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All 640 Posts in the Category: Life

18
Apr 14
Fri

From Instagram: Pretty slick, Lufthansa! New F in an A330-300

Pretty slick, Lufthansa! New F in an A330-300
Pretty slick, Lufthansa! New F in an A330-300

  5:01pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
31
Mar 14
Mon

From Instagram: Joey, the latest addition to our apartment

Joey, the latest addition to our apartment
Joey, the latest addition to our apartment

  11:26pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
22
Feb 14
Sat

From Instagram: Congratulations Roger & Shuang!

Congratulations Roger & Shuang!
Congratulations Roger & Shuang!

  11:51am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
12
Jan 14
Sun

From Instagram: My ride home! (Thanks to AA points)

My ride home! (Thanks to AA points)
My ride home! (Thanks to AA points)

  8:01pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: The ritual pre-flight meal

The ritual pre-flight meal
The ritual pre-flight meal

  7:46pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
31
Dec 13
Tue

From Instagram: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

  5:47am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
29
Dec 13
Sun

From Instagram: Final part of the long, long journey back to Sydney…

Final part of the long, long journey back to Sydney...
Final part of the long, long journey back to Sydney…

  6:42am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
28
Dec 13
Sat

From Instagram: Part 2 of a 55 hour journey back to Sydney!

Part 2 of a 55 hour journey back to Sydney!
Part 2 of a 55 hour journey back to Sydney!

  1:41pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park – lots of German food…

Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park - lots of German food there for some reason
Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park – lots of German food there for some reason

  12:22pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
27
Dec 13
Fri

From Instagram: American’s trademark ice cream sundae!

American's trademark ice cream sundae!
American’s trademark ice cream sundae!

  9:11pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: LAX-LHR on one of AA’s new 777-300ERs! Tons better seats…

LAX-LHR on one of AA's new 777-300ERs! Tons better seats in the B cabin than their older planes.
LAX-LHR on one of AA’s new 777-300ERs! Tons better seats in the B cabin than their older planes.

  6:27pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Part 1 of a 55 hour journey back to Sydney!

Part 1 of a 55 hour journey back to Sydney!
Part 1 of a 55 hour journey back to Sydney!

  12:47pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
17
Dec 13
Tue

From Instagram: Warriors courtside!

Warriors courtside!
Warriors courtside!

  9:22pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
9
Nov 13
Sat

From Instagram: My flatmate Sonny and I were shopping at our local…

My flatmate Sonny and I were shopping at our local Safeway when he suddenly grabbed my arm, turned me around and said, "Hey that's Meg! Take a photo of us!" She obliged! #hp
My flatmate Sonny and I were shopping at our local Safeway when he suddenly grabbed my arm, turned me around and said, “Hey that’s Meg! Take a photo of us!” She obliged! #hp

  6:07pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
20
Oct 13
Sun

From Instagram: Almost done…

Almost done...
Almost done…

  9:21am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
27
Sep 13
Fri

From Instagram: A toilet with a view…

A toilet with a view...
A toilet with a view…

  12:06am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
26
Sep 13
Thu

From Instagram: I bet you international travel for this dude is not…

I bet you international travel for this dude is not fun
I bet you international travel for this dude is not fun

  3:51pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
25
Sep 13
Wed

From Instagram: Lunch at the absolutely stunning Ithaa underwater restaurant

Lunch at the absolutely stunning Ithaa underwater restaurant
Lunch at the absolutely stunning Ithaa underwater restaurant

  2:37am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
24
Sep 13
Tue

From Instagram: A little island out in the Indian Ocean…

A little island out in the Indian Ocean...
A little island out in the Indian Ocean…

  4:52am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
22
Sep 13
Sun

From Instagram: Unmistakably Japan

Unmistakably Japan
Unmistakably Japan

  4:01am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
21
Sep 13
Sat

From Instagram: Ok let’s do this. Off to Singapore!

Ok let's do this. Off to Singapore!
Ok let’s do this. Off to Singapore!

  2:06pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
8
Sep 13
Sun

From Instagram: Plane food can sometimes be pretty good :)

Plane food can sometimes be pretty good :)
Plane food can sometimes be pretty good :)

  10:31pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Egg tart, fresh out of the oven

Egg tart, fresh out of the oven
Egg tart, fresh out of the oven

  3:36am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
6
Sep 13
Fri

From Instagram: Good morning Hong Kong!

Good morning Hong Kong!
Good morning Hong Kong!

  4:17pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: A room on the 54th

A room on the 54th
A room on the 54th

  8:17am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
5
Sep 13
Thu

From Instagram: Off again on a good ol’ 747

Off again on a good ol' 747
Off again on a good ol’ 747

  1:01pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
2
Sep 13
Mon

From Instagram: Blackstone Glacier calving

Blackstone Glacier calving
Blackstone Glacier calving

  3:45pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
1
Sep 13
Sun

From Instagram: Chopper ride over the glaciers – Alaska’s gorgeous!

Chopper ride over the glaciers - Alaska's gorgeous!
Chopper ride over the glaciers – Alaska’s gorgeous!

  1:16pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
31
Aug 13
Sat

From Instagram: Hello Alaska

Hello Alaska
Hello Alaska

  9:36pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
8
Aug 13
Thu

From Instagram: Monkeys in Vegas!

Monkeys in Vegas!
Monkeys in Vegas!

  2:51pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
27
Jul 13
Sat

From Instagram: Castle and bridge

Castle and bridge
Castle and bridge

  10:56am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
24
Jul 13
Wed

From Instagram: The famous Pastéis de Belém – different and better than…

The famous Pastéis de Belém - different and better than the 蛋撻 you get at yum cha
The famous Pastéis de Belém – different and better than the 蛋撻 you get at yum cha

  4:56pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: SurveyMonkey Lisboa!

SurveyMonkey Lisboa! #surveymonkey
SurveyMonkey Lisboa! #surveymonkey

  8:17am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
21
Jul 13
Sun

From Instagram: Architecture at Madrid’s Barajas Airport

Architecture at Madrid's Barajas Airport
Architecture at Madrid’s Barajas Airport

  4:46am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
20
Jul 13
Sat

From Instagram: Off to Lisbon!

Off to Lisbon!
Off to Lisbon!

  8:01am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
19
Jul 13
Fri

From Instagram: A little afternoon pick-me-up courtesy of and

A little afternoon pick-me-up courtesy of #ubericecream and #surveymonkey
A little afternoon pick-me-up courtesy of #ubericecream and #surveymonkey

  6:11pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
5
Jul 13
Fri

From Instagram: 4th of July SF Symphony concert with fireworks!

4th of July SF Symphony concert with fireworks!
4th of July SF Symphony concert with fireworks!

  1:21am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
28
Jun 13
Fri

From Instagram: GC Panel at the 10th SLS E-Commerce Best Practices Conference

GC Panel at the 10th SLS E-Commerce Best Practices Conference
GC Panel at the 10th SLS E-Commerce Best Practices Conference

  8:26pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
1
Jun 13
Sat

From Instagram: Home

Home
Home

  5:11pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: English breakfast (oh how I’ve missed those baked beans)

English breakfast (oh how I've missed those baked beans)
English breakfast (oh how I’ve missed those baked beans)

  5:06am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram:

  5:01am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
31
May 13
Fri

From Instagram: The world’s tallest man made structure

The world's tallest man made structure
The world’s tallest man made structure

  8:31am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
30
May 13
Thu

From Instagram: Meat and seafood with great company in HK. Mmmm…

Meat and seafood with great company in HK. Mmmm...
Meat and seafood with great company in HK. Mmmm…

  8:41am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
29
May 13
Wed

From Instagram: Hello, Hong Kong! I’ve eaten vegetarian for 6 straight days…

Hello, Hong Kong! I've eaten vegetarian for 6 straight days in India. Now show me your food.
Hello, Hong Kong! I’ve eaten vegetarian for 6 straight days in India. Now show me your food.

  9:22pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Quick pit stop in Colombo before heading onto HKG

Quick pit stop in Colombo before heading onto HKG
Quick pit stop in Colombo before heading onto HKG

  11:27am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Niru and Hemant’s wedding ceremony

Niru and Hemant's wedding ceremony
Niru and Hemant’s wedding ceremony

  7:46am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
26
May 13
Sun

From Instagram: Niru & Hemant’s reception

Niru & Hemant's reception
Niru & Hemant’s reception

  5:32am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
23
May 13
Thu

From Instagram: Pit stop in HKG. Sometimes I wish I could drink…

Pit stop in HKG. Sometimes I wish I could drink...
Pit stop in HKG. Sometimes I wish I could drink…

  6:02am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
22
May 13
Wed

From Instagram: SFO CX lounge

SFO CX lounge
SFO CX lounge

  12:21pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: An auspicious upgrade on an oversold flight to start the…

An auspicious upgrade on an oversold flight to start the trip
An auspicious upgrade on an oversold flight to start the trip

  12:21pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
4
May 13
Sat

From Instagram: An SR-71. The Blackbird is a beauty…

An SR-71. The Blackbird is a beauty...
An SR-71. The Blackbird is a beauty…

  3:56pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: BRK AGM

BRK AGM
BRK AGM

  5:06am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
28
Apr 13
Sun

From Instagram: Great views of the Bay on a warm Sunday arvo

Great views of the Bay on a warm Sunday arvo
Great views of the Bay on a warm Sunday arvo

  6:07pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
21
Apr 13
Sun

From Instagram: Our two resident bartenders mix it up…

Our two resident bartenders mix it up...
Our two resident bartenders mix it up…

  11:01am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
30
Mar 13
Sat

From Instagram: My flatmate got an article published on the cover of…

My flatmate got an article published on the cover of Nature last week. His team lead just returned from giving a talk in Paris on their research (3D displays without needing glasses!)
My flatmate got an article published on the cover of Nature last week. His team lead just returned from giving a talk in Paris on their research (3D displays without needing glasses!)

  3:27pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
9
Mar 13
Sat

From Instagram: Flying lesson in a Cessna

Flying lesson in a Cessna
Flying lesson in a Cessna

  5:07pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
26
Jan 13
Sat

From Instagram: Cold in MKE

Cold in MKE
Cold in MKE

  3:12pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
12
Jan 13
Sat

From Instagram: Little value to society

Little value to society
Little value to society

  2:17pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
6
Jan 13
Sun

From Instagram: Snow on an early NYC morning

Snow on an early NYC morning
Snow on an early NYC morning

  8:53am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Nyhavn

Nyhavn
Nyhavn

  8:53am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Last day of Tivoli’s Christmas season

Last day of Tivoli's Christmas season
Last day of Tivoli’s Christmas season

  8:53am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Watching planes take off at Heathrow…

Watching planes take off at Heathrow...
Watching planes take off at Heathrow…

  8:53am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
24
Nov 12
Sat

From Instagram: Picking up some meat for the BBQ (not the wagyu)

Picking up some meat for the BBQ (not the wagyu)
Picking up some meat for the BBQ (not the wagyu)

  3:56pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Dinnertime at Momofuku

Dinnertime at Momofuku
Dinnertime at Momofuku

  12:56am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
21
Nov 12
Wed

From Instagram: At the offices of Mint Wireless (which works in the…

At the offices of Mint Wireless (which works in the mobile payments space)
At the offices of Mint Wireless (which works in the mobile payments space)

  7:36pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Sydney startup scene – at the offices of One Big…

Sydney startup scene - at the offices of One Big Switch
Sydney startup scene – at the offices of One Big Switch

  3:51am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
18
Nov 12
Sun

From Instagram: Out on a farm in Leppington

Out on a farm in Leppington
Out on a farm in Leppington

  5:21pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Cleaning out old hardware at home PC mice from 1989…

Cleaning out old hardware at home... PC mice from 1989 onwards (DB-25 Serial, DE-9 Serial, PS/2, USB, Wireless USB). Also, an Apple IIC mouse from 1984 (not pictured)
Cleaning out old hardware at home… PC mice from 1989 onwards (DB-25 Serial, DE-9 Serial, PS/2, USB, Wireless USB). Also, an Apple IIC mouse from 1984 (not pictured)

  4:42am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
17
Nov 12
Sat

From Instagram: Bronte

Bronte
Bronte

  11:06pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
16
Nov 12
Fri

From Instagram: Hello, Sydney – why so gloomy?

Hello, Sydney - why so gloomy?
Hello, Sydney – why so gloomy?

  3:31pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Quick email stop at ICN

Quick email stop at ICN
Quick email stop at ICN

  1:46am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
15
Nov 12
Thu

From Instagram: On board OZ213 yes I’m going to be dumping a…

On board OZ213... yes I'm going to be dumping a lot of crappy photos on Instagram this week
On board OZ213… yes I’m going to be dumping a lot of crappy photos on Instagram this week

  11:52am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Boarding SFO-ICN

Boarding SFO-ICN
Boarding SFO-ICN

  11:52am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

From Instagram: Early start in the Air China/Asiana lounge

Early start in the Air China/Asiana lounge
Early start in the Air China/Asiana lounge

  11:37am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
13
Nov 12
Tue

From Instagram: Test post

Test post
Test post using the pretty great Instagrabber plugin. The creator is cool too – I emailed him about a customization issue I had and he responded with the answer pretty quickly.

  7:41pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
12
Nov 12
Mon

From Instagram: Yes, it’s a remote controlled floating shark

Yes, it's a remote controlled floating shark
Yes, it’s a remote controlled floating shark

  8:46pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
4
Oct 12
Thu

Growing passion

Pete sent me a link to this article in the NY Times which takes a different stance to the “find your passion” school of thought.

If we have the courage to discover this calling and to match it to our livelihood, the thinking goes, we’ll end up happy. If we lack this courage, we’ll end up bored and unfulfilled — or, worse, in law school.

Hah. The article then goes on to say:

As I considered my options during my senior year of college, I knew all about this Cult of Passion and its demands. But I chose to ignore it. The alternative career philosophy that drove me is based on this simple premise: The traits that lead people to love their work are general and have little to do with a job’s specifics. These traits include a sense of autonomy and the feeling that you’re good at what you do and are having an impact on the world. Decades of research on workplace motivation back this up. (Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” offers a nice summary of this literature.)

These traits can be found in many jobs, but they have to be earned. Building valuable skills is hard and takes time. For someone in a new position, the right question is not, “What is this job offering me?” but, instead, “What am I offering this job?”

The author, a CS prof at Georgetown, tries to divorce “a job’s specifics” from whether people love their work. However, two of the things he then goes on to list in the very next sentence – sense of autonomy and having an impact on the world – are inextricably tied with a job’s specifics. Foxconn factory line workers put in long hours and some are doubtless really good at their jobs. But try and find autonomy and world-changing qualities to that job, and it’s blood from a stone.

I kind of see what he’s getting at, although he’s not really saying it explicitly – it’s a commitment issue with our generation. Employment mobility is really high, and it’s more common than not for Gen Ys to skip through 3-4 jobs over the course of a decade. Sometimes it takes time to grow into a job, so people need to give themselves enough chance to skill up – once you know how to do things, things usually do get better. But some jobs require years and years to skill up, and what happens if you get 6 or 7 years down that path and the passion doesn’t arrive?

  12:23am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
19
Aug 12
Sun

Déjà vu… except that je ne vois pas

Was at Great America yesterday, and I lost my glasses. Not in the way that you’d think you’d normally them at a theme park. I did the responsible thing and took them off before getting on a ride (which quite frankly was unnecessary), and then when I went to collect them on the other side, they were gone. Vanished. Just like that. I filled out a lost & found card but I doubt I’ll see them again.

Alas, this is not the first time that this has happened. The first time was 14 years ago, at another theme park. In January 1998, in fact – I know because I wrote a blog post about it (actually like the fifth blog post I ever wrote).

Anyway, I felt like this for the rest of the day (NSFW):

My friends had to drive my car home for me. Might be time to start thinking about Lasik again.

  5:55pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
13
May 12
Sun

Overzealous parking inspectors

I got ticketed for a parking violation in Sausalito yesterday… in between the time it took for me to park my car and walk to the parking meter about 30 metres away to pay. What the hell?!

  10:59am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
23
Mar 11
Wed

Five most common regrets after a lifetime

Bronnie Ware, a nurse working in palliative care, tended to patients in the final 1-4 months of their lives. She asked them to share with her what their biggest regrets in life were – what they would have done differently if they could have changed something. Then she condensed it down into a list of the five most common regrets. In summary form, they are:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The full article is well worth a read. (Thanks Ros for the link!)

  12:15am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
2
Mar 11
Wed

When an hour is worth more than an hour: calculating your hourly rate

Some industries are known for their brutal work hours. For example, if you’re a service provider involved in helping large cap companies with their M&A transactions, it’s likely that you’re not a stranger to the 100+ hour work week. Although the remuneration for these jobs is usually very high relative to other occupations with more reasonable hours, cash compensation is often normalized by converting it to a per hour metric. Take your salary+bonus and divide it by an estimate of the number of hours you work per year. If you work 50% more hours than your peer but only get paid 20% more, your peer is actually making 20% more than you when you convert it to an hourly rate. Of course, absolute remuneration still counts for something – if you are making 20% more per hour, but are limited in the number of hours you can work, you can’t really take advantage of that better rate to make more money. And salaried workers don’t get paid by the hour, so the question is moot – you can’t make more money in your job by working more hours. You have to use the extra time you have to find another source of income.

But back to the idea of calculating an hourly rate. On reflection, I think that this simple calculation doesn’t take into account quality of life considerations. After all, an hour of work spent between 3-4pm is a lot different to an hour of work spent between 3-4am. It’s far less enjoyable when you’d rather be in bed, for one (I always say, I don’t care how much you enjoy your job – it’s hard to enjoy anything at 8am when you’ve just pulled an all-nighter). To account for this, we need to assign a greater value to time which is outside of “normal” working hours. For example, outside of the usual hours most people work, say 7am-7pm, you start to give up things that most people don’t. Dinner with friends, your own free time, sleep, and, potentially in the long term, health. So, if you work from 8am to 11pm, that 15 hour day should actually be considered to be worth more than 15 hours, because at the end of the day you begin to sacrifice things that most others don’t. I think there needs to be a graduated scale, with abnormal working hours being weighted with a multiplier.

One model of this could be as follows:

Time Multiplier Notes
7.00am-7.00pm 1.0 Typical working hours
7.00pm-10.00pm 1.25 Giving up free time for meals, socialising
10.00pm-1.00am 1.33 Giving up free time for R&R, hobbies, etc.
1.00am-7.00am 1.5 Sacrificing sleep
* Additional 25% added for weekend work during these hours.

 

For example, if you typically work a 70 hour week, with 12 hour days from 9am-9pm and 10 hours on the weekend, then each weekday would actually be considered to be a 12hr 30min day, and work on the weekend would count as 12.5 hours, giving a total of 75 hours. Another example is if you pull a 9am-3am day, the 18 hours actually counts for 22h45m (12h + 3h45m + 4h + 3h). The result is a decrease in your effective hourly rate of compensation.

The numbers I have picked are arbitrary, but my main point is the concept. Ultimately if you genuinely love your job and there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing (as is the case with many entrepreneurs), the hours don’t matter as much. However, weighting hourly calculations this way is a good way to quantitatively factor in other important things in life, like health, relationships, and so on. Different people may choose to weight numbers differently depending on what’s important to them in life. The next time you try and figure out if a job has really been “worth it”, consider the quality of the hours you’ve had to give up.

  11:04pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
9
Jan 11
Sun

Camden South

Well I never! My hometown, census population of 4,653, has its own Wiki page. I also learned that, as at 2001, there are more Anglicans than Catholics there (which is quite unusual). More info.

  3:15pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
25
Dec 10
Sat

Merry Christmas!

May your days be merry and bright!

Oh, and this is awesome:

  1:35am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
10
Oct 10
Sun

10/10/10

Thank you, that is all.

  2:06am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
30
Sep 10
Thu

“Valium, he gave me Valium”

Dad occasionally tells me interesting stories about his encounters with patients (all on a strictly anonymous basis, of course). This was a good one he sent me the other day:

After over 30 years in general practice, you gain a sixth sense for when a patient is actually a drug addict trying to scam a prescription from you. Such was the case yesterday. Just before closing time, in walked a new patient – a young man in his early twenties with a tattooed forearm. He was from out of town, which always rings alarm bells. They come in at the last minute because they think that you are eager to go home and will honour their request quickly. They have often tried all of the doctors in their home area who have quickly become familiar with their stories. Of course these facts in themselves do not make them guilty. However, when they come to you with an elaborate story then the red flag really goes up.

As stories go this was a real doozie.

He started by saying he would let me in on a secret. He had booked a flight to take his girlfriend to New York later that night where he was going to propose to her in the Empire State Building on the 7th anniversary of their initial meeting, which happened to be on the 27/9. His girfriend was still in the dark about it. As he was petrified of flying, he needed something to calm him down. “Something a previous doctor gave me,” he said, but confessing that he forgot what it was. Instantly I was aware that he wanted a script for Valium. But I acted dumb and said that since I do not know what the other doctor had prescribed, I was unable to help him. He screwed up his face and pretended to think hard for a few seconds, before exclaiming: “Valium, he gave me valium!”

Most drug addicts will not come straight up and ask for what they want. That would be too obvious, so they rather manoeuvre you in such a way that you offer it to them. If it is not the right one, they will say that they are allergic to it and you propose another until they get what they want.

As he was consulting with me on the evening of 27/9, I told him that it was physically impossible for him to be at the Empire State Building by the 27th. He said that I had not accounted for the fact that New York was a day behind (which of course I knew). I thought to myself that even if he were to fly off immediately after seeing me, he would still not make it to NY on time as he had to transit in LAX or SFO. So I baited him and casually asked him when his flight was that evening and he replied that he needed to be at the airport at 9pm. He even volunteered the information that he needed to be there at least a couple of hours before his flight. I know that there is a curfew at Sydney airport from 11pm, and it is most unlikely that any airline will schedule a departure time at 11pm. I then explained why I didn’t think that he would be flying off at 11pm and asked him what airline he would be using. He hesitated and, sounding unsure, said Qantas. To prove that Qantas does not fly to LAX in the evening, I logged into the Sydney airport site and showed him that he had already missed his flight.

He was still adamant that he had a flight to catch that evening and said that it was probably at 10pm and not 11pm. I again explained that it was not possible. Qantas does not fly to LAX at that time of the night. Then he finally accepted that fact and said that he screwed up. But it was not over yet.

To prove that he was still going to NY, he then “rang” his girlfriend up and explained the situation to her, then told her to ring up Qantas to rebook the flight for the next day even if he had to “pay a thousand dollars more” (all this without giving her any other details). I’m sure the gf must have been hysterical to find out that she was booked to fly to NY in a couple of hour, but even though I was sitting just across from him, I could not hear her voice at all. Maybe she had a soft voice but I’m not convinced that anyone was on the other line.

In the end I did not honour his request for a script for Valium. To my surprise, he did not get angry – he was just embarrassed to be caught out.

Moral of the story: don’t screw with a doctor who has been practising for longer than you have been alive.

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29
Aug 10
Sun
17
May 10
Mon

Daily news rundown

  • Waddell & Reed not the cause of the May 6 temporary crash? – back to the investigation drawing board. Link
  • Standard Chartered gives employees a choice between BlackBerries and iPhones – big corporate-culture-shift win for Apple
  • Mallesons/Clifford Chance merger rumors cropping up again – fourth time lucky? Link
  • Apple now sells more mobile handsets than Motorola – with 8.75m iPhones shipped in Q1 versus Moto’s 8.5m – Apple now has 3% of global mobile phone market – that is nothing short of extraordinary (remember that Apple only sells one model… "you can have it in any color as long as it’s black"). Link – Nokia of course leads with 37%, but at least one analyst believes that Symbian’s days are numbered
  • Taiwanese manufacturers reckon 4.5m iPhone 4Gs to be sold in 24 days – according to rumor (I’ll be one of them… my 3G is on its last legs). Link
  • Engineer Alex Payne leaves Twitter to found BankSimple – an appealing idea – sounds like they will be eschewing some exception fees (but I think it’s gonna be very tough to pull off). Link
  • Booyah raises $20m – from Accel Partners – funded in an earlier round by Kleiner Perkins
  • Gilt Groupe raises $35m – from General Atlantic and Matrix – they’ve been in the news a lot recently
  • Groupon acquires German startup Citydeal – sounds like a very smart move and a good way to get into Europe – this is Groupon’s second acquisition after Mob.ly
  • Prominent names revealed as investors in Canvas, Moot’s startup – this is Moot of 4chan fame – investors include Conway, Andreessen, Josh Schachter (del.icio.us), Chris Dixon (Hunch) and Kenneth Lerer (Huffpost)
  • (Yes, too much Apple news.)
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13
May 10
Thu

My family tree went viral

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across Geni, which is a website which allows you to construct your family tree. It’s very intuitive to use, and it has quite a lot of functionality. For every person you add, it also emails that person and invites them to join.

I was idly trying out the service and seeded by family tree with my parents, an aunt, uncle and a cousin.  Then I logged in today and saw the Loh family tree had turned into this:

I was very pleasantly surprised. And this is just a partial display – there are several more branches which you can drill down into. The tree is tracking well over 100 family members. It looks like my relatives picked up the idea and ran with it and things spread virally as everyone filled in their area of the family tree (I guess no one wants to feel left out!). My dad has 7 siblings, so the tree mushroomed very quickly from there. I found out a lot about my extended family, including several great aunts and uncles I have never heard of, and the explosive multiplication that can result from an era where polygamy was legal.

Interestingly, much of the heavy lifting was done by relatives in my parents’ generation – people in their 50s and 60s – so it looks like we’ve finally entered an age where everyone is beginning to feel comfortable with technology. I am still bemused by the knowledge that my grandfather uses Skype.

Geni also hooks into the usual array of social networks, and helps you to keep track of far flung relatives (I discovered that the relatives on the tree are living in about a dozen different countries) and record biographical information about them. Geni also tells you the actual relationship you have with someone, so now you can confidently identify your second cousin, twice removed. Very cool!

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2
May 10
Sun

At 8.00am PDT, May 2, 2010

My submission to the Times’ project, A Timely Global Mosaic, Created by All of Us (it was way too early on a Sunday morning to get creative):

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27
Apr 10
Tue

Conference

Just booked myself in for the E-Commerce Best Practices Conference at SLS. Looking very forward to it – should be very interesting! Most of the topics there are pretty much the areas of law that I deal with on a day-to-day basis at work. I might liveblog some of the talks, actually.

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14
Apr 10
Wed

500+ unread in Google Reader…

…argh. Time to declare RSS bankruptcy and just clear it all? Maybe this wouldn’t happen if I had an iPad… HMM…

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13
Feb 10
Sat

Timber?

Got an email from my dad the other day saying that the tree outside his workplace had fallen down. Then I looked at the photo he attached. That gum tree was a pretty big sucker. If it had fallen the other way… well, let’s just say that dad would have been able to go on holiday for a few weeks. He even got quoted in the local papers about it (page 6)!

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9
Jan 10
Sat

How to live longer, healthily

Dan Buettner gives a really fascinating TED talk on longevity.

The initial premise is that the human body is biologically engineered to live about 90 years, but average life expectancy in America is about 78 years (give or take). The missing 12 years is primarily due to lifestyle and environmental factors, rather than genetics. So, the goal of longevity is not to extend the 90 years, which is currently unattainable for those of us currently living, but to try and access these missing years.

Buettner then describes a research project which identified several “blue zones” throughout the world, in which the people there lived for materially longer lives than the rest of the world. The amazing thing is that these blue zones contain a large amount of people who live beyond 78 years, but the 80-, 90- and 100 year old people there live healthy, active lives. The blue zoners had a tendency to remain healthy and free of chronic disease in their old age and, appealingly, to die peacefully in their sleep.

The most significant factor is having family and friends close by, and belonging to the right community (of like-minded people). Buettner drops in an anecdote of an Okinawan group (moai) of five elderly women who have been together for 97 years and have an average age of 102. He also mentions an amazing array of people over than 90 who are still doing things like heart surgery, or karate.

Other factors include an ongoing purpose – a reason why you look forward to waking up the next morning – and in part this links in with community. So when you retire, you still need something to do – something to look forward to.

Interestingly, diet and exercise play a lesser role, and the role they play is different to what you might expect. People in blue zones actually don’t regularly exercise, although they do have lifestyles which keep them “naturally active” – which means something as simple as walking around throughout the day. They have a diet which is weighted towards vegetables and they don’t overeat.

So there’s no silver bullet, no single fix or magic diet – it’s a total lifestyle approach. But the thing is… it sounds like a pretty darn appealing lifestyle. No starving yourself, no brutal workout regime.

This video reminds of one time when I was in Hong Kong. I was staying over at a friend’s house, which is a 3-storey building, with a steep wooden staircase connecting each floor. My friend’s grandfather stays there, where he lives on the top floor. Every day, he treks up and down those stairs without a walking stick, and every few days he will go out to yum cha with his friends. He is about 90 years old.

The video is 20 minutes but is well worth it.

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8
Jan 10
Fri

My thoughts exactly

Was browsing through the Stanford Classifieds and noticed that someone was selling off a 2001 Porsche Boxster. Not something you see everyday on a student trading post. With about 100,000 k’s on the odometer, it was going for under $10k. Cars are so cheap in the US! But the thing that cracked me up was this part of the ad:

Not so good things about the car:
* Got keyed on the surface–some guy carved “Rich Stanford” on its back :( (decent paint job can be done with ~$1000, if you do care a lot)

Click through to see the pictures.

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5
Jan 10
Tue

Year In Review (Part 5)

This is the fifth and final post in a series. The previous post is here.

7. The LLM Experience

At the end of my time at Stanford, I decided to put together a photo book. The project quickly ballooned, and the book become much larger than I initially intended. With the inclusion of infographics, charts, collages, stories, and lots of other stuff, the book turned into a yearbook of sorts. (I say “of sorts” because it was put together from my point of view alone.) I made it available in hard-copy format through Blurb. You can also download a low-res digital copy of it here (sans cover).

8. A New Decade

2010 marks the start of a new decade. I entered the last decade as an 18 year old and left it as a 28 year old. It is sobering to think that — at least in terms of age — these were the so-called prime years of life. It’s been quite a ride. I’m not going to sum the decade up, so I’ll just leave you with a few miscellaneous statistics and images that represent some aspects of my noughties. You can click most of them to view them full size.

Flight map

A map of the flight routes I’ve taken.


Where I was during New Year’s Eve over the last decade:

My photo album histogram

This is a portion of the frequency histogram showing the number of photos in my photo album by month. (I use Photoshop Elements to organize my photos.) As you can see, I didn’t get out very much during 2007. Such was the life of a banking and finance lawyer.

Hear Ye! Statistics

I last generated these graphs in 2006.

I like this graph. The stream of posts that form a vertical line in the graph was a 24-hour posting streak for Blogathon.

I'm hoping that 2010 will be more active than any of the last 5 years.

You need to click on this to see what it's about.

And that’s all folks!

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2
Jan 10
Sat

Year In Review (Part 4)

This is the fourth post in a series. The previous post is here.

6. A tale of three and a half startups & the major lessons I learned

In a nutshell, “venture capital” refers to money and other resources (capital) which are given to new businesses (ventures) in order to help them grow. Venture capitalists, or “VCs”, refers to the people who decide which ventures this capital should be allocated to. Similar to a private equity fund or a mutual fund focused on equities, VCs raise money from investors who want to invest in a particular type of investment. In this case, the start-up industry (young, small companies). VCs put this money into a VC fund which is then invested in a portfolio of start-up companies. In exchange, the VCs take ownership of a part of the start-up and therefore partake in any of its growth.

Silicon Valley is home to the largest VC industry in the world. And since start-ups go hand-in-hand with VC, the Valley is a hotbed of entrepreneurialism. This is not merely a catchphrase, but something which pervades the area. It’s not just that the Valley is inhabited by a mix of intelligent and ambitious people, or that it provides access to a lot of money, or that it contains a world-class university pumping out motivated grads and producing useful research. It’s also that the culture of entrepreneurialism – including its ups but also its downs – is embedded in the very culture of the place.

This is a rare environment. A smaller version exists in Israel, and I suspect China has a rapidly growing VC-funded industry. No place like this exists in Australia. I had the opportunity to get some exposure to the world of start-ups and there are two things I observed that nicely demonstrate this “culture of entrepreneurialism” to which I refer.

Let’s say someone asks you what you do for a living. You tell them that you work for a “start-up”. They do a bit more digging and it turns out that you are working out of your apartment with two other guys, not getting paid anything, and are currently going around asking people for money so you can launch your product, which is a website that allows people to do stuff. In most places in the world, the reaction you’d get would vary from dubiousness to disdain. In contrast, the reaction here is quite different – usually one of genuine interest in what you’re doing. The powerful result of this near-universal social validation is that joining a start-up is a perfectly valid career path here. It encourages people to take risks that they would not have otherwise been taken if these social support structures not been there. The heightened risk appetite that exists in human capital therefore enables start-ups to source talent for less cash (in exchange for equity or the future promise of equity in the form stock options).

The second aspect is that failing holds little to no stigma in the Valley. The vast majority of start-ups fail. And the entrepreneurs who have succeeded often have been previously involved in failed ventures. Instead, the focus here is not on the fact that someone failed, but on the reasons why they failed, and what they learned from the experience. It’s a very supportive atmosphere, and that’s what you need to foster entrepreneurialism.

» Continue reading whole article »

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1
Jan 10
Fri

Year in Review (Part 3)

This is the third post in a series. The previous post is here.

4. Getting a job (or at least trying to)

It was 4.00am on a Friday morning in October, and I was bearing witness to carnage.

Having just flown in from San Francisco a few hours ago, I was sitting in my hotel room bed, wide awake and trying in vain to shake off the jetlag before an interview that was only about five hours away. Only a month after arriving into the US, in early September 2008, I had been invited to interview with a major US law firm. They had offered to fly me, along with about a hundred other LLM students from universities around the country, up to New York for the weekend and had booked us all into the downtown Hilton. I had never been the beneficiary of such corporate largesse, and it seemed that things were still going well in corporate America.

» Continue reading whole article »

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Year in Review (Part 2)

This is the second post in a series. The first post is here.

2. Getting to know some very interesting people

The most valuable thing I got from Stanford was the contact with so many interesting people.

Starting with my coursemates, I had never been exposed to people who were nationals of so many different countries in the same place before. The admissions committee did a great job of getting together such a diverse group of people. And what was remarkable was that everyone was nice. No one really had an ego, and I’m really sensitive to people with overblown egos.

» Continue reading whole article »

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31
Dec 09
Thu

Year in Review (Part 1)

As the end of the year, and indeed a decade, draws to a close, here’s a customary introspective post.

It’s been a very full year, so I picked out a few themes to write about and broke up the post under those themes. I haven’t written up everything yet, so I’ll be breaking the post up into multiple parts. Some will be posted in the new year.

1. Getting another piece of paper

2009 started with my second and final semester at Stanford.  By the time  my classmates and I had come back from Winter break, we had well and truly settled in and were now focused on making the most out of our remaining time. Spanning only 9 months, the time needed to complete an LL.M. is – unfortunately, in my opinion – the shortest time in which you can get a degree. So, after it all, what did I get out of it, other than another piece of paper and a large hole in my wallet? Did it meet my expectations? What did I learn?

» Continue reading whole article »

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24
Dec 09
Thu

Merry Christmas!

May you have a day filled with joy and many of the same to follow!

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21
Dec 09
Mon

New Digs

This weekend I just finished moving into a new apartment in Menlo Park. Found a real gem – about 1200 sq ft (110 sq m) and cheaper than what I was paying back in Sydney or on campus. Leafy, quiet neighborhood, free laundry, a Safeway and Trader Joe’s within walking distance, central heating, and a bunch of other stuff. But the real luxury is that it’s within walking distance of work.

And it’s incomparable to the “transit” accommodation I had for the last 2 months. I had to find a place in a rush and I paid the price. Let me say that living in a 2-bedroom apartment with 3 other guys (2 of them literally living in the living room with questionable hygienic standards) is not fun. Here’s a tip: if there are food chunks all over the dish drying rack, you haven’t washed your shit up properly.

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New Photos on Facebook

This is a bit of a self-reminder to find out if anyone has written a plugin which takes Facebook wall posts and pushes them into WordPress. But for now, click through to see:

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19
Dec 09
Sat

Videos from Shen & Xiao Min’s wedding

From last October in Sydney. Nicely edited together by Reuben.


Wedding Ceremony

 


Reception (I think there were at least 3 other speeches that don’t feature in the video, not to mention Reuben’s guitar performances… you might also notice that two members of the bridal party are pulling double duty as MCs)
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8
Dec 09
Tue

Brrr

How’d it get so damn cold here? Yes that’s a layer of frost on my windscreen!

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13
Oct 09
Tue

4 Peeves about Sydney

I love Sydney and all, but there are four things that have annoyed me about it over the last couple of weeks:

1. Lack of Wifi. Maybe I don’t know where to look, but it’s so difficult to find free Wifi around the CBD. They have it in the state library (where I am at the moment, actually), but the HSC must be currently in full swing because the place is filled with what looks like Year 12 students reading crib books.

2. Cityrail. They redid the train timetables this week. Night services from the city to Campbelltown used to take about 55 minutes on the East Hills line. They replaced all the East Hills schedules with all-stops trains, and now the same journey takes at least 1 hour 20. That’s almost 50% longer! WTF.

3. Poor mobile reception. The train tunnels under the CBD have zero mobile phone reception. Every other major developed city in the world has mobile reception in the subway. Why not Sydney? (And it’s not like we have a huge number of underground tunnels!) Same thing with the East Hills line – including the bit that passes by the airport.

4. Weather. What the hell happened to the weather this month? A lot of people have been returning from London and New York this month for weddings so the common line is that they brought their weather with them. Obviously I haven’t been properly representing California because it’s been windy, cloudy and rainy for 2 straight weeks.

29
Apr 09
Wed

E-mail stats

Been playing around with Xobni, an indexing and analytics plug-in for Outlook. Once it’s created an index, It’s pretty snappy with searches, much more than Outlook’s own search function (I never understood why Outlook’s search was so poor). What’s more interesting is the analytics which produces all sorts of stats, such as who sends emails to you the most, the average time people take to reply to your emails, and the times of day you receive the most email. Here are some graphs generated from the last 11 months of my inbox history (June 08 to April 09).

Click for full sized image
Distribution of email received by hour of day: Clearly, people like emailing before and after lunch

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Distribution of email sent by hour of day: I do a lot of emailing between midnight-1am, as well as a bunch in the morning after I’ve woken up (10am-noon). Clear dips in emailing during lunch (noon-2pm) and dinner (7-9pm)

Click for full sized image
Email volumes over the last 11 months: I came to Stanford in August last year and the email traffic jumped.

Click for full sized image
Uniques: This graph surprised me – this shows the number of unique people mail was sent/received to/from throughout the course of each month. The received graph is somewhat inflated by email received from mailing lists and other non-human email addresses.

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Average time for me to respond to emails: No surprises here – I took longer to respond to emails during the Christmas holiday.

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21
Feb 09
Sat

‘Tis the season for rejection

Time to check in to my blog again. Lots of doom and gloom this week. I attended a panel discussion hosted by the Churchill Club, an organization that brings together members of the Valley’s venture capital community, and the general consensus was the economy was really bad and only going to get worse. The number of startups funded has fallen, the number of startups folding has risen, VC firms are finding it tough to raise funds, and so on. Times are really, really tough and the job market is brutal. This has been clearly reflected in my ongoing job search – it’s pretty much impossible to get firms to even look at my resume, even if applications are sent through personal contacts and not via HR. The reason is depressingly simple – virtually every law firm has just completed one or more rounds of lay-offs, and in that climate, they’re not going to turn around and hire more people – especially with an uncertain deal pipeline. The question is, will things recover over the next few months, or will the hiring freeze continue (or worse, will there be more lay-offs)? The university is suffering as well – the endowment is expected to take a huge hit and continue to shrink over the next year. One result is that a few Masters students here who wanted to do PhDs have been unable to obtain PhD funding. I was out with a friend tonight who is working towards a PhD and we walked past a large sign saying “We are hiring! Inquire within!” Jose turned to me and remarked, “Wow, that’s rare to see during an ad like that in these economic conditions! I wonder if they hire PhDs?” The sign was on the wall of a fast food joint.

So for a variety of reasons, professional but unfortunately also personal, it’s been a Real Bad Week for me.

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2
Feb 09
Mon

Ok Twitterers and Facebookians, so it’s snowing in England. We get it already. But it’s winter here too, and I’m walking around in a t-shirt. Hah.

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1
Jan 09
Thu

Happy New Year!

We went out looking for a drink last night after watching the fireworks over the bay, only to be stymied when we discovered that California has laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol in bars after 2.00am. (In Palo Alto, everything shuts at 1 or 2am, but I always thought that was only because it was Palo Alto, not because the alcohol has to stop flowing…) This country still surprises me sometimes.

I also learnt that in Japan, New Year’s traditions include making mochi – gooey rice cakes. Unfortunately, this tradition also has the side effect of causing several elderly Japanese people to choke to death each year while eating mochi. We get annual holiday road death tolls, in Japan they get annual holiday mochi death tolls. So each year, the Japanese distribute tips on how to avoid death by mochi, including the popular solution of shoving a vacuum cleaner down someone’s throat if they start gagging. My Japanese coursemates insisted this was not a joke. I was still dubious but Google appeared to confirm this improbable tale. Apparently the Heimlich manoevure doesn’t work too well.

In Berlin, New Year’s was described to me as a “war zone”, with people taking to the streets with roman candles, bangers, rockets and all manner of fireworks and miscellaneous incendiaries. And they fire them at each other.

