Hear Ye! Since 1998.

All 121 Posts in the Category: Opinions & Observations

2
Oct 10
Sat

When gut instinct is wrong

This short MoJo article observes a few things in life that are counterintuitive.

Back during World War II, the RAF lost a lot of planes to German anti-aircraft fire. So they decided to armor them up. But where to put the armor? The obvious answer was to look at planes that returned from missions, count up all the bullet holes in various places, and then put extra armor in the areas that attracted the most fire.

Obvious but wrong. As Hungarian-born mathematician Abraham Wald explained at the time, if a plane makes it back safely even though it has, say, a bunch of bullet holes in its wings, it means that bullet holes in the wings aren’t very dangerous.

9
Sep 10
Thu

Will America’s universities go the way of its car companies?

The Economist reports that college tuition fees are rising, while student diligence, and other indicia of quality, are falling.

The most plausible explanation is that professors are not particularly interested in students’ welfare. Promotion and tenure depend on published research, not good teaching. Professors strike an implicit bargain with their students: we will give you light workloads and inflated grades so long as you leave us alone to do our research. Mr Hacker and Ms Dreifus point out that senior professors in Ivy League universities now get sabbaticals every third year rather than every seventh. This year 20 of Harvard’s 48 history professors will be on leave.

25
Jul 10
Sun

Interstate highway numbering

I was scanning through Google Maps and I realized that there is a method behind the madness of what seemed like random Interstate highway numbering. Behold:

17
Jan 10
Sun

Communication protocols and management

I’ve been noticing that some people have written themselves a page of Communication Protocols. These detail media through which a person can be contacted and their preferred method of contact depending on the context of the communication. The best-known set of comms protocols is Tantek Çelik’s. Several people have derived inspiration and made up their own, such as Lisa Brewster, Eston Bond, Kevin Cheng and Carla Borsoi.

At first blush, the idea has some kind of aura of coolness behind it. We have so many channels of communication these days that it’s confusing (face-to-face, phone, post, e-mail, IM, social networking services, etc). As the number of channels increases, the convenience of being more available to be contacted is quickly offset by the time-consuming nature of trying to keep track of it all. With too many channels, communication actually becomes inefficient – the overheads of checking each different form of media pile up, and messages get lost or overlooked.

Çelik’s stated aim is to capture and collect “some notes on [his] experiences with human to human communication protocols and mediums from [his] perspective … what works well and what doesn’t work so well, and why, in the hopes of maybe helping to uncover and define more efficient habits for purely factual communication between humans.” This is all fine and good, but his page is actually just a list of ways you should contact him depending on what sort of information you want to send him, and his rationale behind it all.

Unfortunately, the page is almost 4,000 words long, which makes the process of just figuring out how to communicate with him highly inefficient. The irony is overwhelming. Let’s say I want to contact him to run a business proposal by him. Firstly, people get scared or turned off when they first seek that comms protocol page. The impression is that if you don’t use the right method, you’re going to annoy him and get snubbed. Not very approachable. Secondly, the summary is confusing. So if I want to write to him (why do Americans drop the preposition “to” after the word “write”?), and I see “personal site, wiki, data-type specific website…” I haven’t a clue what this means. And it doesn’t sound like any of these media are private. Thirdly, I’m not going to wade through the rest of the document. I’m going to get frustrated and either give up or fire off a message on a random assortment of those channels. It’s self-defeating.

I suppose the whole protocol imposes a barrier to entry – if you really want to contact him, you’ll figure it out. I’m sure he’s a busy man. But turning people away at the gate is not really increasing how good a communicator you are.

The protocol pages of others fare a bit better, but not by much. Carla Borsoi’s and Eston Bond’s pages are shorter, but they still contain a glut of text in prose. Are people really going to read through all of that just so they can have the privilege of making their life easier? Lisa Brewster’s page is more streamlined – it cleanly states that her preferred input methods are, in order, Twitter, Blog, Email. Kevin Cheng is even more concise.

But the problem with all of these communication protocols is that they dictate how people should contact them. It somehow smacks of self-importance. I think that being a good communicator is about you yourself being the good communicator – not imposing requirements on everyone that they be good communicators (which is essentially what those communication protocols do). Çelik admits that his protocols are personal in nature, geared to the way he lives, so it’s not like it’s a manifesto for how everyone should communicate with each other… which is what communication protocols really are (think: diplomatic protocols and computer communication protocols).

If you’re some type of counselor and you’re dealing with a patient or client, that person may be a terrible communicator. As someone trying to improve how they communicate, the onus is on the counselor to adapt to the other person, not to impose unfamiliar communication protocols on them. I found it stunning that Kevin Cheng wrote “Telephone: Use Rarely … it’s extremely interruptive and nearly always rude. Txt first.”

As a lawyer, we are our clients’ punching bags when it comes to communications. However a client wants to contact us – email, phone, even dropping by the office unannounced for a surprise 8.30am meeting – we make ourselves available. This can be extremely disruptive, but as long as they aren’t violating etiquette or some social norm (like that surprise morning meeting), it just means you have to adapt yourself accordingly. Things can still run smoothly. (Granted, it does get out of control sometimes.) If you’re in a meeting and you can’t take a phone call, then turn your phone off and let it go through to voicemail. But why should I have to ask permission to call you before I call you?

Of course, we do have communication protocols with our clients, but these are always mutually agreed upon – never unilaterally imposed without an opportunity for input from the other side.

A communication protocols page would be an excellent tool if it was used for getting your own thoughts down on paper – seeing what channels of communication you use, and figuring out how to re-organize the way you do things. As a set of rules for you to follow and not a set of rules for others to follow, they can be very useful instead of being self-indulgent.

One side observation – I don’t understand the fascination with Twitter on these protocol pages. Twitter sucks as a tool for directed communications – talking to someone, as opposed to announcing stuff into the ether. You can’t and shouldn’t really do anything important on Twitter (like telling your daughter that her grandmother died on the weekend), but it has its uses given the right context. Twitter’s great for instant factual reporting, but not analysis or discussion (that’s meaningful, at least).

So, how do I manage my communications?

My input channels include:

  • real-time voice (mobile phone, Skype, GChat);
  • short/instant messaging (SMS, Skype, GChat, Live Messenger, Twitter, Facebook, other services like FourSquare, etc);
  • stored voice (voicemail); and
  • stored messaging (email, Facebook, Hear Ye! comments).

The key to managing all of these is to centralize the place where I deal with all of them. So, the number of input channels doesn’t matter as long as I can deal (ie, read and respond) with them all in the same place. This is how I centralize things:

1. Almost everything forwards to Gmail. My primary email account is my fissure.org address because I’ve had it for yonks, and it’s under my ownership so I can always control where it goes. However, it, and almost everything else, forwards to Gmail. Gmail labels emails by the address they came in from and acts as a central repository for all my emails. When I’m traveling, I only have to check one place for all my correspondence. My iPhone hooks into Gmail via IMAP, so it gets everything as well. Gmail’s search function also is brilliant for searching through the 5 years’ worth of mail stored in there.

I was doing some contracting work recently and the client asked me – I have several email addresses for you, which one do I use? I just answered, “Any of them, it won’t make a difference.” Makes things easy.

2. Outlook as primary mail client. I primarily use Outlook as my client for several reasons. Firstly, it’s great at workflow management. My inbox acts as my to-do list, and I try to keep it as empty as possible. I often work on replying to multiple emails at once (I rarely write long emails in one sitting), so each reply window is its own action item. The folder hierarchy is great for sorting mails. It has good calendar/task integration. I can modify the subject lines of emails to things that are more descriptive. Secondly, it’s an offline client, so it works in the increasingly rare occasions where I don’t have net connectivity (offline Gmail doesn’t quite cut it). Third, it acts as a local backup of all my mail. Unfortunately, Outlook can be pretty slow and its search function is atrocious.

3. Sent items are also captured everywhere. When I send emails from Outlook or my iPhone, Gmail captures these in its “Sent Items” folder too. When I send emails using Gmail, it sends a copy to Outlook. Everything is synced. You can even reply to Facebook messages via return email now.

4. No need to centralize voice and IMs. If I miss a phone call or IM, that’s fine because people get instant feedback about whether they got through to you and will try something else if they don’t get through. (Not always true with IMs – I’ve known Skype to mysteriously delay delivery of messages for days where the sender thought they got through - but nothing’s perfect.) E-mail and voicemail is different because people don’t normally acknowledge receipt and senders assume it’s got through. Therefore, it’s more important to keep a good handle on those channels of communication.

5. Residuals. Not everything fits with email. I use Google Reader for RSS feeds (which would otherwise clog up my mailbox), and a Twitter client for my desktop and iPhone (which I use rarely). I try and link everything up so I don’t have to duplicate posts (eg, how Hear Ye! pushes out tweets automatically).

Google Wave needs an email hook, like Facebook has (or even an IM hook). I don’t want to have to check another website on a regular basis – I want things pushed out to me. Then if I need to respond, I’ll hop onto the website to do it, if I can’t do it by email/IM.

In summary: My communication protocol

  • Contact me by the way with which you feel the most comfortable.
  • If you need an immediate response, then use a method which demands one, like the phone!
22
Dec 09
Tue

Merry Christmas?

In America, people rarely say Merry Christmas like they do in Australia. Cards and greetings come in the more generic form of “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”. The easy answer is that it’s the politically correct thing to do. There are significant numbers of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and those of other religions in the community who may or may not celebrate Christmas. The American public appears to have a lingering fear that wishing someone a Merry Christmas who doesn’t celebrate it will, at best, cause them to be corrected and, at worst, cause offence and earn a rebuke. But Australia has great diversity in its community as well. Is it just political correctness gone mad as usual in America?

Humour me and let’s deconstruct this state of affairs for a moment.

Our starting point is the identification of Christmas as the Christian holiday which celebrates the birth of Christ. It’s the biggest holiday on the Christian calendar. However, over the years the spirit of the holiday has bled over into the general community such that Christmas is also celebrated by non-Christians who partake in traditional Christmas customs like putting up Christmas trees and lights, gift-giving, family dinners, carols, and misleading small kids about Santa Claus. However, they leave out the religious customs like nativity plays and church services. As such, Christmas in these two contexts – the secular and the religious – still essentially refers to the same thing. It refers to the same date on the calendar, even though the nature of what is being celebrated is slightly different between Christians and non-Christians – the overall feel-good themes are celebrated by both, but Christians have the extra, significant religious element.

Of course, you will now point out that Christmas had roots in a pagan holiday. Although that may be the case, it’s more a case of Christians co-opting a pagan festival and renaming it and re-purposing it for their own celebratory goals. It’s not much different to non-Christians co-opting Christmas for their own purposes.

One distinction is that the secular re-purposing of Christmas didn’t really lead to many changes in the way it is celebrated by them. They didn’t rename it and they didn’t really change any of the customs. And there’s really nothing wrong with this.

On the other hand, there would be problems if Christians celebrated a pagan festival in a similar way because there are religious undertones that would be celebrated in the process, which is not kosher (to mix metaphors) from a religious point of view. Secular people don’t have the same constraints, which means any religious “baggage” that “encumbers” Christmas is not much of an issue for them.

So an orthodox Jew will not celebrate any version of Christmas (except what is jokingly referred to as — I have been told by a Jewish friend — a Jewish Christmas, which consists of Chinese food and a movie, since Chinese restauranteurs don’t take Christmas off, and the cinemas are one of the few other things that remain open on the 25th). A secular Jew may, however, celebrate Hannukah and put up a Christmas tree.

So, is it wrong to wish someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas a Merry Christmas? Should you give them gifts?

In relation to gifts, the custom is really gift-giving, not gift-receiving. So by giving a non-celebrant a gift, you’re technically not involving them in Christmas as you would be if you made them belt out a few verses of Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. It’s analogous to donating gifts to charities for the homeless and destitute.

And if a version of Christmas has now formed which is secular, wishing someone a Merry Christmas – whether they celebrate it or not – should be okay because it is secular, which is similar to Thanksgiving. However, this might be a little touchy with other religions because the religious undertones of Christmas are still present. So maybe there is a valid argument to be made for being sensitive about who you wish Merry Christmas to.

However, the other side of the argument is that a celebrant, by wishing a Merry Christmas to a non-celebrant, isn’t seeking to impose anything on them. It’s a general greeting, a form of well-wishing which doesn’t require or impose any belief … like “peace be with you”. Reciprocating the greeting doesn’t connote any sort of belief either, as opposed to, “May the Lord be with you”.

But what about “Happy Holidays” as a replacement? As people left work for vacations this week, they were wishing others “Happy Holidays”. I find it difficult to understand what holiday could be referred to other than Christmas. Hannukah has come and gone. That leaves Kwanzaa, which I understand is an African-American holiday celebration. The only problem is that the people to whom “Happy Holidays” were being wished weren’t black. And secondly, Kwanzaa is not really mainstream. I know it has been featured on US postage stamps and all, but the other day I saw a Jewish person wish a black person a Happy Kwanzaa. There was massive awkwardness, silence, and a no reciprocation of the greeting. A festive holiday ain’t going to work when things are like that.

If you wish a Muslim “Happy Holidays” (plural), exactly what holidays are you referring to? There’s Christmas Day, a named federal holiday, and New Year’s Day, another federal holiday. And to continue the theme of overanalysis, that’s the start of a new year under the Gregorian calendar which has, of course, Christian origins (being established by papal decree) seeing as each major religion has its own calendar. But obviously no one imputes any religious belief to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar.

“Happy Holidays” still refers to holidays that someone might not celebrate, therefore a problem still remains. So I can only conclude that “Happy Holidays” is essentially a euphemism for Merry Christmas. Which is just ridiculous. But at the same time so very American.

14
Jan 09
Wed

The Facebook status lines of two of my coursemates

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Opinion runs deep… no prizes for guessing the ethnic backgrounds of the people here…

7
Dec 08
Sun

Six banks, with change left over

Spending a thrilling afternoon studying in the library. Kev just sent me an email that’s been making the rounds:

A year ago Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), within a consortium paid US$100bn for ABN Amro (of which 80% was cash).

The same amount today would buy:
Citibank ($22.5bn),
Morgan Stanley ($10.5bn),
Goldman Sachs ($21.0bn),
Merrill Lynch ($12.3bn),
Deutsche Bank ($13.0bn), and
Barclays ($12.7bn),
…and still have $8bn in change. ..!!

2
Dec 08
Tue

What makes Australian unis unusual

Life at a US university is a lot different from life at an Australian one. Students in the US rarely stay in the same state, much less the same city, when they go to university. The result is that students live away from home and therefore live “in residence” on campus. This lends itself to a much more involving student life, and a much more diverse student body. The Aussie norm is that people go the biggest university in their own city. This concept is alien to Americans. This article expresses that observation well:

But from the point of view of students, perhaps the most striking difference I’ve noticed between Australian universities and those in the other countries in which I’ve worked, is the relative dearth of residence or college places in the older, and best, universities. …

If you are from Sydney you go to a Sydney university; if from Melbourne to one in Melbourne. University students stay at home. They commute to, and home from, the campus. The overall learning experience – in both a narrow academic sense and in a wider life-changing (including having fun) sense – is far inferior to going to a residence university.

Given any two universities even remotely comparable in their academic excellence, if one is residence and the other commuter, students should do whatever they possibly can to attend the residence one. (emphasis added)

I thoroughly agree with this article. I attended my first two years at UNSW living from home. It was a two hour commute each way, making for a total of four hours of travel each day. With that much travelling time, I didn’t hang around campus much more than I needed to. Socializing was done in the breaks between classes and on Friday nights and weekends. If class time at uni for a day was less than the travelling time, I just wouldn’t turn up at all. It wasn’t worth it. I certainly wasn’t in the mood to get involved in any extra-curricular activities. During my second year, I started working in North Sydney, which meant that I was travelling for five hours a day. I finally had enough, and moved into an apartment 5 minutes’ walk from campus. That made a world of difference – it was so much easier to get involved in campus life and activities, although there was still the tendency for people to disperse to the suburbs after classes. (While my 4 hour commute was unusual, a great deal of people had 2-3 hour commutes.)

When everyone lives on or near campus, the difference is phenomenal. It builds a student community. I have a feeling that’s one of the reasons why, despite the law school student body here being more than five times smaller than UNSW law school, the events organized by the students here easily doubles what UNSW offered. (To be sure, there’s more money flowing around here, but the UNSW Law Society was nonetheless the best funded law student organization in Australia when I was there.) It’s hard to meet people to arrange things when they are only in at uni for a few hours each day, and most of that time is spent in classes. When you’re on campus, it’s easy to just “drop in” at all hours of the day. It’s so much more time efficient as well. So, in relation to this particular aspect, I’m a great believer in the US education system.

In contrast, I think Australia is unusual. For many Asian countries, it seems usual for students to travel overseas for education, and I think they are better for it. When I was finishing up high school, it wasn’t even on my radar to consider an overseas, or even an interstate, university. But I think that it should have been. I don’t think the culture of Australian universities in terms of changing to an in-residence culture will eventuate anytime soon, so looking to overseas universities is a great alternative. (Just come back to Australia afterwards!)

21
Oct 08
Tue

Late night musing

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

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

19
Oct 08
Sun

Ten small differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6
Oct 08
Mon

Scary graphs

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

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

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

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

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

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The Dow Jones Industrial Index – the economic barometer that most US people watch.

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

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The VIX hit an all-time high this week.

2
Oct 08
Thu

The VP Debate

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

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Watching the VP Debate in the Law School Students’ Lounge

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

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

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

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

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

21
Nov 07
Wed

On the record

My guesstimate for this Saturday night is that the ALP will take out 83 seats… at least. And Bennelong will be too close to call on the night. The Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate.

11
Oct 07
Thu

What to name your kid

After coming across a strangely large amount of people named “David Clarke” in the newspapers, I did a bit of poking around and discovered that the name is attributed to various people in senior positions in the Australian corporate/political world. And as far as I can tell, they were all different people. David Clarke is:

  • the CEO and Managing Director of private equity firm Allco Finance Group
  • the Non-executive Chairman of Macquarie Bank
  • the CEO and an Executive director of Rinker (before Cemex bought it)
  • the Managing Director of Webjet (which is trying to buy out travel.com.au)
  • a member of the NSW legislative council

Mr and Mrs Clarke, you now know what to call your kid if you have big plans for him.

2
Sep 07
Sun

Election ’07

[There was a post here which has been censored by request (at least until the election is over). Update: Post now unredacted.]

People are reckoning that the election date will be called after APEC. This is from a friend hitting the campaign trails in Bennelong:

Today we went to test the waters in Carlingford, which is North-West of Eastwood. This was our first time to Carlingford, so we weren’t sure what to expect. I’m glad to say that it was quite succesful.

Carlingford Village (‘CV’) is a small shopping centre. Inside is a mini Chinatown. As soon as you enter you are hit with the smells of Asian food. Some of the shops had food so exotic they are not on the menus in Chinatown itself. We set up our signs and balloons outside an Asian supermarket, whose owner is backing Labor. The owner also owns 3 other supermarkets, including the supermarket directly opposite Howard’s office in Eastwood.

I went to set up at the back entrance and then ran into trouble. A bored Indian security guard saw me and straight away demanded to know whether I had permission. I told him we had permission from the owner of the supermarket. He said it wasn’t good enough, we needed permission from the owner of CV. Seeing that his name badge said “Ravi”, I tried to sweet talk him by talking about Ravi Shastri and cricket, but he said all politicians are crooks and soon was on his phone to the owner.

Luckily the owner of CV allowed us to stay. And this is the beautiful thing – he came to CV and said “I don’t like Howard, I support Labor.” This was someone we had never met before. By the end of our visit we had been able to convince him to put Maxine posters around CV and also organise Moon Cake festival events in the centre complete with a Maxine meet and greet.

