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All 49 Posts in the Category: General Media

15
Jan 12
Sun

So you wanna get into Cambridge?

The Guardian reports on the undergrad admissions process for the University of Cambridge:

Then, they get down to business. After the straightforward rejections, and those they have already decided to offer places to, there is a band of candidates who fall in the middle. They might be teenagers who have done well at interview, but whose academic performance seems patchy. There are some with impeccable credentials on paper – but, in a phrase that is repeatedly used, “failed to shine” at interview.

Cambridge has opened up the admissions process to give a clearer picture of the effort that goes into the assessment of each candidate. Competition is intense: around 16,000 candidates are chasing just under 3,400 undergraduate places. Churchill College has 39 places in natural sciences and more than 170 direct applicants. The academics will make about 45 offers, in letters that arrive on candidates’ doormats this week. To help preserve the anonymity of the candidates, most of the academics in the room have asked for their names not to be used.

It’s a really interesting article because the admissions process for things like this is normally such a black box. Based on the numbers above, I was somewhat surprised about the numbers – the admissions rate for Cambridge would be a little over 20%, assuming a 100% yield – which wouldn’t be the case because they would be competing at least with Oxford for candidates. This makes things in the US seem a little crazy for undergrads, with colleges like Harvard having acceptance rates in the single digits.

There’s a measure of luck and arbitrariness with any selective admissions process. I was on an admissions panel for my undergrad program as an alumnus during one year. I sat around a table with other alumni and current students and we would screen each application form through two on the panel. Each application would get graded with a “yes”, “no” or “maybe” for progression to the interview. Academics would sort through “maybes”. Apart from that, there were no real metrics, other than whatever the panelist subjectively thought would make a good fit for the program. But of course panelists are different. A friend looking at one application said that an applicant had “really great marks” but his extracurricular activities showed he might be an introvert so it was a “no” for her. I remember thinking, “Well hang on, if you’re trying to seed the program with some people who would make great technical people, you need that diversity and can’t just think of who you would get along with socially.” However, there’s one part of the Cambridge process which I found really questionable:

It is not just poor teaching – or a lack of teaching – that can wreck a candidate’s chances. Their combination of subjects is also crucial. There is consternation about a candidate who is applying to read natural sciences without having either maths or biology; he is taking physics and chemistry but his third A-level is an arts subject. The lack of maths rules him out for the study of physics. The absence of biology means he will struggle to be accepted as a biologist. The school is a “really ropey” one. One of the academics, a man in a grey fleece, comments: “I feel sorry for him, but I don’t think we can fix the problem.”

Since when does what you study in high school reflect anything about what you end up doing with your life? Or what you’re actually good at? I did a computing degree for undergrad, but I didn’t study comp science. Would I have struggled to be accepted as a computer engineer because of that? And then my law degree. I studied no humanities in high school except for English, which was mandatory. And then for English, despite the protestations of my teachers, I decided to take the second most easiest stream (there were four streams), mainly because I didn’t enjoy reading 18th and 19th century literature. Would that have disqualified me from being accepted as a lawyer?

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1
Nov 11
Tue

Halloween Doodle

In case you missed it, this is pretty cool:

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31
Jul 10
Sat

The art of dying

I encourage you to read this New Yorker article by Atul Gawande. It’s very long and covers a depressing topic, but it explores some interesting and important issues regarding end-of-life decisions. It challenges the notion that hoping and fighting for survival, at whatever physical, emotional and financial cost, may not actually be the best way forward – something which is counterintuitive to patients, their families and their health care providers.

Like many people, I had believed that hospice care hastens death, because patients forgo hospital treatments and are allowed high-dose narcotics to combat pain. But studies suggest otherwise. In one, researchers followed 4,493 Medicare patients with either terminal cancer or congestive heart failure. They found no difference in survival time between hospice and non-hospice patients with breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Curiously, hospice care seemed to extend survival for some patients; those with pancreatic cancer gained an average of three weeks, those with lung cancer gained six weeks, and those with congestive heart failure gained three months. The lesson seems almost Zen: you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer. When Cox was transferred to hospice care, her doctors thought that she wouldn’t live much longer than a few weeks. With the supportive hospice therapy she received, she had already lived for a year.

Also:

Ten years ago, her seventy-four-year-old father, Jack Block, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, was admitted to a San Francisco hospital with symptoms from what proved to be a mass growing in the spinal cord of his neck. She flew out to see him. The neurosurgeon said that the procedure to remove the mass carried a twenty-per-cent chance of leaving him quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. But without it he had a hundred-per-cent chance of becoming quadriplegic.

