Archive for March 2019


Alarm für Cobra 11: why the inconsistent season numbering?

29.03.2019


RTL
Above: From the first episode after the half-season break, ‘Endstation’. All three men have, at some point, played the sidekick on Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei: Erdoğan Atalay, who was hired to play second banana in the third episode but has since become the star of the show; Rainer Strecker, the man whom Atalay replaced, here guesting and playing another role altogether; and Daniel Roesner, who is currently Atalay’s co-star in the series, and who also had played another role prior to this one.

One for the Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei fans. Our group—the largest on Facebook and, ironically, the one run mostly by non-Germans—saw this question from Tim Gottschall:

Kann mir mal bitte jemand erklären warum es bei Cobra 11 schon 42 DVD Staffeln gibt aber jetzt im TV die 33 Staffel läuft? Also damit auch die neuen Folgen

   This has always annoyed me. At Action Concept, this is still season 23.
   This has been compounded by certain episodes from new seasons being mixed in as the existing season was airing (e.g. production seasons 6 to 12) and episodes being shown out of order.
   According to production blocks (with overlaps explained above):

Season 1: episodes aired between March 12 and April 30, 1996 (episodes 1–9)
Season 2: March 11, 1997 to June 4, 1998 (episodes 10–31)
Season 3: October 1, 1998 to May 6, 1999 (episodes 32–47)
Season 4: December 16, 1999 to December 14, 2000 (episodes 48–63)
Season 5: April 5, 2001 to April 11, 2002 (episodes 64–80)
Season 6: April 18, 2002 to April 10, 2003 (episodes 81–97)
Season 7: September 11, 2003 to April 29, 2004 (episodes 98–110)
Season 8: March 25 to November 18, 2004 (episodes 111–25)
Season 9: February 10, 2005 to April 20, 2006 (episodes 126–41)
Season 10: April 27 to November 16, 2006 (episodes 142–57)
Season 11: March 22 to November 1, 2007 (episodes 158–68)
Season 12: September 20, 2007 to April 24, 2008 (episodes 169–79)
Season 13: September 4, 2008 to April 9, 2009 (episodes 180–94)
Season 14: September 3, 2009 to April 22, 2010 (episodes 195–209)
Season 15: September 2, 2010 to April 14, 2011 (episodes 210–22)
Season 16: September 15, 2011 to April 19, 2012 (episodes 223–38)
Season 17: September 6, 2012 to April 18, 2013 (episodes 239–53)
Season 18: October 24, 2013 to May 15, 2014 (episodes 254–67)
Season 19: October 9, 2014 to April 30, 2015 (episodes 268–82)
Season 20: September 10, 2015 to May 26, 2016 (episodes 283–98)
Season 21: September 1, 2016 to May 18, 2017 (episodes 299–317)
Season 22: September 14, 2017 to May 3, 2018 (episodes 318–36)
Season 23: September 13, 2018 to date (episode 337 to date)

   However, according to how Cobra 11 aired, all but the (short) first block were shown with a break in between—presumably due to labour laws there that required casts to have a break otherwise they would be overworked. So if you divide each of the seasons above into two, except for the first, then we are up to “season 43”. This is the numbering the DVDs use. As to “season 33”, I understand RTL used to follow the production numbering, but eventually diverged from it, so it’s a mixture of the “studio” numbering and the “broken season” numbering.
   I realize no one outside the fan community for this show will really care, but as this is my personal and business blog, a wide variety of subjects is covered. And for those fans who may stumble across this, I hope the above helps settle some questions.

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Posted in interests, marketing, TV | No Comments »


The end of the long Instagram video

27.03.2019

After the last 11 months, only two Instagram users—myself and an Indonesian user called TryAink—uploaded videos of over a minute (his were up to four). It looks like he and I were experimenting to see how much Instagram would really allow. I guess we were the guinea pigs before IGTV was launched, though unlike those using that service, our videos were all landscape.
   You’ve seen plenty of mine, so here’s one of his.