Someone should do a “top 10 most dangerous places to celebrate New Year’s” feature…

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30
Dec 08
Tue

A (belated) Merry Christmas and (premature) Happy New Year

My parents came to visit over the Christmas break. I showed them around the campus, then we spent a few days in San Fran, with a nice daytrip down the coast to Monterey and Carmel. The only thing we did in Monterey was visit the aquarium, which was of particular interest to me since it was one of the filming locations for my favourite Trek movie. As the aquarium doesn’t actually have any whales, nor a whale tank, the digital effects guys had to digitally construct them, along with a backdrop of the San Francisco skyline. The movie was filmed in the 80s and although the aquarium has been updated quite a bit since then, all of the filming spots were pretty much unchanged. Apparently, people have gone to the aquarium after watching Star Trek IV only to be disappointed to find the closest thing to a whale there is the life-sized plastic model they have suspended from the roof.

Click for full sized image

South of Monterey is the famed Pebble Beach golf course which borders the Pacific Ocean. At $495 for a round, it’s a rich person’s course. Staying there costs a few thousand bucks a night. One of my dad’s friends had the opportunity to play there, but he unfortunately didn’t have time to enjoy the views. Apparently they place marshalls at each hole to keep players moving quickly – they try and push as many groups through as possible since they clear about $2k for each foursome. There are a whole bunch of golf courses in the area, including Cypress Point. Cypress Point is a very difficult course, but it has some admired holes, including the notorious 16th. It’s a par 3, but to make the front of the green, you have to be able to carry your ball over 200 yards. In between the green and tee area, it’s all ocean. I’d need at least a spoon (3 wood) to make that distance. There’s a “bail out” zone to the left, but you still have to carry 150 yards.

Click for full sized image

On the 22nd, we flew into Dallas to spend Christmas with my uncle’s family. It was a chilly zero degrees C when we arrived. One of my cousins is studying in Boston and he had planned to fly in on the same day, but the weather up there was way below zero and his flight was cancelled. He arrived a couple days later.

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I had only been to Dallas once, and that was exactly 15 years ago. My uncle pulled out some old camcorder footage which showed me playing with my cousins in the backyard – we were firing super soakers and chucking water balloons at each other in the dead of winter! This time around, I visited the Sixth Floor Museum, which is housed in the building from which JFK was shot. Quite an interesting place, especially in light of the references to JFK’s civil rights work and display text which was written in a pre-Barack Obama world. Of course, the pall of assassination hanging over the place is sobering, and obviously a concern today. On Christmas Day, we attended a midnight mass which was novelly conducted in English and repeated in Spanish (which really drew out the service…) and went to a Christmas party at a neighbour’s house (to which my uncle’s family had been attending for the last 15 or so years). On Boxing Day, the weather warmed up considerably, hitting an incredible 26 degrees. We took the opportunity to hit the factory outlets. We also did a lot of eating. All in all, it was a good trip.

I’m back in California for New Year’s… I’ve realised that out of the last nine January 1sts, I’ve only been in Australia for one of them. Running back through the past nine New Year’s Days, I’ve been in Hong Kong, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Singapore, Lucerne and Hong Kong. Kind of a pity, since Sydney fireworks are such a great spectacle. But I do enjoy Hong Kong where I’m of average height so I can actually see things going on instead of smelling armpits the whole night.

Some photos:
- Miscellaneous Bay Area pics
- Winter Holiday pics

Facebook is a pretty convenient place to post photos these days. One gripe I have though is that I wish they allowed higher resolution photos (perhaps they eventually will, just as YouTube now caters for HD vids). You can’t make prints from photos 604 pixels wide.

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16
Dec 08
Tue

“Blissfully cholera free”

The law school still has exams running to the end of this week, but finals for the rest of the uni finished up last Friday and the campus has pretty muched cleared out since then with people going home or elsewhere on holiday. Friends have started putting up status messages on Facebook telling everyone where they are or where they’re going to be, but the one below was just surreal (he’s Indian-Zimbabwean and his family is in Zimbabwe). And in the meantime, more sinister stuff is going down in that country…

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22
Nov 08
Sat

An update on campus life

It’s been a while since I wrote something substantive on here. Almost four months in, and this place continues to amaze me. I’m dreading the day it all finishes.

After an afternoon of study today, I played squash with a group of LLMs and got my ass majorly kicked. I grabbed dinner afterwards with a friend, an eighth year lawyer from Brazil, during which we jointly commiserated over the painful depreciation of our respective currencies (the Brazilian Real has gone down more than the Aussie Dollar!). I then headed over to a neighborhood “dessert night”. I stay in Escondido Village, which is a large on-campus residential area for graduate students, and each section of the village regularly runs community events. I only intended to drop by for a half hour to gorge myself on some ice cream before returning to hit the books but unfortunately I was late and the ice cream had run out by the time I arrived. I got involved in a conversation instead. It was one of those conversations that was so engrossing that everyone ended up standing around talking for three hours despite the presence of perfectly good couches only a couple of metres away. We were six people who grew up on six different continents, and the spark which initiated everything was when one of us admitted to being a conservative and was lamenting about four years of Democrat rule. A Republican, much less a Republican who is willing to admit it, in this part of the country, is a rare thing. But diversity of views is always good – when everyone shares the same views, there is too much self-congratulatory back-patting and agreement which, while potentially therapeutic, isn’t so interesting. Reasonable disagreement is that much more stimulating and productive. The conversation lurched from topic to topic – universal healthcare, economic bailouts, Detroit, fiscal management, feminism, the Presidential campaigns, the role of languages in a multicultural society, voting in California, differing notions of democracy around the world, oil and alternative energy, the drinking age, and so on. We all had different academic backgrounds and upbringings, so even among the liberals, there were widely differing worldviews (I, for one, am economically more to the right than I am on other issues). But what made it work was that people were not rabid supporters of their personal views (ie, in the same way that support is shown by the nuts in the Republican party base whose reflexive instinct on hearing the word “Obama” is to boo). There was always intelligent give and take, and while you can’t expect a conversation like that to make people switch sides, you do expect it to bring people closer to the centre. These comments may be trite, and my wonderment quaint, but I can’t say I’ve ever been in an environment like this before. I would certainly be hard pressed to find one in Australia.

And here’s what I did on a day earlier this week.

Woke up about twenty minutes before a 10am contract drafting class and dashed off to make it. We spent the hour dissecting a Stock Purchase Agreement. I then biked over to the b-school to meet a couple MBAs to discuss a very interesting business idea they had. There’s a b-school course which teaches about starting up a start-up and they were looking for a law student to join their team. Then I rode back to the law school for lunch with Larry Lessig. Various faculty Professors make themselves available throughout the semester to a small group of students for a talk with them over lunch on a first-rsvp first-served basis. Since Professor Lessig is not teaching any cyberlaw courses this year, I jumped on the opportunity. He took questions from all of us and answered them one by one. As expected, he was extremely eloquent in expressing his thoughts which recently have been turning to examining corruption in democracies (not so much overt corruption, but conflicts of interest and competing influences on decision makers).

After a thought-provoking lunch, I moved to the library to work on a case study presentation for an International Deal Making class (involving an LBO of several Taiwanese companies by, coincidentally, an Australian conglomerate). Spoke with a friend about the status of the job market and our expectations of US work culture. I typically think of New York as being the most intense place to work in the world. However, she used to work in the Cairo office of a US law firm – as a lawyer in an understaffed office, in an emerging market economy, and in a culture where clients don’t understand the concept of personal time, the hours she pulled were very scary.

Then I rode to the b-school again to meet with an MBA who was interested in an idea I have about an IT application for streamlining administrative tasks that lawyers always complain about in law firms. I was planning on attending a talk about microfinance initiatives in Africa afterwards, but our discussion ran overtime. I instead attended a presentation by Professor Frans De Waal, a famous biologist known for his work on primates, who spoke about whether animals have the capacity for empathy. It was a fascinating presentation. (The evidence is pretty strong that apes do have empathy which extends to an inter-species level.)

I went home to cook dinner, do some study, and then went over to a wine and cheese night that the French Student Association was hosting (a friend is the President of the association, which is where the connection lies). I don’t normally attend wine functions for reasons that are obvious to those that know me, but I needed to get out and do something social. The French seem to have a mansion called La Maison Française all to themselves in which they can host events. I’m not sure, but it was probably bought by some French alumnus or alumna who wanted to donate something back to the university. I was told that ze Germans have their own house as well.

I think I was the only one drinking coke there, but it fooled more than a few people into thinking it was a glass of red wine. I walked up to a person with a jacket that had “Australia” written on it, only to find out he was actually Swedish. We spoke for a while and I found out he was involved in a funded startup which provides a service that converts bitmap images to vector images. A group of us then adjourned to a bar in Palo Alto where we ended the night bitching about how much work we had to do. (The line of the night was that one of us had applied to Stanford for the sole reason that it was on the West Coast. He thought it would be chilled, laid back, and a good place to have a holiday from work, only to find, much to his chagrin, that he was working harder here than he was at the Magic Circle firm he used to work at.) I arrived home at about 2.00am, put in a couple more hours of work and then went to sleep. We have exams in two weeks.

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5
Nov 08
Wed

My election night experience

This has been excerpted from my Backbench article.

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA — November 4, 2008. The student lounge began filling up at 3.00pm, as the first polls around the country began to close on the East Coast. The flyers advertising the event said that no alcohol would be provided, but nonetheless, cases of beer and bottles of wine had been procured — though hopefully they would be used to toast to victory rather than drown our sorrows.

The mood was light and positive. Whenever CNN, or MSNBC called a state for Obama, people would cheer. When states were called for McCain there was silence, but, most notably, never were they any jeers or booing.

East Coast counting was well underway when I had to go to class just after 4.00pm, with some toss-up states shaping up to be a close battle. There was a large amount of distraction during a normally engrossing class on international deal making.

In class, I kept refreshing the New York Times’ “Big Board” summary page and various liveblogs and saw Obama’s EV count edge slowly up past 100, 150, and then 200. It hovered there for a while, with states such as Indiana, Missouri, Florida and North Carolina still hanging in the balance. Iowa fell to Obama. By 6.45pm, I was crawling up the walls as class ran overtime.

I got back in time for the 7.00pm round of polls to close to find that the student lounge was standing-room only. It was relatively uneventful for that hour, but we were kept entertained, not least of all by reporters appearing “via hologram” on CNN. There was the occasional cheer as various other less-crucial states were called, but the real lead up came just before 8.00pm, when the West Coast polls were due to close. Obama was still about 60 EVs short of hitting 270 and anticipation was growing in the atmosphere.

As CNN counted down the seconds to 8.00pm, the crowd joined in.

Five. Four. Three. Two

The projector screen went blank. A second of confusion, then the first boos of the night. The television feed had been lost.

Continue reading this article on the Backbench.

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4
Nov 08
Tue

Change has come

Barack Obama is President-Elect of the United States of America. Pause a while and consider that. Absolutely amazing. What a country.

The mood around campus is incredible — euphoric is how I’d describe it.


Euphoria, as CNN calls the election for Obama. At 8.00pm PST tonight, the west coast polls closed. The television networks immediately called California, Oregon and Washington for Obama, catapulting him from the low 200s, straight past the magic 270 vote mark.

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2
Nov 08
Sun

Prediction for the US Elections

My call: 364-174, Obama-McCain. Optimistic? Maybe, but I called the Rudd-Howard election optimistically as well, and look how that turned out. Also at issue is whether the Dems will get the 60 seats to avoid filibusters.

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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…

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25
Sep 08
Thu

Calendar sample

I only have 14 contact hours per week, but my calendar for this week looks like this:

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This is caused, in part, by the amount of events they hold here, which is insane. There’s often several events during lunch or in the evening that are worth attending – though unfortunately they tend to conflict – and it doesn’t hurt that most of the events provide a free meal (seriously, you could go through a whole semester and not have to buy lunch). The events are mostly student organised, and the things is, the entire law school only has about 550 students. Then there are university functions, housing community functions, graduate functions, etc… So it’s busy, but it’s definitely a good type of busy.

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24
Aug 08
Sun

A couple panoramas

Got sick of studying this afternoon so I dropped by the driving range today, hit a few balls then went for a bike ride around The Dish (view route map) and snapped a couple of panoramas. It’s really nice having a recreational track just down the road… but apparently you have to watch out for the mountain lions.

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Manual geotag

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Manual geotag

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Sage advice

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A week in the life…

Brief-ish rundown of what happened during the first week. Took a while to write, so I’m not expecting to write anymore posts like this!

Monday, Aug. 11
First day of class. All the LLMs and most of the SPILS students have enrolled in this class which seems designed to be a super-quick overview of the American legal system. The lecture theatre is the size of a large classroom – three rows of desks with the back rows elevated above the front rows. Seats about 40. The class is pretty diverse. This year’s Master’s intake has the following stats: 26 LLMs (12 in Science and Tech stream, 14 in the Corporate stream) and 13 SPILS.

There are 21 countries represented: China (6), Japan (5), Brazil (3), Germany (3), Israel (3), Colombia (2), Argentina (2), Singapore (2) and one each from Italy, France, Belgium, Thailand (although he’s a UK-educated lawyer), Finland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Spain, Taiwan, Egypt, Kenya and Uzbekistan. So, all but 6 of the class are civil law lawyers. The average age is probably about 29, with most people having a moderate amount of seniority in the firm from which they came (it probably averages about the 5 year PQE stage). One of my fellow LLMs was actually a partner at a large Chinese law firm. Unlike in the US and most Australian universities, a law degree in many countries is an undergraduate level degree, so those people can be practicing by the time they are 21 years old. However, there are also about a half-dozen PhDs as well.

The first class was mainly about U.S. law school pedagogy – and our lecturer played the infamous first scene from the Paper Chase to introduce us to the Socratic method. Comfortingly, the environment was fairly familiar to me. I went to UNSW Law School and the great thing about it is that they try to employ the Socratic method – all courses are taught in smallish classes of about 25-35 as opposed to lecture halls of hundreds of students. I think it’s a great way to learn and the input that came from everyone else really made the interaction and learning more interesting.

How many law students does it take to watch a DVD? At least a dozen.

We managed to borrow the Paper Chase DVD from the lecturer and a group of us gathered in the common lounge of one of the studio apartment complexes. Unfortunately, when we arrived there at 9pm, we discovered that someone had absconded with the DVD player. After way too much discussion (an hour of it actually), we finally resorted to watching it on a laptop. All eleven of us.

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That’s a lot of people huddled around a small laptop screen

Side note: it just occurred to me that the answer that Hart gives to Kingsfield’s question of, “What should the doctor pay the boy?” is wrong. Hart replies, “He should pay for the difference between what the boy had, a burned hand, and what the doctor gave him, a… burned and hairy hand?” The damages, being expectation damages, should be the difference between a perfect hand and a burned and hairy hand. But of course, we don’t know whether the movie was written to show Hart giving a correct or incorrect answer.

Tuesday, Aug. 12
Class today introduced us to the common law system of finding the law in cases. All familiar stuff to me, but there was lots of input from the civil law lawyers which was informative. They have cases too, but their law seems to reside first and foremost in civil codes, which are exhaustively written. Cases which interpret the codes are persuasive, but there isn’t the same sort of precedent system that common law systems have. Of course, statutes exist in the common law system as well, but the difference is that the statutes aren’t exhaustive. There’s a lot of law that’s just out there floating in the case books. Nonetheless, despite these differences, the general analytical approach to a legal problem is the same in principle regardless of whether the system is common or civil.

In the afternoon, we got a free lunch and had a presentation from the careers office detailing the options open to us foreign students in terms of finding a job after graduation. They offered each of us a personal resume review session, an opportunity which most people took up. US resumes are pretty compact one-page affairs, since firms normally spend about 30 seconds skimming one before moving on.

That night we had dinner at the Graduate Community Center (otherwise referred to as the GCC), which is the only bar on campus. I took the opportunity to watch the Olympics there, although NBC’s coverage is awful. If Americans weren’t involved, they didn’t screen it. The coverage was incredibly ethnocentric.

Wednesday, Aug. 13
Class today was about statutory interpretation. There was also discussion about how many judges in the US are elected rather than appointed. Virtually everyone in our class found this to be an anathema. We had Westlaw training in the afternoon.

Thursday, Aug. 14
We had two guest lecturers today. A Wilson Sonsini partner came to lecture us on civil procedure. Of course, there is no divided legal profession in the US – attorneys are attorneys, and any of them can technically appear in court. A law school professor lectured us on criminal procedure. LexisNexis came in and gave us a training session in the afternoon.

My $80 bike from Walmart broke. I guess you get what you pay for. Luckily, Walmart has a very liberal return policy, so I was able to return the bike and get a cash refund, no questions asked.

That night, the law school held a movie night and screened A Civil Action. Free pizza and beer.

Friday, Aug. 15
Probably the first day covering substantive law, we had a class on constitutional law. Very interesting stuff to compare and contrast with the legal systems around the world. I knew that England didn’t have a hard constitution, but I didn’t know (or maybe I forgot) that New Zealand didn’t have one too. Of course, it was quite embarrassing to admit that Australia didn’t have a Bill of Rights. The other students from the West were aghast.

“Free speech is not constitutionally protected?”
“No, it’s a negative right – it exists to the extent that the legislature does not take away from it.”
“But that’s like saying you have a negative right to a fair trial… until you don’t.”
“Uh… but we do have a right to political communication. Which is implied.”

Still, not as bad as New Zealand, which its Parliament could technically transform into a dictatorship overnight, if they had the numbers. :)

Incidentally, the American right to free speech in the First Amendment is incredibly, incredibly broad, to the extent that America probably has the laxest hate speech laws in the world.

It was also interesting comparing the US federal system to Australia’s. There’s a lot more interest in state independence in the US. States have wide ranging plenary power (as they do in Australia) but for matters of state law, a state’s Supreme Court is the final arbiter. The federal courts and US Supreme Court can generally only hear matters if they involve federal laws or a constitutional issue, or are “diversity of jurisdiction” case (a dispute involving laws of multiple states).

Also, most of the things in by the Constitution apply (expressly) only at the federal level (eg, the Bill of Rights). There’s a Fourteenth Amendment which contains a “Due Process Clause” requiring states not to deny due process. Various rights under the Constitution are then classified as necessary for due process by case law and thereby bind state governments.

In the afternoon, Bloomberg held a training session in the law library. The law library is pretty cool, as far as libraries go. At work, there was a big commotion when they decided to upgrade all of the firm’s chairs to Herman Mueller mesh chairs, which were touted to cost over $1000 each (but I’m sure there was a volume discount involved). In the law library, all of the chairs are those Herman Mueller ones. They also give free printing to all students (subject to a “fair use” policy of 10,000 pages per month).

The library also has bikes available for loan! I borrowed one while my Walmart one was out of commission.

Anyway, Bloomberg came in and gave us a training session. It seems like they are trying to get into the legal space, but their strength is still financial and corporate information. Apparently access to Bloomberg costs companies $20k per year per employee, but Bloomberg was using a “crack dealer” strategy (Bloomberg’s words, not mine) to get law students hooked. We all got a free year’s subscription to it and a nifty biometric card to go with it – to log on to Bloomberg you have to scan your finger on this card and hold it up to the computer monitor. The card reads a flashing light off the screen and then spits out a token which you use to log on. Very cool stuff, but Bloomberg’s UI has all the elegance of a beached whale. It’s probably most useful for M&A lawyers – all the merger agreements and loan documentation from public transactions are available for download.

That afternoon, the South Americans arranged a soccer game. All three Brazilians and all two Argentineans turned up. Everyone else was intimidated. But it was quite good fun despite my lack of fitness. The sporting facilities at Stanford are amazing.

Went out to watch the Woody Allen movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona in the evening. Our resident Spaniard, Maria, took a fair bit of bagging out after that. Movie was pretty good. Then we had drinks at a bar in downtown Palo Alto. The confused bouncer was confronted with a menagerie of foreign language driver’s licenses, but he let us through anyway. It was only $2 for a Coke there.

Saturday, Aug. 16
We hired a car from the car rental shop on campus. Did a lot of shopping today, including for a used car in Santa Clara. One of the used car salesmen there put the hard sell on us. We passed by a car that was yet to pass mandatory safety and smog inspections. We were informed that the car would not be able to be test driven by us until these inspections had occurred. When we expressed interest in the car, they started throwing around numbers.

“Sure, but we will need to test drive it first.”
“Look, legally we can’t permit that, but we assure you that it will pass the safety inspection.”
“Fine, then we’ll come back and test drive it then.”
“But it might be gone by then!”
“But you said it had to pass inspections first.”
“Yes but we might wholesale it in the meantime.”
“Well, if that happens it happens, we’re willing to take that risk.”
“Look we’re giving you a great price. Listen… why don’t you take it out for a test drive now?”
“…”

Notes: The nearest Walmart is in San Antonio. Cheap fruit and veg to be found at the Milk Pail nearby. Safeway is good for groceries (except fruit and veg), is open 24 hours, and will also deliver to your door (the first delivery is free, otherwise it costs about $10). Make sure you sign up for a free Safeway card at the checkout lane to get the discounts. Trader Joe’s has organic groceries.

Sunday, Aug. 17
Went to San Francisco and visited the Berkeley campus. The food options around Berkeley are heaps better than Stanford. But the weather is not so good. Boalt Hall (Berkeley’s law school) was under construction at the time, so it probably didn’t look as good as it should.

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The hilly approach to Lombard St, San Francisco

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UC Berkeley’s School of Law

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Panorama of the Bay

Monday, Aug. 18
During class there was a peninsula-wide power outage that lasted for several hours, so we got an early mark. We ate lunch at Manzanita, one of the all-you-can-eat dining halls around campus. If you use Cardinal dollars to pay (which is basically prepaid credit stored on your student card), you can get lunch for about $6.75, which is great value and there’s heaps of variety (although the ice cream was soft because the power was out!). Met our first 1L JD who was in the process of completing a PhD in Political Science at Oxford. Everyone here is interesting!

Bought a used bike at the campus bike store and also met with my program advisor to discuss my selection of courses over the next year.

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My new used bike

Gave Yvonne a short tour of the Stanford campus and then had dinner on Castro with her and two other Aussie Googlers, Juvita and Roger.

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Stanford

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The postcard shot – giving Von a campus tour

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University or country club?

More photos in Facebook, but I’ll leave you with this one:

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Google’s toilets – clearly imported from Japan

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23
Aug 08
Sat

Ok…

Americans seem to think I’m British. The last one that thought that told me, “it’s because you enunciate your words. … Australians don’t. And Australians say ‘mate’ a lot too.” Right.

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8
Aug 08
Fri

Stanford: The First Week

I had planned to meet with three other grad law students upon arrival at San Francisco Airport – Jesse, Daryl and Vincent (a Kiwi, a Singaporean and a German respectively). I arrived at about 1pm, but Daryl’s flight was delayed and Vincent’s flight had been cancelled. So Jesse, Daryl and I shared a shuttle heading for Stanford with an American family, the parents of which we discovered were both Stanford alumni and were overflowing with praise for the university. Eventually, we made it onto Stanford’s sprawling campus some hours later, entering by the much-postcarded Palm Drive.

Stanford’s campus is without doubt beautiful, but almost completely impractical. I was told that the campus was the second largest in the world. Although I have my doubts about the veracity of that claim, there is no doubt that the campus is huge. It would not be overstating things to say it is at least 6 times larger than UNSW’s Kensington campus. The academic core of the campus is made up of a variety of single storey and low-rise buildings, based on a hodgepodge of early 1900s architecture. Scattered around these are an array of student residential buildings, including my home precinct of Escondido Village which is entirely populated by a variety of graduate students (walking through the area is somewhat reminiscent of walking through a retirement village). There is no apparent logic to the arrangement of buildings and bewildered new visitors are often found wandering around the grounds with a map in hand. I know I still am.

Getting around campus on foot can be punishing. Even staying on campus, it takes 15 minutes to walk to the law school, and I am living relatively close to it. Back in Sydney, I was staying off campus and I could get up to the law school in 12. Consequently, many students use a bike to get around and bike racks are happily ubiquitous. But ultimately, Stanford and the surrounding suburbs (Palo Alto, Mountain View, etc) are made for cars. In fact, the whole of California is made for cars. One of the biggest problems with Stanford is that there are no supermarkets or national bank branches on campus! It’s currently summer holidays and there is no public transport to the local Wal-mart or Safeway. And even if you get there somehow, there’s the problem of carrying things back home – when you’re moving in, there’s a lot of stuff you need to buy.

Fortunately for me, my flatmate has a car and he graciously drove me (and three other law buddies) to Wal-mart for our first shopping run. The car was loaded to the brim and it was with a great deal of humor that we squeezed everything into the trunk, under the seats, and on top of laps. The car was virtually dragging on its mudguards as it chugged out of the carpark. My flatmate is a really nice guy. He’s a Californian doing a PhD in applied physics (researching something along the lines of manufacturing a laser capable of reading/writing discs with the potential to store 400 gigs of data).

Stanford does provide a free shuttle service called the Marguerite which has stops around campus and also in surrounding areas such as Palo Alto. Unfortunately, my experience with it has led me to believe that it is notoriously unreliable. The whole system is partially broken and I could think of many things that could make it better – such as marking shuttle stops clearer, marking shuttle stops with directions/arrows, keeping timetables posted at the stops up to date (especially as the buses operate on a different schedule during summer), overlaying the shuttle route maps on the main campus map and most of all, making sure that routes are contiguous. We were trying to get back from the Bank of America, only to find that the bus terminated mid-route and we had to switch buses. So we switched buses and were on our way again. Only to have that bus terminate. Then we had to wait 10 minutes for the next bus to come along. This did not happen to us only once.

The weather has been decent, although not what I expected. It’s the tail end of summer and daytime highs reach the low 20s. Mornings are cold and I need to wear a jumper in the evening. Still, it’s been sunny and from what I hear, it doesn’t rain.

Yvonne graciously took me out to dinner at the main Google campus and gave me a tour of it a few nights ago. The place is insane (in a mindbendingly good way)! It was everything I’d read about and more. The best way for me to describe it is that it has such a vibrant university atmosphere – so much so you don’t feel like it’s a workplace. Visitors commonly wonder how any work gets done. Arriving there at 6.30pm, I found people playing beach volleyball, people swimming in swimming pool “treadmills” (complete with lifeguards), dogs cavorting on the lawns and a continuing bustle of Googlers in totally casual attire. Controlled chaos is an apt descriptor of the work environment inside. The whole deal might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me it is a dream. And I mean, how many people can say, “Let me take you out to dinner at my workplace,” and actually make that sound like a really attractive proposition?

Today was the first orientation day for us new LLM and JSM students. A really diverse crowd of law students – we have people from Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Israel, Egypt, Kenya, Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand (and me from Australia). Lots of people from Japan and China actually (they comprise maybe 25% of the total intake). I was surprised that there wasn’t UK representation, but then I found out that our resident Thai went to high school there and studied at LSE. Everyone seems pretty nice and down-to-earth, which is terrific. Not too many cultural differences at this stage, apart from some differences in types of humour (a joke not understood and not explained can be counterproductive!) and Jesse having to readjust the pronunication of his name (with the Great Kiwi Vowel Shift, he normally says “Juss-ee” which is then interpreted as “J.C.”).

Class starts on Monday and part of the assigned reading is the famous Hawkins v. McGee (the “hairy hand” case), which is basically the American equivalent of Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company (the “carbolic smoke ball” case), although the former is about contractual damages and the latter about offer and acceptance. Hawkins appears to be used as the first case that law students are exposed to in the US. However, as our lecturer has insisted on us calling her “Muffie” (her real name is Beth), I doubt my first day will be a Professor Kingsfield-ian experience as depicted in the Paper Chase:

“Mr Hart. Could you recite the facts of Hawkins versus McGee?”

Incidentally, there is a library here, the Green Library, which has 14000 DVDs for overnight hire (including blockbusters, indie flicks, foreign films, etc). I need to rent the Paper Chase since I haven’t actually since the whole movie…

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6
Aug 08
Wed

Holding post

Made it to Stanford… running around trying to get all the administrative stuff done. This campus is huuuge and there isn’t a decent supermarket anywhere near that is easily accessible with public transport (at least during the summer holidays, which it now is). Also, I visited and had dinner at the Googleplex tonight!! More on it all later…

30
Jul 08
Wed

Back in Sydney…

… with a cold unfortunately. Trying to pack for the US but am not in the mood to do much of anything at the moment. In my zoning out, I just realized that I’ve slept in six different places over the last six nights: the resort in Redang, friend’s place in Singapore, Aunt’s place, the plane, my place and my parents’ place. Post on Singapore is yet to be written…

18
Jun 08
Wed

The highlight of my week

“Oh my gosh, you’re all suited up! You’re gonna be out of place here.”

She wasn’t wrong. I had just left the staid, black basalt and grey carpet surroundings of my law firm, hauled ass all the way across the CBD, and now found myself sitting on some plush primary-coloured furniture among a lava lamp and several bright, giant inflatable exercise balls. I was slightly clammy with sweat from the trek despite the winter weather, and the tie didn’t help things. But the mild discomfort was overshadowed by the fact that I was now excitedly sitting in the waiting room of Google’s Sydney office and was finally going to get the chance to check it out.

As luck would have it, a friend scored a job at Google several weeks ago. Google serves its staff freshly cooked meals and they are allowed to bring in friends for a 3-course lunch (apparently up to 4 times a month, accordingly to the rarely-enforced internal policy). I saw this as my opportunity to shamelessly invite myself over and she had graciously accommodated.

You might’ve seen the photos when the office was first opened. Things were certainly as cool as they appear in the photos. The Sydney office is relatively small – only about 200 people – and all of them are supposed to be moving to better premises at Pyrmont in about 9 months. We walked through the cube farm on Level 18, where all the non-techies reside (sales staff, etc). Dell 24″ widescreens appeared to be standard. A number of vacant desks had nameplates reading “Future Googler”. At just after noon, lunch had been prepared so we made our way into the dining room. Apart from the daily buffet lunch that had been set up, the dining room had two well-stocked drinks fridges, a counter laden with snacks, a pool table and a massage chair turned around so it faced towards the window. A small LCD screen showed the day’s menu. They appear to cater for vegans and on Fridays they serve halal food.

We settled at a desk by the window. Various Googlers filtered through the room, all without exception in casual attire (not casual as in “business casual” of “casual Friday”, but true casual). A guy in a t-shirt and shorts walked by in a pair of thongs. Thongs! I need a job where I can wear open-toed footwear. Failing that, there’s always going back to being a university student…

After lunch we headed down to Level 11, where Google keeps most of its engineers. I was told that Google also had some secret stuff going down on Level 16, but we gave that level a miss. The office is very open plan with low cubicle walls, so it was a little surprising that the floor was so quiet (but that may have been because most of the people were in the lunch room because it was pizza day). The Level 11 lunch room also has a table tennis table. There were 30″ Dells everywhere. A few people were working on dual screens as well as laptops (for testing?). The vibe is very relaxed – you could almost feel the innovation in the atmosphere. I don’t think staff morale is a problem at this company.

The hour was up all too soon and I had to return to my office.

My next related mission in life: scam a visit to the Googleplex in Mountain View (and grab lunch there too)!

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21
May 08
Wed

Health checks

We had our annual “health and wellbeing” fair at work today. They turned the main function room into a bustling health fair of sorts and set up different stations where you can do all manner of different things.

The firm is currently running through the graduate recruitment process so there’s a constant stream of uni students waiting in reception to be interviewed. The main function room happens to be right next to the reception area, the mild bewilderment of the interviewees was evident as they watched people go into this room which looked like some sort of corporate funhouse and then emerge with showbags. (Hint to guys interviewing: please do not wear white socks with a suit and black shoes.)

I went to the body composition station and the massage station, but they had things like reflexology, iridology, heart checks, etc. They set the massage chairs along the North wall so you get a beautiful view of the harbour as well. Very relaxing. Somewhat surprisingly, my health appears to be fine… I’ve put on about 5kgs since I started working, but it’s still well within the healthy range. They measured some obscure stats as well. Apparently my basal metabolic age is 12(!), which is a good thing, but I’ve been warned it slows with age, making it easier to pack on the kilos. My hydration level is 63%, which is within the average range of 50-65%. This was very surprising, given my low daily intake of water. I get by on one 600ml bottle of water, then have a couple cups of water in the evening. My daily intake typically isn’t much more than a litre. Apparently my bones also weigh about 3 kilos and I have a visceral fat rating of 2.

At the end of the analysis, the person talking me through my stats wrote down some suggestions for me. One of them reads: “Increase physical activity, e.g., take stairs instead of lift.” Sitting on a floor 200 metres above ground level, I still can’t tell if she was joking or not.

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1
May 08
Thu

Throwback to Twitter… Y2K style

About 8 years ago I figured out how to use my mobile phone to post to the web. It was a sort of early, personal edition version of Twitter, as can be seen by my location-tracking posts throughout the course of a day. I also added a location and timezone tagging feature to it so that I could “twitter” overseas… although at up to 75 cents a pop (or about half a cent per letter), it wasn’t the most effective way of updating the blog. If only I had thought to make it multiuser :)

Sidenote: Regarding that second post I linked… oh for the days I could leave work at 5.30pm. I actually got into work at 6.30am today. (Note to aspiring law clerks and grads: “cross-border legal work” sounds much more glamorous than it really is. Much.) And sleep deprivation causes transient bouts of erratic peculiarity. Ros. How are you coping with those private equity deals?

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20
Mar 08
Thu

Happy Easter

Hope you all have a restful break.

Awesome skit. Starts off a bit slowly, but it sends a chill up my spine everytime at 3:48 and 4.35, especially when you hear the crowd lift.

6
Feb 08
Wed

Nice try, Paul

I received a letter from my state MP today – Paul Pearce, the member for Coogee. It arrived in an auspiciously-coloured red envelope and had four Chinese characters written on it. I can’t read Chinese, but it wasn’t rocket science to figure out it said “kung hei fat choi”. It’s Chinese New Year Eve, after all. It appears that Mr Pearce’s staff had gone through the electoral rolls and added anyone with a Chinese-sounding surname to the mass mailing list.

The letter reads, “As we farewell the Year of the Dog and welcome in the Year of the Pig, may I wish you and your family peace, happiness, [etc]“.

Most unfortunately for Mr Pearce, we are actually farewelling the Year of the Pig and welcoming the Year of the Rat. Whoops!

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26
Dec 07
Wed

A small post

Greetings. I’m now on holidays and it’s time for a much overdue post on some random bits and pieces. It’s been a long but, for the most part, a fairly uneventful year for me.

Tomorrow I leave for my annual overseas trip. Only two stops this time – Hong Kong and Tanzania. In Tanzania, I’ll be climbing Mt Kilimanjaro and going on a short safari through the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. Quite excited but feeling a bit of trepidation as well…

In the last couple years I’ve never really posted about what I actually do for a crust, so now’s a good a time as any. I’ve been working as a finance lawyer for about a year. In a nutshell, this means we help lenders lend money, and help borrowers borrow it. We prepare and negotiate the contracts that allow this to happen, and also provide advice when things go wrong. A lot of things have gone wrong this year. The “credit crunch” which has been prevalent in headlines for the last few months was sparked off by homeowners in the US not being able to make their mortgage payments. This set in motion a chain reaction which now means people are much less willing to lend money, which is a problem especially if your business depends on being able to get borrowed money… The work’s very interesting, and some lending arrangements can get pretty complex.

This has been the year of Facebook. It seems to have burst out from being a US-centric student’s social network. I’ve found it interesting see people’s different reactions to it… It’s basically the new mobile phone. When mobiles started getting popular at the turn of the millennium, the uptake was generally rapid. Maybe 75% of people in my first year of uni had them? But there was always a small minority who were steadfast in their refusal to get one. They had all sorts of reasons for not wanting them – they could use a payphone, or they valued their privacy and didn’t want to always be contactable, or it was another thing they’d have to carry around. It took several years, but mobiles became a part of mainstream culture and no one complains about “what the fuss about mobiles is”. They’re just nothing particularly “special” anymore.

Facebook is similar. The uptake has generally been rapid, but there’s always a small band of stalwarts who refuse to open an account because they “don’t see the point”. I’m sure that in time, as happened with mobiles, these people will eventually get accounts. Facebook will shift from being a “new fad” and just become a part of cultural norms. A friend has even sent out his annual Christmas “email” by Facebook this year, eschewing the traditional mass email.

24
Dec 07
Mon

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a great Christmas holiday.

24
Nov 07
Sat

We have a new government

This is an historical day.

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23
Nov 07
Fri

Election coverage – live

6.30pm: I smell a landslide to Labor. Early counts put several marginals at swings of over 5%, but it’s still early days.
6.33pm: notional seats won: ALP/Coalition/In doubt: 12/13/125 (target: 75).
6.40pm: Notional count: 21/20, no swing reported in Bennelong.
6.43pm: Eastern states show 3.5% swing to ALP but 6% in safe seats. Nick Minchin is getting cocky (on ABC).
6.45pm: Bennelong: 0.2% count, 56.2 to 43.8 ALP. Crowd on ABC going crazy, but people, there’s only been 200 votes counted!! Preferences are significant for McKew.
6.46pm: Notional count: 29/24.
6.51pm: Notional count: 32/28.
7.00pm: Boo, ABC having technical problems – no graphs.
7.05pm: Notional count: 41/31.
7.06pm: Macarthur showing swing to ALP in the order of magnitude of 10%!
7.09pm: Bennelong – 3 booths, 4.9% swing. They won’t call this for ages…
7.16pm: Wentworth, 0.5% swing to Turmbull.
7.27pm: Green says PM still on track to lose seat. Eden-Monaro borderline but towards ALP.
7.33pm: Deakin and Corangamite looks towards ALP winning. Computer is calling 4 seats going over to Labor in NSW. Bennelong is one of them. Notional: 58/37 – 4.8% swing 16.3% counted, Queensland still to report. More cheers in background, Green: “not sure why they’re getting excited about that”.
7.36pm: BENNELONG: 6.6% swing AGAINST PM with 6% counted. Phenomenal. Minchin is no longer cocky.
7.40pm: Notional: 61/41. At what point does a landslide become an avalanche?
7.42pm: Green has all but called it for Labor.
7.43pm: Macarthur called for Coalition by computer.
7.50pm: Bennelong swing is increasing…

Election 07 – Game on

This will be an exciting day. Just got back from donning one of the purple Maxine McKew t-shirts and handing out how-to-vote cards at one of the polling booths in Bennelong. With 13 candidates, there are all sorts of people out and about thrusting paper at voters. There are pretty much three types of people: the jaded ones who refuse to take any paper, the party loyal who brandish one piece of paper and tell off anyone who tries to give then another, and the undecided/bewildered ones who take anything you give them. It’s also pretty fascinating trying to spot what party a person would vote based on appearances.

Rumour has it that the Libs had hired out people at $80/hour to hand out how-to-vote cards, and I suspect there is some truth to that given the disproportionately high number of people from mainland China doing that.

Update (25/11): Our booth recorded a 8.75% swing.

27
Oct 07
Sat

EMP Race Report

Earlier in October, I once again participated in the annual EMP Race, this year donating towards the Starlight Foundation.

The event kicked off at Belmore Park, just outside Central Station at the somewhat rude time of 9.00am on a Saturday. Things were reasonably well organised (perhaps not as well as previous years though – for example, there were clue sheet shortages). The route was also shorter than the organisers expected by at least 1-2 hours and some of the clues were, shall we say… highly questionable. The race route was also highly concentrated around the CBD, although this is the first year where the Race has crossed the Harbour.


Larger map of the Race Route

After a small game involving swapping cards with other teams to spell words, we solved an anagram which directed us to head to Pyrmont Bay Park, opposite Star City. This was done on foot. There, we did a wheelbarrow race where the person holding the legs of their partner was blindfolded and directed from one end of the park to the other. The unblindfolded partner was then required to instruct their blindfolded compatriot to draw various things. Then we were sent back to the Harbourside shopping complex and made to fill out a question sheet about the shops in the surrounding area and find a particular photo from the nearby Yann Arthus-Bertrand photographic exhibition, “The Earth from Above” (which I very highly recommend you check out, if you’re in Darling Harbour).

The next checkpoint sent us to UNSW. We made a dash (or more like a quick walk at this stage) up to Elizabeth Street to catch a bus. There’s something about tourists and buses on Saturday morning. As with last year, just as about the bus was about to leave, this tourist gets on and engages the drive in a 5 minute-long conversation, much to the chagrin of all the racer on board the bus (and delight of all those running for it).

Pulling up at UNSW, we were directed to perform a three-legged walk up and down the main uni walkway, looking for numbers stuck on the back of lampposts. These numbers had to be combined mathematically and exchanged for the next clue, which was the first stupid clue of the race: “Where is a place that you can play ‘HIDE & SEEK‘? The location is hidden somwhere in the clue.”

Think about that one for a while. And keep thinking. After several very long minutes of guessing, it turns out that it the location was Hyde Park. We hopped on a bus again and headed back into the city. The task there was an eating one – each team had to eat a whole chilli and a whole lemon. Dorian foolishly elected to eat the chilli. There’s little that’s funnier than watching someone munch into a chilli thinking that it’s not so bad, only to react like they’ve been smacked in the head a split second later. With that task done, we took a 30 minute mandatory lunch break and then headed off to our next destination – Martin Place.

When we got there we were handed a collection tin and asked to collect at least one donation for the Starlight Foundation. Dorian immediately intercepted a group of three girls and practically demanded they give him one coin. Mortified, I caught up with him and hastily explained what we were actually collecting money for. They took a moment to consider, and then Dorian (it’s always class with him) goaded, “come on, you don’t want to look cheap do you?” I was even more mortified. “Mate, you can’t say that!” If someone had said that to me I would have walked off. But, amazingly, the girls were goaded into action and quite a few coins clunked into our tin.