The evening before surgery, father and daughter chatted about friends and family, trying to keep their minds off what was to come, and then she left for the night. Halfway across the Bay Bridge, she recalled, “I realized, ‘Oh, my God, I don’t know what he really wants.’ ” He’d made her his health-care proxy, but they had talked about such situations only superficially. So she turned the car around.
Going back in “was really uncomfortable,” she said. It made no difference that she was an expert in end-of-life discussions. “I just felt awful having the conversation with my dad.” But she went through her list. She told him, “ ‘I need to understand how much you’re willing to go through to have a shot at being alive and what level of being alive is tolerable to you.’ We had this quite agonizing conversation where he said—and this totally shocked me—‘Well, if I’m able to eat chocolate ice cream and watch football on TV, then I’m willing to stay alive. I’m willing to go through a lot of pain if I have a shot at that.’

“I would never have expected him to say that,” Block went on. “I mean, he’s a professor emeritus. He’s never watched a football game in my conscious memory. The whole picture—it wasn’t the guy I thought I knew.” But the conversation proved critical, because after surgery he developed bleeding in the spinal cord. The surgeons told her that, in order to save his life, they would need to go back in. But he had already become nearly quadriplegic and would remain severely disabled for many months and possibly forever. What did she want to do?

“I had three minutes to make this decision, and, I realized, he had already made the decision.” She asked the surgeons whether, if her father survived, he would still be able to eat chocolate ice cream and watch football on TV. Yes, they said. She gave the O.K. to take him back to the operating room.
“If I had not had that conversation with him,” she told me, “my instinct would have been to let him go at that moment, because it just seemed so awful. And I would have beaten myself up. Did I let him go too soon?” Or she might have gone ahead and sent him to surgery, only to find—as occurred—that he survived only to go through what proved to be a year of “very horrible rehab” and disability. “I would have felt so guilty that I condemned him to that,” she said. “But there was no decision for me to make.” He had decided.

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10
Mar 10
Wed

Letter from America

Dad recently wrote me an email which got onto the topic of Alistair Cooke:

Years ago, whenever I could, I would tune to the BBC on short wave radio [from Singapore], and listen to Alistair Cooke’s Letter From America, with its accompanying static and waning and waxing signal strength (no internet radio then). It was a 15 minute weekly radio broadcast by him touching on his observations in America. He was a Britisher who emigrated to the States in the 1930s and settled in New York. His program started in the 1940s and ran continuously for nearly 60 years till just before his death in 2004 at a ripe old age of 95.

A few years ago, I bought a book which is a compendium of some of his “Letters to America”. Reading it, somehow it was not as enjoyable as hearing him speak on the radio. Thankfully throughout all these years he never manage to lose his British accent.

After 58 years of broadcasts, Letter from America remains the longest running speech radio show in the world. This is Cooke’s first letter and his last letter. There are audio links on those pages too so you can hear his voice. Good stuff.

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3
Nov 09
Tue

Sci-Fi Season: SGU and V

The two sci-fi series on TV at the moment are both new series.

Stargate: Universe is the third series in the Stargate franchise. The premise is that a bunch of earthlings get stranded on a ship which is like an Ancient version of the Voyager probe – sent off many millennia ago and now on the other side of the universe. The series is off to a shaky start – it’s giving off distinct vibes of Star Trek: Voyager, which is not a good thing given that Voyager was easily the worst Trek series ever. I just don’t know how they are going to turn the premise of the show into compelling viewing.

The first few episodes were mostly unremarkable. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but the theme for each episode seems to be a different ancient element. The first episode they were running out of air. The second episode they were running out of energy and flew into a sun to get it (fire). The third episode they were running out of water. Maybe next week they’ll do something with earth (they run out of food?). Add to this some weird unexplained plot devices (a swarm of tiny thirsty alien insects which like making pictures of faces?) and, well… it’s just not compelling.

The most interesting part of the show are the characters, which do a good job of being less archetypal than your usual sci-fi show. The cost is the lack of charm and warmth that characterised SG-1 and Atlantis. The characters are more complex, darker, and less endearing (except for Eli, I guess). Let’s see where this goes, maybe it will take a little while for the show to hit its stride.

V is a remake of the 80s series by the same name. Alien visitors (reptiles in human flesh, apparently) come to earth, and it turns out they’ve been infiltrating the ranks of humans for years now in a bid to take over earth from inside and out. I never really found that type of sci-fi plotline riveting, but I think I’ll continue watching to see where it goes. A few familiar sci-fi faces among the cast – Morena Baccarin (Firefly & SG Atlantis) and Laura Vandervoort (Smallville).

30
Oct 09
Fri

Smallville

At last!! A decent, fun episode which finally grew a pair. It took like 5 years for that ending scene to happen. That is all.

14
Jul 09
Tue

How Teenagers Consume Media (in 2009 and 1996)

This recent Times article talks about a high school student who got a 2-week internship at Morgan Stanley and wrote a report entitled “How Teenagers Consume Media”. The Times summarises his points like this:

The world according to Matthew Robson aged 15 and a half

Radio With online sites streaming music for free they do not bother, as services such as last.fm do this advert free and users can choose the songs they want instead of listening to what the radio presenter/DJ chooses

Newspapers No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV

Internet Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered. On the other hand, teenagers do not use Twitter

Music They are very reluctant to pay for it (most having never bought a CD) Teenagers from higher income families use iPods and those from lower income families use mobile phones

Directories Real directories contain listings for builders and florists, which are services teenagers do not require. They can get the information free on the internet

Viral/Outdoor Marketing “Most teenagers enjoy and support viral marketing… Teenagers see adverts on websites (pop-ups, banner ads) as extremely annoying and pointless…they are portrayed in such a negative light that no one follows them.”

