Yearly Archives: 2008

Pre-wrapped gifts – brilliant idea!

While Christmas shopping last night, I saw an incredibly good idea at @Home – pre-wrapped gifts, with a tag to show you the contents. Some are are under R100, others under R200 and so forth. Like so many good ideas, really simple once you’ve seen it, but a brilliant stroke of genius for someone to have come up with.

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The Daily WTF, now without stupid comic

I’m a fan of the Daily WTF – not all of the posts are amusing, but enough of them are to keep me coming back. However, I detest the comic which the site carries – Mandatory Fun Day (MFD). Unfortunately the site only provides a single RSS feed, containing everything. In order to filter out MFD, I created a Yahoo Pipe to strip MFD related posts out of the feed and pass the rest of the RSS through. It can be found here.

Yahoo Pipes are a really nifty tool – you can do a lot more with them than merely filter out some content from an RSS feed, but this works for me quite nicely.

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Wow. Simply wow.

Vicki did me the enormous honour of agreeing to wear my engagement ring last night. She’ll be making it official that she is the absolute love of my life, the person I want to share my life with.

Wow. That doesn’t say it very well at all, but there really no words to express my joy, so it’ll have to do.


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A few bits and bobs

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything here. Here are a few points then, gleaned from my tweets ( and otherwise recorded upon the Internet for the first time here:

  • On 6 October, I had been going out with Vicki for an amazing two years. I consider that and the entire aspect of my relationship with her as highly miraculous and I consider myself as extremely fortunate to have been able to experience those two years (and many more to come).
  • Vicki and I are taking the seriously long way back to Durban from Saturday to Monday this coming weekend – we’ve booked onto a cruise to nowhere. It leaves Durban harbour at 12 on Saturday, cruises the nearby Indian Ocean for two days and returns at 8AM Monday morning. I’m really looking forward to it – it should be great. (Mental Note: purchase sea-sickness medication…)
  • I intend to compose an article on using emacs under Windows: finding alternatives for the UNIX tools it depends on in some areas, accessing the system without the benefit of a shell and setting options based on the OS you’re currently using. There’s probably a bit more too, but that should fall out as I write it. I’ve mentioned that here because I’m well aware there’s a vast gap between what I intend to do, and what I do. If such an article doesn’t appear in the relative short-term future (weeks, not days or hours) kindly poke me about it.

    That article will in theory be followed by one on my perhaps fragile system for using the same emacs setup on a variety of computers, OS’es and internet-availability-conditions (although said system doesn’t actually practically exist yet). I also intend to place some more elisp code in the wild, developed by Voyager and myself to make our work easier, with his (granted) permission. Feel free to poke if such items don’t appear, in the long-term future.

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Kulula crappiness

I booked a car through Kulula a few weeks ago, as it was the best deal available at the time. I needed to change the return time for the vehicle (I’ll be staying in Joburg longer), so I followed the Kulula instructions. It was such an incredibly frustrating and irritating experience that I have just attempted to provide them the following feedback through their website:

I am extremely dissatisfied and annoyed with my recent experience regarding a rental car booked through Kulula. I needed to change the return time to later in the day, so I checked the email which arrived from Kulula with my confirmation details. It said, to quote:

"Should you wish to amend or cancel your car booking, please use the 'my bookings' options on the website. Alternatively you may contact the kulula call centre on 0861 5858 52. If you are calling from outside SA, please dial +27(0)11 921-0111 "

Doing it by the website seemed the most convenient, so I visited the website, and went through two or three pages until I got to changing a car booking - where I was told my only option was to call the help centre. If a car booking can't be changed on the website, why does the confirmation email say that it can?

I subsequently called the call centre, and selected the "change booking" option. I waited 25 minutes on hold, for the second time - I gave up waiting after a similar period a few days ago. I was on the verge of hanging up again when I was finally connected. When I explained my problem I was told I was going to be put through to reservations, as the car reservation needs to be cancelled and re-booked, as it cannot just be amended. How is one supposed to know that the option for a new reservation is the button to press when calling the call centre to change a car booking?

The reservations agent listened to my request, and then immediately gave me Imperial's number, who can apparently change the booking without needing to cancel it. If that's the case, why on earth did I have to call the Kulula help centre in the first place? Why did I have to waste almost an hour on hold? So many things are wrong here:

a) The confirmation email says the booking can be changed online. The website contradicts this.
b) The website instructs one to call the Kulula call centre. It seems logical to choose the "change booking" option when doing so. After an interminable hold period, it turns out that "new reservation" is the option that should have been chosen. How could anyone know that?
c) Once the new reservation agent is reached, Imperial's number is handed out, and the situation is no closer to being resolved.

Why on earth is Imperial's number not given in the confirmation email? Why also does the confirmation email state that bookings can be changed on the website? These two glaring problems have lost me an hour on hold, and will cause me to seriously reconsider booking a car with Kulula again. I suggest urgently addressing the issues, as other customers must surely be equally as agitated.

Attempted? The first time I tried to use their feedback form, only half my text was accepted, as there is a length limitation. That upped my anger tenfold and had me seeking an email address for them. Sadly, there is no email address available, only a retarded feedback form, that doesn’t even accept newlines.

Consider me severely not pleased.

UPDATE: I eventually posted the following on Kulula’s website. I frankly no longer care whether they read it or not:

I am extremely annoyed and irritated at my attempts to change my car booking. Unfortunately, Kulula doesn't seem to care enough about my input to provide enough space for me to air those views via this stupid feedback form with a 1000 word limit. What's wrong with just providing an email address? If you want to hear from your customers, as you so sincerely promise, why do you restrict the amount of words they're allowed to use? I'm afraid the ridiculous limitation preventing me from attempting to assist your company in improving its customer's experiences is the last straw. I realise that the loss of one individual's business is hardly a big deal, but for what it's worth, you've lost mine. I have placed the feedback that wouldn't fit in this box here:[URL of this post]. Read it or not, I no longer care - the experience of providing feedback has so annoyed me I no longer desire to do business with Kulula at all.