We were then dispatched to Circular Quay to inspect all the plaques embedded in the ground (part of the “Writers’ Walk”) looking for writer’s surnames which started with the letter “D” (although the clue sheet had been misprinted as surnames ending with the letter “D”). Dorian and I split up, each taking one side of the Quay. We met back up to find, rather worringly, that neither of us had discovered any names at all, so we swapped sides and managed to find four names which the other had completely missed on the first sweep.

The next stop was Observatory Hill, which took some time getting to because we took a couple wrong turns and getting there the long way. Once there, we had to roll down a hill (very dizzy!), inflate a beach ball (even dizzier!) and then kick it up the hill and back. Our next clue was another stupid one: “Go to the place where you’d find the wild mouse.” We were stuck there for a good 20 minutes trying to figure that one out.

We finally figured out where we had to go to next, taking the ferry to Luna Park, the final checkpoint. The last task was to find a guy milling about in the park with a lightning bolt drawn in texta above his eye (a Harry Potter reference). That was pretty fun actually, until we spotted him and he decided to sprint away. We started to pursue him, but quickly determined we were in no mood to run that late in the day and finally caught up with him when he got tired. We finished in a mediocre way, at about 3.00pm in the middle of the pack, an hour behind the leaders (after only being 15-20 minutes behind at lunchtime). Nonetheless, a fun day was had by all!

11
Oct 07
Thu

The Invasion

At work, hordes of moths have invaded the foyer. Hundreds of black specks flutter under the high glass roof of the atrium and impromptu colonies blacken the walls, tightly clustered and nestled in the sandstone and granite corners. The scene in the foyer, normally a staid, prim centre of corporatism, is almost comical. Workers navigate the floor, their gait punctuated by erratic ducking and weaving, as if evading phantom punches. Some people have their camera phones out. Some people are visibly afraid. Outside my window, some fifty-something floors up, moths occasionally thud against the glass. The roads are littered with torn wings and dried moth torsos and the footpaths blotted with a million oily patches.

It’s that time of year again: the Bogong moths are on the move. They know summer’s coming and they’re migrating to the cooler climes of Snowy Mountain caves. Along the way, the nocturnal moths become distracted by the bright city lights and, thinking that the sun’s come up, descend upon Sydney by the thousands. Bogongs are univoltine, which means that they breed one generation each year (yep, I found that off Wikipedia) and therefore the migration is an annual event. Those that do get to the caves aestivate (which is the same as hibernation, but in summer).

Meanwhile, back in the foyer, building management has hired a cleaning guy and equipped him with a back-mounted vacuum cleaner fitted with a 3 metre long attachment. Each day he slowly makes his way around the foyer performing the Sisyphean task of sucking dead moths off the floors, couches, concierge desks and chasing down the live ones crawling on the walls. At least we can all be thankful that they’re not stinging insects.

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4
Sep 07
Tue

APEC summit

My workplace is more or less near the centre of the CBD’s “declared area“. Buses terminate at Martin Place where crowds of suits are herded into the pedestrian channels, lined by 3 metre high metal fences anchored by massive concrete blocks. Police linger on each street corner. Newly-installed loudspeakers attached to traffic lights as part of Sydney’s new emergency warning system add that extra bit of East Berlin-charm to the CBD. Helicopters hover in the skies above… even once inside my building, you can hear them, periodically buzzing by the window. My window overlooks the Intercontinental (Dubya’s hotel during the summit) and I can see snipers on its roof. Sirens occasionally wail through the streets from vehicles engaged in what are (hopefully) training exercises. The streets around Circular Quay are virtually devoid of people and vehicles. It’s all quite surreal and a little disconcerting. And the newspapers say that the police are currently in “minimum security mode”. Dubya is going to arrive in the next couple hours and they are going to lock things down even more tomorrow. Employees have been advised to carry proof of ID and employment at all times.

APEC would be a more exciting prospect if they didn’t keep Sydneysiders away from everything with a 500 metre stick. It’s an honour to be hosting it, but to the person on the street, it sure doesn’t feel like it.

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27
Aug 07
Mon

A death in the family

I got a phone call from Dad this morning while at work. Bad news. One of my grandmothers died sometime during the night in Singapore. My uncle had the terrible experience of discovering her in the morning slumped in an easy chair. The whole family is in shock – she was in good health and relatively young. No one had time to say goodbye.

I called my grandfather this evening. Judging by the background noise on the call, the house was a hive of activity as everyone had gone over to pay their respects and offer their condolences. It was good to hear that and at least I knew my grandfather was receiving support and comfort.

People often ask me how it’s like being an only child. I think the worst thing about it is the lack of people available to support each other if something bad does happen in the family. At least in my parents’ generation, they have 5, 10, even 15 siblings to help them through times like that. So for me, in lieu of brothers or sisters to turn to, I guess that makes my closest friends just that little bit more special.

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10
Aug 07
Fri

Sighted on George St

I don’t know about you, but I’m not too sure about renting a place whose biggest selling point is that there’s no one living on the balcony.

Couldn’t find any mention of how many bedrooms the apartment has, but I suspect they are trying to fit six people into a one bedroom apartment.

28
Jul 07
Sat

Flatmate #3

Got a new flatmate today. Currently at the barely-know-each-other stage. So you exchange the usual pleasantries etc, but if you really want to know someone these days you Google them :). And this one came with a blog. I’m sure Fred will eventually find this blog entry and may or may not freak out a little (hi Fred).

As the very first question he asked me when he turned up was, “What broadband plan are you on?” I have a feeling we will get along just fine. Except, it seems, where it comes to football. Could be a few fireworks there :).

9
Apr 07
Mon

Upon closer inspection

Was walking down Anzac Parade a while ago and there was this bright yellow poster on the wall with the title “Spreadable” emblazoned on it (along with a picture of a tub of margarine). So my initial impression was that it was another one of those ads for a dance party with a particularly creative (although somewhat graphic) name. But it turned out to be an ad for a Christian event. Maybe they should have given some thought about the name. (Or maybe I shouldn’t have!)

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24
Dec 06
Sun

Merry Christmas!

Hope everyone has a fantastic break!

15
Oct 06
Sun

Comment on global warming

First of all, I haven’t seen An Inconvenient Truth. Second of all, I’m not disputing in this post that global warming is likely to be occurring. However, I do have a bone to pick with people who think that Saturday’s beautiful 36 degree weather is “yet another sign of global warming so why doesn’t the government do anything about it?”

Global warming only requires a relatively small change in mean surface temperature to cause significant changes in the global environment. Let’s check out from Wikipedia and see what we find with regard to temperature projections over the next century.

Models referenced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) project that global temperatures may increase between 1.4 and 5.8 °C (2.5 to 10.5 °F) between 1990 and 2100. The uncertainty in this range results from both the difficulty of estimating the volume of future greenhouse gas emissions and uncertainty about climate sensitivity.

Assume the most aggressive estimate of a rise in average temperature over the next century holds true: a 6°C rise over 100 years. A temperature change that large would be pretty horrific. But taken a year at a time, that’s only a rise of 0.06°C each year (on average). No one can feel a temperature difference that small. Let’s look at it another way. If we add the average daily temperatures throughout the year (“Yearly Aggregate”), a 0.06°C rise in the average temperature means that the following year should yield a Yearly Aggregate of about 22 degrees more. In practical terms, this could be manifested in a 3 week period where the temperature is one degree warmer, or it could be manifested in a three day heat wave where the temperature is 7 degrees warmer than the average temperature for that time of year. So my point is that given this, it just doesn’t make sense to say “Summer came early this year” and point to that anecdotal gut feeling as corroborating scientific evidence of rising temperatures. It basically shouldn’t be possible to notice global warming just by looking at the temperature report on the news or counting how many beach days there were last summer. The temperature differences are just too small for the average Joe to notice, even over a 10 year period. Therefore, the throwaway lines about the weather just don’t hold water.

Of course, if someone provided me with a better reason, then I might agree with those anecdotal observations. Perhaps something along the lines of – global warming causes more extremes in temperature, so you get more hotter-than-average days and more colder-than-average days (though on balance, there are more hot days than cold ones) which means it’s more noticeable. But I’d only be guessing there.

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Events of the week

Went to the Australia vs Bahrain football match on Wednesday. It was good for the first half hour or so. Then we started to see so many stretches come out onto the field you’d think there was a war going on. The Bahrain players appeared to fall for seemingly innocuous contacts, writhing about the field in agony long enough for the stretcher to come out. But of course, as soon as the stretcher appeared, lo and behold, the player was standing up again, miraculously healed and limp-free. Their delaying tactics worked and Bahrain’s under-21 team walked away with an respectable 2-0 loss, achieved in an unfortunately unrespectable fashion.

On the way home on the bus, we noticed a whole bunch of police cars and ambulances around the uni walkway entrance to UNSW. Gang violence? No. Just a bunch of rowdy underagers at an underage dance party bashing each other over the head with pool cues. They must think they’re so hard while the rest of Sydney shakes their heads in amusement. Not such a cool look when you’re writhing on the ground after copping a faceful of capsicum spray! (I’m getting images of Vinnie Jones walking up to the Roundhouse and saying, “I ‘eard you say you were ‘ard… ARE YOU ‘ARD?!“).

Saw a James Morrison gig at The Basement. Great performance, except that next time I’m booking a table. Had a few interesting “added extras” including his new vocal synthesiser and digital trumpet. He also squeezed three notes simultaneously out of his trombone in a pretty cool display of multiphonics. The man also has an impressive set of lungs combined with a circular breathing technique that made him look like a frenetic puffer fish on speed. Great stuff.

Watched The Departed. It’s a Western adaptation of the Infernal Affairs trilogy – a set of Hong Kong films, the first of which came out about 4 years ago starring a big name cast. The Western version, directed by Scorsese is actually pretty good. There are several changes made to the story, but the guts of it remain the same. I’d recommend it, but you must also see the original films (or at least the first one). I thought the original was snappier and more of a fun rollercoaster ride than the Scorsese one which felt a little drawn out and not as twisty. But maybe that’s because I had an idea of where the plot was heading the second time around.

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10
Oct 06
Tue

Werewolf

I went to a Werewolf night recently. Werewolf is a game also commonly known as Mafia. The rules are simple and you don’t need anything to play it except people. Sly, backstabbing, two-faced, lying, shameless people. And the more the better.

Let’s say you have 12 people playing (plus 1 person who is the game’s “narrator”). You allocate, by some random, secret means, three people to be werewolves, and the rest to be villagers. The game has two phases, day and night. In the night time, the narrator gets everyone to close their eyes. The werewolves then open their eyes and by hand gestures, indicate to the narrator which villager to kill. The werewolves close their eyes.

The day phase starts with everyone opening their eyes. The narrator tells who was killed during the night – that person is then removed from the game (but spectating is quite fun). People then have to work out who are the werewolves. At the end of the “day” everyone votes. The person who receives the most votes is lynched. The identity of the lynched person is then revealed. The task of the villagers is to kill all the werewolves during the day. The task of the werewolves is to bring the villager population down to the same size as the werewolf population (during the night and by manipulating votes during the day).

Variants can be added in, with people being allocated “special roles”. For example, a seer is a villager who gets to wake up during the night and obtain the identity of a player from the narrator. The seer can then disclose this information in the daytime (although they are likely to die quickly that night). The other problem is that multiple people can then claim to be seers.

It kept us entertained for hours, was good for helping people remember people’s names and breaking the ice. At the start of the night the group was fairly hesitant and quiet, but by the end of it slander and accusations were being blasted about left, right and centre.

I just have to recount one game where I managed to thread the eye of the needle. There were 14 players including 2 werewolves and 1 werehampster (Jonathan, myself and Jo), 1 seer and 1 witch. On the very first day, the crowd sentiment disturbingly looked like it was turning towards Jonathan so on a whim I decided to vote for him, despite him being a fellow werewolf. Much to his chagrin, he was narrowly voted off with 4 votes. The loss proved to be a boon for me further down the track. In the second round, in an amazing case of bad luck for us werebeings, suspicions turned to Jo and she was voted off nearly unanimously (sensing the bloodthirsty atmosphere, I was forced to jump on the bandwagon). So there I was, 1 werewolf against 10 raging villagers. And to my surprise, I began to pick them off one by one. Suspicions never rested on me for very long because I could always point to voting against Jonathan and Jo. The other issue was selecting very carefully who to kill at night. Even when Simon developed an accusatory attitude towards me, I left him alone for several rounds at night. In the end, I managed to turn his seemingly wild accusations against him during the day, convincing the rest that his crusade against me was evidence he was a wolf. He was promptly voted off. I also tried to quickly kill off those physically closest to me so they wouldn’t hear me moving around at night. The other consideration was to kill off people who “vigourously” voted for someone else in the previous round – in the daytime you could then accuse that someone else of committing a revenge killing to shut up his or her “vigourous accuser”. In the end, it was down to three. I had enough trust at that point to be the person in the “pivot role” – with the other two people trying to convince me that they weren’t the wolf. All I had to do was confirm they were going to vote for the other person and my work was done.

But that destroyed my credibility for the night. In the next game I was unanimously voted off in the first round (I was a villager).

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5
Oct 06
Thu

In other news…

I get admitted as a lawyer tomorrow. More on the weekend.

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7
Sep 06
Thu

EMP Race Report

The second day of Spring, last Saturday, was a great day for holding the annual EMP Race – an Amazing Race-style one-day competition around Sydney with entry proceeds going to Canteen.

The start this year was in the Domain, with around 30 teams impatiently waiting for the start in the hot sun. There was a bit of a delay, but we got going at 11.00am. The first task was to win five games of rock, paper, scissors against any other team, followed by a short wheelbarrow race to the first checkpoint.


Larger map of the Race Route

The first checkpoint was a detour. We were to proceed to the State Art Gallery and pick whether to do a bunch of Sudoku puzzles, or go look for cows in the Gallery. Alison was pretty quick to veto Sudoku (if only I had a 3G mobile), so we were off in the Gallery looking for a room that “looked like a hat” which had a painting called Canterbury Meadows in it. After wandering around for a few worrying minutes, we didn’t find any room that looked remotely like a hat, but we did find a room with a bunch of Racers furiously pointing at a painting filled with farm animals. In a few minutes, we were off to report our results (how many cows we had counted) to the checkpoint people, passing a bunch of perplexed Racers on the Gallery steps who were still trying to put numbers into boxes.

The next clue took us to Pitt St and a store which “Megan Gale should not be seen promoting”. We darted across Hyde Park, up Market St and into Pitt St Mall outside Myer. There we had to sing a nursery rhyme for three minutes (we got Old Macdonald had a farm) before being directed to go to the Fish Markets. As I was trying to figure out what bus we should take, Alison was already running to the bus stop behind the QVB (and this is despite her being a Pom for most of her life). Our timing was impeccable, and the bus pulled up as we got there. Unfortunately, hordes of Saturday morning tourists were taking their sweet time embarking, so we must have sat there for about 5 stressed minutes before the bus finally chugged off.

At the Fish Markets we had to gather a few prices, read the “conditions of entry” to the markets (maximum $500 fine if you bring a pet there!), and other miscellaneous tasks. The next clue directed us to the field where “Nerds FC” was filmed. As luck would have it, I used to do dragonboating in the area, and we used to buy lunch at the fishmarkets and eat it in the park next to it – Wentworth Park – which was also the Nerds FC stomping grounds.

There, we found another detour – either kick a soccer ball around the pitch, or colour in an outline of your partner on a large roll of butcher’s paper. We made short work of that, thanks to the small size of Alison’s profile. We were then sent to Railway Square. Failing to determine if there was any way via public transport, we basically jogged to George Street and caught a bus up to Railway Square. (It turned out that at least one other team decided to pay for and catch a tram to Central and walk to Railway Square.)

At the Square, we discovered we were currently in the pole position. We were then handed two bits of paper. On one was a bunch of countries’ flags which we had to identify. The other contained a “catch-phrase” type game which produced names of train stations. Once the train stations were determined, we had to find out what platform trains going to those stations left from. A well placed phone call to Kev made short work of the flags (who handily had a wall atlas with world flags on it). However, we made a mistake with one of the train station names (picture of trumpets and a bee – we incorrectly guessed Toongabbie) and had to waste a good 5 minutes tracking back to Central to rectify our mistake (the correct station was Hornsby).

The next clue sent us to Newtown via bus, where we met with frustration. The task involved finding out the names of various shops along King St, but we had to retrace our steps several times trying to find the correct stores. By the time we got to the checkpoint, there were already several teams ahead of us.

After the thirty minute mandatory rest period, the Race organisers decided to give us an unusual two-part task. First we had to count the 600+ tiles on some steps, and second we had to cover a meat tray (the type you get mince on at the supermarket) completely with string (there were rolls and rolls of the stuff). The latter task took considerable time, during which several half-bemused passers-by shot confused looks our way as Racers kept muttering, “You can’t be serious.”

With meat tray successfully wrapped, the next clue sent us off to the Paddington Gate of Centennial Park. The lunch break had cooled my muscles down, and the sudden re-exertion on them threatened to cramp them up. Luckily I had a few bus rides to stretch out. To get to Paddington, we had two options – a 378 from Railway Square, which I had never taken before, and a 380 from Elizabeth Street, which I had taken before, but was further away. One other team was on the same bus out of Newtown as we were. They elected for the 378 but we made for the 380.

At Centennial Park, we arrived at another detour. Option 1 was to make and wear a newspaper skirt, as well as drink a Tabasco, chilli, vinegar and lemon “shot”, eat a spoonful of Vegemite and a Weet-bix (Alison once again was quick to veto this). Option 2 was to shred five carrots and make a picture out of the shreddings representing the theme, “all the money in the world”. Which was quite fitting given the gratuitous wasting of food we were engaged in – something that would be unthinkable in most parts of the world. One abstract art masterpiece later and we were off to the “Icebergs side of Bondi Beach” to look for someone named Jeff.

We got to the bus stop, but our run of serendipity with buses came to an end and we had to wait for some time for a bus. Another team had arrived in that time, but they elected to catch a 378 which only went to Bondi Junction – which is not Bondi Beach. A 380 finally came and we hopped on.

The 380 crawled through Bondi Junction where sizeable crowds of people were enjoying a nice Saturday afternoon of shopping. It was quite hot – just like a summer’s day and the bus ride made us incredibly drowsy. All the running about was taking its toll.

Finally we got to Bondi and we made a beeline for Icebergs. We couldn’t find anyone that looked like they were part of the Race. We asked the bouncer but he replied that there wasn’t a Jeff there. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, we ascertained we were meant to be down on the beach and not up at Icebergs. On the beach, we were to build up a pile of sand to knee height. Exploiting the lack of guidelines surrounding that instruction, we simply took a previous team’s pile and moved it across one metre to make our own.

Next destination: “Take a 30 minute walk to Tamarama.” And walk we did, because there was no way we were going to be running at that stage. On the way, we walked past Icebergs again, past a group of guys in newpaper skirts talking to a bouncer who was yelling: “For the tenth time, there’s no Jeff here! Now go away!”

The coastal walk between the eastern suburbs beaches (Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Coogee) is normally a nice one, but we weren’t really in a condition to appreciate the view. Along the way we had time to digest the next clue, which detailed a manual labour task involving filling up a bucket with seawater using a milk carton with holes poked into it. That was the description, but the reality was a rude shock.

When we pulled up at Tamarama, the “buckets” were large margarine containers and the “milk cartons” were the small containers your grandmother keeps her pills in. With a hole in the bottom of them. The containers were all placed at least 25 metres from the sea, necessitating a dozen torturous trips over the soft sand to shuttle water to our container.

After that sadistic task, the final leg was a painful walk down to Bronte Beach. (My calf muscles had all but packed it in at that stage and I was literally on the verge of cramping with every step.)

We finished just before 4.30pm, placing 5th, with the winners ariving at 4.13pm. Despite the pain involved, it was actually a very fun day! Till next year then.

23
Aug 06
Wed

Thredbo and the end of Winter


Skiing in Australia

Okay, well Thredbo wasn’t that dismal, but when people were wandering around the village in t-shirts, we were left wondering if we would be better off bushwalking instead. As expected there were lots of icy patches, exposed grass, dirt, rocks. Still, there were a few passable runs.

Don uploaded some trip photos here. (To explain a picture there, that spoon I’m carrying has a bit of cognac in it… in lieu of a tumbler, which would surely have killed me.)

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14
Aug 06
Mon

Electronic census teething problems?

Received under the door, a card: “I called today to remind you to return your completed Census form(s), however no one was at home.” The card contained the census collector’s phone number. Robin called him to say we had filled out the online form. The reply was that the form wasn’t filled in correctly. However, he could not identify which online form was the culprit (Robin and I filled out separate forms), nor could he explain why we had received confirmation numbers after successfully filling out the form. Of course, once you complete the form, you’re locked out and can’t get back in. At least I kept my confirmation number and know they can’t fine me straight away. It’ll be ironic if filling out the online form proves to be more hassle than just handing in the paper version.

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13
Aug 06
Sun

City 2 Surf

My legs are currently in a fair deal of pain. I guess training beforehand is a good idea.

Blogathon thanks

Just a note of thanks to Wade and the anonymous donor who sponsored and donated to World Vision for Blogathon. Much appreciated, guys.

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29
Jul 06
Sat

Blogathon Post 22

Always in the mood for a good prank.

Link of the half-hour: Gas pump prank (video).

Blogathon Post 21

My brain is still not working at this hour.

Link of the half-hour: Microsoft’s Photosynth idea.

Blogathon Post 20

They say the hour before dawn is the darkest. I wonder why? I bet you Google will know…

Link of the half-hour: “The darkest hour is before dawn“. Oh, it’s just an idiom. I’m disappointed, I thought there was some fact behind it.

Blogathon Post 19

5.00am.

Link of the half-hour: “I’m her… daddy!” (video). Why don’t Australian companies ever make ads like this?

Blogathon Post 18

It’s still dark outside.

Link of the half-hour: Some pretty cool photos. You might have seen some of them before.

Blogathon Post

*Yawn*. Good morning. It’s dark outside. That’s just wrong. Hmm I see Doz has done a spate of posts on movies.

Link of the half-hour: People get maths tuitioning, science tuitioning, piano lessons… but now, at rates of over US$50, computer gaming lessons.

Blogathon Post 3

Okay things should be right to handover now.

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Blogathon Post 2

Still waiting for Doz to get back… and I’m having a few problems getting his user ID and timezone settings set up. Never had to add an extra user to this blog before…

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Blogathon Post 1

And we’re off. I’m going to hand over the posting to Doz soon when he gets back from his party, so I can grab a little shut-eye before the long haul. I’ll probably cobble together some posts with actual content on the other side of sleep.

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8
May 06
Mon

Disjointed and somewhat random

Site is looking a bit lonely, so I’m going to chuck in a series of disjointed and somewhat random sentences: Got around to watching Firefly. It really is a fantastic series, pity it was cut so short. Getting really cold in the mornings, and it’s not even Winter yet. After five years, I finally tried the Colombian restaurant down the road (La Cumbia), it’s not bad, but I can’t say I’ll be back there anytime soon. Went to paintball on Anzac Day, which is sort of an unpatriotic thing to do because it’s not like you can pretend that your team are the Anzacs storming the beach (if you’re on the winning side). Action Paintball has got a good variety of game scenarios, but I still prefer Heartbreak Ridge. Saw Mission Impossible 3 – thought it was pretty decent, although Maggie Q’s Cantonese is shocking (and that’s coming from me!). Doing Trust Accounting for College of Law – it’s bringing back bad memories of first year Accounting.

The site’s photo album is on the fritz. Was working one moment, gone the next. Pesky hosting company did something to it. I’ll get around to fixing it one day, but as I suspect it requires a complete reinstall, that one day may be some time off. I’ll post on the front page instead. Here’s some photos from Suma’s camera of the aftermath of this year’s Lachs moot. Bit more lively than last year!

 

 

 

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30
Apr 06
Sun

Reader feedback required

It is alleged that there is a hard and fast rule that when you’re in the early stages of dating someone (first couple months, say), it is a dealbreaker for the guy to SMS the girl in substitute for a phone call. Supposedly, this signals either non-interest on the guy’s part, or if that is not true, gross laziness which is to be avoided at all costs. In other words, if such a girl receives an SMS, it is more probable than not that she will terminate the relationship. This was the first any of us three guys tonight had heard of this “rule”. Yet, all three girls were in total agreement over the matter, as if it were a matter of universally known social courtesy. Independent verification is required: do you agree? Comments, please?

19
Apr 06
Wed

College of Law

Civil Litigation exam tomorrow. Suck.

Q: What do these words have in common: pre-trial, status, final, case management, evaluation, trial management?
A: They are all types of conferences that you have to go through before you get a hearing (depending on what court you’re in). Oh yes, fascinating.

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7
Apr 06
Fri

I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse

Ok here’s the deal. You’re at a party in a townhouse attached to Teascapes Cafe at The Spot, Randwick. The time is 2.00am, the temperature outside is about 18 degrees. After a protracted negotiation, you have six reasonably attractive girls offering to kiss you anywhere you want above the waist, either together or one by one (if on the mouth, tongue not included, boo). Photographic evidence will be taken and provided to you for your posterity. In order to collect on this offer, you have to strip to your underwear (briefs not boxers), pop on some sneakers, and walk to the Ritz Cinemas, only 50 metres away. You must strike several poses in front of the Ritz’s front doors, get photographed, and then return home. You are drunk. Do you accept? Do you?

Last night, one fellow who shall not be named, with some um… gentle persuasion, accepted the challenge and was applauded and whistled at by several passers-by for his efforts. Unfortunately upon returning, overcome by a blood alcohol level in the permanent liver damage-range, he passed out cold before he could reap his rewards. Photographic evidence is now available to the highest bidder.

1
Apr 06
Sat

Time extension!

An extra hour to sleep in, or an excuse to stay up an extra hour later?

12
Mar 06
Sun

A quick word

I have a new flatmate! Robin moved in today. First College exam is on Thursday, yuck. That’s all for now.

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28
Feb 06
Tue

Don’t look down

I thought I’d better pop in and make a real post. It’s my third week into work. I like corporate bathrooms. They’re always quite sanitary and there’s never a problem with finding a dry, clean toilet seat. But the ones at work kinda freak me out. The cubicles in particular.

You see, the floors are made of black granite. It’s polished stone, therefore it shines and is reflective. So one day when I sat down on a toilet to do my business, I looked around the cubicle as you do when you have no other way of occupying yourself while on the john. I looked down at the floor and saw a faint reflection. It took a couple seconds for my eyes to resolve the image, but I realised that I was seeing a reflection of someone in the adjacent cubicle, from a bottom-up perspective through the gap underneath the cubicle wall. I couldn’t see anything clearly, but I could generally see what he was doing. He was reading a newspaper (and taking a shit, of course). My eyes weren’t going to wait until he started wiping his ass, so I went straight back to entertaining myself by reading the building evacuation plan stuck on the cubicle door. Someone didn’t think things through when designing that bathroom…

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13
Feb 06
Mon

Bits and pieces

I start work on Thursday (this time, for real!). It’s probably about time, all my friends who are my age have already hit this stage of life… and despite my constant whining, I am actually looking forward to it.

Been fiddling around with AJAX (I can’t believe they gave something like that a name) and stuck a counter on the sidebar. The Javascript checks the hit count every 15 seconds and updates the page if it needs changing. The sparkline-driven graph lists a rolling graph of hits over the last 14 24-hour periods. Also brought back the random photos. Uploaded a couple extra photos here.

4
Dec 05
Sun

On doing nothing

I used to be a uni bum, but now I’m just a bum. Having zero commitments is a very strange feeling. It actually comes with a bit of guilt and I have to keep reminding myself that this was the plan all along. Haven’t been working towards anything, just treading water, taking each week as it comes. I often have nothing planned for the next week, but by the weekend, the next week has filled up with stuff to do… catching up with friends, movies and a concert, indoor rock climbing, lan parties, getting some exercise in the gym, cooking, reading, catching up on TV episodes, casino scalping, etc… all the sort of stuff that tends to fall by the wayside when there are more things we like to regard as “important” to do. When you have all the time in the world, even the mundane things are pleasant – grocery runs, cleaning – because they’re not stuff you have to get out of the way so you can get on to the “important” stuff. It’s nice to be able to say “yes” to everything. I think it’s an experience everyone should try and not have to wait until retirement to try it. I start work in mid-February.

As you may have realised from the sidebar, I’m travelling around the world again soon. This time I’m with parents which explains my financial ability to go again. I’m with them up until Italy, then I’m splitting off to HK and KL which I’m looking forward to a lot. I think jet lag will be a real problem on this trip since it’s heading eastwards with a couple of 8 hour timezone jumps. There’s meant to be a largish family gathering in freezing-cold Vancouver though it’s with my dad’s sister-in-law’s side of the family so there’ll be lots of new faces. Though through the marvels of the net, I know one of them is a professional poker player which ought to be interesting. Someone also organised a Secret Santa list which will be interesting because I don’t even know the person I’m meant to be buying stuff for – no age, background, nothing except gender.

29
Nov 05
Tue

Auction – everything priced to clear!

It is a sad day. In a little over a week, my fantastic flatmate of five years is moving permanently back to the humid shores of Malaysia. Unfortunately, his funds have been seriously depleted after a budgeting mishap stemming from alcohol abuse last Friday. In an effort to rejuvenate these funds via high-risk high-return investing, a further, uh… mishap, at Star City has eliminated whatever vestige of hope he had of paying his bus fare to the airport next week.

Accordingly, he is having a firesale of his remaining assets on eBay with rock bottom starting prices. Check out the stationery grab bag – it’s a true bargain!

Bid now!

24
Jun 05
Fri

It’s All Over

I handed in my very last law exam on Tuesday. It was for Industrial and Intellectual Property, which is a subject that for some reason is perennially popular, but is actually a lot less glamourous than it sounds. What an Australian statute is doing by defining a phrase by stubbornly referring the reader to a UK Act passed in 1623 (and which the UK itself itself has long since replaced) is quite bizarre.

But anyway, it’s the end of my six and a half year stint at UNSW. I pulled up my library borrowing record and it shows:

Borrowing record

Three items. As you can see, I’m a prodigious library user. One loan was for a set of keys to a moot room which I used for tutoring, one is a loan for a friend doing Med, and the other was an open reserve loan for another friend. So, in effect, I’ve never borrowed a book for myself from the library. God bless the Internet and electronic resources.

I’m definitely going to miss my time at uni. Now seems like an opportune time to answer the five questions Sarni asked of me a while ago:

1. Do you think you foresee any problems reconciling your faith with your work as a lawyer?
I’ve never seen law as an inherently evil profession, even before I became a law student, and regardless of whether the lawyer is one working in a community legal centre, LegalAid, in a Fortune 500 company or a large commercial firm. It’s a popular view that lawyers are evil, and one that’s not going to change in a hurry, but there’s not much we can do about that except influence those closest to us to recognise otherwise.

As a corporate lawyer, I think I see the biggest danger is the lifestyle pitfall. The long hours and vaulting ambition that most people have can make work all consuming and there’s a danger of beginning to “define yourself” by the work you do. Not to say that this is a bad thing, but it’s not something I want. I always thought that it was strange that the types of people who get into these types of firms have a very well rounded lifestyles, yet for a few of them when they start working, life becomes very one dimensional. This takes away from everything else in life, faith especially.

2. Who would be the five people at your ideal dinner party (dead or living)?
Ideally, I would invite four close friends and the fifth would be one interesting personality. But if this question is really asking which five people I would like to have a chat with, I would say, off the top of my head… Bill Gates, Meg Whitman, Michael Kirby, Gene Roddenberry and Bill Clinton. I don’t like these listing type questions because I always think of something better later on, but oh well.

3. If you were to have children, would you consider being the stay at home dad? Under what circumstances?
Possibly, yes. The circumstances would have to be that firstly finances weren’t an issue, especially in terms of being able to provide kids with a good education and the opportunity to have opportunities. Secondly, that I still would have freedom for other pursuits – perhaps genuine part time work that I can do from home. I enjoy variety in life, and I think it’s possible to raise a family and still be involved in other things. Or perhaps I’m being incredibly naive, I dunno. I’m sure I’ll eventually learn one way or the other.

4. How would you describe the differences between IT and law?
I think that in an abstract sense both professions are more similar than different. Both have two aspects: one of them everyone is familiar with – problem solving when things go wrong. The second of them is when things need to get built and IT and law act to support and facilitate the building (eg, if you start up a business, you’ll need someone to provide you with the IT gear to manage it, and a lawyer to draft up the lease agreements and so on). The problem with IT is that it’s often a thankless profession. There’s never really a good reason for why things go wrong, even if it’s the user that stuffs things up (“you should have built it simpler!”). People get irate and for some reason take it out on IT. When you do fix things up because it’s fixing something that shouldn’t have gone wrong in the first place, “you can sod off back to your call centre now so I can get on with my work”. It’s trite but true that when IT is doing their job well, they are invisible. So much for job satisfaction. On the other hand, the other aspect of IT, the creative, building side of things, is fun but there doesn’t seem to be much of that around since the Dot Com Bust, and the Australian IT industry was never very entrepreneurial in that sense anyway.

Law is about problem solving as well, but because the problems/issues are often client-caused and involve a third party, you don’t start off on a bad footing with them – the “opposition” is the third party. And in many cases, there is no opposition – you’re simply facilitating a business deal, helping someone to write their will, or so on.

Apart from that, I don’t think they are all that different.

5. What are the most important things your parents have taught you?
Typically Asian, the first is the importance of education, and atypically Asian, the second is to do what I enjoy. Regarding the first, I don’t think education is important because of what you learn in 3-unit maths or at univeristy, or that piece of paper you get at the end of it all. You can be successful in life with neither. I think education is important because of the people you meet during it, which really broadens your worldview, and the opportunities that arise through it.

Regarding the second, it’s a simple concept, I’ve written about it before. I tutor a couple of first-year law students and in the first tutoring session, I asked them why they chose law. “Because I didn’t get the marks to get into med.” Ok, but why law? “Because I got the marks to get into law.” For people that intelligent, you’d think their reasoning would be a little more well-thought out. I was lucky in having the freedom to choose a course that I thought would be interesting, yet I know that for lots of other people, their parents would have made it unthinkable to select a course whose entrance cutoff was 6% lower than the UAI they received. In the end, I figured out for myself that IT perhaps wasn’t what I wanted, but I wouldn’t have chosen differently even if I could do it all again, because I was able to make the choice for myself. My parents gave me advice, but didn’t choose for me.

14
Jun 05
Tue

You can tell it’s exam time

The Corps Act is kicking my ass, and travel planning is very distracting. Proper updates will resume when the stress levels subside.

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.

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19
May 05
Thu

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.

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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! :(

23
Apr 05
Sat

Is there a dentist in the family?

So I just got a phone call from Dad a couple hours ago. There’s some unusual background noise so I ask, “Where are you?”
“At the airport.”
“What are you doing at the airport?”
“Picking up your grandparents.”
“What? Mama and Yehyeh are in Sydney?! How come I never heard about this?”
“He’s here for dental work from your cousin.”
“Huh? What’s wrong with Singaporean dentists?”

Turns out that my grandfather chipped his tooth on Thursday and the following conversation transpired (ok it didn’t, but something like this must have been said):

Grandfather: “Damn, chipped my tooth. But that’s ok, we have a dentist in the family!”
Grandmother: “Yes, but you’re in Singapore and he’s in Sydney.”
Grandfather: “So?”

The next thing we know is that on Friday the three of them (yes, three) have booked a flight in and today here they are in Sydney for “emergency” dental surgery. I’m still incredulous.

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8
Apr 05
Fri

Just a little longer…

Ok, the last few weeks have been a write-off blogwise. There’s been like, 3 posts in 3 weeks. It’s been so busy. I even turned off my RSS feed reader two weeks ago, so I’m horribly out of touch with any news which is less significant than the sad death of the Pope. I think he was an outstanding leader of the Church.

I reckon normal posting will resume after next week. There’s a stack of things that’ll be finished by then: months of prep for the space moot competition will finally come to a head – it kicks off this Tuesday and runs over five days. Advanced Contracts finishes next week too, so I’ll be down from 3 uni subjects to 2, and there are other bits and pieces that will have been tied up by then.

Of course in a couple of weeks I start clerking again, there’ll be several uni essays to do and journal articles to review, but I think I should then have enough time to get around to what really matters this semester: finalising post-uni travel plans! Went to Yoshii last week, will have to remember to do a writeup on that as well.

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30
Mar 05
Wed

Still Alive

Mid-session break? What break???

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7
Mar 05
Mon

But it’s only week 2!

There are times, thankfully very occasionally, when I wish the human body did not need to eat, sleep or visit the toilet. This week is one of them…

28
Feb 05
Mon

The Final Semester

1000 pages photocopied, 1 toner shortage, 1 paper jam, 28 staples for $3. And so began my final semester at uni.

Finally finished the memorials today at 4.30am. Woke up at 8.00am to get into uni to print off the copies needed. There were lots of first year law students wandering around trying to figure out why the library lifts only go up to level 7 even though there are buttons all the way up to 14. Found out that the law school doesn’t have any staplers that can go through 45 page documents, so we had to take everything down to the printery. The printery was insanely busy, so they stuck us on the job queue and we had to reschedule the courier pick up time to late afternoon. By the time I got into IP, I was feeling pretty out of it. Falling asleep in the front row in the first class of the year is not a good way to start a subject with a 20% class participation component.

Anyway the memorials are all in now, and strangely enough, it feels like I’m on holidays now. It’s been a busy summer, but it’s time to enjoy the last semester, which is looking pretty interesting:

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21
Feb 05
Mon

Some Rain Photos

Been spending around 15 hours a day over the last week on the moot memorials. Slowly going crazy. But anyway, here are some snapshots of the heavy rains that came through over the weekend. My street turned into a river.

The last one was taken some time after the rain stopped when I was playing around with the camera. There’s still a fair amount of water on the road since you can see the car’s reflection on it.

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9
Feb 05
Wed

Happy CNY?

Happy Chinese New Year. Ok, so I’m one day late.

I have to say that CNY (especially went spent in Australia) holds next to no significance for me whatsoever, which has left my parents a little flustered. “But you’re Chinese! It’s significant!” they told me. I was amused that Dad sent me an email today saying, “What, no mention of CNY on your blog?”

Growing up in a western country and knowing nothing but the Gregorian calendar is probably responsible for this. CNY is a day I have little conception of, and I’d argue, a day most overseas-born Chinese know little about as well. Ok, so everyone knows CNY was yesterday and it’s now the year of the Rooster. Perhaps you know that the year is based on a lunar calendar. But I bet most people don’t know what year it is on the Chinese calendar. (Hint: It’s not 2005.) I mean, how can you celebrate the new year, when you don’t even know what year it is? Do people even know what the Chinese calendar looks like? How about its leap years (which include leap months)?

In the western world, a new year signifies renewal (in the same manner it does for the Chinese I’m guessing). For us, a year is significant because a huge number of things in our lives are broken up into years (school, birthdays, anniversaries, etc). It’s a bit bizarre turning in a new year on the Chinese calendar when I have no conception of what the calendar is. I was born in the year of the Rooster, so it’s apparently “my year”. Again, what’s the significance? I don’t pay attention to the western zodiac, why would I pay attention to the Chinese one?

Turns out the Chinese calendar is pretty intricate. Intricate enough that a mathematician at NUS wrote a 39-page paper on it.

It’s sort of like what happens on Labour Day every year. No one celebrates anything, because no one knows what it is, except that they get the day off work.

2
Feb 05
Wed

Five pieces of advice from Warren Buffet

Darren Johnson got to spend a few hours with Warren Buffet and came across five pieces of advice. You’ve probably heard them before, but to hear them from the world’s second richest man adds that extra sheen onto things. I like point 5: He said that many people talk about how they are going to just work at a high-paying job “for a little while” and then go do what they love – he equated that to “saving up sex for old age.” He said to “never do something that doesn’t excite you or that you dislike.”

I’m guilty of thinking in that way. However, sometimes to afford to do the things you love, you need the money.

25
Jan 05
Tue

Seeking Aid

The other day, heading back into the office with lunch, I was stopped by an Oxfam volunteer. Have you heard of Oxfam? “Yes.” Do you know what we do? “Ahh… I know you’re an international aid organisation that… hmm… I’m not sure.” which was invitation enough for her to launch into a spiel about how they help everyone with everything, everywhere. Do you know what ailment 30,000 people die from each day? “Uh… Cholera? Typhoid?” I offered. No, diarrhoea. That’s right, such a preventable thing kills thousands each day! (As a sidenote, Typhoid kills around 600,000 people each year, and diarrhoea is a symptom of it.)

I asked where I could find out more information about Oxfam, which was probably not a good thing to do, because I think she sensed she had just closed a deal. She pulled out a payment book. I don’t have any brochures to give you – we being a voluntary aid organisation and relying solely on donations and all, but if you sign up now for a monthly donation scheme, we’ll be happy to give you more information. Obviously in this situation, when asked to enter into a continuous donation plan, most people would like to know more about an organisation and how it compares to the other worthy global aid organisations out there.

“Sounds like a good cause. I’d like to find out more about it first, though.” Ah yes, but if you don’t sign up now, you won’t get the chance! “Why’s that? I can’t donate online?” Oh no, as I said, we’re a voluntary aid organisation and are under-resourced – there’s no way to donate online. “No phone number I can call?” No, same reason. Basically it’s just us volunteers, roaming around the city, trying to reach as many people as possible. Did you know your donations are completely tax deductible? “So if I don’t donate now, I won’t be able to later on?” That’s right, unless you can find one of us on the street. I don’t like being put on the spot, and especially not when I was starting to think she was either a little ignorant or being deceitful. As if a massive organisation like Oxfam wouldn’t make it as convenient as possible to accept donations. I thanked her for her time, walked off, and checked the Oxfam website. Sure enough, there are many ways to donate – online, via the phone and more.

