Hear Ye! Since 1998.

Archived Posts for September 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 Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.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
Sep 03
Sun

Cabinet Reshuffle

Howard has reshuffled his cabinet. All rejoice as Richard “World’s biggest luddite” Alston finally steps out of his portfolio as Minister for IT and Communications due to his imminent retirement! Taking his place is the former A-G Daryl Williams. The new Attorney-General is, ironically enough, Philip Ruddock, an appointment that will ruffle more than a few feathers I’m sure. The new minister for Immigration is Amanda Vanstone.

OSI Layer 1 Replacement

Uni students have time for anything. Including an implementation of the OSI physical layer via… Bongo Drums. It was in response to an off-the-cuff challenge made by a university professor who no doubt will think twice before he speaks next time.

Eight weeks later, the first public demonstration was given to the class by using a simple ping packet. With a blinding 2bps speed, the class sat patiently as the packet was received in roughly 140 seconds.

Office 2003

As expected, it’s no great improvement over Office XP. Even die-hard Microsoft critics will admit that the Office suite is pretty comprehensive, and its hard to make anything more than minor incremental additions to something like that. I am impressed with FrontPage 2003, however, which has received a fair few improvements that makes it worth the upgrade.

It’s curious that Microsoft didn’t label it Office 2004, because they normally date their software a year in advance so that it doesn’t seem to “date” as quickly. Hmmm, actually, I think I might just have answered my own question there.

Mooting

Made it through to the semis (where we probably will be shot down in flames)! Unfortunately, it also truncates my holiday by at least two days. Grrr.

25
Sep 03
Thu

Widgets et Cetera

Nokia’s design department has gone crazy again: They’ve announced the 7600 which is unorthodox looking, to say the least. They’ve also got digital pendants, which knowing the fickleness of fashion trends, I refrain from commenting on. They also have digital photo frames which are cool but no doubt cost an arm and a leg. I think Sony started selling them a couple years ago for a few thousand dollars, but I’m not sure if the price would have come down to affordable levels since then.

Salton’s programmable coffee maker can be programmed through a web browser to have a pot of steaming brew ready by the time you plod, bleary-eyed, into the kitchen each morning.

AMD has finally released its 64-bit CPU goodness. The next computer I own will, in all probability, be 64-bit.

I’ve been told to read Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, and I think I will after reading in Time Mag about his 3000-page Baroque Cycle trilogy which merges science and history in a long semi-fictional narrative. The Baroque Cycle is a “continuation” of sorts on Cryptonomicon. Whoever said science and art were so different?

24
Sep 03
Wed

Engineers and Law

Interesting snippet on engineers and lawyering.

Aria

I hadn’t managed to make it to any of the Good Food Month events before tonight. The “Hats Off” program saw many restaurants around Sydney adopt a fixed price $120 showcase menu (not incl drinks). We elected to go to Aria, which was serving a 10-course degustation menu and hadn’t been booked out yet like some of the bigger players in town. Aria was dehatted this year to one hat, but the meal was still pretty decent. Aria sits facing the Opera House, directly opposite Quay, although its views aren’t anywhere near as good. Neither is the food or service, but it’d be hard to match last year’s restaurant of the year.

Five of us went, but at the entrance we bumped into a couple friends by coincidence and so we joined up to form a table of seven (and, I suspect, interrupted a date in progress… unlucky!!).

Unfortunately, the WA marron (Kev, I don’t think anything beats the ones in Ipoh though!) and Hiramasa kingfish (a fish that seems to be in vogue in the fine dining scene) which were advertised on the SMH site were absent from the menu. Highlights were the Yamba King Prawn Terrine, which I assume replaced the marron, panfried barramundi, pork with baked apple puree and an incredibly rich chocolate tart which guaranteed weight gain. There was some shredded crab with a Thai style salad which I thought was a really interesting flavour – a very distinct and strong Thai taste coming through. However, the Wagyu beef wasn’t a particularly good cut.

On a normal day, you’d be looking at paying $90 for a 3-course à la carte meal. At that price, you might want to try some of the other better and cheaper restaurants around. The newly opened est. and Marque look good.

23
Sep 03
Tue

Misc Links

- Go Daddy sues Verisign over its blatant and despicable abuse of the custodial role it has over the domain name system.
Buddhist marathon monk completes seven-year run: The 44-year-old monk, Genshin Fujinami, returned on Thursday from his 1,000-day, 40,000-kilometre spiritual journey.
– Wouldn’t mind one of these.
– Leonard Nimoy sings, The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. That’s one music video I wish I hadn’t seen.
– Now this is news. I may finally be able to get (wireless) broadband after a decade of sucking down pages through a 28.8k connection.

