Monday, June 30, 2008

A Choice

Yesterday my mother and sister arrived in Korea for a stay of a little over a week. That will probably be discussed later, but for the moment I'm grappling with a choice that was opened to me due to this fact.

My Mum brought me a lot of stuff (more than I expected) and in this bounty was included a Rubik's cube. I can see three possible options with how to keep this object. They are as follows:
1) Keep it in it's original pristine form as a shining beacon of order in a realm of chaos.
2) Mess it up and leave it in an unsolved position as a reflection of the chaos that exists around me
3) Swap two of the stickers and mess up the cube and leave it as an exercise in frustration for any who dare to try it.

What should I do? The poll is on the right.

End Post
Writing time: a little bit of time.
Current media: None

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Third Devil

Blizzard has announced that they will be releasing Diablo 3. The only downside is that even more of my time will be sacrificed to Blizzard.

End Post
Writing time: 2 minutes
Current media: Bullshit! 6x02

Saturday, June 28, 2008

God Damn It

I was wandering around Seoul today and walked past a music store with a giant poster for a tour by the Blue Man Group in Seoul. I was quite excited about this until I saw the dates: June 14 - June 20. Then I was pissed off. I keep missing out on these sort of things.

I did see in a newspaper today that the Daegu International Music Festival starts soon. I might try and go to some part of it.

End Post
Writing time: 6 minutes
Current media: Bullshit! 6x02

Friday, June 27, 2008

Those Wacky Chinese

If you're Chinese and want to party on the opening day of the Olympics, but can't get a ticket to the opening ceremony (which is probably most Chinese, since there is an awful lot of them), there's another way to jump on the bandwagon.

Get married.

That's right. Scores of Chinese couples are applying to get married on the 8th of August to celebrate not just their love (I hope their celebrating their love), but also the Olympics. This is a novel approach which I have not seen in other countries which have hosted the Olympics. It certainly didn't happen in Sydney.

Anyway, here's my best wishes to all the lucky Chinese couples getting married on the 8th of August, because there's really no better way to celebrate a two week sporting event than with a life long commitment.

End Post
Writing time: 6 minutes
Time since last post: some time.
Current media: None

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This is Why This Sort of Junk is a Problem

Some people suggest that flim-flammery like psychics and spiritualists don't really cause any harm and that those who aggressively rail against them are misanthropic types who want to take some of the fun out of life.

But this is not the case. These frauds do cause harm. In many different ways they do cause harm. This is one example.

An educational assistant (EA) (I presume this is like a teacher's aide) at a Canadian school visited a psychic and the psychic told them that a student whose name started with a "V" was being sexually abused. Based on this the EA reported the family of a student named Victoria to the relevant authorities.

This has obviously caused much distress to the students family. It has wasted tax payer money on an unnecessary investigation. It has opened up the school to ridicule.

All because the vague guesses of a so-called psychic were given more than the iota of credence they should have been given. Psychics play guessing games and watch the gullible client for a response. They should never be a basis for any sort of investigation.

End Post
Writing time: 27 minutes
Current media: Yes Minister

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

History Time

What notable event occurred on April 16, 1178 BC?

It turns out that this date is believed to be the day Odysseus returned home and slew the suitors of his wife Penelope.

Some researchers used a series of astronomical references in the Odyssey to narrow down the date. After analysis of the clues they came back with just one possible date.

This also seems to make it plausible that there is at least some basis in fact to the story. The consistency of the events adds credibility to the story, and it seems unlikely Homer was a great enough astronomer to get such details in his story correct. Of course, this is not to say that the story should be taken as entirely true (I'm pretty sure there aren't cyclops and witches who turn men into pigs), but certainly that someone had a big adventure on his way home from the Trojan War.

End Post
Writing time: 28 minutes
Current media: Yes Minister


After not being seen since early to mid 2007, Nozumu Sahashi has been found.

Why do I care about this guy being found? He was the president of NOVA, and the one most feel is responsible for the collapse of NOVA. He is the guy who appears to have embezzled significant quantities of cash, and done some rather irregular share trading in the lead up to the collapse.

