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Archived Posts for July 2004

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 Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
31
Jul 04
Sat
29
Jul 04
Thu

Vocab List

I’ve been keeping a small text file with new weird and wonderful words that I come across from time to time (mostly from reading legal judgments). The list currently contains:

probity abrogate promulgate
pecuniary recidivism vernacular
usufructuary derogate enure/inure
indefeasible a fortiori demesne
apposite sartorial gravamen
captious vituperous propinquity
nugatory legerdemain supervene
aleatory cataleptic contumelious
bibulous misandrist cognoscente
cloying philology Panopticon
amanuensis adumbrated heterodoxy
primogeniture bailiwick coterie
aphorism autochthonous discombobulated
apothegm parvenu

The problem is, I keep forgetting what these words mean. Ahh, learning vocabulary for vocabulary’s sake is actually pretty useless and impractical, unless you derive some sort of twisted enjoyment from sending people scuttling for the dictionary everytime you drop one of these words into writing.

28
Jul 04
Wed

Google IPO Pricing

Jason Kottke mentions that the per share price of the Google float is largely irrelevant. He emphasises the more important question is whether the valuation of the company is accurate because the market capitalisation of a company is meant to be a representation of that company’s worth. However, he neglects to account for other factors that should be considered in purchasing stocks. One of the other major considerations is liquidity, and the absolute price of a stock is connected to this. The lower-priced a share is, the easier it is to offload and the more liquid it tends to be. There’s no point in having oodles of shares you can’t get rid of in a hurry; look at Berkshire Hathaway, for example. Secondly, there are adverse psychological factors involved when looking at a high stock price (especially for the individual investor) which further impact on liquidity. That’s why companies do stock splits: the market is not completely efficient, and investors are not all rational.

For those wanting to make a quick buck, the issue is predicting what market sentiment is, as much as it is about valuing a company accurately. This is because unless you are a huge institutional investor, everyone else in the market is determining where the price for a stock heads, and market sentiment reacts irrationally, especially in a weakly efficient market. The very psychological factors Kottke points out as silly are yet very relevant.

Splitting stocks may also carry connotations that a company is doing a roaring trade (Microsoft has had numerous splits). So, although mathematically speaking, a split will double share holdings and exactly halve the price, the funny thing is after a stock split the price may rise a little due to these connotations.

Shaping up for a Busy Semester

Uni has restarted and it’s looking busy again. I was intent on overloading by a subject this semester, but decided against it. The Great Law Clerkship Application Drive has started where all penultimate year law students in the state, like myself, crazily fill out masses of clerkship applications in the hope of willingly signing away their summer holidays for a piece of corporate law action. All the application paperwork is due in by next Friday. Interview offers will be extended during the rest of August for September, which is interview month. I’ve heard stories of people having to attend in excess of 20 clerkship interviews, so in any event, it’ll be busy for all.

I’m taking an elective called Space Law this semester. That’s space as in outer space. A lot of it is to do with international law (which is an aspect of law I’ve had zero exposure to so far, except for the briefest mention of treaties while looking at the External Affairs power in Constitutional Law). Who owns space? The moon? What’s the deal with putting satellites in orbit? The class size is small, which is excellent, and our lecturer is cool. Ok, I’ll admit, he had me as soon as he divided up the class into Vulcans and Klingons for ease of reference. I’m such a geek. He makes the subject seem quite interesting, which is a must given that the weekly lecture goes for 3.5 hours. His background is also fairly interesting. He worked as a lawyer for about 7 years, switched over to Investment Banking, got to work in just about every major commercial city in the world, and retired at the ripe old age of 41. He now teaches and researches international law as a hobby of sorts.

I started my internship at the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre. Met up with the centre director for an hour, still don’t know what’s going on yet (we’re still waiting for the other intern, Ada, to get back from overseas), but the work they do looks interesting and quite exciting! One of the big events being arranged is an intellectual property conference in November looking at open source (like GNU licensing) and open content (such as the Creative Commons licence you see popping up on blogs everywhere). Have to keep a weekly reflective log of what I’ve done there, so I might as well post it on this site too, as the semester progresses.

The UNSW Law Journal is going to launch three issues by the end of the year. One issue’s ready to go, but it’s going to get hectic to get the remaining two out the door. Ok, enough law.

This Saturday looks like fun. You know The Amazing Race? The Co-op Charity Society at uni has organised a competition based on that idea, to run just within Sydney. They didn’t give many details about what to expect on the day, but there’s going to be over 30 teams of two running around Sydney trying to get challenges completed. There’s a public transport only restriction in place. There’s also a ban on walkie-talkies, but presumably mobile phones are allowed. If time permits, I’ll be sending updates here during the day via my mobile.

