hero-sacrifice moments that tend to grate a bit - when a character makes the "supreme sacrifice" of his own life for that of others. If it's not done well, it's just cheesy, and that 28 Weeks Later moment had me making cringing faces. The other worrisome aspect is when infected humans stop and stare for a menacing moment. It seems out of character, but necessary for the tension. A tough call for the director, I'm sure.

The verdict: 4 out of 5. Subtract 2 if you can't stand gore.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Yes, I know it's only Thursday.
PPS - But it's my blog and I'll do what I want, so there. Nyah.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Autoposting failure

So it's happened again - I've tried to set up an automatic posting schedule for a holiday and it's fallen over in my absence. Perhaps I should have left it running at work instead of at home. Anyway, a quick wrap-up of the last few days: Deb and I are married (pictures to come when I return home) and are currently enjoying our honeymoon in a still-secret location. Sort of, anyway. I expect word has spread back home, but broadcasting the exact missile coordinates over the net seems reckless to me, so I'll keep my mouth shut. Figuratively speaking.

Many thanks to everyone who shared the day with us and brought so many gifts (as yet unopened, back at home). Deb will enjoy opening them, and I might even get to do one. ;) It was wonderful to see all our friends and family again, even if the nature of the day meant conversations were brief. Thanks again. Back to the honeymoon!

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'll let you all know where we went when I get home.
PPS - And I'll try to get Anthony to fix the auto-posting program for me.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

The Sunday Mok - In absentia

Sunday - When I got home in the morning, I slept for one hour before going to church with Deb. We checked out some places for wedding photos, read some more of Harry Potter, and after church in the evening we hung out at Scott's for a while.
Monday - Deb and I drove out to Scarborough to meet the rest of the church crew for lunch. In the evening we watched Cassanova, interrupted briefly by dinner.
Tuesday - The only day of work for the week. I documented my support activities as best I could and ran to karate from home.
Wednesday - Deb and I watched Talladega Nights at her place in the morning, then drove to Brookside to do some gift shopping. We worked on orders of service in the evening.
Thursday - I picked up the suits for the wedding, worked on the orders of service some more, had dinner at Dad & Beth's, then had a visit from Jeremy who will, unfortunately, miss the wedding.
Friday - More orders of service, including buying more toner for the printer. The yard for the reception was coming together and we had a rehearsal plus dinner.
Saturday - The wedding itself. Best man Miv spent the night to get ready in time, David drove us boys to the church and reception. We left late in the afternoon to drive to the wedding night hotel.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This Sunday Mok was prepared in advance.
PPS - Then it was posted retroactively.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Last-minute wedding preparations

So tomorrow's the big day. Thus far we've managed to avoid any major hiccups, but I'm getting progressively more stressed. I shouldn't - everything so far has just fallen into place. This has probably been the second-easiest wedding ever planned (every eloping couple ties for first place). That doesn't mean it's been stress-free, though. "Stress-free wedding" is as much an oxymoron as "water-free ocean".

So I'm looking forward to tomorrow with a mix of anticipation, excitement and nerves. I still have to pack for the honeymoon and our orders of service are coming together as I write. Apart from that, I'm good to go.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My back is currently made of knots.
PPS - I'll see a chiropractor when I return home.

Friday Zombie Blogging

Microsoft have created a commercial for their own product that depicts a mob of Zunes as a zombie horde. It's a bizarre move and it's either going to endear the portable media player to zombie fans or make everyone else fear it. Time will tell. The writer of the article I've linked doesn't think it's a good idea.

Update: here's a more direct link to the video.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I agree from a marketing point of view.
PPS - As a zombie fan, I think it's cool.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Chaser's security response experiment

The Chaser's War on Everything filmed a security response experiment where they dressed up alternately as an American tourist, then in stereotypical Arabic robes. In the robes, they were very quickly pounced on and moved along, while the American tourist costume allowed them to continue filming. I just wonder if it was the robes themselves that caused the issue or whether they would have had the same trouble if they had, say, been wearing a rabbit suit.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Just a thought.
PPS - Not a very coherent thought, I'll admit.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Friend "smart playlists"

If you rate your friends on the familiar five-star scale and then keep track of when you last spoke to them or emailed them, you could easily bring up a list of your five-star friends you've been neglecting. Then you could know where to direct your efforts in keeping up your personal relationships. This would be best used by socially-challenged individuals who may not realise they are neglecting some friends, or very social people who are too busy to realise they haven't seen someone in a while.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - "Normal" folk are unlikely to see much benefit.
PPS - The email monitoring could be handled automatically.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Anthony Callea never won Australian Idol

It struck me when I heard Anthony Callea referred to as "the winner of Australian Idol" that, in a very real way, he did win. He came second, but he got his recording contract and much more popularity and recognition than the actual winner, Casey Donovan. So I have to wonder what happened. Was Casey not that popular? If so, how did she get so many votes?