Cinema Teenagers visit the cinema more often when they are in the lower end of teendom but as they approach 15 they go to the cinema a lot less. This is because of the pricing; at 15 they have to pay the adult price. Also it is possible to buy a pirated DVD of the film at the time of release, and these cost much less than a cinema ticket

Mobile phones The general view is that Sony Ericsson phones are superior, because of their long list of features, built-in Walkman capacity and value

Here’s the same summary, if I had written it in the mid-1990s (ouch, now I feel old).

The world according to Stuart Loh aged 15 and a half

Radio Yes, in the car or with a walkman. MP3s are downloaded of new songs, but availability is limited and bandwidth is slow. Streaming music is totally new (via Real Audio) and poor bandwidth and poor connection reliability means poor audio quality and user experience.

Newspapers Yes, of the dead-tree variety. Nothing substantial online.

Internet Email and IRC. ICQ has been in existence for about a month, so no one’s on it, just yet. Also, computer games. Via Kali. Not that many people have the internet access, but it is increasing. And it’s expensive, mostly modem-based, and charged by the hour.

Music CDs bought, but cassette tapes are rare (except when recording songs off the radio). Minidisc players for the richer kids. Also see MP3 comments above (all commercial songs are available illegally, of course – no licensing deals back then! – does anyone remember The Outer Limits?). Of course, there are no portable MP3 players, just Winamp.

Directories Dead-tree directories rule the day. Some rudimentary directory services online (Yahoo!). Google didn’t exist.

Viral/Outdoor Marketing Viral marketing? What’s that?

Cinema Teenagers visit the cinema more often when they are in the lower end of teendom but as they approach 15 they go to the cinema a lot less. This is because of the pricing; at 15 they have to pay the adult price. Also it is possible to buy a pirated VCD of the film at the time of release, and these cost much less than a cinema ticket (although you have to travel to some miscellaneous flea market in an Asian country to do it). Virtually no video available online. Hard disk space was a lot more expensive (by the megabyte) at that time!

Mobile phones At the size of a brick, and the cost of a used car, no kid has one. People that had them couldn’t SMS with them.

So the fundamental changes are: mobile technology, and increased bandwidth and lower storage costs, allowing for streaming audio and video. The technology behind it all was more or less in existence in 1996/7 (of course it’s evolved and been optimised a lot since then)… it’s just that the infrastructure has taken some time to take advantage of it. Oh, and Facebook. While checking your email, and using IM programs has been a part of daily internet life for over a decade, only two other things have been added to that since then: Google in the late 1990s, and Facebook in the mid-2000s. (Twitter is not in the same league as Facebook.)

24
Nov 06
Fri

Survivor 13 – Another prediction

Spoilers ahead.

I thought last week’s episode of Survivor was a stunner. This week’s one was absolutely pivotal. Jonathan has pulled a Judas and successfully backstabbed everyone. He didn’t have a choice. Regardless of his so-called lack of integrity (the first mutiny was a stupid, rash impulsive decision), his latest flip was borne out of necessity. As the favoured-to-win Yul said, Jonathan’s nothing if not rational. It’s amazing how quickly the “White alliance” has crumbled in the course of one episode and now they find themselves staring down the barrel. Nate almost deserved to get voted out – he just didn’t put enough thought into things.

Here’s how it’s going to go down now, barring any twists that Jeff throws in. In the next three episodes, Candice, Parvati and Adam are out. It doesn’t matter what order, or if they win individual immunity, whatever. They’re gone. I can’t think of a reason why they’d not be picked off. Then it’s down to five. More interesting to watch over the next few episodes will be how the alliance of five manoeuvres. Ozzy’s the danger man – he’ll be winning a lot of individual immunities. So I forecast that Yul and Becky will have to rope someone in. There’s no way Jonathan will win – he’s too disliked and in the event of the final jury vote, he’ll go down in flames. Which makes him the perfect person to bring along to the end. Yul and Becky to rope in Jonathan against Sundra and Ozzy. Ozzy will surely pick up on this at some point, but I think the most he can do is keep winning immunity. If he fails to win immunity after Candice, Parvati or Adam are gone (or if Yul is thinking ahead, maybe after only two of those three are voted off – to surprise Ozzy – but this would require some major scheming), chances are Yul will move to have him voted off.

