Hear Ye! Since 1998.

Archived Posts for June 2003

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 Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
28
Jun 03
Sat

In Memoriam

Did you know that if you go up to someone with a packet of flour, and tell them you’re selling them Cocaine, you can be charged for supplying Cocaine (and be liable for all the punishments that go with that), even though it’s really only flour?

But anyway, enough study for tonight. I was reading Fuzzy’s post and it just made me think how much things have changed over the past decade with regards to the net, and how my usage patterns of the net used to be. It’s a fond memory, and it’s with a bit of regret that things won’t ever feel the same way again. The Net was something new and extraordinary back then – literally a world of exploration.

The mid-90s: We were with OzEmail, a 28.8k dialup connection (hey, I’m STILL on a 28.8k dialup connection… some things never change *grumble*) at $5 an hour. Dad used to restrict my time spent connected to the Net quite heavily. I remember joining the Aussie Warcraft 2 (OzWL) league in Year 10. OzWL was one league in a series of leagues run by Prowler and Garfield, and all its players formed a community on Kali. I had registered for a Kali ID back then by sending off a cheque to Jay Cotton. Anyway, I used to get home from school at about 5pm, and because Dad only got back from work at 6.30pm, I’d have a narrow window of time to log on and play a bit of War2 behind his back. That was fun, one of the first gaming communities in Australia that started up over Descent and later migrated over to War2. I started up a clan. We had ranking systems, profiles, clan wars, competitions and stats – everything, all arranged via a website coded by Prowler’s excellent Perl scripting skills. Battle.net at this stage was years away and multiplayer games still ran only over IPX (hence the need for Kali). The concept of LAN parties was also new. I recall when they arranged LANDAY1, for the league community. They ran it over a 10mbps network when network cards were far from commonplace.

I also remember stumbling upon MP3s for the first time. Back when Winamp was in its really early days. I recall the very first MP3 I downloaded was *ahem* a Spice Girls track. I actually still have that track on my hard drive – it’s datestamped 1997. I got such a thrill that I was downloading music, for free, onto my computer. Similar to the thrill I got when we upgraded from the Apple IIC to a 486 and played a game with colour and speech, instead of monochrome and beeps (Might & Magic 3). The lawsuit-happy RIAA was ages away from identifying MP3 as a threat, and some web sites traded MP3s openly and easily.

I don’t remember how I found things on the net back when the default background colour for web pages was grey. There was no Google. And when Altavista eventually surfaced, it was extraordinary (a search engine that sorta worked!). “Real-time” news sites were rare. If I got a reply to an e-mail within a day, that was an extremely fast response time. The sites that I kept going back to were the sites that updated, and back then, updating was quite rare. Most web sites were just static pages. No such thing as content management systems. No ICQ. And wireless connectivity? Forget it! Hardly any mobile phones back then.

Everything was new and exciting. Writing my first web page was awesome. Figuring out how to stick it online, doubly so. Back then, the physical structure of the Net was a blur to me. I didn’t comprehend how it worked, and it didn’t really matter. It was something mystical. It was something to unravel and learn about. There weren’t idiot guides, TV shows or people you could call up to ask questions. If you wanted help, you had to first figure out where on Earth (literally) to look for it.

We’ve all learnt a lot about the Net over the intervening years. Things are at the stage where nothing is truly revolutionary. If you can envisage something, it can most probably be done, and even done personally. There is the occasional thing that will wow us, but never will it be the same as the sense of wonderment and awe I felt, when way back in 1992 I logged onto this little application called CB Radio and started chatting with some high school dude in Cremorne.

This is all a very circumlocutious way of answering the question of why Fuzzy is having such a hard time finding sites that satisfy like the “olden days”, and why there’s sometimes an old school mentality amongst the older personal web sites. Back then, finding a personal web page that was regularly updated was a treat. Communities formed, and being exclusively online, they were communities in a very novel sense. Nowadays it’s all commonplace. Nothing special. Three clicks in Blogger.com and you’re away, with your very own tiny piece of real estate in the megapolis that is the Net, population 2 billion. Your friend’s meeting someone in the real world that they met online last week? Yeah, so what’s new? It’s like the movies. The first couple teen spoof flicks were excellent. Then they just got boring, because they were unoriginal. It doesn’t mean the later films were crap, it just means they were unexciting.