Hahahah

Hey, I found Nemo! (opens in new window). Thanks Vic.

And Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting… Ray Charles! (I probably found this more hilarious than is… acceptable.)

22
Sep 03
Mon

Holidays

Saw the Man U vs Arsenal match last night at Souths. It finished at 3am, which was rather rash considering I had to go into uni at 9am to drop in a moot submission. Nonetheless, we won the moot in the evening, so the three days of holidays sacrificed wasn’t for naught! Two week break. The whole graduate law class pretty much needs it – the stress of two essays due in the same week was greater than I would have thought possible. Within the last fortnight, one person has dropped out, another is going to drop out of Torts, and another two are seriously rethinking whether they want to continue. The class is shrinking… But a session and a half on, I’m pretty sure that doing law was a good decision for me personally.

19
Sep 03
Fri

Bad Boys 2

Quite entertaining! Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are like, 10 years older, but it really doesn’t show.

Finding Nemo

Another excellent Pixar film. Highly recommended.

18
Sep 03
Thu

LLRX

Excellent site on the legal systems of different countries around the world. Makes for interesting reading. Each country summary gives a brief historical rundown and a summary of how the country is governed.

Blah

- The modern form of garlic.
Programming Language Inventor or Serial Killer? {src: Pete}

16
Sep 03
Tue

SMH 2004 GFG

The 2004 edition of the Good Food Guide is out. List of this year’s 3-hats.

  7:32pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Food  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

News in Brief

- Media bill heads back to Senate: Alston is once again pushing for cross-media ownership.
Electronics and Planes: “You’ve got to ask, do you want to get there, or do you want to use your laptop?” Heh.
RIAA’s missteps: Excellent article! {src: Fuzzy}
The EFF
40 Gig iPod out: Aussie Educational price is just under $830.
Radio Tags and Privacy Erosions

13
Sep 03
Sat

Interactive Floating Displays and 3D LCDs

IO2 Technology has released HelioDisplay, a device which projects a 2D image into mid-air. Not only this, but a user can manipulate the image by sticking his or her fingers into it, Minority Report style. The image projected can be viewed from both sides, and the image’s translucency can be adjusted. It’s like a video projector, without the screen. Manipulating stuff “on screen” will be weird without tactile feedback, but think of the coolness factor!

Sharp in Japan is also releasing a laptop with a 3D LCD display. I read something about this a little while ago while it was still a prototype, but here it is on the market (albeit only in Japan). It doesn’t require special glasses (which filter out light so a different image goes to each eye), but employs another method to somehow trick each of our eyes into seeing separate images, which, slightly offset, give the impression of depth.

12
Sep 03
Fri

Gelatissimo

Random musing – Has anyone else noticed how the “Temporary Gelatissimo” stand at Circular Quay has been anything but temporary? My guess is that they were only expecting to be in operation through Summer, and were surprised when a healthy rate of business continued throughout Autumn and Winter. It’s an excellent place for an ice cream stand with all those tourists milling past, wondering how it can be so warm and sunny on a Winter’s day. A prime location, even though it’s essentially a shack under a highway overpass.

Caeephr Skooner

I find myself procrastinating again in place of writing an essay on a rather ugly Torts assignment to do with liability of statutory authorities, pure nervous shock and non-delegable duty. How thrilling. Anyway, we found a new place to play snooker down at Coogee, and it only costs us $0.80 an hour. That’s right, 18 times less expensive than the 8-ball parlour near the beach. It has five well-maintained tables. A bit time-consuming getting down there though, but only one more week until mid-session break (well, technically it’s called “Reading Week”).

Also, Bonhomme sent this in:

Xueli: Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

It’s pretty cool once you realise you can actually read that paragraph at almost full speed. Be interesting to see how much slower reading scrambled words actually is. Just write a script to scramble all but the first and last letters of all the words on a page of text from a novel, then time how long it takes for different people to read through various scrambled and unscrambled passages. (Hmm, doesn’t really work too well with the title of this post though! I guess you need more contextual clues.)