My primary theory is this: viewers of the second season of Australian Idol would have seen Guy Sebastian appear there. He made a comment to the contestants that went something like "Shannon Noll got the better deal, because he got more time to make his album and none of the contract restrictions I had". Therefore I believe that the viewing public gamed the last episode of the series to give the "real" prize of recognition and no pressure to Anthony: they voted backwards. After all, if the real prize is second place and there are only two contestants left, it's easy to manipulate.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Any voters care to elaborate?
PPS - Either confirming or denying would be acceptable.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Too tired to be tense

There's a point you can reach in a hard karate class where your muscles are still strong enough to hold you up, but there's no spare energy. In that state, you will sometimes find that your techniques are faster and you're moving more easily than before. Because your muscles are tired now, they're not fighting against your own movements. That's the kind of relaxation that you need to move quickly.

I think I've reached a similar emotional state once or twice in my life. My mind gets too tired to put up a fight any more, and suddenly I felt more relaxed. It's a very odd feeling.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If you keep going, you lose the advantage and just end up tired.
PPS - I expect the same is true of the mental version.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

The Sunday Mok - They Called Me Buck

Sunday - I had lunch at Deb's after the morning church service, then we went out to buy a mattress. We found a good one for 15% off. I sang up front for the evening church service and Erin, Bridgit, Deb and I had supper at McDonald's.
Monday - Work was quiet as I tried to work myself out of the support loop a bit more. I'm not looking to make a career out of keeping bad code running, so I write better code to replace it and automate some support activities. Deb and I played Mario mini-games in the evening.
Tuesday - I skipped karate in the evening to take Deb and Mia to a meeting at the church. I wasn't feeling like training anyway, though I realise that's no excuse. After the meeting we watched the final Dancing With the Stars.
Wednesday - Deb and I got curry for dinner, then read about 1.5 chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to each other.
Thursday - The workers came to polish the master bedroom floor after I'd gone to work. I bought Monopoly / Boggle / Yahtzee / Battleship for the DS at lunchtime and was disappointed that it didn't allow download play for Yahtzee or Monopoly.
Friday - After work, it was still light and I had some time before dinner, so I went for a jog. We had dinner with Deb, Mia, Linda, Mal, Dad and Beth to run down a final week checklist for wedding preparations. Deb, Mia and I played Nintendo DS games for the rest of the evening.
Saturday - The bachelor party. Briefly, 8 of us went go-karting, indoor rock climbing and bowling, played video games and watched Bad Taste, all thanks to my best man, Miv. By the time we got to the movie, it pretty much cleared the room. It was a senseless gore-and-gross-fest with a few funny bits. I thoroughly enjoyed myself all day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wouldn't mind going indoor rock climbing a bit more often.
PPS - My forearms might disagree initially.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging

Jonathan Coulton has a song titled "Re: Your Brains" on his MySpace page that is, well, very cool. It's written with a few office-speak phrases as a well-mannered, reasonable-sounding request to eat your brains. I love it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - He doesn't have it available for download as far as I can see.
PPS - I love the groaning zombie backup singers.

Reality TV: The Election Show

I think our political elections should be run like a reality TV show. Put all the "contestants" on camera 24/7 for about a month before the election. Award Survivor-esque points, sum up their daily activities and assign them pointless tasks to gauge their skills for office. Once we're done, we'll have seen much more reality from these potential pollies than we ever get through their usual campaigns. It should be the only form of political advertising allowed. That way they can't put together a slick 30-second spot for TV slandering their opponents, but are forced to do it in person and look like a whiner.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This post inspired by yet another dream.
PPS - Mostly.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Bringing work home

I don't like doing my job at home, so it was a while ago that I stopped programming for fun outside business hours. The same is reportedly true in other professions: janitors have dirty homes, chefs eat out. How many professions does this extend to? Do doctors resent having to handle their children's cuts and bruises? Are accountants' personal finances all out of order? Do professional counsellors have no patience and care for their friends and family? I wouldn't know, but I'd be interested to find out.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Taxi drivers would have a bad time if this is true.
PPS - And renovators.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

"Movies" is a word

Why do so few spell checking programs seem to know the word "movies"? I've encountered it in at least four different programs so far, and I don't understand. Perhaps they all populated from the same proto-dictionary list. Perhaps it's just my imagination that elevated the incident in my mind. Still, for it to happen even once seems like an unusual oversight.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Has anyone else encountered this particular spell checking irregularity?
PPS - Or anything similar?

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Communicating faster: email, IM, voice...

It is often the case that email is too slow and painful for some conversations. Those are the times that instant messaging steps in to save the day. However, there are some times when IM fails because it can also be too slow. That's when we want voice comms. There are probably times when voice is too slow for person-to-person communication. That's just too bad right now, because voice is about the quickest way humans are capable of communicating complex ideas to one another.

That's just my intuitive feeling, mind you. It could be that drawing diagrams while speaking increases the information volume you're able to convey.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't mean showing PowerPoint slides.
PPS - I do mean drawing on paper with one other person.