Archive for February 2011


Air New Zealand acts in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake

22.02.2011

Good on Air New Zealand for ferrying emergency supplies to Christchurch, for its $50 special to and from Christchurch till Friday 8 a.m., and for extra 747 flights to and from the disaster-struck city tomorrow (subject to the airport reopening down there).
   I’ve also learned that there is an extra Wellington–Christchurch A320 service departing 1.45 p.m. Wednesday.
   These are great moves by the airline, for banding together and doing something that we all wished we could do.
   You wouldn’t see this from a foreign-owned airline here—or, I should say, we have not seen any such action from one. Air New Zealand has acted admirably and reminded us just how important it is to have Kiwis running the show.
   The airline’s stock has gone up in my book—that’s the layman’s way of saying I think its brand equity among domestic audiences has increased.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, marketing, New Zealand | No Comments »


Raw footage from Christchurch

22.02.2011

It feels more raw when it’s been shot by a regular Joe and uploaded to YouTube: some first-hand footage from the earthquake in Christchurch today.

I am, in spirit, with all people in Christchurch in the wake of this tragedy.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in internet, New Zealand, TV | No Comments »


Type-changing bug identified—not that it matters next to Christchurch

22.02.2011

It’s quite pathetic to be blogging about something like this on the day of the Christchurch earthquake, but Jonathan Kew, who has kept on the font-changing bug in the Firefox 4 betas after I mentioned it to him, has created a patch that sorts the problem out. Apparently, it applies to old PS1 fonts: Firefox was rejecting the glyph index 31 in these fonts.
   Jonathan is a real ally to the type community, and understands the industry’s needs very well. We’re lucky to have a guy like that involved in browser development. Here’s hoping for approval for the patch.

I’ll repeat parts of what we wrote on the Lucire site today: ‘New Zealand Red Cross is accepting donations
   ‘Twitter updates can be found at hashtag #eqnz.
   ‘Google has a Person Finder for those who are looking for people or wish to report they are OK.’

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, New Zealand, technology | No Comments »


How do you pretend you are surfing abroad?

21.02.2011

Some years ago, you could set your browser to use a proxy server and surf the web as though you were in another country. This was a handy tool for us, as we often need to check that the ads being shown on our sites were suitable—you never know what ad networks might try to send through. We’ve even caught fake ad campaigns with nasties before things got out (we had a biggie in 2007 masquerading as a sits vac site), so it’s a useful thing for us to do for user security.
   Software, however, has got a lot better at geotargeting, and even our own in-house programs can see through proxy-surfing. Regardless of proxy server, our ad server knows where I am, at least as far as the nation (it can get the city wrong and even Lucire shows me a lot of ads for Les Mills in Britomart).
   Therefore, I’m curious: how can Joe Schmoes like me browse the web and pretend I am from somewhere else?
   VNC was mentioned as a solution, but it seems proxies won’t really do it any more.
   And no, I’m not interested in Hulu or any of those TV sites. I have my legally watchable Alarm für Cobra 11s from Germany, the odd doco on Swedish public TV, and Ecast TV, and I am quite happy on that front. Suggestions are welcome in the comments.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology | 2 Comments »


Fax and text spam: bad marketing moves

21.02.2011
Honda sends fax spam
Above I’d mention the war, but Honda was founded after the surrender.

I despise fax-spam, and under my reading of the Telecommunications Act, these come under nuisance calls. But regardless of the legality, it seems rather hypocritical for Honda to have sent me one for its Insight hybrid car.
   Think about it: a lot of people who have a fax line use paper faxes. The Insight is meant to be eco-friendly, and the fax ad even says so. So what is eco-friendly about using people’s paper and film or toner?
   It runs counter to what the car is supposed to stand for. And if it is educated people who opt for these hybrid cars, then they will be able to see the mixed message in this marketing technique.
   Typographically, it doesn’t follow Honda’s other advertising.
   This had pissed me off for me to Tweet about it, and be nasty toward Honda—which has typically been one of the few brands I steered my Corolla-wanting friends to. I have a feeling the effect of the campaign has led to more negativity about Honda than its other marketing channels.
   Way to go, Honda, for steering even more people to the Toyota Prius.