The beauty of CV is that it’s in effect a captive audience. Macquarie Bank would call it monopoly infrastructure. The owner won’t allow the Libs to put up posters, or campaign inside.

In other things, last week I was at the check-out at Woolworths in Eastgardens. All the check-out chicks are either Asian or brown – Eastgardens is a pretty multicultural suburb.

The white girl in front of me sees my 2 boxes of Weet-bix and asks me, “Do you eat that for breakfast in your country?”
Me: “Yes, everyday.”
“Really? What country are you from?”
“Australia”.
“No, which country are you really from? Do they eat Weet-bix there?”
“Australia.”

Then she proceeded to ask me if I ate vegemite and peanut butter. Maybe this should be added to the new citizenship test.

Still, the best incident was when I was on a bus in Kensington talking to a friend, who was also of Asian ethnicity. A woman came up to us and said, “Thank you for speaking English.”

As Lachie’s best mate, Alan Ramsey, would say: John Howard’s fucking Australia.

23
May 07
Wed

PTM

If Monday’s SGH float was a cracker, then Platinum’s one blew it away. It closed today 76% above ($8.80) what it was offered for ($5). Andrew made an amusing comment:

The following is a quote from a post on a discussion forum talking about the PTM float:

Applied for 4000 and got 1160
Had $35k invested in Platinum Asia fund since Aug05
If it reaches $10 it will pay for the plasma tv!!

Maybe I should short PTM and buy Harvey Norman…!!

9
Apr 07
Mon

Politics at the bookies

Some bookies/betting exchanges are quoting odds on which party will provide the Prime Minister at this year’s federal elections.

Bookie / Labor win / Coalition win
Centrebet / 1.75 / 2.00
Betfair / 1.87 / 2.12
Sportingbet / 1.75 / 2.00

So people are tipping a Labor win at the moment. I suspect that these odds are going to slide over towards the Coalition end nearer to the election (seemed to be the case in the last election), so it’ll be interesting. Coalition seems to be priced well at the moment nonetheless… hard to see them sliding substantially backwards, but I guess anything can happen in politics.

4
Feb 07
Sun

Today’s encyclopedia

It occurred to me a while ago that a generation is now growing up discovering how fascinating it can be reading through an encyclopedia – without the same stigma of thick glasses and social awkwardness hanging over kids thumbing through musty leather bound 1000 page books in the decades past. (Albeit the encyclopedia of this century is mostly written in a more down-to-earth level of language and is conveniently hyperlinked.)

31
Jan 07
Wed

Our water crisis

This site keeps a variety of interesting stats on Sydney’s dam levels. The current projection is that we’ll have an empty dam by July 2009 (not accounting for any water restrictions that would be imposed well before then). It’s quite disconcerting that a Beta-class world city is in danger of simply running out of water. Of course, we’re lucky to be a city in a relatively affluent country with access to a variety of options to address this problem. However, the government seems to have a myopic aversion to spending money on infrastructure in general (transport, telecommunications, etc) and there’s been a lot of delay on selecting a course of action to take – whether to go with the recycled water or desalination plants.

3
Sep 06
Sun

The Tampa revisited

There was a recent article by Julian Burnside QC on the 2001 Tampa Incident. It was opened up to comments, and there were a high proportion of them that were quite disturbing. Interestingly, it seems that Burnside has invested a lot of time into replying to the more negative comments, the result of which can be described as no less than complete ownage. It’s not so much an argument, or even a discussion, but a total schooling of those who really haven’t spent any time considering the issues.

7
Oct 04
Thu

Election Prediction

My guess on Saturday who’s going to win? The Coalition, but not by much.

28
Jul 04
Wed

Google IPO Pricing

Jason Kottke mentions that the per share price of the Google float is largely irrelevant. He emphasises the more important question is whether the valuation of the company is accurate because the market capitalisation of a company is meant to be a representation of that company’s worth. However, he neglects to account for other factors that should be considered in purchasing stocks. One of the other major considerations is liquidity, and the absolute price of a stock is connected to this. The lower-priced a share is, the easier it is to offload and the more liquid it tends to be. There’s no point in having oodles of shares you can’t get rid of in a hurry; look at Berkshire Hathaway, for example. Secondly, there are adverse psychological factors involved when looking at a high stock price (especially for the individual investor) which further impact on liquidity. That’s why companies do stock splits: the market is not completely efficient, and investors are not all rational.

For those wanting to make a quick buck, the issue is predicting what market sentiment is, as much as it is about valuing a company accurately. This is because unless you are a huge institutional investor, everyone else in the market is determining where the price for a stock heads, and market sentiment reacts irrationally, especially in a weakly efficient market. The very psychological factors Kottke points out as silly are yet very relevant.

Splitting stocks may also carry connotations that a company is doing a roaring trade (Microsoft has had numerous splits). So, although mathematically speaking, a split will double share holdings and exactly halve the price, the funny thing is after a stock split the price may rise a little due to these connotations.

18
Jun 04
Fri

Kingsford Apartments

Kingsford, being a suburb right next to a university where a fifth of its students come from overseas, has a high concentration of low-rise apartment buildings. The majority of them are old 60s red-brick apartments which property developers are now starting to renovate into something a little more modern. For example, there’s a newly renovated complex on Rainbow St where a property developer has bought out the whole building and redone it. Its red-bricks have been painted over in gray. The garden has been landscaped and the balconies have been decluttered (full glass doors, glass balcony guards). The interior looks pretty swish too. Nice, large, well-fitted bathrooms, open-plan kitchens — a bit too open for my liking — new carpet, new fixtures and built-in wardrobes which don’t have mirrors to cater for the Asian crowd who believe that sleeping in front of a mirror will do bad things to your soul or some nonsense like that. They even throw in a “free” LCD TV for the master bedroom.

Here’s the kicker. Two bedrooms and one carspace will set you back $500k. That’s half a million for a two bedroom, renovated 60s building apartment. Half of the units available have already been sold, so there’s definitely a market out there. About five years ago, the same unrenovated units would probably have sold for half that price. The property market bubble may be bursting, but it’s always relative. Price rises may stall and property values may stagnate, but they rarely ever fall.

2
Jun 04
Wed

Out of the blue

Kev writes:

“Melissa Tan”. Just realised that this is not an ideal English name for a Tan. Put in email format and you’ll see what I mean.

Hahah. Thanks Kev.

1
Apr 04
Thu

Oh Wait…

I hope Gmail isn’t an April Fools thing… Today is a bad day to be handing out press releases.

Update: Looks like it was announced a little while ago, so it’s safe. There are other uses for Gmail other than for an online archive of webmail, such as an online hard drive that can be used for collaboration with others (just share the password).

10
Mar 04
Wed

Hey BITs

This just occurred to me recently. There were about 50 people doing my first degree, which was in IT. I know a few friends from the course who have been reading this site for years. I know this despite them being pathological lurkers (hi guys), because occasionally they’ll retort to something I’ve said with, “Yeah I know, I’ve read it on your site.” Anyway, in a day and age where every third person has a blog, not a single BIT in my year I know of has one. Now, BITs in general are known for being chatty. And they are IT graduates, so theoretically there’s no problem with getting the “infernal machine contraption thingy” working. This seems like the right combination for adopting the relatively new-fangled mode of communication in the form of weblogs. But not one has a blog. I find that weird for some reason. Very weird.

I know this will fall on deaf ears and I’ll get no replies, but nonetheless if you’re a BIT/ISM, make your presence known in the comments please :).

Update: See, this e-mail I just got from Ben is exactly what I mean…

Found your little aside about BITs not blogging amusing. Sorry, no time or inclination from me ;) … I guess its just a reflection of our more technical guys not being big on written expression.. and our less technical being so corporate focused.

12
Feb 04
Thu

Savings Accounts

I have two main bank accounts for my cash. One is a debit card account which I use for day to day cash purposes (“working capital” in accounting-speak) and whose balance constantly scrapes near to zero and earns bugger all interest. A second account is a savings deposit one which stores a larger portion of savings at a higher interest rate. These days, many banks are offering these types of accounts at a higher interest rate than term deposits, so it makes sense to store money in these since they don’t come with the withdrawal limitations imposed on term deposits. Underneath is a round up of several “savings maximiser” type accounts a few banks are offering. They’re all a good deal, offering 24/7 access to your money, and generally are completely fee-free.

Citibank Online Cash Manager
– 5.25% pa interest, calculated daily
– No minimum balance
– No account-keeping or minimum balance fees
– Withdrawals: 2 free withdrawals per month. Additional ones are $2 each.
– Debit card available

St George DragonDirect DirectSaver
– 5.0% pa interest, calculated daily
– No minimum balance
– No account-keeping or minimum balance fees
– Withdrawals: No withdrawal fees. Withdraw only via Net or Phone banking

ING Savings Maximiser
– 5.0% pa interest, calculated daily
– No minimum balance
– No account-keeping or minimum balance fees
– Withdrawals: No withdrawal fees. Withdraw only via Net or Phone banking

HSBC Online Savings Account
– 4.5% pa interest, calculated daily (or 0.5% pa for balances under $2000)
– No minimum balance. Require $2000 to open account
– No account-keeping or minimum balance fees
– No apparent withdrawal fees
– Debit card available: unlimited transactions from HSBC ATMs, 5 free transactions per month at any other ATM
– Cheque book option available

There are other more subtle differences. Some of these accounts have a slight delay in withdrawing money, and some are Internet-only accounts (which means you can’t access your money through an ATM). Read the FAQs for more information. A good combo would be the HSBC account as a working capital account, and the Citibank one for savings. There aren’t many HSBC ATMs around town, but as long as you don’t have to use the ATM more than five times a month, that should be fine. Note that interest rates always fluctuate, but they are accurate at this moment. ING, the first bank to offer these types of accounts, have had rates as high as 6.5%. Also, from time to time, some banks run promotions which offer cash bonuses (around $20) for opening up an account.

3
Feb 04
Tue

Janet Flashing at Superbowl

Over at Expect Nothing, Nebu featured a comment related to this incident reading:

Some people still have morals. I wanted to watch a football game, not see a woman half naked. Yes, you are free to look at nudity all you want. Its called porn!!! It takes up half of the internet. To me, it is the individuals own problem if he wants to see that. Just tell me when it is there so that I dont have to see it as well. As they say, your freedom ends where my nose(or eyes) begins.

It produced a large number of ascerbic responses mainly of the “get over it, it was only a tit” variety. Eg:

Sorry, aero, but Janet Jackson’s nipple piercing, while large, wasn’t large enough to poke you in the eye. The ‘your right to swing your arms ends where my nose begins’ paraphase from John Stuart Mill is quite specific in what it refers to–initiation of force (and not figurative ‘force’ you’re referring to). There is no such thing as a ‘right to not be offended.’

The latter type of people are missing the point. The point is not drawing subjective lines of morality, which is already a problem in today’s society (since we can’t figure out where to draw a line, we shouldn’t draw one at all and declare open slather! It’s never too young to be exposed to porn because hell, it’s inevitable anyway!) The issue in this case is that there are certain censorship guidelines which are there for a reason, and these should be adhered to. What happened was wrong (asssuming it was not accidental, and no one does think it was), and people have a right to be up in arms about it. Would it be any different if Timberlake ripped off her pants?

Another example – just because something as trivial as swearing is an integral part of society, it still doesn’t mean I would like walking around hearing profanity as every second word in the street. But in the same token, just because I don’t think they should have pulled that stunt on national TV doesn’t mean I don’t want to see a copy of the picture or video clip. There is a difference. When I walk into an R rated film (NC-17 is the US equivalent I believe) I have an idea of what to expect. Some people don’t like the graphicness of the violence or sex portrayed in those movies, so they avoid them – not because they haven’t been exposed to them before, or that it will “destroy their fragile minds”, but because they just don’t enjoy it. Censorship itself is getting laxer, and I don’t see a problem with this – society changes, so these guidelines should change with it. It’s not up to the performers to take matters into their own hands.

And of course the comment above that “there is no such thing as a ‘right to not be offended'” is utter crap. That’s why there are laws against “acts of indecency”.

12
Sep 03
Fri

Gelatissimo

Random musing – Has anyone else noticed how the “Temporary Gelatissimo” stand at Circular Quay has been anything but temporary? My guess is that they were only expecting to be in operation through Summer, and were surprised when a healthy rate of business continued throughout Autumn and Winter. It’s an excellent place for an ice cream stand with all those tourists milling past, wondering how it can be so warm and sunny on a Winter’s day. A prime location, even though it’s essentially a shack under a highway overpass.

8
Jul 03
Tue

About a Year After Tampa

Julian Burnside QC, advocate for the Tampa refugees, makes a speech on why John Howard can be accused of crimes against humanity, and how a leader of a first world nation can possibly have this accusation aimed at him (after all, doesn’t “crimes against humanity” traditionally connote third world despots and genocidal ethnic cleansers?).

16
Feb 03
Sun

Armchair Opinion: War Against War

Today in Sydney, a peaceful ‘Walk Against War‘ protest took place, involving a quarter of a million people marching through the city CBD. A few days earlier, Melbourne staged a similar event which attracted 150,000 walkers. To put this number into perspective, Greater Sydney has a population of about 4 million, with the inner city holding around 1 million people. A friend who attended told me that by the time he started the walk route, the earliest walkers had already finished walking. Shopkeepers gawked at the incredible throng of people as they ambled along – young children, adults, whites, blacks, atheists, Christians, Muslims and everything in between. For over 6% of a city’s population, all belonging to no particular demographic other than holding a common aversion to war, to turn up to what was, in effect, Sydney’s largest rally ever, is an incredible statement against the increasing warmongering of the current Liberal government. (Update: Apparently around 1 million protesters were present in London, amongst the other millions around the world.)

One has to start wondering then about the catchcry of the US and its allies in this War on Terror – that this war is necessary to protect the citizens, their way of life and the democratic principles by which the West has flourished under. They seem to have neglected to mention how much capitalism, instead of democracy, has aided the economic growth of the West, but we will treat that as an oversight. Democracy, though, just what is that? One of America’s very own former Presidents once defined democracy as the “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I am no political scientist, but I did learn in primary school that a democracy theoretically allows everyone to have a say. Because it is impractical for everyone in a country of 20 million, let alone 280 million, to have a say in every decision regarding a country, we elect a government. This government represents us, and we elect them according to whoever has opinions that best align with ours about how the country should be run. However, with regards to giving everyone a say, democracy does not just provide the electoral mechanism and leave it at that. Democracy is, again theoretically, meant to ensure that the government will carry out the wishes of the majority of the nation. Granted, only the naive could believe that this could ever be always the case, or indeed, that it would even be necessarily beneficial – sometimes controversial social and economic reform moves a country along better than sticking to the status quo – but nonetheless, the idea is always there, lurking as a root principle for democratic nations.

That’s why we have referendums on major issues that affect the country, such as whether Australia should become a Republic, or if the constitution’s preamble should be altered. Since Federation, Australia has tended to not carry the changes proposed in a referendum. However, even with the Republic movement only losing by a few percentage points, people accept that this is a fair result and don’t go to war over it. It is a proper procedure for implementing certain changes of national impact.

I am about to make an assumption here. I don’t think anyone would disagree with me, though. The overwhelming majority of Australians do not want war. Even without the turnout in Sydney’s march today, it is not hard to observe how many people have an anti-war sentiment. Look at the media – it is rare to find an opinion article that is pro-war. Look at the common Aussie – they find it hard to understand just why John Howard is so eager to launch pre-emptive strikes on a country half a world away. This reaction by the Australian public is hardly surprising though. Rallies everywhere around the world show nations concurring with the notion of avoiding war. Polls in Time Magazine of public opinion in many European countries show similar results.

The decision to go to war is not a light one. Not only is it a matter of considering the lives of our troops who will risk their lives for us on a distant battlefield, but our actions reflect on our nation in the global community. Reputations linger long after the dust has settled. The Australian people do not want war, but John Howard is not listening. Whatever happened to the Western ideal of upholding the democratic principles? There is no doubt that Howard fervently believes that assassinating Saddam will make the world a safer place. And it may, but it is also his duty to carry out the will of the Australian public. His title of Prime Minister makes him a leader, but the concept of primus inter pares (first among equals) grounds such a role. “This concept defines not only the prime minister’s relationship with Cabinet, but also, in a sense, his or her relationship with the public in our modern democratic society.” (Nat. Lib of Canada)

Of course, this is the man who handled the Tampa situation the way he did, and the man that announced such ‘initiatives’ as trying to assert Australia’s right and authority to take pre-emptive action against suspected terrorists in foreign countries, resulting in much annoyance from our neighbouring Muslim country which is 200 million strong not known for its socio-political stability. This man, by his actions, seems to think that Australia’s future still lies in the aging trade ties between America and Britain, not Asia. Not Asia, despite our proximity. He says we are a Western nation in the Eastern world, so we must retain our links with the West. This man, seems to think that the situation in the Middle-east, which has an insubstantial bearing upon our island continent, deserves more attention than North Korea. North Korea, a country which needed no UN inspectors to prove it had nuclear weapons because it simply announced to the world it had. A country which has thumbed its nose at the UN and US, even having the gall to use the US’ own words of ‘pre-emptive strike’ back against them, which has threatened the UN with war in the event of sanctions and which has not ruled out the use of nuclear weapons if it had to come to that in the end. North Korea simply isn’t on Howard’s agenda. North Korea isn’t the primary concern of the US, therefore it is not ours either. Never mind North Korea can directly affect our region of the world, we have to maintain our links to the West, and that means supporting Bush and Blair.

Why has Howard been so bent on invading Iraq? One cannot believe it is simply because he believes it will make the world a safer place. Declaring war cannot make the world a safer place. Our ties with the US have instead lit us up as another target for Muslim extremists (as evidenced by the statement given by the Bali bomber). His eagerness and urgency to declare war, an action generally espoused and shown in history to be something to be avoided at all costs, even though all other avenues have not yet been exhausted can only be, to me, shows he is merely following the US’ lead. To ‘strengthen our ties’ with America, to phrase it with a little more civility than Mark Latham (although I suspect that Latham’s assertions have more than just a touch of truth to them).

Australia cannot be a significant and large player in the world. Not in Howard’s lifetime, not in my lifetime, not with a population of 20 million. Even within the Commonwealth, where Australia is one of the major players, Howard’s opinions of Zimbabwe did not carry a huge amount of weight in CHOGM (opinions which I agree with, incidentally). However, Australia can be a major player in our own region: Asia. Keating saw it, Howard doesn’t.

No doubt, the US ambassador would have something to say about my opinions. He would say that I was very anti-American, as if that were a thought crime. He would say that despite me not being American. A democracy though, allows for freedom of speech. It is enshrined in the very first amendment of the US’ own treasured constitution. The US ambassador’s chastisement of Simon Crean stands in stark contrast to the principle behind that amendment. If only they stood by their first amendment as firmly as their second.

If the US’ actions and words do not align with the main principles to which they claim to seek to preserve through the vehicle of war, death and destruction, can we really readily believe any of their other claims, such as the tenuous “clear link” between Saddam and Osama? I believe for most of you, the question will be purely rhetorical.

