Hear Ye! Since 1998.

Archived Posts for October 2008

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 Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.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
Oct 08
Fri

Backbench 2.0

The Backbench has returned. After an almost three year absence, The Backbench is back in a revised blog format. Four of us from the old Backbench are back on board (the person who isn’t has since moved on to weightier things, like helping to run a country).

For those who don’t know, Backbench was designed as a sort of online magazine with a variety of opinion pieces from young-ish people. As always, we welcome contributions.

Because articles will be released on a somewhat erratic schedule, the best thing to do is sign up for an email digest that will be sent out with each new article posting:

Backbench mailing list signup
Email address:

  1:31pm (GMT -7.00)  •  Site News  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (2)  • 
30
Oct 08
Thu
28
Oct 08
Tue
27
Oct 08
Mon
26
Oct 08
Sun

Nocturnal writings

After trying to figure out how to start writing a paper all day, it is more than a little annoying when the inspiration suddenly strikes in the wee hours and you get on a bit of a roll. And I’m meant to be playing tennis at 9am today…

  3:32am (GMT -7.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
25
Oct 08
Sat

At this week’s colloquium

Fred von Lohmann of EFF. He gave a great talk on user generated
content and the DMCA’s takedown notice and safe harbor procedures.
(Finally, a non-patents talktalk of copyright!)

Click for full sized image

24
Oct 08
Fri
22
Oct 08
Wed
21
Oct 08
Tue

Late night musing

Can someone explain to me exactly how this is grammatically correct: “please see here for the information the subject of your inquiry”, as opposed to, “please see here for the information that is the subject of your inquiry”? I never really understood how the first phrase could get away with missing a verb… or maybe the first form isn’t actually grammatically correct?

Maybe it’s ok if it’s written with a comma: “please see here for the information, the subject of your inquiry”, but I am pretty sure I’ve seen it without a comma.

19
Oct 08
Sun

Ten small differences

Here’s a list of some small and sometimes annoying things that need to be adjusted to in the US:

1. US spelling (e.g., “-ise” becomes “-ize”, “-our” becomes “-or”). US spelling actually makes a little bit more sense to me and some of the words are shorter by a character.

2. Lack of distinction in spelling between verbs and nouns (e.g., “become licensed by applying for a license”, “he practiced medicine in a private practice”). The US way is easier.

3. The lack of the metric system. Their scientists use the metric system, why can’t the rest of the country? This is my biggest bugbear, and I find myself having to switch GPS devices over to using meters and kilometers because I just don’t have any innate sense of how far away 800 feet or 1.3 miles is. And how much is 1 pint and 4 fl. oz.?!

4. Zealous use of periods (fullstops) to denote abbrevations (e.g., “Mrs.”, “U.S.”, “Sept.”, “Oct.”). However, the practice is unfortunately not uniform – lengthier acronyms and some two letter acronyms are not broken up with periods. Putting too many periods distracts when reading text. I prefer so-called “open-punctuation” which minimises periods. Using “S.&P.” for Standard & Poor’s is just messy.

5. Punctuation around quotation marks. US punctuation requires ending commas and periods to be placed inside the quotation marks. For example: That article made claims that were “bogus,” “inaccurate,” and “dangerous.” (As opposed to: The article made claims that were “bogus”, “inaccurate” and “dangerous”.) Also, Americans tend to put a comma before the “and” or “or” in a list of items.

6. “v.” in case names is pronounced “versus”, as opposed to “and”. The US way makes more sense to me.

7. Tipping and state taxes. Makes splitting a dinner bill among a group a herculean task.

8. Date formats (e.g., “October 19, 2008″ instead of “19 October 2008″). The US system doesn’t make sense. When you use dd/mm/yy, you’re progressing from the most specific descriptor to the least specific descriptor, and you don’t need to add an extra comma when writing the long form of a date.

9. Different valedictions in letters and emails. “Best” seems to be the most common signoff in informal or semi-formal, emails around here (“Regards” seems to be the equivalent in Australia). “Sincerely” is used instead of “Yours sincerely” and “Very truly yours” is acceptable for legal opinion signoffs.