4
Jan 05
Tue

Grandma’s 80th Birthday Pics

To family and family friends: pics from Hong Wai Ching’s 80th birthday are online here. I don’t know who most of the people are, so any help you can give with names will be appreciated.

I wasn’t in Singapore for the event, having other commitments, but sounds like it was an interesting night. I swear I’ve never seen my grandmother anywhere near as animated as she is here. Must be the grog.

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3
Jan 05
Mon

A Few Thumbnails of Egypt

Parents got back today. Armed with a nice new lens (EF 17-40mm f/4L USM) and a digital album, Dad went crazy with the photos overseas, snapping over 3000 shots in about three weeks. I look forward to test driving the lens in Beijing.

Thumbnails of Egypt

After complaining about how my current memory stick (or thumb-drive or pen-drive or whatever you call them) is too fat and sometimes takes up two USB slots, Dad picked me up a new one in Singapore. I didn’t know they made them so small these days… it’s miniscule!

Thumb drive

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1
Jan 05
Sat

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2005! The New Year’s fireworks display on Sydney Harbour was excellent.

We were walking down Elizabeth Street later in the night when this car slowly drives past filled with four burly guys of middle-eastern appearance. They have the windows wound down and have some cheesy 80s hit blasting on the radio, which they are singing along with at the top of their lungs. The crowds on the streets are in a pretty good mood, so there are a few that join in the singing. Suddenly, this guy walks by and dumps a glass of wine into the car through an open backseat window, laughs and jogs off.

There’s a scream of rage from the backseat of the car. The brake lights slam on and it screeches to a dead stop in the middle of the road. The radio turns off and the guy who has just had wine dumped on him clambers out of the car. He’s a little inebriated and has a bit of trouble freeing himself from his seat belt. In the meantime, the prankster has realised that the guy is actually coming after him and has bolted off into Hyde Park. If that’s not enough, the car quickly pulls over to the kerb, and the three other people in the car get out and are soon hauling ass across the park after this poor sod whose New Year is about to get unhappy very quickly. The car, lights still on, doors unlocked and keys still in the ignition, is just sitting there, empty on the curb. Ten minutes pass by and they’re still not back. I don’t know what happened to the guy they were chasing, but I suspect it wasn’t pretty.

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30
Dec 04
Thu

Year In Review

I’ll try to keep this short. It’s been a good year personally and a very interesting and tumultuous one in terms of world events. After kicking off 2004 with an enjoyable summer holiday in South-East Asia and Melbourne, it was time to knuckle down to a pretty full on year. I suppose my number one goal was to get a decent clerkship in a step towards securing employment for when I graduate next year, and also to try out “the corporate law thing”. I am really happy about the outcome of the process, which took a good 2-3 months and resulted in a clerkship that I’m finding positive. The downside of this is that the social side of life has been fairly quiet for me this year, replaced by interview stress and trying to bolster my average at the last minute. Winter holidays were cut short by having to do two subjects. This summer is no better, and there’s the clerkship on top of that. But this pain is all for a delayed payoff, and although 2005 will still be busy, the difference is that it should be relatively stress free and fun. And of course, because I should finish uni in July, I look forward to doing some travelling!

I got broadband in April, and still haven’t gotten over it.

Hear Ye! turns seven next month. I’ve been intending to do a redesign, separating out the design from the content with CSS, adding an XML-RPC posting interface and tweaking a few more things, but really haven’t been able to find the time. Maybe next year.

I’ve watched about 34 movies at the cinemas this year. It’s been a decent year for movies. The era of good, Braveheart-scale historical epics seems to be over though, with Troy and King Arthur disappointing. It was a good year for comedy and sequels. Added to the mix were a couple documentaries (Super-size Me and Fahrenheit 9/11).

World affairs have been off the scale this year, with the US and Australian federal elections, a boatload full of Iraq related news, a few corporate scandals, Google floating, and most recently, the tsunami tragedy in Asia. Wikipedia does a far better job of remembering the news events of 2004.

I don’t play computer games as much anymore, due to a geriatric video card, but it was a big year for game releases. There was, of course, the triumvirate of Doom 3, Half-Life 2 and World of Warcraft.

My money this year went almost all to food and other going-out expenses. I spent very little on anything tangible and for once bought virtually nothing computer-related (apart from a DVD burner I got last month). Broadband has alleviated some of the money I would otherwise have spent on DVDs, movies and CDs. It’s all been saved up for travel, although funnily enough, this was never a conscious decision, it just sort of worked out that way.

I’m heading out to the harbour tonight to catch the fireworks and welcome in the New Year. Here’s to 2005!

A couple mundane Garage Tales

For as long as I’ve lived here, and I suspect for many more years than that, there’s a small group of Mediterranean people living on the corner of my street, probably retirees, who run a garage sale every single Sunday. I’ve walked past it many times on the way to the busstop and they have an amazing agglomeration of paraphernalia on sale: VCRs, TVs, picture frames, bicycles, tapes, books, chairs, other furniture and at least 3 microwaves. I don’t think they actually ever sold anything, because the pile of junk never seemed to grow smaller. They’d just sit out on the footpath watching people pass by and chat among themselves to pass the day.

One evening, a few weeks ago, I saw flashing red and blue lights from my bedroom balcony. Fire engines arrived down the end of the street, but, not being able to see any actual fire, I forgot about it. The next morning, as I stepped out of the building, I was assaulted by the smell of burnt… something. Turns out the garage had caught on fire (a defective microwave, maybe?). The blaze had blackened everything within a five metre radius of the garage, including the footpath and the grass on the nature strip. The contents of the garage was obliterated, now sitting on the footpath in one large, charred, still-smoking heap. You could smell it from hundreds of metres away.

They no longer run Sunday garage sales there anymore, and I suspect never will again. They still keep the garage door perpetually open, airing out a completely blackened, empty garage which still smells of charcoal.

There’s a taxi sitting in our apartment’s garage. It’s been there for over a year. It doesn’t have any rego plates, and the “Combined Taxi Services” decal has been peeled off from the side. It gathered a layer of dust and dirt so thick you could no longer see through the windows into its interior. One day I decided to scrawl the hackneyed “Wash Me” on the windscreen in big, thick letters. A few days later, the words “Don’t write on me” and “Bite Me” were written underneath it. And that’s when our entire apartment block decided to turn it into a bulletin board. Every day, there’d be a new retort and soon the taxi was overrun with messages in the dust. It was fun until we ran out of space to write and someone wiped off all the dirt. Just have to wait a few months for it to build up again. Well, you know what they say about small things amusing small minds…

23
Dec 04
Thu

It’s Christmas Eve

I’m finally on holidays so I went sea kayaking this morning with the newly-engaged Nick (congrats mate!) around The Spit, that was really enjoyable. Ducked into the city for a moot team meeting, then headed off to a bar for a few drinks.

End of the year is just around the corner, it has a very different feel for me this year. For one, I’m in Sydney, which hasn’t happened for five years. And secondly, I’m not spending it with family. Any family I have in Australia has unceremoniously ditched me and buggered off overseas to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday in Singapore. Pffft. And to rub it in, I get a daily “vacation update” SMS from Dad which has included:

- “At the pyramids now awesome”
- “On train to Cairo How is everything Got hundreds of photos”
- “Going to Abu Simbel now its 3am now”
- “Got to go in a convoy takes 3 hours to get there by bus”
- “hi have u been receiving my msg on the nile going to Edfu everything is fine mum having great time”
- “Do you want a Galabiya a egyptian dress” [what the?]

He clearly hasn’t worked out how to put punctuation in his text messages, but hey, can’t ask too much can we?

Hmm, I just realised how ironic the term “vacation work” is.

20
Dec 04
Mon

An Update

Time for a post on this neglected website.

Work
Overall it’s going well. Not every bit of work I’ve received is exciting, but since it’s all so completely new to me, it’s still quite interesting and it’s been one big learning experience so far. When there haven’t been any evening functions (the minority of days), work finishes anywhere from 6.00pm to 7.30pm. The good thing is that it isn’t a struggle to make it to that time – when I’m kept occupied with varied tasks, time passes fairly smoothly.

In terms of environment, it’s very different to anywhere else I’ve worked. Most law firms still haven’t switched to open-plan and the result is that it’s a very quiet working environment most of the time. Some clerks have complained about feeling isolated, but the flipside is that it allows you to really focus on work without too many distractions, except when the view from my office dramatically changes when those late afternoon storms roll in.

It’s been good catching up with friends in the city during lunch. I bumped into one today I haven’t seen for over a year. He was a BIT who did a finance masters afterward and is now working in an investment bank doing M&A work. Always interesting to see what people have done with their careers.

We had the firm Christmas party last Friday at Luna Park. I’ve never been there before. They gave us a free ride pass and I went on a few of the rides, although it’s a bit weird riding a roller coaster in a suit. Great views and location, but it’s a pretty small amusement park, and I’d be disappointed if I had to pay for it. During dinner, they held something akin to Australian Idol, with several staff members getting up on stage to sing in front of the thousand or so people there. They even got Dicko on to judge. There was also a “mystery guest performer” who turned out to be Flynn. As some girls discovered later in the night on the dance floor, Flynn is apparently as seedy as he looks.

Flynn
“You see me on TV, yes?”

Space Moot
The other bit of work which has replaced my holidays is drafting the 24,000 words required for our moot memorials. Fi got back from her Linklaters clerkship last week (where she was working longer hours than me!) and we finally have started putting pen to paper. We’re meant to have our first draft complete by the time I leave for China, which means the 10-day Christmas/New Year break I have is broken.

On the idiot box
Went to a Lord of the Rings marathon at Shan’s. The three extended edition DVDs, back to back – 11am start, 12.30am finish. Also been wading through Stargate DVD box sets from season 1 onwards. It’s pretty good sci-fi.

Hmm, I also won this double Hoyts movie pass after entering into a contest on the back of a packet of M&Ms… so these competitions are legitimate after all!

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28
Nov 04
Sun

The Summer Ahead

It hit 40 degrees today. Summer’s only a couple days away and I start my clerkship tomorrow. Hopefully it’s not that hot this week – nothing worse than going home in a crowded, humid bus on sticky vinyl seats. I’m working a three-day week, not sure which days yet. The other two days will be spent with Shan and Fi working on the space moot, unfortunately most of that time will probably be in the library. The uni gave us 24 hour access to the law library and I went up there late at night during the exams a couple weeks ago for a change of environment. It’s pretty eerie there at 1am – it’s dead silent because the airconditioning switches off after hours – but it’s also kinda cool how the place is deserted, no distractions and all that. Except for the distraction of Dave lasciviously ranting on about all the KASI SIKIT action you could get in a deserted library (sorry, injoke).

The Dolls
Which reminds me. On the way back from another late night Maccas runs, we drove past the Creepy Doll again, just for kicks. When I pulled up alongside the house, the doll was dangling off the clothesline as usual, but my heart skipped a beat when I realised that there was the silhouette of a person sitting down on a chair underneath the doll, its eyes staring back at me. We freaked out, I hit the accelerator and we were off.

I drove by the house the next day and snapped a photo:

You can imagine how unsettling that would look at night in the shadows, this row of dolls staring out into an alleyway at passer-bys. Why would someone do something like that???

Wanderlust
I always get the travel bug during exam times. Procrastination takes me to a bunch of travel blogs which make me wish I was somewhere far away. Parents leave for Singapore, Egypt and Taiwan in the week after next. Unfortunately, I’m stuck here, but at least there’s Beijing for me in January, which apparently is getting bloody cold:

Beijing is getting bloody cold. Forecast for snow today, but as yet has not started, but the wind is worse than when we were in Vienna, and all the locals laugh at me when I ask whether this is normal… ominously they say that this is nothing, and the best is yet to come. Apparently the worst is February, so when you come in January, be prepared.

Next Year
On the topic of travel, current plans are to finish my degree in the first half of next year and spend the remainder of it travelling. Don’t know where yet, but I’m happy as long as it’s somewhere I haven’t been before. Don’t know with who, but I’ve got a couple of friends who are interested. Anyone else free at any point during the second-half of next year who’s interested? E-mail me.

And now for something completely different
Sighted at last night’s birthday party:

I am so going to get in trouble for posting this

Photo courtesy of Papparazzi Dan.

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2
Nov 04
Tue

Midnight Macca’s Run Mascot

It’s that time of year again. Exams are around the corner. I’m currently ploughing through Litigation 2, otherwise know as rules of evidence. Evidence is probably the most intricate and technical law subject I’ve had so far. There’s virtually a thousand hoops a piece of evidence may have to jump through in order to be admitted into court. Want to give evidence in court about what someone said to you? Welcome to the Hearsay Rule and its 101 exceptions! The thing about Lit 2 is that the whole course is intricately connected – a single piece of evidence may be affected by relevance considerations, the credibility rule, the hearsay rule, general discretions and so on – and these are all separate topics which are hard enough to understand on their own, let alone when you try to combine them. Horrible!

I'll CLIP you!

But anyway, exam time also means the reappearance of late night trips down to Maccas (they really need to open another 24 hour eatery around here). Our route there takes us into this dingy, narrow side road. On that road is a property with an old pre-Hills Hoist clothesline, and on that clothesline is hung a doll. It’s a rather creepy doll. It’s been there for years and it hangs there in the orange gloom cast by a mercury-vapour streetlamp further down the road. Although the clothesline can rotate, the foot-high doll always faces outwards towards the road.

11
Oct 04
Mon

It’s a Nice, Warm Day

Temperature’s finally broken past the 30˚C mark and is currently hovering around 35˚C! Finally, back to t-shirt and shorts weather.

13
Sep 04
Mon

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.

31
Aug 04
Tue

Time for an Update

Apologies for the lack of substantive posts recently. Things are getting ridiculously busy. Clerkship recruitment is in full swing over the next month or so and there’s a slew of dinners and birthday events ahead filling in the gaps. I also got selected to the uni’s Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot team, which is going to take up a fair whack of my time throughout the next six months or so (especially over summer). More on all of this in time… until then, you’ll just have to look at quicklinks :)

16
Jul 04
Fri

Uni Results

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

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

4
Jul 04
Sun

Thredbo Trip

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

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

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

30
Jun 04
Wed

Whew

Long day, but work finished much earlier than anticipated. It appears that some buses were still running this morning despite the strike. The plan was originally to walk up to Bondi Junction and catch a train into town from there. However, upon reaching Randwick, it seemed that some buses were still running. By a fluke, I arrived at work only ten minutes late after catching an express service.

I’m off to the snow until Sunday. Unfortunately, even while I’m down in Thredbo, I still have to mark exam papers during the evenings. At least it ends up paying for the trip.

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29
Jun 04
Tue

Bedtime

Work has gone crazy… got back from it at about midnight and that was only because the systems had to shut down for the night. Lots of business to be done at financial year end, and of all the bloody days in year, the bus drivers decide to hold a fucking bus strike from 6-10am later today. On the busiest business day of the year. I have to walk to work. Not happy.

18
Jun 04
Fri

Exams! Dead Ahead!

Ok, just finished the note taking phase of my exam prep. I now have a completed set of notes for Property 1 and Litigation 1. Time to start reading through them. Property exam’s next Monday, and Litigation is on Wednesday, as I noted earlier. And that’s it. All over and done with within the first three days of the exam period. That means I have a bonus one and a half weeks of holidays! Which means I get time to: work during the last week of the financial year where everything goes crazy; watch the two seasons of Lana, I mean, Smallville episodes that are waiting for me; proof an article by Bob Debus for the Law Journal; torment my beleaguered flatmate who only finishes exams the following Thursday; and relax.

12
Jun 04
Sat

Advice Needed

(Thank you to those who commented on this post.)

At the Malaya At the Malaya

30
May 04
Sun

Another day…

… another year.

26
May 04
Wed

Sickness sets in

Starting to get sick again. Feels like a frog has crawled into my throat and died there. And the stores are shut so I can’t get to my magical sore throat panacea.

Three and a half weeks until exams. Less than a week to enjoy still being 22!

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10
May 04
Mon

Argh

I have so much piling up right now that insanity is just a few short steps away. It’s crap having to turn opportunities down because of lack of time.

29
Apr 04
Thu

Alas…

The NZ snow fields beckon. I’m beginning to think that enrolling in Restitution for Winter Session at uni was a bad idea.

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24
Apr 04
Sat

Defensive Driving Course

Finally used up my gift voucher for a defensive driving course. The day-long course was held down at Oran Park Raceway and I found it very informative. A great deal of the day was spent practising emergency braking – straight line, around corners and swerving, which is not a huge deal if you have ABS, but pretty interesting when you don’t, like my car. The aim is not to jump on the brakes (which is intuitive), but to quickly squeeze the brakes as much as possible without locking the wheels and skidding. To illustrate the point, the instructor did a neat demo where he showed that he could apply the proper braking pressure using his hand instead of his foot to hit the brakes. It takes a few goes to get the pressure right, and it’s not the sort of thing you’d try out by yourself – not to mention that the car smells of singed rubber afterwards! Saw a lot of demonstrations showing rear wheel lockups (and subsequent spins), front wheel lockups, oversteer, understeer, and what not to do in such situations. Then we got to try it all out, which was the fun bit.

It’s a bit pricey, but I would recommend one of these courses, they are surprisingly worthwhile and you pick up a lot of extra info about your car and how to handle it.

Lunch at Apple

Caught up with an old high school teacher for lunch on Friday. He left the school in the same year I finished to work for Apple, so I drove up to Apple’s Australia HQ in French’s Forest to meet him. Back in school they had these old Mac SEs and other assorted Apple paraphrenalia. I always used to trash Macs whenever I got the opportunity (I still do :). It was good when they switched over to Pentium-166MXes because that meant we could occasionally play Quake during lunchtime.

Anyway, Apple has grown leaps and bounds over the last five years. I still enjoy bagging out
Macs because, well, they’re Macs and they only have one mouse button. Nonetheless, Apple’s industrial design is second-to-none in the computing industry. Although the Apple HQ is pretty much just a corporate venue, the reception area is decked out like an Apple store with a range of Powerbooks, iMacs and so on on display just begging to be played with and touched (and they can be). I got a brief tour of the place and there isn’t much there, but it very much has a dot-commy feel to it. Techies in jeans, funky furniture, weird walls, crazy chairs and lots of translucency. The call centre there, which handles tech support for the Asia-Pacific region is called the “green room”. The floor is done in a lime green (garish or soothing, it’s a matter of opinion) and the walls are ceiling-to-floor blackboards. Not a CRT to be seen.

My eyes lit up when I got to play with what was alleged to be the first and only non-imported Mini iPod currently in Australia (its April release date was delayed). It’s tiny. It’s sexy. It’s cool. It’s fun to use. I want one. Unfortunately, for someone a poor uni student like me, just a bit too pricey (especially compared with the 15GB model) to justify forking out that much cash for it. I was assured that Apple was in fact making very slim margins on the iPods, but if you want to be cynical, I guess this is counteracted by the limited battery life of them requiring a repurchase after a year or two.

Shish, he says hi to you as well.

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12
Apr 04
Mon

Blah

I hope the Easter break was a good one for you. I went to the gym for the first time in a while, overdid it a little and was hobbling around for most of the weekend. Very sore.

Not many people have complained about putting our public holidays on Christian-centric dates, but I found this article about religion making its way into politics again interesting. This is far from relapsing back into the darker days of a theocracy. However, it does seem that Churches are beginning to realise that if they want to do something about legislating according to their beliefs, they have to get people with similar convictions into power.

30
Mar 04
Tue

Hmmm

My net connection dropped out a little while ago. I just reconnected. At 49.2kbps. It’s never connected above 28kbps before. It’s downloading at almost 5kB/s. It’s never done more than 3.6kB/s before. Could it be? Could it finally be?????

28
Mar 04
Sun

Daylight Saving Over

Extra hour of sleep, but now it starts to get dark fast.

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25
Mar 04
Thu

Lightning Striking Twice

Holy shit. Ok. So I was at the Sydney Law Careers Fair at Darling Harbour today. Hundreds of law students from around Sydney flocking to a few handfuls of large law corporate firms like seagulls after a few hot chips. That’s not the interesting bit. After I’d finished my interrogations and gathering the armfuls of brochures and pens and mousepads and whatnot, I started to head for home. I’m making my way out the door when a voice calls out from the side at me, “Hey! Hi!” I turned around and got the shock of my life.

It was Anne. The softdrink marketing surveyor chick. Yes, that Anne.

“Remember me?” How could I forget? Turns out she graduated from law at UTS in 2001, took a year or two off and was now after her PLT and a job. I extricated myself from the conversation as quickly as possible and left.

After all that, you might say I should go out and buy a lottery ticket, but it’s probable that if I did, I’d get struck by a bolt of lightning on the way to the newsagency.

The Careers Fair
It was actually quite different from last night’s expo (see yesterday’s entry). Australian firms place a lot more focus on all-round achievement compared with the Hong Kong firms, which is nice to see. Not all, but still very much the majority, of firms were very friendly and approachable – notably Freehills, Blakes and AAR, but I suppose it depends which individual of those firms you get to chat to. All of the top tier firms naturally sound highly attractive. As is expected, the competition is pretty intensive for them. However, unlike other blue-ribbon industries like i-banking or consulting, most of the law firms are accepting anywhere from 15 to 30 clerks for the summer clerkship programs.

Also interesting was that no particular emphasis is placed upon a commerce background, despite them all being commercial law firms (unlike i-banking where finance is a plus). I suppose the rationale for this is that you cover commercial subjects in law school anyway, so you have some relevant background. It’s definitely good for me in that although people will look at my resume, see BIT and stereotypically think “computer guy”, it theoretically won’t matter (in my experience, recruiters tend to skip the “B” part in BIT). But ultimately recruitment for all these top tier firms reminds me of this little exchange in Starship Troopers:

Zim: I see you specifically requested transfer from Fort Cronkite to this training group…
Dizzy: Sir, I heard it was the best, sir!
Zim: It is the best… BUT WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU’RE GOOD ENOUGH??

The summer clerkship application season opens around July-August, so we’ll see how we go.

Blah

It’s been a really busy session so far, haven’t been getting out very much. Can’t wait until the mid-session break in a few weeks’ time. Every session there’s always one subject that I hate, and this session it’s the compulsory jurisprudential subject – Legal Theory. Way too abstract for me. I guess I wasn’t cut out for philosophy!

Went to an International Law Careers Fair tonight at uni. A more apt title would be “Hong Kong Law Careers Fair” as all the firms there except one (Linklaters) were Hong Kong based. This was bad because I don’t speak any form of Chinese whatsoever. Language skills are something that are quite dependent on environment. Where you were born and where you grew up have a huge bearing upon what languages you pick up. Sure, you can pick up languages later on in life, but most people will only pick up fluency in one language learnt in this way. And only then if they spend some amount of time in a country that speaks that language. (Programming languages don’t count.) Do I wish I could speak another language? Sure. But it’s more a feeling of resignation than regret that I never picked up one when I was young, when the brain is geared for rapid learning.

I guess this is why I’m somewhat annoyed when relatives ask me, “Why can’t you speak Chinese?” as if I was supposed to be able to speak it by mere virtue of my race and as if I have some sort of genetic defect because I can’t. Actually, I might start replying to that with, “Why can’t you speak proper English?”

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14
Mar 04
Sun

The Broadband Saga Continues

We rang up Telstra again today to see if anything had changed in the last year or so regarding our broadband situation. Cable is nearly impossible to get because they have to install some sort of cable box into the apartment complex, and that requires the consent of most of the residents as well as strata approval. So it comes down to ADSL. Now, the telephone wiring into this apartment is strange. It may be pair gain, but I don’t think pair gain is normally used to hook up 18 units. Anyway, the most we can connect at on dial-up is 28.8k. Back to Telstra. The person on the line informed us that we were probably close enough to the local exchange (which is on Todman Ave), but they would have to do some line testing. She put through a “transposition request” which is supposed to move us onto a suitable copper line at the exchange. It’s not a guaranteed thing. They said they will get back to us in 5 to 6 weeks, but I won’t be holding my breath. Taking bets: it’s about 1000 to 1 odds that we will be able to get ADSL.

8
Mar 04
Mon

It’s a Dry Heat

Ok, I take it back. Out came the shorts and miniskirts at uni again as the temperature rocketed to 40 today. The wind was blowing, but it wasn’t cooling – it felt like walking into a fan-forced oven.

1
Mar 04
Mon

Summer’s Gone

Weather sucks. I’ve had to start packing jumpers for the first time in months.

18
Feb 04
Wed

Grrr

I hate writing cover letters. Thank you, that is all.

11
Feb 04
Wed

Optometrist Appointment

Since 18 months ago it seems that the eyesight in my right eye has declined a little more, taking it to 575. My left eye is stable at 525. There’s a point during the checkup when the optometrist gets up really really close with one of those magnifying eyepieces to peer into my eye. It may be just me, but I find the image of him squinting up close, head turned at a 90 degree angle, comical and I swear I have to bite my tongue to stop laughing. I wasn’t laughing when he told me I needed a new pair of glasses and hit me with the bill. It’s a half-rimmed pair of Hugo Boss frames, and I don’t understand how a little bit of metal wiring can cost so much. All the other brands were in the same price range as well. Health care can be so expensive.

9
Dec 03
Tue

Branson Q&A

Sir Richard BransonExcellent Q&A session with Sir Richard Branson this evening at UNSW. He’s a very clear spoken, doesn’t use a lot of buzzwords (which was really noticeable when compared with the closing remarks of Prof Whittred, the faculty Dean) and is just plain understandable. Starting a business at abour age 15 and slightly dyslexic, Branson is the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. The hour session basically could be condensed down into four points:

1. You’ve got to get out there and take a risk if you want to get anywhere. That may mean laying everything out on the line.

2. The most important part to business is simple People. The audience basically adopted Branson’s mantra of “People people people”. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and that are different from you. Learn to delegate. He emphasised this again and again, that he has attributed his success to finding the right people, as it is the people that run the business. (Obviously, Branson doesn’t have time to run all the aspects of a business.)

3. Have a passion for what you’re starting up a business in. Don’t just do it because you think it will make money.

4. Have a good company name that you can attach a strong brand to. One that can be global, even if you never make it that far (you never know).

He also mentioned that people should stay away from banks as much as is possible in terms of obtaining initial funding, because they can be ruthless.

Also interesting was his thoughts on university. He noted that virtually none of the entrepreneurs of his generation were tertiary educated. Has the trend towards more of the population getting tertiary education changed things though? Perhaps. Branson acknowledged that university provides a very good safety net in terms of finding a job. However, with regards to entrepreneurialism, which is really only where the really massive gains can be made from, life changes as you get older. People become more conservative, getting tied down with relationships, perhaps mortgages and so on. And this conservative nature runs contrary to being an entrepreneur, which is all about getting out there and giving it a go, and to hell with the consequences (which in most cases is limited to corporate bankruptcy). Basically it’s a risk versus return argument.

Just a note on business failures, it seems to be that Australia’s business culture doesn’t foster entrepreneurialism as much as, say, America. Venture capital flows like water there, compared to here, and it seems that the Americans aren’t as perturbed about business failures (they just pick themselves off the floor, try again and start a new one).

One question he fielded was from a Com/Law undergrad who was wondering whether he should take up an investment banking job, or whether he should try starting up his own business first. The answer was for the latter, because the job, you can potentially fall back on, but a business idea is hard to go back to. First mover advantage.

Bumped into Kit outside afterwards, then decided to head back inside where we grabbed Branson’s autograph. Kev mobbed him and virtually fell down on his knees begging good Sir Richard to write his business philosophy onto the card (naturally: “people, people, people”).

As always, inspirational and deceptively simple, but, given that there are so few hugely successful entrepreneurs floating around, it’s not.

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8
Dec 03
Mon

Down Time

I’ve always said that in a firm whose core competencies are not in IT, IT support staff are grossly underappreciated. Anyway, one of the systems has been down for a while, hence a lot of sitting around at work and doing nothing. I guess when you don’t drive the profit line, and a lot of your work is to do with fixing problems which never should have happened in the first place, it’s hard to gauge just how much worth you’re contributing to an organisation. The ironic thing is that, most organisations simply cannot function without an IT department these days. It’s weird being on the other side of the fence, conscious of the fact that while we wait for the systems to come back up, the “slow and useless” ISD staff are working overtime trying to figure out what some user did to stuff things up.

Speaking of stuff ups, it is rumoured that UNSW hired an IT consulting firm a couple years ago to webify the student enrolment system in the form of “New South Student”. It was an absolutely horrible implementation, I think I have bitched about it before. Anyway, they’ve done an overhaul of the system and it looks nicer, and runs much smoother now: My UNSW.

5
Dec 03
Fri

The Week

Almost there… a busy, although quite monotonous week at work. Apparently when you’re at a computer for prolonged periods, you’re meant to refocus your eyes every thirty minutes or so to reduce eyestrain. It’s quite easy to do at work when you’ve got a window seat. For some reason, although the view is nothing special, I don’t get sick of looking outside – sort of like staring out of an airplane window. There’s something cool about seeing the storm clouds and rain roll in across the city too. But enough of my idiosyncracies.

Received news today that I got selected as a social justice Intern at the Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre for second session of next year! “The principal goal of the Program is to provide students with training and practical experience in research, writing and advocacy on aspects of policy and practice relating to social justice (especially the reduction of inequity and exploitation).” Should be a terrific experience!

Next Tuesday evening I’m going to hear Sir Richard Branson talk at UNSW. Definitely will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

27
Nov 03
Thu

Holidays!

And with today’s exam over, another academic year is all over and three glorious months of holidays await. What’s ahead…

Not completely out of the woods… I have to mark a bunch of uni exams for an IS course by next Monday. Paintball on Saturday – a little violence always helps to reduce stress. A few dinners scattered around here and there. I have a short spate of work at Mac Bank starting tomorrow and running through to the 9th of December. Should be a nice injection of cash before I head overseas on the 10th. The itinerary is:

- 10/12/03: Sydney to Singapore
- 11/12/03: Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
- 19/12/03: Kuala Lumpur to Singapore
- 22/12/03: Singapore to Bangkok and Hat Yai
- 29/12/03: Bangkok to Singapore
- 6/1/04: Singapore to Sydney

Getting taken around KL by my hospitable flatmate who has asserted that the gastronomic tour he’ll take me on will be guaranteed to give me the runs. Which is really very unsavoury given the state of public toilets in Asia. Hopefully should catch the Return of the King in Malaysia on the 18th. The dollar has rallied nicely over the year, so much so that everything in Singapore is effectively 20% off. The Ringgit to Aussie dollar exchange rate is roughly 2.7 to 1. Shopping time! Time to put back on all that weight I lost by eating too many instant noodles over the exam period. Mmmm hawker food…

If you’re a long-term reader of this site, you’ll notice I’ve been to Thailand twice in the last couple years. The reason why we’re going for a third year running is that it’s my grandfather’s 80th birthday. He seems to have some bizarre and objectionable fascination with Bangkok (I’d rather not dwell too deeply on the reason why) which is why the family is “humouring him” and going there AGAIN this year. Ah well, the upside are those damn nice Thai massages…

Before I head off, I hope to implement MMS/PXT posting to this website. Just need to write a MIME parser and something to handle image linking. When I get back, it’s time to give this site a much needed overhaul, both front and back.

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20
Nov 03
Thu

Yabby Update

We’re not having much luck with freshwater crabs. The one Dave got for his 21st a few months back died suddenly the other day. It had the entire tank to itself, so the cause is unknown. Meanwhile, the mother yabby moulted while her babies were still hanging on to the underside of her tail. Yabbies eat their old shell to regain some calcium, so the babies were chomped up too. By the time we realised the moult had happened, the father had already dragged the tail shell back into the log to munch on. Oh well, apparently they breed several times during Spring/Summer, so there may be more on the way. And we now have a vacant tank to relocate any new babies.

14
Nov 03
Fri

Studying at Home

Time for a time-out with my journal. It’s late again, and I’ve just finished covering the wonders of judicial review of administrative decisions. Tomorrow I have to cover natural justice (aka procedural fairness, due process, what Hicks is getting none of because he’s outside the boundaries of the Rule of Law), prerogative writs and equitable remedies. But I’m sure you’re as interested in hearing about that as I am in reading about it. So, moving on, I found this amusing {src: Swhat}. Anyhoo… this is what I really wanted to say:

Stop deluding yourself, you’re not going to the library to study.

I have never found the concept of going to the library to study attractive. It takes time to get there and you have to lug all your stuff around with you. It’s not like you actually use any of the thousands of books that are around you. The chairs are hard and uncomfortable, you’re not allowed food or drinks, and the air is stale.

So, the rationale is that there’s no distractions like at home (“Hmmm I wonder if Fark updated”, or, “Hmmm a second Paris Hilton video where she’s allegedly in a threesome is floating around on the net”, or even, “Gee these bookshelves really need to be dusted!”). But let’s face it, you’ve everything you need at home. Food, drinks, a comfy chair, all your books, notes, paper and a computer. Maybe the computer is the bane – the ultimate procrastination device, the time-acceleration machine – but typing up notes is a helluva lot faster than writing them. The library doesn’t have computers. Well, it does, but they all have high speed internet connections so that doesn’t do jack for getting away from distractions. Bring a laptop? That’s assuming I could afford one, and anyway with the uniwide wireless network, you can’t escape a net connection these days. And there are people around in the library. You’ll bump into friends, then you’ll end up chatting, then realise you’re getting absolutely no work done, and end up going downstairs for a coffee that lasts three hours. When you’re at home, you’re a Nigel, true. But studying, albeit appearing more enjoyable, is not terribly effective when it’s a social event.

Idiotic leader / Deranged teddy bear
(With apologies to Paste)

All this is logically, probative evidence that it’s better to just stay at home. Besides, your bed is much more comfortable than the graffitied library desk in front of you.

3
Nov 03
Mon

Exams-a-Coming

That means there about 2400 pages of readings we’re meant to revise. Hah. This is Week 14, next week is Stuvac, and then the week after that, the real pain starts. I am sooooo gone for Admin Law, the subject from hell. Is there anything more scintillating than the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth)? Oh no, I don’t think so. Time to get back to it.

29
Oct 03
Wed

How Not To Run a Door-to-Door Survey

That’s it. I’m not answering the doorbell anymore. No good can come out of it. I’ve had countless telecomm salespeople, religious nuts and midnight parcel delivery psychopaths. However, this afternoon was a watershed for traumatic door encounters.

So someone buzzes the door this afternoon. My ever-so-dependable “Stuart you answer the door” wussy flatmate happened to be legitimately indisposed at the time.

“Hello, I am doing door-to-door surveys, would you like to do one?”
“Erm, no sorry.”
“You get a scratchie.”
“Oh. Ok. Come right up.”

So this pudgy Asian girl bounded up the stairs and into my apartment, said, “Nice place you have here,” and launched straight into a rather lengthy self-administered questionnaire without any survey introduction at all.

Twenty minutes later, after answering countless mindnumbing questions on my softdrink drinking habits, I started questioning whether it was worth the scratchie. Example questions:

“Do you identify any of these drinks as masculine? What about feminine?”

“Do you strongly or slightly agree or disagree with the statement, ‘Solo is low on the fizz so you can slam it down fast?’”
To this, I just cracked up laughing and said, “Uh, I suppose so? Strongly?”

It did make me somewhat self-conscious when she asked, “What softdrink types do you know?” and I rattled off a list so fast that she had to ask me to repeat it several times because she couldn’t keep up (and all she had to do was circle the brands). I guess we are all guilty of consumerism when we can run off a list of 10 different
softdrinks without thinking. I was relieved when the demographics section, signalling the end of the survey, arrived.

“Would you be interested in participating in any focus groups?”
“Definitely not.”
“Do you have an internet connection? Yeah? What about our online research program?”
“Hmmm, yeah ok.”

I got this really weird look from her, like she didn’t realise how much more comfortable it is to answer questionnaires online. Anyway, she took down my contact details, and it was only when she asked for my e-mail address that I thought it probably would have been wise to ask her if there was a privacy policy or something attached to the information I was giving. And it only occurred to me because the event of disclosing my e-mail
address signalled, “Spam! Spam! Spam!” in my head. So I gave her an email address I had set up for situations like this.

Luckily, she later pulled out a slip of paper disclosing Millward Brown’s privacy policy, passed me two scratchies, and a slip of paper to sign. That’s when things got… interesting. As I was filling out the piece of paper, she continued asking rapid-fire questions and
talkingreallyfasteventhoughthesurveyhadfinished:

“So you’re a uni student right? What do you study?”
“Law.”
“Oh cool, at New South?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Ah, so what year are you in?”
“First year.”

This always elicits a quizzical look, because I don’t look like I’m 18 (despite what the cinema box office staff think), so inevitably I had to follow it up with an explanation.

“Oh this is my second degree. I did an IT degree first.”
“So how long was your first degree?”
“Four years.”
“And how long is law?”
“It’s another three years, yeah it’s a long slog!”
“Damn. I can’t imagine studying for five years, let alone seven…”
“Ah, but uni life is excellent. The only problem is that you don’t make money while you’re doing it!” I joked.
“Yeah… so you’re like… poor.”
“Uh…”
“Don’t you feel like you need to work? And why is law taking so long?”
“Well, in my first degree, I worked for about 18 months full-time and decided from that that the working life could wait.”
“Why didn’t you do law at the start? Didn’t you get the marks?”
“Yeah I did, but I wanted to do IT, and the course I did meant that I couldn’t do combined law at that stage.”

Quizzical look. More explanation required. A disturbing suspicion and discomfort growing.

“I got a scholarship for IT which meant that I couldn’t combine it with law, hence the longer time it takes to do the two degrees separately.”
“Oh wow, you got a scholarship?”
“Yeah.”
“At New South?”
“Yeah.”
“And now you’re doing law?”
“Yeah.”
“Are you really smart?”

What the? How the fuck are you supposed to answer a question like that?

“I’m alright, I suppose,” I muttered with a disturbed chuckle. Cue the bomb.
“Do you have a girlfriend?–”
“Uh… I–”
“–do you want to go out with me?”

I think I held my composure in a physical sense, but it took me a split second to regain my mental composure, which had been momentarily obliterated. (She was quite unattractive, by the way – that’s an important point.)

“Look, I don’t know you. And all you really know about me is that I drink too much Coke for my own good.”
“Oh…”

She left soon afterwards.

I felt violated. And I only won a measly $4 off the scratchies.

So, no more doorbells. Unless they’re really good looking.

25
Oct 03
Sat

Amalgamated Post

Daylight saving is back. It’s the start of Week 13 tomorrow. That means exams are three weeks away. Luckily, after a long week, all the assessments and assignments for this session are out of the way. Had a crim law presentation on attempted crimes, followed by a gruelling finance exam on Tuesday (let this be a lesson that while it is possible to learn, virtually from scratch, an entire semester’s worth of Applied Valuation over three evenings, it is most definitely not recommended). Got a couple of assignments back and it never ceases to amaze me how savagely they mark law essays. Went to Oktoberfest in which I performed my bi-annual test to check if my alcohol allergy was still around. Yep, it was. I think UNSW smashed through Macquarie’s pitiful world record for people drinking shots on the same day.

Elsewhere…
- iTunes? This is me. Although a Winamp 5 beta has been released. It’s version 5 and not 4 because it’s Winamp 2 + 3. What is with companies and version numbers? Even Adobe has caught on, naming their latest version of Photoshop as “Photoshop CS” which stands for Creative Studio, I think.
- New 5MP Sony digicam with zoom lens that’ll comfortably fit in most pockets. Very nice.
- Warren, of Virgin 5c SMS messages fame, has a web site. *Shudder*
- Native Koreans tend to have a very difficult time grappling with English, but I don’t think resorting to surgery (“frenotomy”) is the panacea to your child’s pronounciation problems. I’m pretty sure that all Australian-born Koreans have no problems with the Aussie accent.
- Google hunting for I-Bank to underwrite its IPO, wants US$16bn valuation. I’d invest.

13
Oct 03
Mon

Lawrence (1917 – 2003)

Word arrived that my grandfather passed away in Singapore last week. Mum went back to visit him a couple months ago. After a doctor’s report came through early last week that he only had a few days to live, Mum had booked a flight straight away. Unfortunately, the doctors overestimated how much time he had left to live (something extremely unusual given their usual conservative estimates), and he succumbed to lung cancer on Wednesday. Mum’s flight left on Thursday.

This is not an obituary. Obituaries are written by people who know the deceased well. This is more like a diary entry, because it seemed fitting to write something to record the sad event. Like most grandchildren who are born overseas, I never was especially close to my grandfather. Didn’t see him enough. When I did see him, communication difficulties were the main issue, even when I grew old enough to be reasonably conversant with adults. It didn’t help that he was quite hard of hearing and I almost had to shout to get my words across.

It was ironic in a way. His command of English was by no means perfect, but he was still more or less fluent, which is a bonus with Asians of his generation. By all accounts, he knew how to speak six or seven different languages/dialects, which to me is absolutely amazing.

In contrast, I only know a single language – the product of years of growing up in a country town public school in the mid-80s where everyone still went around calling Asians “ching-chong Chinaman!” and then pushing up the corners of their eyes to make them slanty. (Relatives keep chiding me for not picking up my mother tongue when I was young. But why would a 6-year old, the only Asian in the class, learn Cantonese when it’s something that would serve no useful purpose other than to make you seem even more alien from your peers? No thanks, I’ll stick to English. 6-year olds simply don’t have the foresight to see past that kind of relentless teasing. My remedy back then to those situations was a well placed fist-to-the-face that saw me get hauled up in front of the Principal on several occasions where he pulled out the old “sticks and stones” aphorism. Nonetheless, I found that the brawls were quite effective in stopping all the racist teasing!)

I was in Singapore by myself in early 2001, and Mum had demanded that I pay a visit to my grandfather out of respect. Always a strongly independent person, he lived alone, by choice. Well, almost alone. There was quite a stir because a mainland Chinese girl – a student, supposedly – had recently moved in, renting out a room in his flat. Most of the family were convinced that she was after his money, and tried to get him to kick her out. However, he refused to turn her away because he appreciated her “companionship”.

