Tuesday, August 29, 2006

80's Ball

The uni is having a post-graduate ball. In typical form, most of the maths crew are not going, but I don't care. I'm going. Theme: the 80's. I need ideas!

I'm thinking a singer but most of them aren't the most masculine of characters including: Billy Idol, Adam Ant, and Michael Jackson. Failing that, I could go as a famous movie character such as one of the Ghostbusters, Martin Mc Fly (Back to the Future), Ferris Bueller, or Beetle Juice.

If I get desperate, dressing up as a Rubik's Cube or Space Invader might work... Any other suggestions?

Update: My hair is currently longer than usual, and subsequently curly, and in desperate need of a haircut. However, I figured I could colour it something crazy for the ball.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Star Trek PhD

Unbelievable. Unis will give PhDs for anything nowadays:

It's the PhD thesis that boldly goes where no thesis has gone before. Djoymi Baker watched 700 episodes - 624 hours without ads - of Star Trek and its spin-offs, dating from 1966 to 2005, in the name of research.

She analysed the series armed with an exhaustive knowledge of the characters and storylines of ancient mythology - from Homer's Odyssey down.

It may sound like torture for those with an aversion to William Shatner's campy theatrics but, six years and 90,000 words on, it has earned Dr Baker a coveted chancellor's prize for excellence at Melbourne University. And the respect of academics and Trekkies alike.

I wonder if you can do a PhD in Spiderman or any other Marvel characters?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Quality Flicks

In Brisbane, I could watch a decent film at the Southbank cinemas for $5.70. Here they charge about $12. A little steep, but I'd pay IF there was any good films showing. What the hell is Snakes on Planes! Who finances this shit? Can you imagine the writer pitching it to the producer:

"So we have this really cool idea for a movie. You'll love it. We have this plane, you see. And then we have all these super deadly snakes that can kill you, right? Cool. Now we grab the deadly snakes AND we put them, wait for it, we put the snakes on the plane! Snakes ON a plane! Brilliant, eh?" - Writer

"So, what's it called ?" - Producer

"Um, we're still working on that..." - Writer

Amazing. And what is Samuel L. Jackson doing? Does he have a chronic coke habbit which needs financing? Who would put their name on this "film"? I thought it couldn't go much lower for Jackson than Deep Blue Sea, which featured genetically modified super-intelligent sharks swimming around out smarting the cast. But nope. Jackson proved me wrong.

My mind boggles at what shit Hollywood produces at times. I'll check when the film is playing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Subtle Cult

Recently we received in the mail a small flyer with the large writing: Every 75 Seconds, another innocent citizen is incarcerated by psychiatry. Instantly, I'm sceptical of their wording and statistics. Every 75 seconds? Incarcerated? Innocent? Obviously this is a sham. But for interest, I read on:

Psychiatrists rely on commitment laws that empower them to strip people of basic rights and force them to undergo unworkable, harmful and punitive "treatments" - funded by insurance companies and tax payer dollars.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHF) is an international voice for people abused within the mental health system.

If you, a loved one or friend has been forced into a psychiatric facility or to undergo "community health treatment", committed involuntarily or harmed by psychiatric treament, contact the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

We will take action.

Well, isn't that a relief. The CCHF is helping to liberate those poor souls that pyschiatrists deem mentally unfit. And here I thought Australia had too many mentally unfit people on the streets.

This anti-psychiarty propaganda smells like the Church of Scientology. Wiki confirms it is indeed the mad COS boys and girls behind this rubbish, including their pin-up boy Tom Cruise (whose films incidentally I'm boycotting unless I can see them for free). Not too subtle COS, not too subtle at all.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Years of higher level calculus, and I've been spending the last week or so working with highschool geometry and trig. I'm trying to obtain an expression for the area of two overlapping circles in a *simple* form with only four input paramters. I think I have it, now I have to simplify it. Looks tough so I've decided to go here to expand my mind and get the creative juices flowing so to speak. It's all part of the PhD experience.

I'm going to be here for a very long time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Privatising Oil Companies

I have mixed thoughts about privatisation. My economically liberal side thinks that private companies run businesses more efficiently and create competition, and thus reduce the price of goods. My more sceptical side acknowledges the fact that companies can be downright bastardly in their business runnings. Needless to say, a tough decision.

Additionally, I'd like to think that oil prices don't affect my lifestyle since I don't own a car but alas, there are no farms in close proximity to inner city Melbourne. This in mind, The Economists points out an interesting fact:

When activists, journalists and others speak of “Big Oil”, you know exactly what they mean: companies such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell.

Yet Big Oil is pretty small next to the industry's true giants: the national oil companies (NOCs) owned or controlled by the governments of oil-rich countries, which manage over 90% of the world's oil, depending on how you count. Of the 20 biggest oil firms, in terms of reserves of oil and gas, 16 are NOCs. Saudi Aramco, the biggest, has more than ten times the reserves that Exxon does.

NOCs are sheerly amazing in size. Exxon-Mobil recently broke a record for making a billion US dollars per day. Imagine how much NOCs rake in. No wonder oil-rich Norway (owner of Statoil) declined to be in the EU.

The Economist (naturally as it is an economically liberal publication) believes the solution is privatisation of NOCs:

NOCs produce less oil, more expensively, than they should. That is bad for consumers, of course, in so far as it pushes up the price of oil. But it is also bad for oil-producing countries, which could be squeezing more profit from each barrel if their NOCs were more efficient. Moreover, there are several NOCs not bound by OPEC quotas, such as Mexico's Pemex and Russia's Rosneft, which would love to boost production to take advantage of the current high price, but are struggling to do so.

I say down with the oil cartel OPEC, and down with state-owned oil companies.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cunning Women

If this study holds any water, it's very cunning of the opposite sex:

The female sex drive starts sputtering to a halt as soon as a woman has got her man, according to a new study.

Researchers have found that women's libido plummets so rapidly when they believe they are in a secure relationship that after just four years the proportion of 30-year-old women wanting regular sex falls below 50 percent.

There are few things that appear able to keep a woman sexually interested, the study found, but living apart for extended periods can help.

The findings for women contrast with those for men, whose sexual appetite hardly flagged at all up to 40 years after marriage.

The joke's on them. I ain't dating 30-year-olds. In fact, I ain't dating at all... Now the obvious result:

The Germans found, however, that living apart slows the decline in female libido, confirming the maxim "absence makes the heart grow fonder".

You think? Well, it's good to know:

Women whose husbands or boyfriends have higher educational qualifications than their own also maintain their sex drive.

I find this result strange, but regardless, bless my PhD (in progress).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Beers and Census

One dolalr beers. Four dollar fifty jugs. Who can refuse that? I'm only human. And we beat this annoying pom in pool and won a jug of beer. Good night. The ten-dollar kebab was a bit steep though.

In other news, none of you fools put "Jedi" down as your religion in the census tonight. When you do this, it appears that there are less non-relgious people in Australia, and that reflects poorly on our great nation. If you are going to put down a made-up religion (oppose to all those non made-up religions out there), then write down you're a proud member of the Church of Engels. I have a hot tip from a certain L. Ron Hubbard that religion is a great way to make cash.

I'll fill you in with the beliefs and all that stuff later.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Poor Devil

Terrible and damning aspersions have beem cast upon the Prince of Darkness:

THE Devil has been unfairly and wilfully maligned and deserves a reassessment, according to a new study.

Professor Henry Ansgar Kelly, a medievalist, says the Devil has had unfair press and has been the victim of groundless aspersions. Satan is no more evil than the head of MI5 or the prime minister, he says.

In his book Satan: A Biography, to be published by Cambridge University Press this month, the California university academic argues that interpretation of the Bible shows that the Devil suffered a "severe blackening of character" by the clergy, early church fathers, artists, philosophers and religious scholars. The "Devil is in the detail" -- literally, he says.

Phew. We can all give out a huge collective sigh of relief with that comforting news. Now, is there any good news on the bogeyman? Or do I still need to cower under my sheets?

Nuclear Power Debate

Reknown Australian scientist (in biology and paleontology) Tim Flannery has spent the last few years researching alternative energy sources, and writing his book on climate, The Weathermakers. I haven't read any reviews of his popular science book, but I do know it is suggested reading for one of the meteorology subjects at the Uni of Melbourne. Regardless, Flannery has come out fully supporting nuclear power much to the chagrin of others:

Greens Senator Bob Brown has rejected scientist Tim Flannery's call for nuclear power to be used to combat climate change.

In a weekend newspaper article Dr Flannery says nuclear power is a clean source of energy.

But Senator Brown says nuclear power should not replace fossil fuels.

"Energy efficiency and solar power and new energy, renewable modes are the answer and that's where we've got to go," he said.

If it's possible (or rather, feasible) to hamper global warming by using alternative energy, by all means we should adopt alternative energy means. But the sad reality of is that alternative energy means such as wind and solar do not guarantee to give sustainable base-power to industries. It's all good running your house on solar power (you can actually make some money if you generate too much), but your average aluminium smelter needs something a little more reliable.

The linked article also mentions anti-nuclear campaigner and pediatrician, Dr Helen Caldicott, who the article claims is a Nobel Prize winner. Slightly misleading since it was an organisation she worked for that was awarded the Nobel Prize (for the admirable cause of prevention of nuclear war), and not her. Wiki says the follwoing on the Caldicott:

Caldicott claimed that the Hershey Foods Corporation produced chocolate carrying strontium 90 because of the proximity of the Three Mile Island disaster to Hershey's Pennsylvania factory. According to Caldicott, strontium 90 that fell on the Pennsylvania grass found its way into the milk of the local dairy cows. Caldicott provided no evidence to support her claim and specialists in the field consider it an absurd, irresponsible claim. According to EPA reports, Strontium 90 was not among the radionuclides emitted by Three Mile Island as only gases were emitted.

What a highly reliable "expert" she is. Regardless, the power generation, and subsequent curtailing of global warming, are rather complex issues. I personally think it's quite feasible to create undeniably safe nuclear power-stations - we could always ask the French for advice since they have 79% nuclear power. Whether we should is another question. Still, it does not mean that fear-mongers like Caldictott can so blatantly mislead the public.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Poor Baby Boomers

Admittedly, I don't know much about economics but from what I can gather, people borrowing money is bad for the country's economy. Hence, the reserve bank increases interest rates to discourage borrowing, and hopefully curtail inflation. But amongst all the theory, the economists and politicians have forgotten about the little people:

The Polgars are still feeling the financial pinch. Petrol prices mean their car already spends a lot more time in the garage. And now, after another rise in interest rates, their social life is about to be crimped.

"I've said to my wife we have to be very careful where we put our dollars now because we're going to have to find the difference," Peter Polgar said yesterday as he calculated the effect of a 0.25-percentage point interest rate rise on the family's $1 million in mortgages.

"We won't be going out to dinner and the movies as much as we used to - we'll stay home and watch Foxtel."

With a $500,000 mortgage on their Allambie Heights home in Sydney's northern beaches and a similar mortgage on an investment property, the Polgars' weekly loan repayments will jump $36 a week - $1872 a year - when their bank inevitably lifts interest rates in response to yesterday's Reserve Bank move.

Boo hoo! Won't be able to drink your chardonnay ever night, eh? Life is tough.

Bloody baby boomers borrowing money to invest in real estate. Their zealous investing has driven house prices to unobtainable heights. I don't care if there are other economic factors to consider. I'm placing the blame for the fact that I'll be unable to buy house (without selling my kidneys and all my other vital organs) squarely on the baby boomers. Bastards.

I realise this is an old complaint, but reading that article this morning just compelled me to have a little rant. And yes, I would probably do the same if I was in their sandals (or whatever footwear old people wear). Still, bloody baby boomers.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Old Castro

There's a café at uni called Castro's. Something I could never figure out is why Cuba is so lauded by uni students and backpackers alike. Cuba is notorious for violating human rights and loves locking up journalists (mind you, I wish I could lock up a few too). My friend's brother, after returning from Cuba, said he saw no problems while there. Cuba's main income is tourism. Do you think they going to show tourists the torturing of "political prisoners"?

Despite this, it seems a lot of former Cubans are delighted at the news of Fidel's recent medical dramas:

The delirious first response here to the news of Fidel Castro temporarily ceding power dampened by Tuesday afternoon, as Miami Cubans quietly awaited updates from the island they fled and local officials watched for commotion on land and sea.

Spontaneous celebrations broke out after Cuban national television reported the development around 9 p.m. on Monday, with people honking horns, clanging pots and pans and shouting, “Cuba libre!”

And in great anticipation, the Yanks (who have not been reknown for following human rights conventions lately - maybe it's the Cuban Island?), have been drafting up a plan for Cuba:

A draft version of the report by the commission, a final version of which is due out next week, calls on President Bush to create an $80m pro-democracy fund to boost support for political opponents of the island's communist government.

Much is to be said about a country of which upon visiting it, you are inclined to bring soap for the locals. Still, wouldn't mind checking out some of those old yank-tank cars they still drive.

ABC Sledging

It would be foolish to think that not all media outlets are biased to at least some degree. But when I tried to convince a couple Melbourne denizens the other day that the ABC was indeed biased, they would hear no word of it. I should have pointed out that the ABC interviews such fools as the rambling Robert Fisk, the clown Paul McGeough, and the painful Christian and duck-obsessed Michael Leunig. Alas, I did not. They probably thought I was some ignorant fool. Maybe they're right, but The Oz agrees:

Never let it be said that the ABC ever let the facts stand in the way of a good smear. Take the public broadcaster's "high energy (and) fun" current affairs program for students, Behind the News, which on July 25 delivered a potted history of the last half-century of Lebanese life that sounded almost as if it had been scripted in Tehran. According to the show's presenter, Andrea Nicolas, Hezbollah "soldiers" sparked the present conflict in the Middle East in an innocent bid to prompt a prisoner exchange with Israel gone awry. The report (hastily scrubbed from the ABC's website) also claimed Hezbollah was just a small group of Palestinian extremists who fled to Lebanon because their land was "taken over by Israel"; that in 1948 "Israel was proclaimed as a country for Jewish people, taking much of the land from Palestinian Muslims"; and that in 1967 for no apparent reason Israel "took over" Gaza and the West Bank. These were only a few of the many howlers delivered without regard to context, balance or fact to an audience lacking the historical knowledge to spot the many errors.

Wonder if we'll catch that in Media Watch? The kids would seemingly be better off going to wiki. It should be noted that I'm not agreeing with Israel's current tactics. But the ABC, as a state-funded institution, has the right to be unbiased in their reporting. Alternatively, The Australian, being own by Murdoch, does not, but at least I am aware of its biased reporting.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Fat Kids

Who would have thought? Of all things to blame, from TV and computer games to the education system and nasty fast-food compaines, the blame could be placed mainly on the parents:

Parents packing the school lunch box - not fast-food outlets or tuckshops - are most to blame for allowing their children to get fat.

Peter Clifton, who co-wrote the worldwide best-selling CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, laid responsibility yesterday for the nation's childhood obesity epidemic on parents and what they fed their kids.

He singled out the school lunch box and the sugar-laden drinks and high-fat snacks that children were eating at home.

Dr Clifton highlighted studies in Australia and overseas that indicated consumption of these products at home and school was more likely to contribute to childhood obesity than eating at restaurants, tuckshops and fast-food outlets such as McDonald's.

Amazing news. Well, remember people: fat kids are harder to kidnap. Might also explain why so many soccer-mums drive 4WDs in residential areas.