I have the opportunity to buy a new 40 gig iPod for under $500. It’s a bargain I think I’m going to have to take up…

  10:03pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Law  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
27
Jul 04
Tue
26
Jul 04
Mon
24
Jul 04
Sat

Skywriting

I kept looking, but by the time the star had drifted away, there wasn’t anything else that was written that gave clues about what someone was trying to advertise. I assumed it was a Jetstar ad, but maybe they ran out of smoke or something!

Click for full sized image

I, Robot

As much of a sci-fi fan as I am, I must confess that I have not read any of Asimov’s novels. A non-fiction work, a few short stories, but I’ve never read the classic Foundation series, nor I, Robot.

When you take the work of a venerable science fiction writer, turn it into a Hollywood movie, and cast Will Smith as its lead, you’re bound to go in with low expectations. As such, I was pleasantly surprised. It was actually quite a good movie, even though I assume it’s probably nothing like the novel on which it is based.

The movie is set 30 years in the future. I really liked how the sets are a blend of futuristic technology and gadgets, while still showing the streets are not exactly paved with gold, with lots of retro touches included (in the 2030s, retro means the 2000s). Nonetheless, it’s a very pretty picture, filled with biometrics, LCDs and voice-controlled computers.

I’ve read that Asimov spent a lot of time dealing with how humans might interact with robots. He never pushed the “robots take over the world” scenario, feeling it was too clichéd, but instead looked at how his famous Three Laws of Robotics might ensure a beneficial existence with robots. Of course, Hollywood has to be more exciting than that, and ths movie does allude to Asimov’s “Zeroth” law (as in 0th) in what happens towards the end of the film. You won’t want to know what the Zeroth law is if you don’t want spoilers.

The plot is fairly predictable and the themes familiar if you’re a sci-fi buff. Nonetheless, Will Smith keeps things entertaining. (Incidentally, James Cromwell, who plays Dr Lanning in the film, has had a good run. He’s invented the warp drive, and now he’s invented robots that dream.) It’s a fun watch, if you don’t try and nit-pick it to pieces.

For me, a future with NS-5 type robots is definitely more than thirty years away. We have automated vacuum cleaners, dancing robots and robot pets. The Robocup competition, currently played with Aibos, has the long-term objective of creating a team of human-sized robots that will be able to compete with a World Cup winning side within around 50 years. For a robotic butler however, things are more than a few years or even decades off.

It’s always dangerous to predict what will happen with technology. History has repeatedly shown people get things wrong. For example, you might say that if you told a person fifty years ago that people could affordably travel across the globe in under a day, they would think you’re crazy. Or if you told a person twenty years ago, all the information in the world was virtually available at everyone’s finger tips via something improbably called “Google” (I mean, how non-futuristic does that name sound?), they would have laughed.

Still, it seems a lot of the super-technologies we can concieve of today don’t look achievable within our lifetime. I would place robots with artificial intelligence in the same category as a world government and planetary colonisation. It’s more complex than something like holography or commercial space travel (which are decidely attainable), but not as exotic as transporter technology (dealing with visible amounts of physical matter) or faster-than-light travel which I would bet significant amounts of money won’t be achieved in our lifetime.

The thing is, as rapidly as modern technology is progressing, each additional step of technology corresponds with an exponential increase in scientific complexity. Theoretical science is quite advanced, but applied sciences, which are constrained by physical processes, lag quite far behind.

Something like near-perfect voice recognition, which has been worked on for decades, would constitute for me a major technological breakthrough. AI is several orders of magnitude harder than that. As such, many of the improvements over the last few years since the Internet became mainstream are more evolutionary than revolutionary. For example, wireless technology permits all sorts of applications. Yet, wireless communications are just protocols and radio waves, nothing revolutionary. It’s the major technological breakthroughs that are the exciting ones and apart from the possibility of commercial space travel in the near future, there aren’t many I can think of on the horizon.

I really wish I could take a peek 20 years into the future. But who knows? I may look back on these journal entries after that amount of time and be forced to recant these words. I sure hope so.

  11:50pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Movies  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (2)  • 
23
Jul 04
Fri
22
Jul 04
Thu

7 Dozen Doughnuts

Dropped by the new Krispy Kreme near the airport yesterday after dinner, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, there were these five guys there who were busy gorging themselves with, get this, seven boxes of doughnuts. That’s seven dozen. That’s about $20 worth of dough per person. I don’t know if they intended to eat all of them in one sitting, but at the rate they were going through them, it sure looked like it. And people wonder why we have an obesity problem.

