Hear Ye! Since 1998.

Archived Posts for May 2005

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 Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.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
May 05
Tue

Computer Heresy

I’m about to commit heresy and order a 12″ Powerbook G4. Yes, that’s right, a beast with horns that runs MacOS.

I wanted a portable laptop that I could take travelling, so that means something smaller than a 14″ screen. Unfortunately, all the Windows laptops are so damn expensive at that size. For a little over $2000 (including a nice student education discount) the Powerbook comes with USB2, 802.11g, 5 hour battery life and a burner. In terms of software compatibility, MacOS is a Unix base. It has Apache and I can do all the web development I need. It runs Office, Photoshop and is compatible with Windows file formats. It runs WoW.

The only real downsides I can see with the Powerbook are that it only has one button on the trackpad (this is really annoying) and no PCMCIA slot (though this is only an issue if I need to subscribe to iBurst). The software compatibility issue isn’t so bad because I still have my desktop for when I need to do real work.

I think MacOS still has some crappy UI aspects, like a dodgy maximise button. I much prefer the Windows nested windows UI rather than the Mac’s floating palettes UI. Maybe it’s just a matter of adapting.

My ear hurts

I just spent three hours on the phone trying to finalise a travel itinerary… it’s almost there. I think its possible that we may have packed a little too much in… on paper it looks really exhausting, but it should be flexible to drop out stuff while we’re on the run. More details later.

  11:51pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Travel  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
30
May 05
Mon

Today is special for some

:P

Update: A big thank you to those who today called, smsed, e-mailed, left a comment, bought me a meal or some combination of these things, as the case may be!

26
May 05
Thu

*Sniff*

Currently have this damn cold that’s been obstinately lingering around since the weekend. I woke up today to find my voice sounding like someone had rammed a dozen clothes pegs up my nose and a bunch of feathers down my throat (they feel that way too). There’s a cocktail of amoxycillin, potassium clavulanate, terbutaline sulfate, oxymetazoline hydrochloride, ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine hydrochlorine currently circulating in my bloodstream which is possibly doing me more harm than good. Not been a great year in terms of health – third time in five months I’ve come down with a cold, normally it’s only one or maybe two per year.

  9:12pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
25
May 05
Wed
23
May 05
Mon

Sudoku Solver

The SMH has recently started printing Sudoku puzzles. Shish, the numerical mastermind that he is, whipped up a Sudoku solver in a few scant hours.

22
May 05
Sun
19
May 05
Thu

Torture Note

I’m just going to add one thing to the torture debate. Reading through various arguments against Bagaric and Clarke’s views, I wonder if there’s a point that could be validly made about comparing the norms of “right to physical integrity” and “right to life” (the latter being made out to be a “peremptory” norm, to borrow a term from international law). It’s assumed that the latter right trumps the former:

In the hostage scenario, it is universally accepted that it is permissible to violate the right to life of the aggressor to save an innocent person. How can it be wrong to violate an even less important right (the right to physical integrity) by torturing the aggressor in order to save a life in the second scenario?

Why is death necessarily assumed to be a greater travesty than torture? I make this specific point because this assumed hierarchy of “bad things that can happen to a human being” is not so cut and dried. Let me use a hypothetical to illustrate: would you rather be sentenced to death by lethal injection, or sentenced to life imprisonment which includes daily torture regimes as an additional punitive measure? Even if you think this is a facetious hypothetical question, I also make this observation in light of the euthanasia debates. The reason there is such a debate is because (to greatly oversimplify things, but also sufficient to illustrate my point) on one side you have people who regard life as a paramount right, and on the other, you have people who recognise that people should be able to decide how much they value their own life vis-à-vis the suffering they endure.

  9:20pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Law  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

It’s that time of year

I’m doing a fourth year subject in an undergraduate class this year and I’m hearing a lot of clerkship application “buzz” which I thankfully missed last year. As with all final year students, I also come into contact with a lot of people that are beginning to take the next step into the world of work and I’m always fascinated by the different perspectives people have about it, and consequently, life in general. The unfortunate fact is that many people’s lives are defined by their working life – which is not all that surprising if you spend the best parts of the weekdays stuck in an office.

Anyway, I came across this post which has another perspective. The comments attached to that post are also interesting. There is a bit of talk about how compatible corporate law work is with Christianity. A while ago I discovered this article written by a partner at Clayton Utz titled “A Christian Reflection on Commercial Law Firm Practice“. It’s good reading.