Let’s say we get down to Yul, Becky, Jonathan and Ozzy. Ozzy wins immunity. Things get interesting. Jonathan will be the best to take to the final four, but Yul and Becky are too tight – to the extent that if the vote looks like it’s going Becky’s way, then he may give the immunity idol to her. But that would be a mistake. Jonathan would get voted out, leaving Yul, Ozzy and Becky. Ozzy the wins immunity, votes Yul out and gets the million.

If Yul hangs on to immunity, then Jonathan or Becky will be next to leave (subject to Ozzy winning individual immunity, otherwise he’s out). It will most probably be a Yul/Ozzy face off. Interesting episodes ahead.

Possible twist – Yul loses immunity somehow. Highly unlikely, but that could throw a real spanner in the works. The way to pull that off is for everyone (except Yul and one other person) to collude and (a) convince Yul that the other person is the target, and (b) all vote for Yul. The vote bounceback takes out either the other person, or the person that that other person votes for (which is what makes this scenario so unlikely). In any event, Yul loses the idol and the game is a bit more open.

6
Nov 06
Mon

Mid-season predictions

There be spoilers ahead for the current season of The Amazing Race and Survivor. It’s pretty much the middle of the season, so time for some predictions.

Amazing Race 10
The destinations on this race have been great. The season started with the teams heading, for the first time ever, westwards around the world and have spent all of their time in Asia and Africa. The teams were also the most diverse they’ve ever been at the start of the race, but that diversity went out pretty quickly unfortunately. Here’s my thoughts on the remaining five teams.

I think Dustin and Kandace have been the strongest all-girl team to feature on the Race so far. I their personalities pretty darn annoying, but they’re definitely a very capable pair – this combined with luck and good looks do go a long way on the Race. Final three finish at the very least, unless something very unlucky happens to them. Prediction: 2nd.

Tyler and James are a sound team – two fit, capable, nice guys. They have a big problem with navigation and cars though which could be their undoing. Prediction: 3rd.

Rob and Kimberly have temper problems, but it never seems to wound either of them emotionally like it did Peter and Sarah. They’re competitive and might take it all the way. Of course, they have finished 3rd in the last four legs. Prediction: 1st.

Erwin and Godwin. What can I say? I truly admire their integrity (especially in helping Team Kentucky get the first fast foward on the Race) but I think they’ve ultimately too naive and lack the competitive spirit to see them through to the final three. They are also inordinately unlucky and at times somewhat bumbling. Maybe, freed from the constraints of the Sixpack Alliance, they might get the urge to actually treat the race like a race. I’d like to see them place well, but from what we’ve seen so far I don’t think they’ve got the minerals. Prediction: 4th.

Lyn and Karlyn. They’re a weak team and have only finished better than 5th place once. Next team to be eliminated.

I was sorry to see Team Kentucky go (David and Mary) this week. You’d mistake them for hicks at the start of the Race, but they really are very open-minded, good people who just haven’t had the opportunity to see the rest of the world.

Survivor Cook Islands
The merge is on everyone’s mind, and tribes have to time eliminations carefully now. Some point soon, they’re going to want to start voting out stronger players as opposed to weaker players. Yul is the obvious pick to go all the way. He’s got the immunity idol, has flown under the radar (never been talked negatively about, as a threat or otherwise, let alone had a vote against him), has a strong alliance with Becky who was targetted for elimination several episodes ago but has laid low since and is extremely intelligent. Ozzy’s strong and if he can make it through to the merge and get a few allies will be in with a good chance – but I think he’s too high profile and thus too visible as a threat. I find Nate likeable, but I wonder if he’ll rub people the wrong way later on? Parvati and Jenny are two girls that have flown under the radar quite well, they will do well I think. For some reason Jonathan evokes distrust – I can kind of see why, just the way he approaches and talks to people during scheming sessions, which is unfortunate. Candice is a wildcard at the moment – when push comes to shove and there’s a merge, I wonder if she’ll stick by the Yul-Becky-Jonathan alliance. Brad’s as good as gone next week, from what I can tell from the preview (although you never know!) With 12 people left, it’s still largely up for grabs.

21
Aug 06
Mon

SG-1 Episode 200

Just have to say that the 200th episode of Stargate was one of the best in a long time. I thought the Asimov quote at the end was a nice touch: “Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.”

18
May 06
Thu

The Amazing Race 9

The finale for three of the last four normal-format seasons of The Amazing Race (seasons 5, 6, 7 and 9) have all finished in a similar way. Out of the three teams remaining, there’s one laggard team which is never in the running, leaving two other teams to battle it out. One team is ultra-competitve (eg, Colin and Christie in 5, Rob and Amber in 7) and and competent, the other team is a “nice” one which wins the audience over (eg, Chip and Kim in 5, Uchenna and Joyce in 7). And, gratifyingly, the nice one wins in a nail-biting finish.

I’m… happy to tell you that Season 9 follows this format. I like to call it the season of first world countries, since they travel through all the G8 countries except for the UK, France and Canada, and also go through Australia. Despite this, it was a very enjoyable season. The Japan leg was a blast to watch. Now the US TV season is well and truly over for the shows I like to watch… have to wait two months before the next season kicks off.