Unfortunately, our opposition leader, Simon Crean, has only stood in weak defiance of Howard’s stance. His objections do not come with the passion of Howard’s statements. Admittedly, he realises that if he takes an abject anti-US stance, if he gets elected that may make future dealings with the US difficult. However, that only emphasises the importance of not dirtying Australia’s name within Asia. Furthermore, US has shown that it does not need to like a country to have ties with it – look at China. The so-called “old European” powers of Germany and France don’t seem to care about the US even though it is a superpower. They have been called recalcitrant, but they didn’t raise embargoes against the US at the drop of a hat like what has happened to us in the past. Instead, they are seeking alternative, peaceful solutions, which have all been categorically turned down by the US with seemingly no serious consideration. That is what our country needs, a Prime Minister and governing party that stands up for what the majority of Australians believe and want. We want what we have all been taught at school – no war, because war is always bad, especially when there are other options still existing. Bush has his own agenda, and despite protests in NY and LA, the American public seem to be behind him. He may be acting against the views of the UN, but at least he is acting with the wishes of the American public (however media influenced they may be), which is one better than Howard. What we need is a leader, not a sycophant. And certainly not the only Australian leader in the last 100 years who has had a no-confidence motion successfully passed against him for committing troops behind parliament’s, and the public’s, back.

(This is Hear Ye’s 3000th post.)

Responses:

I had
lunch with friends yesterday and everyone was very hawkish at the table.
Comments like the French and the Germans are ingrates because they refuse to
support the US unconditionally illustrate the level of hawkishness at least
in this microcosm of US public opinion. I suspect that same sentiment is
fairly pervasive among many Texans at least because they are staunch
supporters of Bush & Co. When I countered that the French and the Germans
could be doing so because they want to matter in this new political world
instead of being US vassals, my opinions made no impression.

While I agree that war is never good, I can only think back to early 1940’s
when Britain tried to appease Hitler and that ended up in World War II.
Whether or not Bush goes to war to finish what his father started or whether
he’s doing it to secure the US’ future oil supplies, whatever the reason,
only time will tell what happens. If Saddam Hussein was a despotic leader
in 1991 and deserved to be “removed” then, things haven’t changed 12 years
later.
-Marcus

16
Jan 03
Thu

Warmongering

Does anyone else think the logic being employed here is strange?

The failure of U.N. arms inspectors to find weapons of mass destruction “could be evidence, in and of itself, of Iraq’s noncooperation” with U.N. disarmament resolutions, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Wednesday. (CNN)

—–

The Australian Government agrees [shame!] with the United States that finding no evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction may still provide the grounds for military action because the onus is on Saddam Hussein to show he has destroyed his banned stockpile. (SMH)

I wonder if that line could be used in court? “The prosecution thinks that the lack of a gun as evidence, could be evidence, in and of itself, of the defendant’s noncooperation. Therefore, he should be charged with obstruction of justice in addition to first degree murder.” How do you prove you don’t have something? Someone has their wires crossed, big time. (Update: This post is generating a lot of comments. Feel free to chip in.)

14
Jan 03
Tue

Law

I get asked this a fair bit:

“So let me get this straight… you want to do law, but you don’t want to end up being a lawyer?”
“That’s right.”

Here are some of the reasons why, and what can happen instead. It’s an informative article which shares my thoughts and motivations quite closely. Here’s a few books on the same issue.

3
Oct 02
Thu

Summer Nears

It was around 30 degrees today. You know what that means… the return of flies, mozzies and other assorted annoying insects. In other news, check out this cool optical illusion. {src: AJH}

10
Sep 02
Tue

Hypotheticals

As the world settles down tomorrow to watch a round of memorials and tv documentaries on the world-shaking event last year which received the most media coverage in history, I cannot help but wonder what another terrorist attack on September 11 this year would mean. Security has been ramped up, emergency services on alert, and America has vowed countless times in the last 365 days to “never let something like this happen again”. For an attack to slip under the net of American vigilance would be, in symbolic terms, crippling.

Such an attack now would not have to be something exotic, either. They don’t need a nuke, or a dirty bomb, or a biological agent. A few extreme-minded Muslim shaheed will do, placed strategically throughout crowded areas in the country. Or perhaps a fleet of trucks laden with explosives ram raiding into buildings. Although the death toll would not be as high as the three thousand who perished last year, nor the destructive effects be as horrifyingly spectacular as three million pounds of masonry collapsing, the message would be just as resounding: You cannot stop us.

And what then? Ban trucks? Body friskers at every corner? Would American freedom, touted by the so-called “leader of the free world” to be the envy of all, still maintain its (shaky) solidarity? Would America still be able to claim with a straight face that it still offered its citizens unparalleled amounts of freedom, in an age where you cannot board a plane without taking off your shoes first?

Just how much freedom can you take away, in exchange for security, in an effort to preserve freedom?

Of course, it can be argued that another attack would not be in the best interests of the offending parties. American retribution, whoever it was directed at, would be brutal. Bush would no doubt twist it into an excuse to commence Operation Desert Storm II. Also, with al-Queda in ruins and Osama no where to be seen, who would be left to blame? But who said people always act according to “best interests”? Afterall, all you need are a few loonies. Loonies who believe that their actions are a sure ticket to bang 72 virgins. Who, because they’ve died in their misguided mission, don’t have to face the repercussions… from the Arab getting persecuted while walking down the street (though hopefully we are all educated enough to avoid that), to the growing tensions between the West and Middle-east, to the kid who has to come home and find she has one less parent.

It’s a scenario where everyone loses. So let’s hope it never eventuates and that September 11 remains as a day of memory for 2001, and 2001 alone.

27
Aug 02
Tue

Atheism vs Christianity Debate

Last night I attended a debate in Sydney’s Town Hall, presented to a standing room only full house. The debate was between an Atheist (Dr Peter Slezak) and a Christian (Dr William Lane Craig). In a modified debate format – 20 minute introductions, 12 minute first rebuttal, 8 minute second rebuttal and 5 minute conclusion with each side alternating – the two scholars, each with impressive credentials, set out to prove their respective positions in the age old debate of whether God exists. Craig in particular is world-renown for defending the faith, and despite this, Slezak was up to the challenge of engaging Craig, who practically makes a living doing this sort of thing. Neither debater disappointed and it was, without a doubt, a highly stimulating, intellectually exhausting, 2 hours. There was a lot of information in it and I’ve probably remembered and/or interpreted some things wrong, so what is written below may be slightly inaccurate.

Both speakers were unpaid for their time, and given the time pressures of the debate and the requirement to think on your feet, both were highly impressive. There were some inconsistencies in both arguments, but I would put this down to the environment of the debate rather than pure oversight.

When it comes to beliefs and religion, people on either side of the fence are most unlikely to change their beliefs overnight, if at all. To expect an Atheist to be converted post-debate is unrealistic, as is for the Christian to lose faith. The audience was, I suspect, made up of a majority of Christians, a substantial portion of atheists, and more significantly, some curious agnostics. The agnostic “fence sitters” are those who are as yet undecided, based on the evidence presented to them, whether to believe or disbelieve. Because of this unsureness, they are perhaps more likely to be affected by what was presented on the night. However, the direction the debate headed was perhaps different to what many were expecting, but it is a direction I believe was the better choice.

Many Atheists attack Christianity’s validity based on its doctrine and the Bible. Why are there so many contradictions in the Bible? Why are some things clearly stated in the Bible not followed today? What’s the deal with creation versus evolution? Is God narcissistic? Why are there so many denominations of Christianity? And so on. An interesting line of questions, but an avenue the debate did not travel down. The debate was conducted on a much “higher” level (or, in terms familiar to those in the IT industry – a lower level, at the root of things) than most expected. That is, the brunt of the debate focused on the sole question of: Does God exist? The lower “root” level comparison is apt, because if you can chop off the argument at this level, all higher-level arguments cease to be valid. If God does not exist, all contention about the Bible and doctrine cease to exist as well. Furthermore, many doctrinal and Biblical questions revolve around human interpretation. Human interpretation is flawed, because we are human. This sullies things and it is hard to reach any resolution when “human flaw” is used as a point of argument, or some would say, excuse. Arguing about these things if often inconclusive. So, the way to address things is to strike at one of the very lowest levels. As a result, the debate centered more around the ontologically related disciplines of philosophy, logic and metaphysics, rather than history or theology. By extension, science – cosmology in particular – was used extensively as common grounds for making points. As I recall, the Bible was not quoted once by either side.

Craig opened the debate, with the main effort focused on the existence of God. Preliminary comments were made regarding burden of proof and requirements for proof. Should the onus be on the Christian to prove God exists (what evidence is there that God exists?), or should the onus be equal on the Atheist to prove Atheism exists (what evidence is there that God does not exist?)?

Craig made five major points. Evidence for God’s existence can be seen in (1) the origin of the universe, (2) the complexity of conditions and probability of our existence as intelligent life, (3) the presence of objective morality as proof of existence, (4) the evidence of Christ’s miracle, unnatural, resurrection implying divinity and (5) immediately personal experience with God. Interestingly, only one of his major points linked existence of God to an existence of a Christian God (4). The points were also coincidentally ordered in sequence of ferocity of debate, with 1 and 2 being the most actively argued, and the most confusing.

I am still hazy on much of point 1. Craig basically stated that the mere emergence of the universe, as established in science’s Big Bang theory, is grounds for proof of a higher intelligence. The Big Bang theory recognises that the universe came out of nothingness. Before the bang, nothing existed, including the concept of time. Things as they were, were timeless, and there was nothing. Therefore, something formed out of nothing. This flies in the face of logic and everything we understand. Clearly, to have something form out of nothing implies the existence of a higher being – otherwise, how could something that is timed (the universe) have formed out of timelessness? Craig provided an analogous example of you hearing a loud “BANG!”, asking, “What was that? Where did that come from?” and having him reply with, “Oh nothing. Nowhere.” Which is clearly absurd.

After other counterpoints I can’t remember regarding the concept of time and dimensions, Slezak retorted that to use homely examples such as the “Bang from nowhere” example (and the “horse appearing out of thin air to defile the lounge room carpet” example) is impossible, because our conceptual understanding of the world is fundamentally different from the existence of the universe such that we cannot draw comparisons. We cannot use such “homely examples”. Because something does not fall into our realm of understanding, does not necessitate divine presence. Quantum physics, accepted in academia globally, is on the surface preposterous. Even Einstein disputed some of what is accepted today. Nonetheless it goes to show that just because something is incomprehensible, does not preclude the fact that it is possible and “natural”.

But, can we use an example at all? Scientific theory is based upon falsification, so nothing can really be universally definitively proven – this is a tenet held by all in the field of science. So, where do we draw the line, if we can, at using an example? In reply, Craig pulled out a reference to metaphysics. I guarantee you that 90% of the audience did not know what metaphysics is, and with good reason because it is reasonably esoteric. I have a fair understanding of the concept, but I am not entirely sure myself. The prefix “meta” is rather enigmatic and can mean a large number of things, mostly as a replacement preposition meaning things like: between, with, after, behind, over, change, etc. In philosophical terms, it may refer to something as “one level of description up” – a self-referential term, so to speak. For instance, metadata is data used to describe data, and meta-linguistics is language used to describe language. Therefore, metaphysics would seem to refer to the views underpinning the physical world. (In actual fact, metaphysics is understood to have been derived from meta phusika, the title of Aristotle’s treatise on first principles. Meta in this context means “after”, as meta phusika followed his work on physics.) Today, it is used to refer to the science of being and existence. The philosophy of science, so to speak. It is ontology – how we believe the universe to exist – the root of science and knowledge generation. In science and scientific method, there are various epistemologies and theoretical perspectives to adopt, but underlying all this is an ontological stance which dictates a framework by which science can work within. Before we begin anything, we must establish the context of our existence. Confusing, yes?

Let me put it this way. Is nothing in this universe universally generalisable? If so, what is the point of science? Clearly(?) there must be some concessions made to “overlook” this. One rule expounded by metaphysicists (philosophers, really), is deemed to be universal and immutable. I can’t remember the exact wording Craig used, but it was something along the lines of, something cannot come out of nothing (and by extension we can get the well known first law of thermodynamics). If that metaphysical law is then regarded as an unassailable universal truth, then the existence of the universe can be regarded as miraculous, thereby bringing Craig’s assumption back to being feasible. In response, Slezak did not regard metaphysics as science, therefore, to use a non-scientific principle to prove his point in a scientific way was not valid. This point was debated at great length and I got lost several times, so take what i write with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, a lot of people did notice that both speakers seemingly contradicted themselves in their use of illustrative “homely” examples after these opinions were expressed.

There was also something about causality (cause and effect) covered regarding this point, but I don’t remember exactly what. [See comments below]

Furthermore, a recurring theme arose that the absence of proof does not prove of the absence of God. On the other side of the coin, the absence of proof to the atheist implies a high likelihood that God does not exist. Craig’s riposte was to say that the absence of proof is significant only when it is expected. Slezak inquired that, is it not reasonable to expect some form of proof from God of his existence? (Luckily no one pulled out granny’s “God works in mysterious ways” line here.)

(As a sidenote, and a bit more on metaphysics, I will pull out an example from Star Trek. At the beginning of Star Trek 4, Spock is answering questions fired at him by a computer in order to retrain his mind. One of the questions posed was, “What was Kiri-kin-tha’s first law of metaphysics?” Spock replied with, “Nothing unreal, exists.” Kiri-kin-tha is fictitious, but the law is worthy of consideration. It’s common sense, naturally, but common sense does not constitute scientific proof. Slezak did quip, though, that it is only in academic circles things as ludicrous as this are discussed! How that law is interpreted is seemingly independent of our perception of reality – our ontology. Is reality independent of the perceiver? Or is reality determined by the perceiver? Regardless, nothing unreal, exists. Read more.)

In Point 2, Craig postulated that our existence, despite the sheer improbability of it, is cause for attention. Scientists have calculated that the requirements for life to exist at all in the universe are ridiculously infinitesimal. Pretty much as close to impossible as you can get. This is factoring in things such as speed of the universe’s expansion, and scientific constants. How did this unlikeliest of unlikelihoods come about? Craig examines three possibilities: Natural law, chance and design. He discounts the former two, citing that nothing points to nature being anything other than arbitrary – there is no reason for nature to behave in a completely different way (thereby creating a completely separate reality, one of the vast majority of realities that do not support life). By this logic, design seems to be the only logical and most likely alternative.

Slezak quickly pointed out that this point made an underlying, flawed, assumption. Let’s take a simplified example – if we take a bunch of cards, any old hand is just as likely (unlikely) as a royal flush. If we get a royal flush, one would suspect the possibility of a rigged deck of cards. Yet, if we take any old hand, which is just as improbable, we do not suspect foul play. So what is significant about the way the universe currently is? Craig quickly dispensed with this point saying that the difference is in the significance of the hand dealt. Life existing is a lot more significant than life not existing, by the nature of life in addition to the sheer improbability of it. Slezak tried again, this time saying that reality as it currently exists is only remarkable because we are here to ponder it. I don’t fully grasp what point he was trying to make – I’d need to listen to his speech again – but I imagine a comparison can be made with the analogy of falling cats. Statistics show that cats falling from balconies higher than the second storey of buildings tend to survive more than die. The fallacy in this idea, however, lies in the fact that people are more likely to report an unlikely occurrence (the cat surviving) than an expected one (a dead, flat cat). People tend to only note the remarkable.

Point 3 covered objective morality. Objective morality refers to a moral standard that is true regardless and independent of external perception. In other words, an absolute moral standard. Clearly there cannot be objective morality without it being mandated by a completely external entity (God). Craig proposed that the presence of objective morality means God must exist. Therefore, if objective morality exists, then God must exist. He then proceeded into a flaky point about objective morality definitely existing given our “innate instinct”. This point was categorically turned down by Slezak. Gut feeling is no proof. This point was perhaps the most troubling of Craig’s.

It is agreed that objective morality cannot exist without God. Does objective morality exist though? Let us say that there exists extra-terrestrial life elsewhere in our universe that follows a different moral code. Where is objective morality then? Can we rely on our instincts to tell us that there is an objective moral code? A valid point. I’m not sure that Craig addressed the defence of it properly, because I don’t recall one. Slezak did criticise Craig’s opinion on the existence of extra-terrestrial life as to be so small as to be discountable – that Craig was being hypocritical in accepting the unlikelihood of existence, yet discounting the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Nonetheless, you don’t have to travel across galaxies to determine moral standards. Craig cited that objective morals included things such as rape and child abuse. However, if a culture believes rape is fine (perhaps, in fitting with concepts of social evolution – species adapt to social patterns which ensure greatest chance for survival), who is to say this violates any morals? It’s cultural relativism. This whole point sounded a little dodgy to me.

Point 4 was definitely argued more convincingly by Craig. Both men agreed to assume Christ existed, but disputed the resurrection. In the absence of natural proof for Christ’s resurrection, it is only natural to assume a miracle occurred. Slezak pointed out that it was illogical to jump to this conclusion. Because an explanation in the natural world is not readily apparent, it does not imply a miracle occurred (the reasoning is non sequitur). Why not consider the natural causes first? Here is where Craig demonstrated a distinct advantage in academic knowledge. Slezak, giving a couple offhanded examples of natural possibilities, mentioned the theory that Christ never really died. Craig demolished this remark, attributing it the same deprecated status the Flat Earth theory has, before progressing to say that modern scholarship has conclusively exhausted all natural possibilities. Ergo, in Holmesian fashion, the most unlikely possibility must be possible. One would have to verify the validity of Craig’s claim about modern scholarship agreeing with him, but people are unlikely to question someone with a double doctorate in the area. It would seem that the historicity of Christ’s resurrection is valid.

Point 5 was fairly minor in the debate’s context and was not covered extensively – immediate personal experience with God proving the existence of Him.

The styles of the two speakers as the debate progressed was interesting. Craig’s opening statement was fairly comprehensible, but being the first speaker, he also had the opportunity to control the debate’s direction. Slezak was then forced to elevate the complexity of the debate (provoking the discussion on metaphysics and so on) in order to rebut Craig’s assertions. From what I am told, the flavour of this debate was much more intellectual and convoluted than Craig’s debate at Sydney Uni on Monday with media personality Phillip Adams. Craig, with his ever-alluring American accent is a natural public speaker, and Slezak spoke in the very off-the-cuff manner of a good lecturer – he takes philosophy at UNSW, so I would not be surprised if enrolments in his subject multiply. Both are, as expected, very well read, pulling quotes from external sources at every opportunity (Craig at one stage pointing out a Slezak misquote, complete with page reference, to the delight of the audience).

Who was more convincing? Hard to say, both speakers were razor sharp, albeit both with a few noticeable inconsistencies, self-contradictions and questionable points. Then again, I can also see many people misinterpreting various things and missing some points of the debate. A comment that animals do not have morals (but merely evolve their behaviour), in reference to point 3, was readily accepted by both sides of the debate. However, some have raised an eyebrow at that statement and said, “But how do you know animals don’t have morals?” Which is an attack on a fairly trivial matter (morality requires self-consciousness/self-awareness, of which animals do not have given the philosophical definitions of those terms). It’s things like this, though, that would still nag at some peoples’ minds.

Time constraints limited discussion of many points, leaving many unresolved. The debate would be largely inconclusive for most people – although it might see agnostics become more curious about Christianity, after hearing it, for once, being defended credibly and adeptly. Nonetheless it was all a good opportunity for all to flex the cogitative muscle.

The real answer to it all though, as they say, is still up in the air. As it should be.

Updates and comments

More on causality: Craig mentioned that by the causal principle, the universe, as an effect needed a cause. Yet this cause, craig believed, had to be a ‘personal’ cause. If this cause was timeless and was not personal than its associated effect would’ve equally manifested and be timeless: we know this to not be the case. Therefore this cause must’ve had a character to ‘choose’ when to enact the cause and produce the effect that is the universe we know today. (Dave)

—–

Just one little note though… you said at the end in regards to whether animals have morals that it “…is an attack on a fairly trivial matter (morality requires self-consciousness/self-awareness, of which animals do not have given the philosophical definitions of those terms).” I don’t think this matter is as trivial as you suggest, given that some animals (e.g. dolphins and chimps) seem to have theory of mind, which means they are self-aware. (Lill, a psych hons student)

Valid point… something I’d have to reconsider!