11
Sep 03
Thu

American Wedding

Finally saw it. The movie was in its final week of screening at Fox Hoyts and was relegated to the Director’s Lounge or whatever they call it. It’s a small, cosy cinema. Movie was great, a rare occasion where the third instalment manages to keep up with the standard of the first two. The “special dinner” scene with the parents was a classic. And where Stiffler indulges in a touch of coprophagy. And… yeah, plenty of “memorable” moments in this movie.

Stair and Truck Dismount

This is somewhat old, but these two games: Truck Dismount and Stair Dismount will keep you occupied for hours. Try to inflict maximum damage on a rag-doll by pushing them down some stairs in Stair Dismount, and secondly driving them into a wall in Truck Dismount. Almost broken 70000 points in Stair Dismount, but can’t figure out how to get that extra little bit of head injury…

10
Sep 03
Wed

An Appeal by Luck

Another amusing transcript from the High Court demonstrating why they don’t like self-representated parties (who won’t shut up).

  10:38pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Law  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)  • 
9
Sep 03
Tue

$2 a dish

The NY Times on Singaporean cuisine. Can’t wait until the Summer holidays roll around again.

8
Sep 03
Mon

DIY Home Videos

Tips on making home movies, from the SMH: “‘When you’re shooting movies of your family they won’t want to watch pictures of themselves looking ugly,’ says Collins. ‘In other words, if they look like shit don’t just keep shoving a camera in their face.'”

  11:02pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Movies  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
5
Sep 03
Fri

28 Days Later

I hate horror movies, or suspense movies, or whatever you want to call them. You know the ones I mean. Some people like them, but for me personally, they’re stressful to watch, and I don’t believe that you should pay good money to sit there to be stressed for the greater part of two hours. That’s what uni exams are for. I’m not sure if its the fear that those movies put into you of what is happening on the screen, or just the fear of jolting at a sudden shock, and then feeling embarrassed because everyone saw you convulse in your seat. But despite my traditional boycott of these movies, I went and watched 28 Days Later because I heard it was good. It was a pretty good film. Most suspense films these days aren’t really scary as opposed to shocking. It’s easy to shock, you just play some funky music, fade it out, then at the relevant moment, show something gory on the screen and cue a damn loud noise. It’s the noise that does it. There aren’t that many sudden shocks in this film, and the fear is all in the chasing, and the shambling, rasping sounds of the Infected as they draw nearer. I found it fairly intense, although there are some times I which I could reach out and slap the director in the head, because he’s put in scenes where he knows are purely there to scare you (such as walking into a dark place for no good reason). Nonetheless it’s a good zombie flick.

Stay to the end of the credits. They have an alternate ending to show. It’s not so much alternate ending as it is a “what if?” scene, and it leaves you to fill in the gaps. Great fun to hypotheticise over. And also to think what you would do were you in your city and faced with the same situation. I’d find a boat, load it up with lots of water or carbonated drinks, canned food, moor a few kilometres off shore, and sit it out for two months, if that’s possible.

Open Day

Urk… I have the 9am shift helping the School of Info Sys in the computer labs. And in typical uni fashion, there is not a soul around at this time of day. They’re supposed to be running a quiz which students collect down at the Quad, bring up to the labs to do a bit of “research” (ie, run Google queries) and bring back down to redeem for tokens which are exchangeable for uni memorabilia.

4
Sep 03
Thu

Trivia

Kicked ass again in trivia tonight at Churchills with a four person team. Only won another case of VB though. Saving it up for Oktoberfest. (The prizes are better at the Paddo RSL.)

Are you a Neo-con?

Ten question quiz: Are you a neo-conservative? I’d be interested to see regular readers posting their results in the comments section. Not surprising that I’m a liberal.

3
Sep 03
Wed

Cushket

Plug for a friend: It’s a polar fleece blanket that also folds up into a cushion. Perfect for friends who decide to crash overnight at your place on the couch. Also good for those outdoor events. Resold by YI ;)

2
Sep 03
Tue

Battle of the Megalomaniacs

Doz sent me this bizarre comic strip: Stalin vs Hitler.

Man Sues Coke

SMH Article: Mr Pareezer gets shot five times while loading a coke vending machine. He is therefore sueing Coke for negligence, because Coke purportedly knew that there was a gang operating around the area that was targeting vending machines and keys. They must have been a very thirsty gang. The plaintiff’s son saw the shooting, and the wife arrived afterwards at the scene, and they are both suing for nervous shock.

