The humungatron

It bugs me sometimes to see those huge 4WD/SUVs rolling down the road, like every other car carrying the average 1.1 persons, and burning up way more petrol than is necessary and blocking everyone else’s view.

So it’s somewhat comforting to read this followup to the article in The Age Good Weekend a few months ago, about them. Oh, wait a minute, is it the SAME article? Or a US version of it? Whatever, a good read again anyway.

One of Ford’s senior marketing executives was even blunter: “The only time those S.U.V.s are going to be off-road is when they miss the driveway at 3 a.m.”

(via Scoble)

Equally fascinating is the same author’s piece on shopping malls.

Proper nouns

Brand namesA name is a proper noun. Under the rules of the English language, proper nouns are to be written with capital letters. Obviously this kind of rule can be ignored for stylistic reasons, such as for corporate logos. But in normal writing, such as you might find in a newspaper article, that’s a rule which should be pretty much followed, right?

So what makes K D Lang so special? It’s fine by me if she wants to put her name on her albums in all small letters, but why has this got into newspaper articles? Is it a name, or isn’t it?

Metlink, Amazon and Vodaphone have logos with all small letters. Doesn’t mean we write their names in small letters. Qantas uses a logo with all capital letters (why may be reasonable — it was originally an acronym after all). So do Australia Post, The Age, and a lot of other companies. Does this mean their names should be written in all caps?

Hell no!

(Actually, Australia Post do call themselves POST in their own literature. Doesn’t mean anybody else will though.)

Update 6pm. Just to clarify: I have no problem with her calling herself “kdlang” on her albums, in her publicity material, web site, etc etc. I just don’t see why the media and others have automatically adopted her convention, ignoring one of the basic rules of the English language. I reckon it’s kind of on a par with the media pronouncing Colin Powell’s name as Colon…


(Note: exaggerated whinging)

A gaggle of teenage girls on the train yesterday morning, joyfully debating the benefits of getting off at Malvern or Flinders Street. (huh? They’re miles apart). It eventually became clear that they were heading to St Kilda. (Why not any of the myriad of other stations then?)

But then they started on the activity that most train goers would dread the most: yes, that’s right… comparing mobile phone ringtones.

One held aloft a friend’s phone. “I’m just trying to find the one I use,” followed by a myriad of beeps. Why for heaven’s sake?

Another gleefully lunged for her own phone from her bag, pressed a couple of buttons and yet another travesty of a mystery tune (at least to me) emanated from it.

“Oh MY God!” was the reaction from her peers, obviously seeing some positive attribute in the monotonic tune that I couldn’t quite detect. “You have GOT to send that to me.”

“I can’t,” came the reply. Ah the joys of copy protected ringtones. Small mercies. The populace should be forever grateful that there’s no easy way of spreading the pain around.

Indicator rant

Look, I know it’s hard to use your car’s indicators properly. Having that little switch so close to your hands on the steering wheel, and remembering to use it to… err… indicate… obviously there isn’t enough training in this when learning to drive.

I’ll give you a few specific hints though.

  • To the guy in Prahran on Sunday morning: When you’re driving straight across an intersection, don’t put your left indicator on. Naturally I, the pedestrian who is crossing in front of you, am going to step back when realising what you’re really up to. The little wave to acknowledge this was gracious, but I’m hardly likely to do anything different, am I? Jumping in front of your car doesn’t seem like a sensible option. My repeatedly opening/closing my hand at you wasn’t designed to prompt that puzzled look you gave, but to prompt you to look at your damn indicator, which was still merrily flashing as you went past.
  • Same guy: I suppose on some levels it’s kind of amusing that you kept driving down to the end of that street with your indicator on, then turned it off at the end to turn. It doesn’t matter if it was a T-junction — you’re still meant to indicate when you turn. Either your indicators need some maintenance work, or perhaps you need to be sent to a re-education camp to learn how they’re really meant to be used.
  • The guy coming out of the service station in Carnegie on Sunday afternoon: you were turning right out of the servo to get to the intersection. Fine, all very good, first class. But your indicator stayed on afterwards. Which is why I drove around you. It was still clicking away. Since you weren’t turning at the intersection, switching the indicator off would have been a good idea, to avoid me thinking I can zoom away from the lights and then merge right… straight into your car.
  • The guy in South Caulfield on Monday morning: I drove up behind you to join the line waiting at the traffic lights. Yeah I could have taken the nearly empty left-hand lane, but it’s kinda bad etiquette if everyone else is queuing and nobody’s turning right. Besides you have the hassle of merging back. So I queued. We must have all been there a good thirty seconds. I even left a gap in case someone further up in the line decided at the last minute to turn. What I didn’t expect or appreciate was you waiting until the light turned green and we all started moving (including more cars coming up behind and to the left of me) and then changing your mind. That’s why I beeped my horn in frustration as I drove around you. Hint: the indicator is for indicating. Indicating to turn. Indicating to turn before you actually do it. A little forward planning is required, that’s all I’m saying.
  • To the P-plater zooming along behind me in Carnegie on Saturday: Yes I saw you back there. Yes your car zooms along. Very — yawn — impressive. You can tailgate with the best of them. Bully for you for living up to the P-plater cliché. I indicated a right hand turn in plenty of time, so you could spot it, slow down, and get around me. You only have yourself to blame that you took no notice until I’d slowed right down, then had to jerkily get around me at speed. I indicate, you notice and take timely appropriate action. That’s how it’s meant to work.


