Welcome to 2004! Happy New Year all!
Welcome to 2004! Happy New Year all!
Travelling with the extended family is definitely no where near as enjoyable as travelling with friends. No lucky buddha this year (although my aunt experienced the early openings of the buddha scam when she was told that Pantip Plaza was shut for the day, despite me being at the Plaza at that same time). Nonetheless, I do have a couple tales to spin when I get a little more time to do a write-up.
Came back from a damn good week in KL to Singapore for a couple days before heading off to Bangkok. We bought a Canon EOS 300D at Sim Lim Square for about a grand and a half. Also ordered in another compact flash card, an external speedlite flash and an f/1.4 lens. It’s sound, and importantly, a quite affordable digital SLR cam.
Last day in Hat Yai today, flying back to Singapore for New Year’s tomorrow arvo. Been a pretty lazy holiday. A good half dozen or so two hour massages will do that! In the meantime, you can check out Wade’s site – his itinerary was fairly similar to mine.
Merry Christmas! I’m still alive, just been too lazy to post :)
LOTR Return of the King: Mindblowingly awesome. No expletive-enhanced superlatives can describe it. Absolutely a must watch.
Last night’s expenditure? Char Kway Teow: 3 RM, Ice Kachang: 1.80 RM, Sugar Cane Drink: 1 RM, Longan Drink: 1 RM, Red Bean Ice Block: Free, Snooker game: 2 RM, Pool & Foosball: 3 RM, Mahkei: 7 RM. Total spend: ~A$6.70.
Played a bit of volleyball today where I totally humiliated myself. I hate that game.
At the Volleyball Court
Just got my uni results. Only 1 HD, and 3 Ds this session, yet my average is higher than first session! Now I can truly relax :)
The flight up was relatively uneventful. There must have been an entire French army platoon on board – a whole horde of head shaven, buff guys with matching khaki backpacks scattered through most of economy class. Luckily, I wasn’t seated amongst them. Surprisingly, very few Aussies and Asians were on board. Most were Europeans on their way through to Frankfurt, or transferring back to Paris or London via Singapore.
I was seated next to two Sydneysiders, both also coincidentally travelling alone, who helped pass the time with conversation. Katie was a 17 year old PLC Pymble student on her way to Germany for seven weeks. Extremely chatty and somewhat jaded about the whole HSC deal which she will go through next year. She had no idea what she wanted to study in uni, which is not unusual at all. However, she’s studying Italian and German for the HSC, so something makes me think she’ll end up studying Arts. Pretty typical North Shore girl too, whose idea of being rich is (only) if you own a yacht. Nick was a Westie who finished high school at Hurlstone Ag in 2000 and is studying Biomolecular Chemistry (or something that sounds similarly impressive) at Sydney U. He was surprised I knew where Hurlstone was, and sniggered when I told him I was from Camden (even further West than him!) and sniggered even more when I told him where I went to high school. “If you lived that far away, why didn’t you board? … Ohhh, that’s right, the boarders don’t have a good reputation, do they?” He was on his way to Malaysia and Thailand for about a month, with an itinerary very similar to mine.
We were served by a steward (flight attendant?) improbably named Craig David. There must have been a lot of Europeans on board, because Craig expressed surprise and relief when he asked if Katie was from Australia. “Phew, I don’t have to keep talking so damn slow! Would you like the beef or the chicken?”
Turning to me, he asked if I was from Singapore, and expressed even more surprise when I told him otherwise. I could pretty much tell that Nick and Katie were Australians as soon as they spoke a single word of “thanks” (the “th” dipthong in the word is normally lazily contracted to “f” by Asians, and Europeans say the word with a skewed inflection). I find that accents are the easiest way – and a reasonably reliable way too – to tell where a person originates from. Mixed accents indicate a person was born in one place and grew up in another.
Anyhow, after a five hour bus trip, I’m finally in KL enjoying the hospitality of the Kepa. I’m not just relaxing after lunch (A$0.80 for a plate of mee goreng!), where the chilli is slowly burning a hole in my gut. Apparently I finally get to meet photographer extraordinaire Eadwine, and his girlfriend Ee Laine tonight. (What is it with Asians and spelling names differently?)
I am in Singapore! Have a bus to catch at 8.30 tomorrow morning to KL. That means minimal sleep but who cares? I’m on holidays!
Just making my customary Sydney airport departure post. These internet terminals are abysmally slow.