18
Jun 02
Tue

MT

I find it somewhat disappointing that MegaTokyo has not made reference to anything vaguely related to soccer, given that: (1) MT is set in Japan… Japan is, of course, co-hosting the world cup; and (2) The two main characters in MT are yanks… and the US are miraculously through to the quarter-finals. Oh well, I guess yanks just don’t give a rat’s ass about soccer (sorry, football).

1
Apr 02
Mon

Skills are Built By the Degree

An interesting article:

The higher the tertiary entry scores needed for a course, the better the abilities of first-year students in such skills as critical thinking, problem solving and communication. The same is true of students as they finish their courses, only more so.

It turns out that the medicos enter and emerge uni with the best problem solving skills (not surprising given that the entry UAI for medicine was an intimidating 99.75 last year and they exit the course after 6 years in uni, with 3 degrees). Combined law is perhaps the next largest bunch (99.30-99.40 entry), but law grads are edged out by their science/eng counterparts (~90 entry). I would think this is due more to the content of the course – engineering is pretty tough and the hours are long. Law from what I hear can be pretty cruisy (I think first year engineers have almost double the hours of everyone else) so it’s probably because they are the top 0.7% of the population that they are naturally intelligent, than the content of the course. It also explains why strat consultancies love doctors and engineers (especially chemical engineers, who for some reason seem to be in every consulting firm).

31
Jan 02
Thu

Hardware Reviews

Ok, time for a little rant on the glut of bad hardware reviews I have come across lately. There are hundreds of sites reviewing PC bits and pieces all around the net. Hardware reviews are meant to provide multiple perspectives on the pros and cons of the device in question. The information provided in these perspectives would otherwise be unobtainable without purchasing the device (and where company propaganda provides insufficient information). Bad reviews don’t achieve this. Here’s a few things that I have found annoying and unhelpful with a lot of sites attempting to review hardware:

1. Regurgitated specifications. When listing a device’s features, more and more sites tend to just do a cut and paste job off the device’s product website. Look, if I want the spec sheet for hardware, I’ll just visit the company web site myself. In fact, that will normally be my first stop. I want to know what those specs mean, anything particularly noteworthy about them and how they compare to the rest of the market. Look at this review comparing two i845D motherboards. The specification listings are dumped straight from website. The worst thing is, the review is meant to be a comparison, and because the spec lists are mismatched, you can’t compare the two motherboards! (You can’t tell if Abit board has USB 2 ports from that list, for instance.)

2. Regurgitating company propaganda. A lot of reviews kick off with a couple pages paraphrasing company propaganda: “This card has a HyperTurbo Z-Buffer Engine and Quadlinear Inversion which kicks ass because it is good and makes the card go Really Fast.” Again, rehashing what is written on the official product web site is a waste of time if you don’t expand on it. Think I exaggerate? Look at this. You’d think the guy was Seagate’s incarnation of Goebbles.

3. Benchmarks, benchmarks, benchmarks. Straight after the “it goes really fast” bit, many reviews launch into pages and pages of benchmarks. We won’t get onto the validity of testing methods. Nor the fact that a lot of reviewers list all test system specs regardless of the fact that their T3 connection to the net has nothing to do with the performance of their sound card because they want to show off how l337 their test systems are. The benchmarks in many cases means nought, because they conflict with other sites’ benchmarks, yet there are pages and pages of them scrutinising those minute 2-3% performance differences over competitor products. You see, benchmarking requires little creativity. Sure it’s hard boring work, but it’s a testing formula and you follow it.

4. Misdirected reviews. Partially to do with the benchmarking preoccupation, very little information is provided on related topics or aspects of the product that can’t be benchmarked. Look at this ATI Radeon 8500DV review. I wanted to find out information about the All-In-Wonder aspect of the card – how good it was for capturing from analog and digital sources, for instance. Even small details about whether the 1384 port had a power load limit. Instead it breezes over those things and skips straight to pages of graphs and numbers (they might as well have just reviewed the vanilla version of the 8500).

5. Inexperienced reviewers. When the reviewer doesn’t have enough knowledge and experience with that type of product such that the review produced is woefully inaccurate or just lacking in depth. Many multimedia speaker reviews are guilty of this. (Hi-fi speaker reviewers on the other hand tend to be audiophiles.)

Easy way to tell if a review is bad: When you could write a review that says just as much (minus the benchmarks) by just reading the official web site and not actually using the product.

Still, there are many good review sites out there. Eg: DPReview is incredibly thorough and consistent in its reviews. Dan’s Data is also exceptional because he chats a lot about using a product and goes through all the possibilities. He also sidetracks a fair bit, but those sidetracks are interesting. You’ll also notice that he only uses benchmarks to illustrate a point. Anyway, with experience you get to learn which sites are good for doing reviews of what devices.

27
Jan 02
Sun

Lookalikes

Patrick Stewart with hair looks like Richard Gere. I kid you not. If you ever see the miniseries I, Claudius, you’ll know what I mean.

17
Jan 02
Thu

China, the United States and Democracy

This piece of writing makes for good reading. It’s mainly a critical analysis of China’s structure, and a well argued one. The stimulus for the article is an e-mail written by an 18 year old American girl who seems to believe that the differences between American government and Chinese government are not as large as may seem, coming close to calling the US government hypocritical (and at times it is, but not in the way she connotes). Her argument, however… well, you can’t really call it an argument – it doesn’t make any points… is addressed thoroughly.

15
Jan 02
Tue

Sydney Infrastructure

It took me 45 minutes to drive to work today. Chiswick is about 17 kilometres from my apartment in Kingsford. I can drive home to Camden in 50 minutes from Kingsford. Camden is 65 kilometres away. The difference is, there are no expressways between Chiswick and Kingsford. Kev pointed out to me last night that you can drive from North Sydney all the way down to Victoria and hit only one traffic light (the one on the M5). For a city as sprawling as Sydney, its road system is quite decent. Australia has among the highest car ownership per capita figures in the world. What Sydney is lacking, however, is a comprehensive inner city transport infrastructure. Sydney doesn’t have a dense inner city network of public transport. Rail stations are spaced far apart (compared to New York’s subway, Paris’ Metro, or HK’s MTR system, for example). Our light rail and monorail are more like novelty rides given their price. (By car, finding parking in the CBD is a bitch.) However, I guess such a transport system is not that necessary. The actual CBD is relatively confined and Sydneysiders are so conditioned to walking to get to where they want to anyway.

20
Nov 01
Tue

Weather

The skies have been overcast for days now. All in all, it’s not all that unusual. Summer is known for its blustery storms and long periods of rainy days (it’s almost Summer!). The only thing is that the temperature is chilly, which is uncharacteristic. This of course is compounded by the wind chill factor. Man does the wind whip up in the eastern suburbs, especially around uni. Well, it’s perfect weather for those still studying for exams. Not so good for those who have finished. It better clear up by Saturday.

16
Nov 01
Fri

Writing

This is something I realised yesterday that I never got taught in English back at high school (or maybe they did but I wasn’t listening…). When working on my travelogue, I had the problem of continually switching between present and past tenses. In the end I decided to stick with retelling the events in the past tense. I didn’t really notice that there was any difference except consistency, until I was reading a couple diaries. These North Korea and Japan diaries are both written in the present tense. If you compare the resulting writing style to past tense diaries (which is the more utilised style, eg: this), the “feel” is different. Retelling everything in the present seems to create a more vivid atmosphere. There’s a sense of immediacy and clarity conveyed with it. For travelogues, the aim is to try to immerse your readers in foreign lands and cultures and get them to relate to your feelings and experiences. If you can “place” them in those situations, those locations you’ve visited, as if they were “physically following” you around, as if they were actually there, then the writing will be more effective. The present tense works towards accomplishing that. Compare these two:

The monk emerged from the temple, bowed to us and ushered us in. I took off my shoes and followed him in. The air in there smelt strongly of incense, mixed with the musty odour of the centuries old stonework.

The monk emerges from the temple. He bows, then ushers us in. I take off my shoes and follow him in. The air in here smells strongly of incense, mixed with the musty odour of the centuries old stonework.

And it could just be me, but I feel that diaries written in the present are generally more polished (better written and more interesting) than those in past. Too bad I chose the past tense for mine…

Responses:

Random bit of info re the past/present tense thing: a lot of ancient languages would legitimately switch to present tense in bits with lots of action to make them more vivid, in mid-sentence if necessary. (Like everything, we learnt more about this in Latin than English. Go the classics. :) F’rexample the Bible does it all the time, in both Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek, and it’s usually changed to a consistent tense…
Shish

14
Nov 01
Wed

The War

Kabul falls, what now? This is what’s next.

Every Wednesday or Thursday, people selling copies of the Green Left Weekly newspaper declare outside Central: “stop the war in Afghanistan!” I can not see anything wrong with the US’ decision to go to war with the Taliban and al-Queda. I do not understand the vehement condemnation of the war. The moral argument that asserts that even the loss of one innocent civilian’s life renders such an action as unthinkable is akin to having tunnel vision. Loss of innocent life is certainly reprehensible and thus it would seem to not engage in war and to not endanger innocents is the morally correct thing to do. But, in reality, is declaring war upon the Taliban a morally incorrect thing to do? Is protecting the welfare of the Western world from terrorists a bad thing? (You may not stamp out terrorism by eliminating Osama, but does society let murderers go free because imprisoning murderers will still not eliminate murder?) Surely the liberation of the Afghani people from a government that only one country in the world even recognises is a good thing? Liberation from a “government” that has implemented such an oppressive version of Shari’a that even its citizens detest it?

You just have to look at all the media footage screened yesterday and the almost too-common reports of the music playing through the streets of Kabul, or people dancing, men shaving their beards off and women removing their purdah and burkas. Is this a bad event? Could this have happened without the US’ action? No. In a world that harshly condemns China for its poor human rights, it should be noted that in a country like Afghanistan under the Taliban, the concept of human rights is laughable. Yet when the US seek to depose the oppressors, the harbourers of terrorists, people cry out in objection.
(Don’t get me wrong, countries like Saudi Arabia are similarly strict in implementing their brand of Shari’a, but they have fallen in the US’ good graces because of trade. I never said this was a good thing – it is just the way things are. And they don’t harbour terrorists, of course.)

5
Nov 01
Mon

The War

For incredibly biased “coverage” of the War, see here. I would like to see one article, one link… just one, on what America should have done in response, instead. Instead of the 100% one-sided cynical non-constructive criticism splayed out all over the page.

20
Oct 01
Sat
12
Sep 01
Wed

Commentary

The Ornery American makes a well argued, albeit over-extreme, viewpoint of how to respond to the September 11 attack.

In reality, however, it will take more “reinforcement” to obtain unity within the American public that the author says is requrired to take such an action – that is, further terrorist attacks. The September 11 attack was significant, but the American public still has a measure of faith in their security (especially with the heightened state of alertness the nation is in). Only when that faith fails, will there be enough momentum behind a large scale war. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that stage, however.

A point that the author perhaps neglects to mention is that all out war could send the Islamic community psychotic. Conventional war and “rules of engagement” could quickly got out the window. These fanatics would rather die than see their land be subjugated. If pushed, and they turn to bioweapons, or (if they have the capability), nuclear devices – and then what is the world to do?

This extra article answers those people who believe in a pacifist response (that is, no response at all).

If you delve into things a bit further, the writer of the articles turns out to be OSC. If you have read Ender’s Game, you’ll realise the similarities of the site to the things in his book (to do with Locke and Demosthenes).

14
May 01
Mon

Nice Quote

“The miserable lot of the Third World’s poor results from a history of corrupt governments; it has nothing to do with McDonald’s or Coca Cola. The true enemy of the poor is the corruption of the state. Capitalism is actually part of the solution.” -Mark Latham, Labor Party commenting on the M1 protest, 2/5/01

2
May 01
Wed

Hm

Slot-load DVD players can’t take 8cm CDs…

22
Apr 01
Sun
3
Apr 01
Tue

Ramblings

I’m sure a t-shirt slogan has caught your eye recently. Something witty, perhaps, that has made you smile? Something insightful which has made you think? Or something downright stupid that you insult the person wearing it. Sometimes it’s a slogan slathered in thick black letters across a person’s back. Or maybe text small enough written across a girl’s chest so that when curiousity gets the better of you and you squint… instant pervert. Slogans are definitely attention grabbers. You’ve got those shirts reading “Pornstar”, declared loud and proud. There’s badly blurred text “too much sex causes bad eyesight”. Even the truly inane “all your base are belong to us” has been stuck onto the cotton. Slogans *say* things, and they also say things about the people wearing them.

Anyway where this is going is not that exciting, but nonetheless a slogan caught my eye of the reflective kind (thinking reflective, not mirror reflective… I’ve thankfully yet to see someone carrying a mirror around on their back). It was at uni on the bus, on the back of a guy sitting down: “God you frustrate me.”

The first interpretation that struck me was – the expression of annoyance at someone. Soon after, the word sounds rearranged themselves in my
mind and the sentence turned into an anguished complaint to The Creator (the “guy in the sky” so to speak). Either way, the former statement could be construed as somewhat blasphemous, and the latter, heretical. That is, of course, if you’re Christian. If you weren’t then either statement would make sense. I’m Christian, so while I didn’t take outright offense, I did shake my head (figuratively speaking, I didn’t actually shake it.)

This assumption satisfied me and I stopped thinking. Until the guy stood up. Scrawled at the bottom of the shirt was “Campus Bible Study”. Campus Bible Study (CBS) is UNSW’s evangelical Christian organisation. It’s a large society that actively promotes the faith, as all good evangelists do. Turns out that the old slogan of “Real Food” had been momentarily replaced with “God you frustrate me.” Immediately my perspective changed. For a second I was thinking, “It’s Christian, so it’s OK. There must be a reason for it.” Then I got about to thinking of a possible reason. “Must be a ruse to draw people in – people who are having trouble with their lives that they blame others and God for it. Then they sign them up to CBS and give them support.” Fair enough. A second later though I thought, “Hang on… does that justify using the Lord’s name in vain?” Why would a bunch of zealous Christians do this? I figure to get noticed you have to make a statement. “Real Food” didn’t cut it, so they switched to this. Something more noticeable and “stronger”. However, is it alright to do that for publicity? I’m sure the counter-argument would be that the good intentions justify the means. When that comes to violating a commandment, though, is that still right? Or is it really violating a commandment? How malleable is the Bible – does what it say change within accordance of what society deems relevant nowadays? A lot of people have moved away from a literal interpretation of the Bible – fair enough – but the introduction of mass subjectivity can’t be a good thing can it? Anyhow, I’m not seeking to pass judgement in this post.

The point of this post is that all the above was pure speculation on my part – a t-shirt slogan made me think for a fair few minutes on the bus – one lousy sentence.

But then again, I guess one lousy sentence said at the wrong place at the wrong time could end you up in hospital. I told you this was a rambling.

Anyway, I would suggest that the slogan is not using the Lords name in vain, but more giving voice to the anguish that many people feel to God….IE “You frustrate me God”, which is a statement, not using the Lords name in vain.  It could even be seen as an accusation against God. IE God YOU frustrate me”.  Is this wrong?  Since the statement is giving voice to frustrations that people do feel to God, and is raising the issues, I doubt it is.  The person may be in the wrong for feeling those frustrations, but to admit to them is certainly not wrong.  Besides, the frustrations are probabally due to a misunderstood view of God.  Thus come along to the talks (or whatever they are advertising), and your frustrations may be cleared up.

Of course, the statement is there to draw publicity for the CBS Easter Mission, where people can come along to hear about what God has done for them.  Will it cure their frustrations with God?  I have no idea, but it may raise some “thinking” material, and get people talking.

Anyway, another point you made with regards to using the Lords name in vain, you are right, if the statement was in itself wrong (Say using the Lords name in vain), then CBS should not be using it, it is inappropriate, and is not what they say they are about.  IE They claim to follow the bible, but will ignore it for publicity purposes.  THis would be clearly wrong.  I don’t think they are doing this.

Cool, thats my 2cents, though looking back I’m not sure if I explained it clearly. -Mike

Yah, I think it is the second meaning I described, not the first (after I discovered the CBS connection). The phrase is something someone “looking for direction” (or a way to ease their frustrations) would say. It’s just a little weird because when you wear a t-shirt, you are making a statement about yourself normally. However, these evangelists wouldn’t be the ones expressing frustration – they’ve already been given the knowledge of Christian liberatation/salvation etc. Anyway, whatever the motivation, that shirt got me thinking, and I guess that was the aim.

24
Nov 00
Fri

Hmm

Actually, thinking about the “quite mysterious” post below… if you don’t know what these sites (eg: ECrush & Pimpin’ Cupid) are, they allow you to list who you have a crush on. The target of your affection/stalking gets an anonymous e-mail saying they have an anonymous admirer, but of course, don’t know who. Instead, they have to go to the site and list who they have a crush on. The flaw lies in the fact that they are, more likely, going to list who they think has the crush on them (as opposed to who they have a crush on). If one of the listed e-mail addresses matches, then the site sends both parties a “you’ve been matched” e-mail. The idea of those sites seems quite appealing at first – anonymity. But they don’t account for something else – curiousity. Chances are, when someone is matched, they are going to list a whole bunch of people and when they match you, it’s not necessarily cause they like you as well (as is the site’s intention), but because they want to find out who you are. Of course, inadvertently, they also end up sending an “I’m interested in you” anonymous email to everyone else they thought had a crush and the cycle continues (most likely, they are so curious they don’t think this far ahead).

There is another interesting way to approach this (whether you are targetting someone, or have been targetted). Set up a dud email account you can check (hotmail or otherwise) and use that. Your “target” gets curious, does the check thing (or may ignore the e-mail entirely), and you might end up with an e-mail in your “real” mailbox saying someone has a crush on you. However, this time, you haven’t initiated the contact sequence (not with your real e-mail address, anyhow) and have maintained anonymity at the expense of theirs.

Another strategy – list someone, immediately remove them. When they list you, you get the “first” e-mail, onus is on them. (I don’t know if, when you remove them, they get a mail saying “you got removed”, though).

But of course these things aren’t serious, and really shouldn’t be taken so. If anything, they are insidious gossip generators :)

14
Oct 00
Sat

Hmm

There are very few industries that compete with the IT industry in terms of the level of egos the majority of people working in it people have (especially the techies).

1
Oct 00
Sun

Oi…

Hey guys… I never said CF was better than PHP. Do you see a comparison between the two products as to which is superior in Friday’s post?? I just said I thought the code was cleaner… sheesh. I’ve got Linux weenies jumping up and down left right and centre claiming PHP is better…

But it does seem, looking at features sets, that CF is a more powerful backend engine anyhow (there’s a reason why it costs a few grand). I still am not saying one is superior or not… it’s like comparing Linux and Windows. Both have pluses and minuses.

And yes, PHP may be based on C, but C is not object orientated and PHP has classes. And since I don’t know C++, I said it was similar to Java.

28
Sep 00
Thu

IMO…

CFML is cleaner than PHP (but I like how PHP shares lots of syntax with Java).

14
Aug 00
Mon

WYSIWYG

What’s a </table> tag? I’ve never seen them before. No. Really. :)

26
Jul 00
Wed

Does Anyone Remember…

Back in the 80s when people used to stick bottles of water on their lawns to stop dogs defecating on them? What happened to that?

5
Jul 00
Wed

More On The “Grind and Screw” Tax

Saw Keeping the Faith on Sunday…not a bad movie – 3.5 jaffas, bordering on 3 (http://www.geocities.com/acwellen/jaffas.html).

The point I want to make, however, is that I had to pay $10.40 for a student ticket. (Adult tickets are a ridiculous $13.70). Before the GST, student tickets were $9 (this was at Greater Union, btw). Now, I fancy myself pretty good at maths, but I still don’t get how $9 plus 10% GST becomes $10.40. It just doesn’t compute…could someone explain?

