Hear Ye! Since 1998.

Archived Posts for September 2002

Please note: The posts on this page are at least 3 years old. Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
26
Sep 02
Thu

HDD Auction

Hmm no one’s bid for my hard drive on eBay… $155 for a new 60GB hard drive is cheap isn’t it? Buy my drive.

Military Games

The US Army has America’s Army, their free game/recruiting tool. Palestine has Under Ash.

A Week in the Life

It seems that the updates to this site have somewhat petered out this session. I guess it’s because I seem to be spending less time on the Net. Apart from the daily rounds, I don’t really browse through much else. My thesis is due November 15, and I have a shitload of work left to do for that. I’m using IBM WebSphere for it, and due to some obscure bug that was preventing a proper install, I had to lug my computer up to St Leonard’s for them to look at it (incidentally, the view they have from the top floor at reception is incredible). With a day’s effort and luck, we managed to get WebSphere working on my computer, so it was worth the trip. The thesis is what occupies most of my time these days, although progress is very slow.

I went to a dragonboat training session last Sunday and I don’t think my deltoids have hurt so much in my life – the exertion isn’t so much in the stroking, it’s in keeping the oar held up. Been hitting the gym twice a week, including a Pilates class. I had a midsession quiz yesterday for my only subject this session, Telecomms for E-Commerce, basically a course on networks. It was… ok. Now we’re on our one week midsession break, but with my 3 hour weeks, it won’t feel any different for me. My flatmate is taking off to Melbourne for the week, leaving tonight. Hmm, I’ve never been to Melbourne myself. Soph just got offered a permanent position at ING, which is terrific news.

Looking ahead, there’s a 21st at Centennial park tomorrow and a BBQ on Sunday. Co-op ball is coming up, where I will have to go through the hassles and cost of hiring appropriate attire (grumble). I’ve also convinced mum and dad to take 3 days off work to watch the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse over South Australia in December. We’re planning to hop on a plane to Adelaide, hire a car, drive up to Ceduna, or thereabouts, and return by the same method. There’s going to be another family holiday at the year’s end to Singapore, Hat Yai (Thailand) and Hong Kong, which means I’m going to miss another Christmas and New Year’s in Australia… the 4th year running :(. My cousin has been dodgy over ICQ again and has somehow managed to score us a good looking Honkie “tour guide” while we’re over there (despite the presence of friends-we-already-know that will be there). That happened the last time too. And more. But that’s another story.

25
Sep 02
Wed

The Prince

No doubt you’ve all heard of the term “Machiavellian”, after Niccolo Machiavelli, whose political worldview has often been summed up as “let the ends justify the means”. His most famous work was called The Prince, which is essentially a political guidebook on how a monarch should rule and prosper. Machiavelli presented the book in the early 16th century to his liege, Lorenzo de Medici. For a God fearing man (his discussion on ecclesiastical principalities includes this line: “But as they are sustained by higher powers which the human mind cannot comprehend, I shall not argue about them; they are exalted and maintained by God, and so only a rash and presumptuous man would take it on himself to discuss them.”) he doesn’t hesitate to assert, “But if once the [enemy] has been vanquished and broken in battle so that he cannot raise new armies, there is nothing to worry about except the ruler’s family. When that has been wiped out there is no one left to fear…”

It’s an intriguing book, and Machiavelli certainly has a gift for rhetoric. Although this world has a dwindling supply of monarchs with any real power, and anyone trying to annex a neighbouring state will have to deal with the US, I’m sure there are many parallels that can be drawn in the corporate world. You just have to translate the title to “The CEO” and you’re set. Finally, here are Machiavelli’s parting words from the chapter “How far human affairs are governed by fortune, and how fortune can be opposed”:

I conclude, therefore, that as fortune is changeable whereas men are obstinate in their ways, men prosper so long as fortune and policy are in accord, and when there is a clash they fail. I hold strongly to this: that it is better to be impetutous than circumspect; because fortune is a woman and if she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce her. Experience shows that she is more often subdued by men who do this than by those who act coldly. Always, being a woman, she favours young men, because they are less circumspect and more ardent, and because they command her with greater audacity.

