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30/07/2003

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Big Brother

No, not the lame show, but the concept of omnipresent surveilance controlling our lives.

I have just read two of the Lury.gibson "Arthur Dogg" Data detective novels. And I am impressed.

As everyone who knows anything about modern fiction already knows, Gibson is a VERY influential writer, whose early work (Neuromancer, Johnny Mnemonic) not only predicted, and in many ways initiated, modern internet culture, but is also the basis for some big hollywood films. Gibson has brilliant ideas about the near term future, and comes up with beautiful, convoluted plots that will have you guessing for several hours after the end of the book. Gibson only has one problem, he can't write.

Actually reading a Gibson novel is a matter of making it through the torturous prose, discontinuous descriptions and nonsequiterial narrative so that you can understand what he is talking about and hence enjoy the good stuff. This has limited his audience to a small fraction of what it could be. (NB: It is still about a million times larger than the audience to anything I've written, published stuff included, so please understand that I am judging him by the standards of goodgreat literature, rather than normal people.)

This problem has a solution, which is to have Gibson write in partnership with someone else. William provides the ideas and the technically proficient writer makes it easy to read. This was first (that I know of) tried with Bruce Sterling in "The Difference Engine" a cyberpunk book set in an alternative 19th Century. (Incidentally, Gibson invented the word, concept and background of "cyberpunk"). The Difference Engine worked very well, had great ideas but was easy to read. Some readers complained that Bruce Sterling now started writing in a difficult to read way that was influenced by Gibson, but I didn't notice that.

Now William Gibson has hooked up with Lury to form gibson.lury, a writing partnership for the writing of readable good books, and these two books that I have just read are by them. They are Dangerous Data and Blood Data.

Time has moved on, and the sort of thing that was science fiction when Gibson was writing about it in the 1980s, is fact now. Which they have taken advantage of by giving you the URLs (web references) for the sites the detective uses in his seach. I love fiction with footnotes. A disease associated with having a PhD.

ANYWAY, the point of these novels, the running theme, is that there are now so many ways that people can get data about you that it is impossible to have any secrets. And that may be true for determined private individuals but if we look at this we can see just how far we are from total monitoring of our every move. The big bad banks can't even keep track of signatures.

Nonetheless this is an excellent series. To paraphrase my favourite quote (due to poor memory): "Orwell was so right he was wrong. He saw the future, and he wrote about it so well, and made it so scary, that we were on our guard and stopped it from happening. We developed an instinctive hate of secrecy and government secrets." The point being that it may well be openess and a totall lack of secrets that may come to be the threat.

This reminds me of what I said about 1984: Orwell got it almost right, the world did divide into a few warring blocks, the only mistake is that Oceania (what we call "The West") did not copy Eurasia (the Soviet Block) into totalitarianism. We copied Aldous Huxleys "Brave New World". Well but not as extreme. And the hedonistic but still free(ish) West proved so much more efficient than the other systems, and so much more desirable to the inhabitants, that we are well on the way to world domination.

The Need for 3rd Grade Mathematics

The radio on the way home was featuring a Background Briefing story about the de-regulation of the dairy industry. This one guy stuck right out, he was a University Lecturer on Rural Economics or something, once the ABC finally gets the transcipt online this will be clear. Here he was claiming that deregulation will result in big farms driving the little farms out of business. This is a valid hypothesis and sounds reasonable to me. Then he said that this was Bad because... big farms are more expensive than little ones. That the larger farms are forced to be less efficient and can't just use simple grass but need expensive suppliments etc. That they need expensive equipment and processes.

Let me see if I've got this right, the big dairies will undercut the small ones, and this is bad because big ones are more expensive.

Does he know what "undercut" or "more expensive" means?

Now he could have made an argument that having lots of little farms is a social good. That more expensive milk is a small price to pay for a vibrant "country culture" of national party voters with guns or some such thing. But no, he had to argue that cheaper milk is bad because it's more expensive.

25/07/2003

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Geekfest 2003

Sunday Night there were about 50 different amatuer telescopes set up on the North Sydney Cricket ground.

Hordes of geeks, (technical people such as myself), nerds (like Geeks, but without our social skills or good looks) and parents dragging children who they want to grow up to be Geeks or Nerds, were wandering about looking at the various telescopes, some of which were homemade from old sheetmetal, but still effective.

We checked out the telescopes, and looked through them to see various stars, star clusters, galaxies, a lot (too many) obscuring earth based clouds, one or two far, distant, interstellar, and hence more interesting clouds, and some people in the office at the top of the Hyundai building.

I had a good time.

22/07/2003

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Media Lies

Once again the news media has a scare story about "binge" drinking. And once again you have to read the whole article to find "the purposes of the survey, binge drinking was defined as consuming more than five drinks on any occasion".

So if you have 3 stubbies or cans of beer at a party, you are a "binge drinker" on a "drinking binge".

This is, to put it politely, organic fertilizer.

No-one, outside of hardcore Muslims or drinking researchers, call this a "binge". Lying bastards.

No I'm not being hard on them. If I call someone a "binge drinker" because I saw them down 3 cans of beer one afternoon, I am LYING. That use of the word "binge" is so far away from the accepted meaning of the word that it is straight out wrong.

And journalists still complain that they aren't trusted. And the University researchers are wrecking their credibility too. I bet Media Watch won't come down on these guys.

18/07/2003

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Book Review

Also copied here is a review of a series of books I've just finished reading.

This is Harry Turtledove's series about Alien invasion. Anyone concerned about spoilers should stop reading this review right now. The Books are Second Contact, Down to Earth and Aftershocks.

Proclaimed as alternative history it is straight out SF to me, with the exception that the Aliens invaded in 1942. WHich pissed them off no end. See they send this probe first, about 1600 years previously, and this showed 300 million Earthlings with the most advanced having swords and horses. Then the invasion fleet attacks and finds 3 billion Earthlings with not only aeroplanes and tanks and automatic weapons but in the process of developing jets, ballistic missiles, and nuclear weapons. AND, being 1942, every country was on a full war footing and totally prepared for combat.

Unfortunately I haven't found the books about the actual war, the subseries I am reading is set 20 years later, when the world is divided into Lizard controlled areas (basically the southern hemisphere), 3 major human powers (USA, USSR, the Deutch (Nazi) Reich, a couple of smaller powers (Japanese East Asian Co-prosperity sphere, Britain) and a scattering of independent countries (Canada, Finland... generally places too cold for the Lizard aliens to live).

Sydney and Melbourne got Nuked and that was that for Australia. The atmosphere isn't too radioactive: Probably not that clean, but I imagine the Lizard bombs are cleaner than primative human ones. Interestingly, the Lizards don't seem more than 10 or 20 years more advanced than humans in 2003, except for their spacecraft. Which is making it possible for humans to catch up.

Lots of tech stealing. There is a Jewish character who escapes from England (which is becoming more and more like the Reich, which is next door and a huge influence) to Canada. He works in a Widget Works that takes Lizard tech and adapts it to human uses. He develops a moving, talking, responding teddy bear and ends up rich. It confuses the hell out of the Lizards who see that their military tech has been taken and used to create this thing, but can't work out what for.

Mention is made that Hot is now a word that means good. The Lizards think that way and it made its way into English. Actually a lot of Lizard concepts made their way into English, fun is had with this all the way through.

Alien headquarters was in the outback but it was changed to Cairo after a missile attack loaded with Ginger.

Ginger is a very powerful drug to the Lizards. It gets the guys all high, and the girls get high and horny. As Lizards NEVER get horny except for mating season, and the guys automatically have sex when they meet a horny girl, an explosion of Ginger results in mass orgies on the streets. So too, having a female addicted to ginger means that if she ventures outdoors while high any passing male will loose all control and start mating with her. A female character in the book keeps having this problem. It's a real problem when she doing ginger in her office and is unexpectedly called to her (male)boss's office to see a (all male)delegation from Cairo.

The effect lasts for a day or so. And the presence of female pheremones means that any male within a few km is all edgy and horny and prone to starting fights with other males. (The Lizards describe it as making them act the way Big Uglies (human) males act) But it was banned even before the ships containing the females reached Earth and the sex effect was discovered. It also has the general effect of cocaine.

A large part of the books is actually about the Lizards trying to stop the Ginger smugglers. It is also concerned with the stupid, insane Nazis starting a new war to conquer Poland and get the Jews there. There is also the plotting between Molotov (head of USSR) and Mao (rebel leader in Lizard controlled China)

It is mainly a cold war, with lots of trade and negotiation.

An interesting aspect of the story is how the humans find that in many ways the Lizards are better than a lot of the humans. Everyone prefers the Lizards to the Nazis for example. At the end of the trilogy the French leave German control for Lizard control. And the Fins allow some Lizard control to keep the (Communist) Russians out. The Jews and the Poles allied themselves with the Lizards to throw the Reich and the USSR out.

I recommend this highly. Harry is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. The previous series I read by him was that of The American Front, Walk in Hell and Breakthroughs. Alternative histories of World War 1, where it didn't turn out as well as it did in our world...

17/07/2003

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51st State?

Our delightful papers are now full of speculation about Australia joining the USA. I simply don't see it. Why?

Advantages

  1. The right to keep and bear arms
  2. Joining the US economy and market
  3. Joining the US defense system
  4. Lower petrol prices and tax rates

Disadvantages

  1. Enormous transition costs
  2. Australia would become one of the largest and most powerful states, so the other big US states (California, Texas, New York) would make sure we didn't get full states rights, at least not right away.
  3. All of Australia would only get a couple of senators
  4. We would drive on the wrong side of the road

Now looking at the advantages, number 2 can be just as easily achieved with a free trade treaty. In fact we are doing that right now. Number 3 achieved with a defense treaty, in fact we did that decades ago.

That leaves the right to keep and bear arms, and lower petrol and tax rates. These advantages are both

So we are left with the same big question dogging the Republic: Just what do we get out of it that we don't have now?

16/07/2003

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Test Drive: Alfa 156 Selespeed 2.0

I just had a little test fang in a workmate's Alfa 156 Selespeed 2.0. Not a bad little thing, it was about as good as the Mitsubishi FTO (also a 2 litre, 125 kW, semiautomatic gearbox car, so the similarity isn't that strange). OK the Alfa wasn't as quick, but there were four bigish guys in it, so it was hauling a bigger load. The engine didn't have the hard edged revability of the FTO, but it was generally more quiet which helps conceal that sort of thing. It also was a lot more practical than the tiny little FTO sports car.

The selespeed was quite an interesting gearbox. It has a real clutch (computer controlled) rather than a torque converter, so it feels less like it is slipping and sucking power. The engine also automatically blips the throttle on downshift to match the revs. Very cool.

Both had nice, "you are now in a modern sporty car" interior, with leather seats, round dials, LED and LCD encrusted minor controls and stereo, etc. The Alfa did have a "typical Italian" quality flaw, there was a hose under the dashboard that was out of place and dropped into the passenger footwell and rubbed against the front passenger's leg. But the two cars were both nice, with the Alfa clearly having a heap more room.

The difference is that the FTO was 25 kW down on the real performance model, the GPX with the screaming 150 kW MIVEC engine with variable valve timing. The Alfa, on the other hand, has the option of a 183 kW 3.2 litre V6, which is starting to be a really serious engine. Still doesn't match up to what BMW can do with a 3.2 litre six, but this is front wheel drive, so... no, stuff it, there is no excuse. Alfa, get your act together and I would start to be really interested in this car with a BMW matching 235 kW, front wheel drive or not.

The Alfa was, of course, red. I have seen black Alfas, but they may be aftermarket paint jobs.

15/07/2003

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Deep Thoughts

Why is a disposable camera more expensive than a reusable camera plus a roll of film?

07/07/2003

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Movie Review: Charlie's Angels II

A disappointing movie. I watched the first one a week before going to see this one, and the sequel is nowhere near as good.

This is mainly due to the martial arts, which has gone from the Buffy school of occaisional neglect of momentum to the straight out superpowers school. Movie martial arts are like politician's expense accounts: once they start flying it all turns to crap.

Another issue is the girl with the big guns. She weighs maybe 50 kg, and is toting around these gold coated 0.50 caliber Desert Eagle pistols that would weigh at least 5 kg each. Together they mass 20% of her total body, and she is flipping them around as though they were lightweight plastic replicas. (Same problem with the gold in Three Kings last night actually. Someone please actually pick up what you are pretending to carry, it will show you just how wrong it all looks when you are using plastic replicas.)

On the other hand, this movie shows the girls in sexier poses and more revealling clothes than the last one. And almost every single hot car in the world made at least one appearance. In fact there was an entirely gratuitous scene at the end to fit in a Porsche, which hadn't been seen yet.

But overall, the whole movie was sillier and more cartoonlike than the first one. Maybe if I'd been in a different mood it would have worked. (When I first saw LA Story I thought it was stupid, later I saw it again and thought it was great.)

Another Geek Test

I scored 36.88363% - Major Geek on the Geek Test which is considerably higher than I thought, given I answered No to all the gaming questions.

Obesity in Children

The Sun Herald had the front page devoted to the epidemic of obesity among children these days, with several pages inside detailing the problem and possible solutions. However, it so happens that I spent Friday measuring schoolchildren for work, and the rate of fat kids was about 2%. That's it. Just 2%.

Now maybe Upper North Shore in Sydney schools (state schools though) are better than average, but a 2% rate is SO MUCH BETTER than just about anywhere else this side of North Korea.

Conclusion: It's all a media beatup and I shall ignore all future stories about it. Like the "Drugs in Schools" scare campaign.

03/07/2003

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MicroGun

I want one of these, maybe in .22.

A cool toy factor (ctf) of about 7. (1 is a stick, 10 is a genuine light saber or replicator or working spacecraft)

02/07/2003

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Localised Precipitation

Grey and miserable here. I am sitting here with my right sleeve soaking wet because that's the hand that goes outside the car to do all the swipe card thingies that open the electric garage doors at work. Well and that's the hand that locks the manual garage door at home, and the gutter has sprung a big leak just above the door handle.

It's like sticking your arm through a waterfall to lock and unlock the garage door.

Once the door is open of course, the waterfall lands on top of it, and proceeds to form a huge puddle on top while still streaming over all the sides. Then when the door is closed again, all the water dumps down in a wave on your head. I have learned to leap aside when I pull the door to close it. My girlfriend has not.

Great Engineering Kludges of Our Time

This is a new category, where I will be detailing the dodgy, last minute, you have $2 to solve this problem, engineering solutions to problems in our world. I don't mean the brilliant detail work of a well thought out product, and I don't mean the low budget bush mechanic solutions. I mean the big budget, original equipment manufacturers, who have done the bush mechanic technique anyway.

The perfect example could be Jaguar, who when faced with oil leaks in their cars, introduced larger sumps so that the car wouldn't run out of oil. Or I could have chosen MS Windows for well... anything. But I have chosen what is held by many to be a modern marvel, the Subaru WRX STi 4wd turbo.

The WRX STi is a moderately cheap, 4 cylinder Japanese car that is as fast as a late 1980s Lamborghini Contache. A car drawn by thousands of schoolkids in the back of their maths book when they are supposed to be doing calculus. A shining example of a high tech Japanese supercar.

But the WRX had a problem, the cooling system, originally designed for a 90 kW naturally aspirated engine, was having trouble keeping up with 207 turbocharged kW (or more). Particularly the number 4 cylinder, this tended to get overheated. So what did the Subaru engineers do? They put a larger injector in that cylinder. The extra fuel doesn't get burnt, it just acts as a coolant to keep the temperature down.

This kludge, which is worthy of the cheapest, emergercy backyard job, is standard fitment on one of the more respected of the high tech vehicles in the world. You have to love it.

26/06/2003

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Church Provision of Social Services

There is a lot of debate at the moment, both here is Australia and in the USA, about the government subcontracting out social services to Church groups, who are already providing such services using private money.

Naturally there is a lot of opposition to such a change. Ignoring those who oppose change on principal, and those who are benefiting from the current system, there are two main arguments against this idea.

  1. Anti-religious socialists who feel that churches will corrupt government
  2. Libertarian religious who feel that government will corrupt the churches

I would go with the second camp.

The Interrogation

I got home last night, and as I walked in, my girlfriend was there, and she looked at me with a questioning look on her face.

25/06/2003

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More Media Low-Grade BS

As I mention below, the media is making it impossible for people to have deep trust in their news reports, by the simple but stupid policy of constantly reporting "news" that everyone KNOWS is just not true.

So on the radio this morning was some astronomer complaining that light from modern cities makes it difficult to see the stars clearly. This is a well known problem and he has my sympathy. But then he started to give examples:

These are, to put it mildly, clearly false.

I live in Sydney, Australia's largest city. And only two days before this broadcast I was taking rubbish out to the bin when I stopped and looked at the constellation Scorpio sitting in the sky above me. Sure it wasn't as clear as if I was out in the country, far from any lights, but what this "expert" was saying was clearly false. And everyone knows it.

Well not EVERYONE, but everyone who has the slightest interest in looking at stars, presumably his target audience. Anyone who ever looks up at night will know that he is vastly exaggerating his points. Not a little bit of hyperbole for emphasis, but straight out scaremongering that is clearly such.

As a result, I, a person who would normally be sympathetic to his problem, was turned completely off. When he started going on about his preferred solution, that people in cities go about in the dark, (presumably with government Light-Police enforcing the No Glare rules) so that the astronomers can work in the suburbs and not have to live out in the sticks surrounded by rednecks and bugs... well I wasn't interested.

Loser.

Though I suppose that if he was socially ept and able to interact well with other humans, what are the chances that he would have done a degree in astronomy in the first place? Not that I can talk, with my PhD in Engineering.

Tax is Good?

John Quiggin has brought up what he sees as a flaw in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Australia and the USA. But in doing so he may have played right into the hands of the agreements proponents.

The "flaw" is that an FTA would preclude Australia from introducing carbon taxes onto US imports, thus making it difficult for Australia to implement the Kyoto agreement, if we want to.

Now lets look at this, the "flaw" in this treaty is lower taxes. Am I the only one that would see this a good thing? In the words of the engineer "that's not a bug, that's a feature".

24/06/2003

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Murphy's Law

30 minutes after someone completed the auction at Ebay to buy my old doors, I am informed that I need to keep them. Ummm, too late. That's a legal contract don't you know?

Links

I've updated my links. The slow but steady process of linkrot, combined with a subtle shift in my viewing habits, has lead to some rewriting. And I've dumped the link to the Links Explained page because, it no longer explains the current links, and I couldn't be bothered rewriting it.

Shifting Politics

Tim Blair has an interesting thread on changing politics as you mature.

It's said that if you aren't a socialist when you are 20 you have no heart, if you are still a socialist when you are 40, you have no brain.

When I was 20 I thought this was crap. I wasn't a socialist, I voted for the Nationals. (This was in Qld).

Now I'm closer to 40 (now that's a scary sentence) I realize I WAS a socialist. The Nationals, while allegedly more right wing than the Liberals, actually have rather more socialist economics. They are in favour of price controls, and tariffs, and government subsidy of industry. It is just all in favour of rural industries, rather than the more typical socialists love of urban industries.

I no longer vote National. They are too left wing.

So the analysis indicates I have a heart AND a brain. Cool!

23/06/2003

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Worst Drivers

So the TV had a nationwide search for the worst driver in Australia, and come up with... an elderly, asian woman in a hat. I'm not touching that one.

17/06/2003

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Essays on Evolution

This site here has a series of marvelous essays on Evolution. They are all speculation but I particulary liked the ones on Dancing and Breasts. Via Yobbo

16/06/2003

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Rates of Change

Tim Blair has a post on the memories of the old relatives, and this continues in the comments section to talk about the changes people have seen over their lives.

This brings up the point I have always maintained. People who claim that our rate of change is accelerating have not looked at the history books. I reckon the changes a person experiences going from about 1890s to 1940s would be the biggest ever. Much more so than 1940s to 2000s, despite so called "accelearating rates of change".

Think about it.

1890s Horses, carts, most people living on a farm with horse drawn ploughs, cold water, wood fires, candles...

1940sCars, trucks, most people living in a city with trains, electricity, sewerage systems, radio, plastics, aircraft and hearing about Nuclear bombs, jet aircraft, ballistic missiles, germ warfare and computers and TV.

2000sCars (but better than the 1940s), trucks (but better than the 1940s), most people living in a city with trains, electricity, sewerage systems, radio, plastics, computers, Jet aircraft and TV and hearing about Nuclear bombs, ballistic missiles, germ warfare.

The differences between 1940s and 2000s are mainly improvements in what you already have, and transfer of Jets, computers and TV from the "hearing about" to the "experience" catagory. The differences between 1890s and 1940s were total changes in the way things were.

To put it another way, Cowboys who had gunfights in the wild west got to watch movies about it on TV. Wyatt Earp actually helped make early cowboy movies. It was possible for one man to fight against Indians on the American frontier when he was young and work as a computer programmer at a nuclear reactor or in the Space program when he was old. And all without leaving the area he grew up in.

What level of change in modern times matches that?

10/06/2003

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Constant, Lowgrade, Bull

Watching the news last night, I was confronted with a "story" about some boat that had just circumnavigated Australia. The story had three major points:

  1. The crew were all aborigines. This seemed likely enough, they all looked aboriginal, at least partly.
  2. The boat was welcomed in by a huge ceremony featuring speeches by senior politicians.
  3. The boat had by "coincidence" arrived on the exact 200th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of Australia by Matthew Flinders.

So what is the problem? The fact that points 2 and 3 are completely incompatible. You don't get a huge ceremony featuring speeches by senior politicians organised on the spur of the moment. It was clearly organised for weeks, if not months in advance. So the "coincidence" was complete garbage. They had clearly planned exactly when they would arrive and probably rested up in the Hawkesbury or something for a week to get the timing right. It was a set-up.

So what? It was clearly a small fib to make the whole Queen's Birthday celebration a bit more symbolic. But, the whole point was, it was one more example of the mass media indulging in a clear and obvious bit of fiction. Every day we get stories that we know are NOT TRUE.

The result is, we don't trust them. We know that the media makes stuff up to make it sound better. Either that or the reporters are so clueless that they print whatever garbage an official spokeswombat tells them. And everyone can see this, everyday.

So when something happens, like senior politicians were found to be having a bit of a bonk, which clearly affected government decisions, and the media kept quiet about it, well no-one is surprised. Or, to give a more recent example, the so-called casus belli, the Weapons of Mass Destruction turn out to be missing: No-one much turns a hair. Because no-one believed it anyway.

Some people knew all along that it was to get the oil, so as to reduce oil prices and so benefit the Texas oil companies by reducing their profits. Or something like that, it wasn't clearly thought out.

Others were convinced that it was a long term plan to introduce democracy to the Middle East and reduce the supply of petrodollars to the Islamic extremists supported by Saudi Arabia. This also required getting the oil, but didn't have a logical paradox of reducing the profits of the companies that were supposed to be arranging it.

A third group was convinced it was because Americans like wars.

A fourth, even weirder explanation was that this was some giant magical spell. That allowing Jews to take control of the Holy Lands would result in the END OF THE WORLD. Besides clearly being devised by a group who did far too many drugs while watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this theory actually has people who believe in it. I've heard aging hippies at my workplace say that this was the reason for the war. Note: I'm not sure the Hippy believed the spell would work, just that the US government believed it would work.

The point is that nobody believed the Media stories that it was about Chemical Weapons. (After all, no-one invaded in the 1980s when Saddam USED chemical weapons, did they?) So no-one was really pissed off to find the Chemical Weapons couldn't be found.

The Media doesn't quite get this. Because they still think people believe them.

05/06/2003

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Killing The Undead

First a Victorian man launches an attack with sharpened wooden stakes, then a Vampire is killed in Melbourne.

Co-incidence? Or is something up in Victoria we should know about?

The only problem I have with the story is the timing:

...a vampire died after being shot in the neck in a daylight ambush.

Though I suppose that in Melbourne there was still very little risk of Sunlight.

04/06/2003

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Business Cards

Last night my girlfriend asked me to design her business card. Then she realized that she had left the stove on under the now boiled dry wok, and that was where the smell of burning teflon and fish was coming from.

So... I was left unsupervised by an adult as I wrote her business card. The result was so interesting that I thought I should post it, though she ended up changing the lot before she was happy.

Oh yeah, and the whole place now smells of smoke. This isn't helped by my kitchen exhaust extraction fan being taken away for "repairs" on Christmas Eve, and not being returned yet.

02/06/2003

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Not Much to Write

Following on from the idea of keeping paper and pen ready for boring stretches of time so I can blog idea: I am now sitting in an office on Saturday and I can think of nothing to write.

Current Events? I'll have a stab at them:

Governor General. Nothing to say, he should have gone, so should every other government figure with the same sort of history. I thinking of all those judges who let criminals out of jail to reoffend, the Queensland government that covered up the Pedophilia of government ministers, the politicians who refuse to reintroduce flogging for people who vandalize sports cars...

Hijacking with wooden stakes. Either arm the pilots or have everyone fly naked.... OR rely on people to deal with matters in a responsible manner themselves, as they've shown complete ability to do.

SARS. The effective suppression of the spread of SARS shows what should have been done to stop AIDS 20 years ago. And it would have been done if victim politics hadn't got in the way. It would have been easier with AIDS too.

Finally saw the Matrix Reloaded

Conclusion: Grrrr... That ending is very annoying. On the other hand, there is a real need for a new Superman movie, the special effects have developed to the point where such a movie would be staggeringly better than the last time Clark hit the big screen.

I have to give the Matrix writers credit for developing a world where magic can work, while still obeying all the laws of physics that we have now.

And the car chase? Yep. It's good. It may be a contender for the best car chase ever. Even better than Ronin, and an order of magnitude more so than that boring old has-been of Bullitt. I'll have to watch Ronin again to make sure.

30/05/2003

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Blade vs. Electric

Tim Dunlop brings up the subject of electric razors and how they are as good as blade razors, providing you drive a bulldozer over the blade several times before the comparison.

I was having this discussion the other night. It seems to be a cultural thing. Most Chinese men for example won't touch a blade razor.

I suspect it could be in your upbringing. After all it is (in theory) a scary idea to get the sharpest blade you can find and run it all over your face. All Australian boys grow up seeing their dads do this every day with very few injuries. So we are used to the idea.

If you don't have that childhood background, you go for the more expensive electric razor, with the associated poorer cut.

NB: I do have an electric razor, I keep it in the briefcase for when I am going into a meeting and suddenly remember I forgot (was running late/was drunk/not at my house when I woke up) to shave recently.

15/05/2003

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Continuing the Discussion on Whiskey

In reply to the comment that some of the Asian countries are the biggest drinkers of Scotch...

The supermarkets in Korea were very interesting. Not only was there a large Spirits section, but the cheapest Scotch was about $70/bottle. And Johnny Walker apparently have blends (White Label, Grey Label, Green Label) specifically for the Asian market. Sweeter apparently.

The other point about Korea was that they serve Soju (Korean Vodka) in stubbies. You'd go to a pub and order a soju and you'd get a stubby. With 350 ml of 40% Vodka in it. A few rounds of those and I was over my limit. Even though it was snowing in the beer garden.

And they serve the beer in 3000 ml jugs. And sell Soju in the supermarket in 3 litre bottles for $8.50.

Ah.... good times....

14/05/2003

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So the Governer General has Gone

I don't have a problem with this, anyone who thinks that violent criminals should be dealt with by not sending them to jail shouldn't be in government. The real question is how do we extend this principal to include all the other politicians and judges who regularly let criminal free to walk the streets?

A cynic might note that the major long term effect of all this is to remove the heat from Simon Crean so that he remains as leader of the Labor party, at least for the moment.

A paranoid cynic might note that that is exactly what the Liberal party wants.

13/05/2003

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Reply to my Street Violence Posting

Michael Jennings has some comments about my below comments on street violence. This leads me to make the comment on his blog that:

I have actually had one "incident", in the well known crime capital of Adelaide, but no violence eventuated. I was walking along, at about 1 am, when three guys approached me going in the opposite direction. Suddenly one of them threw a bottle to the ground (where it shattered) and swore "FUCK!" Naturally I started, and then the lead guy walked up to me and asked if I had a problem. So I looked him in the eye and replied that I had no problem.

This was an acceptable answer, so they walked off.

09/05/2003

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More Blogging

I've been writing a lot more lately. This is because I've been taking a notepad and pen wherever I go to fill in those annoying times when you're waiting for something or someone. Another alternative is a book. Of course it is rude to pull out a notepad or book when the person you are talking to suddenly gets a phone call. That's another advantage of doing it.

On a train on the other hand (as I am now) it just makes people get suspicious and behave themselves.

All True Wealth is Biological

Johnnie Walker has over 6 million casks of whisky currently maturing. This is worth more than the total gold reserves of the Bank of England. Which is as it should be.

Another World

When I look at a website like this, I think 2 things.

1. What a lot of cool stuff.

2. Either this guy is a paranoid schizo, or American cities must be SO MUCH worse than Oz ones. I mean maybe I've been lucky but in my entire life I don't know anyone who has been attacked on the street. (Well not as a grownup. Kids bully eachother all the time.) And I've spent a lot of time wandering around drunk, alone, in what I would consider seedy places like Redfern in Sydney, Australia, or mining towns, in Australia, and South America, and Russia. Not to mention some illegal drug centres in India and steel working towns in South Korea.

06/05/2003

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Yet Another Silly Test

Via The Drivel Warehouse. The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Extreme
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

05/05/2003

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Warping Young Minds

As part of my job I was in a primary school library yesterday, so I had a look at the books kids are reading today. There were 5 sorts.

1. Books I remember. Such as The Know-How Book of Puppets, I don't remember the name, but one look at the cover brought back memories of making paper crocodiles and the like.

2. Books I still read. ie. Harry Potter

3. Books that seem familiar, but with a twist. I'm thinking here of The 3 little wolves and the big bad pig. This looked so interesting that I read it in a quiet moment. For 95% of the book (19 pages) it was a great reverse telling of the classic tale. (Don't ask WHICH classic tale.) Then it fell into a stupid heap of new-age political correctness as aromatherapy cured the pig of his badness and they all lived happily ever after. This is not what I want. And it isn't what I wanted as a little kid either. Kill the bad guy, or at least leave him dangling over a cliff having to subsist on berries.

4. Books of the sort that I knew of, but this exact book is new to me.

5. Blatant government propaganda. eg. What is World Heratige and Oliver the Octopus who Smoked. Oh wait, Oliver the 8-cigarette-at-a-time octopus was Government Propaganda from when I was young. I guess Big Brother trying to warp young minds isn't a new thing after all.

At least the Big Bad Shark wasn't cured by stupid aromatherapy.

NOTE: I am not saying smoking is good for you. Or good for octopusses. Just because propaganda is true doesn't mean it isn't propaganda. Propaganda is anything where the point is to give you a message, to change your behaviour, rather than tell a story.

Whisky Tasting

Whisky Tasting is good. This free Scotch Whisky tasting lesson is put on by Johnnie Walker for the express purpose of getting people to drink more whisky. It worked for me.

However, a brief analysis of the program reveals that the point SEEMS to be to convince us that Blended Johnnie Walker is superior to all those single malts. But all participants that I spoke too came to the opposite conclusion. So the course seems a failure. Until you realize that all the single malt whiskys are owned by the Johnnie Walker company too. So maybe it is just being sly.

Anyway I didn't touch scotch until I did this course 2 years ago. Now I'll drink $100/bottle single malts because I know what to buy and what to think about when I taste it.



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