In 2008, I also wrote about text spam, and Vodafone was guilty of sending me at least one promotional message after it promised (in writing) that it would not. When confronted about it, the company clammed up. It was, I believe, the last message I ever sent to them, and I was delighted to end our contract with them.
   Seems Vodafone isn’t the only party doing this, post-Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007. Hamish McConnochie has stayed on Telecom for doing it to him last year, and I agree with his reading that this is a breach of s. 11.
   It’s clear text spam falls under the Act, and neither Hamish nor I had ever consented to receive such messages.
   Telecom has some agreements around but he was not ever shown the one that covered his XT upgrade.
   As if the XT name wasn’t tarnished enough already.
   Hamish will be going on Back Benches (TVNZ 7, 9 p.m.) this Wednesday night, and I’m looking forward to seeing this issue get wider coverage.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, cars, marketing, New Zealand, technology, TV, typography, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Hannah Gordon and Robert Vaughn, four decades on in Hustle

19.02.2011

This is the sort of thing that would normally wind up on my Tumblr, but it’s a tad hard to do two images without a bit of clever HTML programming.
   Whomever did the casting for Hustle was very clever with the final episode of the season. To play Robert Vaughn’s old flame, actress Hannah Gordon was cast as Susan. The idea: Susan had left Vaughn’s Albert Stroller character 30 years ago, tired of his grifting, and later found out she was pregnant to him. Their daughter wanted to meet her biological father, and eventually, mother and daughter depart the UK to head back to the US. Stroller misses them both.
   There was a very familiar feel to this and it didn’t take me long to work it out. Gordon has played opposite Vaughn before, as his ex-wife, in Gerry Anderson’s The Protectors. In ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’, she and their son depart the UK for the US, and Harry Rule—Vaughn’s character in that series—does not see them off properly.
   It’s us oldies—or at least those of us in middle age who saw the earlier show (on a re-run, I might quickly add)—who might make the connection. Here are the shots, nearly 40 years apart, of Gordon and Vaughn playing couples:
Hannah Gordon and Robert Vaughn in The Protectors
Hannah Gordon and Robert Vaughn in Hustle
   I realize this isn’t the first time we have seen two actors playing opposite each other romantically—Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles come to mind—but this might be one of the longer gaps. I couldn’t find any news on this from the BBC, so I imagine the casting choice was one for the anoraks.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in interests, TV, UK | 1 Comment »