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On getting your software to work for the first time

I don’t know that I’ll ever shake that feeling of wonder and surprise I feel when a moderately complex piece of software that I’ve developed starts working properly for the first time. I build it to do exactly what it eventually does, but I still feel quite surprised when it does it. It’s a nice feeling.

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Cruel Eld, it has beset me

In a further and significant sign that I have indeed become old, Vicki and I are entertaining my parents at my home tomorrow evening. My aunt will also be coming, as she’s up from the Cape. This entails a sit-down meal with snacks and pudding and so forth – when did I reach the disturbing stage of entertaining my parents in my house? It’s like I’m grown up and stuff, and that can’t be right!

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Yet another post from someone admiring an Emacs feature

I’ve been using Emacs for some time now, and I’ve grown to really appreciate it. One of the nifty features introduced in Emacs 22 is the ability to execute arbitrary elisp when replacing text using regular expressions (elisp is the Lisp dialect in which Emacs itself is written and through which it can be extended). I had reason today to use the feature for a silly little problem, and I was impressed, so here’s why.

I had a set of data where I had to replace a placeholder on each line with an integer, which incremented every four lines, starting at 2. i.e:

x line 1
x line 2
x line 3
x line 4
x line 5
x line 6

should become:

2 line 1 
2 line 2 
2 line 3 
2 line 4 
3 line 5 
3 line 6

This would be quite tricky to solve with a normal regexp replace operation, but under Emacs I simply defined a new function to do the hard work:

(setq mod_id 1)

(defun four_inc (y)
        (if (eq 0 (% y 4)) (setq mod_id (1+ mod_id)) mod_id)

I evaluated those two pieces of elisp in place in the scratchpad I was working in (another massively nifty Emacs capacity) and then ran a regular expression replacement, replacing x with \,(four_inc \#)). The \, tells Emacs to insert the result of calling the four_inc function into the replacement text, and \# is the number of replacements already done.

This is hardly earth-shattering stuff, but it’s the ability both to extend Emacs however one desires (by writing an increment-every-4-times function in this case) and the heaps of nifty features other people have already provided (executing arbitrary elisp code in a regexp replacement for example) that explains to a large degree why I like Emacs so much.

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Jabber: the IM of choice of 9/10 evil maniacal geniuses

pkeike, jerith, voyager42 (Voyager below) and myself had a very amusing conversation over Jabber IM a little while ago: here it is in marked up glory. Let this be a lesson to you: never forget the duck…

Voyager: FOOLS! Now I can take over the world! mmmuahahahaha!!!
***Kim makes a note to contact the specialist and see about having voyager's medication adjusted, yet again
***Jerith plants a small explosive device somewhere in Johan's dirigible.
***Pkeike makes a note to contact the surveillance team and see that voyager is actually having his medication
***Kim makes another note to politely decline future offered lifts in Johan's dirigible
Jerith: Oh, I replaced the dried frogs with sugar pills. Far more interesting that way.
Jerith: I'm thinking of adding caffeine and the merest hint of LSD.
***Voyager makes a note to remind the specialist, surveilance team and bomb squad who they work for
Pkeike: jerith: I was just wondering if his paranoia meds need to be adjusted or forcibly administered
Kim:  I already added the LSD
***Pkeike makes a note to remind the surveillance team of their cover story
Jerith: Tri: They are being correctly taken, it's just that he's on different (and more interesting) meds.
Pkeike: fair enough, social experimentation ftw!
Voyager: But who is experimenting on whom?
Voyager: twitch
Jerith: Everyone on everyone.
Jerith: It's more exciting that way.
Kim:  excellent - the twitching has begun
Kim:  we can proceed to stage 5
Jerith: Umm, I did that last week.
Kim:  prepare the generator and the clamps
Jerith: The twitching should have cleared up by now...
Kim:  you did?
Pkeike: dammit jerith, communicate!
Jerith: Unless you were continuing with stage 3 procedures...
Pkeike: or at least put it on the damned wiki!
Jerith: I left a message in the secondary dead-drop.
Kim:  yes, but you used last months cipher
Kim:  so the message was disregarded, as per agreed protocol
Jerith: Oh, blast. My autoupdate script failed on the encryption module.
Kim:  now we have to "reset" the subject for the umpteenth time
***Kim prepares the mind scrubber
Voyager: You guys are crazy
Pkeike: Good. Standard response received. We may proceed.
Pkeike: Good work Kim
***Voyager notices nothing strange.  crazy==normal, after all
Kim:  excellent
Kim:  I so hate it when the scrubbing fails and a new subject is required
Kim:  subject-acquisition is such a tedious process
Jerith: Especially when you forget the duck.
Kim:  that's why the wiki's HOW-TO page specifically specifies the mallard

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A plaintive cry to the developers of Delphi 7

To the developers of Delphi 7:

What is wrong with you!?! Why did you choose to ignore the behaviour of roughly a gazillion Windows apps which provide an encapsulating frame to keep all the little bits of your application together and nicely bundled? Why did you instead choose to provide 6 floating boxes and expose whatever it is my screen was previously displaying on the bits those boxes aren’t occupying?

Do you have any idea how frustratingly annoying this is? Why do you hate your poor users so? Is it not bad enough that they have to write in Delphi, that you feel the need to punish them further?

After all, I’ve been using Delphi for two days and I already hate it for its tedious and overwhelmingly pointless verbosity – and this from a guy that writes C for a living! Why do you seek to make the pain so much worse?


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