Now before anyone mentions hidden costs and taxes etc., I want to point out that all that other stuff is, supposedly, being removed, thus if it is taken into account items should be cheaper than “Old price + 10%”. (Not that I ever expected this to happen – it is obvious that any business will notch the price up by 10% anyway, even if it got huge cost cuts, and just increase its profit margins).

Speaking of hidden taxes, music CDs formerly had about 100% tax on them all up, and an album cost ~$30. Does this mean with the GST it will cost $16.50? I don’t think so, for some reason, I really don’t.

</whinge>
Victor

Why were Greater Union student tickets in Canberra $1 cheaper than in Sydney? And no, I don’t see how $9 * 1.1 = $10.40, either. Someone call the ACCC. The thing I can’t understand is that when tax rates are replaced by the 10% GST, the effect is always “dampened”. The 22% wholesale sales tax on computer hardware gets replaced by the 10% GST and thus prices should drop by over 10%, right? But they only drop by about 4-5%. Why? And does anyone else find it ridiculous how receipts are now called “Tax Invoices”?

13
Jun 00
Tue

Train Seats

From Plutonia:

Then, as I was travelling home on the train, I was on the window seat of a three-seater, with an Asian woman on the aisle seat. A bloke wants to sit down, and instead of acting logically and moving to the middle seat, the woman shrinks into her seat a bit so that the bloke has to squeeze past and sit in the middle.

Phil, this is quite a common occurrence. Most people have to clamber over the person sitting in the aisle seat to get to the middle seat – very few will slide across. The reasons for this can be seen in the general pattern people fill up the seats. The two-seater window seats are the first to go, followed by the three-seater window seats (with the rearmost-forward facing seats having preference to backward facing seats when you have Tangaras with fixed seating direction). Next, the three-seater aisle seats will get taken, then the two-seaters will be used, and finally the middle seat in the three-seaters. And even then, if people have a relatively short trip, they’d prefer to stand rather than get the middle seat (if they are the only seats left). People shy away from sitting with strangers – partly because of “personal space”. And it can get awfully squishy when someone obese decides to come by and plonk themselves next to you. [Whoops there goes a window cleaner swinging by outside the 11th story… heh I swear, the whole office stops and points for a minute whenever one dangles by :)] So, in view of this, the middle seat is particularly unattractive given you are sitting, quite squashed, between two people, and you can’t lean anywhere. This is compounded by the fact that there usually isn’t enough space to rest your shoulders on the seat, and you have to sit sorta hunched forwards. For reference purposes, here’s the schematics for Silver Rattlers & Tangaras. I really know too much about trains :/

26
May 00
Fri

Hmm

Has anyone else noticed that I’ve been overusing parenthesised statements?

25
May 00
Thu

Bottled Water

You know how you buy bottled water (I don’t personally… but yuppies do :), reuse the bottles and refill them with water? (At company water coolers, for example). Well, I find it somewhat disconcerting when people use the same bottle day after day, and then when they don’t come to work for a length of time (eg: a 3 week holiday), they leave their bottle, still half full with water, on their desk. Then 3 weeks later, they get back to their desk and start drinking from the bottle again…

11
May 00
Thu

Slashdot vs MS

Interesting stuff brewing on Slashdot. I’m not particular familiar with the DMCA, nor the full circumstances of the situation, but what I found particularly interesting are the user comments.

So many /. readers are utterly biased that they close their eyes, cover their ears and start screaming at MS. The fact is, if indeed /. has material in user comments that is clearly copyrighted by Microsoft (not links to, but actual copy and pasted material), then /. should be under obligation to remove them. Isn’t it fair to say that an information service should not be liable for what users post, but upon being made aware that there are illegal activities occurring (breach of copyright in th i s respect), they should be under obligation to remove such material?

As for this comment, “If I posted a list of 100 stolen credit card numbers to Slashdot, would they remove that?” and its reply, “No, but they (gov’t) should put yo’ ass in jail. If they could find you… You do know that the FBI reads /., right?” I shake my head. You’re telling me that /. would refuse to remove credit card numbers on the basis of “free speech” and the fact that site users wrote that? Dodgy. There are intelligent comments amongst the rabble, though.

26
Apr 00
Wed

Idle Thought

The things you think about when you have nothing to do… You know how each time a new year begins, and you have to write the date – you keep writing last year’s year out of habit? (eg: 98 instead of 99) I’ve only just realised that I’ve never written 99 by mistake instead of 00. Intriguing. Ok, not really, but it seemed so at the time.

13
Apr 00
Thu

On Campbelltown Ticket Gates

Burga is a cityrail employee (signalman). Maybe now I can find out from him how the signalling works and why signal failures happen (what is a signal failure anyhow? Is it those traffic lights for trains? If so, why do they break down, because road traffic lights don’t.) Anyway, his reasons for reopening the gates are this:

the reason they dont use them is because they are scared…think of how many ppl out there dont buy tickets, think of the trouble that will occur when they ask these fuckin junkies and scum for tickets. To much trouble ..i doubt that that the ticket collecting will go on for long.
its probably only a publicity stunt.

27
Mar 00
Mon

Daylight Saving Ended

Pluses: You get an extra hour of sleep (or non-sleep, depending on what you want :). You get to wake up and the sun’s out. No more driving into a blinding afternoon sun coming home from work. If you forget to set your clocks back one hour, it doens’t really matter – you just wake up early/turn up to wherever an hour early (as opposed to an hour late).
Minuses: You get home and it’s dark and colder. Winter is approaching. Morning glare from the sun when driving.

It all evens out, basically.

28
Feb 00
Mon

Random Thought

Backwash seems to be a good name for an e/n site. It just… fits. You heard it here first :Þ

12
Feb 00
Sat

Shipping and E-Commerce

One of the major factors I consider when order over the net is shipping/delivery charges. Especially if it’s internationally. Shipping can dramatically change the price of goods which would be otherwise much cheaper than purchased in a physical store. Combine this with the consumer caution (or paranoia, in some cases) about giving out credit card numbers, and there’s one thing that I hate about certain e-stores: That’s when they make you give your credit card number to them before they let you know how much your order costs, including shipping. This is a surefire way to turn people like me off a purchase. Sites like Outpost may have free shipping domestically, but to Australia – how much is it? I don’t want to have to put in my payment details before I know how much I am paying. I am aware that my credit card won’t be charged until I’m actually shown the shipping fee, but still it makes it more consumer friendly and psychologically comforting to put the exact total costs before payment details. In my opinion, this is a mistake made in many online stores.

16
Dec 99
Thu

Those Crazy CAP Alert People Are At It Again

BAMF linked to this “Don’t touch me there” feature the fanatical fundamentalist CAP Alert People dished up. In case you don’t know, CAP (ChildCare Action Project) is run by a Christian group which aims to “protect” today’s children from the blight of contemporary culture. Unfortunately they are a touch too zealous and in the end look nothing more than foolish. In the “don’t touch me there” feature was this, which I just have to point out is erroneous:

What Are Private Places
Private places on your body are the places which God covered on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They are places that God does not want others to touch.

Wrong. Adam and Eve were both unashamedly naked to begin with. Only when sin entered the world (via the snake’s influence) did Adam and Eve become ashamed with their nakedness.

“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” – Genesis 3:7-11

I believe CAP just preached incorrectly. Crazy people. Worse than the Mormons parading up and down George Street trying to convert people. Seriously – do they expect to convert people by annoying the hell out of them? The only way they’re going to convert someone, is if someone actively approaches them. Which doesn’t happen often, I’ll bet.

8
Dec 99
Wed

Must… Have… More… Bandwidth

I totally agree with what you just said. Optus have been experimenting with cable for four years in australia now and still, nothing. To make things worse, I’ve heard that Telstra have or about to set their standard 100 meg deal (which features the unlimited ftp, data from bigpond servers etc.) to a 250 meg all up deal, meaning that they’re not just going to count http like they currently do, but ftp and stuff as well :(

Also, the other problem with satelite is latency, which is inherintly pretty bad for satelite’s, and of course because you’re still using a dialup connection to upload that only makes the problem worse.

I guess we can just keep hoping that eventually we’ll have a high bandwidth service, comparable to what the US have… altho I doubt that it’ll happen.

Warmaker

Valid comments. The day Australia has bandwidth comparable to the US, though, will be the day Internet 2 comes into circulation (ie: a very, very long time).

14
Nov 99
Sun

Observation

I just realised that the print version of Icon is really just a corporate e/n site. A well run, well organised and well mannered, “professional” e/n site, but still. It’s got the attributes. Let’s look at what they covered in last Saturday’s issue…

First page is full of links – live events on the web, interesting news links (Optus security breached, MS declared monopoly etc.) and top ten lists of most visited sites (again externally sourced). The main article covers a review of the newer iMacs. Then there’s info on video piracy, and Driftnet, which this week looks at the Darwin Awards and the exploding whale thing. Following that is essentially 5 more pages of links. An article that could be described as a rant (“Cyberspace defaced”) is taken from the London Daily Telegraph regarding programs which let you leave msgs on sites (Odigo, ICQsurf type programs). A self-help section on blocking spammers is next, along with D-I-Y HTML. Moving on, we come to software reviews (DTP software) and new product releases (Sony memory stick, Outlook for Macs) and finally we have two pages of games reviews (Freespace 2, MS Soccer).

Sound familiar? Read these somewhere before? Even their reviews are as superficial as those on e/n sites (They have to cater for the mainstream market. Conversely, e/nners can’t be bothered writing lengthy reviews for everything).

Of course, let’s not get head swell here, the situation is probably the other way around. Our pages emulate newspapers and other print media – without the negatives that come with commercialism (deadlines, legal restrictions and the like) and all the positives of individual expression (beats me why some sites have policies not to link to mp3s – that in itself is not illegal – and e/n sites don’t have a corporate image to protect), minus the readership.

16
Oct 99
Sat

Reverse Psychology

Scene: The boardroom of Pez Candy, Inc. The marketing manager is giving a report. “In conjunction with our legal department, out latest ‘marketing move’ had driven the average hit rate for the word ‘pez’ on Internet search engines from 14 last month to roughly 2.2 million. Suckers.”

Really, though. They say you can’t use the word pez, and the next thing everyone is doing is writing “pez pez pez pez” on their page. Get the masses to do the subliminal advertising… As a sidenote, subliminal advertising, in the form of messages that flash too fast for the conscious mind to comprehend, is illegal.

8
Oct 99
Fri

Send her victorious, happy and glorious…

Is this aging gracefully? They gave Liz a double chin this year. This is the back of the 20 cent coin.

If we turn republic, does her mugshot disappear?

7
Sep 99
Tue

September = Birthday Month

Sure seems like it. They are going off left, right and center. Makes sense, really. 9 months ago it was holiday season…

2
Sep 99
Thu

RIPOFF!

Bolsh over at Spore’s Den (link on the sidebar) is trying to sell off adminspotting t-shirts for $30 plus postage and handling. Compsoc at UNSW is selling them off at $15 here. Ah capitalism :) I wouldn’t like to be the person who buys the $30 shirt then wanders across the compsoc page heh.

9
Aug 99
Mon

Don’t you just hate it…

… when someone posts “hey I just downloaded this great mp3/warez program/application/movie from the net, but I’ll neglect to link to it because I feel like pissing you off.”

Too Tempting

Too tempting not to comment on this. Haven’t sourced where this quote comes from (I’m dealing with the comment, not the person who wrote it. Any parallels between the post and this site would have been purely coincidental.) Make the rounds, you’ll find it.

I hate it when I see a site that has reads, “Best viewed at 800×600″ or “Looks best with IE!” and some queer logo… Now people, look. I don’t give a fuck what resolution you run at. I like my browser and I’m not going to change it because you said so. I am not going to change my ways to look at your fucking page. If you knew anything about layout or web site building (not HTML, but actual page layout and design) then you would know how to make your page look its best on every browser at every resolution with all options considered.

Oh yeah, I forgot… you use Frontpage (or some other WYSIWYG POS)… ::sigh::

Remind you of anyone’s page you read? I think I can dredge up a few reasons for placing those “recommended viewing” notices on pages. It may not prompt a user to change browsers, or screen resolutions, but at least it lets the user know that the page has been designed with a specific resolution (or range of resolutions) in mind. If you’re running it in 640×480, you may be wondering why a page looks so crap. Putting down “640×480 not recommended” shows it’s not the designer’s bad design as such, but the designer’s technical limitations in coping with inter-browser compatibilities and screen resolutions. On the other hand, people really shouldn’t be going around on 640×480. I mean, how big do you want the letters on the screen? If it weren’t for the myriad of resolution notices around, people new to the net (and/or computers) may be wondering why so many sites look shonky. They may not know they can change resolutions. When they come across enough of these notices, they may end up changing resolutions.

Yes, it’s true to an extent that good web site design involves accommodating for as many mainstream permutations of platform/operating system, browser and screen resolution as possible, but the line must be drawn somewhere. Good design is not a matter of technical compliance (yes, catering for browser compatibility is not “actual page layout and design” but “HTML” — technical coding), but tailoring design to suit the intended audience. When it comes to sites such as mine, who comprises the regular audience? I’d generalise that most of us would happily fit under the “geek” title (who here doesn’t like technology?). And noting this, how many of us would be running Lynx or IE 2.0? Or going around in 640×480? Even if you were, you’d at least be ashamed to admit it :). You are the audience I’m writing for and I’ve a feeling that the software on your machine is reasonably recent. You’ll be running Windows, Unix or Linux (screw Macs :). You’ll be running it on a decent screen resolution. And you’ll be using a 4th or 5th generation browser. I’ve even catered somewhat for Netscape 3 to be safe.

I use Frontpage. So? You can’t honestly tell me my page looks shit (except in 640×480 :P). It’s not the epitome of web design either, but it’s well constructed. It’s this “l33t” thing again, isn’t it? Where hand coding HTML somehow makes you a better web designer than letting an editor do the gruntwork? (Am I the only webmaster in this little community not warning of the purported “evils” of WYSIWYG editors??)

18
Jul 99
Sun

Idle Thought

Why is everyone doing features on “of the Century”? (Time’s Men of the century, The Australian’s people of the century, television shows on “this century”). It wouldn’t be that impractical to do something “of the Millennium” would it? And those shows they run at the end of every year, recapping on the year past, they should make a movie-length doco on historical events of the 1000s… After all, we are celebrating the turn of not only a year, decade and century, but of the milliennium.

6
Jul 99
Tue

ICQ

Does no one leave anything witty in their ICQ away or n/a boxes anymore? All I get are default messages… boring.

17
Jun 99
Thu

A Vision

Actually this is a quasi-response to Fallen Angel‘s post on “The Internet”. I had this vision a couple years ago, and I reckon it’ll come true. After all, UO and EverQuest are the accurate incarnations of seemingly “impossible” gaming concepts I dreamt about (without the lag) when I was 7. Picture this. It will happen in a couple decades I’m betting. (Is this a hackneyed vision?) :

You get on the train in the morning. You sit down and your mobile phone beeps. It’s a message that you have e-mail. Pulling your handheld PC (HPC) out of your pocket, it connects wirelessly to the net and you grab your mail. It’s a mail telling you to look at the newspaper today, which so happens you don’t buy. No matter, you download the frontpage news for the day.

On the way back home, you’re on the train and you’re bored. You want to play a multiplayer-game (and I’m not talking two-player snake over Nokia 6110 phones here). With who though? Your HPC sends out a short-range wireless radio broadcast. It’s answered by one person. One who happens to have the same game and a compatible HPC in the next train carriage along. The two HPCs hookup via a direct connection and you start playing. The game finishes and you end up chatting via IRC/Q, mp3s (or mp4s etc.) playing in the background through earphones. Then your HPC runs out of batteries.

Yes, these people will still be called Yuppies. Only, there will be more of them.

2
Jun 99
Wed

Censorship

People took to the streets with signs such as “Australia – the Global Village Idiot” after parliament’s upper house passed its censorship legislation last week. It won’t work. The only two countries which have introduced laws on online censorship have been China and Singapore, which aren’t exactly the most democratic of countries. So I don’t think Australians, who are pretty used to the idea that they can speak their mind without being arrested, will take very well to it.

In other news: This article telling how a topless picture of the Royal bride-to-be Sophie Rhys-Jones was emailed by a government staffer to the office of Prime Minister John Howard and other senior ministers:
“Senator Ellison said he was unaware whether Mr Wawn would face action under the government’s new Internet censorship laws which passed the Senate last week.”

I don’t get it. They do this sort of thing in New Idea and all those sorta mags all the time.

23
May 99
Sun

What’s an E/N Site?

A quasi-response to this post by Roosh. In Roosh’s post he regards personal stuff as not really part of E/N – but as something additional (maybe of interest, but most probably not). But how many of you can say that you read Shlongor’s car theft story without the slightest bit of interest? Without reaction? I’m sure you’d want to know if he managed to get it back, or what damage was done to it. Through that I found out about Lojack as well (which is unheard of in Aust). Or what about the infamous Geeklife burglery? Yeah, lotsa people skipped that post didn’t they. (Still waiting to hear about getting the perpetrators to turn up to court :)

The term “Everything/Nothing site” was coined by Geeklife. This was probably influenced by the number of EBG-like sites popping up with the words “everything” or “nothing” in their name. Since then, this new genre has been the umbrella term for the myriad of sites you now see on the sidebar. Some people don’t like it, some people don’t understand it, and some people are still wondering “what the hell does E/N stand for??”

As I see it, the term E/N does not detract anything from sites that have been labelled so. I think that some people dislike the term because it associates them with a specific group of sites – it seems to restrict their site’s scope when they want to make it appear different. Having the term “E/N” dumped on your site can lead people to look over your site as “just another one of those E/Ns”. The “nothing” part of E/N also seems to play a more prominent part in the brain than “everything”… something psychological? Obviously, people want to think what they are writing is of at least some significance – not “nothing”.

However, I believe E/N is quite an apt name for these sites, for they literally cover both Everything and Nothing. E/N sites cover basically everything – important world news, contemporary world issues (religion, morality, sex, race etc.), computer games, computer hardware, interesting web sites, the strange and the humourous, and yes, how could it be complete without a little bit on personal life. E/N sites are ultra-general news sites with the addition of bias (sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle), opinion and feedback. It seems that there is something for everyone. Postings made may be of great significance to the E/N site visitor, or of absolutely no significance – this is the nothing part. What some may regard as interesting will be “nothing” to others. Some people just don’t care about Kosovo. Some people just don’t care about Quake 3. But others will.

E/N sites are unrestricted. There’s always news, there’s always controversy. Once the news is no longer new, and the controversy has become repetitive and boring, E/N sites just move on. They can be serious, funny, dull, interesting, cynical and excited – all within the same site. And, sometimes, all within a single day. Being an E/N site means writing about whatever the hell you want. Whether each day, you tailor your posts to your readers, whether you decide to piss people off, whether you tell your most personal stories, whether you’ve got some juicy news you’d like to share, or whether you write “bite me” just cos you feel like it, it’s still all E and all N.

Do you agree? As always, mail me your opinion.