Anyway, I was quite reluctant to visit him. Not out of disrespect, but mainly because of awkwardness. I would be there by myself for a few hours. What would I talk to him about? What would he say to me? I’d never had a conversation with him in my life. The whole prospect was unusually daunting. And this was my own grandfather no less!

A few hours later, another relative dropped by to pick me up. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Sure the conversation at times ground to a halt. There were periods of silence. There were times when he seemed to zone out for a few minutes, perhaps lost in thought. But it wasn’t as if we had nothing to talk about. I’d just come in from Europe, and that sparked off a round of stories from him about his travels when he was young. Old people always have stories to tell. (And there was one moment when the phone rang and I witnessed the most unexpected sight of an 80-something year old answering a mobile phone!) Don’t get me wrong, I still felt awkward, but I was glad that I had dropped by.

When Mum called up later to check how everything was, word got back to me that my grandfather had enjoyed the visit immensely, and it occurred to me just how important companionship was to the widower. To me it was just an awkward couple of hours, but to him it was much more. And in that light, it didn’t seem so awkward anymore. I’ll miss him dearly.

1
Oct 03
Wed

Story Time

After seeing the trailer for Return of the King, I got all fired up about LOTR again. When it gets released in December though, I’ll most probably be in Malaysia. Based on the previous two overseas experiences, watching the premieres of the first two instalments in Bangkok and Singapore, I gained a new appreciation for the excellent quality of Australian cinemas – comfy seats, adequately tiered seating, terrific sound and huge screens (if you get the right cinemas). Dave is going to try and book out a bunch of seats in Kuala Lumpur at the end of the year in the “gold seating” area of the cinema. Incidentally, a premium ticket there is cheaper than an ordinary ticket in Australia. However, I remain skeptical about the quality of cinema screens in Asia. I also appreciate the “first come, first served” nature of ticketing in Australia. We don’t give a stuff how much money you have, if you want good seats then you’ll just have to line up earlier. (Excepting those gold class and La Premiere yuppies who are getting ripped off.)

I was grumbling to Dad about Asian cinemas when he promptly launched into an anecdote about how the cinemas of the good ol’ days totally 0wN3d today’s cinemas. No, he didn’t actually use the word “owned”.

During the middle of the 20th century, Singapore used to have a huge cinema which sat over a thousand people. The seats were zoned and priced accordingly. There was upper level seating (“circle seating”) in addition to the regular floor seating. The seats closest to the screen cost $1, those further away cost $2, and the circle seating was $3. The circle seating was mainly occupied by the British colonialists who were still fairly prominent in Singaporean society at that time, comfortably segregated from the slantier-eyed plebians sitting below.

Going to the movies was a bigger deal back then than it was now, no doubt due to the relatively costly nature of it. Dad recalled when one day his grandfather took him and my uncle out to the movies. My great-grandfather was a well known business tycoon, making his millions doing something or other with palm oil in the shipping industry. Despite the respect he garnered among even the colonialists, he never adopted the coat and tie attire of the West, preferring to wear the simple garb of “Chinamen”. More than one occasion arose where he was mistaken for a simple pauper and shooed away from stores, only to return clutching an imposing wad of paper bills to the intense chagrin of the store owner.

Family legend has it that he went shopping for a fridge one day. Upon inquiring about the price, the sales attendant snidely remarked, “Uncle, if you can afford it, I will give it to you for free!” My great-grandfather chuckled and declared that he would buy all the fridges on display. The amused attendant didn’t recognise the simply-dressed man, but the store owner certainly did. He was an acquitance of my great-grandfather. After a flurry of apologies, the owner chased off the sales attendant, reprimanding him. “Do you know who that man is?”

My great-grandfather was a strange fellow. He had money — money which has long since evaporated through the spending and vice of the following generations — so I guess that made him eccentric. One day he arrived home in the evening and declared to my Dad, about 12 at the time, and my uncle that he would be taking them to a movie. They both expressed delight at the treat, and went off to get changed from their pajamas into something more presentable. Before they could move, however, the old man grabbed them by the wrists and whisked them into the waiting car with a stern, “No! There’s no time! Let’s go!”

What followed was a period of extreme mortification for Dad. I can only imagine the scene. A simple-looking chinaman arrives at the circle seats of the cinema, among the formally-dressed, pecunious upper-class white folk. He is dragging his two utterly embarrassed grandchildren, who are wearing nothing but PJs. He received strange stares all night. It’s like rocking up to A-grade opera seats in PJs today. Dad claims he still has nightmares about the incident.

Baby Yabbies

When she got pregnant, it was time to rename “Marsellus” to get her gender correct. One of our yabbies got laid a few weeks ago, and right now she’s packing hundreds of baby yabbies underneath her tail. It’s quite a repulsive sight actually, but I’m sure once the yabbies mature they will be a bit cuter.

Pregnant Yabby
The piece of shell in the picture is a leftover from a recent moult
(or more accurately, a recent occurrence of ecdysis)

I went scouring for a bit more information about Yabby breeding habits, since I’ve heard that yabbies eat anything, and that anything includes their young. And if they don’t eat their young, then we still have a slight problem if nearly 100 baby yabbies are roaming around the tank.

- PDF Datasheet

- Yabby FAQ

When freshwater crayfish mate, the male deposits a small packet of sperm gel on the female, near the reproductive openings. The female then passes the eggs out through the openings and across the sperm packet, during which process they become fertilised. The eggs are guided to the underside of the tail (kept cupped during egg laying), where they are fastened on to the swimmerettes (the small legs on the abdomen) and carried until they hatch. Juveniles have special hooks on their legs to allow them to cling to the hairs of the female’s swimmerettes; they moult several times before leaving the parent.

The female protects the eggs carefully. If the level of dissolved oxygen falls, she elevates her tail and fans the eggs. If the water becomes too warm, she will find a cooler place. However, because the eggs are large, and because of the time and energy she devotes to them, she can afford to produce only a few hundred compared with the hundreds of thousands of relatively minute eggs of the marine lobsters. The newly hatched young are known as ‘juveniles’; they resemble the adults and do not pass through the free-living larval stages of lobsters, prawns and many other crustaceans. The juvenile yabby is consequently better equipped for survival than the young of most of the marine crustaceans and not as vulnerable to predation.

Breeding begins in spring when the water temperature reaches 15 to 16*C. The first batch of eggs (100 to 500 eggs per individual, depending upon the size of the female) hatches 8 to 10 weeks later in early summer. As soon as the young have left (a further 3 weeks later), the female is ready to breed again. Because of the higher water temperatures in summer, the second brood takes only 3 to 4 weeks to incubate. Some females will breed three or more times during the breeding season [oh shit], which, if the temperature remains high enough, can extend into autumn. In the warmer water in the west of the State, the breeding season may continue almost year around. … The yabby is not averse to attacking and eating its own kind, especially when the prey is smaller, or soft after moulting. (Src)

In courtship the male yabby uses his claws to impress the female. After mating the male has no interest at all in the upbringing of the young yabbies. The eggs which have been fertilised lies between the females rear legs so she curls her tail around them to cover them. Hundreds are laid at a time though not all hatch. After birth the young hang onto their mother for 4 to 6 weeks At this stage they are known as “Larvae”. (Src)

i have been raising yabbies for about a year and a half now, and everything has been going really well. in fact, 3 weeks after introducing a new female into the tank with my big male, she got pregnant. unfortunately i have not had another tank spare to move the female and the young ones to, and now i have around 70 to 100 baby yabbies roaming the tank. a problem has arisen from this, however, as i had an internal power filter running on the tank, but the babies were being sucked into the filter and i have taken it out. this leaves me with no filtration and no aeration, which brings me to my point. has anyone got any suggestions on how i might go about aerating the water? (Src)

Hmm. Yes, the aquarium’s going to be interesting over the next few weeks.

28
Sep 03
Sun

Mooting

Made it through to the semis (where we probably will be shot down in flames)! Unfortunately, it also truncates my holiday by at least two days. Grrr.

22
Sep 03
Mon

Holidays

Saw the Man U vs Arsenal match last night at Souths. It finished at 3am, which was rather rash considering I had to go into uni at 9am to drop in a moot submission. Nonetheless, we won the moot in the evening, so the three days of holidays sacrificed wasn’t for naught! Two week break. The whole graduate law class pretty much needs it – the stress of two essays due in the same week was greater than I would have thought possible. Within the last fortnight, one person has dropped out, another is going to drop out of Torts, and another two are seriously rethinking whether they want to continue. The class is shrinking… But a session and a half on, I’m pretty sure that doing law was a good decision for me personally.

12
Sep 03
Fri

Caeephr Skooner

I find myself procrastinating again in place of writing an essay on a rather ugly Torts assignment to do with liability of statutory authorities, pure nervous shock and non-delegable duty. How thrilling. Anyway, we found a new place to play snooker down at Coogee, and it only costs us $0.80 an hour. That’s right, 18 times less expensive than the 8-ball parlour near the beach. It has five well-maintained tables. A bit time-consuming getting down there though, but only one more week until mid-session break (well, technically it’s called “Reading Week”).

Also, Bonhomme sent this in:

Xueli: Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

It’s pretty cool once you realise you can actually read that paragraph at almost full speed. Be interesting to see how much slower reading scrambled words actually is. Just write a script to scramble all but the first and last letters of all the words on a page of text from a novel, then time how long it takes for different people to read through various scrambled and unscrambled passages. (Hmm, doesn’t really work too well with the title of this post though! I guess you need more contextual clues.)

5
Sep 03
Fri

Open Day

Urk… I have the 9am shift helping the School of Info Sys in the computer labs. And in typical uni fashion, there is not a soul around at this time of day. They’re supposed to be running a quiz which students collect down at the Quad, bring up to the labs to do a bit of “research” (ie, run Google queries) and bring back down to redeem for tokens which are exchangeable for uni memorabilia.

4
Sep 03
Thu

Trivia

Kicked ass again in trivia tonight at Churchills with a four person team. Only won another case of VB though. Saving it up for Oktoberfest. (The prizes are better at the Paddo RSL.)

25
Aug 03
Mon

Aquarium Update

Admin Law test tomorrow, so brief update before I sleep. Our aquariums have been fairly dull over the last few months, each yabby having its own tank. Jess bought Dave another crab today. It’s absolutely tiny, so instead of dropping it in with a yabby and leaving the crab to its tender mercies, we shifted the two yabbies into the big tank, and the small crab into the small one. I wonder if the yabbies will get along. I give them two days before the big one starts abusing the little one.

In other news, I now think the talk with Jess a couple nights ago can be attributed (almost) entirely to alcohol, especially upon hearing it’s the first time she’s actually been drunk :). I guess a few people actually get more articulate with booze.

Uni work is beginning to pile up. Two assignments and a class presentation next week. Have a catchup dinner tomorrow night, judging the PwC Mgt Comp for Wednesday night… how oh how am I going to get my readings done?!

24
Aug 03
Sun

Dave’s 21st

Big 21st Birthday greets to my flatmate Dave! The actual date is tomorrow, but he held the party last night. It was very enjoyable. Since I would imagine everyone there was too plastered to remember much of anything, here’s my blow-by-blow account of how the not-so-venerable evening unfolded. Remember people, we have photos. We also have videos.

6.30pm: The time rolls around for people to begin arriving. Dave starts to pace up and down waiting for “the scum” to pick us up, muttering something about the unreliability of Malaysians.
6.45pm: Dave starts to worry that he’s been stood up by everyone…

Click for more pics
Click to continue…

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11
Aug 03
Mon

Even Fedex Doesn’t Do Midnight

Dave and I lost a chunk of sleep last night. Someone buzzed our doorbell at abour 12.30am, which is not a completely unusual occurrence, save for the fact that we weren’t expecting anyone. I picked up the handset which links with the speaker at the front entrance to our apartment complex and was greeted by a foreign voice on the other end of the line. It was a rather strange voice. A woman’s – strange accent of undiscernable origin with a very trembly/warbly tenor – not trembly as you’d find in the elderly (she sounded middle-aged), but more a peculiar, anxious type of trembly. Anyway, she intoned that she was after a certain address, which wasn’t ours, so I just told Her that she had the wrong address. Hearing nothing else on the other end, I hung up.

Now, this requires a bit of contextualisation to understand why what happened next makes us seem like a bunch of pansies. At the time the doorbell rang, Dave and I were watching this rather surreal B-grade thriller/horror flick on the TV. We’d tuned in half way to find that this stewardess was wandering around a plane in which everyone had mysteriously died (thus leaving the plane pilotless). Unfortunate timing, given the mood it set.

The doorbell rang again, and I decided to ignore it – I told Her once already it was the wrong address. Our doorbell is such that it will ring continuously as long as the button is depressed. A few seconds later, the doorbell rang again and kept ringing until Dave got annoyed and went to answer it.

“No you’ve got the wrong address… what? A parcel? You what? … Hey Stu she wants to deliver a parcel.”
“A parcel?! At this hour, you gotta be kidding, tell her to come back another day.”
“Err, can you come back at another time? … Really? … She says she came yesterday afternoon already.”
“Huh? Whatever, who in their right mind goes around making deliveries at 12.30 in the morning?”
“Look we don’t know anything about a delivery, can you come back at a reasonable hour? What? … Hey she says she wants to talk with us.”
“Man, this sounds dodgy, tell her to get lost.”
“No thanks, come again, good bye.”

A few moments later, the bell rang again, but we ignored it. So now we were a little spooked, because the situation was turning bizarre. Over the next full hour, the doorbell rang sporadically and Dave and I began to get increasingly edgy. Nothing good could come out of this. It wasn’t long before we could hear the loony downstairs buzzing other apartments as well. Luckily, no one let Her into the building. Dave remarked that while he was speaking with the mystery woman that he heard other voices in the background. We decided to go to sleep, but had the slight problem of the racket the doorbell was making. Since we were too chicken to tramp out onto the balcony, wave a dragonboat oar about and yell, “You want some of this, bitch?! Keep ringing that doorbell and we’ll come down and give you some!!”, we ended up taping down the phonehook, smothering the receiver with two towels and shoving the whole lot into a gym bag so we didn’t have to put up with the infernal buzzing noise. Then I called a friend who lived across the road, waking him up in the process, and asked him if he could see the person at our door from his balcony. Unforunately, neither he nor we had a clear line of sight down to the front entrance. If someone had let her into the apartment complex, we’d have called the cops, but luckily it didn’t come down to that. Dave borrowed one of the oars from my room for “protection”, and then we eventually got to sleep.

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7
Aug 03
Thu

Relocation

Got relocated today up to L26! Window seat, semi-decent view of the city. Should bring my camera along next week.

6
Aug 03
Wed

Psycho Teacher

Raffles Junior College teacher blasts student (Quicktime movie). The background to this video can be read here. The wonderful thing about this is that it was caught on video.

I think the post-high school maturation period definitely changes a person. My initial response to the video was that if I had a teacher like that, I’d slap her silly. I love it when she says, “you’re trying to cover up your insolence, your defiance, your laziness, your apathy, your lethargy and your bad attitude!” and then pauses like she’s expecting applause because she learnt some extra vocab from her “training as a university student”. But then I thought back, and the world appears a lot different to a 15 year old (even if you’re taller than the teacher). School’s pretty much run like a dictatorship, and I sure have personally come across teachers that were much more fiery than the one caught on video. One particularly memorable occasion was witnessing a student being interrogated by a teacher. He was so hysterical, that as he shouted, a long glob of saliva slopped out of his mouth onto the floor and he kept screaming without missing a beat. In year 4 I remember our teacher shrieking at someone because he wasn’t ruling straight lines – she took his ruler and snapped it. In year 6 I remember my maths teacher had this abnormal abhorrence towards beeping digital watches. On more than one occasion, some hapless student’s watch would beep on the hour and the teacher would confiscate the watch. Not only that, but he’d throw the watch onto the ground, then proceed to place his foot on it. The watch, subjected to the not inconsiderable weight of the teacher, would then transform into a work of abstract art, never to beep again. Then you have Chemistry teachers purporting to squirt acid at talking students – it wasn’t acid, but legally speaking you’d be able to sue the teacher for assault. And don’t get me started on cadet camps! Ah, those were the days. If only Clie PDAs were available back then (not that I could’ve afforded one)… but I do have some tapes of some lessons secreted away somewhere, and I also recall a friend getting so incensed at a teacher’s gruffness that he taped the lesson to use in a complaint against the teacher (but never followed up with it).

I passed the link on to Dad, who is coincidentally an alumni of Raffles Institute. His abrupt response: “I didn’t think that it was that bad. I have seen teachers that are worse.” heheh

Also, there’s a point in the video where I swear I’m hearing this from the teacher: “I said, ‘Actions speaks [sic] louder than words!’ So you are a sly fucking old brat. Aren’t you? That is using the literary language from my training as a university student.”

My ears must be deceiving me, but I really can’t figure out what she’s saying other than the profane phrasing above. Maybe it’s the Singlish accent :).

29
Jul 03
Tue

Misc

Uni’s started up again. Half of the subjects this session are continuations from the last: Contracts and Criminal Law (which will hopefully be much more substantive than procedural this time around), together with Torts and Administrative Law. They all appear very interesting, save for Admin Law which is basically about bureaucracy, bureaucratic decision making and judicial review of that. The first Admin class today was only an hour but I somehow managed to microsleep throughout the last half hour of it. Shan jabbed me in the side at some point to wake me up, telling me afterwards, “Your head was nodding up and down as usual, but at one point your headed drifted down… and down… and kept going down and I thought, ‘uh oh, I don’t think that head is going to come back up if I don’t do something’.” Not a good way to start session sitting 2 metres away from the lecturer in a subject with 20% participation marks. And also, browsing through the course outline, the required readings for Admin are a load of up to 50 pages per class. It’s gonna be one of those subjects…

Dave came back from the land of $4/hr snooker and proceeded to beat me 4-2. Fluke artist.

Going to the Matchbox 20 concert tomorrow. Should be awesome.

Fantasy League is starting up again for this season. I have yet to select my team… have to set aside some time this weekend.

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26
Jul 03
Sat

A Visit to The Block

Kev and I went down to inspect The Block at Bondi. I must say, the apartments have been renovated very nicely. The two things that stood out for me was the giant bubbling urn ornament in the back garden, and the bathroom that was picked as the best one out of the four on the show. The faucets, the glass, the mirror, the sink, everything – beaut bathroom! All those apartments are going to be horribly, horribly overpriced. Especially if they are predicting 10000 curious onlookers on auction day. Each of the couples stands to make nearly six figures in profit I reckon.

25
Jul 03
Fri

Stuff

Haven’t been up to a terrific amount of stuff these holidays, mostly a mixture of work, relaxing, and heading into uni for competition preparation. I was selected to the team representing UNSW at the BCG intervarsity business strategy competition. The competition simulates a management consulting case and centres on preparing a 10 minute presentation recommending business strategies to a Board of directors, after 3 hours of preparation time. This is followed up by a 10 minute Q&A session where the judges (mostly BCG consultants) grill you on the strategies you’ve proposed. It’s an extremely intense 200 minutes. We had the state finals today, and unfortunately we placed one place off progressing to the nationals. After being initially overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data they gave us (about 60 or so pages), we eventually digested the key points of the case, which was about the Australian wine industry. The flaw with our preparation was that we missed the target audience of the question, which is a fatal flaw in any sort of answer. Normally cases revolve around improving the growth of a single business entity. This case focussed on improving the growth of the Australian wine industry, as a whole, relative to the rest of the world. Not only this, but the advice delivered was meant to be to an industry body (not in itself a wine producer) charged with promoting the growth of Australian wines. While we delivered strategies targeting key markets around the world, the strategies as they were were not implementable by that particular industry body (as they were not a company, but an entity which facilitated dialog between companies in the industry).

Q: “So, we being an industry body with no reach into these markets, how do we implement these strategies to expand into them?”
*dead silence*
A: “Uh… talk to the companies about it?”

A much better answer would have been that, given the role of the industry body, to perhaps encourage Australian wine producers to enter into alliances when expanding overseas. Resulting economies of scale would be beneficial to both firms, and the potential for growth internationally is highly lucrative for all Australian companies. While they are normally competitors in the domestic market, and competition regulation prevents consolidation within Australia, there is nothing preventing them from jointly entering foreign markets. The industry body’s ability to facilitate dialogue between Australian wine producers would thus play a key role in notifying industry of potential markets and potential entry strategies centred around domestic alliances.

Nonetheless, despite the disappointment, it was a terrific learning experience and something I’d definitely do again next year should I get the chance. (Unfortunately, 4 out of our team of 6 graduate at the end of the year, so we need a fresh bunch of people, but that shouldn’t be a problem given that none of us knew each other at the start of the holidays and we gelled quite well when it came to the competition today.)

Got my law results back for all but one subject: 1 D and 3 HDs. Uni starts again next week.

18
Jul 03
Fri

Amiel

It’s one thing to ask, why we break up
Have you ever, wondered why it is we fall in love?
Can you tell me, do you know what it is you’re looking for?
Why do we need? Can you tell me why I care?
How is that we heed, that voice that says, “I want you there”?

Thanks you’ve been fuel for thought,
Now I’m more lonely than before
But, that’s okay,
I’ve just ‘ready made another stupid love song;
And thanks you’ve been fuel for thought
Now I’m more lonely than before
But, that’s okay,
I’ve just ‘ready made another stupid love song.

In a single moment, you might be perfect
And sit in a window of my life
But how much… how much more would I yearn to see?
What would I strive to hide? Now there will be no compromise
So take it in your stride, I’ll believe you now with a smile

Thanks you’ve been fuel for thought,
Now I’m more lonely than before
But, that’s okay,
I’ve just ‘ready made another stupid love song;
And thanks you’ve been fuel for thought
Now I’m more lonely than before
But, that’s okay,
I’ve just ‘ready made another stupid love song

Look into my eyes, ours was no love sacrifice
For it has helped us to grow
And I’m sorry I know just how far I have to go alone

Thanks you’ve been fuel for thought
Now I’m more lonely than before
But, that’s okay,
I’ve just ‘ready made another stupid love song;
And thanks you’ve been fuel for thought
Now I’m more lonely than before
But, that’s okay,
I’ve just ‘ready made another stupid love song

I’ve just ‘ready made another love song
Just ‘ready made another love song

11
Jul 03
Fri

A few spare moments

The joys of coming into work at 8.45 on a Saturday, bleh… throat and nose are still jammed up with phlegm from the cold.

7
Jul 03
Mon

Colds and Flu

I guess after a few weeks of poor dieting and zero exercise, a string of late, active, post-exam nights out hit my body too hard. Now sick and suffering from the effects of a cold. Bleh.

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24
Jun 03
Tue

Focus

The sky is leaden, it is drizzling outside and the mid-winter gloom projects only a murky light into the apartment room. The twilight will soon descend swiftly, dissolving the outlines of the buildings outside with an ethereal hue. Inside, a single incandescent bulb drapes the room in a sallow glow. A heater purrs in the corner, a warden against the chill pervading through the glass veranda door. Music plays softly in the background, and a solitary figure, rugged up, sits at a computer. The music stops momentarily as one song ends. The silence is punctuated by fingers pecking on a keyboard. He looks at the pile of paper on the desk and pauses. Another wave of drowsiness sweeps over him. The bed nearby beckons, its plump blanket a visual siren call. He casts a wistful gaze out the window. The view is already becoming indistinct and it keeps him strangely mesmerised. He lets his eyes defocus and for the moment he is lost in a detached reverie. Another song starts up and his room snaps back into focus. He sighs, turns back to the computer, and resumes typing.

22
Jun 03
Sun

Contracts Exam

Pretty harrowing experience today. I normally set two alarms to wake up: my mobile, which has an incredibly loud alarm, and a talking clock which has an obnoxious digitised crowing rooster alarm. The exam was at 8.45, so I set the alarms for 7.45. At 6.30, my mobile starts to ring. Disgruntled that someone disturbed me from my slumber, I reached over, saw the caller didn’t have caller ID, and answered. No one on the other end. I tossed the phone back on the table and tried to get back to sleep. The phone rang again. I answered it again, this time to hear music on the other end of the line, but no voice. Seemed like a case of someone accidentally dialing my number while they were driving in a car or something. By this stage I was awake again, and exam nerves made it hard for me to get back to sleep. After, about 15-20 minutes I managed to drift back to sleep. The next thing I knew, I woke up, glanced at my watch, and saw 8.20 on it.

“OH, FUCK!!!”

I changed and was out the door in 5 minutes, hoping I hadn’t forgotten to pack everything in my bag. The exam was in the Mathews building (which is upper campus), so it normally takes 15 minutes to get there from my apartment. I managed to reach there by 8.40, after a few tense moments when I couldn’t find the exam room. By the time reading time started, I was half-asleep, dazed, out-of-breath, suffering adrenaline OD and thoroughly disorientated. Not the best way to start an exam. My hands were trembling as well.

I don’t know what happened, but I figure that I either went back into a deep sleep after being woken up by the phone calls, and missed both alarms. Or perhaps I did switch off both alarms, but it was an automatic response and not a conscious one which is why I don’t remember hearing the alarms go off. As a result, the start of my exam answer was extremely wobbly (I totally screwed up the application of Butler Machine v Ex-Cell-O Corp to the case), although I managed to get it together somewhat after that. Shitty.

10
Jun 03
Tue

Exams

Exams are coming! Arrrgh!

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3
Jun 03
Tue

Zed (2002-2003)

“Who’s Zed?”
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”


Zed the Yabby

I stumbled out into the kitchen this morning to be confronted with a bucket sitting on the benchtop. I peered inside, and there was Zed, sitting motionless in a shallow pool of water. I picked up a nearby chopstick and gave him a prod. Apart from the presence of a bucket of water with a yabby in it on my kitchen bench, which was already decidedly strange, what was stranger was that Zed wasn’t moving. Mark, crashed out on the sofa bed after an all-nighter stirred and groaned out to me: “He died last night. Dave and I found him, upside down in the tank.” And so, our prized yabby kicked the bucket some time between 2.30 and 3am today.

We have three yabbies: Zed, Marsellus and Butch. These are appropriate names. Zed was the biggest of our yabbies. He was a bully, always muscling food away from the others. Crab killer, goldfish terroriser (he dispatched four), owner of the ceramic log. And the yabby that molested all the other yabbies from behind.

Butch used to be in the tank with Zed before we got Marsellus. Zed took all of Butch’s food and terrorised him so much that he was conditioned not to eat even when we dropped food right in front of him. As a result, Zed grew into a tank and Butch lost his pincer and became a shrimp. We kept him there until our crab, Gimp, was found eaten one morning. We decided the humane thing to do would be to separate Butch out into his own tank.

Marsellus is the runt, which we bought to replace Gimp. Having no third tank, we just dropped him into the tank with Zed. Remarkably, the two have lived together in near harmony for the past few months with only the loss of one of Marsellus’ pincers. Meanwhile, Butch, safe in his own little tank has flourished into one mean mofo, snapping at us with a vengeance whenever we feed him.

Last week Zed moulted. This event signifies another leap forward in growth. In the 24-48 hours after a moult, a yabby’s exoskeleton is quite soft, so it was very amusing to see Marsellus wave his pincer at Zed, and see Zed leap back in fear. It’s like a scrawny 50kg teenager waving a fist at a 200kg 7 foot wrestler. However, Zed never quite regained his regality after that last moult. He seemingly grew too large for his log, and just stood there for hours, motionless in the corner of the tank. Then a few days later – this morning – he inverted himself and expired. After we removed him from the tank, Marsellus was seen to be running excitedly around the now threat-free tank, chomping on Zed’s old shell.

We are still clueless as to what killed Zed, because when a yabby moults, it grows, and growth implies health. View more pictures.

30
May 03
Fri

Happy Birthday to Me

I’m 22. I didn’t tell anyone this year. Let’s see who remembers.

19
May 03
Mon

About a Year Ago

I was doing some tidying up, when I found this note that was stuck on our door about a year ago.


“Are you moving furniture every night?”

It was somewhat bizarre. We weren’t aware we were making that much noise such that the apartment directly underneath us was being bothered. Anyway, we kept doing whatever we were doing that they claimed was making noise (well, we couldn’t stop making noises that we didn’t know we were making!) and in time they stopped leaving notes.

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15
May 03
Thu

FD Fund

Now stands at $370.

9
May 03
Fri

Graduation

BIT/ISM Class of 2002
BSc (BIT) and BCom (ISM) Class of 2002

Graduated yesterday. The ceremony, the $65-rent-a-gown, the tradition was all pretty ordinary. However, it was definitely a good time catching up with (or at least briefly seeing) friends. I don’t doubt that I won’t be seeing some of them again for years, but we still have the wonder of mailing lists. (And Congrats to Kit for taking out the uni medal!)

1
May 03
Thu

The Fund

Relatively poor showing tonight, only $30. Brings FDF total to $200.

24
Apr 03
Thu

Fine Dining Fund

The fund now stands at $170 after an equal first and second placing tonight.

12
Apr 03
Sat

The Fine Dining Fund

From time to time over the last couple months, a bunch of us have been going down to Paddington RSL on Thursday evenings for trivia nights. It’s a nice relaxing night out with good company over a few drinks, in an unpretentious RSL atmosphere complete with indoor neon lighting that could be straight from the 70s and with the chance to win some cash. Half the entertainment comes from the host, Mr Bagoomba (who unfortunately has been absent lately, being replaced by a self-admitted blonde bimbo). He’s a loquacious middle-aged balding Mediterranean guy with a repertoire full of bad jokes, mistimed calls and an impossibly garish jacket with stars on it. But he keeps things fun with joke telling and push-up competitions and the like.

Our team changes slightly from week to week because of people’s commitments, but last Thurday we had a farmer, an immigration consultant, an AO recipient who was formerly the Chinese and North Korean ambassador for Australia, a filmmaker, a banker, an Arts student and me. We’ve had in the past lawyers and someone who’s worked for the UN interpreting for President Megawati, but we’ve also discovered that it all doesn’t count unless you have someone who (1) really knows their 80s music, (2) knows what happened in the footy over the weekend, and (3) really knows their 30s music. Anyway, we won $100 last week and decided to begin to put this money into a pot and save up for dinner at one of the fine dining joints around Sydney. At this rate it’ll take us the whole year. There’s a jackpot which is now about $1900, but you have to answer three obscure questions that change each week to get it.

29
Mar 03
Sat

The Week

Another busy week, courtesy of a couple assignments due this Tueday. Went to trivia at the Paddington RSL on Thursday night and our team ended up winning it (at last!). Problem was that we also tied with two other teams. The prize was split and we ended up with some peasant amount of cash. I started work at Macquarie on Friday. Once again as is normally the case on first days, no computer account had been set up for me yet, so it was a pretty uneventful day. Seems like a nice workplace though. A very enjoyable Friday night was spent at a friend’s farewell party – he’s off to work for UNESCO in Korea for a few months which sounds like a fantastic experience. That’ll sure be an interesting place when the war ends and the focus shifts more back to North Korea, which has all but vanished from front-page news. I returned home to a drinks and card night my flatmate was hosting (and losing) and slept away most of Saturday. More law reading for today. Daylight saving ended this morning, make sure your clocks go back one hour.

21
Mar 03
Fri

State Election Today

I predict Labor will win by quite a bit. So are the bookies. :)

16
Mar 03
Sun

Busy

Uni has been extremely busy as you can observe by the decline in my already low posting frequency. Law’s inundated us with a lot of reading – gotta use all those textbooks I suppose! I got a part time job at Macquarie with the Margin Lending Division. It’s going to be pretty menial stuff, but should help to pay off those bills.

Went white water rafting last weekend. Really, really fun! It was up near Penrith on an artificial river at an Olympic site. Never one to emerge from outings unscathed, I was the first to flip over the edge when the raft decided to do an aquatic version of a wheelie at an inconvenient moment. Luckily, I still had one hand grasping onto the raft’s outer rope, and the other still obstinately clutching my paddle, so I was able to be dragged – spluttering – back on board.

Today is the 17th and is meant to be the final day before the US begins the process of levelling Iraq, with Johnny following, firmly attached to Bush’s backside. Hong Kong (yet again) is the centre of a freakish health scare – this time by a virulent strain of Pneumonia. Australia is steamrolling over all opposition in the World Cup. The state election this weekend will probably see Bob Carr in government (which is a good thing in my opinion). In other news, Bin Laden’s niece is thinking of launching a singing career in the UK.

6
Mar 03
Thu

Sagacious Advice

I got vaccinated for Meningitis C last week. I hate needles, and Dad had great glee at seeing my reaction when he attached a three inch one to the syringe “just to see the look on my face”. He sent me a follow-up e-mail today:

Please note that you are vaccinated only against the C strain of the bacteria. This
accounts for only about 30% of outbreaks. i.e you don’t have immunity against the other 70%.

If there is an outbreak, run.

Gee, thanks Dad.

19
Jan 03
Sun

Time Capsule

Continuation from this. I opened my time capsule. It was sealed in 1986, when I was five. It contained these things. The SMH masthead is dated April 12, 1986. Even back then, Australia was phasing out smoking in public, as the back of the newspaper clipping shows. 1986 was also the year of Halley’s Comet, a photo of which was enclosed. There’s also a roll of 20 1986 $1 coins, the “International Year of Peace”.

It’s almost 16 years ago… so long ago. The memories those items brought back were fond indeed.

16
Dec 02
Mon

Happy Holidays!

Leaving for Singapore tomorrow, 5pm flight. As usual, I’ll try and shoot off a one-line post from the departure gate at the airport. Of course, if that fails, there is always the good ol’ SMS update. International roaming is enabled, so if anyone wants to drop me an SMS, you know where to get me. Have a Merry Christmas everyone, and another crazy New Year (in a good way, of course)!

15
Dec 02
Sun

Thesis

Received all my uni results back today. Got two HDs, and first class honours. My thesis is downloadable in PDF format (3mb), if you are interested in seeing what one looks like. I can finally graduate!

Star Wars Exhibit

Went to see the Star Wars Exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum. It’s a decent visit at $11 for students, although the $18 adult entry fee is pushing it. Some of the models really gave a feeling of scale (like Chewbacca). If you have nothing else to do over these holidays, or are a Star Wars fan, go and visit.

Tough Times

About three weeks ago I had a Saturday night that was triple booked. There was a surprise 22nd birthday dinner for a good friend which I had previously agreed to come to, a dinner with my girlfriend and her family including her father who had come over for a brief holiday in Australia, and a dinner with my family and grandfather who had likewise come over for a holiday. I ended up going for the latter, in light of the fact that my grandfather had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Still, at 85, he’s already lived a long and good life, which is some comfort to the bad news.

Things haven’t always gone my way this year, and all in all, I don’t regard it as a very good year for myself. Nonetheless, I am still satisfied and grateful to be in my current position in virtually all aspects of life.

Perspective is always good, however. I visited this site the other day. It’s run by a friend of a friend, who I’ve met a few times previously, last in October, but didn’t have a clue what had happened to him. I was pretty shocked to read what had transpired for him. Even more so, when I realised that the first entry is dated in September, but he’s feeling even worse today, three months later. Time heals wounds, but some wounds develop infections, I guess (to analogise). Betrayals and break ups are awful.

How about this site: Thinking Out Loud. To summarise, read the entries for 14 July 2002 and today.

What’s worse, though? Here’s another heart wrenching site: page 1, page 2. It’s kept by a girl who has now passed away after contracting cancer. It’s only a few months long, but it shows the descent of her health as she struggles to maintain the semblance of a normal life. In her case, it’s not only the pain of her own health failing, but the effect it would have on her close ones.

It is a curse to note that there are a lot of teenagers in this world who are willing to commit suicide while I am here trying to desprately live when I am wasting my life away through vommiting and also starvation. My life is indeed a living hell, but I always make the best out of it. How much endurance do I posses? How much tolerance do I have? How much more pain and sorrow can I take? With everytime I cry, my tears flow out. With every news that comes it only cracks my heart and still I am standing here breathing. Do I have to be a living example of a Zombie? It is also already bad enough that I have label on me that states “Dying” and that I must have to have special treatment due to my handicap. This is not the life that I want to lead. This is not the life that I should lead. I strive each time to normalize the things that I used to do and everytime I do so, my efforts would crumble to the ground.

Very emphatic words, especially noteworthy for people like this. Her diary ends with that entry.

I apologise for the series of rather depressing sites above, but they do provide perspective (although maybe not comfort) for people in “lesser” circumstances. I tried searching for blogs and journals which had people undergoing tough times, and was thankful that they are actually quite hard to find.

10
Dec 02
Tue

Time Capsule

Denise’s post about time capsules just made a neuron in my brain reconnect itself to another section in my brain that has long laid dormant. Fifteen years ago, when I was six, Dad helped me put together a time capsule. It was to be opened when I was 21, and I’ve just remembered it. Now I am 21, and I feel strangely reluctant to open that yellow Chrysanthemum tea tin which contains objects from my 80s childhood. All I recall is that I stuck a matchbox car in there. What else there is, I have long forgotten. Unfortunately, it’s currently somewhere back in the Camden house, and I’m in Kingsford, so when I get back there next week, I’ll open it up. Then we’ll get to see what 15 year old relics I left myself all that time ago. (I also made another time capsule when I was about 12. Perhaps I’ll open that one in another decade or so.)

8
Dec 02
Sun

The Eclipse

The eclipse was an awesome experience. We didn’t end up camping in the outback, but instead decided to risk driving at night back to Port Augusta. We figured that the chances of us hitting a stray roo on the way back would be reduced with the large number of people driving on the highway after the eclipse was over. I’ve done a lengthy write up of the whole experience, of course including photos!

30
Nov 02
Sat

Dog Pics

As previously mentioned: Brodie’s pics.

27
Nov 02
Wed

The Road Ahead

“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” -Lincoln

Monday was a scorcher: 40 degrees in the city and not yet Summer. Opening windows to cool the apartment merely invites dry gusts of hot wind to invade the tepid un-conditioned air inside. This summer is going to be sweltering. It only takes a few days of similar temperament, and the air will start to acquire the sooty smell of bushfires. The drought conditions don’t help either. Perhaps water restrictions will be enforced, just like in the mid-nineties.

I caught up with Kit at lunch, and we decided to head down to the local supermarket and pick up something cold to lessen the amount of sweat making our clothes stick to our clammy selves. Up at the back of the store, I stood there in front of the ice cream fridge, holding the door open, letting the misty tendrils of chilled water vapour swathe me. A sole box of lemonade icy poles caught our eyes and we made off with that. I don’t think I’ve had icy poles since school. 35 cents each they were at the school canteen, perfect for those sweaty summer lunch times. Not as economical as those 20 cent frozen-lolly-water Zooper Doopers, but still affordable. I remember one day, when I was feeling particularly sweaty and wealthy, I splurged extravagantly on three Zooper Doopers. The last tube was a sickly sweet liquid by the time I got around to consuming it, but that was all the better. The immense sugar boost from it was used to fuel another 20 minutes of running around the playground. Prices seem to have doubled since then.

So there I was on Monday afternoon, with a box of 8 icy poles all to myself (well 7, because Kit had one). I chomped through five of them straight and fulfilled an age old childhood fantasy. Instead of being re-energised, however, I went straight for the couch and had a nap. How times change.

Last Friday’s exam marked not only the end of the academic year (for others too), but also the concluding exam of my four year degree at uni. And with that, another stage of life is over. After the pre-cognitive, taking-each-day-as-it-comes lifestyle of infants, the carefree abandon of primary school, the fond memories and growing worldliness of high school, and the freedom and independence of uni life comes the working life. Where suddenly, the better 40 or more hours in the week are no longer accessible for one’s own devices. The transition seems jarring. Over 21 years of relative freedom, cut short by the responsibilities of adulthood, which will last for decades more.

I’m not quite at the end of my uni life, though, having elected to do grad law. Uni life has everything going for it, except the money inflows. Over the years, I’ve come to realise just how different people from different faculties are. Without mentioning any specific generalisations, education really affects people’s worldviews and perspectives on things. After mixing with a Commerce/Science bunch for four years, it’ll be interesting to mix with some of the more humanities oriented law people, where ideas are expressed in words, instead of diagrams, tables and code. Which is funny, because in high school I hated the humanities. I suppose the difference is that high school was very competitive and mark orientated. Humanities were so subjective, and while I enjoyed the subject matter, I found it hard to guarantee a decent mark for assignments and exams. The amount of time invested in those subjects were never really correlated to the marks received, which was discouraging. However in uni, that rampant competitiveness seems to be absent (in my degree, anyhow). That allows people to do what courses they want to do, not because they can score the highest marks in them, but because they enjoy them. The UAI entrance score for degrees are not always correlated with the salaries of the jobs associated with them, which seems to be a large misconception. Which is why picking the right uni degree is so important. Anyone can stumble through a degree, but it really does help if you enjoy it.

My degree wasn’t actually completed until yesterday, when I submitted my thesis. After a complaint to the faculty dean, the thesis’ original due date of December 3 was reinstated. However, they only gave us two weeks notice before the earlier November 15 due date, so I had already prepared for a submission then. I gave the completed draft to my supervisor for feedback and revisions on the Monday before the 15th, and that’s when things got drawn out. The 15th came and went, but still no feedback. I arranged a meeting with him on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thurday and Friday of the following week, but always in the hour before the meeting, I’d get a phone call from him telling me to change a few things and come in the next day because he still hadn’t finished reading through my document. It was quite frustrating because I just wanted to get the damn thing out of the way. The TEC exam was on Friday, and I still couldn’t fully enjoy myself after that because the thesis still lingered. Finally, on Tuesday he gave me the remaining pages with revisions, and the approval to print the final document. Thus, because of the series of “false summits”, this page has been neglected, despite last Thursday’s post.