And today he was talking to the police in Osaka. Justice may not be swift, but it is sure.

End Post
Writing time: 9 minutes
Current media: None

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Just What is Their Malfunction?

I've just read this rather harrowing tale of an unfortunate 14 year old girl in Poland.

This young girl is currently pregnant. She is pregnant because she was raped. This is a terrible thing in and of itself. With her family she decided to get an abortion, which is allowed in cases like this under an exception to Poland's strict anti-abortion laws.

Unfortunately she has been unable to undergo the procedure. Originally, she had wanted to have the abortion done in her home town, but a priest barged in on the family while they were discussing the matter with the hospital director, telling her she should give birth. There has also been pressure from various anti-abortion groups on the family and hospitals as well. Both hospitals in her home town refused to perform the procedure.

When the family tried to discretely organise an abortion at a hospital in Warsaw, her harassers somehow found out (a privacy violation worth investigating) and turned up to intrude upon the family once more. They swarmed on the hospital, attacked staff and occupied the office.

These people have continued to harass this unfortunate family, even to the point of submitting a request to police to investigate the coercion of a minor to have an abortion, which is a crime in Poland, and trying to take her away from her mother and put in emergency foster care.

Now is where I get all righteous about this. Just who the hell do these people think they are? This is an extremely traumatic time for this unfortunate young girl, and all they are doing is making things worse. Do they really think that taking this girl away from her family is going to help this girl? Do they really think that persecuting her and following her around telling her what to do will make her feel better?

There is only one person who gets to decide what this girl should do, and only a few people who are allowed to advise her. The ultimate decision is the girls, and only the family, her doctor and those they ask to be involved (this could include a priest, pro-life or pro-choice supporters or whoever else they choose to ask) should be talking to this girl about things1. For everyone else, it's none of their business and they should leave the poor girl alone.

The involvement of all these anti-abortionists in this case has been despicable. It is harassment plain and simple, and the family should be able to get protection from it.

I think it also shows which side on this debate has the crazies and the nut jobs. I've never seen pro-choice activists harassing someone saying they should have an abortion. They agree that the decision lies with the woman, they just want her to have the freedom to decide what they want to do and the ability to carry out their decision. This is a position which is a lot harder to get very fundamentalist about, since it's essentially "You choose", compared to the anti-abortionists "You can't".

The people in this story really got to me because they have caused a lot of grief for this unfortunate girl who has already had a terrible experience and doesn't deserve this. Have they no decency? Are they so self-righteous that they have to further traumatize this young girl? Can't they let her have some peace?

1) In general, two people get to make the decision about abortion. These two people are the couple involved. A doctor should of course be involved for medical advice. Family, friends or others such as a priest may get involved if asked to by the couple, although in the case of minors the family should be more involved. For anyone else it's none of their business and they have no business telling the couple what they should do. In cases like this one, the father obviously does not get a say in the matter.

End Post
Writing time: 45 minutes
Current media: George Carlin's Class Clown

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, Tits

Noted comedian George Carlin has died due to heart failure at the age of 71. This is a loss for the world.

I think I first saw Carlin in this role in Dogma, but as I later learned that was but a mere footnote to what he had earlier in his career.

As it turns out, the most significant part of his career ended up in the Supreme Court in one of the most significant first amendment cases of last century. His seven dirty words caused a shit ton of controversy when they were first aired. Although time has changed the impact of some of them, it's still a harsh list. At any rate, I think these guys can explain the whole mess better.

To conclude, Rest in Peace George Carlin.

End Post
Writing time: 16 minutes
Current media: None

Monday, June 23, 2008

This Sucks

It likes Robert Mugabe has bullied his way to the top again. Morgan Tsvangirai (I almost got the spelling right before checking) has declared he will not contest the presidential run-off as it is blatantly controlled by Mugabe.

I remember being optimistic about the whole Zimbabwe thing when I first read about the elections on Pappus' Plane, but it seems I have again misjudged the capacity for dictators to serve their own interests over those of the people.