Ports

Port number reference page. Technical link, more for reminding myself than anything else.

24
Sep 02
Tue

UN Survey

A worldwide survey was conducted by the U.N. last month. The only question asked was: “Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?”

The survey was not a success.

In Africa they didn’t know what ‘food’ meant.
In Eastern Europe they didn’t know what ‘honest’ meant.
In Western Europe they didn’t know what ‘shortage’ meant.
In China they didn’t know what ‘opinion’ meant.
In the Middle East they didn’t know what ‘solution’ meant.
In South America they didn’t know what ‘please’ meant.
And in the U.S.A. they didn’t know what ‘the rest of the world’ meant.

Thanks Kev.

23
Sep 02
Mon

Dinner

A little while ago, a row about doctors receiving perks from pharmaceutical companies hit the front page of the SMH. It’s supposedly unethical, although the last line of the article just about sums up the situation: “There are more politicians who have been entertained on Sydney Harbour than doctors.”

But anyway, I went to a dinner put on by a drug company last Saturday. A very nice seafood dinner at Golden Century in Chinatown – a reasonable $1000 meal for 14 of us (4 doctors and their families, and drug reps). I don’t really know what the dinner’s purpose was, because nothing about drugs was really mentioned. Except for the time when one of the doctors was recounting a time when he was having a bad day. He was filling out some medical paperwork while listening to a drug rep give a sales pitch. Upon being told by the drug rep to “pay attention” to him and not the paperwork, the doctor then replied in no uncertain terms to “get out”, and the rep left rather taken aback and red faced. Dinners like that are a bit suspect, but I think most people have come to recognise that the whole doctors and freebies thing is like, part of the job. All it is, essentially, is part of marketing by drug companies. Is it different in principle to corporate sales executives wining and dining their clients? Ultimately, not really. It just happens more often with doctors. And it was a nice meal.

REPORTER: The setting: One of Sydney’s most exclusive restaurants, Level 41. The host, again: Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. The occasion: Well, over some of the country’s best food and wine our invited doctors are tonight discussing … gastroenterology. On their way out, we decided it was time to ask the obvious question:

REPORTER: Do you think a drug company should be bringing you here?

FEMALE DOCTOR: Yes, yes, we had such a good time.

REPORTER: But really they’re just trying to sell you drugs aren’t they?

FEMALE DOCTOR: They’re not. It’s for education. Now don’t get it wrong. It’s purely for education. Do you hear the word Zoton the whole night.

REPORTER: So they weren’t pushing the drug.

FEMALE DOCTOR: No, it was not mentioned at all.

REPORTER: You think it makes no difference that they bring you to the most expensive restaurant in town.

FEMALE DOCTOR: It’s … ah … how can I put it. They’re marketing a drug and it’s just a means of getting together and sharing experiences. We talk about medicine. We have a good time. But Zoton, that product, is insignificant in these evenings.

REPORTER: Even though it’s at this restaurant.

FEMALE DOCTOR: Ummmmmm. There’s a lot of restaurants. Buon Ricordo. And ah Tetsuya. We go to some lovely places.

Free dinner at… Tetsuya’s?!?! Holy crap. Time to get Dad to call up Wyeth :) hehe… Hmm, I don’t think it works that way though… well, a man can dream, can’t he? :)

Austin Powers 3: Goldmember

It’s rare that you find a sequel, let alone a third movie in a series, that’s decent these days. In this respect, Goldmember is doing well. Recommended, the jokes aren’t all old and tired, and even though you’ve probably seen the “MOLE!!” scene in the trailers many times, it’s amazing in that it’ll make you crack up laughing when you see it again in the actual movie.

20
Sep 02
Fri

Rendered

From Pete: Real or CGI? This one completely deceived me until the stool loaded up (and I had a closer look at the hair).

16
Sep 02
Mon

Life as a Blog

Article in the Australian. Why does there seem to be more Melbourne blogs than Sydney blogs anyway? (A simple population comparison should statistically show we should have more.)

