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26 January 2007

Koh Kong

We got to the Cambodian border this morning and decided to spend the night in Koh Kong, although no one here can work out why we would do that on purpose.

Ping time to google.com is 1400ms. Yikes.

22 January 2007

Bangkok Airport Woes

We're sitting in the boarding lounge waiting to go to Bangkok. There was a news report on the television with the headline Bangkok Airport Woes: Officials claim that runways must be closed to repair cracks.

Sorry mum.

21 January 2007

Pundits

I've had the growing feeling over the past little while that I don't like pundits very much. I wasn't really sure what a pundit was, but whenever someone claiming to be a pundit said something I ended up deciding they were an idiot. I looked up pundit in the dictionary today. It means "a person knowledgeable about a particular topic."

I suspect that in practice it mostly refers to a person who is very opinionated about a particular topic. I don't like pundits any more than I did before I found out what it meant.

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead is the coolest zombie movie ever. So funny.

20 January 2007

Good Faith Law-breaking

You do have to ascribe some good faith. The government uses presidential authority when they think it’s necessary and the law does not provide the specific authority they need. If there is a road that can be taken, operating according to statutes or putting people into the criminal justice system when that makes sense, they will do that.

Paul Butler, former assistant to Donald Rumsfeld

19 January 2007

Lucky

I started the latest Monte Carlo at 1pm. It finished at 7:45pm, 20 minutes before the last bus home. I'm very fortunate.

Google vs Flickr

Flickr is a good example of how if you're tremendously brilliant and get in early you can compete with Google. For US$25/year Flickr must be the best value online service you'll find. It makes me wonder how Google hopes to compete, charging the same amount for less. Not only does Google give you a sad 6.5GB for photos (which isn't a whole lot), but the system is pretty shite. It looks like something a couple of talented programmers threw together in a few weeks. Flickr feels like 10 guys and years and years of perfecting.

I feel a bit sorry for Google, because they provide a lot of utility without getting a lot of money in return. But I'd be far more likely to pay a yearly fee for Gmail or Google Reader or Google Spreadsheets than I would be to pay for Google's online photo thing. Even if Flickr didn't exist. And unfortunately for Google it does.

Google should have bought Flickr instead of Picasa. Picasa on the desktop isn't even better enough than Flickr on the web. Although I do really like Picasa. I spent a while trying to work out how to connect Picasa up with Flickr, until I realised it was a waste of time.

I wonder what Google is thinking. Maybe they figured they'd just better have something in the market until they can build something good. I don't know why they bother charging for it though.

18 January 2007

S.A.F.E Plane


S.A.F.E Plane, originally uploaded by Nutloaf.

Absolutely brilliant. All along the answer to terrorism was so simple. Just put microphones in the toilets so you can listen for for suspicious sounds. I wonder how much they pay people for that job.

16 January 2007

Wen Jiabao

wen-jiabao-polytechnique1.jpg

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier

15 January 2007

Cambodia Budget

I've been very diligent about budgeting for Cambodia. After working out all my expenses and the income I'll get from Centrelink while I'm over there, I will have $6 left when I get home.

Charity starts at home

After the federal governments new welfare to work policy, virtually all the large charities said they wouldn't participate. The idea was for charities to look after people who suffered hardship as a result of the policy but the charities refused. Fortunately the Centre for Independent Studies came to the rescue with one of its trademark mediations.

For Anglicare to complain that claimants should not be forced on to charity is spectacularly to miss the point of its own existence.

Peter Saunders in The Australian

Stata and ‘ml init’

I've been using Stata's ml command for a while now. It's all quite nifty, but I couldn't figure out how to use the ml init part and I had a feeling that it would be a useful sort of command. When your likelihood function isn't globally concave there are no guarantees you're going to find the maximum you're looking for. The manual was pretty terse, and the book that explains it is $180 so I had just ignored it. But after running out of other options I started scouring the web for some example of it. And it's actually dead simple.

ml init beta:index=1 beta:_cons=0 /a=-4.566654 /b=-1.332323 /c=-0.54343

There is one equation and three parameters. All this command is saying that assume the coefficient on only regressor (mrw_index) is going to be in vicinity of 1 and the intercept in the vicinity of 0.

In this example the model failed to converge after 3 iterations with the hints and failed after 13 iterations without the hints. And that seems like a great improvement.

Flock

Flock is good.

Cheers mate

I was on my way to work this morning and the 370 was chuffing down King St. It whizzed past a guy waiting at a bus stop who got a bit upset when the bus didn't stop for him. He yelled at the bus driver, loud enough for several blocks to hear him, "Eh fuckhead!" The bus stopped in the middle of the road, opened its doors and the fellow ran up to us. As he jumped on, a little bashful, he said, "Cheers mate."

Coleman and Bartle

I am apparently last.fm's biggest fan of Coleman and Bartle. Rockin'.

Cambodia Bag


Cambodia Gear, originally uploaded by Nutloaf.

I've been having a competition with myself this trip around to see how small I could make me backpack. I found Onebag.com and it has a really good minimalist sort of travel gear list.

So I'm going to take this and see if I die or get anotherwise annoyed by its size. I'll let everyone know if it works.

A lot of the credit for the smallness has to go to my delightful little sleeping bag which weighs 800gms. Lovely.

14 January 2007

Soy might contribute to cancer

Cancer patients are being urged to avoid soy food products due to fears they can cause tumours to grow faster.

Cancer patients warned to avoid soy products - National - smh.com.au

I don't really know what to make of this. They don't actually quote the research. And a few months ago I had a look at the research on soy foods and cancer and couldn't find any evidence.

They're probably only talking about weirdo vegetarians like our house who have tofu and soy milk every day.

13 January 2007

Apocalypto

We were off to see Apocalypto at "The Broadway" last night. I thought it was brilliant, although I may have been one of the few in the cinema. When people tell you it's violent it would be unfair to say they are lying, but I don't feel like it detracts from the film. I get the feeling that for a lot of people their enjoyment equation goes a bit like this:

nasty sex/drugs/violence + great movie = slightly less great movie

I reckon we hope that directors will have a natural prejudice against nasty sorts of things because they make us uncomfortable. I didn't think the sex in Shortbus detracted from it at all. To me, making a movie that talked a lot about sex and actually had sex in it was a brave sort of thing to do. Talking about sex is easy. Clerks II talked a lot about it, and didn't have any. It was a good film, but it feels kind of fake. It feels like a film rather than a story. Films are concerned with the viewers response but stories are not. If the purpose of telling a story is to change things then perhaps a story should be more practical. But I don't think the purpose of stories always is to change things. If I was tortured in prison for 10 years I'd want the story of what happened told, not the story that would affect the most people.

I reckon that Mel Gibson is amazingly effective at giving some dimension to concepts that we talk about quite a lot but don't understand. People who saw his last film have a much better idea of what the rest of history understood crucifixion to be. And people who saw this film have a much better understanding of what ritual sacrifice means. Maybe our fresh understanding is simply that these things really suck arse. There are probably people who already understand these things pretty well, but I'm not one of them.

I also question whether it is possible to get desensitised to confronting violence. If we did then that might be a strong argument for having less of it. Although even if it was true I think art's best chance of changing the world and honouring its stories is by reflecting reality. If a film about an actual war desensitises people to violence, it's hard to blame the film. But I'm actually not sure that it does desensitise in the sense of caring or feeling less in the long-term. It can certainly make us feel numb, but I suspect that's closer to shell-shock than ambivalence. People who've experienced far worse violence in their lives than me watching a violent film have managed to maintain a sensitivity and distaste for violence.

Until I'd read All Quiet on the Western Front I'd been able to say that there are worse things in the world than war. For me, that had been the chink in the nonviolence philosophy. All I have left now is the idea that violence can sometimes create peace, but this is a far more fragile belief. On the balance, I would say that over the past few years my exposure to violence has dramatically sensitised me to it. And that is mostly thanks to the films and books that talk about the nasty parts, and definitely not the ones that glorify the fun side of violence and gloss over the nasty parts.

11 January 2007

Firebug

Firebug rocks. It solves every remaining HTML/CSS development annoyance at once.

iPhone

Apple's new iPhone is beautiful. As with most of Apple's stuff they've done everything you can really imagine to make it productive. Although what amazes me most isn't the phone, but why no one has done all this stuff before. None of it is difficult or particularly brilliant. It feels like the inevitable outcome of sticking a few smart people in a room for a couple of months. It's almost like every other company in the world is frightened of coming up with something new. Like anything that hasn't been done before is dangerous. The industry leaves these gaping functionality holes in their products so that Apple can waltz in and blow them all away with almost no effort at all. I suppose Apple have the size to make risky investments feasible, but virtually all of them pay off. You'd would think that others might have cottoned on by now.

It's a very nice phone though. I'd buy one. And after getting my new Nokia 1110 I'm pretty hard to impress.

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