Ok it’s too late. This post has meandered quite badly, and my writing sucks. I’ll be off now.

25
Jun 03
Wed

Snooker

Been playing snooker on a semi-regular basis over the last two or three months. There’ve been times when Dave and I (and maybe one or two friends) will just take off on impulse down to Coogee at midnight for a few games. Dave’s more experienced than me and he schooled me badly for the first 15 games or so, although in our last four games I’ve got a 2-2 record, so I must be improving a little bit. Our pool game, consequently, has improved markedly, simply because a snooker table is so much larger than a pool table. Psychologically, the short pool shots are easier to make. The bad thing about Coogee is that it’s a fair distance away, so we’ve had to settle for a few games of pool down at Churchill’s when we couldn’t be bothered travelling. But the crappy thing about Churchill’s (as with all pubs) is the smoke smell that impregnates your clothes. We’ve had to can snooker for a while though, Dave has an astounding eight exams to do this semester.

Agent-based Modelling

Pete sent me an intriguing article about emergent phenomena and agent-based modelling:

“Adding new lanes to a highway often makes rush-hour traffic jams far worse – a result known as Braess’s paradox after the German operations research engineer who discovered it in 1968…”

http://www.afrboss.com.au/magarticle.asp?doc_id=19120&listed_months=12

It’d really make for an interesting field of IS research. Thanks Pete!

24
Jun 03
Tue

Focus

The sky is leaden, it is drizzling outside and the mid-winter gloom projects only a murky light into the apartment room. The twilight will soon descend swiftly, dissolving the outlines of the buildings outside with an ethereal hue. Inside, a single incandescent bulb drapes the room in a sallow glow. A heater purrs in the corner, a warden against the chill pervading through the glass veranda door. Music plays softly in the background, and a solitary figure, rugged up, sits at a computer. The music stops momentarily as one song ends. The silence is punctuated by fingers pecking on a keyboard. He looks at the pile of paper on the desk and pauses. Another wave of drowsiness sweeps over him. The bed nearby beckons, its plump blanket a visual siren call. He casts a wistful gaze out the window. The view is already becoming indistinct and it keeps him strangely mesmerised. He lets his eyes defocus and for the moment he is lost in a detached reverie. Another song starts up and his room snaps back into focus. He sighs, turns back to the computer, and resumes typing.

Prince Charles and the Attack of the Grey Goo

Shish writes:

This paragraph really jumps out at you, it’s a bit of a non-sequitur…

The Prince of Wales recently prompted the Government to launch an independent investigation into the benefits and risks of nanotechnology after he voiced fears that tiny robots could one day reduce the planet to a “grey goo”: http://smh.com.au/articles/2003/06/25/1056449287990.html

The reference to the Prince of Wales is over a fear of grey goo instilled into him by dodgy environmentalists. Read a Telegraph article where the heir to the British throne wants to start an inquiry about the dangers of nanotechnology.

23
Jun 03
Mon

Incursions onto Royal Property

Well we know that some two-bit comedian gatecrashed the Prince’s 21st, but a more interesting story is when Michael Fagan busted twice into Buckingham Palace in 1982, once into the Queen’s bedroom where he chatted with her for a few minutes before the Queen managed to raise the alarm. He was taken into custody by police. However, trespass was not a criminal offence in 1982. Since it would be unbecoming for the Queen to stand in a civil trial, Fagan was let off by the DPP for his unauthorised entry. He was also found not guilty of theft by a jury after he consumed half a bottle of royal wine in the Palace. Very amusing. In 1984, trespass became a criminal offence. Read more: 1 (anecdotal account), 2 (newspaper articles from 82), 3 (BBC snippet).