I’ve had two peer groups now from different backgrounds who’ve had to go through the whole career choosing thing. I could write pages of stuff about choosing a career, which is similar to a discussion about choosing the right path after high school, but I’ll confine myself to saying that my general philosophy is that whatever you do – you have to actively enjoy what you are doing. Talking about what you do in your job, or what you study, with some measure of passion to others is a good indication of that. A job doesn’t have to involve glory or prestige or be world changing or whatever, for you to enjoy it. Even when an industry is “meant” to be glamourous, but in fact is not, doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed. It just means you should know what you are really getting into first, before doing it.

My dad always said to me that whatever I did, I had to be able to wake up in 20 years and still like what I was doing. Our generation is luckier in that the days of “one job for life” are long gone, and we are more mobile (both geographically and industrially) in terms of what we do. Keeping an open mind regarding opportunities, taking on board advice from friends and others, but not succumbing to peer or societal pressure if you really have your heart set on something is important. I really admire people who are able to do this. One of my best friends is going to do some missionary work in the Sudan next month. It’s something he’s always wanted to do, and despite some very intense family pressure against it, and at a not insignificant personal cost, he’s doing it.

It really is all a personal choice, one centered around personal values, which are different for everyone. Some people derive more satisfaction from cash than others, some people value free time more. Neither is inherently better than the other.

I tutor one person who today was telling me about their marks – they had done much better in a law mid-session than in an accounting mid-session. Turns out that they hate accounting, but of course, their parents wouldn’t have any of it and just told them to “work harder”. Changing courses or majors is a good option for someone in this situation, but parental pressure is considerable when parents think they know best and reckon that a commerce degree is “good grounding for getting a job in business”, despite a zero enjoyment level.

At this age I gues if you’re in something and you discover you don’t like it and in reality you don’t really need to do it, don’t tread water for too long. Thinking that if you rough it out for 5-6 years so you can get “comfortable” and then find something better is, as Warren Buffet said, like saving up sex for old age.

  7:56pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)  • 
18
May 05
Wed

Star Wars

IT TOTALLY ROCKED!!! Easily the best of the prequel trilogy. Fantastic cinema atmosphere as always. Maybe more after some sleep. If you haven’t seen it, what the are you waiting for?

It’s like a Greek tragedy… so that’s what it took to get me to appreciate that format… and what those english high school classes were good for.

Lightsabre Fight

There’s one in every crowd. At the premiere of Star Wars 3.

Click for full sized image

17
May 05
Tue

Meanwhile…

Hello?
12.00am, 19 May 2005
Ironforge Auction House

16
May 05
Mon

Random countdowns

Advanced Contracts exam in 2.5 hours. Star Wars 3 premiere in 32.5 hours. Over 100 3000-word assignments due to be finished marking in 72.5 hours. One month left until my time as an undergraduate is over for good! :(

14
May 05
Sat

MPAA shuts down several BitTorrent sites – to what end?

As the US television season winds down (out of my weekly viewing list, Enterprise and Amazing Race have finished, and Smallville is almost over as well), the MPAA has sued several BitTorrent sites. They went offline overnight, which left many people bewildered – wondering where the sites went – and annoyed – wondering where they were going to get their final episodes of whatever serial they were watching. BTEfnet.net was among the most prominent of these.

Mysteriously, the trading of BT files was halted on the #bt irc channel on EFNet, with 3000+ silenced people lurking on the channel wondering what the hell happened. Technically, the BTEfnet website is just a monitor of the #bt channel. Whenever a new show is released on #bt, a program scrapes the torrent file off it and then posts it automatically to the web. So, it is the IRC channel that drives the website, and there is no reason why if the MPAA serves a notice on the web site, it should affect the IRC channel (since it is not centralised, like the website is). It appears that it was just a precautionary measure because within a few hours, #bt was trading again and continues to trade. So if you’re looking for your TV torrents, hop on IRC.

Also, the latest version of Azureus has introduced distributed tracking – which removes another bit of BitTorrent which requires centralisation (centralisation is the bane of P2P when it comes to zealous copyright agencies suing everyone).

Interestingly, Sweden appears to have rather lax copyright laws, and The Pirate Bay is a BT site which has been violating US copyright laws and ignoring cease & desist letters with impunity.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The movie was a great adaptation of the book. I guess knowing that Douglas Adams had a hand in writing the screenplay helps make any deviation from the novel more palatable. Where it deviated from the plot, the overall character of the storytelling shone through. I felt it was also a little more upbeat than the BBC television series which aired years and year ago.

Enterprise: These are the Voyages…

And here endeth the saga. Enterprise has always been embroiled in controversy, and a lot of fans have been resentful of the fact that this whole series has inserted a pre-Kirk “Enterprise” ship into the universe where one never existed. I remember a convention compere describing the series as, “probably being good sci-fi, but for me, it’ll never been good Star Trek”, in reference to the irreverent rewriting of Trekkian lore.