On 10 Dec 2002, AUD $1 bought:
– 1.00 Singaporean Dollar
– 24.54 Thai Baht
– 2.15 Malaysian Ringgit
– 0.564 US Dollars
On 10 Dec 2003, AUD $1 buys:
– 1.27 Singaporean Dollar (+27%)
– 29.57 Thai Baht (+20%)
– 2.81 Malaysian Ringgit (+31%)
– 0.742 US Dollars (+32%)
From the sub-50 US cent rates we were getting 2 years ago, strong appreciation of the Aussie over this year means that it is good to be an Australian tourist once more (and not a farmer). Exchange rates from Oanda (taken at the interbank rate).
Peter Jackson has decided to make The Hobbit. Excellent. We get to see Smaug on screen.
Excellent Q&A session with Sir Richard Branson this evening at UNSW. He’s a very clear spoken, doesn’t use a lot of buzzwords (which was really noticeable when compared with the closing remarks of Prof Whittred, the faculty Dean) and is just plain understandable. Starting a business at abour age 15 and slightly dyslexic, Branson is the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. The hour session basically could be condensed down into four points:
1. You’ve got to get out there and take a risk if you want to get anywhere. That may mean laying everything out on the line.
2. The most important part to business is simple People. The audience basically adopted Branson’s mantra of “People people people”. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and that are different from you. Learn to delegate. He emphasised this again and again, that he has attributed his success to finding the right people, as it is the people that run the business. (Obviously, Branson doesn’t have time to run all the aspects of a business.)
3. Have a passion for what you’re starting up a business in. Don’t just do it because you think it will make money.
4. Have a good company name that you can attach a strong brand to. One that can be global, even if you never make it that far (you never know).
He also mentioned that people should stay away from banks as much as is possible in terms of obtaining initial funding, because they can be ruthless.
Also interesting was his thoughts on university. He noted that virtually none of the entrepreneurs of his generation were tertiary educated. Has the trend towards more of the population getting tertiary education changed things though? Perhaps. Branson acknowledged that university provides a very good safety net in terms of finding a job. However, with regards to entrepreneurialism, which is really only where the really massive gains can be made from, life changes as you get older. People become more conservative, getting tied down with relationships, perhaps mortgages and so on. And this conservative nature runs contrary to being an entrepreneur, which is all about getting out there and giving it a go, and to hell with the consequences (which in most cases is limited to corporate bankruptcy). Basically it’s a risk versus return argument.
Just a note on business failures, it seems to be that Australia’s business culture doesn’t foster entrepreneurialism as much as, say, America. Venture capital flows like water there, compared to here, and it seems that the Americans aren’t as perturbed about business failures (they just pick themselves off the floor, try again and start a new one).
One question he fielded was from a Com/Law undergrad who was wondering whether he should take up an investment banking job, or whether he should try starting up his own business first. The answer was for the latter, because the job, you can potentially fall back on, but a business idea is hard to go back to. First mover advantage.
Bumped into Kit outside afterwards, then decided to head back inside where we grabbed Branson’s autograph. Kev mobbed him and virtually fell down on his knees begging good Sir Richard to write his business philosophy onto the card (naturally: “people, people, people”).
As always, inspirational and deceptively simple, but, given that there are so few hugely successful entrepreneurs floating around, it’s not.
Lots of political activity as of late. Naturally Latham’s ascendancy to the helm of Labor gives the ALP a fresh shot of life, but I doubt that it will be enough to prevent Howard grabbing yet another term as PM. The Democrats are in turmoil (again). The drunkard, Bartlett, is refusing to step down, and I wonder if there will be a huge voter backlash during the next election? Actually, I was at a dinner last weekend where a certain Professor remarked to the table that Bartlett and Latham’s antics are nothing too outrageous. He noted that former PM Bob Hawke used to proposition women fairly frequently, and upon being rejected would toddle away spitting, “F*cking prostitute!” The media then was not as prominent as it is today.
Actually, I’ve always wondered what would happen if the coalition had a majority in both houses of parliament. Scary thought.
There’ve been a few shots fired at Justice Kirby in the SMH lately, fervently denouncing his championing of judicial activism. The latest has been by Padraic McGuinness. For many law students, Kirby’s activist and policy oriented judgments seem quite comfortable amidst the stodgy statements of the more formalist judges on the bench. Nonetheless, just as judicial activism twists things to create law (or at least reinterpret the law), formalist judgments can twist things to make them conform with age old precedent. This means judgments produced from both approaches can sit uncomfortably in the mind. McGuinness makes a very valid point about how policy research is the domain of academia, and not the judiciary, and therefore judges using “policy arguments” are in fact only appealing to their “common sense” and their own moral beliefs – which naturally may be incorrect. (However, anyone who’s read a Kirby judgment will know, by the sheer length of his writings and the amount of journal articles and international cases he cites, that his judgments are virtually research projects within themselves.) More telling is McGuinness’ point about how activism destabilises the certainty in law. And I think this is quite a strong point. An activist court could potentially create quite a lot of uncertainty for litigants. I don’t know what effect this would have, but can you imagine a whole bench filled with activist judges? Precedent would appear to be devalued.
