Songs from Dad to Daughter


Lots of people have been reading my blog about my new song Watch Me daddy. Obviously lots of fathers are looking for something special for their precious girl, especially when she gets married.

Here’s my song. Why not drop me a line and see if I can come up with a version that fits your precious daughter. I can put together a slideshow with your photos and rewrite some of the lyrics so that they tell your story together.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Skyscrapers and high society


The race is on to build the world’s tallest building, yet again. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia they are working on the first building the will be a mile high. No this isn’t a joke, it will be more then 1600 metres tall and will be called Mile High Tower. It is due for completion in 2012. You could join the mile high club without getting on a plane!

I’ve been to the top of buildings like the Twin Towers (and grateful for the experience and respect to those who died or were injured when she came down) and Sears Tower, well this is almost 3 times as high as Chicago’s ediface.

Why are they building it? In this case mostly I suspect because they can. Because Prince al-Walid bin Talal, who owns the Savoy, can. Is he doing something that is needed because of a shortage of land in Jeddah? I don’t think so. I wonder if he hsa a very large ego that he needs to house. If the Sears Tower contains 4.4 million square feet the Mile High Tould have to have close to 10 times that amount of space because the base would have to be enormous to hold up the rest of the structure.

Aside from all the issues of building and trying to pump wet concrete a mile into the sky, there are also power issues. Imagine how much electricity it would take to power a building like that? Suggestions are that the building can house a huge number of solar panels and in many cases it’s height could mean that while it is raining on lower floors, the higher floors will be basking in sunshine. maybe the ecosystem could capture boh the sun and water and try to head towards self sufficiency. As to energy use, I wonder how much energy it would take to send a room service meal from the ground to the penthouse?

This is the stuff that they have been writing about in Science Fiction for years. Imagine having a penthouse apartment that is so high up that you can’t go onto your balcony without an oxygen mask because the air is too thin. They say that from the penthouse you will be able to see the Middle East, the Pacific Ocean and Africa.

Because of the height and technology involved you would need to have 10 or more lifts just to get to your apartment. Imagine what would happen if you had to evacuate it in hurry.

A building that big would be like a medium sized town. You would have everything you need in a homogenous environment. Schools, shops, busineses, you would have your own hospital, police station, everything.

But who would want to live in such a building. Sure it would be great to have an apartment in it so that you can say you do. It would be great for corporate events. But would you want to live on the 351st floor of an apartment building? Imagine if the power went out and you had to climb down 350 sets of stairs to get to the ground.

I’ve never lived in an apartment. I’ve enjoyed staying in hotel rooms 30 floors above the ground, but this is something entirely different. I don’t much like gardening, but I do like living in a free standing home where I can turn the stereo up loud and go and sit by the pool or potter around in my rock garden. I find the whole idea of living in a building which for practical reasons, you never have to live, to be quite claustrophobic, but it will happen. Many others feel the same.

If the future means that more and more people live at great heights, this might help with the development of new transport technologies as they try to find more economic ways to move around. Who wants to spend 15 minutes standing in lifts to get to the ground floor. They won’t be able to go too fast because you are likely to suffer effects of gravity and air pressure. There will off course be helipads, but that’s a little expensive for the average person.

I’ll leave the last word to BOB with his 15 reasons to live in a skyscraper :)

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Proposed carbon tax for new and used car imports into New Zealand


I was surprised to read this one in the Herald this morning, where the Government is considering a levy on all car imports coming into New Zealand, based on their CO2 emissions. According to National’s finance spokesman Bill English, this could add $10,000 to a Holden Commodore based on $150 per gram of CO2 emitted per kilometre travelled, above the standard of 214g CO2/km.

Sound like more revenue gathering to you? It does to me. They want levy’s on our petrol, they are going to build PPP toll roads (as long as there are alternatives I don’t have a problem with this one) and as always are very innovative in taking back any income tax reductions that they offer us in other ways.

If they do this, have no doubt that this will affect you, just as their engineering of interest rates has affected the whole economy and is driving some people out of their homes. The thing is that people are already straining the public transport systems a increased fuel costs bite into their home budgets forcing them to leave their cars at home.

