Random Rant


It’s tough being gay, so I am told


Gay Times, bad times:

That was the heading in Australia Age news paper today.  The story was actually a well researched one, with lots of good points, the central one being that bullying of gay kids is far too prevalent, and should stop.  But I am gonna take a different spin on the story.

The article cites a number of examples of how gay youth are mistreated: by organisations like schools, by bullies, and by family members.    Overall it paints a negative picture about gay rights for kids, and being young and gay.

I completely agree with the underlying message that bullying of gays has to stop and that everyone has a part to play in this, including family, schools, and workplaces. BUT I disagree with their central premise that somehow it’s getting worse.  Coz I dont think it is.  I think it’s getting better.

In fact one commenter on the Age web site summarised it so well:

The article states: Young homosexuals are suffering more abuse than ever, particularly in schools.

The reply: With the exception of all of human history up to this point

I think it’s getting MUCH MUCH better and here’s why.


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Online News

Stuff I read online


Here’s a wee list of stuff I read online

Daily (or almost):

Most days (or like to keep up to date on):

And for good deals I check these out a lot:

And just good blogs/opinion every week or so:

Black and White Version: There is lots of cool stuff online, trick is weeding thru the crap! :-)

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Stuff you should not skimp on


I quite like bargains, especially for quality stuff (yep, I like champagne on beer money).  So I use web sites like www.wotif.com to book hotels, buy $30 bottles of wine on special at the supermarket for $9.95, and spend $14 to fly to Sydney with AirNZ when it’s on special.

But IMHO, there are just some things one should not skimp on and here they are listed below (in no particular order).

Stuff you shouldn’t skimp on:

  • Oil for your car (even a cheap car) – get a good grade synthetic like Mobile 1.
  • Cornflour: Get Fielders (or whatever your good local brand is).  Same applies to baking powder.
  • Toilet blue thingies you put in your cistern.  The cheap ones just don’t last.
  • Your daily coffee – enuf said.  If you don’t understand this one you never will.  And if you don’t have coffee daily, then you are broken, that or you live in America where one can’t get good coffee.
  • Vanilla Essence.  Don’t buy imitation vanilla essence, ever.
  • If you live on a computer all day, and/or it’s your main work tool, get a good one.  This means one that doesn’t crash and is fast enuf to do what you do regularly without you tearing your hair out.  This probably means getting a Mac :-)
  • For men that wear them to work: black socks.  You wear em for 8+ hours a day, so make sure they are 95%+ natural fibers (like cotton or wool).
  • Ice-cream.  The $9 a litre stuff is just SO much betta than $5 for 2l.    This of course assumes you don’t eat it every week, just as a treat.
  • Pizza.  Actually scrap that, pizza is like sex, even when it’s bad it’s kinda OK.
  • Flowers for special occasions: Spend the extra $ and get a nice bunch, that or go minimalistic (single red rose).
  • ISP providers – esp if you use the net a lot.

Just to be clear, no one payed me to plug any particular brand, and no brands have given me permission to use their name.  I just blog about stuff I like and use.

Black and White Version: Cheap stuff works well sometimes, and quality cheap stuff is even better. But sometimes it’s just not worth skimping.

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Vodafone – the good and the bad and the bullshit


Any reader of this blog will know I like Telecom’s XT network.  And no, I am not paid to say that, I don’t work for, nor have I ever worked for a telco (or a supplier to one). I have always just been a customer/end user.

Anyway, I have commented before about how Vodafone’s network does have issues too, but Vodafone issues often go unreportedWell the lastest issue that Voda has are causing quite a stir (along with this blog post on Voda’s crappy network)- not the least of which because they are denying its a problem.   I found their recent excuse most laughable (from this NZ Herlad Story)

At certain times of the day there’s a lot of congestion … What happens in Wellington is they come out of a meeting and all switch on their iPhones at the same time and find it’s congested.

This is either spin (which I think it is) or Vodafone has very serious problems. If a network can’t handle a few dozens smart phones turning on at the same time in a major city, then the network has MAJOR issues.  How do they handle airports (aka a few hundred?)   Actually come to think of it, this is bullshit, since 99% of people don’t even turn phones off, they just put them on silent when in meetings.  So yeah .. cut the crap Vodafone!

Anyway .. the good news is Voda are planning a speed upgrade (maybe because XT keeps kicking their arse in speed tests?)

Good to see voda also understand the real value of their 2G GSM network too

Baird also announced that Vodafone will push out the life of its aging GSM network until at least 2020. If there are problems on the 3G network customers default to the 2G network – ensuring, in most cases, that there is no total loss of service.

He said that customers value the GSM network as a “fall back position”.

“They like the redundancy it offers, so we’ve made the call to keep the GSM network operational for at least another decade.”

I’ve blogged about this a lot, how one of Telecoms issues is they have no fallback from XT (their other network is incompatible).

The BIG difference I see here is how Telecom (XT) and Vodafone respond to their issues.  Telecom fronted up and admitted it, and did something about it while Voda seam to be in denial mode.  Not a good look voda. (In fairness, XT’s issues were more significant, but that’s not the point I am making here – it’s not whether or not issues happen, it’s what they do about them when they do).

Black and White Version: Voda network appears to be under pressure, and lots of unhappy campers.  Speed upgrades coming.

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(Random) stuff I like


Here’s a wee list of stuff I like, in no particular order:

That is all.

Black and White Version: I like stuff, I just listed some of it.

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Christchurch earthquake, insurance and milking sympathy


By now everyone knows about the recent Christchurch earthquakes. Well OK, not everyone.  For the Americans reading this: New Zealand (which is NOT part of Australia – think down a bit and a tad to the right) had a major earthquake (7.1) hit our 2nd biggest city.  No one died, but a fair bit of damage, especially to our older buildings in the CBD.

Anyway, I want to jump the gun on a media story, before it happens.  You see I am just waiting in dread for the oh woe is me story about how some person who didn’t have insurance has now lost everything.  Here’s how it will go:

  • Picture of mum and kid looking very unhappy with some broken stuff of some kind
  • Something about some special need for the kid, or a special toy or something
  • Details of how someone cried when they found it was broken
  • Some add on  about not being able to afford insurance

It MIGHT be worse, in that maybe the item wasn’t broken by the earthquake, but stolen by bad people after the earthquake.


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Awesome iPhone App – Consume


I recently downloaded a free iPhone app Consume.

I have to say – it rocks!

It allows you to get real time updates on any mobile account, broadband account, and even track couriers in any one of 18 countries (with over 200 providers)

I added my Vodafone OZ pre-pay iPad sim, my Virgin OZ pre-pay mobile sim, my NZ Slingshot home broadband, my US T-mobile pre-pay sim all in around 20 seconds each.  The only two I have issues with are Vodafone and Teleocm in NZ.  The later because I can’t access ANY online data about usage since my connection is thru Gen-i and (for now), there is no way of checking usage online for any Geni-i accounts.  Vodafone NZ wont work for me, but I have no idea why.

Example of what the app shows:

Anyway .. it’s works very well, giving things like “MB/day” left for any broadband plan with a cap, and will even tell you if you are tracking to go over your data cap when its part way through the month.  For pre-pay it will show $, and also any free things left (like 2-Degrees free texts).   Given that it’s free I have to say – get it and try it!

Their web site reports that an iPad version of Consume is coming – and the images look great already!  You can also read another (positive) review of Consume here

Update 30th August 2010: It gets better – this app even does things like Flybuys and OneCard (for non kiwis these are both loyalty programmes in NZ) and even does tracking of Apple orders.   As James pointed out, it does Airline Frequent Flyer programmes too!

Update 11th Sept 2010: I got Vodafone working finally.  Appears Voda had something wrong at their end.  So now the only one not working is XT (any of my sims) since I am with Gen-i.  Might swap a sim to a simple pre-pay and see if it works.

Black and White Version: Consume for iPhone rocks!  Get it.

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Online Shopping – how to do it safely and get good deals


I was going to write a big post all about how to shop online safely, use search engines, use last minute bookings sites, how to check for scams, then though, nah, why not cut to the chase and just say the key points.  So here it is, Richard’s tips for effective (aka good prices) and safe (aka don’t get ripped off) shopping online.

Richard’s Online Shopping Tips:

  1. Learn how to use Google. Enuf said here, but really, do it.  This, together with my last tip (credit card) is 90%  of it.
  2. For good prices on products available at multiple places, use price comparison sites like pricespy and shopbot.  There are NZ examples,  if you are in another country, follow tip one and Google “Price comparison sites” from your local version of Google.
  3. For hotels etc, use last minute booking sites like WotIf.com.  Gone are the days that booking early saves money, it’s the other way around now (exception: Big events when hotels will sell out – book early then!)
  4. If you are not sure about a particular web site, then Google them, and add the word “Scam” onto the end.  eg This is my Google search for firsin.co.nz scam.  You can see the 3rd and 4th links show negative comments (I know, coz I wrote them!).
  5. For overseas sites that look some unusual ordering process, or super crazy price, or funny shopping process – chances are they are scams. Also, Be wary also of country variances, the same product may not be the same in all countries, iPhones may be locked, clothing may be different sizing are just two example. Also watch for warranties and counterfeit products (this tip was updated thanks to Anton – see 1st comment on this post).
  6. Beware of claimed discounts. Do your homework on a products actually retail price before gabbing something just coz it was on sale (often the RRP prices are inflated on sites)
  7. Same goes for any claim of “better” for a product.  Check it out first (see tip one on Google).
  8. Check out places like TradeMe (kinda like NZ’s EBay) for both new and used versions of the same thing.  On TradeMe, use SafeTrader for large purchases (or do cash on pick up).
  9. Watch for shipping charges - especially from dodgy sites.  A $10 item turns in $50 quick!
  10. For sites you haven’t dealt with before check these things:
  • Do a WHOIS search on the supplier.  Legit suppliers don’t have their domain expiring in three months (amongst other things)
  • Check on web site rating sites.  (Google to find others)
  • Check out the product at consumer sites (again, Google to find others)
  • If the offer looks to good to be true, it is, end of story.

Finally, ALWAYS buy online using a credit card. That way if the goods don’t arrive, or are not what you ordered you just reverse the transaction.  There are few steps to follow to do this, but the onus is then on the supplier to prove they delivered what you ordered, not the other way around.

Black and White Version: Online shopping can be VERY convenient and get access to an extended range of products at often lower prices, but like anything beware.

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A black and white world – by Richard


Anyone that hasn’t picked up the theme of this blog being black and white must be living under a rock or something.  But anyway, I realise that at times my posts are far from black and white, so here is my attempt to make up for it with a black and white, good and bad, hero vs villain wrap up of the world.  I will resit adding any footnotes to explain anything I say here, if ya wanna know more – Google it :-)   Here goes, in no particular order or grouping:

Richard’s Black and White commentary on the world’s (sometimes not so big) issues:

Stuff people say (which isn’t true)

The real deal…

Fat is bad for you Sugar is bad for you
Alcohol makes you fat All the crap food you eat at 3am when you are drunk makes you fat
Margarine is better for you that butter Butter is better for you that margarine
Focus on calories Focus on eating well (i.e nutrition)
People love Apple (macs) coz they look pretty People love Apple (macs) coz they work well (Oh, and they look pretty too!).
For good signal quality, buy expensive digital cables Digital either works or it doesn’t. There is no such thing as “quality digital”.  Cheap digital that works is just fine.
Right wing (politically) greedy capitalists are bad Right wing (politically) conservative greedy capitalists are bad
Greenies are out of touch and wrong Left wing Greenies are out of touch and wrong
You have to do {insert exercise of your choice} to lose weight You have to do SOME exercise to lose weight – and more often, and at a higher intensity
Eating {insert food} helps me gain muscle Protein PLUS resistance training helps grow muscle
The rich get all the tax cuts in NZ The rich pay most of the taxes in NZ
Any extreme religious group is bad Any extreme religious group that expects anyone else to follow their way of life is bad
Global warming is a major issue for the planet Global warming is a major issue for HUMANS, the planet will survive just fine without us.
CEOs/Politicians with big credit card bills are bad Personal expenses paid for by an employer, no matter what payment method, is bad.
On global scale, screwing the environment is the major issue for the future On a global scale, over consumption is the major issue for humans for the future.   The environment is just where we see its effects most.
Justin Bieber is gay Justin should be held under water till he stops struggling, but he’s not gay.
One should never joke about {insert politically incorrect thing} Humour, used appropriately, is a powerful way of getting a message across, especially for sensitive subjects
Right and left wing political supporters want different things Right and left wing political supporters want quite SIMILAR things, but disagree on how to achieve it
Jetstar in NZ is crap Oh wait, that was is true, JetStar is crap.

Black and White Version: Some stuff just have to be said, some stuff not.  But I just say it anyway :-)

Disclaimer: Most of this is serious advice.  There is one joke in it – and its either the JetStar or the Justin Bieber one – you can guess which I think is a joke :-)

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squeezy cheese

What’s wrong with the world


I try to make some big (and by big I don’t mean long, I just mean somewhat important, or thought provoking) posts every now and again. To balance this off, sometimes I go for trivial, and let’s just say if this post was a swimming pool, there wouldn’t be a deep end. So ….

What’s wrong with the world (my black and white simplified version):

  1. Squeezy cheese: This one is easy.  Cheese is already cheese, and just needs to be chopped, grated, melted or otherwise mushed up into whatever culinary use you want to put it to (or just eat it straight).  Put it in a bottle?  NEVER.  It’s even worse than cheese slices – I mean I am not sure if it’s more nutritionally sound to throw away the cheese and eat the plastic wrap from these or the other way around, but that’s a whole different story.  Anyway, squeezy cheese is BAD and WRONG, stay away.**
  2. FaceBook posts by teenagers: My initial thought here was to be specific and use the example of posting random inane crap no one but the poster cares about like 2am: Why can’t I sleep. or 10.30am The lady on the seat next to me on the bus smells. But then I thought about how they also post random song lyrics (I think it’s their version of poetry) in bid to communicate (something, I am not sure what).  Then there is their desire to post stuff to peoples wall (i.e. public view) that should be a private message.  I think this is a desire to be seen to be nice to other people in a semi-public way, but not sure, since most of the posts like this are “nice” posts.  But my pet peeve is when they post something like Cancer is bad, post this on your wall to show support for cancer suffers. Like WTF?  Sorry to burst your wee bubble but that won’t actually help anyone.  Yeah, sorry life sucks eh? (but you are a teenager, you knew they right?).  It’s almost as bad as when they try to be deep, when all it looks like they are doing is a cut and paste jobs from famourquote.com or something  eg In life we sometimes have challenges, but they are there to teach us a lesson. Sometimes we don’t know what this lesson is yet, but the lesson we must learn all the same. I mean come on, you’re kidding right?  Do you even KNOW what that means?  Is this the same person who just posted OMG I hate my mum coz she won’t lend me the car 10 minutes earlier? Oh, and while I am at it here is a message for teenager: i dnt gt txt spk. 4 fks sake jst ad a vowl or 2 K?
  3. How the new chipped credit cards take so long to do an Eft-Pos transaction. Really, I mean come on everything gets faster these days (OK, except for computers running windows, and iPhones running iOS4, but that’s a different story).  It used to take 3 seconds, how it takes like 7, sometimes 10 seconds.  Sheez, hurry up already.  I am waiting.

**: I was gonna say instant mashed potato is wrong.  Coz it is.  Coz potato is already potato, so it’s like, well instant.  I guess it’s not pre-mashed.  So OK, that makes it pre-mashed potato.  Anyway, instant mashed potato is wrong for the same reason instant coffee is wrong.  And if you don’t get that then you deserve a life of instant coffee, instant mashed potato topped with squeezy cheese (and no that wasn’t a compliment).  (The one exception is that you are allowed to use instant mashed potato when camping/hiking.  But instant coffee is NEVER allowed, even then.).

Black and White Version: There is a lot wrong with the world, squeezy cheese, teenagers FaceBook posts and chipped credit cards aren’t helping.

PS: In case you missed it, most of this post is written in humour.  Except for the bit about squeezy cheese, that’s for real. :-)

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