Griffiths / Shining through the semi-functional junk

“Anyone asking for directions without prefacing ‘my phone has run out of charge’ is probably trying to rob you and you should run away from them,” writes Lowbrow columnist JOHN GRIFFITHS

AT times our technological future may seem a little bleak as our lives fill up with semi-functional junk funnelling all the money in the world to a small coterie of contemptible nerds in Silicon Valley (not that all nerds are contemptible, I hasten to add).

But while we wait for our ever more intelligent mechanical masters to decide what to do with their human problem, there are a few upsides to the last days of late-stage capitalism.


John Griffiths.

John Griffiths.

The ACT Government has, against all experience and expectation, produced a useful smartphone app.

Search “ParkMobile” in your phone’s app store (Apple and Android only, begone luddite freaks of other platforms) and take a minute to set it up (sadly, it does need your credit card details).

It’s clunky and broken in places. But without too much difficulty you can pay for parking without needing to cart around bags of coins. Even better it will text you as the parking is about to expire and let you renew the parking without needing to hoof back out to the car.

It does, of course, mean the end of community minded motorists handing over unexpired vouchers to other drivers. The future is social only to the extent it harvests your personal data for commercial gain.

Google Maps

Years ago, when all the world was young, a friend called me at an ungodly hour announcing they were lost and wanting my help for them to get home.

“Haven’t you just bought a new iPhone?” I asked, as this was at the time a wondrous thing to have.

“Yes,” they slurred piteously.

“Then you’re not lost,” I replied hanging up.

Anyone asking for directions without prefacing “my phone has run out of charge” is probably trying to rob you and you should run away from them.

From sorting out public transport routes for you, to just getting you to new places in strange locales, if you don’t know how to use Google Maps then get to work on it before someone reports you as a suspected mugger.


TripAdvisor reviewers are an ignorant and spiteful lot. But there are a very great many of them enthusiastically talking down cafes for failing to put enough froth on the top of cappuccinos and the laws of large numbers work in their favour in the end.

If you want to know where to go near you for a meal, it’s a fantastic resource and, of course, once you know how use a mapping app you’ll be able to find the little gems you unearth.

Thor’s Hammer firewood briquettes

The Yarralumla timber recyclers have stopped selling their waste sawdust for landscaping and starting compressing it into firewood briquettes.

A one-tonne pallet for $350 arrives on a truck with its own forklift truck and plonks the pallet where you want it.

Last winter I paid $300 a tonne for firewood that normally lasted around six weeks.

The briquettes are cleaner, easier, less infested with insects, cleaner burning, hotter burning, longer burning and infinitely less prone to spitting. In three weeks I’ve used less than a quarter of the tonne.

Lighting a fire in a corner of the room for heat is not exactly a high technology activity, but it beats being locked into a gas contract and compared to messing around with uneven chunks of yellow box, from god knows where, I highly recommend it.

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