Dear Mr Wrong Number Man,

My name is Daniel Bowen. I said as much when I answered the phone. My name is not Ricky Bowden. Never has been. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Good luck in dialling the right number next time.

Dear PHL

Dear PHL970,

You know where you exit off the Westgate Freeway, onto Kingsway? Well you know how there are three lanes turning into Kingsway? You know how there are solid lines there leading from the freeway exit, around the corner into Kingsway?

Well the general idea is that you follow the lines. So if you’re in the left hand lane from the freeway exit, you end up in the left hand lane on Kingsway.

You don’t drift across while turning, miss my car by a few centimetres, scare the crap out of me, then continue driving merrily on your way oblivious to my horn honking just behind you.

Oh well, on the bright side, I did brake sharply enough to avoid hitting you. It would have been a bitter end to what until that point had been a thoroughly nice day.

The queue

Man I hate it when I’m looking for a big piece of coloured card for one of Isaac’s projects, and I dash into the newsagent that merged with the post office, look around, and they don’t have any. Then further down the road I dash into the post office that merged with the newsagent, and they have plenty, $1 a pop, I’ll take two thanks, and oh damn there’s only one queue, and one guy serving.

I’m in a hurry but I need these now, so I’ll queue. Behind the couple who are paying numerous bills (WE HAVE B-PAY AND THE FREAKING INTERNET FOR THAT, YOU KNOW) and querying why the guy didn’t rip off the bottom bit off the bills (No, he says, we don’t rip off the bottom bits) and buying a magazine (No wait, is it this magazine? Or did I already buy this issue? Hold on now, I’m not sure) and buying stamps (how many do we need? Okay here’s some for overseas. Cards only. Oh, we have to write “Card only” to get the cheap rate? Okay. Now local ones, how many? 1… 2… 3… 4… JUST BUY A FREAKING 10 PACK!!!) and fumbling with their change (WHY DIDN’T I BRING $2 CHANGE, THEN I COULD LOB IT OVER THE COUNTER AND RUN FOR IT) and multiple receipts and making small-talk with the guy behind the counter (I’M ALL FOR A CONVIVIAL RETAIL ATMOSPHERE, BUT I’M IN A HURRY AND THE QUEUE BEHIND ME’S GETTING LONGER) and querying again why the guy didn’t rip the bottom bit off the bill.

Ten minutes queuing, then all of ten seconds for my transaction. And I beat them out the door, too.

Bet they’re the same people who walk slowly down the middle of the pavement, blocking both sides.

If I ran the world

People who wanted their supermarket transaction split-up into separate $30 bills just to take advantage of “spend $30 for 4 cents per litre off petrol” and other such deals would have to queue up again between dockets.

The expression “I’ll let you go”, which is meant to sound like the person is doing you a favour finishing up the conversation but in fact means “get off the damn phone, I’m tired of talking to you now, and have more important things to do” would be banned. A couple of my friends are guilty of using this.

Car needlessly blocking footpathDrivers who consistently fail to use their indicators; needlessly park in driveways blocking the footpath; speed at more than 20kmh above the limit; or deliberately stop at intersections blocking the pedestrian crossing (and may I add often consigning themselves to longer delays because their car is not on the traffic light sensor, so the traffic light may not know it’s there) would in the first instance have a large shiny “MORON” sticker applied to the front and back of their car. In the second instance they would be shipped off to re-education camps where they would face very stern Vicroads testers to try to convince them of why they should get their driver’s license back.

The world’s foremost ant experts would convene at my house one afternoon for a cup of tea and to give me their opinions on why ants are visiting my toilet.

People who complained about stupidly trivial things like the colour of their wheelie-bin would have their bins taken away for a month, to see how they liked it with no bin at all. I mean really, a line of yellow and blue rubbish bins in a street is no less or more ugly than a line of plain green rubbish bins. They’re rubbish bins. They’re ugly whatever colour they are.