Lingua Machina

SMH article from Denise. What I find interesting is that data compatibility issues have been moving away media, to data formats. Whilst the old 8 and 5.25 inch floppies are all but non-existent, 3.5s and CDs have been around for ages. A lot of people reckon that 3.5s are dead, but still, when you need to quickly chuck a doc file onto something to bring somewhere, nothing beats a floppy. With CDs, backwards compatibility in optical drives will ensure that these discs won’t be turning obsolete any time soon. And naturally, most data is now distributed around the net, so it’s no longer about media incompatibility, but format incompatibility. It will be unlikely to see a standard “Lingua Machina” get developed and used by industry anytime soon, but the idea is laudable.

15
Sep 02
Sun

Now Reading…

I was shopping for a 21st present last week and bought myself some books along the way, a bit of a mixed bag: Raymond E Feist’s new release, Talon of the Silver Hawk, Machiavelli’s The Prince, Kafka’s Metamorphosis (and other stories), and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. The latter was referred to me ages ago by Fuzzy, who told me that unfortunately the book was now out of print but sent me an OCRed copy of it instead. However, the OCR copy was so riddled with digitisation typos, that it was pretty much unreadable. But as I was browsing the sci-fi shelves of Dymock’s, I spied one last aging copy of the book and snapped it up.

I didn’t regret it. I read through Metamorphosis (a short, curious, novelette) first, and then chased it up with Snow Crash. I’m not really going to go into what Crash is all about, other than its really easy to get immersed in the techno-world Stephenson portrays – just reading his descriptions of the dynamics of the Metaverse (sort of like a massively multiplayer VR world simulator) is entertaining enough. The story eventually gets tangled up in linguistics and neurolinguistic programming, religion, history, theories of propagation and obviously technology that’s all spun together in an intriguing fashion. The book is 10 years old, but there’s virtually nothing in it that shows its age – meaning that in the novel’s world of the future, nothing in it would be considered “old” or “outdated” in our reality’s world of the present. (Though the SmartWheels Y.T. uses did remind me of Segway technology :) If you ever come across this book, it’s a good read.

10
Sep 02
Tue

Whistling Responses

Responses to the Whistling post below:

I’ve been able to do this since I was about 12, a family friend (female) taught me. Once I was shown the technique, it took 2 dizzying (literally) days of trying, before I got the slightest “whistle”. After that, it’s just adjustment of the hand position. If you can ignore the spelling errors, I found a webpage that tells how to do it.

http://www.cs.uit.no/~larsf/hp/hpfirst/home/whistle.htm

It’s exactly the way I do it, except I only use the index finger of each hand, as opposed to index/middle fingers. With practice, you should be able to reach ear-drum popping volumes using this technique. I’ve actually been able to self-teach myself to do it with no hands now. But that took a good month’s worth of work… You are now the Padawan learner. Good luck!
Batty

—–

In year 10 I spent several weeks learning to whistle with my fingers in
my mouth (drove everyone at school, my family, etc, insane). The only
way I learned was to stick 4 fingers (index and middle of each hand)
into your mouth, curling up the tip if your tongue and bracing it up
with the fingers (sort of pushing it down to make a tight fold…).
There’s a similar way where you link thumb and index finger and use that
instead. However, both these methods are somewhat unhygenic. So then I
learned to fox-whistle, which is just as loud and involves no fingers
whatsoever.

What you do is stretch your top lip out and down, then press your tongue
against it, forming a small hole. Then blow through that. Note that you
have to blow hard, and get a loud whistle. You can fox-whistle quietly
but the position of the tongue for this is subtly different (when you
blow hard the force of the air moves the tongue…). This is the best
way IMHO.

Don’t expect to learn any of the above ways from scratch in less than a
week of nearly constant practice (driving those who have to be around
you up the wall).

Cheers,
V

Hypotheticals

As the world settles down tomorrow to watch a round of memorials and tv documentaries on the world-shaking event last year which received the most media coverage in history, I cannot help but wonder what another terrorist attack on September 11 this year would mean. Security has been ramped up, emergency services on alert, and America has vowed countless times in the last 365 days to “never let something like this happen again”. For an attack to slip under the net of American vigilance would be, in symbolic terms, crippling.