22
Jun 03
Sun

Contracts Exam

Pretty harrowing experience today. I normally set two alarms to wake up: my mobile, which has an incredibly loud alarm, and a talking clock which has an obnoxious digitised crowing rooster alarm. The exam was at 8.45, so I set the alarms for 7.45. At 6.30, my mobile starts to ring. Disgruntled that someone disturbed me from my slumber, I reached over, saw the caller didn’t have caller ID, and answered. No one on the other end. I tossed the phone back on the table and tried to get back to sleep. The phone rang again. I answered it again, this time to hear music on the other end of the line, but no voice. Seemed like a case of someone accidentally dialing my number while they were driving in a car or something. By this stage I was awake again, and exam nerves made it hard for me to get back to sleep. After, about 15-20 minutes I managed to drift back to sleep. The next thing I knew, I woke up, glanced at my watch, and saw 8.20 on it.

“OH, FUCK!!!”

I changed and was out the door in 5 minutes, hoping I hadn’t forgotten to pack everything in my bag. The exam was in the Mathews building (which is upper campus), so it normally takes 15 minutes to get there from my apartment. I managed to reach there by 8.40, after a few tense moments when I couldn’t find the exam room. By the time reading time started, I was half-asleep, dazed, out-of-breath, suffering adrenaline OD and thoroughly disorientated. Not the best way to start an exam. My hands were trembling as well.

I don’t know what happened, but I figure that I either went back into a deep sleep after being woken up by the phone calls, and missed both alarms. Or perhaps I did switch off both alarms, but it was an automatic response and not a conscious one which is why I don’t remember hearing the alarms go off. As a result, the start of my exam answer was extremely wobbly (I totally screwed up the application of Butler Machine v Ex-Cell-O Corp to the case), although I managed to get it together somewhat after that. Shitty.

19
Jun 03
Thu

Exams!

Taking advantage of a momentary lull at work. Over the last week, I’ve come to the scary realisation that we’ve covered somewhere in the region of 2200 pages of reading (that’s a conservative estimate). This a couple thousand pages of text in primarily size 8 or 10pt font. Of course, that is what we’ve been expected to read, the reality is probably less, but not by much. Someone should have warned me about this. I would have been lucky to read that many pages in the entirety of my last degree. Contracts exam next Monday, two take homes due next week, Crim Law the following Wednesday. Stress.

17
Jun 03
Tue

Wacko Ted

Theodore Rout, of High Court Fame, has a personal web site. As expected, it’s non-sensical.

16
Jun 03
Mon

Alumni of Bourgeois Schools

Very, very interesting. You all know what school I went to, I’d rather not repeat its name again, because they have famous alumni too – but famous for all the wrong reasons. (Thanks Denise for the link.)

Holodiction: Star Trek Convention (7/6/03)

The phrase, “Star Trek Convention” has never had anything but an abhorrent
stigma attached to it. Among the images conjured up by it are hordes of
costumed fanatics, vulcan ear tips, pimply teenage nerds and Klingons in
bathrooms enjoying a conversation in Klingonese over the urinals. That may
be true for American conventions, but the Australian
scene is a bit more subdued. Only a little bit.

This convention saw Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar, TNG), Dominic Keating (Malcolm
Reed, ENT) and John Billingsley (Dr Phlox, ENT) attend. For the uninformed,
the format of a Sydney Trek convention is basically a bunch of Trek actors
give a talk and take questions from the crowd. There may be an auction, and
there are some merchandise sales from a handful of stalls.

It’s a real novelty to see in the flesh the people you see on TV every week.
You get some sort of insight into the real personality of the actors out of
costume and character. Billingsley was on stage first. His real voice is
noticeably higher pitched than his Phlox persona. Other than that, he was
very interesting and had a bundle of funny stories to tell. Keating is a Pom, and he’s quite charismatic. A good
anecdote teller, fairly upfront, occasionally profane :) and very likeable.
A lot more “loose” than his character has been written up in Enterprise where he sometimes seems to have a stick
up his ass. And ironically, he isn’t too fond of pineapple. Crosby’s hour was comparatively
dull. She was a bit insipid, probably the result of being on the
convention circuit for the last 15 or so years, having the same questions
lobbed at her time and again. The high point of her spiel was when someone
asked her how she landed her Playboy photoshoot. There was a few seconds of
silence followed by (she was sucking a lollypop): “Oh er… *lick lick*…
um… are you allowed to ask that? *lick lick* erg… the Ghosts of my
past! *lick lick* okaaay… I can explain that… *lick lick*”.