Responses to HTML Editors

I don’t have a really strong opinion about this one either way, but I just thought I would give you my own reasons for why I do things the way I do.  I decided to build a webpage 1 year ago (exactly, wow..cool, huh?) And anyway, when I started I had a page at angelfire.  I used their little generator thingy, and made an ok page.  But I wanted to have more control over it, so I read tutorials and what-have-you, and actually learned to code myself.   After I did, I found that for me it was much easier to just write what I wanted to see, than to try to figure out how an HTML editor wanted you to enter it.  I just recently started using notepad to write my pages.  Before I would write the code in the webshell at my angelfire account.  I honestly think that is the easiest way to do it, since you can easily see how it will look before saving it and all that jazz.   But anyway, I moved my page over to a different server, so I just can’t do that anymore.  My own opinion about HTMLeditors is that they are too much hassel to use for things that I can generate myself easily.  I have tried many things like Homesite3.0, Dreamweaver2.0, Front Page Express, all that…And still I would just rather spend the time doing it myself.  I also think it is easier to manipulate the contents when you code yourself, since you are writing in exactly the amounts and such that you want.  So blah. That is my two-cents worth.  Sorry about the babbling.  (If you would like to check out my page, it is at http://www.hereintown.net/~moira/index.htm )

Cheers!
spoon lady

——————-

I actively dislike using WYSIWYGs myself because I love having the satisfaction on knowing I typed ALL the code in and know it’s good. If something goes wrong, I know exactly where to look and can get there quick, instead of searching through endless pages of color-coded coding in an editor that, as you said, can sometimes screw up the code anyway. Thank you for your time. Sitekeeper

in response to the thing on your site about text vs frontpage editing… people think text is better because its a sad way of proving their skill i think… similar to linux users who hate windows for the same reason.
Phil

Seems two major reasons are control, and the “satisfaction of knowing I typed ALL the code.” The first of these reasons is reasonably valid, and the second is not (see the third post – this agrees with my reply to the latter reason). It’s synonymous with this situation: You have a document you want to copy. But no, you think using a photocopier is too easy. So, you demonstrate your skill by opening up a word processor, sitting down,  typing out that document word for word, and then printing it out just to show you know how to use Microsoft Word. This seems ridiculous, right? But that’s what’s happening when you want to type out HTML which could be generated in less than half the time using an HTML editor. If I created a page using notepad, I’d be typing for three times as long. Then I’d have to test out the page to make sure I hadn’t screwed up an angled bracket or something (edit in notepad, save, reload in browser, repeat… ad naseum). I’d have to type “&gt;” instead of “>” (etc.) which can get annoying if you have to do it often.

18
May 99
Tue

HTML Editors vs Text Editors

I use FrontPage. So flame me.

There seems to be a view held by some that’s against WYSIWYG HTML editors, and that using text editors like notepad (sidenote: I actually prefer edit.com which auto-indents and recognises unix linebreaks) is the “l33t” way to write web sites. That said, people comment on the nice design of this page. They ask, “What did you do it in?” I reply, “FrontPage.” More often than not, the reaction is a disappointed “oh” or even a disgruntled “ugh”, followed by, “but do you know any HTML code then?” to which I reply, “Well I’ve been writing HTML since 1992 and I don’t think Wysiwyg HTML editors existed then. So, yes, I guess you could say that.” This shuts them up pretty much.

Still, there’s a stigma against these HTML editors, as if the people who used them lacked skill. Sure, you get the people who use Netscape Composer / FrontPage templates to rig a personal web page up in an hour. But really, what is the difference between me generating a page with FrontPage, and doing it with notepad? Only about 10 minutes. I know the <table> tags. Why go to the trouble of typing it out when I can just bung it in with FrontPage? Unless you’ve got a valid reason, like “FrontPage messes up the code and I can’t find anything when I go to hand edit it,” what’s the problem? (BTW FrontPage 2000 has source code preseravtoin… so no more excuses ;). Can someone tell me? Please note I’m talking about those notepad users who actively dislike wysiwygs.

9
May 99
Sun

Kosovo – Nato Bombing Embassy

They bombed the Chinese Embassy? By mistake? Hah, bit coincidental if you ask me :). I can just imagine it, Nato HQ, after the embassy scored two direct hits… “That’ll teach those damn slanties to veto our vote.” Bloody Nato.

3
May 99
Mon

Guns Debate

If you check out Schlyer’s post “Silly liberals, personal attacks are for kids”. Just for the record, I don’t exactly endorse personal attacks (in cases like this), but I don’t censor mail either. Schlyer has a reply on his page, about it.

2
May 99
Sun

Gun Debate Responses

Here’s an ultra-lengthy and ultra-comprehensive response. Thanks Jason! Lotta time went into this epic.

I know this may be a bit late, but I have to (yes, egotistically) vent some feelings about this little gun-control/high-school-massacre debate that seems to have been raging on all the E/N sites lately. Simplified, the question seems to be, “will gun control help curb the violence in American society?” One side gives their answer: “well, it seems to have helped in other countries such as Canada and Australia–granted, it may not be ‘The Answer,’ but it certainly couldn’t hurt to attempt to take those wacky killing machines out of people’s hands–after all, said machines make it tremendously easy to kill people, which, last time we checked, was kind of a bad thing. Oh yeah, and guns also tend to hurt the cute wittle defenseless animals wif their cute wittle big doe eyes and furry coats of fur that are all fluffy soft and fun to rub. So, yeah, banning guns could probably stop that, too– (Wait, omigod, what’s that, a cockroach? Disgusting creature! Kill it! Kill it! Kill it dead! stomp it NOW!!)” The other side then rebuts (cause and effect have not been working properly in my mind all evening–mere hours ago I finished reading _Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency_, and Douglas Adams tends to do strange things to me, so it could very well be that this second opinion is actually the first that has lately been put forth while the first opinion really is the rebuttal–but such technicalities, ultimately, don’t really matter, do they?): “No! If you take away our guns, if you take away our right to bare (oops, I’m sorry, bear) arms, then you might as well take away our right to urinate freely in the wind. Owning guns is a Gosh-given right that is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and taking that away would go against the law of this land. And if you start taking things like that away from us, you might eventually start taking away other efficient hurting-devices, such as my rather beautiful cutlery set filled with butcher and steak knives. Were that to happen, with what would I be expected to so carefully slice my tough little slab of venison on which I am dining tonight? Besides, I’ve grown accustomed to sleeping with little Joey beside me in bed at night. Joey? Oh, he’s m’ double barreled, sawed off shotgun.” Got it? Okay, so maybe I took a few liberties on the opinions. But, essentially, that’s how it’s been…And I have yet to really hear my opinion, this opinion–not in so many words. Here goes:

Gun control doesn’t matter. I won’t go too much into the philosophical/admittedly shaky pseudo-scientific reasoning (bear in mind the book I just finished reading, and essentially Douglas Adams’ entire body of  “cause-and-effect-deficient” work, and you get the general idea). Also read the book _Gravity’s Rainbow_ by Thomas Pynchon (if you can manage to decipher it) and you may get a better idea. Anyway, on to my opinion: I personally don’t think that gun control is terribly relevant, not in an effectual (or causal) sort of way. Yes, Australia and Canada (and other countries–sorry, I’m not up on my knowledge of various political/social climates in foreign nations) have lower crime-rates/mortality-rates-due-to-shootings. Yes, those countries have gun control. But–and I apologize to anyone from those countries who is particularly proud of their gun control legislation and is offended by my statement–but so what? Is there proof that such legislation has actually had any impact whatsoever on that society? Did gun control somehow shape the trend of nonviolence in said countries, or is gun control merely a result of the society–the society that (perhaps) already places less emphasis on violence/glorification of violence? I honestly and truly don’t know the answer, but I would be willing to bet that the latter is actually the case. If anybody has any legitimate statistics and/or proof that gun control has actually made some sort of noticeable difference in any nation’s violent crime rate, I would be interested.

Now, for a moment, think about American society. Frightening, isn’t it? We (yeah, I’m American) are unique in the world; we are unique in history–unique in almost every way, it seems. This, of course, includes our strange…preoccupation…with violence. Maybe we haven’t seen enough real violence in this country. (Hmm, nope–The Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Vietnam–heck, the crime that we’re exposed to on the nightly news)…Okay, cause and effect, as I am so fond of stating, is infinitely complicated, and I won’t really attempt to precisely delineate *why* we are so fixated on violence–but let’s think about it for a moment. America is a large nation, with a federal government. The states that are represented in said federal government are extremely diverse–visit New York, then visit Dallas, then visit Nashville, then visit Omaha, Nebraska–with a rather large amount of ethnic diversity (and I’m not just talking about black/white/hispanic; even within the 13 original colonies, from the very beginning–we are a nation of immigrants–or emigrants, depending on how you look at it). And, for such a large nation, we’ve been remarkably free. We’ve accommodated vastly different ideas and great disparity in thinking over our life-span. Now, combine a number of different people from different countries with different ideas into a single nation (and even a single area) and stir it with a great big stick called Democracy. What happens? Hatred. Lynch mobs. Outright racism. The KKK. Heck, even Civil War. People respond violently toward each other when they are both threatened and free enough to respond with violence. Granted, I’m cynical–I don’t have a favorable view of human nature, and I believe that, if left to their own devices, people will be remarkably reactive to each other–and definitely violent. Still, shouldn’t America’s past teach us that violence is bad and that it only ends in bloodshed? Well…no. At some point came along this thing called “Hollywood,” and the entertainment industry soon followed (now don’t get your panties in a knot, I’m not blaming anything at all on the Media). They capitalized on our violent tendencies — tendencies that, for one reason or another (perhaps *because* of our freedom–our freedom to feel and to act out according to our nature?) are consistently not very far from our conscious mind. Somewhere along the line, they realized that violence attracts larger audiences–not to mention sex, the close cousin of violence. You follow all of these things to their logical end, and you reach 1999 when mindless action movies such as…well, any Schwarzeneggar flick, or Jean Claude Van-Damme flick, or whomever…are common place.

But does any of this “prove” anything? Does it prove why America is so violent? What about the French Revolution, what about Hitler, what about Napoleon, what about Communism? What about the Crusades? What about Ghengis Khan? Does not violence merely beget more violence? Europe has suffered, too. What of their crime rates? Why are their young people not shooting each other so much? And what about Jackie Chan, and all of those Asian Kung-Fu flicks? Why aren’t the Chinese all beating each other up all the time?

I don’t know. I *do* know that America is different–has always been different. And the fact remains–our society *is* violent. Not oppressively violent–we don’t have soldiers in the streets. But we glorify violence. No, we’re past gun control, way past gun control. Maybe if gun control had been put into effect in the early 19th century, or even earlier–maybe if the founding fathers had been less concerned with spreading freedom throughout the land (and with preventing tyranny), maybe if guns and militias were not necessary for survival in a fledgling nation such as theirs–who knows? Perhaps if the United States had not even been created, perhaps if the states had all gone their separate ways, or somehow stuck it out under the Articles of Confederation (with a mere modification to the Articles rather than a drafting of a whole new Constitution). But, as I stated earlier, I still feel that gun control is an effect rather than a solution. Gun control won’t work in our country. It will simply make owning a gun illegal. And what will that do? Smoking pot is illegal. Underage drinking is illegal. Prostitution is illegal. I need not spell it out any further, but I will. Gun control is not a solution–it *causes* nothing to happen.

However.

Gun control is hardly evil. It is absolutely not logical to say that taking away our right to carry guns is the first step to infringing on our other rights. You know, “freedom” (as defined by some–that is, freedom from governmental regulation) *really* isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What is the end result of this “freedom?” Anarchy. Therefore, Freedom=Anarchy. Anarchy=Freedom. Um, not last time I checked. Anarchy is about as far from true freedom as you can get. The problem of American government (well, I mean, the problem inherent to the “system”) is this: how do we balance regulations and restrictions with individual liberties to allow the majority of people to lead a prosperous life of their own choosing while upholding and protecting the rights of the minority? That is the question, that is the problem. Is any sort of satisfactory answer possible? I don’t know. It seems that some want more restrictions, and want fewer restrictions. To me it seems kind of arbitrary.

So, what is gun control, really? What is it to America, what is it to the American system? Basically, it’s politics. It’s just like any other issue. Abortion. Gay rights. Welfare. Gun control (again, here I am with my cynicism) is simply an excuse for some self righteous politician (i.e., Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, whomever) to get up and preach to you. It’s an excuse for them to look beautiful and to tell you that they’re doing something good for you, something good for the country, it’s their excuse for holding their office, for holding their power. It’s the reason for their eloquent speeches that make you love them, that make you worship them. As is just about everything else these days, it seems. No–gun control is, in reality, arbitrary. It’s an emotional issue, and it helps to get votes. And, in American politics, that’s what matters.

But we still face Colorado, don’t we? There are still real lives involved, aren’t there? Enforcing stricter laws won’t “bring healing” to the parents, the grandparents, the siblings, and the friends of the dead. Arguing an ultimately moot point on an E/N site seen by relatively few people won’t bring anybody back to life; it won’t reverse the trends in our society–it won’t heal what is wrong with the human race. I’m about to wax religious, but I’ll save you from that. Since Littleton, everybody has been obsessed with arguing about causes: what caused the shooting? How can we prevent it? Was it the guns? Was it the movies and the video games? Was it the society? Was it the parents? Was it the taunting and teasing from peers? But…I don’t know. Why did it have to be anything? Couldn’t this just be some sort of bizarre coincidence? Maybe this sort of thing just isn’t preventable. Maybe there are no causes, or the causes are way too complex for our puny brains to comprehend. Our country has taken its course; we are what we’ve become–a product of our past. Is there any way to stop it? Maybe some people are fated to snap. Maybe some people are just going to do that, and they come from good homes with good parents, and they’re smart and well adjusted and Christian (or Buddhist or Jewish), but they just…can’t take it. Maybe nothing causes it, maybe it’s nobody’s fault. Maybe it’s everybody’s fault. Who knows?

Of this I am certain: politics in America is/are (I’m not sure if “politics” is plural or singular) BS. What’s important is safety. Protecting people from others, protecting people from themselves–to a point, of course–is important; protecting your loved ones is important. It’s important, it really is. But if we become so caught up in protection and safety and getting our own way that we forget what it is we are trying to protect (that is, our fellow human beings), then we entirely forget what it’s all about–not safety and not protection, but love. If it were somehow possible for us to put aside our political affiliation, our political stance, for just one measly second, if we were actually to sit down and, out of pure love for our fellow man, attempt to determine a solution–mind you, not an “easy” solution or a solution that makes everybody happy and giddy, but, instead, a working solution–then, could any good come of it? Or is this just idealistic nonsense that says that people are really capable of putting aside their own selfish motives (deep inside, I’m an idealist, really I am)? Again, and everybody say it with me now, I don’t know. Simply because of my religious affiliation, I would have to say…well, no. But who am I? And what do I know?

Well, I’ll stop. You can tell I’m really bored–writing about this stuff at 3:15 on Saturday morning in the computer lab at school. You’re right, I have no life. I apologize for the length of this thing, but it’s all been bugging me a lot lately. Anyway, I like your site and everything–it’s one of the few that I try to check every day, so keep it up. And thanks for listening.

Jason

——————–

>It is part of being American. Its part of being free.
> Its called the 2nd Ammendment to our Constitution.
> “…shall have the right to keep and bear arms.”

GO TO HELL. If you think “being free” is somethign that has been put into clauses in a 200yr old document you are wrong. The men who wrote that OWNED SLAVES. Guns in their time took 90 seconds to reload and were incapable of solo massmurder. The document is their opinion of what being free is. Not the be-all-and end-all definition!! In my opinion “being american” means believing the Constitution is INFALLIBLE… well just go to hell alright, it isnt! Other constitutions around the world condemn owning guns, are you saying your founding fathers were right and mine were wrong???

>These kids were going to blow up their school and kill
>plenty of kids whether they had guns or not.

BUT A FEW LESS WILL DIE IF THE MURDERER DIDNT MURDER WITH HIS DADS SHOTGUN, IF THERE WERE GUN LAWS IN PLACE.

>You can’t stop crazy people from doing crazy things
>without limiting the actions of everybody.

IMPORTANT BIT:
true. unless you think owning a gun is a freedom worth having. fireworks have been banned for safety reasons. people accepted that. there was no huge outcry for freedom over this, so why cant guns be controlled for safety reasons??????????

>And I’m not willing to sacrifice my daughter’s freedom for
>her safety.  Especially when banning guns will not make
>her any more safe from freaks like the kids in Colorado.

Go to hell! You are an idiot ok! I’m sorry I don’t like getting personal, but when you talk of your daughters life so flippantly I just get mad! Are you saying you’d rather she had the ‘freedom’ to own a fun than was sage from being shot at school????? What if there is a “freak” in your state, at your daughter’s school who finds his dad’s shotgun and kills your daughter. How will you feel about her “freedom” then?????? If you saw a kid with his dad’s fun blow away your daughter would you truly say, “Oh well at least we live in a land of freedom???” Fricking Hell!!!ELL!!!
Phil

[Mail edited to erase all caps – Indents are referring to Schyler’s mails]

Whoa getting a bit crazy here. I think we can close up the matter here and move on… at least, until the next shooting occurs.

30
Apr 99
Fri

More Fuel to Keep the Fire Burning

Schyler is too wrapped up in his political parties agenda to realize when he stops making sense.  You have to wonder if he even has original thoughts of his own, or if someone is really pulling his strings because humans don’t think like puppets.  :)

The gun culture on America is entrenched within our society.  By giving up guns we will not be giving up other freedoms.  We will be giving up guns.  There is no domino effect unless you’re paranoid.  There is no chinese water torture unless you are closed minded.

America is under seige by interest groups such as the bad-willed NRA.  To have true freedom we must shed light on the shadows.

Schyler only creates more shadows then tosses them on top of the shadows that are already there.

This only makes it harder to find the truth under such a huge blanket of shadows.

Frustrated

Getting a bit personal, but Schyler does seem to have a bit of a one-track mind. He wouldn’t sacrifice his daughter’s safety for her freedom? Hey – introducing gun control isn’t exactly implementing Fascist rule in the US. Besides, the right to bear arms doesn’t impact upon the freedom of children as much as it does on the safety of them.

Guns

It is part of being American. Its part of being free. Its called the 2nd Ammendment to our Constitution. “…shall have the right to keep and bear arms.”

These kids were going to blow up their school and kill plenty of kids whether they had guns or not.  You can’t stop crazy people from doing crazy things without limiting the actions of everybody.  And I’m not willing to sacrifice my daughter’s freedom for her safety.  Especially when banning guns will not make her any more safe from freaks like the kids in Colorado.

Schlyer
http://members.xoom.com/schlyer

As linked on Shlonglor’s site, a school shooting happened in Canada. I guess you can’t stop psychos from doing crazy things, but you can limit how often these events occur (as I said… gun control didn’t stop the Port Arthur Massacre which eclipses the Columbine death toll twofold). However — One (copycat?) shooting in Canada compared to the three of four that happened in the US in the last year, though?

28
Apr 99
Wed

Response to a Response to a Response

This came entitled “the final word”. But it doesn’t have to be :).