10
Dec 05
Sat

Possessive apostrophes

This is a quick and no-thought-required way I’ve always used to check whether a possessive apostrophe’s in the right place. A possessive apostrophe can always be expressed without the apostrophe by flipping the order of the words and inserting “of” between them. For example, “Schapelle’s cannabis” can be rephrased as “the cannabis of Schapelle”. You can do this with any phrase to isolate the subject of the phrase and thus where the apostrophe should go. Some examples:

Where should the apostrophe go in, “She gave him 20 weeks notice“?
Rephrase as: She gave him notice of 20 weeks.
Insert apostrophe: 20 weeks’ notice.

Where should the apostrophe go in, “You could see the whites of the dogs eyes“?
This can be rephrased in two ways. Either, “You could see the whites of the eyes of the dog“, or, “You could see the whites of the eyes of the dogs“.
It becomes clearer which one is appropriate. If you’re about to be mauled by one dog, the former applies and the phrase should be “the dog’s eyes”. If you’re about to be mauled by a pack of dogs, the latter applies and the phrase should be “the dogs’ eyes”.

Where should the apostrophe go in, “Bob was thrown out of the womens toilets“?
Rephrase as: Bob was thrown out of the toilets of the women.
Insert apostrophe: women’s toilets.

The only exception is when you’re using “its” in a possessive sense. No apostrophe is used. For example, “its stomach”.

14
May 05
Sat

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

10
Feb 05
Thu

Amazing Race 6

Just watched the closing episodes of the 6th Amazing Race season. While the first hour was good, the final leg was plain boring. I thought season 5 (where Chip and Kim won in a nailbiter) was far better in comparison. I hope that in the next season, which starts in 3 weeks: teams don’t catch up to each other at the start of each leg because a tourist attraction only opens at 10am; there’s a bit more variety in teams than boy-girl model couples; and teams don’t spend most of their time in Europe. I’m also hoping that they travel westwards instead of circumnavigating around to the east but I don’t think that will happen. I love this show.

They are also now accepting applications for participants on the 8th season of Amazing Race. Naturally, it’s open only to US citizens (lucky bastards). Most interestingly, it looks like they will be adding a twist – teams of four, which may include minors. This will make things bloody interesting.

Update: The teams for season 7 look good. There’s a former Iraqi POW/Miss South Carolina team. There’s also a mother/son team (which is a first), and the son is gay. Most cool is one of the teams is Rob & Amber – the winner and runner up in Survivor: All Stars. It’s the clash of the reality TV shows! Excellent! The diversity looks to be a lot better than season 6!

1
Nov 04
Mon

The Amazing Race

I absolutely love The Amazing Race (Ch 7, 8.30pm, Thursday), it’s such an awesome show. We’re up to Season 5, Episode 4 this week in Australia… the season has concluded in the US already. I couldn’t resist and downloaded the 4 and 5. I have the rest of the season coming in now.

Of Charla and Mirna, I’m finding the larger cousin pretty annoying. She’s useless! The midget (I figure it’s okay to call her that because she exploits other people’s perceptions of her size to her advantage) is impressive.

At this point in the season it seems it’s most useful to have these skills: knowing how to book the right flights, a sense of direction, physical strength and being able to eat anything.

9
Jun 04
Wed
18
May 04
Tue

The Apprentice

This series is excellent (Ch 9, 9.30pm, Mondays). Two teams (initially 8 men and 8 women) face off with business-oriented challenges. The losing team has one member fired. The last person standing gets to run one of Donald Trump’s businesses. The first week’s challenge was selling lemonade. The second week was to design an advertising campaign for lear jets. This week involved a haggling exercise to buy all items on the list for the cheapest price possible. The male team has lost all three challenges and is down to five people, but at least they’ve finally canned Sam, who was a bit of a wanker.

(And yes, I am aware that this series has already finished running in the US.)

19
Oct 03
Sun

Newspaper Conspiracies

Interesting…

The Sydney Morning Herald has been publishing, or at least archiving, Target on the Web since 18th March 2002 – http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/puzzles/2002/03/18/target.html – or maybe the 19th because the first two are the same. Two things to note:

* The previous day’s solution (i.e. the last non-web Target) was TERRORISM.
* This year’s Iraq war started on, what, the 19th or 20th of March, depending on your time zone? So the one-year anniversary of Target being published on the Web, give or take a day.

Now I know that the SMH takes Target verbatim from some UK newspaper, I forget which. It could quite possibly also be published in other papers in other countries, particularly within the Coalition of the Willing.

Tentative conclusions:

* Could newspaper puzzles (Target, crosswords, Wordwit) be a transmission medium for details of US “military targets” or, as they are more commonly known, “foreign policy”? (And is this going to turn me into John Nash?)
* Conversely, might it be possible to affect world events by heaping, say, foreign place names into a crossword that George W is known to take a shot at (or at least read the solutions for in the next day’s paper)? Word/name familiarity is fairly well known to affect decisions, that’s why stupid but memorable ads sell products… this would effectively be a form of subliminal advertising, but for potential military targets instead of shampoo.

