Friday, September 29, 2006

Naive Mother

After the highschool hostage situation in America, which finished with the kidnapper fatally wounding a student prior to shooting himself, a student decided to tell a bit of a porkie to the media:

Another student at the high school, Cassidy Grigg, went on US television channels NBC and ABC to give an account of how the gunman had chosen his hostages and threatened him personally.

However, the boy's mother, Larina Grigg, later announced that her son had lied, Colorado newspaper The Rocky Mountain News reports.

The hell? The gall of this lad. However, his mother defends him:

"Cassidy has never been dishonest in his life but in this matter he wasn't truthful," she said on Thursday afternoon.

"He was not in the room with the kids. He wants to say he's sorry. I know and he knows he made a huge mistake."

Right. Just to clarify, the lad has been honest his whole life but when he does decide to be a tad dishonest (no doubt for an admirable cause such as impressing a girl), he tellls a huge lie not just to his school mates, but to an entire nation via two TV stations. Very impressive for his "first" lie, doncha think?

Suppose I shouldn't be too hard on the little lying bastard. Afterall, I never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Game

Now I don't understand the hype over the game World of Warcraft, but this, this is completely out of this universe - so to speak. Somebody pinch me:

Marvel Universe Online, a massively multiplayer online game has been announced by Microsoft Game Studios for Xbox 360 and Windows Vista. Developed as a joint venture between Microsoft Game Studios, Marvel and Cryptic Studios, creators of the acclaimed City of Heroes, Marvel Universe Online looks set to be an epic online experience.

Speaking at X06, Frank Pape of Microsoft Game Studios declared “The vision behind the alliance of Microsoft Game Studios, Cryptic Studios and Marvel is to expand the MMO genre and create an epic gaming experience exclusively for Xbox 360 and Windows Vista gamers to experience together online.” Yep, he said together. We can therefore rest assured that Marvel Universe Online will be one of the games to make cross platform gaming between Windows Vista and Xbox 360 a reality.

With Super Heroes such as “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and “The Hulk”, Marvel Universe Online looks set to be a game with mass appeal.

Mass appeal? No kidding.

And by the way, I don't regularly prowl the game news sites - this piece of priceless infomration came to me via Dalai Llama (who's more nerd than hardcore nowadays).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Kim Peek, the man who was the inspiration for the film Rainman, was nicknamed by his friends the Kimputer:

According to Peek's father, Fran, Peek was able to memorize things from the age of 16-20 months. He read books, memorized them, and then placed them upside down on the shelf to show that he had finished reading them, a practice he still maintains. He reads a page of text in about 10 seconds (about a book per hour) and, apparently, remembers everything he has read, memorizing vast amounts of information in subjects ranging from history and literature, geography, and numbers, to sports, music, and dates. He can recall some 12,000 books from memory. Peek can also do formidable calculations in his head, a skill that serves him well in his day job, where he prepares payroll worksheets.

Despite these remarkable abilities, this lad was born with an incomplete brain, hence:

Peek did not walk until the age of four and still walks in a sidelong manner. He cannot button up his shirt and has difficulty with other ordinary motor skills, presumably due to his damaged cerebellum, which normally coordinates motor activities. In psychological testing, Peek has scored below average on general IQ tests; however he has scored very high in some subtests. The mixed results have led to the conclusion that such tests are not an adequate yardstick to measure Peek's abilities. He has an outgoing personality and is not autistic.

I read an article about this guy last year. After the reporter told him his date of birth, Kim replied instantly with the day of the week the date had fallen on. Freaky.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Maths is fun

Last week I went into the PhD office across the hall. On the whiteboard was a geometrical proof for the very famous Pythagoras' theorem . After some thinkg, I added another proof for fun. This week I noticed there is now five proofs on the wall (one using complex numbers). And who says maths students don't know how to have fun?

Interestingly, Pythagoras' theorem is the most proven theorem in mathematics (it has over a three hundred proofs using mathematics from all areas - one of these proofs was done by James Garfield who was, very briefly, a US president). Hence, we will have plenty of fun for years to if only I could stop procrastinating and do some actual meaningful work.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ape-man Child

Those wacky scientists are at it again:

Scientists have discovered a remarkably complete skeleton of a 3-year-old female from the ape-man species represented by "Lucy."

The discovery should fuel a contentious debate about whether this species, which walked upright, also climbed and moved through trees easily like an ape.

The remains are 3.3 million years old, making them the oldest known skeleton of such a youthful human ancestor.

Don't they know? Didn't they get the memo? The world is ONLY six thousand years old. It say so in the bible. OK. It doesn't actually say so explicity - some clown just added up all the ages of the characters in the book. But still, six thousand years, people.

Crazy scientists. Who do they think they're fooling?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Dutch Immigration Test

The ever liberal nation of the Netherlands, like other European nations, is currently suffering the problem of Muslim-based ethnic slums. Here's their, let's say, innovative approach to the problem:

The Netherlands' multicultural policy is being rewritten, resulting in new rules such as one requiring would-be migrants from conservative societies to watch a film showing a topless woman and gay men kissing. Authorities hope applicants who find the film offensive will be put off moving to the liberal nation.

Topless women, eh? Sure beats a history test. You'd think immigrants would have an idea that things are slightly different in Western countries. Regardless, I'm keen to see the effects of this new kind of immigration test.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Tests for Potential Aussies

New arrivals to our fair land will be tested on English and Aushtrayan history, according to our PM:

Under tough new measures proposed by the government, would-be citizens also would have to have a greater knowledge of Australian customs and values, Mr Howard said.

Details of the plan are expected to be unveiled on Sunday, but today Mr Howard confirmed there would be a strong language component and a history test that some Australian-born citizens might struggle to pass.

Personally - coming from a son of an immigrant - I think new citizens should be tested on their English skills to a degree (despite what the editor of the Big Issue, the Irish clown, thinks). What I find amusing is testing potential citizens on Australian history considering how little "true-blue" Aussies know about their own history. I dare say my history is slightly higher than most, and it's severely lacking.

People have misconceptions about Australia (like we are descended mostly from convicts), know little of past prominent Australians (unless they played sports or wrestled crocodiles), and have a small knowledge of the roles our country has played throughout history. Can you name two Australian Nobel prize winners in any field? Or three Governors? Did you know that the colony of New Australia was founded in South America by Australian socialists?

The excuse "we have no history" is pathetic. Wouldn't that suggest our history would be quick and easy to learn? Oh well, perhaps immigrants knowing more Australian history will encourage the rest of us to learn some .

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ban on Stick Creatures

Not that I care much about the fashion industry, but this is amusing:

The world's first ban on overly thin models at a top-level fashion show in Madrid has caused outrage among modelling agencies and raised the prospect of restrictions at other venues.

Madrid's fashion week has turned away underweight models after protests that girls and young women were trying to copy their rail-thin looks and developing eating disorders.

Organisers say they want to project an image of beauty and health, rather than a waif-like, or heroin chic look.

Personally, I prefer a girl who excercises and lives a healthy lifestyle simply because I try to live a healthy lifestyle (drinking beer is healthy, isn't?). But I have no time for stick creatures. Not sure if Australia suffers this problem though since we have one of the world's highest obesity rates. Strange.

Climate Change Article

An interesting article (with an interesting footnote) on climate change by the Economist:

The world's climate has barely changed since the industrial revolution. The temperature was stable in the 19th century, rose very slightly during the first half of the 20th, fell back in the 1950s-70s, then started rising again. Over the past 100 years, it has gone up by about 0.6°C (1.1°F).So what's the fuss about? Not so much the rise in temperature as the reason for it. Previous changes in the world's climate have been set off by variations either in the angle of the Earth's rotation or in its distance from the sun. This time there is another factor involved: man-made “greenhouse gases”

Back in the 70s scientists were betting on the wrong horse:

If interest in climate change was lukewarm in the first half of the 20th century, it went distinctly chilly in the second half, for the good reason that the world was getting cooler. In 1975 Newsweek magazine ran a cover story entitled “The Cooling World” that gave warning of a “drastic decline in food production—with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth”—a prediction repeated with understandable glee by those who suspect the current worry is just another such scare.

Definitely a complex debate:

At a macro level, modelling what is one of the world's most complex mechanisms and projecting 100 years ahead is tricky. At a micro level, individual pieces of data contradict each other. One shrinking glacier can be countered by another that is growing; one area of diminishing precipitation can be answered by another where it is rising.

As I've said in the past, I'm moving to Canada. Or Tasmania. Not New Zealand.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bloody Terrorism

I still can't believe there are 9/11 conspiracy theorists out there. America had had a number of terrorist attacks before 9/11. Why now? For what purpose? How? Regardless, The Australian laments in an editorial focused on terrorism:

It is disturbing that so many people are still prepared to believe conspiracy theories that the US or Israel were somehow behind the September 11 attacks, despite bin Laden having claimed responsibility. To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attack, the Arabic al-Jazeera television network this week aired a video showing bin Laden reportedly meeting some of the September 11 masterminds. Two of the 9/11 attackers, Wael al-Shihri and Hamza al-Ghamdi, were shown presenting their taped "wills". If any were needed, the video provides further proof that the 2001 attacks were part of a calculated and long-term campaign against the West.

As the cheap tourist shirts say: fuck terrorism.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Brisbane Visit

I fly into the sunny city of Brisbane this evening, and return next Tuesday night - with an empty wallet, and a sore head and liver. I might even vote in the QLD election this Saturday. 'Til next week.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Political Populism over Irwin

Way to go, the pollies. First QLD Premier Peter Beatie honours the late croc-hunter:

Mr Beattie, in the final week of his election campaign, said the state government was in talks with Mr Irwin's family about possible ways to honour him.

"We want to make certain that ... there's a fitting long-term tribute to Steve Irwin and it may well be we can do all sorts of things like name a national park, we could have particular awards, all sorts of things."

Nice quick grab for the votes there by Beattie. Of course not to be out-done, our beloved PM John Howard pulls out the litte "Aussie" card:

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin died in "quintessentially Australian circumstances," Prime Minister John Howard has told parliament.

Well, it's worked before hasn't it, Johnny. Probably why you invited old Irwin to your shin-dig for Bush.

This blatant vote-grabbing irritates me. All this over a croc-hunter. Now if Malcom Douglas had died, that would be another story.

One interesting thing I did discovered in the last couple of days is that old Steve Irwin had a fear of parrots due to a childhood incident. I wonder if he installed windmills around his zoo to keep them at bay?

Dry Aushtraya

The Economist has an article discussing Australia's water shortage. The article is aptly named Dry as a dead dingo's donger. Things definitely look grim for our sunburnt land:

The world's driest inhabited continent, Australia is facing water shortages unprecedented in the two centuries since Europeans settled it. There is a long-running drought in the country's east, the main farming belt. Sydney, the biggest city, whose main supply reservoir is just 40% full, and Canberra, the capital, are both on indefinite water restrictions. The Murray River and Darling River (known as the Murray Darling Basin, or MDB), which supply more than two-thirds of Australia's farming irrigation, are flowing at their lowest levels in a century.

The bloody farmers won't be happy. I spent my first nine years in outback NSW (not the most water-rich region) in a cotton-growing town. To make your average cotton T-shirt, you need over 100 odd bath-tubs of water (I can't remember the source). That's a lot of water. Perish the thought if they developed GM crops that used less water though.

My mate's family owns a banana farm about an hour north of Brisbane. In the early winter mornings they turn huge sprinklers on to warm the banana plants, and prevent frost damage. You'd think they'd grow their bananas in a more, I don't know, tropical region? But then again, I suppose now they wouldn't be laughing all the way to the bank as bananas reach record high prices in Oz. Incidentally, farmers are concerned about importing peeled, cooked, and frozen bananas into Sydney - an area reknown for its banana farms - because of the potential for viruses to spread.

Generations back, all the good farming locations were naturally taken first, hence you now have farms built in not the most ideal areas. Australia always seems to be in one drought or the other. When I was growing up it was El Niño's fault. The food basket of the world has gone dry.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Death of the Crocodile Hunter

Of all the things that could have killed Steve Irwin, a humble stingray finished him:

He was killed in a freak accident in Cairns, police sources said. It is understood he was killed by a sting-ray barb that went through his chest.

He was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas filming an underwater documentary and that' is when it occured.

Crikey! I bet he poked the stingray in the eye with a sharp stick and agitated it. Irwin did so much for Australia. He brought over thousands of rich yanks and boosted out economy. He helped perpepuate the myth among Americans that Australia is covered with croc-hunters and dangerous creatures. Think he also worked with conserving endangered native species or something.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Scummy English

My English flatmate has been stealing and wearing my socks. And they have the gall to call us convicts. Scum. Absolute scum.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ozone Recovery

Some good news for the environment:

Earth's protective ozone layer, which was notably thinning in 1980, could be fully recovered by midway through this century, climate scientists said yesterday.

The ozone layer shields the planet from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation, but human-made chemicals - notably the chlorofluorocarbons found in some refrigerants and aerosol propellants - depleted this stratospheric ozone.

The scientists said the ozone layer's comeback was due in large part to compliance with a 1987 international agreement called the Montreal Protocol, which aimed to limit emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals.

"These results confirm the Montreal Protocol and its amendments have succeeded in stopping the loss of ozone in the stratosphere," said Eun-Su Yang of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who led a team that analysed the data.

"At the current recovery rate ... the global ozone layer could be restored to 1980 levels - the time that scientists first noticed the harmful effects human activities were having on atmospheric ozone - some time in the middle of this century," Dr Yang said.

Does this mean, perish the thought, that climate scientists were actually right? Or are we just lucky?

An interesting sidenote: the scientist who suggested to use CFCs (a chemical less toxic than the previously used coolants) also suggested to use the element lead (a mental retarding agent) in petrol. It has taken decades to have lead-based additives removed from petrol despite protesting from Clair Patterson and others.