Ultimately though, they are actors doing their job, and as much as Trekkies
would like to imagine, the actors aren’t hard core Trek fans. Naturally
though, some are, and they tend to be more favoured by the crowds.

Live long and prosper...
So Denise goes, “I can’t do that Vulcan hand sign thing,” and 100 Trekkies immediately give her the three-fingered salute.
(Click here for more photos)

Ah yes, the crowds. The crowds are interesting. Surprisingly to most, unlike
LANs, where the male to female ratio is 20:1 (or worse), the demographic
at trek conventions have a 50-50 split(!). Unfortunately the number of
attractive women there are virtually non-existent. At the risk of
digging myself into a deep hole, one of the things I noticed was that
a very significant percentage of convention attendees had a weight problem.
I’m not talking about a few extra kilos on the side, I’m talking about
gross obesity, to the extent it hinders mobility. Look, I’m not trying
to make fun of fat people here, but I am saying there were an abnormally
large number of them there that day. I don’t think that is by pure coincidence.
People, get out! Stop sitting on the couch! Go do exercise or something!

There’s also something lacking about the general social decorum of some of
these people. A mobile phone went off in this woman’s bag during Keating’s talk.
She’d changed her ringtone so it was her nasally voice repeatedly intoning,
“Answer your bloody phone!” After twenty seconds of scrambling, she eventually
plucked the phone out of her bag… and proceeded to answer the damn
thing. And no, she didn’t whisper, “hey I’ll call you back”, she had a frigging
conversation on it, oblivious to the icy glares people were boring into her.
Then there were people during the Q&A session who just wouldn’t put their hands
down. Sure they’d already had three of their questions answered, but they had
about ten more they wanted to ask – and screw the other people who had more
interesting questions to ask. Look, even though I’d never do it myself, I don’t
mind people dressing up and having a bit of fun, but I mean, there was
something wrong with a few of these people.

It’s also amazing how much money some people were willing to spend. Tickets started
at $100, which isn’t the cheapest. However, the $1000+ and $600 tickets had virtually
sold out. They also held an auction before the guest talks. Through that, the convention
organisers were raping everyone who ended up tendering a bid. The amount of money
being paid for some of the mugs, t-shirts, posters and other memorabilia was quite shocking.
I present to you exhibit A:

Fridge Magnet Auction
You are looking at a fridge magnet that sold for $52. No, it doesn’t polarise your fridge door to make it impervious to projectiles thrown at it

by your 3 year old son.

As we were lining up for autographs we had a brief chat to this woman:
“Yeah, I’ve spent waaay too much money on this hobby,” she said.
“How many conventions have you been to?”
“Heh, all of them. I’m a sucker for these things.”
“Ah, they’re expensive aren’t they?”
“Yep, we’re all idiots for paying this much.”
“Did you buy anything at the auction?”
“Hey! I’m not that much of an idiot!”

Ultimately it was a fairly enjoyable day. Hear the actors, grab a few photos and collect a few autographs. Definitely expensive, but I am a Trekkie after all! Photos from the day here.

15
Jun 03
Sun

Beazley slaughtered by Crean

58 votes to 34. It’s amazing because a few months ago, Labor was in turmoil (it still is), suffering from a lack of vision and insipid leadership. Beazley was looking appealing again because of his drive and passion. Ultimately though, what seems to have happened in the last few weeks is that Beazley screwed up. Labor didn’t want just a salesman, they wanted a salesman with policies to sell. I wonder how this will affect the public’s view of Labor. In any event, I’d wager that Howard will get re-elected by landslide next year, ceteris paribus (I know, that’s a futile assumption in politics).