I should get back to work now.
– Shish

So should I.

23
Feb 03
Sun

Can I Speak to John Please?

The guys at the Chaser released John Howard’s phone number. It was a legit number. Johnny obviously was not impressed.

1
Nov 02
Fri

National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo (maybe that should be InterNaNoWriMo) has started for this month. Graham has his work in progress here. 50k words is just under 1700 words a day, pretty hard to achieve – and produce something reasonably readable – unless you’ve spent a little while planning the book’s general plotline out before launching into the words.

20
Sep 02
Fri

Rendered

From Pete: Real or CGI? This one completely deceived me until the stool loaded up (and I had a closer look at the hair).

16
Sep 02
Mon

Lingua Machina

SMH article from Denise. What I find interesting is that data compatibility issues have been moving away media, to data formats. Whilst the old 8 and 5.25 inch floppies are all but non-existent, 3.5s and CDs have been around for ages. A lot of people reckon that 3.5s are dead, but still, when you need to quickly chuck a doc file onto something to bring somewhere, nothing beats a floppy. With CDs, backwards compatibility in optical drives will ensure that these discs won’t be turning obsolete any time soon. And naturally, most data is now distributed around the net, so it’s no longer about media incompatibility, but format incompatibility. It will be unlikely to see a standard “Lingua Machina” get developed and used by industry anytime soon, but the idea is laudable.

5
Aug 02
Mon

Test Australia

Test Australia. Register for nationwide IQ testing tonight on Channel 9.

Update: Scored 71/76 (-1 memory, -2 reasoning, -2 learning) -> 143.

18
Jun 02
Tue

Kuro5hin

I’m not a regular reader of K5, but in response to the threat of closure, K5 readers have poured in a torrent of cash ($20k over the last couple days). Personally, I’m still trying to figure out why he needs $70k to run a web site, if he doesn’t have to pay for bandwidth or hosting! I suppose that is his annual income, but an annual salary of $70k is not exactly a non-profit level of revenue…

Some would argue purchasing power parity, but the equivalent salary level of someone making US$70k in the US would be around A$70k in Australia (doing the same job). Factoring in exchange rates and even burgernomics, goods sold in the US are probably only 50% more dear than those in Australia when prices are converted to US$. I’m sorry, $70k is a more than comfortable salary, even by american standards. More so when the median US household income pegs at just over $42k.

Now, I guess Rusty (K5’s owner) may claim that if he had a real job, his skill set could earn him $70k, so he wants to make that much from K5 if he’s going to keep doing it. And I suppose that’s fair enough, but it does seem a little devious to me.

19
Mar 02
Tue

II Stix

II Stix. Some interesting reads in this zine, mainly for the ABC crowd.

9
Dec 01
Sun

Ofoto Prints

I got some photos I shot with my digital camera processed by Ofoto, using a 25 free prints deal from Amazon. I uploaded the photos at 1800×1200 which gives a resolution of 300dpi for standard 6×4″ photos. The quality on the 6×4″ & 7×5″ prints is awesome. Ofoto uses Kodak resin-coated silver-halide colour paper to process the .jpgs I uploaded, which means the digitally-processed photos are virtually indistinguishable from film-processed ones. Although inkjets these days produce pretty damn good “photo quality” prints, they still don’t match a silver-halide developed print. Arguably, processing photos through Ofoto, or competitors like Shutterfly, is cheaper (if you use a free prints deal) and better than printing off an inkjet, after media and ink costs are factored in. Traditional film of course is still the best quality-wise, as you can enlargen prints to huge sizes without loss of quality.

21
Nov 01
Wed
13
Nov 01
Tue

Refugees

The Washington Post has a sombre but engrossing series of articles on refugee migration. They are a must read:
• Fleeing Afghanistan
• From Pakistan to Europe
• From Turkey to France

6
Nov 01
Tue

Surprise Surprise

This show is just too funny!!! Judging from the preview, next week looks to be an even bigger cack. Seems that Surprise Surprise has been run elsewhere in the world, but Australia is the first English speaking country to run it.

23
Oct 01
Tue

Surprise Surprise!

Surprise, Surprise! Channel 9, Tuesdays at 7.30pm. It’s damn funny!!

14
May 01
Mon

Big Brother and other Reality TV

Big Brother continues on, but it’s just not that interesting. I can’t believe Australia voted the dominatrix off… she would’ve made things more interesting… Fuzz dropped me this link to an upcoming movie, Series 7, which plays on the recent obsession with reality TV.