Uni results are released on the December 13, but there’s not much to do now except chill out. (The biggest news item I’ve heard from the last two weeks has been of the guy who incredulously burnt his dick with his laptop. I swear everyone’s been mailing or ICQing me that link. Sounds more like a radiation burn than a heat burn, which is rather disturbing given the area it occurred in.) To other things now.

Things
Last Sunday I went to the Moonlight Over Manhattan concerts in the Botanical Gardens. The concert was mainly of pieces from Gershwin’s repertoire of musicals, sung by Julie Anthony, Simon Gallaher, Juan Jackson and with Simon Tedeschi on piano. A very pleasant way to spend a balmy Sunday evening, lazing out on a picnic mat as the evening darkness slowly crept over the park. I looked forward to hearing Tedeschi’s rendition of Rhapsody In Blue, but they had decided to create a “special arrangement” for it, introducing a second piano into the composition. Which would have been alright, if the other guy had managed to keep in time with Tedeschi (or the other way around). However, having notes quarter or half beat out of sync is fairly distracting. Oh well.

Soph got a new dog, a delightfully cute Golden Retriever puppy (hm, I tried, but there really isn’t a more masculine way to describe puppies :). She named him Brodie, which neither I or her brother really approve of, but it’s her dog I guess. I’d have preferred Bailey as a name, it being the same colour as the drink, but one of her friend’s dogs was already called that. Obligatory pictures soon.

Dave finished his exams on Tuesday, and he had his engineering friends over at the apartment. Joyce brought her PS2 along (we really need to get ourselves a games console, but we’re misers), along with a new copy of LOTR which we completed over the course of the night. We walked down to the 24 hour Maccas afterwards, only to find out that the dining room was closed between 3-5am, but drive-thru was open. So there were 7 of us tramping through the drive through, with cars either side of us giving us funny looks. Dave felt a little too stupid walking through drive-thru, so we made Tony and Mark go pick up the car back at the apartment while we just hung around the parking lot. 10 minutes later, they arrived and we went through drive-thru in the car, which felt just as stupid. We took our stuff down to Coogee. (7 people in a station wagon = 1 person visible in the boot and 4 people without seatbelts. Earlier in the night for dinner in Randwick, when we were looking for parking, we somehow ended up behind a large van marked “Police Rescue”, freaking out Tony who hurriedly reversed into a side street and made everyone get out.) In an attempt to avert our eyes from the possibility of fat drunk couples screwing on the beach, some genius decided to pick a park table to eat at, which also happened to be directly downwind of the toilets which were emitting an unearthly stench.

There is a distinct lack of places to eat that are open for 24 hours in Sydney (McDonald’s doesn’t really count as food, does it?) Dave and I are looking forward to heading back to Asia and the round-the-clock availability of cheap, real food, as we have been subsisting on a diet of mouldy tofu for the last few weeks.

Nocturnal Diversions
Speaking of couples screwing, there’s been some interesting activity happening across the road. About a month ago at about 11pm, Mark and Dave are working on an engineering assignment in the lounge when Dave yells out, “Hey come quick!” I go out of my room and they are both staring out the balcony window at the apartment across the street, opposite us. On the top level of the building, there’s one brightly lit room where we can see everything going down in. Including the girl who has just slunk into the room… onto this shirtless guy. So they start making out and slowly descend from the vertical hug position down to the horizontal dance position, where, unfortunately they disappear momentarily out of view, although we can see the guy’s back occasionally rising above the window line. A few moments later the guy reemerges upwards and that was that.

A few minutes later, the scene virtually repeats itself. Mark, Dave and I are pretty distracted from our studies at this stage. Dave says to me, “Do you have a telescope or something?”
“No, but I have a video camera… it’s got zoom.”
“Fucker! Go get it…”
“Uh… that’s not right…”
“Ehh… 450x digital zoom!”

Meanwhile, Mark is trying to have nothing to do with us, but he’s still gawking out the window. Unfortunately, the camera battery was flat, foiling Dave’s plan. So we started charging the battery and went back to studying.

An hour later, back at the window…

Mark goes, “Hey, someone’s walking around the apartment topless, not sure if its the guy or the girl… hmm… oooh, ok it’s the girl.”

And it was indeed, based on the side profile. She turned away from us and started bending up
and down. Repeatedly. The guy was no where to be seen, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t in the room, if you know what I mean. She walked away when suddenly, poof! Out went the lights, down went the blinds, ending our little stint of voyeurism for the night.

Amongst our friends, it’s become a very well known apartment, although I think our gawking has been a little too obvious. Well, it would be if there were six faces pressed up against windows, peering at you from across the street. On more than one occassion, they have waved at us, before shutting the blinds and getting down and dirty. Oh well, perhaps one day they’ll get caught up in the passion of the moment and forget there’s a bunch of perves across the street from them hehe. (But hey, if you’re going to be that visible, expect to be watched!)

Have a 22nd on Saturday, a 21st next Saturday (Happy Birthday Denise!). They are both themed parties. What is it with those themes? Argh… hate em… too much thought required. Happy 22nd Birtdhay to Pro as well!

Eclipse
Heading down to South Australia next Tuesday for three days to experience the solar eclipse. Ceduna, which is in the middle of the eclipse path, is expected to be packed full of observers, and there have been overnight “tent cities” set up along the eclipse path. We have opted to go to the Wirraminna rail sidings instead, in the outback, to view it. Being further inland, the eclipse will last an insignificant two seconds shorter, and the place is in the middle of nowhere, but the chance of rain is much decreased compared to coastal Ceduna (despite the drought conditions present in Australia). We’ll probably be camping overnight there too. Without the light pollution of cities, I expect the night sky will be brilliant. Looking forward to it.

Overseas
Heading overseas in December too. Itinerary is:

- 18/12: Sydney to Singapore
- 19/12: Singapore to Hat Yai
- 21/12: Hat Yai to Singapore
- 22/12: Singapore to Hong Kong
- Between 22/12 and 02/01: 2 days in Guangzhou, visiting my grandmother’s home town
- 02/01: Hong Kong to Singapore
- 04/01: Singapore

Unfortunately there’s a lot of travelling involved which will suck up much time. I’m looking for a new digital camera while in Singapore. Something in the ultra-portable class that fits into pockets with room to spare so it won’t impale me in the groin when I sit down. The new Canon Digital Ixus v3 looks appealing (250g, 3.1 megapixels).

21
Nov 02
Thu

Wait

Final exam later today. Regular updates resume soon. Promise!

13
Nov 02
Wed

57,000 words later…

And the draft of my thesis has been completed. It’s currently with my supervisor awaiting feedback. Final submission date looks to be Friday or next Monday. Meanwhile, I’ll be putting in the study for my one subject this session, which is telecommunications for e-commerce (mysteriously named, for it has nothing really to do with e-commerce – it’s a networking subject). Exam is next Friday.

2
Nov 02
Sat

Thesis Update

37000 words in, without appendices, and just under two weeks to go. I ran six system demonstrations/surveys this week, with eight to run by next Wednesday. I should have the results analysed by the weekend, and hopefully a completed draft ready to undergo a brief one week proofread and revision. The one week process is too brief for my liking, but they brought the submission deadline forward by two weeks a few months ago. A complaint was recently lodged with the faculty dean, and there will be a meeting to inquire into the state of affairs, but it’s unlikely the deadline will change. It seems that the majority of the 20 or so BIT honours students will be graduating late because the deadline is just too near. Nonetheless, I don’t intend on dragging out this thesis for another couple months, so I’m aiming for an on time submission on the 15th. The final exam is on the 22nd, which also marks the end of my four year degree. A bunch of us plan to head out into the city after that exam… and just not come back for a while ;).

In other news, I got a paper accepted for publication at the Collecter e-commerce conference. Man… no time, no time… unlike some socialites who have time for loungeroom art!

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28
Oct 02
Mon

I’m So Bored

I have a few spare minutes, so let me recount a fairly mundane memory for a fairly mundane day, which came back to me after I discovered an old namecard, a remnant from highschool.

In Year 9, we had this crazy teacher (who I’ll refer to as Dougie) for commerce who employed somewhat peculiar means to maintain discipline within the class. He created this system of responsibilities. If we failed to comply with any of these responsibilities, he’d apply some sort of remedial action. This “remedial action” escalated in severity each time a responsibility was broken by a person. The list of responsibilities numbered five, and we had them all written down on this name card we had to display on our desk.

1. Do not speak while the teacher or someone else is speaking.
2. Do not get out of your seat without teacher’s permission.
3. Do not distract others.
4. Raise your hand. Do not call out.
5. Do your work.

So you’d be enjoying a nice little chat with the friend next to you and suddenly a voice would sound out from across the room.

“Stuart!”
“Yes sir?”
“Please tell me responsibility number 1.”
“(Groan) Do not speak while the teacher or someone else is speaking.”
“And what is my responsibility to you?”

This final question refered to the list of remedial actions which were, in order of severity:

1. One warning.
2. You will be moved.
3. You will see me after class.
4. You will see me at lunch.
5. You will be excluded from the class.

I quote the above verbatim, as I wrote on my namecard seven years ago. Anyway this system operated throughout the entire year and as a result, sparked some retaliatory antics from us in response to the bizarrity of the “responsibility system”. Ways would be found to bend the responsibilities – such as number 2, which had everyone sliding their chairs around the room in order to move about. It was even better because we had commerce classes in a biology lab, so there were a lot of props we made use of, like sitting the model skeleton in the teacher’s chair before Dougie arrived, whipping the gas taps on and loudly exclaiming, “Aww who farted?!” and so on. Anyway one day, near the end of the year, we were lining up at the teacher’s desk to collect exams back or something like that. Someone had nicked one of the whiteboard markers and wrote a large word onto the metal front of the teacher’s desk saying, “IDIOT”, or something similar, and an arrow pointing to Dougie. Anyway, as we all took our tests back and sat down, we started cracking up one by one. By the time everyone had sat down, we were all sniggering. It took him the rest of class to figure out what was going on. When he eventually managed to suss out the source of his public humiliation, he was not a happy chappy. The Routine began again, but it was a little different this time:

“You.”
“Yes sir?”
“What is responsibility number six?”
“Uh… six? There is no six?”
“Yes there is.”
“Uh… umm…”
“It is: Do not be a moron. Now get out.”
“But your responsibility to me is a warning…”
“GET OUT!!”

Meanwhile, the rest of the class is in an uproar of laughter and Dougie is vainly handing out warnings and moving people left, right and centre in an effort to get us to shut up… And that was the end of that unproductive class for the day. Ok that was just a memory from a while ago. I didn’t say it was interesting.

26
Oct 02
Sat

Urk

I am currently going through a bit of honours thesis hell. After discovering that the original plan of testing my software in a real world business wasn’t going to happen due to the low adoption in Sydney of the e-commerce system that my software runs on, my supervisor suggested a scope change to running a case study instead. So, I spent the last fortnight preparing for a case study that was meant to be done on fraud in the RTA. Unfortunately, the approval hadn’t actually been passed for me to run interviews, and last Thursday, I got a call from my supervisor to say that RTA management had turned down the request. Rumour has it that they are having a bit of trouble with internal system security, which means that they aren’t exactly in the mood to have some inquisitive uni student come in and tell them all the things they are doing wrong. Strike 2. Upon further discussion, it was decided that I would be running a survey instead. So, throw out the last two weeks worth of work, or about 4000 words of well researched material (if I do say so myself), and restart. The thesis is due on November 15. The process of Packing Shit has not started just yet, but I guarantee that within a week or two, I will definitely be packing it.

In other news, daylight saving starts. Therefore, we all lose an hour of sleep tonight, meaning I will be extra tired at dragonboat tomorrow morning. Tuesday night I’ll be going out to dinner with the world trip crew. Out of the other three, I haven’t seen Von in a very long time, so it will be good to catch up with her. We’re going to a Nepalese restaurant in Surry Hills, and then Gelatissimo in the CBD, which everyone tells me is the latest popular ice cream joint. (I’m inclined to believe this because they pave their ice cream into cones. Real ice cream is paved, not scooped!) Those choices were naturally made in line with the two most favourite countries we visited a couple years ago. Ok then, back to the stressful grind of the thesis.

One more thing. Soon mailed me with an amusing conspiracy theory about the Millennium trains. They sure are rare.

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16
Oct 02
Wed

Thesis News

It’s just rolled over into the one month left stage, until my thesis is due. The workload is mounting and I have yet to commence a case study I need to do for it (not that I’ve been lazy, my supervisor discovered that a sudden change in thesis objectives was necessary last week). I’ve been staring at Word for so long over the past fortnight that I’ve taken to pacing about the apartment just to get away from it. Thus, I present to you a flash game worthy of my current state of mind: Poke the Penguin. Thanks Dan.

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10
Oct 02
Thu

Yabbies

Well it finally happened, our little freshwater crab was eaten by the smaller of our yabbies. :(

State of our aquarium

8
Oct 02
Tue

Last Night…

[00:59:12] Chris: eheheh… a person just called … wrong phone number…
Him: “hi… is this Asian Darlings?”
Me: “umm… i’m pretty sure you got the wrong number”
Him: *click*

7
Oct 02
Mon

The Weekend

The place we ended up at over the weekend was Bermagui. Bermagui is a small town, about five hours south of Sydney, near Bega. It’s on the coast, and reputed to be one of the best fishing spots in Australia. Our hosts were a couple of family friends, Ron and Betty. Ron is a fishing enthusiast.

It was after dinner, about 9pm when we arrived at their house. It was in a quiet, unlit street, lined sporadically on one side with houses, and a cemetary shrouded in bushland on the other (“So Betty won’t have to go far to cart me!” Ron quipped later on, producing a furrowed brow from Betty.) Ron greeted us, “We thought you got lost! Come in, come in, I just got a fresh batch of nippers for bait when we go out tomorrow!” It wasn’t until we entered his garage that we realised how much of an enthusiast he was. In addition to his large red game fishing boat, Ron owned a second smaller vessel for river runs. It was that boat we were going to go out on the next day, as the ocean was a bit too choppy for open sea fishing. On the roof was a vast array of fishing rods, twenty or so. They all looked pretty similar to me.

“Why’ve you got so many rods?” mum exclaimed incredulously.
“Let me answer that with this: Why’ve you got so many dresses?”
“Oh, because each dress is for a different occassion…”
And that pretty much ended that.

He gesticulated wildly. “…And this is for barramundi. This is for bass. That one is for beach fishing. And these ones,” he paused, finger hovering up at series of around six rods covered with cloth, “are for marlin.” He climbed up a step ladder, dislodged one of the marlin rods, and came down. Marlin rods are big. Well, they need to be, especially when you’re trying to reel in an animal that can be more than four times heavier than you. The reel is a large, bulky clunk of metal, around which is wrapped some 600-pound fishing wire. My arms were getting tired just supporting it. Luckily when fishing, in most cases, the rod is held into place by a socket between your legs, in the chair on the game boat. The weight of the rod is supported by a harness strapped around your body.

“That metal clunk you’re holding is $3000,” Ron said.
“Uh, you better have it back then,” handing it quickly back to him. He chuckled.

The garage wall was adorned with various photos of Ron alongside marlin. One that took him seven minutes to catch. One that took thirty minutes. One that took over three hours. Apparently, on one trip out, he managed to land nine of the critters.

The next morning, I walked out the front door as Ron was finishing connecting the trailer to his 4-wheel drive. A couple of neighbours had come over for a chat. Their tiny three-legged dog, called Bandit, was hopping around with her nose in the bucket where all the nippers were, absolutely fascinated. Occasionally her head would jerk back with a yelp as one of the nippers grabbed at her nose. We fished out a nipper and gave it to her. She retreated off to the front lawn and proceeded to toy with the squirming crustacean, before gobbling it up. Bandit had lost her hind right leg when a tractor accidentally backed over it.

We arrived at the river at the top of high tide. It was an inlet to the sea, so it was a diluted saltwater that made the river. The fishing season was only starting up, so our catch wasn’t as bountiful as other times of the year. Three hours later, we’d caught some bream, blackfish, trevally, some poisonous pufferfish, and a few stingrays. Only five of the fish were above the minimum legal limit, and that was what we added to our dinner menu in addition to some fresh oysters, balmain bugs and calamari. At around 3pm, the tide was retreating rapidly, and threatened to maroon our boat in the river – some parts of which, were only a foot or so deep at that time. We actually did get stuck on a sandbank on the way back and had to jump out and pull the boat over it.

Dinner was a banquet of fresh seafood. We caught the second half of the footy grand final. Ron, being the doggies supporter that he is indignantly pointed out that, “The roosters only won because of the bulldogs,” and then watched The Cider House Rules. We got back to Sydney this evening. There are actually quite a lot of decent places around NSW for a long weekend getaway.

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4
Oct 02
Fri

Long Weekend

I’m off, down south along the coast until Monday. Family friend has a boat or something and we’re doing… stuff. Yeah you can tell I’ve been clued in to what’s going on… I don’t even remember the name of the place we’re going, it’s got some weird name.

3
Oct 02
Thu

This story has been dramatised for the web

Dave came back from Melbourne today, told me a pretty amusing story which I will now relay here. Dave and eleven of his friends hired three cars and set off west from Melbourne on the Great Ocean Drive. They had decided not to prebook accommodation, feeling “it would be more exciting that way”. They eventually arrived at Apollo Bay around 9pm and found a motel to stay in. However, they being a bunch of miserly, broke uni students, attempted to get themselves a discount. They told the innkeeper that there were only eight of them. To their dismay, their scam was undone when the third car in their convoy, which they had ordered to stay well out of sight until later, came trundling up the driveway. The innkeeper promptly kicked all of them out.

Now they had to find a new place to stay. Unfortunately, that day coincided with the end of the AFL Grand Final, and after doing the rounds in Apollo Bay, found there was absolutely zero accommodation left. So they sent off on the road again. They came to the next town along the road. Same result. No space. And the next. And the next. Well, there were spare rooms, but no establishment that could fit 12 extra bodies in. They could’ve split up and picked separate motels, but no, they were obstinate. They also started to declare they were a party of twelve, instead of eight, having learnt their lesson.

They hit the road again. By this time they were beginning to get freaked out. Midnight was approaching, the roads were deserted, and periodically a kangaroo would bound across the road out of the murky darkness, jolting the drivers back to alertness (their cars were bullbarless). They passed a lonely B&B joint along the highway but were too scared to enquire within. And so on and on they drove. Eventually, the convoy arrived at Port Campbell, I think it was, and still there was nothing. Options were starting to be thrown around, including sleeping in the car. I can only imagine the mood in each of the cars. A bunch of tired, grumpy, desparate uni students in the middle of nowhere, looking for shelter (I told you this story was dramatised).

Finally, at 1.30am, they arrived in Warrnambool, exhausted, and managed to book themselves into a motor inn, over 4 hours later. And get this, they had tried checking in to at least 25 different places after Apollo Bay.

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26
Sep 02
Thu

A Week in the Life

It seems that the updates to this site have somewhat petered out this session. I guess it’s because I seem to be spending less time on the Net. Apart from the daily rounds, I don’t really browse through much else. My thesis is due November 15, and I have a shitload of work left to do for that. I’m using IBM WebSphere for it, and due to some obscure bug that was preventing a proper install, I had to lug my computer up to St Leonard’s for them to look at it (incidentally, the view they have from the top floor at reception is incredible). With a day’s effort and luck, we managed to get WebSphere working on my computer, so it was worth the trip. The thesis is what occupies most of my time these days, although progress is very slow.

I went to a dragonboat training session last Sunday and I don’t think my deltoids have hurt so much in my life – the exertion isn’t so much in the stroking, it’s in keeping the oar held up. Been hitting the gym twice a week, including a Pilates class. I had a midsession quiz yesterday for my only subject this session, Telecomms for E-Commerce, basically a course on networks. It was… ok. Now we’re on our one week midsession break, but with my 3 hour weeks, it won’t feel any different for me. My flatmate is taking off to Melbourne for the week, leaving tonight. Hmm, I’ve never been to Melbourne myself. Soph just got offered a permanent position at ING, which is terrific news.

Looking ahead, there’s a 21st at Centennial park tomorrow and a BBQ on Sunday. Co-op ball is coming up, where I will have to go through the hassles and cost of hiring appropriate attire (grumble). I’ve also convinced mum and dad to take 3 days off work to watch the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse over South Australia in December. We’re planning to hop on a plane to Adelaide, hire a car, drive up to Ceduna, or thereabouts, and return by the same method. There’s going to be another family holiday at the year’s end to Singapore, Hat Yai (Thailand) and Hong Kong, which means I’m going to miss another Christmas and New Year’s in Australia… the 4th year running :(. My cousin has been dodgy over ICQ again and has somehow managed to score us a good looking Honkie “tour guide” while we’re over there (despite the presence of friends-we-already-know that will be there). That happened the last time too. And more. But that’s another story.

8
Sep 02
Sun

Alternative uses for shrapnel

Another classic Fuzzy story, this time about loose change charity. My roommate came in to pay his half of the phone bill tonight and the bum paid me the $4 non-notes portion of the bill in 5c and 10c coins, out of the stockpile he’s been “waiting for the right moment to get rid of”. I’m tempted to copycat Fuzzy’s antics. Except, I live in an block of about 16 apartments, and the mailboxes outside are all in one place. So it wouldn’t be too difficult to drop change into say, my next door neighbour’s box without looking too conspicuous.

5
Sep 02
Thu

Stuff

My PSU blew on my LAN box (which is also the machine I am doing my thesis on). The weird thing is, the computer was off at the time. I guess it must’ve been the residual charge running through the system to keep the network card powered… but still, that’s not very much voltage. Bizarre. Oh well, time to fork out more cash – this is the 4th or 5th power supply to have conked out on me.

Oh, belated happy 21st to Napalm!

29
Aug 02
Thu

Uni Stuff

Yesterday, 4pm, UNSW: I had a meeting with my thesis supervisor.

“I want you to write a 5000 word conference paper.”
“Ok.”
“Yeah. Tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow morning?!”
“Uh huh. Say, 9.30am?”
“Uh… o… k…”

So that kept me nice and awake until 6am today.

I’ve just finished doing the revisions we discussed at the 9.30 meeting, so hopefully that’s out of the way for now. I took a trek up to the Law Faculty admin office after the meeting and got their enrolment prospectus. UAC has opened for 2003 enrolments. Lately I’ve began giving serious consideration into doing graduate law, and I seem to be moving in that direction. It’ll add another 3 years to my uni life (or 2.5, if I overload) and 7 years in uni would make me old. Then again anyone with a combined honours degree would need 6 years anyway, so an extra half year couldn’t hurt that much could it? It’s unlikely that I would get the opportunity to do law in my life if I don’t do it when I’m young, but then again 2 years of full-time work is a pretty good start in life too. Hmm, I think I’ll enrol (deadline is end of September) and see how the year pans out. At least that gives me options either way. Anyone able to offer me advice on this?

18
Aug 02
Sun

Hearing

I’ve always been mildly deaf since childhood, so I went for a hearing test last week to see if the situation had changed at all. A hearing test is not all that dissimilar in principle to an eyesight test. They stick you into a soundproofed room (even isolated from the air conditioning system), and play you tones through headphones. The tones are played at a variety of frequencies at different levels of volume. You hit a button when you hear a tone. It gets quite deceptive, because at quieter levels, you’re not sure what is a tone and what is your imagination. They also play words and you’re meant to repeat what you hear, or at least, what you think you hear. The last stage of the test involves them sticking probes into your ear to measure middle and inner ear things.

In the tone test, they measure tonal ranges from 500Hz to 8000Hz which is roughly the normal human vocal range. Normal hearing, like 20/20 vision, should allow people to hear down to 20 decibels. I have mild permanent deafness in the upper ranges (2kHz-8kHz) where sounds must be above 40dB for me to hear – note that the decibel scale is logarithmical. Which to me is slightly worrying because a 20dB difference means those frequencies must be 100 times “louder”, or at least 100 times more powerful, for me to hear, than the normal person, unless I have misinterpreted something. Luckily, it’s still categorised as minor loss. In practical terms, that means I sometimes miss high frequency/low volume parts of words such as affricatives (“ch”) and fricatives (“th”, “sh”, “ss”), but context and limited lip reading ability (that the doctor told I have apparently subconsciously developed) fill in the gaps most of the time. It also explained for me why I can never seem to hear people when they whisper to me… it’s because I simply can’t.

18
Jul 02
Thu

Today

Woke up at about 9.30 today. Uni results were released at 8am, but as usual the NSS system shat itself under the load of students checking their marks. After a good 15 minutes of clicking reload, I retrieved my mark for this session, an HD for IS Security, which was a good start to the day.

Pro dropped around and we headed off for brunch. We intended to go to Coogee but our approach was all bad, hitting a series of No Right Turn signs and ending up in Clovelly. No matter, we ate there at a cafe on the beachside. The beach at Clovelly is nicely tucked away and not heavily trafficked, and the day was just beautiful. The fresh aroma of sea salt in the air, good view of the beach, the soporific sounds of waves breaking, and to cap it off, warm, strong sunshine. Not bad for the middle of Winter, but then again, this is Sydney. Walked off our food along the rocks. Lots of people out with their dogs who were swimming in rockpools. It sure felt like a weekend day. I love holidays.

Dropped into uni to drop in a couple history essays and then went off to the city to catch Blade 2. Shen went up to buy his ticket only to be asked for proof of age – Blade is restricted to 15+ unless accompanied by a guardian over 18. He was incredulous: “Are you serious??” We gave him a ribbing for that, “Don’t worry Shen, we can be your guardians” (despite the fact that he was the eldest of all of us). Until all three of us got stopped at the door by an overzealous usher intent on keeping minor minors out of Blade. But damn, I am pretty sure that at 21, none of us look like 14 year olds.

Blade 2′s cool. Violence, gore, swords, guns, blood, and badass attitude. Guy’s flick. If you are squeamish, go watch it. Desensitise yourself. The only thing that detracted from it was the old fogie sitting behind us exclaiming, “Oh Wowwwww” in the most annoying nasally voice you can imagine, every 5 minutes.

Off to the snow on Saturday, can’t wait. One week of skiing, then back to uni for my final semester. I’ve shoved everything (Thesis, Telecomms for E-Commerce) onto a Thursday, so I only have a one day week at uni. Snazzy. See you in a week.

11
Jul 02
Thu

What’s Not Fun

When friends give you a hard time when you decide to spend time with other friends, who in turn do the same thing. Give me a fucking break.

2
Jul 02
Tue

Stuff

Just finished my 60 page thesis proposal. It’s due in with my supervisor tomorrow, hopefully he won’t drown it in red, chuck it back in my face and say it’s not good enough. But I get this feeling that that may be the case. It doesn’t end there, I have this one annoying pissy half-subject I need to get done and uni has scheduled it in for Friday to Sunday. All day, 10 to 6pm. So I’m going in to uni in the holidays on a weekend to do work. Yuck. So next week is when my holidays really begin.

27
Jun 02
Thu

Stuff

Last day of work. Origin was a blast on Wednesday night, too bad about the result. Went out to catch the Brazil-Turkey match in the city afterwards, then overslept and turned up late to work the following day.

Crude comment of the night, delivered by the plastered blokes behind us at the footy who provided the night’s commentary: (To one of the cheerleaders) “Show us where you got hit by the axe!”

25
Jun 02
Tue

Hmm

You know, it’s a bit of a scary thing when you realise that peoples e-mail addresses in your address book are no longer ending in “@hotmail.com” or “@student.unsw.edu.au”, but “@corporation.com.au” and “@company.com”.

Finished my IS Security exam today, just have to get the thesis proposal in next Monday, finish up at OneSteel this Friday, and I’m on holidays! Going to Stadium Oz to watch the State of Origin match (go the blues!) tonight and probably head into the city afterwards and catch the soccer. The semester from hell is almost over!

18
Jun 02
Tue

New Printer

We have a new 55 page per minute printer here at work. It’s a Beast. Those pages just fly out…

6
Jun 02
Thu

Dave bet on Uruguay to win last night which meant that they didn’t. (They drew.)France is in real trouble now – the next game is a must win one, and preferably one where they win by a large a goal difference as possible. For tonight, I would back Argentina, but a better bet would be to check who Dave has his money on and go the other way :).

4
Jun 02
Tue

Go

I learnt how to play Go last night. I love it, it’s a really cool game. You know how in chess some guy moves a pawn and the commentary is something along the lines of, “dominating move, wresting control of the critical squares from his opponent, choking his supply lines”, and every normal person is like… wtf? Well, the cool thing about Go is that you can actually describe the board that descriptively, just by the patterns of pieces of the board. Go has been described as fighting a multi-front war, and, although that’s a fairly extravagant description for any board game, it’s true. The 19×19 square board is massive – I haven’t played a game on the full board yet. Go is not Reversi/Othello. The object is not to put down as many pieces of yours on the board as possible, but to control as much territory as possible. As opposed to chess, the emphasis is on controlling space through linking pieces and not through movement. Naturally, I’m a total newbie at this game, but it’s far easier to pick up than chess.

This game is flawed!

3
Jun 02
Mon

Privacy Assignment

We got our privacy group assignment back in record time after handing it in last Friday. We scored 94% which was immensely gratifying.

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30
May 02
Thu

21st Birthday

Well, this is it, the Big 21. Strange age to “move” into adulthood, really. Australians, at 18, have all the legal rights and responsibilities of an adult. I guess it takes three years for the maturation process to start occurring – you go silly with those newfound rights one has at 18. Then, you slowly get over the fact that you can now walk into a bar, club or porn store without getting kicked out. Life has sure changed a lot since I was in first-year uni. Back then, there really was not a lot to worry about. Uni subjects were easy (and ultimately unimportant), free time flowed like beer on St Patrick’s day. There were so many new people to meet, and uni itself was fresh, new and the sudden freedom after 13 years of school life was liberating. Now, at the tail end of a uni degree, the pressure is on to find a job, push out a quality thesis, and prepare to move on to the next stage of life. Free time now flows like beer after 1am in NSW country towns. But anyway, that’s probably because I’ve been working full time for a year now on top of a lot of other stuff. I will be making the most of the rest of uni and living it up.

My cousin, who rented a car and taught me how to drive a manual last year, is claiming that his present this year will top that idea. He claims the present will (1) potentially save my life and (2) make me shit my pants. I wait in anticipation.

Timezones deem that I won’t be able to (legally) drink in the US for another 16 hours.

Overheard

On the bus today, some girl in reference to a baby: “He’s so cute I could EAT him!”

I sure haven’t heard that expression before. Oh wait, I have. Mike Tyson said it, but the word “cute” didn’t enter into it.

28
May 02
Tue

B’day

My 21st is on Friday but I have been so damn busy that the party probably won’t be till July. Sucks. Oh well, 4 more weeks of work left.

Putting the finishing touches on a group uni assignment for IS Security where we have to do a privacy report on an e-business company. With lack of a suitable organisation, we eventually turned to the Australian branch of Internet.com and interviewed Niki Scevak (pays to have co-op connections sometimes heh). So that’s due Friday. The exam is on the 26th, and that, along with the literature review for my thesis, will be all that’s left this semester in terms of uni work. I need a break. I’m going skiing in Victoria these holidays.

20
May 02
Mon

Brrr

Today was way too fricking cold. The daytime was bad enough, but I had uni this evening, and in typical Kensington fashion, it was blustery. The wind seems to bypass all clothing and strips heat straight from the skin. Catching hypothermia on the walks home this Winter is a distinct possibility :). I always pass a few payphones on the way home from uni. They are in the middle of the street in residential zoning, and they always seem to have someone using them at all odd hours. Fair enough, people may use those phones to make a quick call, but the type of people that use them speak for ages – up to an hour long… surely a home phone would be better (and it would be out of the cold)? Or are people that desparate for a chat? I’ve never figured this one out.

If you check out Google, it looks like they are releasing a new logo this Friday and are selling mugs this week only, to commemorate the event. For some reason, I’d really dig a mug with the Google logo on it, but to order it to Australia would cost $40. I ain’t paying $40 for a cup.

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19
May 02
Sun

Storm

Here’s a photo of the storm that swept over Sydney last Thursday (that I got caught in, without an umbrella!) It’s pretty cool. The view is from a building somewhere in North Sydney. Thanks to Pro.

Yabbies!

Yabbies
They’re no longer all in the same tank, unfortunately. The big one kept dismembering the others.

12
May 02
Sun

Recruitment

This has been an incredibly tough season for finding a job. Industry in general is still in a slump, despite an upturn in business. As a result, the numbers of graduates companies are willing to take on is but a fraction of the levels they were during the dot com boom time of 98/99. I filled out job application forms or sent in my resume to about 15 companies in strategy consulting, IT consulting, IT positions in financial services and IT companies. As of today, I’ve spoken my way through 16 interviews.

The whole process is incredibly draining. Firstly, the masses of application forms are bad enough to fill in. Online forms are the worst, especially the ones with about a hundred open-ended “name a situation where you have displayed teamwork/leadership/initiative etc.” type questions. Then there’s the resume, cover letter and academic transcript (at $10 per transcript, the uni is virtually running a mint). For some online forms you have to retype your resume done in Word as text, which is a major pain. In the end, I got truly sick of filling out form after form and just stopped.

Secondly, there’s the interview phase. Getting called up for the first few are encouraging. But then you realise that your schedule is starting to pile up with them. I have been going to interviews more often than work in the past three weeks. The interviews are 30-60 minutes on average. They really tax the brain as you attempt to construct a coherent, insightful answer, all while trying to sound sincere. With experience, it starts to become second nature though, and again, eventually you get sick of answering the same (slightly reworded) questions and get lazy. At this stage, it’s also pretty clear to the interviewer whether you have any real interest in the job. It’s been a few weeks of hoping that the last missed mobile phone call wasn’t from graduate recruitment, or that you come home to an empty letterbox (snail mail correspondence is reserved for rejections), or that the public transport system doesn’t collapse because that would make you late to the interview.

Strategic Consulting
The majority of the population, when they hear “management consulting company”, immediately think “PwC”, “Deloitte” and the other big names of the big 5 (or is that big 4 and a half now?). Unfortunately, that would be a misconception, for there is a band of companies pitched above those that make up the select group of “pure” strategic consultancies. The largest three, collectively known as M/B/B, are incredible companies to work for.

Competition for these companies is murderous. They hire from literally any discipline – engineering, law, med, commerce, science – and applicants are generally the pick of the crop of their fields. If you apply for these companies and get turned down as many are, it is all too easy to become discouraged or disillusioned with the job search process – I have witnessed some extremely talented people getting turned down for these companies. Realise however, that this year McKinsey, Poynton and Booz each hired a mere two grads out of thousands of applicants (and the other firms also hiring in the single digits). The number of grad positions open across the entire strategic consulting industry is less than the intake of PwC Consulting. Three years ago, the positions available would have been around triple what they are today.

I applied to these companies not expecting anything out of it, apart from experience. I received outright application rejections for all but two firms. One of them I have already bowed out of the interview process. I made it through to the second round of interviews for the remaining firm (16 people going for 3 positions), but was again unsuccessful.

All consulting firms hold case interviews, which are different from the ordinary behavioural based ones. Case interviews consist of a business case you work through with the interviewer – the aim of which is to see how well you can analyse a problem and structure a response. Questions I got ranged from things like, “How many tires are there in the world?” and “What is the market size for staple guns in the US?” to longer problems such as exploring market growth for a timber manufacturer and doing a market assessment and comparison between quarries and concrete suppliers. I actually prefer cases to behaviourals, but they are tougher to do, and it is all too easy to be unlucky and receive a tough case you just aren’t in the right mindset to solve.

It also seems that these firms are quite wary of IT grads. A friend who made it to the Bain interviews commented that he was the sole IT person there amongst a sea of combined Law degrees. Again, 3 years ago, things would have been quite different. (McKinsey actually used to be a sponsor for BIT!)

IT Consulting
Strategic consulting companies held their recruitment period a month before all the other industries. Application deadlines for IT Consultancies were set roughly at the time most strategy consultancies were handing out offers. Only three consultancies were recruiting this year: PwC Consulting (25 grads), Deloitte Consulting (up to 60 grads) and Accenture (about 20 grads). All the consulting companies have now splintered off their parent accounting ones after Andersen disintegrated, so they are effectively all separate entities.

PwCC: These guys will be undergoing a rebranding some time later this year, once they figure out what their new name is going to be. My degree (BIT) is part of a co-operative program with PwC as a sponsor, so we all got “special treatment” in terms of fast tracking the interview process. For us, they hold everything on one day – aptitude tests and interviews with a buffet lunch thrown in. I was asked, “What do you think of the situation in Zimbabwe?” which has to be one of the more unusual questions I’ve recevied. Offers will be extended in about 3-4 weeks. Their training course in Tampa, Florida sounds quite appealing.

Accenture: No special treatment with them, although they too are a program sponsor. Three rounds of interviews. Got rejected after the first round, which is highly perplexing, to say the least.

A few friends have been receiving interview offers by KPMG via SMS. That’s just cheap.

The Rest
I also applied for IBM, Aspect, Macquarie Bank, and UBS Warburg (IT divisions). Waiting to hear from Aspect. Currently in the pipeline for IBM and Macquarie. Was unsuccessful for UBS.

I have an interview on Wednesday, but the recruitment season is starting to wind down. Things should all be over by the month’s end.

Yabbies!

That was a longer time away from posting than I originally thought I would take. Everything’s just been so incredibly busy! I’ve had the ever increasing urge to post, but haven’t found a lull in activity (and corresponding burst of energy needed) up until now. The great majority of my time has been spent with recruitment related activities, interspersed with spurts of uni and thesis research on top of work. I’m going to over my recruiting experiences, but first, something else.

We got an aquarium in the apartment. It’s got no fish, only a crab and two yabbies. The first remark most people make about this is, “Crustaceans and no fish? How boring!” … only to spend the next half hour staring fascinated into the glass tank.

Why this is so relies on the nature of the beasts. Of the two yabbies, one is an absolute bully. He’ll attack others without provocation. As a result of constantly muscling away food from the others, he moulted first (shed his shell to grow bigger) and is practically doubled in size overnight. He looks like a tank compared to the others. He’s also ripped off one of the other yabby’s pincers. The crab keeps mainly to herself, only striking out in self-defence when any of the other two get too close. The little yabby is copping a beating, and more often than not, the big one will chase the him around. The little one will retreat backwards, only to back into the crab who will give him a nip in the butt. A yabby’s quick retreat mechanism is its tail flick. By using this, it can catapult itself halfway across the tank in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, when the little one flicks its tail after getting pinched by the crab, it normally ends up catapulting forward, straight into the arms of the big yabby, who lashes out with its own pincers. Tail flick again, but this time, backwards. Into the crab. The result is something like a game of tennis.

The big fights, however, are between the crab and the big yabby. The resemblance to a boxing match is uncanny – they’ll take swipes at each other, getting closer and closer, until their claws are entangled. Without a referee to yell out “break!” however, both critters are free to try and bite off each other’s ears. Well, that’s if they had visible ears – they don’t, but eyes work just as well. Incidentally, the scientific name for yabbies is cheerax destructor. They’ve lasted over three weeks now without killing each other. You can call it sadistic, but we call it natural selection. And it’s a lot more interesting than watching goldfish with 30 second memories swim around bumping into the glass.

Update: Big bully has ripped off the second pincer of the second yabby, so Dave moved him out into his gf’s aquarium. The carnage continued unabated, however, and the crab lost two of its legs in the battles that ensued. She too has been moved into a second aquarium Dave bought today.

9
May 02
Thu

Hi

I’m alive. Stay tuned for a Big-Ass post in the upcoming days… I’ve just gone through 16 interviews in the last 3 weeks. I’ve also moved workplace to Parramatta, which actually has shops within walking distance (gasp!)

7
Apr 02
Sun

Aquarium

Dave bought an aquarium yesterday. It looks like we’re going to be keeping a couple of yabbies in our apartment. It’s sitting on the kitchen bench. I remember back in school, our tutor kept a yabbie in her lab. Every house period, everyone would find some way to traumatise the poor thing when she wasn’t looking (it’s amazing what tools you can find in a science lab). Eventually it died due to shock or so we were told. We were convinced it was all those bananas she kept feeding it. Have you seen the mess and stink a banana makes when it slowly disintegrates in water?

3
Apr 02
Wed

Recruitment

Well April is underway and so too is the recruiting silly season. Strat consulting firms are the first to recruit, and I finally sent in all those forms in the last few weeks. That is, M/B/B, Booz, and a couple boutiques. Naturally, you can’t expect a position in those firms unless you are in the freak category, so the other industries I’m applying for include IT Consultancies, namely the consulting arms of the Big 5, IT departments of i-banking firms (they pay well, apparently), and IT firms. PwC Consulting is holding an information night for BITs tonight. It will be interesting to see how they pitch themselves. Their intake for consulting this year is around 25, which is only slightly less than the probable total intake across all the strat consulting firms I applied to. Next week we have a BIT recruitment night, where our course sponsors and us get together for an evening to sell ourselves to each other.

The first company to kick off interviewing is McK on the 10th. No one I know has heard anything from any of the firms as yet. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

1
Apr 02
Mon

Easter

I hope the break for you was enjoyable. Four day long weekend did me a heap of good.

25
Mar 02
Mon

Leadership Camp

I got back from Leadership camp on Sunday. Awesome time. The worst part of the day was being blasted awake at 6.30am, but after that, it was all good. They ran teams of us through a series of problem solving activities – get out of prison, get over a pit with these materials, build this as fast as possible, etc. – followed by debrief sessions that put things in context of leadership. It was surprisingly effective, given that I never thought that leadership was a skill that could be “taught”. It was all incredibly fun, and effective. Activities finished before dinner and after that we were pretty much left up to our own devices (which meant getting pissed, for most of us). Exhausting. Thank goodness for the four day week this week…

20
Mar 02
Wed

On Camp

I am off down to Kangaroo Valley for a leadership camp. It will be a blast. Back Sunday.