21
Jul 04
Wed

Berman Talks About New Trek Film

From Sci Fi Wire:

“The movie that we’re having very early discussions about would have nothing to do with any of the characters that have ever existed on any of the Star Trek series,” Berman said. “It would be an entirely new setting and an entirely new set of characters, and it would take place prior to any of the series, including Enterprise.” (emphasis added)

Utter disaster looms. I can feel it. Star Trek is most closely associated with technology and the future (especially to the mainstream audiences which are necessary for successful cinema releases) and they keep pushing it backwards in time instead of forwards. What the? And this time there aren’t even going to be any characters anyone can relate to (even non-Trekkies know about Kirk and Picard).

20
Jul 04
Tue
19
Jul 04
Mon

New iPod now on sale

Hot damn. The new revision of the 40GB iPod is only $650. $584.10 for students. With free laser engraving till the end of September. I am incredibly tempted to buy one, though I’m still a little concerned about the unreplaceable battery the iPod has. (It costs US$100 to replace a battery. The battery is rated for 400 charge cycles before it starts to charge to less than 80% of capacity. That’s about 18 months with regular use.)

18
Jul 04
Sun

IMWatching

Someone has got around to implementing another idea I had years ago (1999, to be exact, although of course I doubt they got the idea from this site!) about gathering statistics from instant messenging programs. IMWatching records when buddies are offline, idle, active, and away. Unfortunately, it appears only to work for tracking AOL buddies, but I’m sure something for ICQ and MSN will come along (the protocol specs for the two programs are widely available). Not sure how useful it is for people like me who leave their machine on 24/7, but most IM programs have auto-away statuses these days.

I’ve recently started to use MSN Messenger (I don’t really know why myself, but I quite like the ability to change your username at will so you can use it like a mini bulletin board). My account which I can be added under is: *** [at] gmail.com

  7:18pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Internet  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

New Feature: Watchlists

You’ll notice a new box on the left hand side of the page entitled “Watchlist”. If you visit any of the comments pages, you’ll also see a small box on them which allows you to add a comment thread to your watchlist. Doing this will place it into the Watchlist box. Whenever a comment is added to any thread you are watching, the thread will be flagged for you. If you have nothing on your watchlist, the watchlist box defaults to showing the five most voluminous threads which have been posted to in the last month. The whole idea of this is to give people easy access to active threads, even after they’ve been bumped way down the page by newer posts, or want to know when a question they’ve posted on specific thread is potentially answered. If it doesn’t work properly (it needs cookies enabled), let me know.

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17
Jul 04
Sat

Dawn of the Dead

Something like 28 Days Later, but somehow not as stressful to watch. Nothing like an urban zombie flick, with Ving Rhames in it, no less. Maddox has a much better review of it :).

16
Jul 04
Fri

RSS Feed

Made some minor additions to the RSS feed. I use the free and simple to use Feedreader for receiving my XML feeds.

Uni Results

A bit disappointing for last session. Three low-range Ds with Litigation results still pending (slackers!). Screwed up the property exam by neglecting to see (well, not so much see as remember) half of a very important sentence in the exam question, so I was expecting a reduced mark. Ironically, Legal Theory, which I thought was last session’s horror subject, turned out to be the best. Fed Con result was very unremarkable. I had the same lecturer for those latter two subjects who incidentally writes the briefest e-mail replies ever. Normally they consist of four letters, always lower-case, always on one line: “ok ag”.

Update (21/7/04): Haha I don’t believe it, I got an HD for Litigation!

Backbench Mailing List

Backbench now has a new issue announcement mailing list you can sign up to. Look on the left hand side of the front page for the subscription box.

Josh Kelley Concert

A small handful of dim photos from last Sunday’s concert here.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Caught an advance screening of it at Cinema Paris. As Doz pointed out to me after the movie, Moore is an excellent propagandist. That only makes the doco all the more compelling. If you’re a fence-sitter who’s not sure why Bush is disliked or hated throughout the world, see the movie. It’ll be an eye-opener for you. See it, read of both the praises and the condemnations its received, and then make up your own mind.

The movie moves through a lot of different points. It uses suggestion a lot, rarely resorting to a direct accusation (never does Moore gloat that WMDs have not been found yet — he just sort of assumes the audience has worked that bit out). The connection drawn between the Bush and Saudi Arabian families smack of conspiracy theorist linkages, but at least the evidence he presents and assertions he makes are all sourced and verified (you’d have to make sure that was the case if you’re going to attack the Government). The style seems a touch more restrained than Bowling for Columbine, but is still expertly crafted and powerfully moving.

