Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Resolutions 2011

Alright. It's that time of the year again; time to decide how to improve my life and make some poorly-planned resolutions for 2011.

Things to do:
  • GradDipSci in Computer Science, meeting requirement for Post-Graduate Bioinformatics
  • Lose weight (current BMI: 24.2)
  • Work smarter, not harder!

Things to give up:
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeinated beverages and soft drinks
  • Candy and chocolate
  • Smoking

Things to improve:
  • Contribution to work; the 2012 University Academic Timetable should be a vast improvement over the 2011 iteration
  • Effort put into coursework, not just the bare minimum required for a mediocre grade
  • Grades, aiming for a minimum GPA of 7, A-
  • Keyboard/piano playing
  • Overall Fitness
  • Reduce time spent playing computer/video games, e.g. weekends only during semesters

Monday, May 31, 2010

GST increase vs. Income tax decrease

Earlier, I provided a brief summary of the 2010 New Zealand budget.

Recall the following points (or, if you can't recall, re-read):
• GST up from 12.5% to 15%

• Adjusted income tax rates:
   o $0-$14000 at 10.5% (down from 12.5%)
   o $14001-$48000 at 17.5% (down from 21%)
   o $48001-$70000 at 30% (down from 33%)
   o $70001+ at 33% (down from 38%)

 So how does this even out? I threw everything into a spreadsheet and came up with some basic numbers:

(Click image for full size view)
The left column represents different gross (before tax) incomes, while the column at the top represents different proportions of income spent on GST-inclusive expenses. The purpose of specifying different percentages is that some things you do with your earnings will be GST exempt (mainly rent, mortgage repayments and savings).

You will thus have more effective purchasing power if you fall into at least one of the two following categories:
  • You spend 90% or less of your income on GST-inclusive purchases (i.e. at least 20% is spent on other things, such as the aforementioned list of rent/mortgage/savings)
  • Your pre-tax income is over $20,000 per annum.
Now anyone working full-time (40 hours/week) will fall into the second category automatically (minimum wage equates to $26,000). Of course if you're a poor student who pays neither rent nor mortgage and spends all your money, then I feel sorry for you. Although you most probably live with family and the difference will amount to perhaps one or two beers a month. You'll survive.

NB: I've tried to make sure the formulas are accurate. If your own calculations don't produce the same result as mine, then please let me know.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

[NZ] Budget 2010

While I was in a seminar sharing my uninformed views of writing in late-medieval China, the latest New Zealand budget was announced. It coincided nicely with the University's fortnightly pay day.

To summarise the key points:

• Property depreciation will no longer be eligible to offset against income
• GST up from 12.5% to 15%

• Adjusted income tax rates:
o $0-$14000 at 10.5% (down from 12.5%)
o $14001-$48000 at 17.5% (down from 21%)
o $48001-$70000 at 30% (down from 33%)
o $70001+ at 33% (down from 38%)

• Additionally, the business and PIE (Portfolio Investment Entity) tax rates will drop to 28% (from 30%) while trusts remain at 33% (in-line with the top tax-bracket).

• Student allowances, superannuation, benefits etc will increase by 2.2% to offset the GST hike.

Overall, sizeable income tax reductions will more than offset the increased cost of living due to the GST hike. It certainly encourages saving and investment (particularly investment in something other than property) which is currently somewhat lacking in New Zealand. It is important to remember that the GST increase will not apply to things like rent and mortgage payments, or any interest/dividends you earn from savings.

In essence this is very much a pro-capitalist National budget. Where does this leave the socialist conveniences of the welfare state? Additional spending has been announced for the healthcare and education sectors, as well as infrastructure, particularly ultra-fast broadband (yay) and rail networks (good luck with this).

Bearing in mind that various governments, including New Zealand's, are trying to reduce deficit (particularly with the situation in Europe getting progressively worse, and the potential 2012 financial crisis looming), this is one of the better budget announcements in recent years. It provides for more taxation fairness (certainly a good thing), and reduces tax evasion by funneling income through trusts while qualifying for state support. It additionally encourages savings and investment, both foreign and domestic - particularly because Kiwi Saver is still intact.

Personally I don't have a problem with paying tax, as long as the money isn't being squandered and I can see tangible gain, either to myself or the country. I support the idea of a capital gains tax, and compulsory retirements savings/insurance. But on the other hand, I'm not going to complain about a bit of extra money every pay day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This post is so powerful that it's not necessary to talk about it

I think my argument is so powerful it's not necessary to talk about it
- Rick Giles

If you haven't seen it yet, this is a quote from Rick Giles, who appeared on New Zealand's Sunrise (TV3 Breakfast show) program at the end of March this year. He's talking (ranting, even) about his support for Edison Hour, an anti-Earth Hour, and... well, you should just watch it:

Personally, I'm not convinced. But there's no need to talk about it. As you may have gathered, Rick is (was) a member of ACT on Campus, the University body associated with New Zealand's delightful liberal party ACT, which is currently one of the country's governing parties.

Of course Rick Giles should not be seen as representative of this party, and was dismissed from ACT on Campus shortly afterwards. Not apparently because he was clearly failing at communication, rationality and maintaining his mental faculties, but because he formulated a response video and the party had ordered him to desist.

It's not that his views are, to put it mildly, fucking batshit insane. His views are still fairly representative of ACT (he was, after all, the president of ACT on Campus), but they canned him because he wouldn't shut up. Which, I suppose, is reason enough.

Rick Giles did, however, have the last laugh: Sunrise was cancelled shortly afterwards and aired for the final time on April 8. Clearly, someone tried to disagree with his overly powerful argument.

Man has earned his right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone totally batshit insane.

Anyway, on to other matters. After much deliberation, I applied for, got offered and started a new full-time job on April 1. The result has been a substantial increase in income, which I'm not entirely sure what to do with so I just throw it liberally at poorly thought-out schemes until the problem goes away. Man, my life is so hard. Actually, if I was doing anywhere near as much study for my history degree as I ought to be, it'd be pretty hectic. Thankfully, I'm easily-distracted, poorly-motivated and lazy - yesterday was spent playing Chrono Trigger on the DS and flash games. And eating potato chips while hiding from the weather (which was seriously intense, the neighbouring building had a waterfall running down the side of it).

One of the reasons the post stream has been drying up a bit around here is that effort must be saved to write late-night assignments. Also, been thinking a lot without bothering to make the effort to put thoughts into written form and set them in a cohesive, legible and comprehensive order. Eventually either my work or my studies will become less demanding and I can work on other plans.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


A 100-word short story attempt. Written during study time, it ended up being exactly 100 words (no need to go back and mess around with adjectives and prepositions to hit the target count).

She sat down and began to write. Petals fell as brush caressed page in a creative dance of narrative. A world was born amidst fluid ink-laden strokes. In this world, a girl was born, a prodigal child, mastering wondrous magic. Yet as she grew up, evil befell the world, with the corruption of men bringing sorrow and pain. The girl, a woman now, opposed this evil, striving with all her talent. Endlessly she fought, finally sacrificing her life to restore hope.  Her daughter, wishing her memory to endure, decided to tell her story. She sat down and began to write.

Friday, February 19, 2010

[Legacy] Quest for Progress

Rather than actually coming up with something original, for which I don't get paid enough, I have decided to just rehash some old content. And by 'rehash' I mean repost. Partly for content, partly because I like the original post, and partly because I'm vaguely considering writing something like this, just for the hell of it.

Has anyone played Progress Quest? It's a little single-player RPG that takes the grinding out of RPGs. Which means that it just runs in the background spouting random RPG-related text to the GUI, with the net effect of looking like Kingdom of Loathing played by a bot.

You start it, it runs. It quests for you, kills stuff, empties bags, buys new gear, and you can watch those little Progress bars... progress. Slowly. And after a while, very slowly. And while this is doubtlessly more interesting than whatever work you're meant to be doing, homework you're procrastinating about, or blog you're trying to read, it's still a bit single-minded (GRIND GRIND GRIND!).

I'm thinking we can do better than this. Hereby introducing Quest for Progress. The non-interactive RPG of the future. It's so futuristic there won't even be a QFP1, but we'll move straight to QFP2. There will be a single player option that can start as soon as your computer loads, and a MMONIRPG (massively multiplayer online non-interactive role-playing game), with over 2 people per server!

This game will be so awesome that if you close it and then load it again later it can extrapolate what would've happened while it was off. No more losing game-time when a tornado takes out some pylons!

Further features (which in fact may or may not be implemented):
- no more spending ages deciding on a class, they're all the same anyway; QFP has the option of assigning you one automatically (defaults to "Village Idiot")
- no more spending ages deciding on a name, QFP has the option of assigning you one automatically (also defaults to "Village Idiot")
- the same goes for race, except that "Village Idiot" is not a race
- better quests: escorts, debaucherie, highland games, marry an heiress, earn a Darwin award, engage in massive public quests with other "Village Idiots"
- more MMO-realism: QFP will occasionally create an alt for you, and level that one instead (defaults to "other Village Idiot")
- PvP: QFP will include player-versus-player combat (well, QFP-versus-QFP combat)
- NPCs will have names, they may not be very good names, but they will exist
- trophies: QFP will randomly award you completely meaningless things for doing stuff you had no hand in doing (we're basing this on a beaureaucratic model). Other QFP 'players' may or may not view these.
- new hairstyles!
- new dances!
- destructible buildings (actually, no, that won't be happening)
- realm versus realm combat (also a nono, sorry)
- bugs!
- false promises!
- ambiguity!
- lag! (although not sure how we'll do this)
- free beer on fridays! (we are, in fact, working on this. But only on fridays)
- salvation and forgiveness for your sins! (QFP creators hereby forgive you for all sins committed before last summer)
- the wrong release date (next week, honest)
- colons in future titles, because more colon makes everything better!
- and many other things we'll add when we see that they work for other companies (currently considering Google ads)

Quest for Progress 2: we hope you'll join us
Your village called, they want their idiot back


DS Ex Machina in no way guarantees that any of the following will be included in any software it can be associated with (directly, indirectly, non-directly, recursively or otherwisely):
- monsters
- graphics
- spells
- items
- installability
- features

Sunday, January 31, 2010

[Abridged] Sweet pancake recipe (with ground almonds)

This is the printable, useable version of the heavily annotated pancake recipe found here.

Sweet Pancakes with Ground Almonds (makes ~6)

3/4 Cup white flour (not self-raising)
1/2 Cup ground almonds
2 Teaspoons white sugar (1A)
3/4 Cup Milk
2 Eggs
Oil for cooking

Mix everything in a mixing bowl. The batter should be fairly fluid and pour easily (add milk or flour as required).

Making the pancakes:
  1. Heat about a Tablespoon of oil in a frying pan.
  2. Pour a ladleful into the pan.
  3. Spread the batter evenly.
  4. Cook for 15-30 seconds, until firm.
  5. Flip the pancake.
  6. Cook until brown on both sides.
Serve with maple syrup, cinnamon sugar, lemon sugar, or fruit and cream.