Okay well someone’s certainly been brainwashed by saying the pledge of allegiance every morning for 13 years…. There IS a difference between banning guns and banning free speech. A BIG difference. I guess though you see the word “ban” and the ol’ uncle sam gene kicks in. You say that things like music, videogames, movies influenced the kids to do wrong. And I totally agree we should not ban these things. You are right. People get influenced in different ways, and its ridiculous to think we should ban a certain movie or rock music which mentions death because it happened to affect certain people. However you lumped guns in there with that list: “Just because some psycho’s are influenced negatively by some movies, music or guns is NOT A VALID REASON to limit everyone’s access to those materials.” You think the child killers are “influenced” by guns???? What does that even mean??  Guns arent an influence, they are how the influences are acted upon.”Psychos” are influenced by things in society (which we should not ban) and these influences come to fruition in blowing people away with GUNS. If the guns were NOT THERE there would be a lower chance of them managing to kill people. Of course people will always be able to get guns if they really want them, but it will be harder for teens (ie: they cant take it out of their dad’s closet) who are acting on all the afore mentioned influences. We cannot ban free speech, types of music or games, you are right. Not all will react to these things so irrationally. But when an object which is designed to kill is used by these people, why not remove that object from society? You call guns “materials” we should all have access to. You speak of guns like they are books in Nazi Germany… like everyone has a right to have a gun as if it is part of being an american or something. Guns are designed to KILL. Sure some people hunt with them or kill sick cows with them, but their primary purpose is to MURDER. Why does “liberty” under your definition include the right to have the ability to murder? The right to risk having a kid blow his head off with dad’s gun which is meant to protect the family? The right to risk DEATH? If you ask me the FREEDOM TO WALK INTO A SCHOOL AND NOT GET BLOWN AWAY or the FREEDOM TO NOT HAVE TO SPEND THE DAY CRYING BECAUSE YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN AT SCHOOL is a far greater liberty than the freedom to own a gun. Even if banning guns only stops one kid getting to a gun, and saves one life, or stops one accident it is worth it. And cheers to Inferno for pointing out the difference between Australia and the US. We both have marylin manson, we both have Doom, we both have Childs Play movies… but Australia has banned guns… and we have an almost nonexistent rate of death by automatic weapons. So I guess I want this argument to stop now. You have your view Ill have mine (and we are clogging up the journal). All i am saying is look at what freedom truly is. Dont confuse owning guns with some glorious cause. Maybe that pledge will be shaken out of you when the next 25 kids get killed, and you’ll realise you may have saved them if you had taken guns out of society.
Phil

27
Apr 99
Tue

Response to Response

I’m not gonna touch the trickle down theory, thats another subject.  But there is no difference between the right to have guns and the right to free speech, etc.  Special interest groups here want to ban guns because they blame them, at least in part, for this horrid incident, and it sounds like you agree.  Well, other special interest groups here are clamoring about the music these kids listened to, the video games they played, and the movies they watched.  So after we ban guns because of this, when it happens again, the music will be next to be banned, then after the next incident, the video games.  You are very shortsighted if you can’t see what these type of people want to do.  They want to control what all people, not just kids, see, hear, play with, and say.  They are the reason we have such political correctness in this country that you can get sued for making a joke about fat people.  Just because some psycho’s are influenced negatively by some movies, music or guns is! NOT A VALID REASON to limit everyone’s access to those materials. God help those of you who don’t value your freedoms.

Schlyer
In Your Ear
http://members.xoom.com/schlyer/

I’ve been careful not to say that gun control is a miracle cure, but it is something that should be considered. How do you explain why all this is happening in the US and nowhere else? People have equal exposure to music, video games and movies Aust/Canada/UK as they do in the US. Hmm… So what’s different?

24
Apr 99
Sat

Mail

Just thought I’d clue you in to why Americans won’t give up liberties as suggested by one of your readers.  To be consice, its because the special interest groups here (gun lobby, abotion lobby, gay rights, etc) are just Chinese water torture waiting to happen.  Taken individually, drops of water, or small liberties taken away are insignificant.  One by one, they keep falling, till one day you wake up with a big fucking hole in your forehead where your freedom used to be. How’s that for an analogy.

schlyer

——————

I dont agree that all liberties will magically domino away because you bring in a new law or set of laws. This to me is as illogical as Reagans “trickle down” economic principle, and is indicative of the american desire to push everything they desire to be true into a set formula so they feel their ideals of freedom and liberty actually have some base. And Inferno was right: gun laws are one thing, freedom of speach, press, religion etc… are another. Liberty is being free. And if you ask me imposing gun laws will make america more liberated. kids will be FREE to go to schools withour fear. FREE not to watch theyre friends gunned down. Parents will be FREE not to fear for their kids lives each day… that is freedom. Part of liberty is safety. And again ill say gunlaws are not teh complete answer or even a large part of it, but they are A part. It scares me that americans put the friggin pledge of allegiance crap b4 theyre youth’s lives. If you ask me, saving lives is more imp!ortant than any manmade ideology, and its sad so many dont feel the same.
“It hurts when you discover what you thought was freedom was just greed” -Bono

Phil (26/4)

Interesting analogy, but I don’t agree with it. What this is implying is that if one SIG gives up their lobbied liberty, this will cause an eventual chain reaction that will take out the other SIGs. I guess the difference between something like the gun lobby and, say, abortion or euthanasia, is that abortion and such issues are much more morally inclined – thus open to more debate and personal opinion. But with the gun debate, there are two sides. There’s the “liberty” of being able to carry arms. Then there’s those that speak out against guns because they have the side effect of aiding events such as the Columbine Shooting. Which side is right is clear cut – obviously lives are worth more than being able to carry guns. The thing is that there is no direct evidence that lack of gun control plays a large role in these events. Yet, why do things like this never happen in countries like the UK, Canada or Australia, who do have gun control laws in place? I think this fact is pretty convincing that the “gun culture” did play a fairly large part in causing school shootings.

But the gun lobby is a powerful political force in the US. No, it’s much easier to blame recreational culture. I mean, a freak such as Marilyn Manson is a much easier target.

23
Apr 99
Fri

Columbine Shooting Responses

Hello,
I looked at lots of EN sites and what they have to say about this guns thing. Most of the yanks seem to be saying that guns arent the cause so dont pass laws banning them, because then we wouldnt be living in LIBERTY. Sure bad parenting is a huge cause, and sure guns will always be available to those who really want them but if theyre not in homes and are illegal they are going to be much harder for kids to obtain. Sure the freak who has decided he must kill 25 will still get one.. but theyre wont be gun accidents in homes and young children wont be brought up around them. Some guy on frustrated said that guns are designed to kill, and the fact that they can also be used for sport hunting does not warrant theyre existence in a peaceful society. Thats brilliant. I mean guns will always be around. But Americans need to learn that passing an apparently ‘strict’ law to save lives may be a curtailment of one liberty (is it a liberty we wanto oto have anyway?), but this DOES NOT MEAN America will suddenly become a totalitarian evil world of zero freedom. Another guy at frustrated said he’d rather live in a free world and get shot by a school kid at 30 than live in a “PLASTIC” world of no freedom till he was 90. Frigging Americans. Geez, talk about blindly clinging to some lofty ideal of “liberty”…. banning guns will SAVE A FEW LIVES. It wont solve the poblem but it will SAVE LIVES. SO DO IT. Looking at Australia, you can see how well it has worked. No guns, no recent mass automatic weapon killings, and what the f…??? We’re not A PLASTIC TOTALITARIAN SOCIETY YET??? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN????? (total sarcasm). It’s like [my history teacher] said… “America is the greatest country in the world… until every 70-100 years when it self-destructs (civil war, prohibition etc) because it can no longer survive by living on the lies it has created”

Phil

Quite a shot at the US there. 100% agreement, though.

I’d like to add some arguments to three of your observations. In fact guns can be obtained more easily in the USA than in any other industrialised country. The chances in the US of being killed by gunfire for under 15 year old’s is as high as in the 20 next industrialised countries COMBINED! Secondly the age old argument of the NRA and the like that guns don’t kill but people (duh!), just tells us, that people shouldn’t have guns, not that guns shouldn’t have people. Thirdly there will no ban on guns, because men love them, the industry wants men to need them and if some thousands get shot for that, fuck it. I mean let’s be honest, who cares so much as to discard their GUNS, of all things. No gun owner thinks, he would do such a thing.

So lean back and wait for the next catastrophy, somebody should have to told these people that violence is as american as apple pie. Whoops, H.R. Brown already did!

yours,
finn

How much is a life worth? Or is the right to bear arms such a fundamental right as to be constitutional (and thus seemingly immutable)? They might as well include a “right to bear arms” clause in human rights legislation.

21
Apr 99
Wed

25 Dead in US School Shootings

Swat Team vs 2 Teens
No, these aren’t ground troops in Kosovo.

No doubt you’ve heard about this shocking news already. News coverage has been going on for the past 24 hours. When I was on the way to the train station this morning, reports over the radio said that gunmen had “held up” a school in Denver. Details were still sketchy, but when I came back from uni, I found out everything soon enough. If you haven’t heard about this, check out CNN’s coverage, or the Denver Post (or any other news site). There… it’s on TV right now. And there it is on another channel…

As a result of these events, as always, multiple issues have been raised – all with the aim of finding the cause of this massacre.

Firstly there’s the issue of gun control. I do believe that this was a “cause”. Maybe not a big a cause as some make it out to be, but still it is a cause. In Australia guns are for the most part, illegal. I do not recall a school shooting ever happening in Australia. Gun control in Australia has made firearms more inaccessible. Families don’t keep guns in their homes. The only time I ever used a firearm was in cadets, and never since then. Ahhh but of course this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to obtain these weapons. Think back to Martin Bryant and the Port Arthur massacre. What Australia’s gun control has done, however, is create a culture in which guns are far less commonplace and have never been a problem for schools (not yet, anyway). Sure you can still get guns. Sure it’s relatively easy to make homemade explosives (I had friends playing around with a pretty potent 5″ homemade spud gun last year). But it’s more difficult in Australia. If you asked me where I could buy a gun, I would have no idea. But I’m hypothesising that most Americans would know where to go. So, it’s a culture thing.

Secondly, there’s the issue of “external forces”. Video games and stuff. Blah blah. I don’t hold this to be a really valid reason. Maybe in some cases, where the perpetrator may have been mentally imbalanced, but in this case the guys were described as being reasonably intelligent. They knew what they were doing. If there was an external force, it was their morbid following of Hitler what he stood for. And that is a following that is not as commonplace as the number of people that watch violent movies, or play computer games.

Thirdly, the issue of parenting has been raised. I can’t really comment on this… all families are different. I don’t know how hard it is for parents to notice something is wrong with their kid. I’m guessing that, however, if your kid starts dressing in black, develops an addiction for WW2 stuff, and joins a group called the “Trench Coat Mafia” you’d suspect something. But of course, you still wouldn’t expect something of this magnitude to happen.

Finally there’s the deal about punishment. This argument is one that I feel is quite valid. Bear with me for a sec… What feels ominous about this whole thing is that we’re talking about teenagers here. It’s shocking isn’t it? … Or is it? Also on the news today were two girls, 14 and 16, charged with stabbing and killing a man in Penrith (an Australian suburb). They’re due to be sentenced in a children’s court because to be tried as an adult you have to be 18. But that age “18” has been there for more than 20 years. Film censors have gotten “softer”, in effect exposing younger audiences to more and more graphic sex, violence and language in the theatre. This reflects society’s changing values, views and tolerance to this. However, by not lowering the age of “18” (for “adult crimes”) this loss of innocence in teens hasn’t been reflected. I think someone who’s 17 and goes and murders someone knows exactly what the hell they’re doing and should be tried as an adult. Which brings me to the issue about punishment. Stricter laws and punishments work. The stricter the laws, the more ordered society tends to be. There is, of course, the issue of how much “personal freedom” we’re willing to “give up” in exchange for tougher penalties and less crime. The question is – which do we prefer? Let me phrase it this way:

Is it really that much of an insult to bring metal detectors and security guards into schools? So much of an insult that people would rather have a school shooting instead? (“I’d never have thought it would have happened at our school!” sounds familiar enough). It’s like the bouncer who asks someone who is over 18 for their ID. They’re not asking to insult you (well… not in most cases), they’re just making sure you’re not one of the bad apples breaking the law.

The only problem is, the two gunmen suicided. They took the easy way out… no consequences… no accountability. No way for society to voice their disgust for them, at them. Tougher punishments wouldn’t have mattered diddly-squat in this tragedy.

I understand that this post is convoluted. I’m not writing an essay so I didn’t make a plan – ideas just tumbled out of my head and I put them down in the order they plopped out. Got a response? Mail me. Time to read what everyone else has been saying…

E/N Sites: The Reactions

This event seems to have sparked quite a reaction in the E/N community (quite impressive to see :). Here’s all the sites with something to say regarding it (all links can be found on the side bar):

• Area-S
• Atroxi
• BadAssMofo
• EBG
• forgo Daily
• Frustrated
• In Your Ear
• Matt’s Web City
• The Drain
• Ramblings
• Roosh
• WTF

(And of course Hear Ye! :) No doubt there will be more to come.

11
Apr 99
Sun

Note from urnotE

Here I hinted that Soljah took a link off EBG without crediting it. My mistake. It turns out that he got the link off urnotE via ICQ (and Soljah didn’t know where it came from). Sorry!

6
Apr 99
Tue

Plagiarism

I just got an e-mail from Scoobie (of the recently shut down SW/TS) regarding how one of the sites listed on my sidebar allegedly ripped his layout off. While I’m not in a position to say if this is true or not, because the frames layout SW/TS uses is fairly generic, this does give me the chance to rant on plagiarism. Why do people kick up such a fuss if they get their page layout ripped off? I mean, it doesn’t sound like a big deal does it?

People with personal sites spend a great deal of their spare time constructing and maintaining them. They don’t get anything tangible for their efforts. All satisfaction is derived from interaction with the “net community” and the enjoyment of creating something – just as a painter (amateur or otherwise) finishes off a painting. The site’s layout and content is all they have to show for their hours slaving away at the keyboard, unable to work up the willpower to go outside and get some sunlight due to the impulse that thumps in the brain saying, “Update! Update!”. So if you rip off a layout that someone has made, or copy and paste (without attributing credit) news stories that may have taken time to compile, you’re taking the only thing a webmaster has. That is why it’s treated so seriously.

Not that I’m singling Roosh.net out in particular, but even something like Soljah’s post on “where Easter eggs come from” can annoy. It’s unlikely that he found that pic, in an obscure corner of the net, himself. It’s more likely that it came from Shlonglor’s site. If you nab a link from another site, credit it. At least Shlonglor linked to the site that had the pic, not just copied it to his web space.

Kosovo

Where I live, cable only just came to town (or village, as some would call it :). So, I don’t get CNN and there’s not a terrific amount of coverage on Kosovo. If you only started paying attention to the news when the US started bombing, chances are you won’t know what the background to the whole situation is. I didn’t know until a couple days ago. Since the news doesn’t tend to explain the Kosovo conflict’s background, and if you missed the start of it, you might want to know about it. If you already know about it (more than likely if you’re American), skip this post or correct me where I’m wrong.

From my basic understanding, Kosovo is a province of Serbia. It is comprised of a majority of Albanians (from neighbouring Albania) and a minority of Serbians. Kosovo is something of a “heartland” to Serbians. Since around ten years ago, a group called the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has been trying to gain independence and autonomy for Kosovo, for the Albanians. All of a sudden, the KLA recently began killing Serb policemen and others who collaborated with the Serbs. They also established areas from which Serbs were driven entirely. Tensions escalate until Slobodan Milosevic, who leads Serbia and Yugoslavia, decided to start ejecting the entire Albanian population from Kosovo. Police and other Serbian military started evicting Albanians from their houses and deported them from Serbia to neighbouring countries.

Here’s where NATO came in. Apparently “concerned” by the flow of refugees and injustice of what Milosevic was doing, they urged him to stop. He didn’t. Talks begin in France (where a peace plan called the Rambouillet accord was drafted up). NATO proposed to reintroduce ejected Albanians back into Kosovo under the watch of NATO peacekeeping forces. The talks fail, Milosevic rejecting this idea. Finally, after diplomacy has failed, NATO begins airstrikes on March 24.

So what’s the controversy surrounding this situation? While it is fairly evident that what Milosevic is doing is wrong, the way NATO planned to resolve the situation is considered wrong. Air strikes on Serb military targets and government buildings (via an array of cruise missiles and aircraft) have been designed to pressure Milosevic into ceasing. However, the problem lies with the ground forces and “the men with ski masks” coming in the night and turning Albanians out of their houses. Bombing tanks and buildings is regarded as irrelevant and unnecessary (what has bombing of tanks got to do? Tanks aren’t herding Albanians towards the border). Of course, to directly attack the problem would involve sending in ground troops. Hah. If the US were to do that, and a bunch of US soldiers were killed, the public reaction would be horrendous. Even the B2 strike bombers aren’t landed on European soil – they take off, let loose their bombs, and don’t land until they reach the US again. At over $2 billion, if the US were to lose one of these planes, the American public would not be impressed. NATO is unable to attack the problem directly, for fear of public reprisal, but the way they’re going about it currently is still not acceptable. Furthermore, by the time the situation improves, there might not be anymore Albanians in Kosovo left! At the current rate of migration, Kosovo will be “Albanian-less” within a couple of weeks.

Secondly, there’s the questionable intentions of NATO. NATO bypassed the UN. Russia opposes what they’re doing and would have vetoed it had they gone through the UN. Could this be some attempt at humiliating Russia? Russia has strong ties with Serbia and can’t very well watch NATO bomb it. But that’s all it can do. So they mobilised a couple regiments and a few planes to show their disapproval. But they can’t use them. I think NATO also wants to strengthen ties with Albania or something. So it’s all very political.

That’s what I understand of the situation. A timeline of events is available at CNN. Have I stuffed up above? Have I shown my ignorance? Mail me for corrections.

25
Mar 99
Thu

State Election

Tomorrow. I reckon Labor will win, and quite frankly, I think Carr is more suited for the job than Chika (who’s a little too new and inexperienced). I’m two months away from voting age, though.

17
Mar 99
Wed

Commie Newspapers

There are these people going around campus trying to sell “Green Left Weekly”, some left wing newspaper. This question should be posed to them, however, “If you’re so left-wing, why are you selling off these rags for $2?”. Also, the University decided to Strike again, today (someone told me it didn’t happen very often, but this is the third day of strikes in one month). The accounting department still worked, though, so I had to turn up anyway, just for that one damn lecture.

6
Mar 99
Sat

Linux

Linux is the latest “cool” thing. The attitude that seems to be going around is, “Man, I have Linux. I’m not using Micro$hit. I’m cool. I’m 31337.” Yeah, well sorry, but many guys of this type are wannabes. Sure, Linux is more stable, more well developed, more bug free than Windows, but it’s not a perfect OS. It’s the furthest thing from user friendliness, and the hardware support… well… it’s not exactly all-encompassing. The GUI is lousy compared to Windows and although this will change, the fact is, non-user friendliness does not make Linux cool. Just because you can hammer out a few CLI commands does not make you elite. And getting a hard on from sledging Microsoft 24 hours a day does not make you cool, either. Get over it. If you’ve got Linux, good for you. You don’t need to make a big deal out of it. “Oh I’ve got a quad-boot Linux, NT, 98, and DOS box, but I only use Linux.” I don’t give a shit. Most people that say that to show off and make themselves look cool, aren’t. Hey, even I was guilty of this when I first learnt how to dual boot.

My MCSE instructor told me of this incident in the Newsgroups. People sit there sledging Windows and extolling Linux’s virtues. One guy said, “I’m so happy. Linux can change its IP without rebooting. Windoze can’t.” Um. NT can. My instructor couldn’t resist, and he wrote a message back. He consequently got flamed by Linux zealots. Amongst the responses was one that read, “I tried changing my IP in Windows 95 and I had to reboot.” Some of these people aren’t very smart. 95 isn’t NT. Yeah yeah I’m not saying Windows is better than Linux or anything, I just don’t like people acting like they’re so good cos they use Linux. So why do I have it? Because it’s a promising new OS, and I want to learn how to use it now, as opposed to later – I’m sure it will blossom. It does not make me cool or a “hÃxØr”.

Ok, you can flame me about this now.

28
Feb 99
Sun

While I was away…

Roosh went back up.

The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival happened (big shudder) on Saturday. Actually, when we were at uni yesterday morning, you could still see the dribs and drabs of the paraders still on the street (Oxford Street in particular). Apparently my friend saw an Old Boy of my high school making his way down the road in underpants and sandals and not much more. Yeeeeeck. Just thinking… all it’d take is one maniac with some explosives and a gun (maybe like the human tank guy at the start of Lethal Weapon 4) and you could wipe out Sydney’s G&L population in one night. Sure be queer by all means, but don’t take over the streets celebrating it.

