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Archived Posts for September 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 Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
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Corporate E-Mails that should never have been sent

These are fairly old, but they’re still amusing. Case 1 concerns an Associate at The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, working in South Korea. He decided to send this pearler off to a few of his mates who then forwarded his boasting to a few more people and so on. Until the e-mail got back to his superiors whereupon his “good life” abruptly ended.

Case 2 is of a Summer Associate at Skadden, Arps, a pretty huge New York law firm. An e-mail intended for a friend accidentally went out to the entire underwriting team instead, including 20 partners. This was mainly a problem because it started out with the words, “I’m busy doing jack shit.” Lucky for him, he appears to have come through unscathed, keeping his US$2400/week job.

Fashion Explained

Fashion has always baffled me. Slate explains away a bit of the peculiarity behind fashion week and those ridiculous “you’d never see that worn anywhere” clothes that fit those ultra-thin models out with. Apparently, that’s where I’ve been going wrong. They’re not actually clothes.

Remember that fashion and clothes are not the same thing: Clothes keep you from being naked or cold, and pockets provide a place for your house keys. Fashion, when it’s good, sends the imagination racing and speaks for the wearer’s dreams in a way words can’t. …

Fashion is both democratic and exclusive. Some fashion is meant for broad audiences—New York showman-extraordinaire Isaac Mizrahi, for example, has revived his defunct high-priced label by designing clothes for Target—and some—like the extreme styles of Nicolas Ghesquiere’s work for Balenciaga—is frankly not intended for uneducated eyes. The opinion of the man on the street is irrelevant when it comes to clothes designed for connoisseurs.

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Sep 04
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School Funding

The latest election issue to hit the press is that of funding and education. I haven’t been keeping up with election events all that much, but I got the opportunity to have a browse through a hard copy of the SMH today (sidenote: nothing beats hard copy where related articles are more conveniently grouped together – so much easier to read than online where coverage may be scattered).

I noted that my alma mater is one of the schools that would cop a large funding cut under Labor’s education plan. I have vague recollections of each Speech Night where the Head Master would announce yet another annual fee increase (always above the inflation rate), which cued the ritual groans from some 2000 parents.

It turns out from this “hit list” that the school is the fifth most expensive in the State, in terms of fees (and it looks like sixth nationally). It stands to lose $3 million, more than half its funding, if Labor were to enter Government, based on Labor’s new criteria for determining how much funding private schools receive. What I want to know is what a private school with fees that high is doing with so much public funding in the first place? It’s bewildering.

I imagine that all that money isn’t just for sustaining the school. Not by a long shot. A lot of it is put into development and expansion, to raise the school’s profile, to be able to expand capacity and take in more students, and oh yes, provide a better quality of education (which also includes out-of-classroom co-curricular activities). This isn’t a bad thing, but it does raise problems when the school starts to begin being run too much like a corporate entity. When I was attending the school, I heard rumours of them thinking of splitting up middle school (years 7-9) into two campuses – one in the city, and one in the country so they could get more students and also tap into the regional “market” more directly. To me, it sounded like a bad idea.

So there’s nothing inherently wrong with this continual focus on growth that the wealthier private schools have, but, especially in the interests of equity, everyone needs an education. Not just “any education”, but a reasonably decent one. There are a lot of other schools in the private system that are nowhere near as well resourced and funded (indeed, some are struggling). The Latham cuts/redistribution would help somewhat to alleviate this imbalance.

The private schools on the hit list have said that if Latham were to implement his funding cuts, they would be forced to raise their fees. I don’t think they are raising fees because they couldn’t survive if they didn’t – they would be raising fees so they could continue expanding and building, or at least to maintain their sprawling multi-campus properties. Is this result fair to the parents? I suppose it’s a sort of user-pays system. If parents want to give their children what they might perceive to be the “best education”, then they’d be willing to pay the extra amount (they’re paying some of the highest fees already). And if they’re not, then at least the less costly alternatives will be able to offer a better quality of education with the extra funding received.

I know who I’m voting for come October.

Parade on George Street

Walked out of an interview straight into what I soon realised was the welcome home parade for our remarkable Olympic team. The swim squad naturally received a rousing reception. The volleyball players are frigging giants!

Click for full sized image

And a few words from ELC (well, I found it amusing):

As i reached Martin Place i noticed Sally Robbins, mentally exhausted from the walk uphill from Circular Quay, collapse in a heap only a few hundred metres from Town Hall. Other than that my day has been fairly uneventful.

13
Sep 04
Mon

Bécasse

Took Dad out to Bécasse for Father’s Day the weekend before last. It’s in Surry Hills and it’s a restaurant-in-a-room. The tables, open kitchen, wine racks and cashier are all in one room, and it’s quite a noisy room. We were at a table about 3m away from the kitchen.