   It does seem that all good things come to an end, and neither TryAink nor I have access to the longer video uploads any more. I can try, but Instagram refuses to make the video live.

   Mind you, we were the first to get long Instagram videos, then the public got them. Maybe Instagram is going to phase out videos, as we’re the first to suffer an inability to upload them? (I jest for the most part—as stranger things have happened with Facebook-owned properties.)
   What is interesting is that with life being so busy, and with the massive increase in ads, Instagram has not been holding my attention. I also became very spoiled with the longer videos, so much so that 60 seconds feels bizarrely short. Then there’s the problem of Instagram videos being incompatible with Android 7, so all my videos had to be Bluetoothed to my old, damaged phone for uploading.
   The result of the above is that I have reduced my time on the platform considerably, because why am I jumping through hoops created by the incompetence of boffins when it is technology that should be serving me?
   The loss of Instagram maps all those years ago was an inconvenience, but the loss of a feature that I regarded as the norm, plus advertisements that are irrelevant—not to mention undesirable—are turning my cellphone into a cellphone, rather than a portable leisure device where I shared and enjoyed photos.

Speaking of Facebook incompetence, I caught a few minutes (while cooking) of a documentary called Inside Facebook, airing on Aljazeera English. An undercover reporter secretly films a moderators’ training session on what Facebook’s standards are.
   Did you wonder why so many of the Christchurch terrorist attacks’ videos remained online? Turns out Facebook’s policy is that screened deaths are OK. The default position is that they’re marked with a warning, not removed. As to child abuse, none of those videos are removed as a rule.
   This is a sick company that appears to prey on the inhuman impulses some have, for the sake of monetizing them. I cannot be high and mighty about this, because I haven’t deleted my account, and keep saying that I’m on there for a few clients who ask me to look after their social media. When I think more deeply about this, it ain’t good enough. I need to find a way out, including for my clients who receive DMs for their businesses on there.

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Posted in internet, media, New Zealand, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


In the wake of terrorism in your own country

20.03.2019


Above: Flowers at the Islamic Centre in Kilbirnie, Wellington on Monday.