14
Jun 03
Sat

Bush achieves the “virtually impossible”

Bush Jr falls off a Segway. This Wired article says that the device “is virtually impossible to fall off”.

12
Jun 03
Thu

Word of the Day

Callipygian. I guess for when you require a little discretion.

Movie Parodies

Speaking of Stifler… Sean William Scott makes an appearance in the MTV Movie award’s parody of Reloaded: Download (24MB).

Also, there’s Yoda’s MTV awards acceptance speech for Best Fight: Download (22MB).

Bulletproof Monk

I really like Stifler. Classify this one under, “stupid, but strangely likeable” :)

2 Fast 2 Furious

What can I say? Mindless, but entertaining, entertainment. If you like cars, I suppose it’s worth it. As expected, the carpark at Fox was filled with the sound of tyres screeching after that movie.

Old School

I really liked it actually. Different enough from the glut of comedy flicks going around lately to have some really genuine side-splitting laughing moments.

10
Jun 03
Tue

Exams

Exams are coming! Arrrgh!

  9:55pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (2)  • 
8
Jun 03
Sun

25% Return Tickets to Singapore

Return SIA tickets from Sydney-Singapore, including 2 nights hotel accommodation from only A$340. Bargain. Travel must occur before end of August. Singapore is desparately trying to give their tourism industry an adrenaline shot after being cleared of SARS.

3
Jun 03
Tue

Zed (2002-2003)

“Who’s Zed?”
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”


Zed the Yabby

I stumbled out into the kitchen this morning to be confronted with a bucket sitting on the benchtop. I peered inside, and there was Zed, sitting motionless in a shallow pool of water. I picked up a nearby chopstick and gave him a prod. Apart from the presence of a bucket of water with a yabby in it on my kitchen bench, which was already decidedly strange, what was stranger was that Zed wasn’t moving. Mark, crashed out on the sofa bed after an all-nighter stirred and groaned out to me: “He died last night. Dave and I found him, upside down in the tank.” And so, our prized yabby kicked the bucket some time between 2.30 and 3am today.

We have three yabbies: Zed, Marsellus and Butch. These are appropriate names. Zed was the biggest of our yabbies. He was a bully, always muscling food away from the others. Crab killer, goldfish terroriser (he dispatched four), owner of the ceramic log. And the yabby that molested all the other yabbies from behind.

Butch used to be in the tank with Zed before we got Marsellus. Zed took all of Butch’s food and terrorised him so much that he was conditioned not to eat even when we dropped food right in front of him. As a result, Zed grew into a tank and Butch lost his pincer and became a shrimp. We kept him there until our crab, Gimp, was found eaten one morning. We decided the humane thing to do would be to separate Butch out into his own tank.

Marsellus is the runt, which we bought to replace Gimp. Having no third tank, we just dropped him into the tank with Zed. Remarkably, the two have lived together in near harmony for the past few months with only the loss of one of Marsellus’ pincers. Meanwhile, Butch, safe in his own little tank has flourished into one mean mofo, snapping at us with a vengeance whenever we feed him.

Last week Zed moulted. This event signifies another leap forward in growth. In the 24-48 hours after a moult, a yabby’s exoskeleton is quite soft, so it was very amusing to see Marsellus wave his pincer at Zed, and see Zed leap back in fear. It’s like a scrawny 50kg teenager waving a fist at a 200kg 7 foot wrestler. However, Zed never quite regained his regality after that last moult. He seemingly grew too large for his log, and just stood there for hours, motionless in the corner of the tank. Then a few days later – this morning – he inverted himself and expired. After we removed him from the tank, Marsellus was seen to be running excitedly around the now threat-free tank, chomping on Zed’s old shell.

We are still clueless as to what killed Zed, because when a yabby moults, it grows, and growth implies health. View more pictures.

There, There, Pete

The PM gives the Treasurer some consolation after announcing that he’s not giving up the top job.



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