This movie received applause at its conclusion. That, in Australian cinemas whose audiences are generally quite restrained, is reserved only for the most popular movies. Very highly recommended.

15
Jul 04
Thu

King Arthur

King Arthur was crap. Action was bland, dialogue was stunted and I ended up not giving a damn about what happened to the characters who were never made endearing. A very, very poor version of Braveheart (which played on the freedom theme a hundred times more effectively).

Shrek 2

Short, but funny! Recommended and pretty much up to the same standard as the first instalment.

Seedy Songs and Rotten Rhymes – Poetry of the Playground

I can’t remember my nursery rhymes, but I have snippets of little playground ditties still stuck in my head. Here’s a site that catalogues them.

I remember chanting eeny meany miney mo, racist words and all, not knowing what the “N”-word actually meant. I also remember it continued… “boy scout you’re out, not because you’re dirty, not because you’re clean, just because you kissed the girl behind the magazine”. There was also “dip dip dog shit” which doesn’t seem to be mentioned on the site. Also, “On top of old smokey, all covered in snow… I shot my poor teacher, with a bow and arrow.” What do you remember?

14
Jul 04
Wed

Nokia Lifeblog Beta Out

Nokia has released v0.95 of their Lifeblog software. Nice idea. I’d moblog more often if it didn’t cost me 75 cents for each frigging picture I sent out.

Of Faraway Places…

Just making brief mention of two travel sites: Dan’s (SE Asia) and WaD’s (Europe).

  10:29pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Travel  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
11
Jul 04
Sun

The Backbench

Issue 8 of The Backbench is now out. I go out on a limb this time and argue that McDonald’s is not evil.

9
Jul 04
Fri

Winter Session Classes

At uni on a Saturday in the holidays doing Advanced Legal Research after a late night out yesterday… I’m dying here…

5
Jul 04
Mon

Spiderman 2

I really liked Spidey 2. Action was excellent, as was the CGI (if a little “stop-motion” at times). Lots of slow scenes teasing out the main comic themes such as the famous power/responsibility line and that infuriating romantic theme of “MJ can’t hook up with Spidey because it might hurt her”. Probably infuriating because I’ve been watching Smallville and seeing Superman in the exact same quandary, but for three long and painful seasons.

4
Jul 04
Sun

Thredbo Trip

The skiing was terrific. The consensus among the locals was that the snow hadn’t been this good, this early in the season for over a decade.

We were accommodated at Boloco Station, a large pastoral property almost an hour away from the slopes. Boloco was owned and operated by the grandparents of a mate from school – a wonderfully hospitable, generous and amazingly healthy couple in their eighties. The property has been in their family for many generations, passed down by an unbroken line of first-born sons since Australia was settled by the Brits. The family tradition since then has been to name the eldest son Reuben, and with four living Reubens, it gets quite confusing at times which one people are referring to! For clarity they refer to each other as Ben, Reuben Snr, Reuben Jnr and little Ben.

When we got there, we heard reports that winds had caused the power station at Jindabyne to “fall over” the day before, so we were a little nervous about the conditions at Thredbo. The first morning there was extremely windy, but by lunchtime the wind had disappeared and conditions were excellent. There was a good coverage of snow, but slopes were pretty icy which is normal for Australia I suppose. Also developed a hatred for T-Bars after falling off not once, but three times. On the next day, all the lifts were in operation and we took Karels T-Bar to Australia’s highest lifted point. Shen had the bright idea of going down the black (and closed) Golf Course Bowl run, and we ended up going cross-country across the mountain side. Had a much better run with T-Bars this day, though. Looks like a good snow season ahead, especially if you’re thinking of going at the end of this month or later. Photos here.

3
Jul 04
Sat

Schoolgirl Photos

SMH Article: A chick from Barker College posted up a few semi-revealing photos of herself in school uniform and got suspended. Her blog, cached by Google is here. Not surprising, given how disciplinarian some of these city private schools are.

“Barker boys wear skirts and high heels, tra la la la la, la la la la…” used to be a common chant at CAS sports carnivals in reference to how Barker’s upper grades are co-ed. I bet most CAS boys were now wishing they went to Barker instead. At least they don’t have any problems with Apple Chapels and Anacondas. {src: Lime Jelly}

Anyway, it’s not like it’s the first time something like this has happened.

Barker Sux!
Click (possibly nsfw)



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