Additionally, Oklahoma bomber Tim McVeigh was executed recently. Some US media company got refused rights to broadcast the execution. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing. I supposed decency says that it shouldn’t be broadcast, but if society is sentencing a man to his death, then why can’t society watch? Hangings sure were a popular public attraction a few centuries ago, but I guess society has become more “civilised”, if you want to look at civility in those terms. On the other hand, the ulterior motives of the media company wanting those broadcast rights are pretty obvious – they are in it for the publicity. Is that civility? What do you think?

22
Apr 01
Sun

80s Saturday Morning Television

I watched waaaay too much tv in the 80s. As a result, an inordinate amount of these shows are familiar to me. Ah, reminisce…

4
Apr 00
Tue

Google/Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

I reckon at least 90% of the questions asked on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? can be found within 20 seconds and within 2 mouse clicks via Google (or maybe the Encyclopedia Britannica DVD?). They never said sitting in front of a computer is illegal, so why not arrange with a friend on the “phone-a-friend” lifeline to sit on a computer with a really fast net connection awaiting the phonecall? Instead of telling him the question, give him the search query, and while the page loads, tell him the question :).

25
Feb 00
Fri

Russian Newsreaders

Dammit, wish they had this in Australia :) Ratings would soar, no doubt heh.

11
Feb 00
Fri

So What IS a Monkey-owner?

Continuations from that Buffy article (see Thursday):

Monkey business: our place or yours?
Does this say something about the proliferation of PC and not-so-PC terms and new vernacular? Or something about SIT readers? Or maybe about the level of smut and innuendo which has been known to pass across this page? Whatever it is, yesterday’s piece on the new sexual orientation of a main character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer prompted quite a few inquiries. Specifically, readers were intrigued by Buffy creator Joss Whedon’s explanation beginning with “Yes, Willow is becoming a monkey owner”. What is a monkey owner, they asked, clearly suspicious that this was one of those new terms they should know about. We thought it was just a joke, so we can’t help. Maybe some of you can point us in the right direction. Write, e-mail or call us with your definition/explanation of a “monkey owner”. The best suggestion may well earn a prize. [source]

If you pay peanuts, you get …
Yesterday we asked for definitions of “monkey owner” – as used by Buffy creator Joss Whedon when talking about the show’s lesbian sub-plot … given so many readers assumed a double or triple meaning. We will run the best ones next week (so e-mail or fax your ideas in today), but here’s one from Nicole Webb of Impact Communications. “We got onto the only person who would know the answer to your question … Tim Scott, the editor at the Picture magazine (our client!). He says the answer is `quite obviously an organ grinder’ (makes sense now, huh?)” Nicole, this may be true, or it may say more about your client than is safe to know. [source]

Come on… someone’s gotta know. This is the e/n community we’re talking about after all…

9
Feb 00
Wed

Willow = Banana Cream Pie

Solo, take note :) As seen in the Stay In Touch section of the SMH today:

Buffy slays a stereotype
Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans listen up: in the next season, Willow goes over to the other side. And we dont mean the vampires and assorted demons who flock to Sunnydale. The girl who two seasons ago couldnt get any boy to play hide the witchs wand will, in the absence of the occasionally overly hirsute Oz, find love and a whole lot of affection in the arms of another woman, another witch even, called Tara.

The shows creator, Joss Whedon, broke the news on a Buffy online chatroom recently. “Yes, Willow is becoming a Monkey-owner. I just hope we dont get a lot of protest from Christian Right groups over this. Marginally more seriously, Willow and Tara’s relationship is definitely romantic. Thorny subject; the writers and I have had long topics about how to deal with the subject responsibly, without writing a story that sounds like people spent a long time discussing how to deal with it responsibly.

“To me, it feels just right … and this feels like the natural next step for her. I can only promise you two things for sure: wére not going to do an Ally [McBeal] or Party of Five in which we promote the hell out of a same-sex relationship for exploitation value that we take back by the end of the ep, and we will never have a very special Buffy where someone gets on a soapbox and … oh, I nodded off for a moment there. I just know therés a sweet story there that would become very complicated if Oz were to show up again. Which he will.”

Oz + Tara + Willow = Gee I wonder… I’ve never heard of the term monkey-owner… that’s certainly a new one to me.

24
Jan 00
Mon

wOrd.

muh cousin jes lent me Buffy Season 1 on tape, along wiff da whole Neon Genesis Evangelion series on 6 tapes. In addition ta dis here Foxtel iz havin’ “Slayerfest 2000″ where dey’re going ta show da entire o’ season 2 in one weekend. “If dis here don’ turn ya into uh Buffy addict, ah don’ know what will,” he tells me. ah’m inclined ta agree wiff him. Where’s Trekfest 2000 damnit? :). in da hood, brutha!

23
Dec 99
Thu

Time Man of the Year

It’s Mr Amazon, Jeff Bezos. Makes me want to go into e-commerce.

16
Aug 99
Mon

16th Century Typo

Go to the Nostradamus FAQ:

http://www.angelfire.com/biz/Nosty/FAQ.html#BM14__What_does_the_famous__1999__prophe

“King of Terror” is a bad translation caused by a typo.

Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t say anything about the creepy French physician. Will-O-Wisp did.

9
Aug 99
Mon

Nostra Revisited

Daily Telegraph, 28 June, 1999. The concluding paragraph was rather amusing. Last post on this topic. Promise.

This week is a good time to make the most of whatever turns you on because – if followers of the 16th Century astrologer and physician Nostradamus are right – the world ends on Sunday.

In Japan, home of Nostradamus’s most fervent supporters, the ommunity has become obsessed with the event. The Internet is also being flooded with people offering their own thoughts on whether Sunday’s doomsday prediction is right and what one should do for their last week on Earth. Unsurprisingly, working and settling debts, or abstaining from alcohol do not seem to figure highly in the must-do activities for the week.

The basis for the current panic is a book called Centuries, in which Nostradamus wrote 1000 predictions in rhymed quatrains. For the conspiracy theorists, Century X Quatrain 72 translates as: “In the year nineteen hundred and ninety nine, seven months, from the sky will come a great King of Terror. He will resurrect the great King of Angolmois. Before and afterwards Mars reigns happily.”

While the forecasts by Nostradamus are vague enough to mean almost anything, the Japanese believe the Yellow naval battle between North and South Korea, the weak Japanese yen and – oddly – Martina Hingis’s Winbledon defeat are recent pointers to the end of the world. In Europe, there is a growing view that Nostradamus got his dates wrong by a month and that the world will cease to exist on August 11 when the northern hemisphere experiences a total eclipse of the Sun.

However, English philosophers are also urging the public not to panic. They argue that while Nostradamus has been credited with achievements such as forecasting the Great Fire of London, revolutions, wars and Adolf Hitler, he has been wrong before.

Importantly, they note his predictions continue until the year 2797, which they say is hardly a good sign that he really believed all would end on July 4, 1999.

28
Jul 99
Wed

Nostradamus (Addendum)

Maybe that French fellow wasn’t referring to the world. Just this community which looks like it may ending. Are the disgruntled web site hosters, nefarious spammers, disturbed kung fu hackers (sorry… crackers) and inter-website mud slinging contests actually the cyber version of soothsayers? “The end is nigh!” Yes, maybe, but it still might end up like what happened in 12 Monkeys. (But who’s Bruce Willis?) A steady state universe in constant entrophySM. Combine that with a virtual second coming, and you’ll deduce I’m possibly quite deranged. Nonetheless, it hath been foretold by Anakill – the one who will bring balance. The one whose site just fell into the pits of molten lava (or was that a lake of burning sulfur?)… et descendit ignis a Deo de caelo et devoravit eos et diabolus qui seducebat eos missus est in stagnum ignis et sulphuris ubi et bestia.

This post written under the influence of laudanum. Don’t worry. I think I’m coming out of it now.

Hey look. On TV: “Seven Signs of Christ’s Return” – special feature documentary which kicked off Murder Call from its normal timeslot. One of those paranoia docos I was talking about yesterday. Coincidence eh? Freaky shit.

26
Jul 99
Mon

Nostradamus

You read that recent issue of time, right? The one about a multitude of Japanese getting caught up with Nostradamus’ predictions? According to his (intentionally) vague predictions, something bad will happen this month, the 7th month of 1999. Six days. Then, of course, the world will end in 5/5/00 because of the way a tomb in an Egyptian pyramid was designed (as seen on those paranoia-creating, ridiculous “amazing predictions!” documentaries). We’ll see.

Who wants to make a bet with me? :)

17
Jun 99
Thu

Speaking of CNN

“involved in cnn discussion boards on kosovo
its great
lots of morons tho
“Milosevic is the new Hitler” and bullshit media crap like that”

18
Feb 99
Thu

TIME Magazine

Check it out. Tell me that this exhibit from TIME Magazine doesn’t seriously connote something. Subtle? I don’t think so.

20
Aug 98
Thu

Seinfeld : The Aftermath

After a day at a friend’s house trying to get a bogged car out of the mud, I returned for the final episode of Seinfeld. So what’s my verdict?

It was quite a good nostalgic piece, very well put together. It sustained a level of humour better than any other show, but it lacked that “special moment” that’s in all classic episodes where you truly crack up for the next hour. I think it was more for the fans… if you never watched the shows, you wouldn’t understand half the jokes (you’d only be laughing half as hard…). Nonetheless, a fitting, if somewhat subdued (comparatively) episode.

31
Jul 98
Fri

Far Eastern Economic Review

Doing 3-Unit Economics and the Comparative Economic Systems option? This is the magazine to subscribe to (or at least, read). It might help for the 2-Unit Development option, too. Check FEER on the net.

30
Jan 98
Fri

Madonna/Ugly Phil Interview

Yeh I’m still awake. 2-day fm’s got this interview coming up next Monday with Madonna. What a bitch. I won’t be waiting for this interview, but they’ve been ragging on about it for a week now. Huh.



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