Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Great Firewall of Korea

Yesterday I wanted to play online poker so I fired up my online poker program but it wouldn't connect. I tried a few times and it still wouldn't work. So then I tried to check the website. Which is when I was presented with this.From the picture you can get the general idea of what is going on. I painstakingly typed (why do people put large chunks of important text in images) the Korean into Google translate and got told it meant this
Illegal information (site) for blocking guide
Your party is trying to access illegal content sites are prohibited by law, and it has been blocked access to sites that let you know
This information is information and communication via the ethics committee's deliberation according to the Telecommunication Business Act, it is blocked due to questions regarding the sludge under the charge of the insti

(copied from a chat log from MSM which limits the size of messages, hence the abrupt cut off.)
This really annoys me for a few reasons. First, I haven't been stopped from doing this for the first five months I've been in Korea, so why is it a problem now. Second, nine out of the top ten Google results for "online poker" are not blocked (my site of choice is the only one blocked). Now one of those is Wikipedia, so probably wouldn't get blocked, but the others are sites to play poker and I have indeed since downloaded a different online poker program and used it without incident.

The main reason I'm upset is because I feel this is the action of an overreaching government reaching into an area they have no right to act in. The government is not a nanny meant to look out for each and every one of us. It is not the governments role to decide which web sites and which services I can and can not visit, just as it is not the governments role to decide who I can and can not talk to, nor what I can talk about with those people. I oppose this blocking of access to parts of the internet just as I'm opposed to the great firewall of China and the plans to try and implement such a system in Australia.

When a government creates such restrictions, it is restricting the freedom of it's citizens. It is denying them the freedom to choose what they want to do, who they want to associate with, how they want to associate with others. It is denying them their responsibility for their actions.

Also, when a government creates the means to enforce such restrictions, it is giving itself a great weapon that can be used against the people. Who gets to decide what is not appropriate for the people. The government. I think all would agree that China's massive restrictions on internet access are reprehensible. Why would any democracy want to take it's lead from China of all countries. To those who say that there are things that should be blocked, I tell you that they fall into one of three categories.

One, things that some people who like to enforce their world view on others find offensive, for example, Christians opposing online gambling or internet pornography. This is easily refuted by the fact that this is a free country, where people are free to do what they like. Or more childishly, you're not the boss of me (Senator Fielding please take note).

Two, things people claim are dangerous to some people, such as online gambling (again) or advice on how to commit suicide. This is ultimately a ridiculous argument that generally gets given an easy ride because of the emotions of the people making the claim. However its weakness is shown by changing its focus a little. Everyone would agree that hamburgers are unhealthy, contribute to high cholesterol and thus to increased chances of heart disease, heart attack, and other health risks. So for the benefit of us all, we should ban hamburgers. And while I would be glad to be rid of the red headed clown, I think we can all agree on the ridiculousness of such a claim. It is the responsibility of the individual to control themselves and not make excessively unwise choices, and only if they do, should we as a society then consider temporarily restricting the individual in question. And who knows, maybe someone contemplating suicide would be disturbed by the visceral description of how to slit your wrists and decide that life is worth enduring.

The third category of things that people want blocked on the internet are the truly terrible. Things like child pornography, snuff films and the like. These are terrible, and should be eradicated. However, never take opposing censorship with endorsing these things. The reason this should not be used as an argument for internet censorship is that we already have laws prohibiting this. These are the laws we should use when dealing with the purveyors and consumers of these atrocities. This is true of many situations where we already have laws covering things, and governments use emotional issues to convince people that giving them more power is a good and necessary thing where it is really unneeded and unwise.

On top of all these reasons based on principle, there is also the practical aspect that such restriction never cover everything. Note that I was easily able to visit other sites offering exactly the same services and was playing online poker again in under half an hour, although admittedly the new program is not as sleek as the one I used to use. Blocking only one site of its type is not only pointless, it's stupid. I mean really, when you block only one out of the top ten sites in Google, what's the point. You're really not trying. I'm tempted to try out Tor and see if I can get back onto Full Tilt poker that way.

End Rant
Writing time: 56 minutes
Time since last post: seven days
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Sleepy Seven by Bonobo

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mecca Mean Time

Some Muslim scientists have suggested that we should replace Greenwich as the prime meridian with Mecca, because Mecca is the true center of the Earth (unless Mecca is about 6400 kilometers underground, I very much doubt that).

This is a pointless endeavour that just makes these people look small minded and petty. Yes, the reason Greenwich was picked as the prime meridian was due to British supremacy and imperialism in the 19th century. However, after a little over thirty years after England formally adopted the Greenwich as the prime meridian, an international conference approved it as the universal prime meridian by a vote of 22-1 with two abstains (France in a spat of cross channel rivalry continued to use Paris as the prime meridian for a few decades).

This is besides the point though. Nowadays there is no difference between any two locations as a choice of a prime meridian except in one case. The exception is the Greenwich meridian, because all the maps we use today, all our atlases, all our books, all our GPS systems are set up to use the Greenwich meridian as the prime meridian. Changing the prime meridian will serve no useful purpose, and will make millions, perhaps even billions of books outdated and force unnecessary upgrades to all the electronic devices that deal with locations.

There are a number of aspects of how we talk about the world which originated due to the cultural, military or other supremacy of one group out of many. The use of the Greenwich meridian. The birth of Christ as the basis for numbering years. The imperial system of measures. twenty-four hour days. New years day on January first.

These things should not be replaced just because someone feels that they are being discriminated because they're not part of the group that is the origin of those terms. For this reason I don't like the use of CE and BCE instead of AD and BC. In some cases, such as which year is zero, there is no obvious choice of which alternative to pick, so again we should just stick with the one we use now.

The only time we should make the change is when the new is objectively better than the old. Thus we now use the metric system instead of the imperial system. The metric system is much simpler than the imperial system and so is easier to learn and use. It is much better than the imperial system and so we made the change.

Anyway, back to the original topic, with all due respect to the Muslims suggesting this, this is posturing. This is chest beating. It is roaring so that you're heard above the crowd. It's not going to change things. Your arguments are flimsy. For example, the suggestion that Mecca is a better meridian because true north and magnetic north align is not unique to Mecca. The Alaska-Canada border can make the same claim. And the magnetic north pole is not a fixed point. It's motion can be detected and measured. Over the history of the Earth it has moved all over the place, even so far as being at what is now the south pole.

Sure, good on you for being proud of your religion, but don't go suggesting changes that don't actually make things better and just are a lot of trouble to implement. Your preferred sites are no more special than ours, and everyone, not just us, is used to using ours.

End Post
Writing time: 43 minutes
Time since last post: about an hour and a bit
Current media: The Office

PETA does something not quite evil

Generally I think PETA are an example of the nuttier and extreme end of the hippy spectrum, what with throwing paint at people for wearing fur, protesting pounds putting down unwanted animals (if you don't want the animal to be killed, why don't you look after it yourself?), and being against the eating of meat, farming, circuses, fishing, the keeping of pets, the use of animals in medical testing, and aiding the legal defense of arsonists.

Today I heard something that while doesn't really change my opinion of the organization, I don't outright disagree with, and kind of support. PETA is offering a million dollar prize to the "first person to come up with a method to produce commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012."

I'm generally for pretty much anything that encourages research and development in pretty much any area, and so long as the sponsor is fair in how they administer it, I don't really mind who ponies up the cash (obviously if the prize is blatantly biased to a result that's no good, but that's not a problem for purely technological type prizes).

However, this is the start of a process that I think will split the hippy community (this is noted in the article). There are many different types of hippies. Some are all about loving the animals and not harming their fellow creatures. Others are all about the organic food and that anything purely natural is best (not considering that all of the plants grown as crops are the result of nearly 6000 years of selective breeding). These forces are going to come to a head over this. This is a great way of reducing the number of actual animals needed to feed the world. Thus the animal lovers should be all for this. However the purity squad are going to see this as an abomination that must be stopped. And thus the hippies will be divided.

As to whether or not I'd eat this stuff, I think I'd be willing to give it a go once it is sufficiently developed. Say to the point where it looks, feels and tastes like the real thing.

End Post
Writing time: 29 minutes (I keep getting distracted while I write these things. Computers make it too easy to get distracted.)
Time since last post: 24 hours 46 minutes
Current media: The Office

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pulp Shakespeare

Some guy has rewritten some scenes from Pulp Fiction in the style of Shakespeare. Read and enjoy.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: a few hours
Current media: The Office

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Proof of Concept

As has been mentioned, I recently got a new camera. Among the bonus stuff they through in with the camera was a tripod. Until today the tripod had been going to waste, just sitting in it's bag doing nothing.

Also, as my birthday occurred recently, I splurged and bought some bionicles (my uncle started giving them to me for birthdays and christmas, so when I was wondering the store I saw them and decided to get some for myself this time). This too has just been sitting unused, although it did make it out of the packet and was constructed.

Today I got an idea that would put both of these to work. Stop motion video production. So I got out the tripod, the bionicle and the camera and took a bunch of pictures. I couldn't do everything I wanted because the bionicle is rather hard to balance, and I couldn't really make it float in the air (I'm thinking about ways to do so).

Anyway, I present to you 4 seconds of video, vaguely inspired by the matrix.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: about two hours
Current media: this post

Is making steady progress

I just finished writing my monthly student reports. I added it up and there were 65 of them. Quite a lot of them finish with the phrase "S/He is making steady progress". This is a weasel phrase that is quite useful. Note that it does not say how much progress is being made, or how fast they are making progress, just that they are doing so at a steady rate. But it sounds good.

There is a code to the comments I wrote. There is a different between good, capable, quiet but capable and able students. Some students work well, while others work diligently. Some are active participants, some are enthusiastic participants. Others participate enthusiastically or actively.

Annoying kids get sometimes lacks focus, lacks focus, or is a distraction depending on how bad they are.

I think the best report would be something along the lines of "x is a good student who works well in class." followed by a more specific comment about a specific strength of the student. There are maybe one or two of those per class.

I have thought about writing a small program to automatically generate the reports. Something for the command line that would take a few arguments and then pick a few relevant comments and organise them in a random order (a lot of my reports sound kind of the same. Some variation would be good.). Of course, I only really think about this while I'm writing the reports, so it never actually gets done. At this stage, I'm probably better of just to keep writing them out, as I've kind of got into a routine with them.

End Post
Writing time: 25 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: The Office

Interesting Portents in the Tea Leaves

Good news from the United Kingdom. The British Government is planning on replacing the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951 and bring such activities that are currently covered by it under the more mundane realm of consumer protection laws.

Of course, spiritualists, mediums, psychics, fortune tellers, diviners and more are opposed to this. For a start they say that this change will remove protection for genuine mediums. Having read the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951 the only protections it gives is to those acting in a purely entertainment capacity, so I can't see how getting rid of it harms genuine psychics.

Unless, of course, there aren't any genuine fortune tellers, and those who say that they are know it.

Carol McEntee-Taylor of the Spiritual Workers Association had the following to say:
"If I'm giving a healing to someone, I don't want to have to stand there and say I don't believe in what I'm doing."

She's quite free to say she believes in it. She shouldn't be free to say that it is a safe and effective treatment unless she can reliably show it to be so.

She also stated:

By repealing the Act, the onus will go round the other way and we will have to prove we are genuine. No other religion has to do that.

If you are providing a service of any sort in exchange for monetary compensation, you are not a religion. You are a business, and should expect to operate under the rules businesses do.

I think they're also worried if they have to include a disclaimer that they are only providing an entertainment service, they'll still be liable to claims of false advertising as there is no entertainment value in what they do (except for asking them why they didn't see this coming).

All round I'm in favour of this. Psychics, mediums, fortune tellers, clairvoyants, palm readers, tarot readers, feng shui masters and others are fraudsters. Speaking to the dead, telling the future, reading minds, and all the other stuff they claim they can do (except for take your money) is fake. People who make false claims and take money from people based on it are committing fraud, plain and simple. If they wish to make a business of it, they should be able to show that it works. Put up or shut up, to phrase it simply. If I sell computers that don't work, I get in trouble. If I sell predictions that don't work, I should also get in trouble.

Of course it will put a dint in their credibility if they have to make bold disclaimers up front that they are merely entertainers, but then again, anyone who was genuine has an easy $1,000,000 waiting for them any time they want it. But in any other industry, credibility has to be proven by having a demonstrably reliable product, so they shouldn't expect their free ride to continue forever.

End Post
Writing time: 44 minutes (including distractions)
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: The Colour of Magic

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Someone wasn't practising what he preached

It has been reported that Tehran's chief of police, General Reza Zarei, was arrested. His crime? He was found in a house with six naked prostitutes.

Now first of all, props must go out to any man who can handle six women at once. However the problem is that this guy was in charge of enforcing the rather strict anti-vice laws, which go well beyond just outlawing prostitution.

This guy is likely in for some serious trouble though. In Iran the penalty for an unmarried couple dancing together at a party is a flogging. I can only imagine what this guy is going to get, but I'm sure it's going to sting. Perhaps something along the lines of the torture scene in Casino Royale.

End Post
Writing time: 15 minutes
Time since last post: 11 hours
Current media: Scrubs

Which would be better?

For reasons that will be divulged later1 (on or slightly after April 30th) I'm trying to work out the answer to a hypothetical question. I'd appreciate some input.

Let's say you were choosing the location for a colony on a new planet. The planet is generally earth-like. Now obviously you need to be near a water source, so you want to be near a river. You want a lot of flat ground that's good for growing crops, but you probably also want to be near mineral resources.

I can think of two general types of locations. Inland plains or a more coastal location. The inland plains would give more space for growing crops, but the coastal site would allow you to fish as well as grow crops providing a more diverse food supply. However, a coastal site would be subject to more extreme weather conditions (hurricanes, etc) than an inland location.

So which would be better? If you can, please give reasons as well as an answer.

1: vague hint

End Post
Writing time: 8 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: none

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Awesome + Awesome = Awesome

Scrubs meets The Muppets. Enjoy.
End Post
Writing time: 2 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: This post

Haven't we learnt anything?

There are a number of cautionary tales that have been written about the dangers of robots. The Matrix, I, Robot, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica, The Golem, Blade Runner, Robocop, and many more. Robots are dangerous. Robots are unpredictable. Robots are sneaky. Robots do things we never expect them to do.

So why would anyone think making a robot with a machine gun is a good idea?

Especially when said robot decides to start pointing the machine gun at people it shouldn't be pointing it's machine gun at. Fortunately, it didn't actually fire at anyone.

Seriously though, weapons are a serious matter. They should always be under the control of a sensible, reliable, properly trained human being (or other sentient being who matches those qualifications). No one should be making devices of any sort that fires without the active intervention of a human being. This sort of device is a dangerous idea that is rightly being shelved.

Writing time: 50 minutes (I got distracted)
Time since last post: 14 hours
Current media: BSG 2x04

Saturday, April 12, 2008


MC Hammer has a blog.

That is all

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 5 minutes
Current media: none

A Not So Cool Superconductor

A group of researchers at Indiana University have made an interesting discovery. They have found what looks to be superconducting behaviour in small clusters of aluminum (45 and 47 atoms of aluminum) with a critical temperature of around 200K (-73 degrees Celsius). The observed behaviour is a peak in the heat capacity of the clusters which is indicative of superconductivity. Such indirect tests are required because ordinary ideas of what superconductivity means break down when you only have 45 atoms involved.

This is pretty cool, but don't expect any real world applications any time soon. This high temperature superconductivity only works because of the very small size of the clusters. Change the size of the cluster by one atom and it goes away. We might be able to make a series of these clusters and weakly link them, but that is beyond the capabilities at the present moment.

Finally, although it in no way contributed to this work, I'd like to link to my honours thesis which was entitled "Superconducting correlations in metallic nanoparticles". Unfortunately, I don't have a copy on my computer here or anywhere on the web so I can't.

End Post
Writing time: 20 minutes
Time since last post: 4 days
Current media: none

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Dangerous Idea

I present to you the following statement from Illinois Representative Monique Davis.
What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!

So what is this terrible philosophy that is dangerous for our children to even know of? If you said atheism you'd be right. Atheist activist Rob Sherman was testifying to the Illinois State Government regarding a botched grant of one million dollars that seems to have been for a church to rebuild after a fire but ended up going to a school that rents space from the church which got some extraordinary government assistance in getting the grant approved (Governor pardons the school director off the cuff, it very quickly becomes a registered non-profit, no questions are asked about significant owed taxes, etc).

The representatives diatribe went on a bit longer. You can read it or listen to it.

Why do believers think atheism is so dangerous? Why do they feel that those who don't believe are a threat to them and their beliefs?

It's nice to know something I do is dangerous to children. Although I have told a few students about explosive devices made from easily obtainable household items.

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Writing time: 21 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: none

Sunday, April 06, 2008

It's a special number

Apparently 42 university students were kidnapped in Iraq today.

I'm pretty sure I don't have to explain why this caught my attention.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 8 hours
Current media: Torchwood 2x13

Another win for the space station guys.

Some more awesome stuff from the guys on the space station. It turns out that in their spare time they set up a rig to take detailed photos of cities on Earth. The pictures are awesome. Here's a video of the results.

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Writing time: 4 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Dead Like Me 1x02

What did I do to deserve this?

I was just checking my email and noticed something odd. I looked at the web clip above the message list and saw this.
Potty Training In 3 Days - ThePottyTrainer.com - Potty Training Secrets That Work Say Good Bye To Diapers Forever

Now I've always assumed that the paid links that appeared in the web clips were like the ads on the side while reading email, in that they used the contents of my email to pick key words for the ads. So when I was sending emails looking for new jobs, I got ads for job websites and help writing resumes.

But I can not for the life of me fathom why my emails of late would in any way suggest that is an appropriate ad that would be relevant and of interest to me. There has been no mention of children, toilets, diapers or anything else pertaining to the ad.

Perhaps Google is not as omniscient as I thought.

End Post
Writing time: 8 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: jPod

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Mimimum Acceptable Level

I get my news from a number of sources. The BBC, Crikey, The International Herald Tribune, Slashdot, Groklaw, The Bartlett Diaries, The Chaser, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Butterflies and Wheels, and News.com.au. This exposes me to a number of sources of a range of views, although mostly leftish, and a range in the level of quality. And one of the sad facts that comes from all this is that News.com.au and the newspapers it feeds from are really lacking when it comes to quality journalism. In fact, they are probably the least respectable news source I use and generally the least interesting.

There was one article though today which drew my ire and caused this criticism to be written. The article is this. You don't necessarily need to read it as I'm going to quote the two lines that so infused me with rage. The headline for this article reads "Rents to double over four years". Scary, especially for those of us whose employers are not obligated by immigration law to provide accommodation (finally, a second good point about Korea). This in and of itself does not cause me to question in any way the journalistic quality of the writer, nor indeed their quality as a human being. But then I read the first sentence of the story "Rents in major cities will rise by 50 per cent over the next four years, a new report predicts." Now, I'm infuriated. Now I have to question just what this person is doing as a journalist, for I am presented with one of two possibilities. One, the journalist lacks the basic mathematical knowledge to realise that a rent increase of 50% is not the same as doubling the rent paid. Or two, the journalist does not have sufficient command of the English language to realise that the word they used does not mean what they think it means (I wish I'd been able to phrase that so I could quote Inigo Montoya there, but my style and his don't quite mesh. Inconceivable, you might say, but it is so. Anybody want a peanut?) In either situation, this person should not be writing in a major (or even a minor) news source. When there is a contradiction this big in the first two lines of a story, one has to wonder just how much effort was put into the research and writing of the story.

I'm sure this is not exactly news to my small band of readers, but I felt the need to vent on this particular article, and to disparage News.com.au as a newsource. It provides the chicken mcnugget of news. Blech.

End Post
Writing time: 24 minutes
Time since last post: writing time plus a half hour or so
Current media: still none

The Salute

Right now in Australia there is only one salute that deserves the definite article. And that is "The Salute". Apparently Kevin Rudd saluted George W. Bush during his visit to America. For those who haven't seen it, the video is below. Please watch the bit with the salute and the bit of Kevin Rudd at a press conference just after that (up to about 45 seconds into the video).

First of all that is not a military style salute. I was in air cadets. A proper salute is much more energetic and rigid than that. That is more of a wave than a salute. I don't really get what the big deal is all about.

Second, does Kevin Rudd at the press conference remind anyone else of David Brent, the boss from the British version of the office. Just the wheezing laugh and the way he says "I was just saying hello... to the president of the United States of America" feel very David Brentish to me. It could be worse though. I'll renounce my citizenship the day a Prime Minister reminds me of Kath and Kim (not really, but I'll be quite unhappy).

End Post
Writing time: 7 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: none

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tensions Building

The last week or so the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been a bit rambunctious. It has expelled a number of officials from the Republic of Korea, tested between 3 and 6 missiles near disputed waters, called the new president, Lee Myung-Bak, a suck up to George W Bush. They have also said that they are willing and able to launch a preemptive strike that would burn the Republic of Korea to ashes.

Why is the DPRK so antagonistic right now. Well, mainly because the new president doesn't seem to be such a pussy compared to his predecessors. The last two presidents have pursued a "sunshine" policy regarding the DPRK. This has essentially meant giving lots of money, business opportunities and food to the DPRK, in the hope that out of gratitude they will give up communism and join the community of respectable nations.

One of the results of this policy was that the DPRK now has nuclear weapons. Respectability and friendliness don't seem to have resulted from the previous policy. So the new president has said that future aid deals will be dependent on the DPRK making verifiable steps towards becoming a part of the civilised world. Nuclear disarmament is a key one of those steps. The rhetoric is being stepped up because president Lee is meeting George W later this month, and the Bush administration is putting more focus on dealing with the DPRK in the hopes of having some sort of positive legacy when he leaves the white house early next year.

So now I'm getting a little bit antsy about living in a country that is technically in a state of war with its northern neighbour. Not much, but a little. I am a fair distance from the border so I'd get a little bit of warning if anything were to happen. If the shit does hit the fan, I'd pack my stuff and catch the next available means of transportation down to Busan, from which I'd fly or boat to Japan, and from there away from the hostilities (it's good to have a plan).

End Post
Writing time: 25 minutes
Time since last post: 37 minutes
Current media: jPod

Science is Good

Well, actually, this is more engineering than science, but it is still a story of people looking at the world and asking "What if it was different?" Today's hero is a man who hated making his bed, and wondered how he could get out of it. This man didn't just leave it at that though. He designed a bed that makes itself.

He has developed a prototype, and is looking to commercialise his invention. Let me just say, he'll have at least one customer, provided the cost is not too much, and the mechanism is not too obvious. Arms that reach out from under the bed and make it would be ideal, but I feel this is not quite how the actual device works.

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Writing time: 7 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: jPod

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Corrupt from the bottom up

Lately I've heard a few bits and pieces about corruption in Korea which is making me a bit dubious about aspects of the culture here.

The first thing was last week all the food stands that line the streets near work were missing. Occasionally one might have not been there for a day or two, but there have always been some. So the absence of all of them was notable. I found out that last week was the yearly crackdown on such food stalls around here. Apparently the stands are illegal and the people who run them don't pay all (any) of the tax they're meant to. They also apparently make payments to the local police office (it's just down the street) to make sure they look the other way.

Today in the newspaper I read about the results of number of audits of public companies (companies owned by the government). These audits showed massive inefficiency, bureaucracy increased under the guise of downsizing, huge slush funds, executive perks and more. Just before the president was sworn in, there was an investigation into allegations of corruption involving the president. There have also been investigations of big companies, with Samsung having been found to have a multi-million dollar slush fund to bribe government officials, and it is expected that many other companies follow the lead of one of Korea's biggest and most prestigious firm.

And here I am seemingly criticizing all this from my lofty perch. But I too am dirtied in all this corruption. The national pension office has a signed contract that says I work less than 80 hours a month and get paid less than I do, so that I don't have to pay into the national pension plan, which would cost me about 5% of my pay, and get a chunk of my monthly pay in cash, so that my tax records match the alleged contract, but I still get the right amount of money. Well, if I'm pissed off with the company when I leave I know what to do to get back at them. A nice anonymous email sent a month or two after I'm gone (without providing any contact details) would be a nice way to work off any lingering resentment (I don't anticipate this being the case, although if I could mess up some students, there have been a few that have really bugged me).

Anyway, the all encompassing corruption seems to be endemic in Korea. It seems to happen at all levels, and while it is occasionally punished, this almost seems likely people are being punished for being caught or for being too greedy, rather than for the actual corruption. How can the rule of law be maintained where there are illegal food stands on every street? How can the police be trusted, if they are willing to accept small bribes to overlook small crimes? How can we know that they won't take a big bribe to overlook a big crime? Such systematic corruption is ill-suited to the modern world, and should be something that is vigorously hunted down, and not accepted as part of the way things work.

End Post
Writing time: 31 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 1x12 (2 days to go)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Surely There's a Better Way?

I've just read about the result of the recent local elections in Conclurry. Apparently the votes were tied 428 a piece between Businessman Andrew Daniels and former councillor John Swalling. After a recount, the votes were still tied. So they did what the official Electoral Commission rules stated, and draw a name out of a hat. Apparently, this also happened in Winton.

In the case of such a close election, I hardly think it is fair to the electorate as a whole to reduce the entire affair to chance. And it is kind of ridiculous that a random draw is part of the official rules for elections. Especially when there are reports of missing postal votes.

Really there should be a new election. For a start, this would likely get more people involved in the election. Since mandatory voting did not apply to a local election, and given the low number of votes (856), I think it's safe to say that not everyone voted (even though it's a backwards nowhere kind of place (no hard feelings Conclurry), I'm sure there are more eligible voters who didn't vote. If there were to be a new election, I think more people would vote knowing how close it was, and that the value of their vote will be even more important than usual.

Random selection can also lead to acrimonious feelings in the community. There will always be the feeling among some that the winner didn't really win, and shouldn't be mayor. It is when things are close that we need to be most certain. Random chance does not help that.

My last objection is that democracy is meant to be the will of the people. No dice or draw from a hat can truly represent the will of the people.

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