The whole thing could have been avoided simply by giving the starship a different name, but over the duration of its four short years, and although the naming thing still nags at me, the the series has grown on me. I still think it’s one of the weaker series, with a more bad episodes than good ones, it has improved. Knowing the series was about to be cancelled, the writers had fun with Season 4, trying some innovative new story-telling techniques (3-episode movie-length story arcs, the “In a Mirror, Darkly” episodes, and so on). Finally, however, the last Enterprise episode had to air, and for once, the lots at Paramount are missing Star Trek sets.

So that leaves us with the last episode. How would they decide to send off the series? TNG’s “All Good Things” was about the Enterprise-D saving the galaxy. DS9 had a wonderful, poignant montage sequence of the crew’s adventures over its 7 year run. In Star Trek VI, before the Enterprise-A was finally decommissioned, the original crew saved the collapse of the Khitomer Conference, where the peace treaty was brokered, ending the decades-long war between the Klingons and the Federation. Trek VI closes with Kirk saying, “This ship and her history, will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man… where no one, has gone before.”

Warning: There be spoilers ahead.

The final episode of Enterprise was very tasteful and fitting, paying ample tribute to the other Trek series along the way. It opens with the ship on the way to a conference that will see the signing of the Federation Charter – the birth of an interplanetary “United Nations”. Then, suddenly, we hear a familiar voice saying “Computer, freeze program.” The camera pans to none other than… Will Riker. The Enterprise’s bridge dissolves and we find ourselves on the Enterprise-D’s holodeck. The title sequence then plays. At this point, I’m sure a shiver was sent up every Trekkie’s spine. Did they make it all a dream?! A holodeck simulation? Is that how they’re getting around the history problem?

Fortunately, the writers have a little more self-respect than that. The episode is told from the point of view of Riker viewing a historical simulation of the final days of the Enterprise NX-01 (set about 6 years after the previous episode, “Terra Prime”). It turns out he is in a predicament, whether to talk to Captain Picard about a matter he is bound to secrecy by an Admiral – a secret that could jeopardise the Treaty of Altron which sets out the Romulan neutral zone. The events in the TNG universe are of no importance, however. It takes a little time to realise what Riker is doing, but when the realisation comes, it is fitting. Riker is trying to get advice on his predicament by drawing inspiration from the character of the NX-01’s first officer as he deals with a prickly situation as the NX-01 heads towards the Charter Conference (involving Jeffrey Combs, who gets to appear one last time as Commander Shran). Riker chats with the rest of the bridge crew, with Trip himself, and in the process portrays the bond that all Enterprise captains have had with their first officers. Along with Jonathan Frakes’ role reprisal, Marina Sirtis also reappears as Counsellor Troi (surprisingly, not looking like she’s aged very much), along with Brent Spiner’s voice (as Data).

Apart from looking at the personal growth shown by the Enterprise crew, the episode works on a second level – the culmination of the Enterprise’s voyages resulting in the formation of the Federation. In many ways, this episode and the last several have covered similar themes to Star Trek VI – putting aside mistrust and xenophobia (on a personal and inter-racial level), not to save the galaxy as we know it, but to forge diplomatic alliances – which is a far more formidable feat than succesfully blowing up the Bad Guy’s Big Weapon of Death. It also preserves the distinguished lineage of Enterprise ships, which always go on to do Great Things.

It’s an event that on the surface really has apparently nothing to do with the “sci” in sci-fi (apart from the fact that there are a whole bunch of aliens in the room where the Charter is being signed), but at the same time it’s a theme that is central to a lot of good sci-fi but is rarely associated by mainstream audiences/readers with it – the visionary drive for exploration of new frontiers, which are not necessarily in the stars, but also within ourselves, and the struggle as things change and how people react to this change in different ways. The formation of the Federation is the optimistic keystone in Roddenberry’s vision of Trek, and it was conveyed reasonably well in this episode and throughout the season.

There are lots of neat self-referential touches in this episode. The Charter is signed in a location that the time traveller Daniels showed Archer a few seasons ago in a temporal “flash-forward”. Archer toasts “to the next generation”. When Trip says to Reed, “It’s been a good run, Malcolm. I never thought it’d come to an end,” Reed replies, “All good things…”. And of course, there are the shots of the Enterprise-D, where the 10-forward set has been recreated and the crew is in TNG getup. The closing sequence has a montage of the three Enterprises from TNG, TOS and Enterprise, overlaid by the three respective ship captains reciting the Enterprise’s mission statement. Surprisingly, the writers opted to have Archer say “man” instead of “person” or “one”, maintaining the timeline integrity of how political correctness has gradually made its way into the mission statement in the Trek universe (as opposed to our real-world timeline). Enterprise was not a great Trek series, but it nonetheless received a fitting send off. Farewell, Star Trek. It’ll be missed.