The above two paragraphs are unconnected in any form whatsoever, except for the fact that they happened since my last post.

Observation

Three months this year start on a Monday (Feb, Mar, Nov).

18
Feb 99
Thu

Homer’s Home of Homeopathy

They’re still running ads that are dodgy++ at the cinemas. There’s an advert for a homeopathy center. Their slogan is (I shit you not), “Make yourself at home at Homer’s home, the home of homeopathy.” They also give a web URL to visit. httq://wwww.natural.homers. I don’t think it works, for some reason.

Then there’s “Sven’s World of Bubbles” – some massage parlour using the slogan, “Rub-a-dub-dub with Sven in the tub!” The mere thought of a crazy Swede in a bathtub is enough to send me screaming out of the theatre.

Wrapping up the dodgy ads section is the “Urban Turban” bike helmet shop. “Now with cool helmet colours – sage, saffron and tumeric!” Oh, I must rush out and buy one now.

19
Dec 98
Sat

Carols In The Domain

Well my argument below almost got shot to shit by the screening of the annual Carols in the Domain (carol singing in the city broadcast on tele). It still reeks of commercialism :) but it was still enjoyable.

More Christmas Stuff

Went out tonight to walk the estate last night. They were holding a carols thing in the local park. Anyway, our street and the surrounding streets were lit up from house decorations. Seriously, there was one house who turned their lounge room into something akin to the full-scale commercial Christmas window displays you see at big department stores (like David Jones in the city). There were heaps of people just walking up to look at the display – it was actually quite impressive. It’s gonna be hell to take down after Christmas.

Just as an observation, however, I noticed that there was a distinct lack of religiously-associated displays, as opposed to the cardboard cutouts and moving figurines of Santa, reindeer, elves and so on. However, it’s true, Christmas is a Christian festival/celebration (hence its name). Technically, only Christians should celebrate it. However, looking at the growing number of atheists in the world, it seems evident that many non-Christians celebrate Christmas too. Hehe, reminds me of Kyle in the Christmas South Park episode (who, for the uninformed, is a Jew). You can see that this post is quickly going to become an unplanned rant.

So how did this happen?

Apparently, somewhere along the line, as Christianity grew less prominent in Western society (don’t get me wrong, it’s still quite prominent, but not as much), people decided to adapt Christmas into a universal holiday of sharing, goodwill and everything that goes along with the “Christmas spirit”. This gave a morally based excuse for atheists to celebrate Christmas. I’d just like to point out that this excuse is a load of bullshit. That isn’t the Christmas we celebrate at all. Why? Check out these responses the the question, “Why do non-Christians celebrate Christmas?”:

1. “‘cos they like the present stuff and the atmosphere…..”
2. “dunno… presents? :)”
3. “they only believe in presents”
4. “because most of them like presents (and are materialistic).”
5. “hmm, maybe for the presents and all the colour, celebrations and happiness which it could  bring, but we all know their hearts are hurting and are really crying out for help”
**
6. “That is a big mystery- a big excuse to take the day off or to purchase gifts for each other hoping the other person’s gift is gonna be better than the piece of shit you’re getting them.”
**
7. “they want presents …is this phoungy??”
8. “because it is a time 4 all family members be togeher”
9. “for an exuse to get presents… most of em dont even know its for god or dont care they jus see it as a lil get together and fun time like thanxgiving or halloween”
10. “out of social habit and pressure from the commercial sector… pressure as in the “big business” like christmas, and beef it up into such a huge deal over it so lotsa people will buy lotsa stuff. advertising has a big influence over people, and business puts a lot of money into advertising christmas. after so many centuries of predominantly christian population, our society has also adopted the “habit” of celebrating christmas… such habits are hard to break. Christmas is no longer a christian celebration, the whole philosophy behind it has changed.”
**
** I like these responses :).

Do you see the incredible correlation here? I couldn’t believe it. Each quote is verbatim from different people, and represents 100% of the people asked. All but two replied presents/gifts. None of them were prompted to say gifts (all responses were first replies).

So much for the Christmas spirit. Christmas turns out to be based on materialism. No, don’t give me any crap about it being based on a “pagan holiday where they had a feast”. Christmas, as in the real meaning of Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. I doubt the pagans called their holiday “Christmas”. Christmas itself is not pagan, but the date Christmas is set on has pagan origins (that’s because no one knows the exact date Jesus was born).

It all comes down to commercialism (“duh”, you might say, but it’s not as apparent as you think – if I asked, “What is Christmas about?” the response would be a hell of a lot different from “What is Christmas about for non-Christians?” wouldn’t it?). Even that festive, Christmas atmosphere is sustained by the commericial lighting and storefront displays. The multiple Santas in shopping malls – “pay to get your photo taken with Santa”. Heck, no wonder why there are rumours the Coke created Santa (and remember that Black Santa fiasco? hehe – I think he was barred because a Black Santa would scare the kids more than any other reason). And who is Santa? Spreading presents my ass. Just a pure, commercial tool (think about it). Oh, and may we never see another “tickle-me-elmo” farce again. Parents physically fighting each other over them. Huh.

What’s my point? Christmas is a farce. An excuse. The Christmas spirit is what the Holy Spirit is to atheists – basically non-existent. Of course I’m being a little harsh here – people do get a “warm feeling” during Christmas (charity esp. – but that’s caused by the media, who are also commercially motivated) but then again, so do the capitalists corporate giants who literally reap the money from us “habitualised” people. See responses 6 and 10 above. Essentially, what is happening, is that this religious festival is being “violated” (for want of a less potent verb). Fine have a holiday, but it really shouldn’t be called Christmas to those where the true meaning of Christmas has no meaning.

Do I really belive Christmas should be renamed? No. I’m not trying to bash capitalism, or atheists or whatever. I’m just pointing out a development in society. I mean, try changing what Ramadan means to Islamic (or is it Muslim?) people :). People don’t associate Christmas with Christ anymore, but with Santa. The meaning of Christmas has changed. In essense, something religious has been desecrated (I don’t think I’m being too extreme in saying this). I suppose Christmas really has a dual meaning now.

Turning back to my street’s house displays, it just passed through my mind… wouldn’t it truly be a spectacle if you had a bunch of Islamic fundamentalists roving the streets with machine guns blowing up Christmas displays “in the name of Allah who will strike down all non-believers!” Hahaha.

Merry Christmas (in both senses of the word). Ah… who cares. Have a Merry Christmas. Period.

25
Aug 98
Tue

Updates

New article – the stereotypes are true! Sonic’s spew on racial stuff reminded me about this… there is a light side to racial differences (not everything is sacred), but as for racism, that sucks big time (up yours Pauline you bitch).

18
Aug 98
Tue

Clinton!!!

I knew it!!! Read all I have to say about that loser HERE. (It’s another article) Also, vote in the new poll.

18
Jul 98
Sat

More on the slut site

[See previous entries] Hahahaha.. the Financial Review made a stuff up. They gave a link to that site, but they gave the wrong url. The url they gave was linked to a hardcore porn site, instead of the site in question (they’re really the same thing, though…). They admitted to their mistake, but I don’t think they apologised for it. Hahaha. They’ll be the last you’ll hear of this. Hopefully.

16
Jul 98
Thu

More on the slut site / xxx feed in disguise

[See post “Net at Night” two posts below, first] I heard it first on 2-Day FM. I read it on Shlonglor’s site. But then, would you believe, I read it in the Australian Financial Review. Geeze. The whore site is getting publicity, that’s for sure. It’s interesting that the AFR made an observation that the couple (both 18) may not go the full monty — their faces have been blacked out like criminals on tv.

I have a theory. The faces are not blacked out to protect those in question for anonymity… no. I have another reason. A couple weeks ago when I went to that party which kicked off in a German restaurant. Anyway this band came around – a drummer, tuba player, trumpet player, and an accordian player. Apart from the observation about the super tight shorts (do they get paid extra for that?), my friend Glen (“man, that chick was staring at me, she wanted me, you know?”) made another freaky observation: “Hey, I reckon the accordian player’s a porn star… yeah I think he is! I’ve seen him on a porn video.” The troubling thing was, he was dead serious (Glen wasn’t drunk at that time… besides, you can’t get drunk on a Lemon Ruskie and one beer). Glen was just about to ask the guy if he was involved in the porn industry, but luckily (lucky for the rest us, Glen, or the accordian player?) the band had moved on.

So what relevance does this have? Well, the couple in question are already porn stars. They are not virgins. This thing is being masterminded by a sex company, and it’s all a setup. The reason they’re keeping “anonymous”, is that, being porn stars already, they could be recognised by nymphomaniacs that have seen them before doing their sexual antics (ahem… Glen?).

Okay, I don’t buy it either – but it’s not a bad conspiracy theory, is it? Most conspiracy theories are as bad as that.

15
Jul 98
Wed

Net At Night

I was putting in more hours of work last night and I had the radio tuned in to 2dayfm. It was about 11 and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. They were actually plugging a porn site. Okay, maybe not blatantly, but it was. Two virgins are going to be “deflowered” on the net, in response to the Live Birth on the Net. Ummm… why? The live birth I understand – some people will never be able to see a birth etc. etc. But this? Hell, you could put on one of those millions of XXX video feeds that fly around the net and no one would know the difference. This is no more than a sex show. If you want to watch sex, go to world movies, or type in any domain name with sexual connotations (really!). If you want to watch a birth, you have to be a doctor, or a (soon to be) parent. Sex is sex – first time or not (I was going to say first time or last time, but thought the better of it). Crock of shit this. It was funny cause I don’t think the DJ could believe the other person was plugging that site. You could tell he was trying to distance himself away from it all (could be just keeping his own reputation away from “nyphomaniac”) – “I don’t buy it.” and “I think it’s just one of those XXX feeds,” he says really quickly while his partner’s going, “yeah I’ll watch it – I’m a voyeur.” Like I said, I couldn’t believe that they were broadcasting that crap.

16
May 98
Sat

ICQ countries

I dunno if you’ve looked at the countries you can select under your ICQ user profile, but I’m sure I’ve never heard of them:

Diego Garcia (huh?)
Djibouti (isn’t that a city?)
Eritrea (I’ve heard of this one, a new country in Africa I think… broke away from Burkina Faso???)
F.Y.R.O.M. (ICQ cut off the full name
Faeroe Islands (where??)
INMARSAT (this is a satellite system isn’t it? So why’s it under countries?)
International Freephone … (cut off)
Kyrgyz Republic (where??? What??? No vowels? Sounds like the Chenjesu from Star Control 2 are back. I’ve actually changed my ICQ info to have this country displayed in my info box :), and am getting all my friends to change their country info to Kyrgyz Republic, so some poor sod’s going to be wondering why everyone’s got Kyrgyz under the country field muahahahaha ;)
Nevis (I’m sure it’s just me with this one… but I’ve never heard of Nevis)
Niue (??)
Tinian Island (ditto)
Tokelau (ditto)

Freaky :)

13
Apr 98
Mon

Languages

I reckon English will well and truly become the universal language – meaning really universal, like in Starship Troopers where even in Buenos Aires they speak straight English. Especially when 95% of e-mail communication (more so on ICQ nowadays – its quicker and more convenient than e-mail, which is what we were saying about e-mail vs snail mail only a year or two ago) is in English. Too bad the number of people in the world who have computers is less that 1% or something… and most third-world countries don’t speak English, but of course, this’ll change in the distant future.

25
Mar 98
Wed

Food & Veganism

I don’t understand this Vegan crap. As far as I can see there are two reasons behind Veganism.

1. “It’s cruel to animals” (many citing Christian ideals). Well that’s crap. What about all the omnivorous animals out there? What, are they cruel too? Should you shoot them so they don’t kill any more animals? I mean, there’s nothing you can say to justify an aversion to the consumption of animal products. Really. Our appendix is about 5cm long (or something like that), and useless. There’s good reason for that. We’re not grass eaters. We’re also meant to eat meat.

2. “Do you know what’s in your food?” (for example, they express their disgust at what is rumoured to go into McDonald’s beef patties, like all sorts of body parts). Well I think that if (1) Food tastes good and (2) It won’t kill you in the long or short term, then there’s nothing wrong with it. Honestly, who cares what’s in your food if it tastes good and isn’t too unhealthy?

I could go on and on but I can’t be bothered.

11
Mar 98
Wed

English Oral Assessment

Had an oral assessment today. I had to give a 5 minute speech to a panel of teachers on how an article related to topic of “Crossing Boundaries”. Anyway, there were three teachers listening. One of the things I noticed was that the whole thing was a total setup. Firstly, I noticed the mannerisms of each teacher. One had a smile, was attentive, nodded his head in acknowledgment of a point, and generally was polite through the whole of my speech. The one in the middle was seated forward slightly, and he stared at me with a frown or grimace through the entire speech. The one on the right didn’t event look at me! He had his head down looking at something (I think it was my article, or the marking roll). Teachers simply do not do that. I’m willing to bet money that it was a set up. Why would they bother? Well I have a couple theories : in public speaking, you have to make eye contact with everyone. With only one teacher being attentive (that stare is really offputting), it’s all to easy to spend all your time looking at that person, and thus in effect you are speaking to only one person, and not the rest of the audience. Secondly, they’re testing confidence or something. As I said, the stare is offputting – it makes you think that you’re saying something wrong, or the teacher doesn’t know what the hell you’re on about. Not true (they said my presentation was “very clear” and they didn’t have to ask any questions, so that must have been a good thing – and the one that said I was very clear was the starer :). In fact, the only thing that put me off for half a second was when the “supportive” teacher nodded his head. And it was a big nod. Distracting.

The time limit of 5 minutes was strictly enforced, and a teacher would ring a warning bell at 4 minutes. Now, the “supportive” teacher was really slack. I was halfway through my second card (I used 3 cards), and he held out his hand as if I was drawing up towards 4 minutes. I knew this was in no way the case, but I still had a smear of doubt in my mind. Anyway, he holds his hand over the bell for a whole minute, then withdraws it. At this time I’m thinking “What the Hell?”. In the end I made the five minutes right on the dot. I reckon this set up was to see if I would speed up my speech and talk faster (not a good thing). I’m not sure if I did, but if I did, it was just as well – I wouldn’t have otherwise made the time limit.

So why have I bothered typing this? Well, it’s just a couple of helpful observations in case you are in a similar situation. You may identify if it is a set up, and act accordingly. I still think it’s slack though. It is a speaking assessment, but still, you shouldn’t try to put off the speaker…

9
Mar 98
Mon

The New HSC

All 2 Unit subjects?? The new HSC system sucks. Simple as that. Thank goodness I finish school this year. The government should listen to the independent schools board – the standard of students graduating will drop. If everyone can do well, where’s the competition? Anyway it’s funny that Sydney Grammar School (I think that’s the one) is threatening to pull out of the entire HSC system if the new reforms go through. Haha, I’d like to see that. Bloody government doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing…

1
Mar 98
Sun

Mardi Gras — Go Fred Nile!

[Please note that the views held in this post have changed to a certain extent over the many intervening years. This post has been preserved, uncensored, but should be read in the context of the thousands of posts which follow it.]

I can’t believe it. The friggin’ Uniting Church marched in the Mardi Gras. Tolerance they preach. Yes tolerance by all means. Diversity, yeah ok, I’ll even buy that. But marching in the Mardi Gras is supporting the damn thing.

I don’t care what people say, but homosexuality is wrong. In a society which is predominantly Christian, it is incredible to see how much it does tolerate this behaviour. In Biblical times, people were stoned. Homosexuality is immoral, no matter what people say. It’s abnormal. It’s plain wrong.

Okay, it’s obvious we can’t stone them in today’s society. Hey, we can’t even persecute them. We even conceded that gays shouldn’t be discriminated against. Okay, but discrimination on the basis of sexual preference is difference from that of race or gender. Being a different race, or gender is actually natural. People can’t help it. The Bible even preaches racial tolerance (although the gender issue is a little wonky). Check Leviticus if you don’t believe me. Yes, people can restrain from homosexual acts. It’s not all in the genes (everyone has a tendency to blame things on genes nowadays). No homosexuality is not natural. Take a look at animals. How many male cows do you see trying to hump other male cows? But you do see different species of cows (sorta equivalent to different human races), and you do see male and female cows (duh).

Okay, back to tolerance and non-discrimination. This attitude’s okay. God lets us make our own choices in life (he may know what path we’re going to take, but we choose what path we take). Fine, as long as you don’t affect us with your “alternative lifestyle”, we’ll leave you alone to your “activities”. But this isn’t the case. The Mardi Gras is an in-your-face “you kicked us down 20 years ago and we’re still going, stronger than ever so @#$@ you”. Why do these idiots need to advertise their homosexuality? Is it something to be proud of? “Oh we’re different, and we’ve managed to get through all this adversity. We must be legends.”. We give them tolerance and support anti-discrimination, and what do they do? Frickin’ shove their homosexuality in front of our faces.

“We’re normal, gays are just like me and you … only we need to advertise that we are different through the Mardi Gras etc.” … WTF?? I mean, isn’t this a contradiction?

The gays preach “you should do whatever feels right”. Essentially, they have anarchistic ideals. Despite what people believe, an anarchistic society is not one which is fun to live in. Sure, using anarchistic ideals in an ordered society is fun to live in – people clean up the mess you’ve made and you get to go back and mess it up again. But in an anarchy, people are gonna come and mess you up, and no ones gonna come and help you.

Homosexuality? Fine. We’ll tolerate it. It’s not morally right, but since you’re not affecting us, fine, go do what you feel you have to do. But don’t advertise it! To have church members supporting homosexuality is the last straw. They haven’t read the Bible, or they think the Bible is old-fashioned. It may seem stupid that I’m saying this, but society is degrading. The Bible is old-fashioned you say? Well this passage from Genesis sounds surprisingly plausible, and modern :

He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom–both young and old–surrounded the house. They called to Lot. “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Being them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet the, and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

“Get out of our way,” they replied.

Genesis 19:3-9

Society needs more people like Fred Nile. After all, he is standing up for what he feels is right (and it’s true, he is right), but yet he gets shouted down. The gays stand up for what they believe is right, and they get applauded. WTF again? People poke fun at him, and no one objects. People poke fun at gays and you get friggin litigation. People discriminate against gays, and you get front page news. Yet, a “straight” gets kicked out from a gay bar, and … no action. Maybe a one column, half-page write up in a tabloid. Sheesh.

Okay, the above words are my personal opinion. I am entitled to one aren’t I? Don’t agree with me? I’ll live with that. Just don’t flame me with all these swear words.

13
Feb 98
Fri

BTW, it’s Friday the 13th

Not that it means anything … to me that is :). But there’s one every year, isn’t there? I understand the history behind 13, but why is Friday unlucky? I’m guessing it’s not because of the television show.

28
Jan 98
Wed

Clinton the Gigolo ;)

Ahaha is he getting the crap bagged out of him now. Even in Christian Studies (okay, PTC to be exact) he makes a guest appearance :). We’re talking about what the difference is between knowing someone, and knowing about someone. The chaplain begins explaining (not a direct quote but something like this) : “yeah – knowing someone is more personal than just having heard about them, which is just knowing about someone. Take the President for example … err … maybe that’s not so good an example.” Haha. Yes we know the President. Personally. They also bagged him out on 2-day fm. Funny stuff. Just switch on and you’ll hear something about Clinton.

Well I know that he’s not been found lying yet, but I don’t believe him and I don’t believe how they say “he’s the President so what he says must be true”. Hey – this comes from the guy who said, “I smoked marijuana but did not inhale”. The same person is splitting hairs over the difference between oral and “normal” sex – look are we interested in the difference? They are both forms of being unfaithful. I mean, do we want kids hearing the most powerful man in the world talking about different forms of sex? Sheesh. Ah get rid of the guy.



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