Trade not supplied

17.02.2011

In November 1993, while my mother was dying of cancer, I went and bought 12 cans of Wattie’s baked beans from Woolworth’s in Kilbirnie. She said it would be an easy breakfast to prepare for her, so I should go and get some. There was a limit of six, but there was a misunderstanding about which type the limit applied to, and a disagreement at the counter.
   That’s not much of a problem, but it was very rudely done, and I complained to Richard Olliver, the duty manager, about the attitude I got.
   He defended his colleague, saying that he did not approve of my tactics because the policy was that trade was not supplied.
   I am not sure since when typeface design or publishing was considered ‘trade’ as far as Woolworth’s went, but his reasoning was clear enough: I am Chinese, all Chinese are greengrocers, convenience store operators or restaurateurs, and, therefore, all Chinese are trade.
   I, as a member of this supposed trade, was not welcome at Woolworth’s Kilbirnie, and that I should consider myself warned.
   Since 1993, I have not set foot in there or any branch of Woolworth’s as a customer (I visited Countdown a few times in the 1990s till I learned it was the same group, I visited Woolworth’s in Newmarket with a friend in 2002 as she had to do her shopping, and I made a delivery to Woolworth’s in 2006). I have heeded Mr Olliver’s warning.
   This was one case that angered me that when my father applied for a One Card in 2003, I called Woolworth’s. I never drag others into my bans but I was upset they had our family home details.
   I asked that his application be taken out of the pile, and the staff member at Woolworth’s Kilbirnie said she would oblige.
   Two weeks later, his One Card arrived. So much for the word of a Woolworth’s employee. I proceeded to cut it into pieces and sent it back to the company, explaining what had happened a decade before. I said that if they were willing to apologize for the 1993 incident, I was prepared to listen. I also demanded that our details be removed from the database. And I wanted the apology in writing.
   I never received it.
   I received a phone call within the week but there was still no apology. The closest Woolworth’s got on this occasion was, ‘I hope you will change your mind about Woolworth’s some day.’ Those were the last words from their representative.
   Not bloody likely.
   Three incidents in a decade, all negative. The brand is tarnished, at least for my lifetime, to the point where I associate Woolworth’s with racism—helpfully cemented by its own staff only eight years ago. It’s hard to undo when each encounter reinforces the last negative one.
   As we approach the 20th anniversary of my Woolworth’s ban, of a company seemingly still wishing to stand by prejudice, I hear of another incident from my friend Andy in Auckland.
   He experienced the same, at Pak ’n’ Save, Albany.
   Like a lot of young guys, Andy decided to throw a party. And he was questioned at the check-out: ‘Are you going to resell these goods?’
   Andy is an Indian New Zealander.
   For goodness’ sake, as unlikely as it was in 1993 for a suited New Zealander of Chinese descent—yes, I remember what I was wearing that day—to be running this mythical grocery store in the Kilbirnie region, I find it equally unlikely that this mythical Asian reseller of beer and chips exists in Albany.
   Your booze prices aren’t that good, Pak ’n’ Save. Not till the expiry date nears.
   Of course this reselling exists. I’m not naïve. But I also know it is confined to certain individuals (and who gives a toss about what ethnicity they are), who are usually known to the supermarkets.
   I believe this is what is called ‘racial profiling’ and it’s this sort of behaviour that gets dickheads like Paul Henry questioning whether an Auckland-accented Governor-General ‘sounds like a New Zealander’.
   I thought my case was confined as an anomaly of the 1990s, which is why I have not waged the sort of anti-Woolworth’s campaign that I have against, say, Google. It happened to me, it was personal, and I trot the story out occasionally.
   But to hear it happens in the 2010s makes me wonder whether we have taken two steps forward—then two steps back.
   This nation’s history is one of migrants, regardless of what race we are. Just that some of us got here first, and then another mob came, and supposedly these two have joint sovereignty.
   We all came from somewhere, and just as I was appalled at the treatment when it was metered out to me, I’m appalled that someone else experienced it. It would not have mattered if Andy was Caucasian, or Native American, or whatever: he should not have been asked. Andy is Andy—and I’ve asked that he write to Pak ’n’ Save and see if they are capable of apologizing.
   Woolworth’s isn’t.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, culture, New Zealand, Wellington | 4 Comments »


Google Buzz is back, whether I like it or not

16.02.2011

After all the hassles surrounding Buzz and privacy last year, you’d think Google would have learned.

Google Buzz

Maybe not. Buzz has been reintroduced to my Google account for the third time without my consent, just over a year after a part of the the internet community expressed its anger. Google has probably figured that we have all forgotten.
   And how do I disable it? By changing the setting in my Gmail account.
   The only issue is, I have never had, and do not have, a Gmail account. (Looks like my fix doesn’t work any more.)
   It looks like that when you sign up to Google, and you’ll get the works, whether you like it or not. And I think I only signed up as a Google News Alert user a decade ago: I had no desire to be given all these services I never asked for.
   Also according to the Dashboard, I again have two Adsense products (I have none, and I only ever had one account as an experiment that I closed years ago) and one Blogger blog (I have none, so what data is Google hanging on to without my consent?).
   You’d hope that things would change for the better there, but there are still remnants of the bad old days.
   Google News, I believe, is the only thing I still use from the company—the Doubleclick cookie is now blocked on my browsers, the Toolbar is history, Duck Duck Go has been my default search for months now, I continued to keep my YouTube account disconnected from Google and now don’t care that I can’t “like” a video, and when I find a way to remove myself as the Analytics admin for the Medinge Group, I might even consider shutting my account. Meanwhile, I gave Chrome a go out of fairness and discovered it was junk that crashed just as often as Firefox.
   Twenty-ten was an interesting year of de-Googling, or un-Googling, and it’s all thanks to the lousy service on Blogger. It’s actually been a good thing to disconnect. Might do a bit more work now.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Be vigilant and don’t look