It’s an interesting debate. Activism has its place (an example of the effects can be seen most lately in this link) and I certainly do feel comforted, to a limited extent, that activist judges do exist, but I’m not so sure that all the judiciary should be converting to activism en masse, as Kirby seems to be encouraging.
I’ve always said that in a firm whose core competencies are not in IT, IT support staff are grossly underappreciated. Anyway, one of the systems has been down for a while, hence a lot of sitting around at work and doing nothing. I guess when you don’t drive the profit line, and a lot of your work is to do with fixing problems which never should have happened in the first place, it’s hard to gauge just how much worth you’re contributing to an organisation. The ironic thing is that, most organisations simply cannot function without an IT department these days. It’s weird being on the other side of the fence, conscious of the fact that while we wait for the systems to come back up, the “slow and useless” ISD staff are working overtime trying to figure out what some user did to stuff things up.
Speaking of stuff ups, it is rumoured that UNSW hired an IT consulting firm a couple years ago to webify the student enrolment system in the form of “New South Student”. It was an absolutely horrible implementation, I think I have bitched about it before. Anyway, they’ve done an overhaul of the system and it looks nicer, and runs much smoother now: My UNSW.
Not a gigapixel camera. It’s “only” a gigapixel photo stitched together from a lot of individual photos shot with a camera with a big lens. Still, it’s definitely impressive. The only problem is that this technique can only capture still images. I can foresee someone mounting a grid of 16+ digicams in “parallel” and firing them off simultaneously to take high res images. Sort of like how they do the bullet time scenes in Matrix (where they spin the camera around Neo as he’s dodging the bullets), except the cameras are just arranged differently.
I’ve decided that I won’t implement MMS posting just yet. I intended to get it working for my overseas trip. I got around to writing up everything (the MIME parsing code, writing attachments to hard drive, constructing the post text etc) but I realised that I have no idea about how MMS works overseas. Firstly, the system is different from SMSes – I actually had to enable GPRS with Vodafone to get MMSes to work and I don’t know if, when roaming on overseas networks, GPRS/WAP will be automatically enabled and whether I can send MMSes. Secondly, the format of MMS messages (which are essentially e-mails with attachments) seems to differ with the network which may trip up the parsing code I currently have, and there’s no way to test otherwise. And there’s no way I’m debugging code while I’m on holiday :).
Technical note: Posting to your blog with a mobile device (called Moblogging which is a stupid term, imho) is not difficult. Essentially, most mobile devices (PDAs, mobiles, Blackberry and so on) can send e-mails. SMSes need to be routed through an SMS-to-Email gateway, such as Excell. They arrive at your mail server and get processed by a script. You might run a cron job to run your script which checks for mail every so often. You might automatically pipe it to your script in through a .forward file, or with Procmail, or similar. The script then parses the email (which is where the bulk of the work lies), then posts it to the blog (via a SQL call, XML-RPC call, etc).
Has anyone noticed how different countries call mobile phones different things? In the US it’s cell phones. In Australia it’s mobile phones. In Asia it’s hand phones.
Almost there… a busy, although quite monotonous week at work. Apparently when you’re at a computer for prolonged periods, you’re meant to refocus your eyes every thirty minutes or so to reduce eyestrain. It’s quite easy to do at work when you’ve got a window seat. For some reason, although the view is nothing special, I don’t get sick of looking outside – sort of like staring out of an airplane window. There’s something cool about seeing the storm clouds and rain roll in across the city too. But enough of my idiosyncracies.
Received news today that I got selected as a social justice Intern at the Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre for second session of next year! “The principal goal of the Program is to provide students with training and practical experience in research, writing and advocacy on aspects of policy and practice relating to social justice (especially the reduction of inequity and exploitation).” Should be a terrific experience!
Next Tuesday evening I’m going to hear Sir Richard Branson talk at UNSW. Definitely will be interesting to hear what he has to say.
Good, simple movie with a bit of everything you’d expect from old style naval movies. The ocean storm and battle scenes are excellent and really capture the scale of things. Apparently Big “I don’t want any of your fucking salmon!” Russ was a bit of a prick on the set though, but what else is new?