Given some of the stuff Mugabe has pulled since the first stage of the presidential election and the run-off, I have to admire Tsvangirai's bravery for sticking around in Zimbabwe. He certainly has a significant amount of testicular fortitude.

End Post
Writing time: 16 minutes
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Beelzeboss by Tenacious D

This is Nifty

I found this over on Neil Gaiman's blog. It's a tool that takes a given text and creates a tag cloud sort of thing out of it. I decided to see what it would make of this site. Here is the result.

End Post
Writing time: 5 minutes
Current media: None

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In Remembrance of Lowbrow

Once upon a time there was a website. It was You can go there today but it is a pale shadow of what it once was. During its golden years I was a regular reader. Those who know about it don't need to be told what it was, but for those who don't, it was a collection of stories from people, moments from their lives that tended towards the lowbrow. Some were truly low, some were entertaining, some were enlightening, and some were profound1.

When I was reading it it sometimes occurred to me that I had no stories to submit, and I was never sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I now have at least one, and I'm still not sure if it's a good thing.

The thing which has brought about this remembrance though is a beer. A brand of beer which is connected to Lowbrow through its name, which is Lowenbrau. I first learned of the existence of such a brew through lowbrow, and though I'm not a beer drinker I thought I'd give it a try in honour of lowbrow.

A week or two ago I finally did so. I went out with some coworkers to a bar that had a statue of an American Indian out the front, and the tables were decorated with piles of empty bottles which you could use to order by pointing at the one you wanted. While most of the night I stuck to my usual drinks, I did decide to avail myself of a Lowenbrau.

It was not good. Even by the very low standards I hold for the quality of beer, it was bad. But I managed to down it, even though it took some time. And I kept the bottle, in remembrance.

1) I need to get back to an English speaking country. My first draft of this sentence read "Some was truly lowbrow, some was entertaining and some was profound." After noticing this mistake I corrected it to "Some wer truly lowbrow, some wer entertaining, and some wer profound."

End Post
Writing time: 36 minutes (I got distracted reading what little of lowbrow exists on the Internet Archive)
Time since last post: I think I might drop this as I no longer really need it as a motivation to write more
Current media: the Doctor Who Soundtrack

Boom Times at Gloucester High

A baby boom that is. The number of students having babies this year has quadrupled and it turns out that this is no accident. A group of girls have made a pact to all get pregnant and raise their children together. They've been so successful that the school has opened up a day care center for student's children.

They don't quite seem to get what they're getting into with all this, and don't seem to be taking the whole process very seriously. One of the girls child is fathered by a 24 year old homeless. I'm pretty sure he's not going to contribute much to raising the child.

Another example of why they shouldn't be doing it comes from a schoolmate explaining why they're doing it. She says "They're so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally." This is wrong for many reasons. First, they should think back to how they were as kids, which shouldn't be too hard since it wasn't so long ago, and try and remember if they unconditionally loved their parents all the time. Then someone should tell them that the way babies show their unconditional love is by waking you up at 3am with their crying and then puking over your shoulder.

Human life is a precious thing, and those who bring a new baby into the world should be sure that they are aware of and ready for the responsibilities that go with it. By their attitude and actions, these girls have shown that they have done neither.

I just hope these girls get their act together and start treating life more seriously.

End Post
Writing time: 15 minutes
Time since last post: about a day
Current media: iTunes shuffle

Saturday, June 21, 2008

And So It Spreads

It appears that the creationist dogma is spreading from its heartland of middle-America to the colder climes of the British Isles. Fortunately, a response is being made to this villainy.

The worst part though is a quote about religious students in subjects like medicine. According to Professor Steve Jones of University College London, "They want permission not to come to those lectures and sit those exam questions."

This is just ridiculous. I honestly expect better from those seeking to become doctors, or those studying any sort of anything, really. If I was their lecturer, I'd say "Sure, you don't have to attend those lectures or do those questions on the exam, but don't expect me to give you any credit for it." For anyone working in the biological fields, evolution is a fundamental concept and denying that is to ignore nearly all the knowledge gained in the field since the mid 1800s.

Dear oh dear oh dear.

End Post
Writing time: 15 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days (I ran out of stuff I preposted)
Current media: iTunes shuffle

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Did He Really Think This Would Fly?

A weird story about some schmuck in Korea who had less than good luck with the ladies. It seems that after dating a lady for a few months, she called it off and he managed to get her to sign a promise to pay him back the money he spent on their dates. When she didn't pay, he took her to court. Although a lower court enforced the deal, the High Court has overruled them.

In any country such an action is messed up, but it fits in with a general trend of things I've learnt about dating in Korea. Over here, things seem a lot more involved and messed up. For a start, there's a lot of pressure for women to get married before they get too old, which is defined as about 31. But they can't just marry anyone, they have to marry someone whose family is of similar social status. Dating agencies are the most common way people meet, and if they get married, the dating agency gets a regular payment for several years afterwards.

One time I went to a nightclub and it was an almost disturbing experience. Groups of guys and girls would go to the club, and after a while the waiters would start bringing girls to the guys. The idea was kind of that they'd start talking and maybe something would happen, but most of the women seemed very reluctant, with some from the table across from us putting up a big fight not to be taken from her table. She had to fight because the waiters would actually drag them from their table to another table. A few girls were brought to our table, but between the noise (I could feel my chest vibrate), the language barrier and the incredible awkward feeling on both sides nothing came of it.

That's all for now.

End Post
Writing time: 27 minutes (I got distracted by the new Futurama movie
Time since last post: 14 hours, I think
Current media: the new Futurama movie

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hasn't this happened before

So it turns out a rowing crew training on the Brisbane river got hit by a citycat the other day. Fortunately no one was hurt.

This is not the first time such an accident has occurred, and others have not been as lucky. I wonder why there is not a designated section of the river for such activities that the citycat would avoid during training hours. It would be an easy way to prevent unnecessary accidents like this.

End Post
Writing time: 9 minutes
Time since last post: about a day or so
Current media: The Three Amigos

Monday, June 16, 2008

You don't go girl

Another battleground for women in the middle east has opened up. Not content to jihad, women in Saudi Arabia are pushing for the right to play sports. Sports is banned at girls schools, and few facilities allow women to use them.

This issue is being highlighted now because the Saudi Arabia only allows men in its Olympic team, and once again, the bright light of the Olympics is showing us things that were hiding in the shadows. One good point to note is that the London Olympics is planning to ban any country that outright prohibits women from competing. I'm worried though that in a country where women aren't allowed to even train, will any women qualify to compete. It's no good saying "Women are allowed on our team" but provide women no way to reach Olympic standards. It's like telling someone you can have any job you want so long as you have the skills, but, you aren't allowed to learn to read.

End Post
Writing time:10 minutes
Time since last post: probably 24 hours
Current media: Allegro from the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some things should be taken seriously

A rather large trial in NSW has had to be aborted because several of the jurors were playing soduku instead of listening to the evidence.

I don't know where to start with this one. Don't these people understand that jury duty is serious business. Someones future is in your hands. Justice is in your hands. This is not something you can do half-assed.

I certainly agree with the defense lawyer for pulling them up on this, and am glad the judge agreed. The jury has been dismissed and the trial will restart when a new jury is established.

The only bit I don't disagree with is the fact that the jurors can not be penalized for this. Because of their lack of seriousness, this case will go longer, which will mean increased costs for the defendants, the prosecution and the courts. In cases like this where the jury is dismissed for blatantly not doing their job, there should be some sort of consequence. Not the full cost, but they should be made to realize that they have screwed up.

As a hint to anyone who is on a jury and wants to get away with this, avoid two dimensional puzzles. At first people thought these jurors were making notes, but suspicions were aroused when it was noticed that they were writing vertically, a somewhat unusual method of note taking.

End Post
Writing time: 11 minutes
Time since last post: nominally 24 hours, but who knows
Current media: None

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Want My Epidural

Of course, not every woman opts for an epidural. Some go with a caesarean, and others for some reason choose to bear the pain (I can't say I fully understand that one). A Polish woman went for a rather unusual option, booze. The woman turned up at the hospital with a blood alcohol level of 1.2 grams of alcohol per 1000 grams of blood.

The woman seems to have suffered no ill effect from the experience, although the doctors are worried about the baby who got a concentrated dose from its mother and had a blood alcohol level of 2.9 grams per thousand

End Post
Writing time: 10 minutes
Time since last post: It is not for man to know that which shall be, only that which is
Current media: still the soundtrack from Rushmore

Friday, June 13, 2008

You Go Girl

I bring you news of the latest frontier in the fight for womens rights. Having mostly conquered the right to vote, the right to work, the right for equal pay, the right to not be objectified and others, women are turning to the fight for the right to jihad.

Surprising as it seems, fundamentalist Islamic terror groups like Al-Queda aren't exactly an equal opportunity group. When a leader of Al-Queda said that a woman's role in jihad is to look after the home and children of the male fighters, it caused a ruckus among female jihadis.

I have to say I kind of support them in this, mainly because I think everyone should be able to make their own mistakes. Of course, I'd rather they didn't want to blow me up for being an infidel, but it's their choice.

End Post
Writing time: 9 minutes
Time since last post: Who knows what the future holds?
Current media: Scrubs season 2 episode 5

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Someone's Having a Good Time

The latest delivery of supplies to McMurdo base in Antarctica included something a little unusual, 16,488 condoms. This is apparently a years supply for the base for which the population ranges from a low of 125 in winter up to 1100. Even working with the higher population this is still 15 condoms per person.

I guess there's not a lot to do in your free time there. It's not like you can go out and see a movie or anything.

Perhaps I should become a scientist working in Antarctica.

End Post
Writing time: 4 minutes
Time since last post: I don't know yet
Current media: the soundtrack from Rushmore

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Saga Continues

Today I got another letter from Japan from (this is on the envelope)
Bankrupt company Nova Corporation
Trustee in bankruptcy Lawyer Toshiaki Higashibata
Trustee in bankruptcy Lawyer Noriaki Takahashi

This was a slight surprise since I got my money a long time ago and didn't expect to have anything more to do with them. It turns out that it's just a letter sent out to all creditors updating them on the status of bankruptcy proceedings. The letter is actually a pretty good telling of the story of the "Fall of Nova" going back all the way to the start of the first school in Shinsaibashi. Even the English is pretty good, although in that overly formal style that Japanese legalese tends to become when translated.

The main point of the letter was the summary of assets and liabilities. The following table is taken from the letter

Assetsvalue (yen)
Liquidation value6,489,307,392
Total Assets6,489,307,392
Pledged Assets3,560,000,000
Taxes and public dues2,929,307,392
Outstanding wages5,525,934,129
Other Estate claims1400,000,000
General claims275,756,372,131
Total Liabilities87,496,160,639

1) this is an estimate for the cost of ending all the leases on places and cleaning them up.
2) This is mostly the 56.4 billion yen worth of unused lessons paid for by students.

Comparing the total assets and liabilities I think we can see where the problem was. Let's just say I'm glad the government was giving me my payout and not the company.

One odd thing they said was that they were expecting to get a tax refund of about a billion yen. This is because the company had paid the consumption tax on prepaid lessons ahead of time at a rate of 45% of the value even though it seems they didn't have to do so until the lessons were taken. When the business was an operating concern, this sort of worked out because the other 55% of the tax that was due when the lessons were taken would be the 45% prepaid from other lessons. However, since the lessons aren't being taken, it seems the consumption tax on them no longer applies, so the company can get some of that prepaid money back. It seems a bit weird and I may have misunderstood how it actually works.

Anyway, unless I get another letter about it, I think this might be the end of the Nova Saga. Rest in Peace Usagi.

End Post
Writing time: 37 minutes
Time since last post: 11 days (I've been slack)
Current media: the soundtrack from Rushmore