Friday, February 27, 2009

Melbourne Motorshow Podcast

The Melbourne Motorshow has begun and I was there for the media day. Alborz Fallah and I did a podcast walkabout and review most of the various stands and features.

Hit the link to hear the podcast and check out CarAdvice.com.au, Australia's number one independent car site.

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posted by thr at 9:32 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Connetta- The World Is My Lobster

Connetta- The World Is My Lobster

Anyone can knock out an album cover, who can write a review for an album that does not exist....?

Conetta- The World Is My Lobster

Hailing from New York (with plenty of Italy thrown in) this debut from alt-pop gal Connetta (born Connie Manzettta) is at once as quixotic as it is exotic.

With her flair for quick, simple tunes and lyrics that are as funny as they are poignant, Connetta immediately stands above other so called competitors in her so called peer group- why? She doesn't care for the trappings and formulas for stardom. You get the feeling she would play to five as happily as 50,000. For Connetta it's apparent that it's about allowing herself the freedom to be herself.

Still confused? Try listening to "My Red Tricycle" and tell me you are not caught up in the simplicity and beauty of a child's favourite toy. On "It Wasn't Me, It was The Other Three" a blame shift in the manner of George W Bush's failures in Iraq come to mind. I'm no wiser after 10 listens to "Who's The Real Elmo Anyway?" but it has something to do with Facebook banning, Gene Simmons and That Phonecall. "Not Another Fucking Meme" is a light hearted look at the minutes of your life wasted on pointless social networking sites responding to mindless tags and is absolute pop perfection- right down to the people tagged in the liner notes.

In a world where a critic is supposed to be a cynic Connetta takes that frown and turns it upside down- without a hint of cliché.


1 - Go to "wikipedia." Hit “random... Read More”
or click en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to "Random quotations"
or click www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5 - Post it to FB with this text in the "caption" and TAG the friends you want to join in.

posted by thr at 11:00 pm 0 comments links to this post

Ok I give in. 25 Random things about me

I don't mind a good meme-ing. Off we go.
  1. My late grandfather was a war hero who went to his grave without telling anyone why he received his Militaty Medal. There is a book "Westralian Cavalry during the War" that outlines his citation. He had killed 6-8 men with a machine gun. Whenever he was asked why he got the medal he varied his answer between "for being the best looking bloke in the army" to "for marring your grandmother". The bond between us is strong, despite Tom Sarre having died when I was ten.
  2. When I was very young I was terrified of water. My mum was convinced Harry would be the same. To prevent this, I have taken him to the pool, in the shower and to the beach since he was born. He loves the water.
  3. Between the ages of 19 and 29 I weighed 72-74 kilos. Post knee reconstruction (which coincided with me getting a "real" job and giving up windsurfing instructing), I whacked on a lazy 25kgs. Losing them is proving harder than gaining 'em.
  4. Depite the fact that my brother and I argue like crazy (and as recently as 5 years ago had a punch up!), I miss him a lot. Now he lives in LA instead of NYC, I kid myself we will visit them more often.