13.02.2011

This most recent trip to Auckland was marked by plenty of drama. The first experience was getting a virus the second I hooked up to the internet. The second was, having accidentally bumped the light into beam in my rent-a-Falcon on Ponsonby Road, a very interesting gentleman in a Toyota Picnic in the next lane flipped the bird, shouted, ‘You f***ing idiot, you’ve got your f***ing beam on,’ and proceeded to swerve his car into mine, then cut me off in my lane, before running a red light. The dude was angry. Running red lights seems to be commonplace there, having witnessed an average of one incident per diem, and once again, I seemed to receive confirmation that the page on intersection block is missing from the Auckland edition of the Road Code. (This last one has haunted me for years: every time I leave the gap in the intersection, my Auckland passengers consistently say, ‘I can tell you’re not from here.’)
   I know the strange motoring habits of Auckland I report are isolated examples as I have not really seen too much of this extreme behaviour on my previous trips. There are some oddities such as the inefficient motorway, where no lane is the quickest one, or the fact that travelling at 10 km/h above the speed limit is de rigueur, but then, you find quirks here in Wellington with our one-way system and less than clever signposting (which has, in our defence, improved).
   The reason I make these remarks is a concern where it will all lead. An Auckland friend, who was a witness to the Toyota Picnic’s driver’s extreme sense of drama (I wonder: what more does he do when something bad actually happens?), once said to me that he was surprised that in Wellington, a person spotting a friend on the opposite side of the road would shout out to him.
   Apparently, this does not happen in Auckland.
   So if the everyday gesture of friendship in society is now deemed inappropriate in our largest city, what is next? Could it be this?

London Underground, no eye contact

   These signs were not around last time I visited London, and I had to head to Duck Duck Go to search whether it was just a joke. A few people have reported them, so either they are connected by prima facie unrelated individuals who are coordinating a clever marketing campaign, or they are genuine.
   If genuine, then this is a sign that civilization has left Great Britain faster than the gold reserves under Gordon Brown’s watch.
   I’ve made eye contact with strangers before on the Tube in a friendly fashion, given up my seat for ladies and insisted they take it (they usually react as though it is a prank), and joked with friends and noticed Londoners chuckle at our conversation.
   (Female New Yorkers, incidentally, are still flattered that a gentleman gives up his seat on the Subway, and the elderly are always grateful. In Paris, meanwhile, giving up your seat to the elderly is expected, as well as to members of the armed forces.)
   The latest Underground sign makes me wonder if London has descended into the world of Harry Brown, where making eye contact with someone will lead to a fight. I suspect such signs have been put up after incidents of eye contact leading to violence. And that means the most basic aspect of human civilization—the ability to refrain—is now lost on an increasing number of citizens in the occident.
   It seems to run counter to the expectation that people stay vigilant, on the look-out for suspected terrorists, after years of the Troubles and, more recently, July 7, 2005. If you don’t look, how do you know?
   ‘I’m sorry, guv, I never got a look at his face. I can tell you he was wearing Doc Martens. Shoes with Martin Clunes’s image transferred on to them.’
   I think it’s a cautionary warning that if we don’t teach our own lot to get some perspective on life—a high beam on a car is not the end of the world, Mr Picnic—we’re looking at cities that are going to reflect the lack of civility that this sign suggests.
   What an appalling advertisement for modern Britain, undoing anything that the Tourist Authority might wish to do. It’s as bad as Britain’s apartheid policy.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, France, New Zealand, UK | 6 Comments »


Not quite a remake, but similar

11.02.2011

I saw the première episode of No Ordinary Family, plus a bit of the second, and I couldn’t help but think of this:

   Some folks fly to a strange place, have a plane crash, come back with special powers. One of them is an attractive blonde woman.
   Where it differs is that one of them looks suspiciously like a really young version of Dr Alan Quartermaine Sr on General Hospital.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in humour, interests, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »