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Archived Posts for June 2004

Please note: The posts on this page are at least 3 years old. Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
Jun 04


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

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

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Jun 04


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

Jun 04

Proxy Shipping from the States

I can’t find the post right now, but a few years ago, I wrote about how it would be an excellent idea to have a service in the States that shipped goods internationally for you, so that you could order online from US merchants who only shipped domestically (eg, Amazon electrical goods) and they would forward it on to you internationally for a fee. Price Japan sort of does that for Japanese electronics. I just discovered that this site, Shop the States, does precisely that. The service charge is only US$5 per package, in addition to normal shipping costs. They can even repack several orders from different merchants into one box, for a small fee. Australian shipping rates are here. Excellent. There are a lot of electronics that are much cheaper in the States (or get released there months before getting released here) such as Muvo MP3 players, and now we have a way to get at them.

Jun 04

Photo Exhibition

Went to the World Press Photo 2004 exhiibition at the State Library yesterday during lunch. The photos there were excellent. A lot of them are even more confronting when blown up to poster-sizes. A lot of them are the product of, more often than not, being in the right place at the right time, when everyone else would be thinking it’s the wrong place at the wrong time. There was one photo which was shot from ground level in an African country, with a dead body in the foreground and a street in violent turmoil the background. I was wondering how someone could have the brazenness to lie down on the ground in the middle of gunfire and take a photos like that when I read the caption and learnt the photographer was only lying on the ground because he’d been shot through the leg and had an artery severed. Unfortunately, the great majority of prizewinning photos in the news categories are depressing, depicting war, pain and suffering. Not unexpected, but it’s hard to find a more upbeat photo there.

Jun 04


I have more invites. Seems like Google is slowly phasing in a full user base. Again, let me know if you want one.

Update: Out of invites again, sorry.

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Jun 04

Criminal Procedure

Did you know… that police may demand your name and address only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that you can help them in investigating an offence because you were in the vicinity of the crime? The police also need to tell you why they want your name and address. Otherwise, you don’t have to say anything or answer any questions. That’s the theory. If you decide to try it out, you better make sure you get it right because if you don’t, you’ll be in spot of trouble.

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Jun 04

Gigabyte usage

At this rate, it will take 2 to 3 years to fill up my Gmailbox:

So much for for being a commodity

I am swimming in Gmail invites. Let me know if you want one.

Update (22/6 17:00): They went like hotcakes. If I get more, I’ll let you all know. WaD seems to have a Google employee on the take and has a huge stash of invites. He was last seen pimping them out on Fuzzy’s site.

Fahrenheit 9/11 under the microscope again

While factual inaccuracies and unfair play may have undermined the full impact of Bowling for Columbine, the New York Times reports that Fahrenheit 9/11 has been properly vetted and verified.

Mr. Moore usually revels in his role as the target of conservative attacks, and his delight in playing the mischievous, little-guy bomb-thrower has brought him fame, wealth and the devotion of fans more interested in rhetorical force than precision. But with “Fahrenheit” he has taken on his biggest and best-defended target yet, and his production staff says that on his orders they have taken no chances in checking and double-checking the film, knowing Bush supporters would pounce on factual mistakes.

Mr. Moore is readying for a conservative counterattack, saying he has created a political-style “war room” to offer an instant response to any assault on the film’s credibility. He has retained Chris Lehane, a Democratic Party strategist known as a master of the black art of “oppo,” or opposition research, used to discredit detractors. He also hired outside fact-checkers, led by a former general counsel of The New Yorker and a veteran member of that magazine’s legendary fact-checking team, to vet the film. And he is threatening to go one step further, saying he has consulted with lawyers who can bring defamation suits against anyone who maligns the film or damages his reputation.

It is, however, still a partisan criticism of Bush’s time in government. However, Moore is an advocate, not a judge. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it is based on solid, truthful evidence.

That said, Mr. Moore’s fact-checkers do not view the film as straight reportage. “This is an Op-Ed piece, it’s not a news report,” said Dev Chatillon, the former general counsel for The New Yorker. “This is not The New York Times, it’s not a network news report. The facts have to be right, yes, but this is an individual’s view of current events. And I’m a very firm believer that it is within everybody’s right to examine the actions of their government.”

Looking very forward to seeing this movie.

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Jun 04

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.

Singapore Eats

I sent a short e-mail to Adrianna of Popagandhi: “Where are the good places to eat in Singapore, in your opinion?” I got a lengthy, pretty thorough e-mail in reply. I’ve decided to stick up a copy of the recommendations list in case anyone else is interested in Singaporean cuisine.

Exams! Dead Ahead!

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

Jun 04

Second star to the right…

A company called Scaled Composites is going to launch, if successful, what would be the first privately-developed manned craft into space on June 21. It’s been solely sponsored by Paul Allen (ex-Microsoft). Although this flight will be done solo, the ship fits three people which makes it eligible to run for the Ansari X-Prize, a US$10m prize to the first team that does what Scaled Composites is doing, but carries three people and performs two successful launches within two weeks with the same ship.

Heavens Above

Laputan Logic has had a spate of interesting astronomically related posts recently, such as on the Cassini-Huygens probe which is beaming back some marvellous photos of Saturn and its moons. Saturn has a lot of moons, and some of them are very interesting. (Star Wars fans are always interested to hear about Mimas.)

I’ve also uploaded a small gallery of the astrophotography that Dad’s been taking of the night sky. The photos look best when zoomed in to their normal size.

Jun 04

Updated Section

Updated the About page with a bit of code to automatically update my age. Also inserted another small section on that page. Ahh yes… it’s that stuvac procrastination thing again.

How not to Succeed in Law School

It’s official. Litigation 1 is the suckiest subject this session. I mean Legal Theory was a fair amount of philosophical wank, but at least it was interesting (once you cut through that “why use one word when fifty will do?” syndrome). Litigation is chock full of uninteresting rules and technicalities and little bits and pieces which always seem to gravitate towards the nebulous principle of “judge’s discretion” or “with the leave of the court” anyway. Exam for it is next Wednesday. Ugh.


Anyway, time for some quirky legal humour. This journal article appears to have made it into Yale Law Journal: How not to Succeed in Law School. It’s bloody funny. Eg:

A law professor’s greatest aspiration is to be like Professor Kingsfield in the movie The Paper Chase. One professor who saw the movie decided (this is a true story) to act out one of the scenes from the film in his class. He called on a student, who replied that he was unprepared. The professor said, “Mr. Jones, come down here.” The student walked all the way down to the front of the class. The professor gave the student a dime, and said, “Take this dime. Call your mother. Tell her that there is very little chance of your ever becoming a lawyer.” Ashamed, the student turned and walked slowly toward the door. Suddenly, however, he had a flash of inspiration. He turned around, and in a loud voice, said, “NO, Clyde.” (He called the professor by his first name.) “I have a BETTER idea! YOU take this dime, and you go call ALL YOUR FRIENDS!” The class broke into pandemonium. The professor broke the student into little bitty pieces.

The judgment in Cordas v. Peerless Transport Co is incredible. I thought Lord Denning gave dainty descriptions of the facts, but Justice Carlin’s judgment is a unique, convoluted monstrosity. I couldn’t imitate that writing that if I tried. Not that I’d want to. Here’s a sample:

This case presents the ordinary man–that problem child of the law–in a most bizarre setting. As a lowly chauffeur in defendant’s employ he became in a trice the protagonist in a breach-bating drama with a denouement almost tragic. It appears that a man, whose identity it would be indelicate to divulge was feloniously relieved of his portable goods by two nondescript highwaymen in an alley near 26th Street and Third Avenue, Manhattan; they induced him to relinquish his possessions by a strong argument ad hominem couched in the convincing cant of the criminal and pressed at the point of a most persuasive pistol. Laden with their loot, but not thereby impeded, they took an abrupt departure and he, shuffling off the coil of that discretion which enmeshed him in the alley, quickly gave chase through 26th Street toward 2d Avenue, whither they were resorting ‘with expedition swift as thought’ for most obvious reasons. Somewhere on that thoroughfare of escape they indulged the stratagem of separation ostensibly to disconcert their pursuer and allay the ardor of his pursuit. He then centered on for capture the man with the pistol whom he saw board defendant’s taxicab, which quickly veered south toward 25th Street on 2d Avenue where he saw the chauffeur jump out while the cab, still in motion, continued toward 24th Street; after the chauffeur relieved himself of the cumbersome burden of his fare the latter also is said to have similarly departed from the cab before it reached 24th Street.

Dating in NYC

Gawker reports on a lawyer’s reaction to getting turned down after a date. He wants damages for breach of contract.

To: [X] Subject: Invoice 6/12/04 Date: Sat, 12 Jun 2004 17:15:59 EDT


On June 5, you agreed to accept dinner, paid for in full, by me, based on your stated offer that we would go out again. In that you have ignored all overtures to said follow up meeting, you are hereby considered in breach of contract.

To that end, you are being invoiced for 50% of the cost of the dinner, pursuant to the offer. For the record, the offer presented you with the option of not going out again and paying for half of the dinner, or going out again and not paying at all. You accepted these terms, choosing to go out again, as stated above, but have since failed to deliver your end of the agreement. In that this was merely a promise to meet, and not a promise to marry, the agreement is binding under New York law and does not require a written agreement (i.e. statute of frauds).

Furthermore, this is absolutely not a joke.

Your share is 50% of $74.51 which is a total of $37.25. Payment in full is expected within 30 days.

You may remit to:

Issues about paying legal fees if this were to go to court aside, if you want to get technical (from the perspective of Aussie contract law), there’s the problem of whether there was any intention to create legal relationships. There’s a presumption against such an intention in social contexts (Todd v Nicol) and I don’t know what this guy’s idea of a social context is, but things don’t much more social than a date. Ok. Back to studying.

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Cost of Living

Mercer has released the results of its 2004 global cost of living survey. Tokyo and London head the list as the world’s most costly cities to live in. New York City is 10th. Sydney places 20th, buoyed by a strong exchange rate. Top 50 list is here as a PDF. The survey “covers 144 cities and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location. These include housing, food, clothing and household goods as well as transportation and entertainment”.

Cities in Australia and New Zealand have risen most in the rankings this year due to the significant appreciation of local currencies against the US dollar. Sydney is the most expensive city in the region, increasing from 67th place in 2003 to 20th position, with a score of 91.8. Other high-scoring cities in Australia include Melbourne in 67th position (77.5) and Brisbane in 87th place (72.7).

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Jun 04
Jun 04

Want a Gmail account?

Submit an article to The Backbench. We’ll send a Gmail invite to the person who writes the best submission for our next issue. Submission guidelines here. We normally only get a two or three external submissions per issue, so you’ve got a good chance.

Jun 04

One way to learn Latin

Quote from my property law lecturer (referring to constructive notice stemming from actual occupation): “So Justice Dixon said that you can’t rely on the ipse dixit of the vendor. Which is just another way of saying, don’t listen to the vendor’s bullshit.”

Its real definition is here, but I like the one above better.

Jun 04

Advice Needed

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

At the Malaya At the Malaya

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Jun 04

How I Use Gmail

I am a compulsive e-mail archiver. My Outlook Express mailbox, which is compressed, weighs in at more than a gigabyte. However, a gigabyte would be more than enough for me (and almost everyone else), if it weren’t for large attachments. If the average mail size is 5kb, and you get 100 emails that you keep per day, it would still take more than 5 years to fill up a Gmail mailbox. It’s the attachments that really eat up your Gmail quota. However, I like the ability to check Gmail on the run.

What I do is set up a forwarder email address which forwards mail to two addresses: Gmail, and a regular POP3 mailbox. Outlook checks the latter, and I use Gmail when I’m out and about. Generally, I delete unimportant emails with attachments from Gmail to keep space usage down, but this still allows me to check my entire mail archives using Gmail while on the run. If I really need to retrieve a large attachment, I use Outlook Express to do it. People email me on the forwarder address, and I set the “From” email address field in Outlook and the “Reply-to” email address field in Gmail (since you can’t change the From address there) to the forwarder address.

Another idea: Gmail recently put the number of unread emails into the title bar of the web browser window. Since Gmail will check your mailbox for you periodically and update the title bar, a third party should write an application that monitors the Gmail title bar and if the unread emails number ticks up, play a sound or some other notification that you’ve got new mail. Google could itself build this feature into Gmail, but I guess there are issues with playing sounds through different web browsers.

Jun 04
Jun 04


I’m currently doing a take-home exam for Constitutional Law which happens to be partially on the implied freedom of political communication. I thought it was pretty apt then, that I got this in the email from Jack:

A lobbyist on his way home from work in Canberra traffic comes to a dead halt in a long line of banked up traffic, and thinks to himself “Wow, this seems worse than usual.”

He notices a cop walking between the lines of stopped cars, so he rolls down his window and asks, “Officer, what’s the hold-up?”

The cop replies, “The Prime Minister is depressed with the way opinion polls are going, so he stopped his limo and is sitting in the middle of the road threatening to douse himself with petrol and set himself on fire. He says no one believes his stories about why we went to war in Iraq, or the connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda, or that his tax cuts will help anyone except his wealthy friends, or that he won’t retire half way through his next term to let Peter Costello in. So we’re taking up a collection for him.”

The lobbyist asks, “How much have you got so far?”

The officer replies, “About 20 litres, but a lot of people are still siphoning.”

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Transit of Venus

Dad took this terrific picture of Venus “crossing” the Sun about half an hour ago:

Transit of Venus (8/6/04 5.43pm)
Transit of Venus
5.43pm, f/22, 1/4000s

Jun 04

Microsoft Patents Double-Clicking

“Microsoft has successfully patented using short, long or double clicks to launch different applications on ‘limited resource computing devices'” (link here, from Fuzzy). When electronic buttons have been around for decades, you’d think that clicking of any kind would be unpatentable. Well, one of the issues with the folks down at the patent office is that they are pretty swamped with patent applications. In the interests of efficiency, and keeping that pile of paper down to some manageable amount, they have a habit of not being very thorough with approving patents. In this, I suppose they rely more on the community to pick out the problematic patents, which more often enough emerge when a court action of some kind arises because a patent holder decides to sue.

Jun 04

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.

Jun 04

RFC: Professional and Personal Relationships

I was recently sent this e-mail:

Question I’ve been wondering about for the last couple of weeks, for reasons
that I guess are pretty transparent. What kind of loyalty is expected –
socially, not legally – in a job?

What I mean is this. As far as I can tell, people see it as their God-given
right to look around for a better job, and to take it with the minimum
allowed notice if they find one. However, the same thing is looked down on
in, for example, a romantic relationship (I guess there are plenty of
liberal-minded people who would even disagree with that). One difference is
that the decision to take or keep a job is usually financially motivated, so
a better financial offer is considered enough of a reason to abandon it –
but it also has a social ripple effect, because by leaving you add to the
workload (and not necessarily pay packet) of other people, or else decrease
the company’s productivity, which will come back and affect its employees;
either way that will have an effect on their lives, both financially and in
terms of stress, free time, yada yada… And in any half-decent job you’ll
have some kind of friendship with other employees and your employer; in any
other situation, doing something for self-serving financial reasons while
inconveniencing people around you would be seen as a betrayal of
friendship, wouldn’t it?

Of course, employment contracts tend to have clauses that allow you to
leave – specifying the amount of notice you have to give/get, whether you
can go and work for the competition, and so on – so in some sense your right
to leave is anticipated and accounted for. But there is (relatively)
clear-cut divorce law as well; that doesn’t make it open season for “keeping
your options open” all the time.

Does it make a difference what kind of work it is? If a bricklayer leaves
for a better offer, they can be replaced by the next guy that comes along
with (I imagine) a minimum of adjustment – not to say anything against
bricklayers, just that it’s the nature of the job that skills are
transferable almost universally. But in programming for example, it might
take a new employee months to come up to speed with the work done by someone
who left (especially if they don’t write good comments :); so it’s a bigger
investment, and kind of a vote of confidence, for the company to take you on
in the first place. Does that demand some kind of loyalty?

I’m interested in what other people think about this.

I’ll start. It’s true that there are certain similarities between the
commitment necessary for a job, and those required in a relationship.
As I’ve alluded to in the title of this post, however, there still is
– or should be, at least – a strong divide between professional and personal
relationships. As long as activities can be confined to those spheres,
then things aren’t going to get as morally problematic.

If you break your contract and go to work for a competitor because they
are offering you a hefty pay increase, then maybe you aren’t going to be
very well liked in your old company. Do it too often, and your professional
reputation may be shot. (Corporate slut, I believe the term is!)

Which is fair enough. When you are offered a role in a company, you
are making a commitment because the company is also making a commitment
to you in terms of training you and educating you. You’re also privy
to the inner workings of the business, and while you can’t legally
run off with trade secrets, there are intangible skills and techniques
(ie, experience) that you take out with you to other companies. You’re
understandably going to piss off more than a few people if you jump ship
at a critical time in the year and you’re a vital cog in the project.

Remember that it’s a two-way relationship, however. The company must
work to keep you as well. If the company doesn’t treat you well, then
it’s only fair that it doesn’t drag your career down a path
you don’t like. And since we’re talking about professional corporate
relationships here, we’re really boiling everything down to a sterile
cost/benefit proposition. What’s that phrase they keep flashing up at the
start of The Apprentice? “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

Companies don’t attract people merely by the size of the paypacket. The
perks, the people you work with (company culture), the opportunities
you are given to develop and the overall performance of the company are
some other factors. Perhaps the most important of those is the company
culture. There has to be a fit.

Things aren’t that cut and dried in real life, though, and there is a
fair amount of overlap between personal and professional matters. Whether
this is intentional (romance with a colleague, social events with
colleagues that aren’t work related) or unintentional (getting pissed off
with someone who is not pulling their weight in a team and taking that
grudge with you when you leave the office). Forming personal friendships
at work is expected. I mean, when you spend the majority of time of your
waking life at work, and you see these people virtually every day, you’re
going to befriend at least some of them! The better you fit the culture
of the company, the better you will get along with your colleagues on
both a personal and professional level.

And with any type of relationship, you’ll respect each other and if you
do have to jump ship, try to give sufficient notice. Not all companies
will dislike you if you swap companies. Some will be even supportive
(you’re alumni, after all, and could be working for a future client or
supplier). Personal considerations may play a part. Let’s say you’re
managing a small business with your wife, or a close friend. You get
a stunning job offer. Obviously your personal relationship with the
person is going to affect whether you take that offer, or don’t because
you know the stress it will cause the other person. But if we’re
talking about a large corporate enterprise, with people you may only
have known for a year or two, the strength of the personal relationships
is going to be a much lesser consideration in this case.

So, should there be loyalty? Unlike a marriage, where there are vows,
there are no such vows in business. Contracts are promises, but they
are not moral undertakings. Breaching a contract is not a criminal
offence (in a typical case), and if it’s worth your while to breach
one (accounting for money/reputation concerns) then there’s nothing
inherently bad about it in a moral sense. Professionally though?
It can be bad, yes.

Ok I’ve rambled on about this far longer than I intended. Comments?

  6:26pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Culture  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)  • 

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