Amazing Race Season 7 Finale

Best. Season. Finale. Ever. Even better than Season 5. Highlight below for spoilers:

Season 7 of The Amazing Race was mindblowing and the last episode was spectacular. Uchenna and Joyce took it out in a nail-biting finish, against Rob and Amber (in my opinion, the most consistently best team to race, with 5 1st place finishes to their name, and never finishing outside of the top 3 except for one 5th place finish) and Ron and Kelly (who started off strongly, but whose wheels fell off at the end).

Rob and Amber, who have amazing luck, are of course slimy. Which is one totally valid way to play the game, but it doesn’t do much to put the audience on side, nor the other competitors.

The thing that made Uchenna and Joyce’s victory so incredible was that they overcame a last place finish in the penultimate leg, resulting in them losing all their money and belongings which made them go through most of the leg without food, water, or sleep. Nonetheless, they maintained their integrity right to the very end of the race. Even when the million bucks was mere metres away, they didn’t have the heart to short-change and ditch the taxi driver (or it may have been race rules, but I’m more inclined to believe the former explanation). It was a nail-biter. Also keep in mind the head-shaving that Joyce had to endure, and how she sprang back from that so quickly. You couldn’t have scripted a more deserving finish. Here are some links with people who agree:

Salon: Lovely and "Amazing"
Gut-wrenching "Race"
offers satisfying ending


About the guy in the Beamer who gave them $10

Fairy Tale Ending
Season
Finale Recap

Houston couple insisted on clean race win
"Romber" proves that karma
is a beeeatch

Blogcritics

13
May 05
Fri
10
May 05
Tue

Tales from the Dungeon II

My uncle, cousin, and dad (incredibly) now all play World of Warcraft. My uncle’s a doctor with his own practice, and he plays it during work. He sits in the auction house and bids on stuff in between seeing patients. He’s made several hundred gold from doing that. Then he started up a rogue as an alt and quests during the day. When a patient comes in to see him, he stealths, alt-tabs to the relevant medical software, attends to the patient, then switches straight back to slaughtering lives as opposed to saving them.

My flatmate’s WoW addiction hijinks continue. He is hellbent on equipping his character with as much virtual bling as possible from the auction house. He terms this his “blue fetish” (blue coloured items denote rare items in the game). There was one blue helm he was particularly intent on getting that he discovered being auctioned off at 1am. At that time, the auction was marked as being of “Long” duration, which means there is anywhere from 2 to 8 hours left to bid on the item. So, bearing in mind he had uni at 9am, he took a punt and set his alarm clock for 5am so he could monitor the price. Four hours of sleep later, he managed to wake up and drag himself to the computer. The auction was still on foot, but still marked as “Long” duration. So he slept for another hour and woke up again. The auction had changed to “Medium” duration (from 30 minutes to 2 hours left) and the price was still a bargain. Dreary eyed, he set his alarm clock to wake him up in 25 minute blocks, until the auction turned “Short” (less than 30 minutes). After three 25 minute sleep-wake cycles, something happened. He miscalculated something along the line, for when he re-awoke for the sixth time that morning, the item was gone. The auction was over. The item had been sold.

The worst story of WoW addiction I’ve heard is when my cousin went with a friend to go skiing in Whistler last holidays. My cousin’s friend decided to bring along a computer. I’m not talking about a laptop here, but a full computer – tower case, 19″ monitor, keyboard, the works. When they got to Canada, he (the friend) spent a whole day trying to get his computer to work (the power supply was having problems with the different voltages). A day was wasted with no result, so he decided to take off in the evening to a net cafe to get his WoW fix. Not a word was heard from him until he got back the next day at 3… PM. To make matters worse, it turns out that the friend was meant to have arranged accommodation at the ski fields, but upon arriving in Canada that arrangement had fallen through because something hadn’t been done. So my cousin spent the time searching for alternatives. The following day they had a 7am bus to catch to the actual ski fields/accommodation. The friend, slumbering after another session of WoW, was unwilling/incapable of waking up on time, so my cousin, now thoroughly infuriated, took off to go skiing without him. It is still unknown whether the friend (a friend no longer, obviously) made it to the ski fields.

There you have it. Warcraft addiction Ruins Lives. I can’t wait till I hit level 60.

Totally Random SMS

Hm, turns out you can send SMS from payphones. Dunno how long that has been available – I haven’t used a payphone since high school. And I learnt this when someone put in the wrong number and sent me this today (I’ll spare you the allcaps):

(SMS from TELSTRA payphone)hey tamahau this is teecy and i was just wondering if u would go out with me umm anyways ill see u at skool tomorrow see ya

Right.

6
May 05
Fri


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