On 9-11, I wrote an editorial in Lucire immediately. It was clear to me what I needed to write, and the editorial got quite a few readers at the time.
   Today is March 20, five days after a terrorist attack on our country, and it’s only now I’ve had some idea of how to put my thoughts into a longer-form fashion, rather than a lot of Tweets, some of which have had a lot of support.
   I guess it’s different when the attack happens to your own people in your own country.
   One of the earliest points I made, when the death toll hit 49, was that this was “our 9-11”, at least when you consider the per capita loss of life. When it hit 50, it actually exceeded the number of lives lost per capita in 9-11. This helps put the matter into some context.
   While the terrorist is a foreign national, who was most likely radicalized by foreign ideas, it has generated a great deal of soul-searching among New Zealanders. Even the right-wing talking heads have suddenly changed their tune, although, if a friend and colleague’s experience as a waiter in New York City in September 2001 is anything to go by, they will return to their regularly scheduled programming in two weeks’ time. Certain media bosses, especially among foreign-owned companies, would have it no other way, since they are not here to benefit New Zealanders, only their foreign shareholders and their own pockets. Stoking division is their business and I do not believe leopards change their spots.
   Therefore, the majority of right-thinking New Zealanders are not complicit, but a minority of us harbour bigoted thoughts, and enough of that minority infect the comments’ sections of mainstream media websites and social networks to make it seem as though they are more numerous in number. The outpouring of support for our Muslim community highlights that the good far outnumber the rotten eggs in our society. And I think more of us are now prepared to call out racism and bigotry knowing that, in fact, public opinion is behind us.
   So many Kiwis, myself included, say that hatred toward Muslims is not in our national character. But it is sufficiently in our national character when Muslim groups have pleaded with government agencies to step up, to be met with endless bureaucratic roadblocks; and many political parties have stains on their records in appealing to Islamophobia, something which indeed was foreign to this nation for all of my childhood.
   I grew up with a Muslim boy and we remain friends to this day, but I never thought of him by his creed. If I was forced to “label” him I would have called him a Pakistani New Zealander. I am willing to bet many Kiwis were in the same boat: we probably knew Muslims but never thought once about their religion.
   It takes certain people to make changes in mainstream thinking. I thought I might be labelled a ‘Chinese New Zealander’ till Winston Peters, now our deputy PM, droned on about ‘Asians’ out of some fear about the weakness of New Zealand culture; and we might have only become aware of Islam to any degree after 9-11. But these are, in fact, foreign ideas, adopted here by those who lack imagination or a willingness to do some hard work. They have been imported here through the sharing of culture. While I support the exchange of ideas, in some misguided utopian belief that dialogue is good for us all, I certainly did not anticipate, during the first heady days of the web, that we would have so much of the bad come with the good. I believed in some level of natural selection, that educated people would refrain and filter, and present their country’s or community’s best face. But as each medium boganfied (yes, I am making up words), the infection came. Newspapers changed thanks to Rupert Murdoch cheapening them, eventually morphing into publications that sensationalized division, especially against Muslims after 9-11. Television went downhill as well largely thanks to the same bloke and his lieutenant, Roger Ailes. The web was fine till each medium became infected with negativity, but Google, Facebook and Twitter were all too happy for it to continue because it increased engagement on their properties. Each fuelled it more with algorithms that showed only supporting views, deepening each user’s belief in the rightness of their ideas, to the exclusion of everyone else’s.
   Most Americans I know believe in civility. I’ve spoken often enough in their country to know this. They don’t believe their freedom of speech is absolute, and personally draw the line at hate speech, but their big websites act as though this is absolute, and allow the negative to fester. It seems it is for profit: we see Twitter remove Will Connolly’s (‘Egg Boy’) account but not racist Australian politician Sen. Fraser Anning. It is tempting to believe that Twitter is following the dollars here without regard to their stated policy. We have, after all, seen all Big Tech players lie constantly, and, for the most part, they get away with it. We let them, because we keep using them. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t need to say anything about Christchurch, because we’ll keep using his websites (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp) and he’ll keep finding ways of monetizing us, dehumanizing us. He won’t show up to the UK when summoned, and Facebook will continue to lie about removing videos and offensive content when we know many reports go unheeded.
   Umair Haque wrote in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attacks: ‘Facebook and Twitter and YouTube etcetera really just bring the American ideal to life that there should be extreme, absolute freedom of speech, with zero consequences whatsoever, even for expressing hate and violence of the most vile and repellent kinds.’
   As people become dehumanized through words and campaigns, it makes it easier for people to commit violence against them. They no longer see them as deserving of respect or protection. In the foulest version, they no longer see them as having a right to life.
   Now, I don’t believe that this absolute approach can be branded American. And I do believe Big Tech has very different values to Americans. Their newsmedia have, too. When regular people are censored, when big money talks more loudly than their laws, then there is something very wrong with their companies—and this is the common enemy of both Republicans and Democrats, not each other. And this wrongness is being exported here, too. I’ve said it for years: we are a sovereign nation, and we have no need to copy their failed idea of a health system or even their vernacular (on this note: retailers, please cease using Black Friday to describe your end-of-year sales, especially this year). We do not need to import the political playbooks, whether you are a political party, a blogger, or a local newspaper. There are Kiwis who actually talked about their ‘First Amendment rights’ because they may have watched too much US television and are unaware we have our own Bill of Rights Act. Even the raid on Kim Dotcom’s home seemed to be down to some warped idea of apeing their cop shows, about impressing the FBI more than following our own laws on surveillance and our own beliefs on decency.
   I honestly don’t see the attraction of turning us into some vassal state or a mutant clone of other nations, yet foreign-owned media continue to peddle this nonsense by undermining the Kiwi character and everyday Kiwi unity.
   Did the terrorist see any of this? I have no idea. I equally have no idea if the people he came into contact with here cemented his hate. However, I think he would have come across sufficient international influences here to validate his imagined fears of non-whites and women. By all means, we should call out bad behaviour, but when we do, we shouldn’t restrict it to individual cases we see in our daily lives. There are entire institutions that are doing this, strings pulled from faraway lands, and to them we must also say: enough is enough. The way you do business isn’t in line with who we are. We need to be aware of who the non-Kiwi players are, often masquerading under locally grown brand names (such as ‘Newstalk ZB’—a quick peek of shareholders suggest the majority are as Kiwi as Ned Kelly), and, if need be, vote with our time and money to support those who really understand us. Be alert to who’s really trying to influence us.