10. Differences in terminology. College and school instead of university. Pumpkins are for carving, squash are for eating. Shrimp are prawns. Etc, etc.

17
Oct 08
Fri
16
Oct 08
Thu
14
Oct 08
Tue
8
Oct 08
Wed
6
Oct 08
Mon

Scary graphs

Further to the link below on Iceland in danger of declaring bankruptcy (yes, you heard that right – that’s a sovereign nation in Europe that can’t find anyone willing to lend it money), here are a few stunning graphs. Click to make them big.

Click for full sized image
This is the price of credit default swaps on Iceland’s sovereign debt – the higher the price, the more it costs to insure against a default by the country.

Click for full sized image
USD/ISK chart: A country’s currency is only as good as the central bank which backs it – the Icelandic Kroner has been savaged.

Click for full sized image
AUD/USD chart: The Aussie hasn’t fared too well either – slowing global growth = lower demand for commodities = less commodity prices. Also, people pull their money back into USD in times of turmoil (see today’s quicklinks). An expectation of narrowing interest rate differentials should also put short-term downward pressure on the AUD, but it actually rose when the RBA cut rates by a whole percent today. These are not rational times.

Click for full sized image
USD/ZWD: This graph doesn’t even make sense. With Zimbabwean inflation is 8-9 digits big, the country’s currency has become virtually meaningless.

Click for full sized image
The Dow Jones Industrial Index – the economic barometer that most US people watch.

Click for full sized image
The VIX chart (daily): colloquially known as the “fear index”, it measures market volatility (which indicates uncertainty).

Click for full sized image
The VIX hit an all-time high this week.

3
Oct 08
Fri
2
Oct 08
Thu

The VP Debate

I think that it’s safe to say that tonight’s Vice Presidential Debate was more eagerly anticipated than the first Presidential Debate, especially after Governor Palin’s performance in the Couric interview. I was a disappointed that I had a class scheduling conflict with the debate, but happily, our professor let us out early so I managed to catch the last half of the debate.

Click for full sized image
Watching the VP Debate in the Law School Students’ Lounge

The student lounge was standing room only, with the turnout easily double that of the Obama-McCain debate. Obviously, being where we were, the room was overwhelmingly Democrat. Some people were playing Palin Bingo, others would yell out “maverick!” and hoot everytime Palin used the word and there was some laughter with one candidate, and much laughter at the other.

Palin’s performance was improved from her Couric interview, which was highly reminiscent of Miss Teen South Carolina’s infamous answer to a question posed to her. However, you can’t help but feel that she is out of her league. She seems to be competent as far as being a small state governor (a rich state Alaska may be, but its GDP is in the bottom 10 of all US states and its population is in the bottom 5), but when we’re talking about applying for the number 2 job in the world’s largest nation, you have to wonder. Next to Biden, who was eloquent and highly knowledgeable (and seemingly “more genuine than Obama” as I heard from a friend), she was clearly an outsider to federal and international politics. She had a habit of resorting to general statements unsubstantiated with examples, or just simply not answering the question and talking about points she had prepared in advance. She seemed to argue that her being out of Washington means she can bring change, but inexperience does not logically lead to the conclusion that you are well placed to bring change to that in which you have no experience. She was also perhaps too colloquial (did anyone else cringe when she said, “Doggone”, and gave a “shout out” to those third graders?).

Anyway, there weren’t really any major gaffes from either candidate that I observed. I came away impressed with Biden – I’ve never heard him speak at length before. Obama and him seem to make a great team. There will be massive disappointment around here if, come November 4, they don’t get elected.

I should also note that CNN was running a worm onscreen with a panel of undecided voters (split into men and women). It was pretty much useless. The worm would go up when a candidate talked about their policies, go down slightly when a candidate attacked the other’s policies and never really go deep into negative territory. Women seemed easier to impress than men.

If you missed the debate, there’s a good liveblog of it here.

1
Oct 08
Wed


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