While the waitstaff lacked the polish of some of their competitors, the food was the standout aspect of Bécasse. It was terrific. Even Mum, who normally turns her nose up at anything that’s not Chinese food (I think many Asian migrant parents may be like this for some reason), was impressed. I didn’t hear, “Do you know how much I could get at a Chinese restaurant for the price of this meal?!” for the entire evening.

The meal opened up with a delicious Lentil and Foie Gras ‘soup’ with shreds of crispy pork belly floating on top. These types of restaurants don’t tend to serve something as droll as ‘soup’, preferring instead ‘veloute’ or ‘consomme’, but let’s call a spade a spade here. The Pan-Fried Snapper and Marron Tail with Parsnip Veloute (there’s that word again) was fantastic. Fine words butter no parsnips, but the chef at Bécasse sure can. I’ve been waiting to use that proverb ever since I was taught it in primary school. The dessert, a Banana and Armagnac ice cream with malt and chocolate pralines was bloody awesome.

In the end, the restaurant forgot to add in the $12 cheese platter we ordered to the bill, so I just bumped up the tip a little. I would recommend this restaurant. They periodically hold wine-themed degustation evenings, for example, on the night we went, I think all the wines were from around Bordeaux. The seven course menus at these evenings will set you back $100pp, or $150pp if you want some grog with your tucker.

Claude’s

Claude’s, a consistent 3-hat restaurant is unhatted in this year’s Good Food Guide due to the previous owner and chef, Tim Pak Poy, leaving earlier this year. Nonetheless, its reputation seemingly continued on, and when I tried to make a reservation in July for August, found the place was booked out until September.

Claude’s is a non-descript “hole in the wall” along Oxford Street in Woollahra. Sneeze, and you’d miss it. In fact, that is almost exactly what happened. Don was driving us along Oxford St, when I realised Paddington had just passed us by. On a vague whim I told him that I thought we’d gone past Claude’s, which it turns out we had. Don turned into the next street on the left and found parking immediately. Unknown to us, we had parked about 20m down the road from Claude’s, but then proceeded to walk straight past it and a further 200m or so before realising something was wrong. Eventually we found it – there’s no overhead sign, just a small plaque with the restaurant name in cursive script. You have to ring a doorbell to get into the restaurant, which I thought was, well, quaint.

The two-floored restaurant is tiny. The bottom seated about 25 people, and the top level couldn’t have accommodated more than about 15. The decor is simple and plain, with whitewashed walls peculiarly adorned with crockery. The lighting is dim, but comfortably so. It looks a lot like a converted terrace house, because you have to walk outside to get to the toilets. Although the surroundings are nothing special, the space makes the atmosphere quite intimate. This place is excellent for dinner with that special someone (although for the price, that someone really better be special!).

But you’re not really paying for the atmosphere. You’re paying for the wonderful French cuisine. The Aylesbury duck was excellent, as was the King George Whiting and Mud Crab entree. The champagne violet crush was a beauty – really refreshing. The mostly-well-drilled waitstaff, after serving the dishes, often came back to ladle sauce onto them to keep things fresh.

At Claude's

The meal was solid – not as strongly vibrant in its flavours as Mod Oz – but still enjoyable. The 8 course tasting menu is $150pp (I think Saturdays are tasting menu-only nights). Add $85 if you want matching wines.

Dodgeball

Ben Stiller, zany, stupid, pretty darn funny. It’s interesting to note that Christine Taylor (playing Kate Veatch, the object of White Goodman’s much unwanted advances) is Stiller’s wife in real life. Must’ve been fun. Lots of cameos in this movie too, including, Chuck Norris as Himself.

The Bourne Supremacy

If you liked the first one, you’ll like the second. I liked the first one. Ergo…

A Brief Respite

I was at an end-of-subject dinner for Space Law last week. By the end of dinner, I came to the somewhat startling realisation that I was the only one seated at our half of the table that had lived solely in Sydney. Our lecturer had spent many years lawyering in Europe and then investment banking in Asia. One friend had studied in New York for four years, another had worked in the Philippines and Canada for an extended period of time. Yet another grew up in the UK and had lived in Singapore for a stint. One girl had grown up in South Africa, and another in Hong Kong with expat parents. The incredible diversity of people that I come into contact with at uni never ceases to amaze me. For the most part, most people at law school have had incredibly privileged lives (myself included, all things considered).

Here’s a person who’s lived in England, Australia, Pakistan, Israel and the US, all by the time he finished High School.

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Sep 04
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Stallman at UNSW

Our centre is organising for Richard Stallman (GNU and GPL creator) to come to speak at UNSW on the dangers of software patents. It’s being organised in conjunction with Compsoc, and it’s my guess there will be a lot more Comp Sci/Eng/Soft Eng people there than law people.

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