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Posted in culture, globalization, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, USA | No Comments »


Autocade turns 11 as the web turns 30

12.03.2019


The latest model to appear on Autocade today: the Mazda CX-30.

It’s March, which means Autocade has had another birthday. Eleven years ago, I started a car encyclopædia using Mediawiki software, and it’s since grown to 3,600 model entries. The story has been told elsewhere on this blog. What I hadn’t realized till today was that Autocade’s birthday and the World Wide Web’s take place within days of each other.
   The inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, still believes that it can be used as a force for good, which is what many of us hoped for when we began surfing in the 1990s. I still remember using Netscape 1·2 (actually, I even remember using 1·1 on computers that hadn’t updated to the newer browser) and thinking that here was a global communications’ network that could bring us all together.
   Autocade, and, of course, Lucire, were both set up to do good, and be a useful information resource to the public. Neither sought to divide in the way Facebook has; Google, which had so much promise in the late 1990s, has become a bias-confirmation machine that also pits ideologies against each other.
   The web, which turns 30 this week, still has the capacity to do great things, and I can only hope that those of us still prepared to serve the many rather than the few in a positive way begin getting recognized for our efforts again.
   For so many years I have championed transparency and integrity. People tell us that these are qualities they want. Yet people also tell surveys that Google is their second-favourite brand in the world, despite its endless betrayals of our trust, only apologizing after each privacy gaffe is exposed by the fourth estate.
   Like Sir Tim, I hope we make it our business to seek out those who unite rather than divide, and give them some of our attention. At the very least I hope we do this out of our own self-preservation, understanding that we have more to gain by allowing information to flow and people to connect. When we shut ourselves off to opposing viewpoints, we are poorer for it. As I wrote before, American conservatives and liberals have common enemies in Big Tech censorship and big corporations practising tax avoidance, yet social networks highlight the squabbles between one right-wing philosophy and another right-wing philosophy. We New Zealanders cannot be smug with our largest two parties both eager to plunge forward into TPPA, and our present government having us bicker over capital gains’ tax while leaving the big multinationals, who profit off New Zealanders greatly, paying little or no tax.
   A more understanding dialogue, which the web actually affords us, is the first step in identifying what we have in common, and once you strip away the arguments that mainstream media and others drive, our differences are far fewer than we think.
   Social media should be social rather than antisocial, and it’s almost Orwellian that they have this Newspeak name, doing the opposite to what their appellation suggests. The cat is out of the bag as far as Big Tech is concerned, but there are opportunities for smaller players to be places where people can chat. Shame it’s not Gab, which has taken a US-conservative bent at the expense of everything else, though they at least should be applauded for taking a stance against censorship. And my fear is that we will take what we have already learned on social media—to divide and to pile on those who disagree—into any new service. As I mentioned, Mastodon is presently fine, for the most part, because educated people are chatting among themselves. The less educated we are, the more likely we will take firm sides and shut our minds off to alternatives.
   The answer is education: to make sure that we use this wonderful invention that Sir Tim has given us for free for some collective good. Perhaps this should form part of our children’s education in the 2010s and 2020s. That global dialogue can only be a good thing because we learn and grow together. And that there are pitfalls behind the biggest brands kids are already exposed to—we know Google has school suites but they really need to know how the big G operates, as it actively finds ways to undermine their privacy.
   The better armed our kids are, the more quickly they’ll see through the fog. The young people I know aren’t even on Facebook other than its Messenger service. It brings me hope; but ideally I’d like to see them make a conscious effort to choose their own services. Practise what we preach about favouring brands with authenticity, even if so many of us fail to seek them out ourselves.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, interests, internet, leadership, politics, social responsibility | No Comments »


After driving automatic and manual trucks, the manual still wins for me

05.03.2019

I rented a couple of trucks over the last few days, and I’m surprised that automatics have taken such a hold in this country.
   I’ve written about my preference for manuals elsewhere, and for a regular car, I would consider one with a sequential gearbox. We’re in an era now where the advantages of a modern automatic can outweigh those of a manual, notably in fuel economy. Generally, however, having the control of a manual—and not having an atrophied left leg while driving—is my preference, and it’s absolutely fine even in gridlock if you know how to control the gears properly. I grew up with the idea, rightly or wrongly, that a good driver knows how to operate a manual and desires the control that it affords.
   Polling my friends, it appears that half have the same preference as me and many note, ‘But I own an automatic because I couldn’t find a manual.’ It’s true: we’ve become a slush-box nation just as the United States has, going from a country where maybe 10 per cent were autos to one where 90 per cent are. A big part of that shift happened this century. The notion that automatics have been market-driven (as I was told at Brendan Foot) is, as far as I can ascertain, bollocks.
   In 2015–16, I went to some extremes to buy the car I wanted, namely one with a manual transmission, by sourcing one from where the majority of drivers still prefer to shift gears themselves: the UK. I understand that the UK, as New Zealand once did, insists that you do your driver’s licence test in a manual if you want to be able to drive both; should you do it in an auto, you’re restricted to just autos until you ‘upgrade’ to a manual licence. Indeed, the latter position invites ridicule in the UK—Daniel Craig got his share of it after a fake-news piece alleged he didn’t know how to drive a manual.
   This UK licensing position still makes sense to me, but it appears we license people to drive manuals even though they have never seen a clutch in their lives.
   One of the young men helping me out with shifting stuff in the truck, who is on a learner’s, and owns an automatic, said to me that he couldn’t comprehend a manual, and that confirms that we may have it wrong with our licensing system by slavishly following the US.
   And after the weekend’s experience, I’m even more wedded to manual transmissions.
   The first truck from Vancy Rentals was a two-tonne Toyota Dyna with a slush box. For the most part it wasn’t too difficult to drive, except for one corner when I had to turn off the Hutt Road (speed limit 80 km/h) to head up Ngauranga Gorge, while carrying a load. I didn’t consider that I was going too quickly but the truck’s gearing did not change down with the speed reduction, and I had to rely solely on heavy braking to slow the vehicle. I wrestled with the steering wheel to keep it in my lane but came close to crossing the line.
   You can put this down to inexperience and you would be partially right. With hindsight, I could have turned off the overdrive, or changed to D-4, but in my opinion autos have a tendency to make you lazy. It’s the equivalent of a point-and-shoot Instamatic camera: acceptable but not what a professional might demand for full control.
   The second was a larger 2·5 tonner from Hino, but with a five-speed manual transmission. That corner was taken cleanly (with an even heavier and higher load) by shifting down, and it was simple heading down Ngauranga later by changing into a lower gear—exactly what the sign at the top of the Gorge suggests you do. It kept the truck to a maximum of 80 km/h, the legal limit down that stretch. (I also accomplished this with D-4 on the Toyota.) It was at this point that my young helper remarked that he couldn’t understand the manual, so I pointed out that it was the gearing that was keeping us safely within the speed limit, not the brake—by having that additional security I wouldn’t be reliant solely on the truck’s braking system.
   That same thinking applies to my driving in a motor car, and I wonder why one wouldn’t want the extra assurance of having chosen the gear yourself, limiting your speed when needed, and not be dependent on the decision of a gearbox engineer in Japan (or elsewhere) who mightn’t understand Kiwi roads.

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Posted in cars, culture, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »