Practising bass (2016 version)

Yes it is the annual day for recording bass! I try to play once every week (or more—sometimes less) for fun. Once in a while it’s good to listen back and see how my playing has changed.

Here’s my attempts at playing Hey Ya! which was one of the first songs I learned. I’ve worked on the tab a couple of times so it’s easier and more fun now. I think it’s getting more consistent, though I still make mistakes 🙂

Here’s a random set of other songs I played:

There’s a couple in there that can be compared to previous years too!

Fragile Bird

My first bass tutor had me play this in my first lesson. It blew my mind trying to play on off-beats. I’m not sure why but there was a habit there that had to be unlearned first. Good exercise!

Sweet Virginia

I think we played this once in a jam after work. Quite peaceful to play on the bass, and it’s a lot of fun varying the rhythm during the sax solo!

Complaint to federal government re ineligible for solar hot water rebate

Hi,

I received a letter today stating that we are ineligible for the solar hot water rebate because our application was submitted more than 2 months after the installation date. I am so angry about this, but I will try to keep calm and hope we can sort it out.

Firstly. We participated in the Queensland Government Solar Hot Water Program (now closed). We heard about it in 2009 and I posted in our application form on 19 October 2009. Lucky I kept a note about that.

We had an inspection and paid out $500 plus some extra fees (for piping and council I believe) to the retailer assigned us: Conergy. This was around Feb 2010. Sorry my records are flaky in this instance.

On the 14th of May I sent this tweet to the Qld Premier (Anna Bligh) asking why we had any action on our solar hot water installation. Here is the tweet: http://twitter.com/#!/bboyle/status/13969408212

I didn’t expect much from this but Anna replied personally and we had Conergy ring us on 18 May and send Coastal Solar to install the system on Wednesday 26 May 2010.

Let us pause for a moment, and note how long it took for that to happen. The wheels turn slowly don’t they?

I wanted to send the application to you immediately. We had to approve a direct debit request with Queensland Government who can take $1600 any time should we not get the federal rebate. In fact we are only allowed 7 days to contact them from after you contacted us to advise them. I have already had to put them off once (called them on 20 December) to let them know I was waiting on a response from you! Let us pause again to note the time we are allowed here. It’s not much is it? You guys (governments!) sure expect a lot from the people, but don’t give much in return!! Back to the story…

I read the documentation carefully. We have the “Energy Efficient Homes Package Solar Hot Water Rebate Guidelines and application form” from the Australian Government. It was issued on 2 November 2009 and “applicable” until 30 June 2012 according to the inside cover. I can scan a copy for you if required. It states that we have six months to submit the application including proof of purchase to you, NOT two months as stated in your recent letter. It does state the Australian Government reserves the right to “change the rebate amount or any other aspect of the guidelines”—which I gather must have happened at some point. Please inform me when, why, and how this information was made available to customers likely to be affected. Did you inform the Queensland Government and expect them to inform us in turn?

Regardless, it is likely we missed the six months because we were waiting on a council inspection. It is also an eligibility requirement of your program that the hot water system is installed to relevant building standards, which includes the council inspection. If I had posted the application in at that time you could have claimed it was not eligible on those grounds.

In June/July, the council claimed not to have the necessary paperwork and I was unsuccessful in two attempts to follow this up with Moreton Bay Regional Council, Conergy and Coastal Solar. I do have an email from the council dated 29 June 2010 advising me that a council inspection was necessary. It was after that I had to call everyone to try to get that to happen. Since this occurred on the phone, I do not have accurate records. Conergy claimed Coastal Solar should have done the inspection, Coastal Solar said I needed a special number from the council before they did anything, and the council claimed they had no requests nor records of any plumbing work at our residence whatsoever. What can a person do in a situation like this I ask you?

On 31 October we noticed the hot water tank on the roof was leaking. We had Coastal Solar come back to repair it and asked about the inspection when their plumber was on site. This would have been early/mid November 2010. I can’t find any paperwork from that but I know we posted the application to you around that time—possibly you have my paperwork.

These are all my reasons why our application was delayed. It is extremely unfair that we should be left to foot a $1600 bill as a result. Our application was sent in as soon as we had the inspection sorted. Please contact me as soon as possible to discuss—I would very much like you to reconsider your stance on the eligibility of my application.

regards
Ben Boyle

Update 2 February 2011

No reply from the federal government yet, but I called the Queensland Government and they knew all about this situation. Have given me an address to post information to—fingers crossed that works out. (Of course, atm, we’re all crossing our fingers that Cyclone Yasi does not do too much damage when it crosses the coast in the next couple of hours!)

I also found a few key dates in my iPhone SMS history:

25–26 May 2010
Our hot water system was installed over 2 days.
25 October 2010
We first noticed the pipes on the roof were leaking—and fixed them. We found them leaking again on 31 October and got help.
2 November 2010
Plumber fixed leak and did inspection—“He said he will send in a form saying he has done an inspection to the cab council. All we have to do is send in the white forms with proof of purchase to the fed govt.”

Update 7 Feb 2011

Got my reply from the Australian Government today. It is decidedly not plain-English, but the gist is “no” and “contact the Queensland Government”―so it’s a good thing I already did that. Very disappointed to see them acting like a monopoly in this manner, and hoping the Queensland Government behave differently.

Dear Mr Boyle

Thank you for your query regarding the Australian Government’s Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme – Solar Hot Water Rebate (REBS).

On 19 February 2010 the Australian Government announced the new Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme (REBS). This new Scheme replaced the Solar Hot Water Rebate which was discontinued as of close of business 19 February 2010.

As indicated in the program guidelines the Government reserves the right to make changes to the program at any time. However arrangements were put in place for people who installed, paid for or ordered their hot water systems prior to 20 February 2010. Eligible solar or heat pump hot water systems installed prior to 20 February 2010 may have been assessed as eligible for a $1,600 rebate for solar hot water or $1,000 for a heat pump hot water system, if proof of purchase and installation prior to 20 February 2010 was included with the application.

Applications under these arrangements – including any supporting documentation – must have been received by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency by Friday, 14 May 2010.

Under the new REBS – Solar Hot Water Rebate applicants have two months (62 days) from installation to apply for the rebate.

As your rebate application was received after 14 May 2010 it was not eligible for the former Solar Hot Water Rebate. It was also received after the two month (62 day) timeframe for submission of an application for REBS – Solar Hot Water Rebate.

Therefore as advised previously your application has been deemed ineligible for a rebate.

However the Government also provides an incentive to all households to install climate friendly hot water systems in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). RECs are assigned by the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator as part of the Renewable Energy Target scheme and reflect the deemed value of equivalent renewable energy generation over a ten year period. Solar and heat pump hot water systems are assigned a number of RECs and these are commonly bought back by the retailer through a discount of around $1,000 off the upfront cost of the system.

In addition to the environmental benefits of a solar or heat pump hot water system, households may also receive ongoing economic benefits through installation of such a system. Users of a solar or heat pump hot water system may reduce their energy bills by hundreds of dollars per year in comparison to using an electric storage hot water system. This saving is dependent on local climate and household hot water use patterns.

Please contact the Queensland Government’s Office of Clean Energy to discuss your contractual arrangements and any provisions available for people who have been affected by delayed receipts under the Queensland Solar Hot Water Program.

www.cleanenergy.qld.gov.au/… or by phone: 13 25 23.

Regards

Household Water Rebates Section
Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
GPO Box 854
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Walking with gadgets and social media

Ah the fun you can have with an iPhone, a couple of apps, a 3G connection to social media and a bus that sometimes doesn’t wait when the train is late.

Burn 239Kcal walking 4.32km in 47½ minutes. Log it all with kinetic.

Take some pictures as you walk and post ’em all using instagram!
[flickr-gallery mode=”tag” tags=”20110128walk” tag_mode=”all”]

Keep an eye on your heart rate: 105 beats per minute when I was nearly home (back down to 54bpm now).

And an oldie but goodie, listen to great music with the iPod!

Assassin’s Creed II

Last September I posted about Assassin’s Creed, which I picked up in the 2009 Christmas sales on Steam. In 2010, the sale I was waiting for came along and I picked up Assassin’s Creed II—and it is excellent! Kudos too, to Ubisoft for offering an additional discount to owners of the first Assassin’s Creed game, which I happily took advantage of!

All the fun stealth and conspiracy elements of the first game are here—in a beautifully rendered Renaissance setting, and with oodles more content. The first game took me 24 hours to reach the finalé. I’m 19 hours into ACII and don’t think I’ve hit the halfway point yet. Nice!

You start exploring the life of Ezio as a youth, before learning of his assassin heritage. You learn more of his life and motivation, but I won’t spoil that here. And fear not, Ezio masters the assassin arts with enviable speed!

Graphics definitely got a boost and look fantastic in 1080p—sadly, my 9800GTX (or more likely my 2.2GHz CPU) struggles a bit in some scenes, but not enough to spoil it. The story also has a boost. Continuing directly on from Assassin’s Creed, Desmond and Lucy (Veronica Mars) escape the Abstergo building and meet up with a couple of other modern assassins. Desmond then gets into their animus and from then on it’s all about reliving the life of his ancestor Ezio (he was reliving Altair in the first game).

This whole memory aspect has a nice Matrix style twist to the game. And it’s very clever—you can’t die in a memory, you can only lose synchronisation. This plot device also controls when new areas open up. Venture too far and the game will reset to put you back in sync with Ezio’s actions. I find this more believable than the closed bridges in GTA 🙂

Controls are still a little whacky, at least they aren’t named “button 4” anymore. I had to remap the action buttons so the XBox360 controller colours matched the icons on screen, which definitely helps. I haven’t done as many accidental assassinations so it must be better! Other icons are somewhat mysterious—it is hard remembering which buttons are on the triggers and bumpers. Right bumper is “high profile” though—hold it down to add wow factor!

Showmanship will earn notoriety faster though (and could they have found a more awkward word than notoriety?) The notoriety system is much better. Guards won’t bother you too much at first, but if you start leaping around or knifing folks like—well, like an assassin—folks will start to pay attention. After too many incidents, you will be notorious. Guards will become instantly suspicious of you. Unless of course, you blend in…

Blending is much the same, but no longer requires a conveniently placed group of monks. You can blend with any group of passersby, so long as you stay in their midst. Hiring courtesans is even more effective (not sure why!) with the added bonus that they are able to distract guards when needed. This is highly useful for stealing treasure from guarded rooms!

Actually, getting minions—the courtesans, mercenaries and thieves—to do your dirty work is highly viable! They money system is generous so hiring them when around is almost always a good bet. Better than getting Ezio into a mess all on his own…

Gone are the repetitive missions and dialogue. The game flows confidently, sending you between cities. A great number of missions contribute directly to the story in this game, but there are a few side missions—races, assassination jobs, and beating on unfaithful husbands.

More fun is when you find a pickpocket in the vicinity—you can chase him down and tackle him (non-lethal) and keep the money yourself! Believe me, you’ve earned it. Those rooftop chases are crazy hard sometimes! Yep, it’s renaissance Italy and it’s full of colourful characters. And, this time, subtitles!

There are more soldiers and weapons. Ezio wields dual hidden blades, a knife and sword. You can buy new weapons as you progress and briefly pickup dropped weapons too. In addition to daggers and swords, there are mauls, hammers, axes, smoke bombs and poison. And probably more I have yet to discover.

Enemies are armoured, some more than others, and use different fighting styles. The combat is simple to control, and effective, even with the added variety. Successfully execute a counter and you’ll be treated to a nice little cut scene of Ezio showcasing his leet skills. But there are new stealth takedowns too—from haystacks, underwater or rooftop edges.

How you approach each task is up to you. Sandbox and stealth for the win! Can’t wait until we see Brotherhood on the PC later this year!