16
Mar 02
Sat

I had a car accident today. Neither I nor the other party was hurt, but I am pretty shaken up about it.

14
Mar 02
Thu

Recruitment

Yes, I know my site is becoming ill-maintained yet again. I’ve been flat out.

Thesis – I finally got my topic finalised. It’s on continuous auditing and e-commerce.

Recruitment – Been attending all the information seminars this week. Deloitte Consulting on Monday, Bain on Tuesday, Port Jackson Partners on Wednesday and The Firm yesterday (that’d be McKinsey). All strategic consulting firms (except for DC, which is more mixed), all high powered, and all highly desirable places to work at, careerwise. Next week is BCG, and I’ll be interested to see how they present compared to McKinsey which was distinctly unflashy. Not that they need to be flashy, they already have a Reputation. I finally have developed my resume to a point where I’m satisfied with it. The resumes start going in next week, with interview offers being extended late March/early April. Working in strategy consulting would be an absolute blast (the travel, training, diverse experience, networking, money – it’s all there). However, the calibre of applicants and the acceptance rate (<<1%) for firms in that line of business makes all applications daunting. (As a result, I’m applying for as many strat consult firms as I can.)

5
Mar 02
Tue

Bus Strike!

Sydney is now suffering a 48 hour bus strike. It’s not a “free-fare” day like they normally hold, they’ve taken all buses off the road. The strike is expected to impact 600,000 people over the next few days.

Traffic on major roads, as can be expected, is an absolute car park. Especially from places whose only available form of public transport are buses (UNSW and the eastern suburbs, for instance). On the way to work the people waiting on roadsides for – what I can only assume – car pools was readily noticeable. And of course, there are bound to be people who just haven’t heard about the strike. There is a bus stop right outside this building, and sure enough when I was walking in for work, there was a Korean girl standing there waiting. I told her about the strike, which as expected, she hadn’t heard of. It must’ve thrown a spanner into the works with her plans for the day. Kev, who lives across the road from me took up a tutoring position at UTS. Unable to find an available car, and unwilling to take a taxi, he is walking to UTS (should take a little over an hour). Then he’s grabbing a lift with me back (probably will take the same amount of time with the traffic! :).

3
Mar 02
Sun

Ok that was a strange voicemail… Someone rang up my mobile, got my voicemail, said a couple words (“hello?” and “ring”), and then placed my voicemail on callwaiting (the Telstra callwaiting piano music came on). Riiight.

Session 1

Uni commences today, start of my final year as an undergrad. The most I got to check out of o-week last week was a view of the stalls up the uni walkway as I drove to and back from work on Anzac Parade. Dave got back from Malaysia last Friday and my apartment is no longer empty. Hmm… not that Dave is home much, but you know what I mean :). People ask me if living alone is, well, lonely. For me, not really. Over the past few months I’ve enjoyed the fact that I have the whole place to myself, and the privacy that comes with that. I think loneliness only sets in with boredom, and I haven’t had much time to be bored lately. Actually, the only times I’m really home are during weekday evenings (zoned out in front of the tv or doing menial housework). Weekends, if there’s nothing else on, I’m back at Camden. Anyhow, time to take a deep breath and launch into a new semester.

11
Feb 02
Mon

Opening Hours

Shop opening hours in Sydney. A real problem. I want to buy a pedometer (it’s just a device I’ve always wanted for no reason other than curiousity). I know I can buy one in the CBD. I do not work in the CBD. I finish work at 5. Shops close at 5. I suppose there is Thursday, but that being V-Day means that this Thursday is out. There is next week, but still… things close too early in this city.

You know that cold I caught last week? Well, the cold has gone, but the virus or bacteria or whatever infected me totally ravaged my throat. As a result, I’ve been coughing every two minutes since then. There is a buildup of thick phlegm down my trachea that is proving incredibly difficult to dislodge. Unfortunately, most of my coughs are dry (that is, not throaty) which is very distracting, because I can feel the itchy, gluggy mass at the back of my throat, but the coughing is doing nothing to get it out. As a result, on the weekend my voicebox was traumatised such that my vocal range dropped a octave or two. Yesterday, I understood how a coughing fit can bring about a stroke after developing a splitting headache because of one (a coughing fit, not a stroke). And today, the coughing is somehow giving me upper back pain. When I was back home on the weekend, Mum coerced me to drink some bitter concoction brewed with ginseng which she swears will provide relief from every symptom related to colds and flu. In 20 years, I don’t think it’s given me any relief to me at all. Dad gave me some medicine, but all in all, I think all I can do is wait for time to clear out the crap stuck in my neck.

CNY

Well, while we’re on the topic of the zodiac, it’s now the year of the horse, first day of the Chinese New Year. We had a New Year’s gathering last Sunday – a barbeque of all things.

I’ve mouthed the words “Happy New Year” a few times in the last few days, but all in all, CNY doesn’t really hold much significance for me, it’s just an observance I follow. It’s a time when family and friends normally get together, and hoong pow are distributed (scored a small stash this year, to the tunes of my uncle muttering “why don’t you all go get married so we don’t have to keep giving you free money each year?”). Oh yes, and there’s that dragon dancing through Chinatown.

I know nothing about the Chinese year, save that it’s based on the moon and not the sun which is why the new year starts on a different day each year. How many months does it have? Are there months? If a lunar month is 28 days, why does CNY always fall in January/February? Why doesn’t it progressively occur earlier and earlier in the Gregorian year? I’m sure I’m not the only one ignorant about the Chinese calendar, so I found a link that explains it all out. While you’re at it, there’s also the Indian, Islamic and Jewish calendars explained there, in addition to several deprecated ones. (The answer to the question above is that there are 12 months, but a Chinese leap year has, not an extra day, but an extra month.)

4
Feb 02
Mon

Stuff

Rain-lashed Sydney turns into waterworld.

Well, that headline just about says it all. The Summer rains arrived a few days ago and they haven’t stopped since. Work is always better when the weather outside is crap – when its brighter and warmer inside than outside. Nonetheless, all this water is playing havoc with the traffic. There was a mudslide on the M5 yesterday that shut down the citybound route, and accidents galore. It’s now taking me 60-70 minutes to drive to work instead of the usual 40-45, with many sections of the road on the way flooded. One part yesterday was at least a foot underwater, and right in the middle of it were two stalled cars who had tried, in vain, to plough through the knee deep torrent. I got this e-mail from dad today. Waterlogged freeways can be treacherous:

Last night Uncle Ben had an accident. Fortunately he was not hurt. He was driving down the F5 at 100kph when he struck a wet patch on a straight road but the vehicle aquaplaned and caused his vehicle to slide sideways. It went on the median strip (fortunately it was grassed and very wide otherwise he would have ended on the opposite side of the traffic). The car flipped on the passenger side and continued sliding until it struck the barrier.

The sound of rain rhythmically pattering outside is quite somnolent – normally it makes falling asleep easier (at work too!). That is, except for the times when one of the neighbouring apartments thinks it’s a good idea to test drive his new karaoke system at 1.30 in the morning.

What have I been doing at work? I spent the first couple weeks developing an online ordering system in ASP. Did a touch of QuickBasic (!), some VB, some Access. Apparently I’m going to be involved in OLAP/Data Mining soon as the company moves the EIS over from Essbase to Cognos. Got my machine rebuilt with Win2k yesterday. Setting up a laptop currently (not mine, unfortunately).

Vodafone still haven’t sent me a replacement mobile, and Harris Tech still hasn’t sent back a replacement hard drive. My computer, which has been down for the last month, is now working again – more or less – with a new power supply and hard drive in it. Have to upgrade 2000 to XP in the next week or so and reinstall everything.

Uni starts in March. In addition to starting my thesis (when I find a damn topic to research), I’m taking Information Systems Security, one of those info sys subjects full of fluff. The recruitment drive also begins in March with a series of information sessions with big name firms. I haven’t really figured out what I want to do, except for some vague notions of either management or IT-oriented consulting. Consulting doesn’t look bright, with the graduate intake last year being alarmingly low (not to mention the revocation of job offers already handed out). I wouldn’t mind a job overseas in a place like Singapore, either.

Another thing I have only recently started seriously considering is staying for another 3 years at uni and doing grad law. I suppose an added benefit of a law degree is that it’s more “stable”. By this I mean, the demand for it, combined with another degree, doesn’t seem to be as seasonal as IT has been. And if you believe in 7-year economic cycles, the economy should have picked itself up again in 3 years. However, it is another 3 years. Although I am still young, it still would leave me 3 years behind the rest of the cohort who would have, in that time, accrued nearly enough work experience to undertake an MBA or similar. I suppose it all hinges on the job hunt…

28
Jan 02
Mon

Long Weekend

Was pretty relaxing. Movie and a 21st on Friday, a small LAN party on Saturday through Sunday (network hooked up to freshly installed Optus cable still on its 14 day grace period… the modem was smoking after we had finished with it), tennis on Sunday, down to the beach yesterday. Makes me wish I was still on uni holidays and not working…

14
Jan 02
Mon

Bored

SQL Server Analysis Services, Excel VBA Programming… man, I am beyond boredom right now.

13
Jan 02
Sun

My computer is down. It has either blown its power supply, or its motherboard.

Work starts tomorrow at OneSteel.

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7
Jan 02
Mon

I’m back in Camden. Yet to unpack, yet to drive all the loot back to my apartment. I got to sort out all the crap with my hard drive and mobile phone soon. Need to figure out a thesis topic. Recruitment from April onwards. Work starts next Monday. It’s going to be a very busy 6 months.

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21
Dec 01
Fri

Still Here

Well that was certainly a memorable 21st… the end of the night saw a series of post-midnight pool dunkings. After the mob took hold of me, they removed my shoes, wallet and keys (for safekeeping heh, not for keeps :), but failed to realise I was still carrying my mobile. 6210 + water = defunct phone. Great timing, eh? First phone stolen, second phone water damaged. At least this phone is insured, but I lost all 170 or so phone numbers stored on the phone, as opposed to the sim card, which only has a capacity of 100 numbers. Then there was a bit of a scare when all my keys were misplaced and only found after a half hour of searching. This week has been a week for losing things :( Great 21st nonetheless.

It’s late, I’m tired, I haven’t packed, and I have to get back to Camden tomorrow morning (ie: in a few hours) and then back to the airport by mid arvo. Good night.

20
Dec 01
Thu

Holidays!

Have to say, woke up feeling like shit today. Not sure why, but there’s this constant queasiness in my stomach that won’t go away. But anyway, it’s finally my last day of work at EDS and it’s welcome. Holidays have finally come… I have a 21st tonight, and then it’s off overseas tomorrow. And I haven’t even packed yet. Luckily, the flight tomorrow is at 5pm, so it looks like I’ll have Saturday morning to do the packing. How’s that for doing things at the last minute? I don’t know if I’m going to get the opportunity to post before I leave (depends whether I can hop on a net terminal at the airport tomorrow), but if not, you’ll be next hearing from me in Bangkok. Until then, have a fantastic Christmas everyone!

17
Dec 01
Mon

I lost my hard drive over the weekend. 45 gigs – 30000 emails, over 100 megs of icq logs, 5 years of school and uni documents, all the web sites I’ve ever made since 93/94, a fair chunk of my mp3 collection… all gone. It came without warning – an unrecoverable head crash (the drive is making a clicking noise) during operation. Motherboards won’t detect the drive, so using software to recover data is not possible. IBM 75GXPs are notorious for their unreliability and I guess I found out how true that is. Mine was only 15 months old. The computer still boots, I have another 45 gigger in there where the OS is installed, it’s just that I lost my data drive. God, it’s fucking painful.

I rang up IBM who referred me to Digiland (their hard drive distributor), and of course they don’t repair drives, only replace them. They couldn’t refer me to a data recovery service, but those guys are exorbitant (about $100 per gigabyte recovered I think.)

Of course, people will say “backup backup backup” but how do you backup 100 gigs of data? There was a Slashdot thread on this recently, but even if I bought another hard drive, it would be soon filled with new data, and not backup data.

Companies on my hard drive blacklist now include Quantum, Fujitsu and IBM. Next time a Western Digital or Seagate will be the way to go.

Responses

I had a similar experience with a 6Gb (or so) Western Digital a few years back. It was not such a large loss because it was only 6Gb, but scale back the time, and the amount of space each document and item takes up. I lost like 6-8 years of accumulated data, it was devastating.

From what I understand, Western Digital has cleaned up their act, but I still don’t take chances. I have a Seagate, Quantum and Maxtor in my computer, and it gets backed up onto the server every evening in chunks, it takes one week to complete a backup cycle, with all “recent” docs getting priority… Once a month I use my CDRW to burn a “hard” copy… it’s worth the effort, trust me.

A Canadian reader,
Kevin

—–

Sorry to hear about it, but after what I’ve seen recently with my home machine it doesn’t
surprise me. I lost a 40 gig IBM drive about 3 months ago, and with it 4 years of Quake
demos and screenshots. At work we had a bad batch of 36 gig SCSI drives in 4 new servers.
In the end we forced our supplier to replace all 15 new drives with Seagate drives.

The new seagate barracuda drives are damn quick and very quiet. They don’t produce
anywhere near as much heat as the IBM drives either.

I’ve gone through the same thing as you by the sounds of it. I used to be a big fan of
Quantum drives, had 3 fireball drives until a bad experience with one of them. IBM were
good for a while, but I wouldn’t touch them now. Seagate is my choice for now :)
- Fuzzy

—–

I suggest you forego some drive space and set up a RAID if you want
reliable data storage. You may have to shell out for a RAID controller,
if your mobo doesn’t have one built in (ie. you didn’t decide to spend
an extra $40 or so to have the feature “just in case” when you bought
the mobo), and your 2 45 gig drives will give you considerably less than
90 gig of space (how much less depends on the configuration), but it
will be reasonably reliable. The point of a RAID is that the data is
duplicated on other drives to minimise data loss when one drive dies …
of course this is more effective with more than 2 drives but hey. Also
I’ve got a Maxtor drive that I still use that’s well over 6 years old
(it’s 1.3gb, what does that tell you) that still doesn’t have any
problems. And 2 Quantum Fireballs, one is a 1gb SCSI about 5 years old
(only now beginning to play up, but works well enough that I got all
important data off it just in case), and one 6 gb (6.4 if you use 1gb =
10^9 bytes, as quantum does) that’s about 3 years old and working fine.
Although the cable jam in my case has caused some of the cables to go
dodgy and occasionally I have to open up the case and jiggle them to get
windows to boot. So the way I see it, you’re just plain goddamn unlucky.
The only piece of IDE hardware I’ve had that ever went so bad I had to
replace it was an old Creative CDROM drive, and even that put in about 4
years of faithful service first. So maybe you should consider putting
the warranty replacement drive in the centre of a pentagram with candles
and sacrificing a goat or something.
- Victor

Well, I’d be inclined to agree with you about the drive’s failure as being a freak accident, but 75GXPs are not held in good esteem. Check out Storage Review’s Reliability survey (registration req) and see how IBM’s 75GXP range fares. It’s not good. In fact, in the US there is a class action lawsuit underway, suing IBM for not delivering a product as advertised – the false advertising is, you guessed it, reliability. My cousin owns about 5 GXPs, and he’s experienced failures in 3 of them (not complete failures, but significant data corruption/recoverable clicking).

Quantum has given out on me twice before. I have a couple old 2 and 6GB drives (Maxtor I think) that are years old now and they are still chugging away fine.

The only problem with RAID1 is that you have to double your expenditure on hard drives to back up the data. You have, in effect, 50% of unusable hard drive space. I also assume that if the hard disk controller dies, you’ve lost your raid array (unless you have disk duplexing, but you need another controller for that). RAID5 would alleviate this problem only wasting one drive (if you have more than two drives), but most onboard mobo raid controllers only support RAID1. Nonetheless, for consumers, having to buy extra drives for RAID1 is expensive, and when you have 100gb or more that requires mirroring, RAID1 is not cheap. Furthermore, most data on the drive is not important – only documents and media require backing up (as opposed to program files). So, I guess the alternative is to buy a separate physical hard drive and use it partially for backups of data, and use the rest of the space for installing programs. For automated directory backups I can recommend Second Copy. Because of Second Copy, I have a mail archive that was made last August. Unfortunately, after August, my registry’s software hive got corrupted (dodgy IBM hardware again!) and I had to reinstall all my programs. I got lazy and didn’t set up Second Copy again.

9
Dec 01
Sun

Canyoning

Went canyoning today at Empress Falls in the Blue Mountains. Canyoning is basically following a river which has carved a canyon into the surrounding rockbed. I’ve never been before and Empress Falls was a relatively short introductory course capped off by an abseil down through a 25m waterfall. Really fun and not very strenuous. But bloody cold. The river water was freezing and I lost feeling in my fingers and toes before too long. A hot summer’s day with the sun shining would’ve made things better (we got a cool, breezy, cloudy day). And the abseil at the end gave me a wedgie that hurts to just think about, but apart from that it was a pretty cool experience. I’d recommend it – whether you’re a guy or girl!

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4
Dec 01
Tue

What’s in Store

Uni holidays have come, but I still have 3 weeks of work left with EDS before I begin mine. The tourist medium season ends this week, and with high season meaning increased airfares, a lot of people have left the Aussie shores already. Among them are my flatmate (for Malaysia) and my girl (for Taiwan & HK). It feels a bit lonelier now. I so need a holiday. Uni marks get released on Saturday. I’m sitting on an 84.5 average (w/o geneds), but this semester’s marks are no doubt going to drag that down a bit. Ah well. I have roughly three weeks of holidays before a six month placement at OneSteel, which is located in the nethersuburb of Chiswick. In two of those three weeks, however, I too am heading overseas, with family.

We fly off to Singapore on the 22nd, stay for a night, then the next day fly to Bangkok. We’ll stay in Thailand until the 29th, also visiting Chiang Mai and Pattaya while there. New Year’s will be spent in Singapore before we embark on a three-day cruise partway up the Straits of Malacca to Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). A couple more days in Singapore, and then it’s back to Australia.

The whole trip is supposedly a small family reunion on my dad’s side which my grandfather has organised. Dad’s side of the family is small for an Asian one: 12 aunts/uncles but only 8 cousins(!) But naturally there are other more distant relos that make the family tree a bit more intertwined than that. Now I don’t mind travelling with the family, but you really need someone around your age to enjoy travel – autonomy is important! My interests are obviously going to be different from my parents’, and likewise different to my aunts and uncles toting their 8 year old handfuls. Luckily, a cousin roughly my age is coming, so no doubt we’ll dump “the olds” whenever we get the chance and go off and get lost.

I have heard only a bit about Thailand. Most of it revolves around Patpong, “marriage proposals” and stories about seedy men standing in doorways ushering tourists into what are euphemistically referred to as “ping pong banana shows”. Sounds like another reason to ditch the olds. Is it that surprising though, when you have a capital city that is called Bangkok? Another place that warrants a visit is Panthip Plaza. Singapore has cracked down on piracy quite successfully, but the Thai police do not share the same conviction as the Singaporeans in clamping down on the illegal CD/VCD/DVD trade. There is also much shopping to be done. I was advised that Thailand was a good place to get a suit custom-made, although I should be wary about the quality of material used.

Apart from shopping Thailand has a rich history and there are many monuments and sites in evidence of this. Apparently my grandfather has arranged one of those package tours that will take us for a “fishbowl visit” to these historical sites (roaming around in a bus gazing out its windows, occasionally stepping down for a few happy snaps, before heading off again). Thailand holds the distinction of being the only Asian country never to be colonialised, testament to the deftness of the country’s much loved monarchy in handling the European colonialists.

Back in Singapore, we’ll be going on a brief cruise. We were originally going to go on the longer one that would go to Phuket, but it turns out that the cruise company had reserved the majority of tickets for foreigners (non-Singaporeans). As a result, while people like Dad and I could still get tickets, tickets for Singaporean citizens (as Mum still is) had already sold out. This policy of setting aside so many tickets to foreigners not surprisingly enraged many Singaporeans. A family reunion cruise to Phuket would not happen, so a berth on the shorter cruise was made. Then September 11 happened, and foreign bookings for the Phuket cruise were cancelled en masse. The cruise company frantically made the vacated places available to everyone. However, the Singaporean public was unsympathetic and snubbed the company by refusing to buy up the new tickets, our family included. The cruise is exactly the same as the one I went on two years ago. It’s extremely relaxing and potentially quite fattening.

I’ll be capitalising on the cheapness of computer hardware in Singapore as well. That’s what I’ve been saving most of my money for, actually. I have a wishlist I’ve putting together that I’ll possibly post later. Well… three weeks left. I wish they would go faster!

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1
Dec 01
Sat

Urk

hello goodnight… does anybody else, when you get home after a late one out, get the urge to check your email just before crashing into bed?

Up at Patonga today (yesterday) for a 21st… it was by the beach, great weather (just a little windy), but a beaut day to kick off Summer!

29
Nov 01
Thu

Summer

Tomorrow begins the final month of the year and marks the start of Summer. The
holiday season starts to ramp up, as do the temperatures. Summer is quintessentially Australian: constantly fanning away the incessant blowflies, watching the colony of Bogong moths gather on the flyscreen in the evenings. The sticky fingers from the melted icecream cone you didn’t eat fast enough. The submission to lethargy in the torrid Summer sun. The ability to iron clothes without turning the iron on. Melted plastic objects that have disintegrated from having been left in the car for too long. Late sunsets. Diving into the refreshingly cool water of the local pool or beach. Tossing and
turning in bed at night, clothes clammy from the sweat. T-shirts, shorts and thongs. Guys around the barbie, women inside preparing the salad. Cringing around the house trying not to let anything touch your sunburn. Warm water coming out of the “cold” tap in the shower. Sudden but brief floor-shaking thunderstorms.

24
Nov 01
Sat

Rumba

The weather cleared up yesterday nicely for Rumba! It’s a beaut day today as well. Ahhh… almost Summer.

Update: A more detailed account of Rumba.

15
Nov 01
Thu

Bored?

As some of you have no doubt realised, I haven’t been very busy at work. There hasn’t been any of it to do over the last two days. I have 5 weeks left at EDS and will resume working again next January at OneSteel for another six months. So meanwhile I’ve been surfing and reading, but there really is a lack of interesting material to go through (it doesn’t help that EDS’ application gateway filters out Flash and Java applets from web pages). Or maybe I just can’t find it. Boredom will drive you to do weird things. Anyway, this morning I have discovered:

That the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo are two entirely different countries. I’ve worked out that “Great Britain” refers to the union of Scotland and England and that “United Kingdom” comprises of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I know all six Balkan nations. I have read about Mongolia only to find out that no one says anything about it because it’s a really boring country. I’ve know all the capitals of the ‘stans. I’ve tried to look for the world’s poorest nation and it seems to be a toss up between Mozambique and Sierra Leone. I know why Sudan is sometimes referred to as “The Sudan”. I know a little history about the shifting geography of Indochina. I know what a “bicameral” and “unicameral” government system is. I know where and what the heck “Western Sahara” is. I’ve learn what the word “katabatic” means.

Yeah, I’m just a little bored. But my geography now is kick ass.

Meanwhile Jamie, sitting next to me, is bored too. I interrupted her reading of a really exciting book (on Java) and got her to translate the page I linked in the post below for me. Apparently it’s a shareware/freeware site. Hehe, so it claims. But normal shareware sites do not include serial numbers and registration codes in their program archives! Jamie is now as bored as me apparently, cos she’s just requested the links to those pages on Africa I was reading a moment ago.

11
Nov 01
Sun

Free CD

Turns out that HSBC did end up giving me that Free CD.

8
Nov 01
Thu

Bangkok

So, there I was today watching a couple of little kids rumbling with each other in the park, watching a bunch of schoolkids grabbing lunch from Westfield… and I realise that after this Friday, my third year of uni is over. I hand in the 64 page research design document I’ve been slaving on and that’s it. (I have no exams, woohoo!) It’s a little depressing, I guess it’s something that depresses everyone – growing up in general – but life must go on. This post, however, isn’t about growing up. When I saw the little kids going at it with each other, I remembered this incident in school…

It was back in Year 8 when we were still tiny. We always used to get into brawls amongst ourselves to keep amused throughout lunch. It kept getting us into trouble everytime a teacher went past, but since each time it was a different teacher, we just kept attacking each other (punching, kicking, tackling, strangling, ferocious slaps that left angry red marks on legs, chinese burns, nipple gripples, etc., it was all there). I had a friend, let’s just call him Pip. Back then he was overweight, missing a neck and seemingly waddled around. Easy target. Even so, nature still provides the most vulnerable of animals with some sort of defence mechanism. So what did he do when there were people picking on him that were twice his size? Hit em back, naturally. Hit em back where no self-respecting boxer would hit. No, hit em back where no self-respecting man would hit. And it was effective.

In the interests of the Geneva Convention, we made him warn us whenever he was going to pull that stunt. The, uh… “safe word”, he’d yell out when he’d had enough off people laying
into him was “Bangkok!” (or derivations of it, eg: “Now departing for Bangkok!”). Upon yelling that word, people would vacate his vicinity like illegal boat people from a ship about to be boarded by the Australian navy, lest they feel the pain. From a safe distance we’d then resume the attack with verbal comments about his questionable sexuality. We were so mature for 13/14 year olds :).

Anyway, one day we were having lunch in the place that was our area for the six years we were at the school, when this rather large-sized Year 12 guy wandered in. I don’t know how it eventuated, but things led to an exchange of bag outs. Pip was sitting down, and the Year 12 was standing up. When Pip ended up paying the guy out for his prowess in squash (he was the school champion). The Year 12 guy took particular offense and gave him a swift knock on the head. Pip wasn’t
happy. He cleared his throat and asked, “Hey, have you ever been to Bangkok?” The guy stopped, bewildered by the inexplicable change of subject. The rest of us, however, froze. What happened next was a scene from a Hong Kong-made action movie. Slow-mo, with action replays from multiple angles.

We all immediately knew what was going on. The year 12 guy didn’t. The year 12 guy was twice the size of Pip, and in a valiant attempt to prevent serious injury occurring to both parties involved, I screamed out, “Coverrrrr yoooouuurrrrr diiiiick–”

But it was too late. The year 12 guy’s face barely had time to register a quizzical expression at my comment, before the sickening sound of fist on flesh slapped out. Totally unexpected, it was a perfect hit like never before. Quizzical turned to abject horror, followed immediately by one of ultimate pain.

The guy instantly doubled over, clutching his crotch, shuddering convulsively. We all stood there, stunned, and a few people started gathering around to see what the commotion was about. If I was Pip, I would’ve ran the hell out of there. But he didn’t, he stayed there, I speculate it was to admire his “handiwork”. After a few seconds of moaning, spluttering, muttered profanities, clutching and coughing, he recovered enough to lift his torso above the 3:30 position. He shot out one hand and grabbed Pip around the neck and squeezed his throat. The other hand hit Pip in the chest, ramming him hard into the wall behind. Pip started gargling.

Fortunately for Pip, the pain was just too intense for the poor guy, who needed both hands to tend to his troubles. He let go and doubled over again. Still very much in a world of pain he hobbled off for the bathroom. The rest of us
made a discreet exit.

To this day I regard him lucky that his pre-emptive strike was so devastating, because had the hit been not so dead center, I’m sure Pip would be rolling around in a wheelchair today. He stopped with his low blows soon after that when everyone henceforth declared it very much against the “rules of engagement”.

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30
Oct 01
Tue

Halloween

We don’t really celebrate Halloween in Australia. When I was younger, back in Camden waves of kids would stick on a costume and go around trick or treating. This was in the 80s. Nowadays, however, the door-knocking has stopped completely. I mean, the practice just died. I don’t know why this happened – perhaps the neighbourhood has grown up (which is unlikely)?

Sleep

I had a bad night last night. For some reason I can’t fathom, I just couldn’t get to sleep – at all. It was totally weird. Normally when that happens it’s because there’s something significant troubling me or making me nervous, or excited, but there was nothing like that this time. You know how sometimes your mind is still wide awake, and even though your body is trying to get to sleep, thoughts keep popping into your head? That kept happening to me up till about 2am. So, completely annoyed, I got up, walked around a little bit, checked my e-mail (I think everyone does that when they can’t get to sleep at that hour) and tried to get back to it. No luck. My mind stopped thinking, but I continued to toss and turn. 3am… 4am… Around about 4.30am I drifted into that zone where you’re semi-conscious, and when I roused from it at about 5.30, it didn’t feel like I’d been asleep, but I wasn’t sure either. I decided to give in at 6am and “woke up”.

Staying awake at work has been a superhuman effort. I guess it’s a good thing that I had to solve some Mac compatibility issues today. The department’s only Mac requires a walk halfway across the floor, and it’s those treks that have been keeping me barely awake. I think I passed the pain barrier a little while after lunch, so it’s not so bad now. At least tonight I know I’m going to zonk out completely…

Stanford Prison Experiment

Phil sent this in:

Anyway, I noticed you mentioned the Stanford Prison Experiment… an excellent exercise in psychology.  Funny you should say that “I’d imagine that any similar research proposed today would be turned down for ethical reasons”, because…

http://www.smh.com.au/news/0110/30/entertainment/entertain5.html

Hopefully the ABC will pick up the doco and slap it onto DVD for us Antipodeans.  ^_^

Co-incidence, eh? I suppose the ethics of television are a little different from academia…

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Jury Duty

Well, turns out that my panel was deferred, then discharged. No duty for me, and I am exempted for one year from being re-selected.

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28
Oct 01
Sun

Week 14

Wow. It’s the Week 14 of uni. That means it’s the last week of uni. For some, that means it’s the last week of uni, ever (as an undergrad, anyway). Being a third year, that means that many close friends are actually going to graduate soon. People seem to go out with mixed feelings. For me, after experiencing full-time work, I can say that I prefer uni to work. Work makes money, and some people think that makes all the difference (I guess if you earnt enough money, work does become more attractive than uni). However, the amount of free time and social contact you have in uni is incredible, and something that won’t really come around again until retirement. What’s the use of money if you have little time to enjoy it? Alas, work is something we all have to do eventually!

However, week 14 for me right now only means I have a research design document to write up really quickly (10,000 words or thereabouts). Not good.

27
Oct 01
Sat

Daylight Saving Starts

Once again, if it weren’t for the computer, I wouldn’t have known daylight saving had started. I thought it was next week. I have jury duty tomorrow.

25
Oct 01
Thu

Promotion Codes

I signed up for an HSBC online savings account yesterday. No fees, 5 free ATM transactions/month from any ATM and unlike CBA’s 0.05% interest rate, has a 4% rate. Anyway, that’s not the point. I filled out the online application which had a field for a promotion code. I had none, but I decided it might be a good idea to give google a spin with this search. And whaddaya know – scored a free $30 CD online voucher.

Well, at least I think so. HSBC called today. I thought they were going to tell me my account number, but it turns out it was a rather puzzled woman trying to figure out where I got that promotion code from because, “HSBC isn’t running any promotion.” When I told her it was on the HSBC site itself, it left her even more puzzled. I’m not sure that I’m still going to get my free CD. Oh well, the point of this is – Google can find you promotion codes. Even ones that you aren’t supposed to know.

21
Oct 01
Sun

Was buying lunch from a Vietnamese bread store today. I was waiting in the queue, when I heard the lady taking the orders crack off a movie-perfect, “And Den?” to the guy in front. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t wipe the silly smile off my face for the next 5 minutes…

20
Oct 01
Sat

Grandparents

My grandparents on dad’s side are coming over from Singapore today. They were only here in August. They do little but travel around the world these days and have been to an absolutely incredible amount of countries throughout the 6 inhabitable continents. They may be elderly, but they certainly aren’t immobile. I guess when you are retired, there’s not that much else to do and travel took their fancy. There’s going to be a family reunion of sorts at the end of the year, so I’ll be seeing them again back in Singapore. We’re also going to Thailand.

Jury Duty

I’m up for jury duty next Monday. The case is back in Campbelltown so no doubt it’ll be about assault or car theft or something similar :). I get paid about $70/day for it if I end up getting empanelled.

17
Oct 01
Wed

Electricity

I just got a “disconnection notice” from Energy Australia for my electricity supply. That’s not a good thing, so I gave them a call. Haha, it turns out that since I moved into this place early this year, they have this property registered as vacant. And it’s taken them this long to realise the electricity is still running in a “vacant” property. So that’s why I haven’t been receiving any bills… Unfortunately, they are backdating the next bill and making me pay from last March.

3
Aug 01
Fri

Update

Just two words to say: “His Way” ;)

17
Jul 01
Tue

Work at EDS

This week I started work in the eSolutions division of EDS. The group I’m in uses ASPs extensively to do their sites (mainly the Commonwealth Bank site). I’ve previously learnt PHP and Cold Fusion but not really ASPs, so I guess having to work with it will give me experience in the last of the trio of major server scripting languages. I don’t like VBScript much, though – it’s not as structured or clear as Java-style syntax and code. Too bad that most companies choose to use VBScript to deploy their ASPs. Apart from scripting, I’ve been told I’ll finally get the chance to learn XML/XSL (something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time) and also to bring myself back up to scratch on DHTML. EDS has also standardised the use of XHTML for some of the Commbank site. So, even though I can see that some (most?) of the work I’ll be doing won’t be the most interesting of tasks, at least it’ll all be a learning experience. Web development like this, however, is probably not a job I would like to go into when I graduate. But who knows, maybe my opinion will change within the upcoming months?

15
Jul 01
Sun

Update

A site redesign (mainly backend) is slowly in progress.

Saw Alegria (run by the French Canuckian Circus of the Sun) today. Cirque du Soleil was in Sydney a few years ago with Saltimbanco, and although I missed that, it looked quite ornate, surreal, dark and not like “traditional circus”. Alegria is a Spanish word for “jubilation”, so although not “dark”, it wasn’t traditional circus either. Very flamboyant, much work was put into costuming, choreography and a rich and wonderful soundtrack. It was a little surreal in the costuming department, with garb and wigs that look like they were taken from the 18th century and further embellished. On the other hand, there was perhaps less emphasis on the acts. The opening gymnastics act was quite ordinary, as was the strongman. The trampolining looked good, as did the fire guy. The contortonist gave me a back ache watching her :) The hoop girl was pretty amazing too. Unfortunately, each of those acts were divided by clowns prancing around. I’ve never been a big fan of clowns, and although the snowstorm effect was well done, I’m still clueless why they started blasting bits of white paper at us. Alegria is recommended for the experience, but not highly.

Sara-Marie voted off Big Brother. Thank you, I have been waiting for that for ages.

Evolution: Looks like a crack up in the trailers, but the movie isn’t really. Lots of quirky jokes that pull smiles and chuckles, but no big belly laughs. It didn’t work for me. Wasn’t a waste of money, but I don’t recommend it.

11
Jul 01
Wed

Update

Finally, EDS HR has pulled their finger out and I start work a week late next Monday. I’m in the Internet development group which is part of eSolutions and based out in Burwood. I spent most of this week on the phone calling up various EDS staff, and waiting for phone calls, which is not a happiness-inducing activity.

In other news, I just finished doing a link system thing for the List over to the left. I haven’t converted it over yet, but when I eventually do, it’ll be running of a relational database (as opposed to a flat text db) and maintenance will be a helluva lot easier as the system can check for dead servers and 404s on its own.

8
Jul 01
Sun

Home

Back home from a beaut getaway at Kangaroo Valley. I was meant to start work at EDS today, but HR stuffed up my placement and the person taking care of it has taken off on long service leave, so I’ve got to chase up that now. More later.

1
Jul 01
Sun

Screwed

So I get back to Kingsford after spending a few days back in Camden. I boot up the computer and… Blue Screen. Somehow my Software hive shat itself and I have a corrupted registry. So, instead of reinstalling Win 2K from scratch, I replaced the software hive with a copy I found made over a year ago… It helped, but only a bit. I don’t have to go through the pain of driver reinstalls, but I have to reinstall most of my programs meaning basically that my computer is in chaos right now. So much for “getting back to regular updates”, this is going to keep me busy for days. I’m out of town from Wednesday to Saturday too… arrgh, I’m meant to be on holidays.

26
Jun 01
Tue

Session of Hell

The exams are over! The session is over! Unfortunately I have only one and a half weeks of holidays. Then I start working at EDS. Oh well, will be heading down to Kangaroo Valley for a few days with friends to relax a bit, will make the most of it.

16
Jun 01
Sat

Update

Another monolithic update during a break from studying the finer points of link-layer protocols (networks exam is next Tuesday). I now “know” more than I ever wanted to know about PPP, multiple access protocols and 802.11. Handed in that bastard revised research proposal yesterday.

Everyone’s been drooling over this 61″ (1.55m) plasma TV from NEC. I’d hate to think of the cost. A 40″ one goes for about $13k, a 51″ for about $40k+.

An interesting archive of subway/train system network maps all around the world. The full New York MTA map is simply gigantic.

I have a Malaysian flatmate and he’s got the typical thick, distinctive Malaysian accent. He speaks fluent Manglish. Anyhow the Coxford Singlish Dictionary has a rather comprehensive list of Singlish/Manglish phrases. (Singlish is Singaporean English, Manglish is Mangled (Malaysian) English. Because those two countries are a melting pot of cultures and language dialects, many expressions from dialects such as Hokkien, Cantonese and Malay are integrated into English. This, combined with a restructuring of English grammar, produces a unique variant of English. Sometimes very blur one, lah.)

Here’s a few things I got for my b’day:

  • HP Scanjet 5370c
  • Newton’s Cradle
  • Southpark figurines
  • A couple DVDs
  • Some clothing
  • 2 brandy schooners
  • “A Cookbook for a man who probably owns only one saucepan” (yeh that’s me :)
  • A lesson on how to drive a manual. I got my Ps on an auto, and the only time I’ve driven a manual was briefly on a friend’s 100-acre property using his ute… So my cousin got a rental car from Thrifty and spent the day teaching me how to drive car with a gear stick. The only problem with learning at this stage of driving is I didn’t have L or P plates to hide behind. So whenever I stalled, people just think “what a shit driver, how did this guy get his license?” (never got horned though, funnily enough). I had problems with shifting into first gear smoothly without jerking the car… he was going to make me drive through Burger King drive-through, but I talked him out of it :) “Would you like an air freshener to go with that burning clutch?” Anyway by the end of the day most of the problems I had were straightened out and I now know how to drive a manual.
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9
Jun 01
Sat

Update

You would not believe how fucking busy it has been over the last month. Hell, I can’t believe it myself. It doesn’t end until the 26th, when session ends. I hereby promise to return to regular updates after then. But for now…

  • Networking assignment I had to do was enough to turn me off Java for a very long time.
  • Air in the computer labs is bad (talk about B.O. and computer/software engineers!). I reckon I caught the flu from a few too many hours in those labs.
  • Had a birthday dinner last night at a Spanish restaurant on Liverpool. The paella is better in Spain than in Sydney.
  • Pearl Harbour (yes, spelt with a “u”) is not worth it.
  • Valentine is certainly not, either.
  • Moulin Rouge may or may not be worth it (depends on your tastes).
  • Series 7 is worth it (considering I got in for free :).
  • Went to a Trek convention yesterday. Guests were all from Voyager – Roxann Dawson, Garrett Wang (pronounced “Wong” apparently), and Tim Russ. All Trek actors seem to have two things in common. They are all (1) theatre trained and (2) wannabe singers. It was an expensive day. The convention organisers are running a mint when they hold those events. Managed to nab a few autographs (at a price, like everything else there). Nonetheless it was an absolute blast, more details later.
  • This site rocks.
30
May 01
Wed

My Birthday

Well, hit the big two-oh and into the third decade of my life. I’m no longer a teenager, unfortunately :).

Ugh

Two 1.30am nights at uni don’t do a lot of good.

27
May 01
Sun

Still Alive

Give me a couple weeks. Two large assignments and one quiz down, three to go (programming a reliable data transfer protocol, writing a thesis proposal revisal, writing a seminar critique… fun fun fun, not). This is one part of one of the assignments for my E-commerce subject: The Spot. Catchya in a bit. Anyone who sent in their site URL will get it posted eventually.

17
May 01
Thu

Erm

This has to be said… you would not believe how much that Girls = Evil mathematical proof has been going around. I have received about 7 copies of that same mail forwarded from different people. I don’t need a mathematical proof to know that :)

14
May 01
Mon

11 Days

11 Days without an update? What’s going on? Um… a whole lot of laziness combined with other stuff. It’s that time of session again and I find myself having 6 fairly major deliverables (mostly group assignments) due within the next fortnight, and none of those are more than half done. Ok excuses, excuses. Once the holidays come, I’ll start working on a content management system in php to facilitate posting. Anyway, there is no guaranteed date that I will make my next post on, so make do with this large update :). Birthday is this month too… luckily, by the 31st, most of my assignments have been handed in and I can actually go out and do something.

Birthday shouts to TBA for hitting 23 on the 16th of May, btw!

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22
Apr 01
Sun

Paintball

A bundle of aching joints and sore muscles are testament to another day at paintball. Last Friday saw a group of about 30 of us head off for Paintball Pete’s at Mount White (up North near Woy Woy). Shen, who organised the entire thing had decided to take a gamble on the venue where we hadn’t played before. Unfortunately, the gamble did not pay off and Pete’s turned out to be the worst of the three fields we’ve now been to. Its claim to be the closest field to Sydney was unfounded, the leisurely drive taking an hour on the way up, and 100 minutes on the not so leisurely way back (traffic!). About 20 headed off from Strathfield (15 arriving fashionably late despite threats of a $5 surcharge for late arrivals by Paintball Pete himself), 10 from Hornsby, under the cover of some grey, angry looking overcast skies.

Anyhow, as I was driving off with a friend when I got a call on my mobile. It was Doz.