This is a bit of shocker – you get shot doing your job, which is loading Coke cans into Coke machines, so… you sue your employer. Coke probably does owe a general duty of care to ensure the safety of its employees, but I would find it extremely difficult to see that Coke would have breached that duty of care. I mean, sure they knew of the risk of a gang attack, but what sort of preventative measures could they have reasonably implemented? There’s nothing practicable that I can see that can be done. And then would any of those measures have prevented the injury anyway (the issue of causation)? Even if you gave the guy an armed security detail, they wouldn’t have necessarily been able to stop bullets.

Is it really reasonable to give your employees bullet proof vests on the off chance some psycho gang member is going to shoot you while you’re loading a Coke machine? That would really be saying something about society, wouldn’t it? I mean, what if you happen to have a job in a part of town that is by reputation rough? Say you work the night shift at Maccas in Cabramatta. What is McDonald’s meant to do to shield an employee from being shot at by some cashless drugged out lunatic with a midnight craving for Big Macs?

Turning now to pure nervous shock. Assuming that McDonalds was negligent (which is unlikely), Pareezer’s son and wife would definitely have a case for nervous shock, if they sustained some recognisable psychiatric illness. They’re close relatives and appear to have experienced the sudden sensory shock necessary to sustain a case for pure nervous shock. The problem though, is the breach of duty issue, as above.

Update – I got this on the comments section:

Stuart, I think your characterisation of the measures Coke could have taken misses the point of the claim. Based on what you say about it, it looks like his claim is that they breached their duty to provide a safe system of work by requiring him to go into a dangerous area. And what’s more, they knew about the particular danger. they meet their duty by not requiring him to go into danger without adequate safeguards. And in this case, they can just not put the machine there, and not put their profits ahead of the safety of their employees.

Even if I’m wrong about that and, as you say, their duty might have been to provide armed guards, then I say that *would* have been a way to prevent the injury, because in the face of possible armed resistance from apparently trained security guards, the gang would probably not have attacked. That is, the measure you dismiss as a means of Coke meeting their duty would arguably have been effective. Sure, they cant stop bullets, but they might prevent them being fired in the first place, just by their presence.

You may have guessed that I dont think that this man’s claim is so far fetched as you seem to think it is. His lawyers must agree with him to some extent, since they are obliged to only pursue cases that have reasonable prospects of success. (See the idiotic amendments to the Legal Practitioners Act (or whatever it is called in NSW) put in by Carr last year). But Coke (or rather their insurers) cannot just give in, because it is too far outside the currently accepted norms for negligence: so they didn’t agree to settle when he made his demand.

Incidentally, Maccas have the same options as Coke. If it’s really dangerous, it’s appropiate that there be adequate security, to deter said cashless drugged out lunatic with a midnight craving for Big Macs. Once you’ve taken reasonable steps to prevent injury, then you are in the clear.

As for nervous shock, how have the Courts responded to post traumatic stress disorder, which is what doctors now say all nervous shock cases have? It’s a recognised pysch illness …

… and decided I might as well write up a fuller analysis of the situation:

True, I probably did approach the issue of breach a bit too impulsively. Actual knowledge of the particular danger is not really a requirement under tort law – if Coke knew or ought to have knew of the danger, then that is sufficient. In my limited knowledge of torts (you sound like you have legal education of some sort, so I’m keeping it in mind you may know more about this than me!), a more formal legal analysis would seek to analyse the standard of care required by Coke. It would look at what the plaintiff alleged what measures Coke should have implemented in order to meet its duty of care. The Courts would then have to look at what Coke actually did, and then also at whether the measures the plaintiff proposed Coke should have taken were reasonable. Three factors are used to evaluate what is a reasonable standard of care. The measures the plaintiff proposed that Coke should have taken are then assessed in relation to this standard of care to determine if a breach occurred. The factors are gravity of harm, the probability of such harm occurring, and the practicability of preventing the harm.

The gravity is obviously very high, but the probability of this harm occurring is quite low, though not negligible. There is a provisor in the above arguments in that this particular group of gang members was particularly targeting Coke machines, but whether this specific targeting by the gang significantly raises the probability of a Coke refiller getting shots at is debatable. It may be more probable that the Coke machine refillers may get robbed, but not getting shot at?

There are three main types of solutions you propose: (1) Not require the man to go there. (2) Not to put a machine there at all. (3) Not require the man to go there without adequate safeguards. [and (4) Warn the employee about the dangers.]