  5. I am regarded as versatile. I like lots of things and I do a few of them moderately well. This has not led to fame and fortune, no matter what some people say.
  6. My all time favourite adventure was our motorbike trip around Australia. (note: I dropped 10kgs on that!)
  7. I can wheelie almost any bike- motor or cycle. I can wheelie my mountain bike until I am too tired to balance it, can wheelie a road bike like Robbie McEwen and got warned at Phillip Island for wheelie-ing down the straight at a track day at a tick over 200km/h.
  8. I did not walk until I was 18 months old as I had a four wheelie tractor that I could get anywhere on. I could drift it, trundle it and steer it better than I can drive today.
  9. My first dog was Boots. She was a muttley dog who was crazy smart, loyal and perfect as a first dog. When my Dad used to tell the story about how he took her off to have her put down, he cried. Every time.
  10. When I was 21, I went on a windsurfing trip to WA with the recently gold medalled "Oasrome Foursome". Hilarity, insanity and lifelong memories ensued.
  11. I started blogging in September 2003. I was, and am a crappy blogger. I rarely make enough effort and am in awe of those who keep it up.
  12. I've had quite a few girlfiends, but only one whom I actually depise. Yes, it's YOU.
  13. Like all new Fathers I was blown away when I became a Dad. I cried and cooed and felt 10 feet tall. Ask me if I feel the smame way at 3am when Harry has spat his dummy and is grizzling about it... The answer: HELL YES.
  14. My all time hero is Albert Jacka VC. Most people know nothing of him, and yet he is our finest war hero. He was mayor of St Kilda and when he died young at 39, his pallbearers were all VCs. As Christopher Bantick wrote of Jacka "Albert Jacka is the forgotten man of Gallipoli. The reason is clear. Jacka was an efficient if not legendary killer."
  15. In 2008 I took to gardening for the first time. Rach and I planted a range of veggies and what not. I set up a tank based watering system and we proceeded to kill 90% of the plants. We'll be back in 09/10!
  16. I used to subscribe to the Henry Rollins philiosophy of being "trained in mind and body". But I have let both deteriorate woefully. Sorry Hank.
  17. I once wrote a book about the years up to and just after my Father's death. But it was crap. It was good for me, but no good for the public. I deleted it from amy computer years ago with no regrets.
  18. I am currently at my career crossroads. I'm going to let the next few months just play out and see where I go.
  19. The first time I asked Rachel out on a date (to see a film) she said no. She didn't wasnt to see that film. I asked again weeks later. She said yes.
  20. My favourite all time test car was the Aston Martin DB9 Sport. It is simply perfect.
  21. One of my life goals is to break 40 knots on a windsurfer and 200mph on a motorbike.
  22. I think Denis Walter is one of the nicest, funniest people I have ever met. Or worked with.
  23. My camera was stolen at the 2008 F1 Gp and I cannot afford to replace it (Thanks Harry!). I love photgraphy and am becoming more and more depresssed about not having a digital SLR camera. I want a Nikon D90, but need to find a special project that provides me with additional funds.
  24. For many years I lived the mantra that there are no limitations and you can be anything you want to be. This lead me down a path of doing things just because I wanted to prove I could do them, not due to any particular passion.
  25. I would tag Rachel to do 25, but here's no way she would. So I am tagging no one.

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posted by thr at 9:41 am 0 comments links to this post

Monday, February 23, 2009

Irony- up to maximum...

posted by thr at 11:44 am 0 comments links to this post

Friday, February 13, 2009

100 goals for 2008 2009!

Thanks/apologies to to MiriamP, I am going rip you off 100% and post some full on serious (and not so serious nor full on) goals for 2009 and go hard from the get go.

Blog and online

1. Blog an article fortnightly. People think I don't/can't write and really I am certain I have lost some mojo. Promise to fix this.

2. Relaunch thomasr.org this year

3. Blog on my 3AW site weekly or more.

4. Do some guest posts elsewhere.


5. Get into the low 90 kilo mark.

6. Do more incidental excercise- 10,000 steps a day.

7. Cycle once a week, building to twice.


8. Read a book or part thereof 3 nights a week before sleep. Harry's arrival and exhaustion have killed that much to my shame.

9. Complete the Patrick O'Brien series

10. As above but Flashman.

Family and Friends

11. Go to swimming lessons with Harry

12. Take Rachel to dinner twice a month

13. Have lunch with a friend every month.

14. Use my expertise to help a friend once a month.

15. Teach Harry how to ride his tractor

16. Buy a new apartment for Mum.

17. Collaborate on some projects with Stephen.

18. Visit Mansfield family twice for the weekend.

19. Skype with Bro weekly.

20. Get email contacts for entire cousin network.

21. Babysit for friends occasionally that they might have a night together.

22. Have the nieces/nephew over for the night/day.



24. Get my credit card below $1000 and then change the limit to that.

25. Attack all my debts with the vigour and singlemindedness of an Olympian with gold in mind.

26. Sell all my motorbikes and buy one.

27. Take over the management of house finances.

28. Use a freelance income stream to save money.

Freelance work

29. Get a new gig with a different media channel.

30. Get one article published in legacy (mainstream) media.

31. Get my television idea up to proposal stage (so that it may be rejected)

32. Call people I know who are in the industry and keep in their circles.

33. Review two cars a month.

34. Get a manager for media work.

35. Organise an event of some description.

36. Review/write up some racing events.

Personal improvement

37. Get up at 6:30 every morning and excercise in some way. Or Wwrite. Or get Rachel breakfast.

38. Go to bed by 11:30 no matter what.

39. Play Xbox less- no more than hour at a stretch and no more than 3 times a week.












50. Go kitesailing 3 times and then quit.

51. Get a skateboard again. Long board of course.

52. Nail a one handed loop windsurfing. I have not done one in 5 years.

53. Take Rachel surfing.

54. Go camping with Rachel and Harry- and go somewhere I have not been before.

55. Windsurf as often as possible. Record it via the Facebook app I installed.

56. Take rookies for weekend motorbike rides more often. Take Rachel as well.

57. Race in the Dirt Bike Masters or Vic enduro series in over 35s.

58. Break 40 knots on a windsurfer. PB is currently 38.8 or something.










































posted by thr at 12:00 pm 1 comments links to this post

A ride though the hills before the fires struck

Adrian and I had a run through the hills just a couple of weeks before the horrible fires that have destroyed so many houses and lives. It's perfect country for motorcycle riding- well made, curvy roads, beautiful scenery and people who welcome us everytime . We respond by respecting the speed limits and spending money in the towns (Especially the Kinglake bakery!)

We'll be back just as soon as the people in these towns can shake the ash off the welcome mat. Looking forward to it...

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posted by thr at 7:47 am 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm getting out while I'm still young...ish.

Shortly I will be exiting my current employ and I think I might not work agency side in advertising nor digital media for a while.* The reasons why I may discuss in the future. In the event you want to work in either industry, here's how I think you can work/worm your way in.

How do you get started?

It's always been hard to break into any industry. Always. Noah wanted to be a stone mason, not a boat builder, but couldn't find an opening.

In this day and age of internet not stone tablets, you can start building a personal brand long before you begin the CV polishing and door knocking process. Here are my cheerful ways to get ahead and show your passion:

  • Register yourname.com or your-name.com – find some sort of variation on your name.
  • Email from that domain address when seeking work. We will immediately check to see if you have a site parked there and;
  • Build it as a blog site. It's simple and inexpensive to set up (WordPress, blogger etc). Include an about page with contact details.
  • Blog about your desired industry. Weekly or whenever you have something to add. Become engaged in your industry.
  • Publish your uni papers and related material there too.
  • Get a profile on LinkedIn and ensure it's up over 80% completed.
  • Don't stalk your prospective employer online. They'll hear about you if you're smart and insightful.
  • Subscribe to relevant sites of interest via RSS and comment there using your real name and a link to your blog.
  • When setting up on Facebook/MySpace/any other site ensure that whatever you do- from pics to comments- will not hinder your chances of employment. They look up all candidates on Facebook. Remember that.
  • Your CV- no more than 3 pages. They'll appreciate the fact you worked at Maccas, but they don't need to know if you were flipping burgers or workin' the drive through. Just the bare essentials. They're going to Google you and Facebook you for good measure.. Let the good stuff turn up there. (Remember how we registered your-name.com? That's now going to work for you when people Google your name...)

So next time you hear someone say "Oh it's so hard to get a start", ask them if they have completed the above list. If not, tell them what I am telling you now: build a brand- your brand.

That's a start.

*In case of extreme poorness, this may in fact be a lie.

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posted by thr at 8:31 am 1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bush fires: What could we have done to warn people?

In the haze and confusion that has followed the most horrific natural disaster in our history, it's become apparent that the scope of information (or lack thereof) and the speedy dissemination of said information to residents in the firing line was not effective.

The government has authorised a royal commission, but the time that will take and then instituting the findings will take some time.

I'm going to float an idea right now: Unmanned drones. They are an effective and low-risk method of monitoring this sort of natural disaster. They can carry a huge amount of equipment for surveillance and can be part of a technology chain that could be far more effective at sending out information live from the fire to command and then onward to people affected via sirens, the web, radio, SMS and automated land line calls.

The logical choice of drone would be the MQ-9 Predator. Not only has it been a highly successful military aircraft, used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it also has form insofar as monitoring fires.

From Wikipedia:
In November 2006, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center obtained an MQ-9 from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.. The aircraft has been named Ikhana and its main goal is the Suborbital Science Program within the Science Mission Directorate. NASA also acquired a ground control station in a mobile trailer. This aircraft was used extensively to survey the Southern California wildfires in 2007. The data was used to deploy firefighters to areas of the highest need.
And, despite being built ostensibly for global warming research, it worked a treat:

It was surprisingly successful: Ikhana found a hot spot at the bottom of a canyon just east of the town where fire crews hadn't expected any problems. With the data, fire fighters were able to re-deploy to block the hot spot from spreading towards the Sierra town of Paradise. They immediately evacuated 10,000 people and successfully kept the fire from overtaking the town.
Here's why we need this sort of capability:

"Firefighters are blinded by the smoke of a fire, but they need to know where the hottest parts of a fire are burning, and any little hot spots that are out in front," said Vincent Ambrosia, NASA Ames Research Center's principal investigator for the fire mission. "Most temperature sensors are calibrated to sense low-temperature sources; for instance, the military wants to use UAVs to sense a person walking across a field at night. But that kind of sensor doesn't work well for high-temperature sources.

"By calibrating our thermal sensors for high temperatures, we can tell whether a given area is actively flaming or just extremely hot ash—a 'boot melter'—because you don't want to send in firefighters if it's going to melt their boots."

Yes, there are manned aircraft with this sort of sensor equipment available. But a drone is a better choice- for starters, there's the time it can spend "on station".

"The MQ-9 is fitted with six stores pylons. The inner stores pylons can carry a maximum of 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms) each, and are "wet" to allow carriage of external fuel tanks. The midwing stores pylons can carry a maximum of 600 pounds (270 kilograms) each, while the outer stores pylons can carry a maximum of 200 pounds (90 kilograms) each. An MQ-9 with two 1,000 pound (450 kilogram) external fuel tanks and a thousand pounds of munitions has an endurance of 42 hours."
This would mean that a could have gone on station at 9am on Saturday the 8th and stayed until late Sunday night. A refuel at Essendon airport approximately 50 kms from Kinglake by air and it would be back for another 40+ hours. (Also note that if you have purpose built fire "eye in the sky" for non military use, you free up another 450kgs/1000lbs for equipment or even more fuel.)

One of the arguments against drones is safety of existing air traffic. That's only an issue for the MQ-9 when ascending and descending. The rest of the time, it's too high:
From an altitude of 43,000 feet, the wildfire sensor collected and sent 100 images and more than 20 data files containing the location of the fire perimeter over a 16-hour period on Oct. 28 and 29. The data were delivered in real time through a satellite communications link. NASA and Forest Service specialists worked to familiarize the fire management team with accessing capabilities and sensor data format. The data from the NASA system were used by the Esperanza Fire Incident Command Center to map fire behavior and direct resources to critical areas on the fire.
Australian already has these drones in use for illegal fishing detection. So we have trained staff and pilots who can fly and support these aircraft. Further, use by the military of these drones in a domestic crisis is not only great PR, it's ideal for training under real pressure. Illegal fishing might be a worthy reason to have drones, but is it more important than saving lives?

I emailed Wired's "Danger Room" blogger Noah Schachtman to ask his thoughts on drones used in fire fighting. Here's what I sentt:

The number one problem was detection and information flow. In Oz we either leave early or stay to fight. Many early-leavers left too late and were killed in their cars as they did not know the extent of the problem or proximity if the fires.

The government has set up a commission of enquiry. I would like to ask your users what they think- from a tech view- could be used to assist in detection and rapid dissemination of information.

Would unmanned drones built specifically for fire detection be the way forward? On the day in question, we knew we were in for trouble- record drought combined with 120f day and 60mph winds. Could we have launched drones into the danger areas to track fires? (I might add that the most deadly fires were seemingly deliberately lit).

Over to you!
His reply:
I know that NASA has used some drones to fight wildfires. They haven't been more widely-deployed here because of the Federal Aviation Administration's worry about them flying in the same skies as manned planes.

But drones are successfully being used to find everything from smugglers to bomb-planters. Why not fires (or fire-starters) too?
The last point is interesting. If drones can be up in the air scanning for fires, then early detection is possible and even identification and footage of the firebug is possible as well. Not only that but surely there would be a deterrent factor at work as well...?

The costs are a little up in the air as the predator and reaper UAVs are "systems"- typically deployed as 4 aircraft with all relevant support systems. That can get very expensive. But if simply added to our existing UAV program, the costs would be significantly lower.

Technology has a lot to offer in these circumstances and it seems that we are still relying on old systems (like the bush telegraph) when the technology already exists to significantly reduce the risks to people in fire affected areas.

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posted by thr at 10:00 am 1 comments links to this post