Oh George! Oh Martha!

28 February, 2008

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Surprising things I learned tonight from our guest speaker, romance writer and president of Romance Writers of Australia, Anne Gracie:

  • 54% of the fiction sold in America is romance fiction;
  • There is a sub-genre within romance fiction which focuses on NASCAR racing. I kid you not.

And before I get heckled by resident Write On! heckler, Skinful – no I am not considering a career in romantic fiction.

But if you are interested in chasing the romance market, you could do worse than hook up with Anne’s organisation, Romance Writers of Australia.

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The new David Stratton

24 February, 2008

SBS Move Show

I’ve been submitting most of my movie reviews to the SBS Movie Show site. It’s good practice, and every now and then I win one of their weekly prizes.

I was pretty chuffed to be their ‘Featured Reviewer’ earlier in the week, and at the moment my review of 3:10 to Yuma is the Editor’s Pick on the home page.

Over the past few months I’ve received a few accolades including Review of the Week, Most Informative and Most Humourous.

But the one I’m most proud of is Best Use of a Superlative.

That has got to be the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. And the most unexpected. And probably the most unwarranted.

I just wish I knew which of my superlatives was the most impressive.


Dgtec DG-SD160DVR Driver

24 February, 2008

DGTEC users can download driver DMN8600.CUB directly from the Boxnet widget in the right sidebar of my blog.

Wakes and I have had a DGTEC set top box/PVR/DVD recorder for about 18 months now, and generally it has performed to expectations, though always a little clunkily.

From time to time we’ve experienced screen freezes, necessitating a cold boot to get things going again. The user interface is pretty clunky and the manual is written by someone whose first language is patently not English. I also knew from my experiences in getting started with the product that the on-line support offering was barely non-existent.

So in the back of my mind I was always dreading the day when something went wrong that couldn’t be fixed with a reboot.

I mentioned this to my friend Charlie the other day – tempting fate you might say – and sure enough two days later we completely lost sound on the digital TV signal passing though the device.

As expected, there was no on-line support provided by DGTEC. A few techie forums mentioned problems with their device that a firmware upgrade had fixed, but of course the driver was not available anywhere on line.

So I had to call DGTEC’s Australian support line 1800 189 941, and spent a pleasant hour one night listening to their recorded message telling me they would get to my call shortly. I got nervous when the time ticked closer to their 8pm support close, then even more so when it reached 8.15pm. I gave up at about 8.20pm and tried again the next night. Another 45 minutes on hold before I got to speak with a human, who immediately diagnosed that the first point of call was a firmware upgrade that he would email me. Gee, do you think?

Anyway, I uploaded the firmware and it installed as per the instructions – only problem was, it didn’t fix my sound error.

What did eventually solve my problem was to run the ‘Reset to Factory Defaults’ option in the System Set-up menu.

So anyway, I’ve decided to post the driver here to spare any other DGTEC users the frustration of spending wasted hours on the phone, just because a technology company is too stupid or too lazy to provide such a basic service to their users.

DGTEC users can download driver DMN8600.CUB directly from the Boxnet widget in the right sidebar of my blog.

The instructions for this file are:

1) Using a burning software such as Nero, burn the CUB file onto an empty 700MB CD disc or a 4.7gb DVD disc.
2) Make sure the disc is finalised.
3) Place the freshly burned disc into the tray of the DVR and wait for it to load.
4) Once the DVR reads the disc, it will recognise that it contains new software.
5) When prompted if you wish to upgrade, please confirm.
6) The upgrading will take a few minutes to complete.
7) When finished, eject disc and continue with normal operations.

NOTE: If the DVR does not automatically prompt you to update when the disc is inserted, please use the source button to go to another source and then return to DVD. This will force the DVR to re-read the disc.

Note, the address of the support guy who sent me the upgrade is miguelmartinez@dgtec.com.au. Again, top marks to DGTEC for not even providing an email support address for their products.


Movie Review – Blindsight

18 February, 2008

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The annals of human history are full of incredible examples of bravery: in the theatre of war; during natural and man-made catastrophes; in the face of personal adversity; even from time to time on our sporting fields.

Some acts of bravery are never known to anyone apart from the participants, while others are celebrated and often retold. Sometimes there are great stories just waiting to be told, and when we hear them we are moved, inspired, and humbled by our trivial day-to-day worries.

Blindsight is a magnificent true story of the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity. It follows the lives of six blind Tibetan teenagers who attempt to climb the Himilayan peak of Lhakpa-Ri, a 23,000 feet sister of Mount Everest.

The back stories of the participants are incredible – there is Sabriye Tenberken, a blind German social worker who has travelled solo to Tibet to set up a school for the blind; there is Erik Weihenmayer, a blind American adventurer who has climbed Mt Everest; there are a collection of sighted mountaineeting escorts who volunteer to assist the blind climbers with their ascent; and then there are the six Tibetan youths who have effectively been treated as social outcasts for their entire lives.

While the story is inspiring and emotional (there was hardly a dry eye in the house at my screening), director Lucy Walker (Devil’s Playground 2002) has made some interesting choices in the telling of the tale. Much is made of the building conflicts between the two factions of Westerners accompanying the Tibetans on the climb (caring social workers vs. gung ho adventurers), but there is little to show us what the Tibetans themselves are thinking while they are on the mountain. This has the effect of focussing audience attention on the Westerners, rather than the real heroes of the story. There is also surprsingly little in the way of reflective interviews with the Tibetans at the end of the film.

The scenery and cinematography is magnificent, and excellent use is made of graphical devices to demonstrate the route being taken by the climbing party as they ascend the mountain.

The story itself rates 5 stars; unfortunately the telling of it falls a little short of the mark. 3 1/2 stars.


Speeding – what’s your excuse?

13 February, 2008

Check out this link – it made me choke on my muesli this morning.

Speeding – what’s your excuse?


Things to know about driving in Tasmania

11 February, 2008

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A few things I learnt on the weekend.

  • In Tasmania, every second car is white.
  • In Tasmania, posted speed limits are just a guide. If the road is dead straight and the speed limit is 100 kmh, it’s perfectly acceptable to potter along at 70 kmh. When the limit drops to 8o kmh, just drop back to 50 kmh. Or 40 kmh if you prefer.
  • A good guide is to take the speed limit and deduct 1 kmh for every year you are older than 60.
  • Under no circumstance should you pull over to let faster cars past. Those hoons who want to drive at reckless speeds approaching the speed limit need to be protected from themselves.
  • In order to assist with the previous point, drive in convoys of three or four cars and stick really close together; that way if a small break in traffic occurs, the hoon will have to overtake all of you in one dangerous manouvre.
  • The typical convoy reads: ‘White Corolla, White Maui motorhome, red Magna; white Laser; White Mauia motorhome; Blue Corolla’. Try to keep this order. It is aesthetically pleasing and bloody hard for hoons to get past.
  • Make sure you use your brake excessively as you negotiate every single 1 degree bend in the road. Just to be safe.
  • Don’t worry about indicating. Or driving on your own side of the road. These considerations are over-rated and were probably invented by people on the mainland.
  • The nearest petrol station is 8km past the airport. Go figure. Even Wellington has a servo at the airport.

What’s the opposite of ‘Winners are Grinners’?

11 February, 2008

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For those who don’t know, Tarpins finished 8th in the Tasmanian Derby on Saturday.

As you can see, Wakes and I took it all in our stride. A far cry from our ‘Winners are Grinners’ look a few weeks ago.

Congratulations to Write On’s second favourite jockey Daniel Moor for his ride on the winner Mega Boss. Onya Daniel.

Longer report on the day to follow, once the scars heal a little.