Yesterday, on my way back from visiting some car manufacturers (ironically), I had to turn off my air vents because a bus was blowing great plumes of smelly diesel smoke right into my car’s air con system. A little further on the motorway I got stuck behind one of those Japanese import refrigerated trucks that was likewise blowing exhaust soot at me. The back of the truck was almost black from soot that has come out of its exhaust. I’m not sure I’d be keen to buy the food he was transporting.

So here’s the thing. Instead of taxing vehicles as they come into the country and penalise everyone indiscriminately (and yes I do understand that CO2 is not the same as the soot smoke I was complaining about), why not tax all cars at the time of Warrant of Fitness testing for the percentage of pollutants they have control over. Make the owners of smoky, sooty, poorly tuned cars pay the levy, or just like any other warrant failure, go back to the garage, get their car correctly tuned and go back for another try.

It seem to me that, because many countries already have stringent motor vehicle emission standards, the quality of the exhaust output on new cars is going to continuosly improve. It’s the cars, vans, trucks and buses that we have here already that are the problem and if we cause enough pain for those vehicles to be tuned up, a lot of the problems will go away.

The Government is very keen on users pay, so make the real polluters pay, not just a blanket levy on every vehicle that comes into our country. It’s very simple really. It’s transparent and the Government will not be opening themselves up to complaints of revenue gathering. It would be far more consistent with their user pay policies and their claims that they want to reduce pollution by bringing in these levy’s.

As a footnote, a question for someone. Do the bus companies have their own testing station and produce their own Warrants of Fitness? How is it that there are so many smelly buses on the road puffing great clouds of black smoke at pedestrians and cars behind them. Why do people have to hold their breath as these buses go past. How do they get away with it?

Using CAPTCHA to digitse old books


This morning in the shower I was listening to Digital Planet, one of my favourite podcasts from the BBC. No I’m not sad, I just like to maximise my time:)

They interviewed Luis von Ahn about how Carnegie Mellon University is are using CAPTCHA technology to help digitse very old books that are in the public domain.

What is CAPTCHA? It is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers & Humans Apart” You will have found that many times when you register to use an application on the web, or perhaps when you want to invite someone to be your ‘friend’ on MySpace or leave a message, you will see a small clump of letters and you have to enter what you see into a text box.

The reason for this is because spammers and hackers create bots, that allow them to access information and pretend that they are real people. For example there are people running businesses where they can guarantee you lots of ‘friends’ on MySpace for a fee. Personally I am against this and ultimately it is a waste of time, because just being able to say that you have thousands of friends, doesn’t actually help you in any way.

Just to sidetrack for a moment. I have lots of ‘friends’ on my MySpace page, 3967 at last count. They are people who have requested my ‘friendship’ or vice versa and because of that personal relationship, wherever possible, I have a fan base that I can use when I have a concert or gig that I am performing. I can use this to make contact with them, even by geography, but that is really a topic for my About Songwriting blog.

Anyway, many organisations are trying to digitise as many books as possible to allow them to be read as eBooks. The best known of these is Project Gutenburg, which has already digitsed more than 25,000 books.

The problem with older books, especially those prior to 1900 is that the pages are fading and the fonts are harder to read by OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tools, which themselves are still not 100% reliable. On a tangent, I hate reading books that are not perfect. My eBook Unleashing the Road Warrior was edited 12 times to get it as good as possible and I was dissapointed to find an error on page 309 of Stephen King’s latest book, Dumas Key, but that’s another story:)

So what the Carnegie Mellon people have done is to scan the pages and have created a tool which grabs 2 at a time and feeds them into the CAPTCHA environment. So now when you complete a CAPTCHA that has 2 words instead of random letters, what you are actually doing is not only autheticating that you are indeed a human, you are also helping transcribe these old books and ensuring their texts are protected for future generations to enjoy, is that cool or what?

Personally I find CAPTCHAS a pain in the proverbial, but having learned this, I am feeling a lot better about them.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Pharmac funds flavoured condoms


A couple of nights ago I was in an urgent chemist with my daughter to fill a prescription who was suffering an allergic reaction to something. We were discussing generic drugs.

In New Zealand, many drugs are subsidised by Pharmac who are a government agency. we were talking about Zyrtec which is an antihystamine which works very well for sinusitis and related allergies. This drug used to be subsidised but has been replaced with a cheaper generic drug, which according to Pharmac is identical.

The chemist said that he himself suffers from the condition and has tried the generic, which didn’t work for him and Zyrtec which does. he further went on to say that he spoke to people who work for the generic drug manufacturer at an international coference and they told him that the majority of the factory staff will not use the generic drugs they manufacture themselves, and favour the original manufacturers product.

It’s all about money and I understand that many asthma sufferers in New Zealand also had major problems when their Ventolin inhalers were replaced with another generic. I wonder how much it costs the taxpayer when people get prescribed cheaper drugs which are ineffective or less effective and end up in hospital.

So to the story today, I just received a tweet from the NZ Herald to say that Pharmac is now funding flavored, ribbed and otherwise enhanced condoms. I am all for free condoms to reduce unwanted pregnancies, STD’s and any other consequences of unprotected sex, but if they can cough up for fancy prophylactics, surely they could also fund effective drugs and help patients access what their doctors want them to take?

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

The Trouble with Orcon


I note that many people are reading my blog about Orcon and the trouble I have had since I signed up, so I feel obliged to give you an update.

Things have improved to some degree, I frequently have days where my connection only drops out 1 or 2 times, but I am still experiencing dropouts, disconnections this week:

  • Saturday 16
  • Sunday 31
  • Monday 27

I also noted that people have found me when searching about the 2 for 1 movie tickets for a year that were promised as part of the connection deal. Well I signed up 4 months ago and still haven’t seen them. If they do arrive, I hope they will still be valid for 12 months and not the remainder of the year. But at this stage I’m not holding my breath on ever seeing them.

I don’t know if it is because of the interleaving, but our Caller ID doesn’t work on the phone about 50% of the time, which is annoying.

My wife wants me to go back to Telecom and thinks I’m an idiot for putting up with Orcon’s poor service. As a footnote, Orcon did come up with a $100 credit for my troubles. Funny thing is that a couple of weeks ago, even though my payment is made automatically by direct credit from my American Express Card, and I had the $100 credit, I got an email saying that my account was overdue and asking me to do something about it urgently. I was tempted to send one back saying that their service was overdue and could they give me a reliable connection urgently.

So, the bottom line? Still having plenty of disconnections, no 2 for 1 movie tickets as promised, intermittent caller id and no satisfaction. Should I be calling Fair Go?

Support for Valerie Vili at the Olympics


This evening on the New Zealand TV One News there were complaints that Valerie would not talk to the press. Valerie is a wonderful athlete and person who gives lots of her time to the fans and the industry. I met her at a major sports event a year or so ago where she was supporting Drug Free Sport and their pledge and education program. She was so accessible to her fans and happy to sign autographs and be in photos.

She is in Beijing to win a medal and hopefully gold and given that she has trained hard for he event, she has every right to do whatever she feels she needs to do to achieve her goals. She owes the media nothing. I am loving the Olympics and TV One is doing a fantastic job with the coverage, both on TV and with the live broadband coverage. But if the athletes want to focus on winning medals and not giving interviews beforehand, don’t get prissy, respect them for sticking to their guns.

She is an awsome role model for young Kiwi athletes.

A footnote. Last night I stayed up till about 3 o’clock flicking between the All Blacks mighty win over the Springboks, the first time they have held the South African’s scoreless, while they got a magic 19 points, which was great consdering the kicking from a usually flawless Dan Carter was a little off.

Anyway, Valerie won the Gold Medal from her first shotput throw which you can watch here, and I had to restrain myself from jumping for joy and waking the rest of the household. Of course everyone got there interviews as I knew they would. Valerie will probably spend a lot of time in the rest of this year giving back to her coach and supporters.