“Hey man, you’ve got room in your car right?”
“Yeah, why?”
“You’re gonna have to give me and George a lift.”
“Uh, why?”
“Our car battery’s flat.”

Around I turned and picked them up. Turns out that they had to jumpstart the car that morning. The 20 minute drive to Strathfield didn’t recharge the dodgy battery, though, and thus the car was now stranded in the 1-hour carpark. By the time we thought about leaving a note on the windscreen for the parking inspector, we were out of town. Oh well. Doz called his dad who expressed concern not about a parking ticket, but that the car might be stolen. This resulted in much laughter. Woe be to the thief that tries to steal a car with a flat battery (unless he has a spare set of leads or car battery in his pockets).

Pete’s is a small, ragged paintball outfit. Their prices are competitive, but there’s a tradeoff for that. We all pulled up at the Mt White Village Store, where our entourage of cars then headed off to the actual paintball fields – some 12 km down a sideroad, half of it which was unsealed. Briefing was conducted by Mandy, a woman with an unhealthy fixation about ball cleaning (“I’m the best ball cleaner on the Central Coast! You damage your balls, I’ll clean ‘em for ya!”). After a few too many groan-inducing puns regarding testicles, we took to the fields. Pete’s only has 5 fields, and we had the opportunity to play a mere 3 of them. The drizzle turned dirt to mud and the presence of generous amounts of cow shit on the fields made any form of rapid movement perilous (part of the fun I tell you! As long as you don’t do a faceplant into a pile of something that looks like mud but looks distinctly organic). Unfortunately, gameplay was restricted by the rather dubious “5 meter rule” that had never been used on any other paintball field we had played at. This effectively meant that one man could hole himself behind a barricade indefinitely, even against a battalion of people, as approaching within 5 meters of a player was a no-no. That is exactly what happened. One capture the flag scenario saw our team moving into the opposing base with about 8 people. The other team had two left, cowering behind barricades. Of course, an en masse rush would have crushed them, but we weren’t allowed to do that. We couldn’t go around either – the right barricade was too close to the side line (less than 5m away from it) so we couldn’t flank around there. The left barricade was too close to a creek (and no one felt like wading around waist deep in water in this weather). Five minutes later and the only attrition occurring was on our nerves and the game ended without result. The 5m rule sucks. Free lunch at Pete’s was a cold one, and we all stopped playing soon after. I can’t recommend this field. It’s not the closest field to Sydney. Heartbreak Ridge near Blacktown is still the most professional bunch, and that’s where we’ll be going next time.

But wait, there’s more. The car drama didn’t end there. We arrived back at Strathfield – Doz’s car hadn’t been booked by the cops yet. Lucky. After rummaging through a few friends’ garages, we discovered no one had a set of jacks for jumpstarting. The local servo didn’t have one either (!). Strathfield seemed to be devoid of the damn cables. So, Shen drove Doz back to his home in Ashfield, called a mechanic, and fetched a set of leads there. They rested for about an hour (yes, you feel pretty buggered after paintball and a long drive) and headed back to Strathfield. There at the car park, a scene not unlike the following ensued:

Doz: Dude, where’s my car?
George: Where’s your car dude?
Doz: Dude, where’s my car?
George: Where’s your car dude?
Doz: Not funny dude. Dude, where’s my car?
George: Where’s your car dude?
Doz: Fuck.
George: Are you fucking serious?
Asian Woman: And then?

And then… “maybe they towed my car away?” Or maybe not – a call to the RTA revealed that they do not tow cars away from car parks. That left only one other possibility… As of yet we still do not know where the car has vanished to. But if you’re in Strathfield, keep your eye out for a seedy looking guy running around with a spare set of jumper leads and a car battery down the back of his pants. He’s a car thief.

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18
Apr 01
Wed

Inferno has been…

… sucked off into a void. The void of writing a last minute research proposals, assignments and whatever remnants of holiday I can dredge up after all that. Uh, that didn’t really make sense. I even missed this week’s DS9 episode because I forgot it was on (shit… and it was the only season 6 ep I haven’t seen yet). Next time I return I’ll have stuff to post. Promise.

11
Apr 01
Wed

Damnit.

My parents are currently off holidaying in Singapore and China. Dad sent back an SMS from China yesterday asking me to find out the exchange rate for the Pacific Peso vs the greenback and Sing dollar. Hmm, strange currency, I thought. What would he be doing with Pacific Pesos? I went off to Oanda and scrolled through the currencies list. No “pacific peso” listed. So I shot back an SMS saying, “can’t find the pacific peso – is it under a different name?” The reply came back today: “Yes, the Australian dollar.”

D’oh. I’ve been a bit slow this week…

I Owe, I Owe, It’s off to work I go…

I’m working fulltime at the multinational (but relatively unknown to the layperson) IT firm EDS for a 6 month stint starting next semester.

Holidays

Mid-session break is here… I’m off to Canberra for a couple days.

I’d run a Aussie branch of PE/NGA but I think I’d be the only one in the continent in it :P. Off to the driving range again today in lieu of an imp workshop tutorial at uni…

Shen dropped around with a copy of Black & White and forced me to load it onto my computer. I’m not going to forgive him for that… there goes any pretense of “getting work done”.

9
Apr 01
Mon

USS Constellation

That 80 kiloton aircraft carrier, the USS Constellation pulled out of Sydney today. I went to visit it on Sunday, here’s the photos. It was almost a 4 hour wait to see the damn thing, and it was only just worth it. Nonetheless, I was glad I went – it’s a mofo of a ship that we be decommissioned in 2003 (its successor will be 10% heavier).

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Petrol Prices Online

Shell’s letting us check petrol prices online. Check out the petrol excise! And look at the price variance between suburbs (price per liter in cents for Unleaded):

Bathurst: 101.9 (Out bush :)
Baulkam Hills: 90.9 (Outer North)
Camden: 91.4 (Outerwest – south)
Chatswood: 92.9 (North Shore)
Hurstville: 91.9 (South)
Kingsford: 93.9 (East)
Neutral Bay: 94.9 (East Harbourshore-ish)
Penrith: 89.9 (Outerwest – north)
Ryde: 92.4 (North)
Strathfield: 92.9 (Innerwest)
Surry Hills: 93.9 (Near CBD)
[Approximation of locale may be slightly inaccurate!]

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3
Apr 01
Tue

The Couch

A couple guys came in to replace the couch today. The first couch they delivered was the wrong model, so today they came in and delivered this new one. They got the proper model into the apartment fine. Next, they picked up the old couch and started off with it. They made it as far as the door when the couch thunked against something – the top of the doorframe. “Fuck! Why is this couch taller than the other one?”

They soon realised that the one they had to take out was about 3 inches higher than the one they just put in. 3 inches, which made its height higher than the door. Furthermore, the “foyer” is set in an alcove, so even if the couch was smaller, it still had to be maneuvered so that it slid around the corner. Yep, they needed a topological genius to do it. There was much more cursing. The Kiwi bloke was convinced that if it could’ve gone in, then it must be able to come out – which must be true – but neither of them could figure it out. In the end, after about 30 minutes, they gave up and left, saying they’d return within the hour. With a topological genius, I hope. Otherwise, I don’t mind having two couches :)

Update: They came back with another guy and this time got it out first go. Impressive.

1
Apr 01
Sun

Thesis

I need a topic to write my thesis on. It has to be in the field of information systems. I’m looking for something in the field of m-commerce or mobile comms & connectivity. The proposal is due in 3 weeks and I don’t even have my topic yet…

19
Mar 01
Mon

Mm.

Had the housewarming last Friday night. Carpet got Christened by a red wine spill (thanks Josh :) but apart from that it was good. Ikea ran out of stock of dining table chairs so basically the apartment has two chairs in it. I borrowed about 10 chairs from friends for the housewarming so people had a place to sit but what happened? Everyone sat on the floor leaving a whole lot of empty chairs. Why do I bother?

It’s Week 4 of uni and I finally decided that it might be a good idea to buy my textbooks. Got to the bookstore and all 4 books I was after had sold out. Oops.

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8
Mar 01
Thu

G’day! S’good to be back…

I’m back to regular posting now. The past weeks have been busy. On the university front, UNSW replaced their enrolment system with a new one that is all done online. It would have been great, if it worked properly – system errors are everywhere. Anyway, that was all one big headache. On the home front, well, I’ve moved away from home. I’m now living in an apartment much closer to uni (5 minutes walk, as opposed to a 2 hour commute). We’ve been moving up furniture and stuff up from Camden and there’s still things to be installed. A phone line, for instance. Telstra, ineffectual company that it is, told me it would take 10 days to get a phone line reconnected to the apartment. Hence, no net access. Did I also mention that ADSL and Cable are not available here? I am severely pissed off. I move into the city and find that I still can’t get broadband. Telstra, move your fat ass and at least ADSL enable the local exchange! On the work front, I’ve got some work. Goodness knows, I am broke after that round the world 11 week trip and I need to pay off a lot of things for this new apartment. Luckily, I only have a 3-day uni week, so I’ve got a bit of spare time. On the web front, I am writing up a big diary of the trip. Three of us got our photos back last Thursday. Between us we had 57 rolls, over 1500 photos, and it cost us $500 to develop (add in Yvonne’s photos and we shot over 2000 snaps). The poor girl at the pharmacy had her work cut out for her when we rocked up with our bagload of film canisters. I’ve got a lot of scanning to do. I may be back to regular posting, but it may take a little while to get back into the groove.

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1
Dec 00
Fri

It’s Summer

Yes it is. There was a lightning storm again today. If I had money, I’d be thinking about investing in an APC UPS. But I don’t, so I’m not (or trying not to, at least). Finished 3 exams (Bus. Data Networks, System Analysis & Design and IT Law), 2 to go (Data Org, and the killer, stats). I’m so screwed for stats… Anyhow, only 6 more days till I’m off overseas! Vaguely excited. I’m sure that excitement will grow exponentially once I finish the final exam. By the sounds of it, virtually everyone is off overseas these hols.

Anyhow, I may make one more update to this page sometime in the next few days before I go off to Yankland.

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27
Nov 00
Mon

Study

I managed to cram and summarise 400 previously unread textbook pages within one day. Now we just got to work on retention. It’s another perfect day outside, and guess who still has 4 exams to go?

25
Nov 00
Sat

Today

It’s a beaut day today and I’m stuck inside studying. I am not amused.

ADSL in Camden

Looks like I’m stuck with 56K.

Dear Sir/Madam,

In response to your query regarding ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line), we regret to advise that iPrimus is currently unable to provide you with this service.

We anticipate extending our network coverage, however, this will take some time.

Thank you for your interest in iPrimus’ ADSL product.

23
Nov 00
Thu

Quite Mysterious

I just got one of those “pimpin’ cupid” mails (y’know, the spark ones?). I’ve got no idea who it is. (I’ve got a good idea of who I’d like it to be, though ;).

21
Nov 00
Tue

56K…

At last! The local exchange lines around country-town Camden have finally been upgraded to digital and I now pack a crappy 56K connection and not a crappy analog-line restricted 28K! Woooh, the speed, the speed. My load times have halved! (Shut up Dave, Pro, and all the rest of you cable whores. Stop laughing or you’ll suffocate.)

And thanks to CompleteUnknown for plugging UODU. You others should take note :)

19
Nov 00
Sun

In Stuvac

The week I attempt to cram the 14 weeks of work I’ve been neglecting into one is what we all fondly know as stuvac. I was studying IT Law (license agreements, to be exact) at some early hour of the morning when I coincidentally came across this cartoon. It was amusing at the time.

14
Nov 00
Tue

Rainy Day

I almost got bogged again in the car park today. Even a small drizzle will turn the dirt field muddy. Today had constant rain and by the time I got back, the place had turned into a muddy swamp full of huge puddles masking deep holes. Not only that, but some total fool parked so that he completely blocked the exit to the car park, such that anyone wanting to get out had to drive off the kerb and straight into a roundabout to get out. But it is a field, and there are no laws regarding parking in a field (I think). Nonetheless, a bat taken to the windscreen of people who do stuff like that should deter further recurrences.

8
Nov 00
Wed

Busy

Yeh it’s that time of year… exams. I had 7 assignments and 3 tests on my plate two weeks ago, now it’s down to 3 assignments and 1 test. One week of uni left, then stuvac.

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30
Oct 00
Mon

Darn

Daylight Savings “started” over the weekend (of course it really started before the Olympics this year). The clocks on all the computers got set forward an hour (and Win2000 doesn’t even notify you it’s done this). I was wondering how time passed so quickly when I glanced at the clock and saw it was 2am…

28
Oct 00
Sat

Busy

Wow, the academic year’s almost over. 7 assignments and 2 tests left to do in the next 3 weeks (craaaap), plus exams in the fortnight after.

20
Oct 00
Fri

Got The Flu

Feeling pretty shit. Anyhow, watched all the Neon Genesis series in the last two days. Whoo that is some deep and weird stuff in the last few episodes… really an enjoyable watch though. Now I’m going to be thinking about it for the next week or so… Anyway while scouring about for NGE links, I came across this page. It’s entitled, uh, The Ugliest Clothes in Anime.

Also had a blood test, got vaccinated for polio, and received a tetanus shot today, all in preparation for the trip (which I’ve been busy creating a site for). Still got a meningitis shot, hepatitis shots, and who knows what other diseases I have to be vaccinated against, to go. It doesn’t help when dad broke out laughing (at something I said) while drawing blood from me… he started jiggling the needle because of it, while it was still embedded, damn that hurt. I hate needles.

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16
Oct 00
Mon

Body Fat

Got my body fat percentage measured on the weekend by some sort of scales that send an electric charge through the body. I’m 10% fat… Sites on the net say that’s an “athlete’s level” of fat, although I can’t say that I exercise regularly.

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11
Oct 00
Wed

Haha!

That stats test I had today… I found out yesterday it was, (i) Multiple Choice and (ii) Open Book. Today I found out that (iii) Open Book meant not only text book, but also notes as well and (iv) They used slightly modified tute questions for the test and didn’t bother thinking up original ones. So I go from looking at a fail to a fairly decent mark :). Not only that, but we got a week extension on our law essay (the one about Napster).

Mum’s a legend, heh… there’s 60 cans of Dew sitting downstairs (well, 59 now)… they must have been on special.

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9
Oct 00
Mon

Currently…

Packing shit. I have a Stats exam tomorrow and I don’t know anything… have you ever tried to learn from scratch, 300 pages of maths in about 3 days? Don’t.

7
Oct 00
Sat

Uni Restarts

Tomorrow. No more holidays :(

You Know This Summer is Going to be Hot When…

It’s October and the cold water taps are spitting out warm water mid-afternoon.

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1
Oct 00
Sun

Contact Lenses

I’ve got another appointment with the Optometrist tomorrow to try out some contacts. Those 24/7 month-long lenses sound good… I will have to ask him about them as he never mentioned ‘em.

I hated them.  Couldn’t ever get ‘em in my damn eyes.  I would stand there, like a gimp, in front of the mirror for like, half an hour gouging myself to no avail.  Apparently, this gets easier as time goes on, but I just stopped trying.  Mind you, I am the lazy sort who doesn’t bother to wear his glasses either, and prefers to walk around squinting all the time.  Anyway, good luck if you decide to go through with them. --f

contacts are somewhat of a hassle.. at first, it takes a while to get them in.. but you get used to it.. hopefully, your doctor won’t be dumb like mine and get two different size contacts (i can barely see out of my right eye). anyway, after a while, it’s easy to just pop them in. you don’t have to clean them every night, but it’s good to clean them out at least once or twice a week. always have the little contact holder, filled to the brim, with you. it’ll be much easier if one falls out. -bry

I’ve had contacts for about 9 years or so.  They’re nice at first, but at least for me I’ve found that they really dry out your eyes.  Like after a couple years my eyes would be blood-streaked red if I wore them all day.  So I switched to glasses.  Yeah I’m also thinking about laser eye surgery.  Only thing that bothers me is that if your eyes get worse after the surgery, can you do it again a couple years later? -grv

Hi man, just replying to your post about the contact lenses question. I thought i may as well write and tell you about the experiences ive had with them.

Ive been through a couple of different types: Soft permanent lenses (they last 2 years – same lenses, and have to be taken out everynight and be put in every morning also have to be disinfected once a week). They were ‘OK’ and at the time they were heaps better than glasses.

Soft disposible lenses (last 2 weeks per lens and have to be taken out every night and be put back in every morning tho no disinfection is needed, they feel better  because you get new lenses every week, and you dont have to worry about loosing them).

Then about 6months ago i got these new lenses which you can leave in 24/7 for a month each lens. For me these are the next best thing to laser. Not having to take them out when you sleep and put them back in is fucking awesome. Like you can goto a party and sleep there and not worry about waking up with saw eyes. Or if you have a women, you dont have to worry about guessing what your touching (which is also a pain in the arse..) or having to take them out when you sleep.

From memory the monthly 24/7 lenses are about $120 for 3months supply (6lenses all up). So they are pretty good in that respect too. Im not too sure about the pricing for the other ones, sorry.

Id just go and talk to a optomotrist about what would be best for you. But until i can afford laser, the 24/7 ones are all good for me.

Hope that helps man,
Think

For the most part, I’ve found them worth the money. I’ve got disposable (as in monthly) lenses. The cleanings a breeze, when you take them out at night, squirt some solution into there case, put em in and there clean overnight. Once you get used to putting them in its easy, I mean like 30 sec for both. Do to aussie doctors do free trials? Up here in USA I got to test out a pair of them (though not exactly my prescription..trials..but were near-same) for a month. Also now they make those contacts that you can leave in the whole week and even sleep in, then throw away. I couldnt get those because of my astigmatism, but they look like there worth checking out. Like I said..you just gotta try them out to see if they work for you.
-Stuart

Thanks to those who dropped me those mails!

28
Sep 00
Thu

The Olds

My grandparents are over again. It’s quite distressing how much they talk about their bladder problems. What’s worse, is how my parents are also starting to relate to them (“oh yeah, that’s normal, it happens to me as well”). The thing that’s distressing is that we’re all probably going to end up like that and I don’t need to overhear those problems in specific detail. My grandmother needs to go to the toilet with a frequency that’s scary. Old people sleep usually are early sleepers and early risers, so she’ll be in bed at around 10.30 or so. I’ll be up late on the computer, and like clockwork, she’ll glide past my bedroom door about every 90 minutes. She’s like a ghost when she goes around the house… I swear, she doesn’t make a sound. Having a gaunt-looking figure suddenly flicker by the doorway on your peripheral vision at 3am is quite startling. Actually, I don’t know who was startled more when she went by and found me still typing away at 4am the other night.

Eyesight

Went to see the optometrist earlier this week. My eyesight has dropped to about -5.25 (that makes me legally blind). I don’t need stronger glasses, thankfully, and he claims that my vision is starting to stabilise. A couple years down the track I’ll be looking at getting laser surgery done on them I reckon. Can anyone tell me about contact lenses? Like, are they worth the whole hassle (cleaning/inserting/cost etc.)? Drop me a mail please.

7
Sep 00
Thu

Revised Train Timetables

After a late night at uni, got to Central around midnight. No trains back to Campbelltown via East Hills! I ended up having to take the Granville train back. Stupid announcer made a mistake, announcing, “This is the Campbelltown via Granville service. Terminating a Lidcombe, first stop Redfern…” (If it terminates at Lidcombe, which it didn’t, thankfully, why say it goes to Campbelltown?) Luckily I’m on holidays now – there’s a big sign at Campbelltown station saying that the carparks will be closed for the duration of the Olympics. WHY? Where is everyone going to park?

One good thing, though – trains are running 24 hours as of next week. Trains from the city leave for Campbelltown every 15 minutes which is awesome cos I’ll never have to worry about how I’m going to get home after a late night out.

[Re: No Bins] Haven’t you seen those people walk up and down the trains in the morning picking up the junk with an arm and bag?
How many indians have you seen getting free travel using fake passes? -Sleeper

Speaking of the Olympics… here’s that link off Burgatronics where a bunch of guys buggered off with an Olympic torch after crashtackling two cops, an escort runner and the torchbearer. They then proceed to, uh… enthusiastically stroke the torch in various… positions. Complete with pictures.

2
Sep 00
Sat

Uni

Lotsa uni work due, but only one more week left of it – then I’m on a month-long Olympic break. The construction and work around Sydney is beginning to pay off. The rings on the Harbour Bridge are up, the train stations have all been upgraded with those schmick LCD train information screens, the blue marathon line has been painted on the roads, roadside Olympic banners have started to fly… It’s all coming together, basically. The torch relay passes by my house in a couple days. I’m only two streets off the highway which is where the torch is supposedly going to pass.  I wonder how much the Sydney atmosphere will change when all the tourists start coming?

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Overheard

“I’m not going to do engineering. Too many guys. Scary.”

I overhead this when I went in to uni today to help run the Co-op stand for courses and careers day (helping Year 12s decide what uni course they should do post-HSC). It’s probably the real reason why there is a dearth of women doing engineering/science courses :).

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26
Aug 00
Sat

Petrol

Petrol’s now tipped over the dollar mark and petrol stations all around are rushing to add that extra digit onto the price boards. Of course, what they are really saying is this. Thanks Pete.

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The Olympics

Daylight saving kicked in early this year (today) because of the Olympics. It’s funny that Windows Millennium actually has the correct daylight saving times for Australia this year, but it’s being publicly released too late for it to be of any use (that figures…). I don’t have any tickets for any events so it looks like I’ll be parking myself in front of Foxtel/Channel 7 when I want to see any of it. The tourists should start to come in a couple of weeks and the public transport system is really going to go to shit then. If you think I bitch a lot about transport, I listened to two people complaining about CityRail for a whole 50 minutes on the way home. I reckon it’d be interesting to go into the city and do some “tourist-watching” :).

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10
Aug 00
Thu

Sleep

I went to bed at 10.30pm last night. That is incredible, because I can’t remember the last time I went to bed before 12 (I know it hasn’t happened this year). I don’t know whether it was psychological, or physical, but I did feel a little more alert today than I’ve been, at uni, this week. Still, I managed to doze off in the train on the way back.

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House or Hotel?

About a month or so ago, mum’s friend’s son came up from Canberra on a visit to Sydney. He stayed over at our house. Then, we had relatives over a couple weeks back from Singapore. Last week, an uncle (more like a cousin to me, agewise) from England came over. He leaves tomorrow. Now, I’ve just found out that next week more relos from Singapore are coming over. Yeesh.

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5
Aug 00
Sat

Frozen Sunnies

Was just going through some old photos the other night and came across a couple that made me crack up. Let me tell you the story behind them. It was back in Year 10 in high school. We were down at Thredbo on a debating camp. “Debating camp” is actually a misnomer, because we never did any debating on those camps, so it is safe to call it a ski trip. Anyhow, there was this pond down the road near the lodge we were staying in, and being in the middle of Winter, it was frozen over with a thin layer of ice. We’d go down there, break off chunks of ice from near the shore and begin tossing them onto the pond. The sheets of ice, which looked much like frosted glass would then shatter leaving ice fragments on top of the surface. So one day when we were waiting for lunch, a bunch of us were stuffing around down at the pond. Ka Sen then accomplished something I still can’t work out how he did. He somehow (accidentally, I might add) knocked off Tom’s sunnies, which I believe were still on his face at that time, and sent them flying through the air. They came to rest on the pond’s surface, about 5 metres (~15 feet) from the shore. We all stared incredulously for a few seconds, then cracked up laughing. Tom just stood there staring incredulously, uttering profanities. I happened to have my camera on me, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to help future listeners of this anecdote to visualise the scene. [Photo]

The ice was too thin to support someone’s weight. After a few in vain attempts of reaching out and hoping our 1 metre arms might stretch out 5 metres, we gave up on that. Tom uttered a few more profanities. Eventually, someone went back into the lodge and managed to find a long cardboard tube – like the tube that lines the inside of toilet paper rolls, except this one, for some indescribable reason, was about 4 metres long. The sunnies were retrieved [Photo] and we went back in for lunch, grinning all the way.

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3
Aug 00
Thu

Nocturnal

I am indisputably a Night Person. I’ve always everything comes easier in the period most people are about to turn in for the night. And something from that page’s misconceptions section:

Misconception: We [night people] think we’re vampires or have some other kind of odd self image.
Reality: Do you think you’re the sun god Amon-Ra just because you’re a Day Person?

22
Jul 00
Sat

Happy Birthday, Dad!

19
Jul 00
Wed

Mum

Mum went into hospital earlier today for her hysterectomy. Dad and my uncle, who are both doctors, have been updating the rest of the family via email:

The operation should be quite straightforward (only about 4 in 10000 develop serious complications). She saw the oncologist (specialist in the field of chemotherapy and radiotherapy) who said she has a 80% 5 year survival rate. I thought that he was too clinical and unfeeling to come up with a statement like that. 2 out of 10 dying is a very high figure. We are finding for her  to see another oncologist who perhaps care more about a patient’s feelings.

She should be out of hospital in 3 days. Here’s to wishing it all goes well…

16
Jul 00
Sun

Uni

Session 2 starts tomorrow.

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12
Jul 00
Wed

Uni

Uni starts next week. 5 subjects + lots of books to buy + GST = too much money. Got my results for last session… one HD, one CR (that’s my first credit… damn gen ed marxism quiz :)

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1
Jul 00
Sat

A New Month

We’ve past the halfway point this year, and this also means a few things.

The GST (Goods and Services Tax – 10%) came into practice nationwide today. It’s pretty ridiculous… you now get train tickets and receipts from McDonald’s labelled “Tax Invoice” and the harbour bridge fare is now $2.20, meaning you have to scrounge around for extra loose change (some tollways are $2.50… does that mean they are now $2.75?).

It also means that Session 1 for uni has finished, and I have completed my 6 month industrial training period at Aspect. Holidays!!! No more 6am wake ups or long hours (I scheduled uni next session so I don’t start before 11am on any day :).

While I can’t say working at Aspect was a tremendous barrel of fun (full time, no pay), I can say it was a great learning experience. And it did have its moments. Like the evening they took down power to the building to do maintenance on the phone system. We decided then would be the perfect time to install a new server, since without power, no one would be logged on to the network anyway. At around 6pm I was sent up to tell everyone to log off, and then we waited a bit. About 10 minutes before power came down, someone had a sudden realisation that if power was going off – so too would the lights. Since rackmounting a server in pitch black isn’t something that is recommended, we just went home. And the time when the “Iloveyou” virus got on to the network. We’d controlled it, pretty much, but one computer on the network had let it loose. The tech services team got together to track who did it. Guess who? None other than the MD :) Everyone makes mistakes hehe. And I managed to pick up a few freebies there:

Freebies!

Yes, that is a Palm Vx they gave me at lunch yesterday :). Which means I now have two of them. I think dad wants it. There’s also 5 mugs, a bundle of writing pads and a stackload of courseware (plus an el cheapo sports bag which has since been misplaced).

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Mum (it’s not “Mom”, dammit!)

Mum is back at home convalescing, having returned from the hospital. Unfortunately, she has to go back in to hospital in a month’s time to have a total hysterectomy. This is a precautionary measure, since estrogen is supposed to be a source of “food” for cancer cells. There may still be rogue cells present, and it is important that not a single one be alive (all it takes is one mutated cell). In addition she’ll be on a lesser form of chemotherapy (just a tablet a day) for the next 5 years.

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23
Jun 00
Fri

On How Life Is

What a week.

After much nail-biting, queasiness and stress in general, Mum’s lymph tests came back with no trace of cancer. Thank God! And I mean that. Not in the bastardised, tagged-on-the-end-of-a-sentence, “Thank God”, but a conscious and emphatic, Thank God. The operation went well, resulting in the removal of the 1.5cm tumour. Mum was actually mobile and showering herself the morning after the operation (with a bag of blood that’s used to store the drainage from the wound hanging from her side, nonetheless). A biopsy was performed on 13 lymph nodes yesterday and all were found cancer free, which basically means we’re almost out of the woods. There are a couple more tests that will be returned on Monday to detect any stray cancer cells that may have been missed, but the main ones have come back with flying colours. She’ll remain in hospital for about a week until drainage finishes.

We’ve been really lucky that the results have been so positive. We’ve also been lucky to have got so much support from people (literally from all around the world!). Thanks again to absolutely everyone who gave us their support. Whether it was an e-mail/phone call from overseas to me, dad or mum, or sending her flowers (the hospital room looks like a florist’s shop!), or relatives and friends visiting her in the hospital ward – every bit was a comfort and greatly appreciated.

In other news, Session 1 of uni has finished with a botched exam (but I reckon I’ll pass – that’s that main thing). Pfft… whoever thought they’d test us on decomposition algorithms?

Friday was the last time I’ll have to wear a suit for a very long time (thank goodness). I finished up my time in tech support at Aspect with the department giving a nice 4 hour lunch (no one wanted to go back to work, evidently :) and with the manager giving me a really good rap on my student evaluation form. I actually have one week left of work at Aspect, but they are sending me on a TCP/IP course – hence, no suit. And it’s not really work :). I’ll be a very happy person come the end of this week, I reckon. Holidays! I can go back to bludging as a full time uni student hehe…

Ce/nsus results will be out these hols now that things are thankfully starting to quiet down.

As far as my stolen phone goes, I haven’t heard back from the cops, and I’m not expecting to. In the meantime, my Aunt has leant me her spare mobile and I’ve got a replacement Sim Card, so I’m contactable once again (the number hasn’t changed).

19
Jun 00
Mon

Quick Update

Mum goes in for her operation this afternoon. Wish her luck. She’ll be in hospital for about a week recovering, and also waiting for the tests on her lymph nodes to come back. Basically, this 2-3 hour operation, a radical masectomy, will remove the entire breast, and the cancer along with it. However, it is possible that the cancer has spread. The lymphatic system is the most likely place for it to go, so it will be a week or two before the tests on the nodes come back to determine if it has spread beyond the breast. If it hasn’t that’s fantastic news and we can breathe a sigh of relief and thanks. If it has, however, that’s not good news and mum will most be given chemotherapy/radiotherapy. This waiting about is excruciating. Better get back to studying… I have an exam tomorrow. Going to visit her in hospital on Wednesday after it.

BTW, are there any European readers who know about the Nokia 6210 phone having been released in Europe? Let me know please.

18
Jun 00
Sun

Shit

Some absolute fucking wanker stole my mobile. I was at my cousin’s surgery in Narellan setting up his computer network, and three of us (the builder, my cousin and myself) happened to be in the back room for a few minutes. During those one or two minutes, someone had walked in and grabbed my mobile (and left the builder’s mobile there, which was sitting right beside it). Luckily, someone there had seen the whole incident, and even knew the name of the guy who stole it – seems he’s a “well-known” fucking heroin addict around the area. So if I ever bump into Brent Davies who lives around Richardson Road in Narellan, I’m going to fucking rip his head off and string him upside-down by his anal hairs (figuratively speaking, of course). I cancelled the Optus account and called the cops, but I don’t think that will do much.

Fortunately I only have one month left on my contract… I wanted to wait until the Nokia 6210 came out, but it looks like I can’t. Damn…

More Bad News

This is from an e-mail my Uncle sent out to the family (regarding my grandfather):

Good and bad news about Dad. Good news is that he had his angiogram done sucessfully.

Bad news is that he had 100% blockage in one of the artery and a 90% blockage in a second one. The 90% blockage was successfuly re-opened, but the 100% blockage artery could not be re-opened because there is no room to insert the catheter because it was completely blocked. There a by-pass operation is necessary (ie surgery that involve taking a vein from somewhere else, usually from the leg, and grafting it into the affected coronary artery bypassing the blockage.

If the info is correct, then it was just as well that Dad had the angiogram, cause the blockage is serious. There are 3 major arteries to the heart, if 2 are blocked, then the blood flow to the heart is really compromised. The chances of Dad having a fatal heart attack is really high, like a timebomb ready to go off at any time.

I guess the good thing is that the problem has been spotted, and a bypass operation these days, while still major, is a well known procedure.

14
Jun 00
Wed

Train Tales

Ok let me explain what triggered off the mobile phone post below. It started when I left work. You should use this map for reference :)
5.10pm – 2 out of the 3 lifts in the building are broken. 5 minutes of waiting and the lift comes. It’s full. Keep waiting. After another 5 minute wait, the lift finally came. I set off for a brisk walk.
5.35pm – Arrived at Town Hall Station. Walked to Platform 6 to the announcement that “trains to Macarthur have resumed.” Strange. Nonetheless, the main point was they were running. Interesting that the platform was less populated than usual.
5.45pm – Fell asleep on the train.
6.10pm – Woke up to an SMS from Burga saying: “from what i saw on the news you are probably waiting 2 hours to get a bus home from work….just go via granville in stead :]” Too late, mate… we were already in the airport tunnel :). I went back to sleep.
6.30pm – Woke up to the train crawling along at a snail’s pace somewhere past Kingsgrove and the guard saying that the train was running 40 minutes behind schedule because we were stuck behind an all stops East Hills train. Great. Couldn’t get back to sleep.
7.00pm – Normally, I would’ve been home by now.
7.10pm – We got past East Hills and finally started travelling at full speed. 5 minutes later we ground to a stop in the middle of nowhere. Well, not exactly nowhere, but somewhere between Holsworthy and Glenfield (which is as good as nowhere). The announcer came on again (he was beginning to get real annoying… he had the volume turned up and was shouting into the PA system) and said we were going to be stationary for 5 minutes while waiting for the train from Liverpool to pass. Real bloody smart. The Liverpool-originating train happened to be an all stops to Campbelltown so once again, our “express train” was caught up chugging behind it. “Chugging” comprised of inching forwards a bit, then grinding to a stop every 2 minutes. It was truly ridiculous. There were a few people in the vestibule area that started making quips at Cityrail:
7.20pm – “Hey, it’s not often you pay for a 60 minute train ride and get a 2 hours one! Freebie!”
7.25pm – Annoying PA guy: “Due to factors I have zero control over, we are now running 52 minutes late.” People start clapping. If there clapping could ever sound sarcastic, it did tonight. 
7.30pm – “Let’s get out and push… we’ll get there faster.”
7.31pm – “Screw pushing, I’m walking.”
7.40pm – Annoying PA guy: “For those who have missed the final connecting bus service home at Campbelltown, please go to the stationmaster and demand that he pay for your taxi fare home.”
7.41pm – Train stops again. “Haha…that guy doesn’t like the stationmaster… and the stationmaster probably heard that and stopped the train. We’re never going to reach Campbelltown now.”
7.50pm – “Hey dontcha feel sorry for the people going to Macarthur? They’ll probably say the train is terminating at Campbelltown for today only.”
7.58pm – Annoying PA guy: “Ladies and gentlemen, this train is not going to Macarthur and will be terminating at Campbelltown for today only. Alllllll out, Alllll change!”
7.59pm – Trainful of irate passengers (in unison): “Fuck off!!!”
8.00pm – Train pulls into Campbelltown.
8.20pm – I arrive home, a mere 190 minutes after leaving work.

And that is why they lock the driver and guard compartments on trains. Two weeks of work left! When I’m on holidays I guarantee you won’t hear a peep about trains (I know you’re all sick to death of my train stories, but you’ll just have to live with it, cos I have to :)

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12
Jun 00
Mon

Thank You

A very big thank you to everyone (whether personally known or not) wishing mum, and the rest of us, the best.

On reflection it’s not that strange posting her e-mail address up. Mum sees me on the net quite a bit, but never really knows what I’m actually doing. She knows that I keep a web page and that I communicate with people continents away that I’ve never met. As with most parents, she tends to be quite suspicious of “net people”. It came to her as a pleasant surprise then, that these people I spent all this time writing to, and communicating with (through this web page, or other form) cared enough so as to drop her (and me) an e-mail with some reassuring words. Thanks all, we definitely appreciate it.

Check out what Dennis put up in the top right of his site – what a nice gesture. Thanks man.

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10
Jun 00
Sat

Hard Hitting

I make absolutely no apologies for lack of updates with any substance over the last week.

I discovered this week that my Mum has breast cancer.

As can be imagined I’ve been feeling pretty shit. It’s been graded as a “stage 2″ tumour, which means it wasn’t detected very early, nor very late. Apparently the inch-big tumour hasn’t spread to the axillary lymph nodes, which is a good sign, but that can’t be confirmed until the operation which is Wednesday week. She’ll be undergoing a radical masectomy. She seems to be taking it well, although I can’t say the same about myself, or Dad. Life is surreal. It’s mostly normal, but everything to me is cast in light of Mum’s condition, and it’s inherently depressing.

A few weeks ago I wrote how the closer an event is to you, the more it makes you pause and re-evaluate life. Let me tell you that is particularly true in this case. It’s worse when the thought crosses my mind that it could be the last time I ever did something with her.

I am a strong Christian, and although I usually keep religious matters mostly personal (just because I’m a introvert), on this occasion I request that, if you are too, that you pray for her that the outcome will be favourable. If anyone (women readers?) has had any experience with breast cancer at all, I would be happy to get an e-mail if you have anything to say about it. She can be e-mailed here if anyone should wish to send her good wishes (hey, I saw Solo ask this when his mum’s birthday came along last year!).

7
Jun 00
Wed

Next Update

Next update – sometime tomorrow. I never realised how bad not being able to check e-mail for the greater part of the week could be… got this junk pile sitting in the mailbox I gotta go through :/

6
Jun 00
Tue

Blah

Expect very few updates in the upcoming week – I have too much stuff due: an Oracle database, a test on Marxism, an essay on Postmodernism, and a presentation to the management staff at Aspect… The census results will be out in a couple weeks.

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4
Jun 00
Sun

This Week

I will be rarely posting from work this week. Reason is, I’m on a Windows 2000 course (1560 – Updating Support Skills…) and the lab environment is in an internal LAN. I can get access to the net, but I have to keep flicking between the static IP settings required for the labs, and the DHCP assigned IP needed for getting on the same subnet as the proxy server. So, it’s a bit of a bother.

1
Jun 00
Thu

And You Thought List-en was bad…

Everyone in my uni course is subscribed to a mailing list called bitwork (cos we’re all on 6 months of industrial training). It was set up so we could keep in contact with each other (the truth actually is – that it was set up because the majority of us have nothing better to do at work than e-mail each other). As the final week of work draws nearer, it’s started getting wacky. The last 50 mails I’ve got from it over the last 3 hours are all written in rhyme (mostly limer i cks, actually). Example:

Hey Renai, you’re such a joke
what did I ever do?
I didn’t even poke.
Stop your sledging
stop your poems.
GET BACK TO WORK
YOU FUCKING JERK.

Save me. I know these people.

30
May 00
Tue

Cityrail *Bitch* *Moan*

Finally got in the office at 9.45am. That’s about 2 hours spent on the train (only 80 minutes of it was actually spent moving). If “time is money”, then CityRail’s “free rail day” isn’t free after all. Unfortunately I can’t claim that my time is money, cos it’s not. :)

Butt Naked

Ok, something like this doesn’t happen everyday. Or at least I’d hope not.

I went in to work last Saturday to install a new server. Meanwhile, construction work was being performed as renovations were taking place around the building. The server install went fine and I started to head home. I got off the lift at level 5 (upper ground) and before heading on the long trip home, decided a quick trip to the toilet would be in order.

I pushed open the door. The next half-second flashed by quickly, but vividly. There was a construction worker standing in front of the sink, pants down around his ankles, completely naked on his bottom half. He was scrubbing at something. My eyes widened, I let go of the door and I retreated a few steps back. As the door started to slowly drift shut (there was no door handle to pull on, on my side) the guy screamed “Aye, yai yai, yai yai!”, spun around, and slammed the door completely shut. I just stood there frozen in the vestibule (“airlock”) area of the toilet as I heard a stream of apologies emanating from the other side of the door. I could only manage an, “uh…” before stutteringly enquiring whether he was decent and it was safe to go in.

He rapidly assured me it was and I reopened the door to see him tucking in his shirt. “Sorry about that, mate! You caught me coming out of the toilet. I needed to wash this yellow insulation shit off me but the cubicles are too damn small, y’know? It was making me all itchy and shit so I had to come out to clean it off! I swear no funny business, nothing was going on! No funny ideas, ok? How embarrassing!” All this explanation while I was doing my business in front of the urinal, feeling rather uncomfortable.

“Well, I guess you weren’t expecting anyone to come in, it being Saturday and all…”
“Exactly!”
“Well I’ll just leave you in private now. Cya.”
“Yeah, have a good day…”
“You too.” [Exeunt]

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29
May 00
Mon

Shit.

“Your location is not due to be covered before the end of August 2000. Telstra is progressively expanding its ADSL coverage areas. To find out whether your area will be covered in the next round of expansions please revisit this site regularly.”

28
May 00
Sun

Dammit

It’s cold and windy. It’s not Winter yet. My hands are cold. Once that happens, it is impossible to warm my hands up again without sticking them in front of a heater for 5 minutes. Oh well, guess I’ll have to live with cold hands for the rest of the day (I can’t sit on my hands to warm them up and type at the same time, unfortunately. Hmm. Another use for voice recognition software…)

24
May 00
Wed

Free Train Tickets

Actually, what I said before wasn’t entirely accurate – anyone buying a weekly/travelpass next week will get a 20% discount. So, I get both a free day’s travel and $4.40 off my travelpass. They should have these “goodwill gestures” more often.

CityRail

Next Wednesday, CityRail is allowing all passengers to travel for free on the train system. It’s a “goodwill” move that attempts to apologise for the crap we’ve had to put up with for ages (and most especially in the last week). The gesture is expected to cost them $2 million. Of course, this is bad luck for the people that buy weeklies and travelpasses on Monday. However, I got lucky. I buy my travelpass on Tuesday evening, so my ticket cycle goes from Wednesday to the n e xt Tuesday. Therefore, I can skip buying it on Wednesday and get it on Thursday instead :). Although I go off at CityRail every day, you gotta remember that many CityRail employees are just as frustrated and stressed. I wonder how long I will have to wait tonight for a train home?