Such an attack now would not have to be something exotic, either. They don’t need a nuke, or a dirty bomb, or a biological agent. A few extreme-minded Muslim shaheed will do, placed strategically throughout crowded areas in the country. Or perhaps a fleet of trucks laden with explosives ram raiding into buildings. Although the death toll would not be as high as the three thousand who perished last year, nor the destructive effects be as horrifyingly spectacular as three million pounds of masonry collapsing, the message would be just as resounding: You cannot stop us.

And what then? Ban trucks? Body friskers at every corner? Would American freedom, touted by the so-called “leader of the free world” to be the envy of all, still maintain its (shaky) solidarity? Would America still be able to claim with a straight face that it still offered its citizens unparalleled amounts of freedom, in an age where you cannot board a plane without taking off your shoes first?

Just how much freedom can you take away, in exchange for security, in an effort to preserve freedom?

Of course, it can be argued that another attack would not be in the best interests of the offending parties. American retribution, whoever it was directed at, would be brutal. Bush would no doubt twist it into an excuse to commence Operation Desert Storm II. Also, with al-Queda in ruins and Osama no where to be seen, who would be left to blame? But who said people always act according to “best interests”? Afterall, all you need are a few loonies. Loonies who believe that their actions are a sure ticket to bang 72 virgins. Who, because they’ve died in their misguided mission, don’t have to face the repercussions… from the Arab getting persecuted while walking down the street (though hopefully we are all educated enough to avoid that), to the growing tensions between the West and Middle-east, to the kid who has to come home and find she has one less parent.

It’s a scenario where everyone loses. So let’s hope it never eventuates and that September 11 remains as a day of memory for 2001, and 2001 alone.

8
Sep 02
Sun

Alternative uses for shrapnel

Another classic Fuzzy story, this time about loose change charity. My roommate came in to pay his half of the phone bill tonight and the bum paid me the $4 non-notes portion of the bill in 5c and 10c coins, out of the stockpile he’s been “waiting for the right moment to get rid of”. I’m tempted to copycat Fuzzy’s antics. Except, I live in an block of about 16 apartments, and the mailboxes outside are all in one place. So it wouldn’t be too difficult to drop change into say, my next door neighbour’s box without looking too conspicuous.

5
Sep 02
Thu

Peripherals

MS releases a large line of new keyboards and mice. They look funky, except for the updated keyboard layouts. I mean, what they’ve done with the Insert/Delete cluster of keys is really rooted. It’s reminiscent of the MS Natural Elite keyboard which flopped pretty badly (it had a vertically orientated Insert/Delete cluster, and the cursor keys were arranged in a diamond which is not very ergonomic).

Stuff

My PSU blew on my LAN box (which is also the machine I am doing my thesis on). The weird thing is, the computer was off at the time. I guess it must’ve been the residual charge running through the system to keep the network card powered… but still, that’s not very much voltage. Bizarre. Oh well, time to fork out more cash – this is the 4th or 5th power supply to have conked out on me.

Oh, belated happy 21st to Napalm!

Harry Potter Broomstick

Pretty old news now, but in case you missed it, check out the Amazon customer reviews of the Harry Potter Broomstick. I’m quite sure it would provide girls with “hours of pleasure” while locked inside their rooms.

3
Sep 02
Tue

Whistling

I’ve always wondered… how do you whistle using your fingers in your mouth? Y’know, to produce those ear splitting wolf whistles? If anyone can tell me, or point me to a relevant web page, I’d be grateful :)

The Sum of All Fears

Someone sets off a nuke in Baltimore and the world goes to the brink of nuclear war. It’s a charged political thriller. Not bad. The scenes where the carrier gets taken out, and when the nuke goes off look pretty cool too.

1
Sep 02
Sun

Wai Wai

Yes, the Japanese are definitely a weird lot. The articles there are pretty entertaining, some amusing, some intriguing and most downright bizarre.



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