The first proposition implies that it is too dangerous to fill up the Coke machine, therefore employees shouldn’t do it. I would argue that this proposition is unrealistic and unreasonable on a few grounds. How would Coke fill up the machine? It would require a solution like a robot or similar, which is certainly not practicable. (Whereupon the argument would then progress to the second proposition.) The second ground is that employees are often sent into arguably more dangerous situations in order to do something that needs to be done. For example, it is conceivable that parking inspectors, due to their line of work are at an increased risk of physical assault (from irate motorists), or falling victim to a pedestrian-car accident. However, the job needs to be done, and it is not practicable to remove the human element from that job function.

The second proposition aims at removing the presence of Coke machines from “dangerous” areas. The practicability problems with this are obvious. What would be considered a reasonably dangerous area, such that it would justify the removal of a drink vending machine? If there are reports of gangs in the area? What about if the newspapers have reported a serial killer in the vicinity that has been terrorising the neighbourhood for a few weeks? It seems patently unreasonable to, especially in a country with a relatively low crime rate like ours, to impose a burden upon coroporations to make sure their drink vending machines are in gang-free areas. There is also a side-effect is depriving citizens of access to carbonated beverages, because the areas is perceived to be “too dangerous” for vending machines to be refilled in. I agree there are arguments both ways, but your argument seems in my opinion, more dubious.

The third proposition is much more contentious. It would not seem that Coke provided the man with any safeguards against being shot at. Prima facie, the probability of this happening, in the view of a reasonable person (ie, me :), would be so low as to be discountable, even if there is a gang known to be in the vicinity. I admit that this is not a terribly strong point, so in the alternative that the chance of being shot at is sufficiently probable as to warrant some sort of protective measure – what should that measure be? Bullet proof vests and security guards are options. With the latter, it seems excessive to assign a bodyguard to a guy who refills Coke machines. If this duty were to be imposed on Coke, imagine how many employees who conducted company business in public would require security personnel to accompany them! It is conceivable that the postman might get robbed. That the person on the night shift at a 7-11 store could get held up and shot. The costs would be prohibitive, and the fact that this is not the present case in society is a telling fact.

Regarding bulletproof vests. Again, it does not seem, on the face of the matter, that the probability of being shot at would warrant Coke purchasing for its vending machine refillers a bullet proof vest (by extension, many employees would then require bulletproof vests on the off chance that they are working in gangland). Then what about robbery with assault? A bulletproof vest is not going to stop a fist, or a well placed knife. And those types of assault are more likely than one with a gun.

Even if Coke did buy a bulletproof vest, there are causation issues. It cannot be said “but for” the bulletproof vest, the plaintiff would not have been shot and injured.

The fourth proposition that Kraz brought up in the comments section is that Coke should have warned the plaintiff. Setting aside the fact, as Bonhomme mentioned, that the plaintiff knew the area was dangerous, it probably can be said that Coke breached its duty in failing to warn the plaintiff. Breach of duty does not necessarily lead to negligence. In this case, a warning to the plaintiff to “be careful” would not have prevented him from being shot (because on the facts, the plaintiff was aware of the danger and was shot). Therefore, causation fails.

It would seem that the other measures above impose too great a burden on corporations, even though they may make obscene profits. What if a company is losing money and couldn’t afford to give their staff bulletproof vests? Just because a corporation makes more money, should it be obliged to meet a higher standard of care? Clearly not – it is the nature of the risk that determines the standard of care, not the financial capabilities of the organisation.

[In response to Bonhomme: The fact that Coke told the employee something along the lines of “tough luck about the assault, go back there” makes no difference. If it was another new employee that went on that refilling run, the same principles as above would apply. The fact that he was assaulted there five years earlier is evidence that Coke was aware of the danger of the area (although five years is a long time! Statistically, there are many places around city streets that have had assaults happen in over the last five years – but that doesn’t mean that the probability of assault recurring there is significantly higher.) The fact that Coke was aware of the danger changes nothing (actual knowledge is not a requisite to be liable for negligence). There was nothing special about this plaintiff that differentiated him from any other Coke employee that would have been in the same situation had they had the plaintiff’s delivery run.]

BTW, I agree with you in that there is virtually always a case for both sides in law. It just seems to me that one side is particularly stronger (though not all the arguments above are strong ones), and that’s what I’m arguing based on this opinion.

Regarding nervous shock, I believe that Courts use the DSM-IV to determine what is an acknowledged psychological illness.

1
Sep 03
Mon

Backbench Issue 2

Issue 2 of Backbench has just been released. Check it out.



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