March 31, 2003

Tale of Three Cards

These are all true stories that have occurred in the last couple of months. Guess which institution you should be dealing with?

Alfred (not his real name) had a credit card with a big bank (which bank?). He noticed some strange transactions on his bill so he gives the bank a call. They advise him that he is unidentifiable and so he trots into a local branch the next day at the start of his lunch break. He is still there at the end of his lunch break and most of his afternoon tea (1 hour, 15 minutes). He gets to make a "stat dec" and is then sent home with the assurance that the bank will contact him about the matter and he should pay the several thousand dollars anyway pending a better solution. Three weeks later and nothing has happened but he is dreading the next bill.

Belinda (not her real name) has a credit card with a big shopping chain (which may be affiliated with the bank above). Belinda decides to give her hubby a subsidiary card and gets the paperwork. When she starts to fill in the bit about her card number she realizes that she can't find the card. After a full scale search involving at least a platoon of willing assistants, she calls the emergency number of the credit card people. After a bit of discussion they admit that in fact her card was suspended about three weeks ago because someone (a retailer where she had used the card) found it and sent it in. To organize another card, she would have to call again during business hours. Belinda's number one question was "When were you going to tell me about this?" and the response was "If you needed the card, you would have got in touch with us".

Charlie (not his or her real name) has a credit card with a credit union. They noticed some suspicious character was generating sequences of bogus credit card numbers and realized that the sequence would run into Charlie's number in the near future. Charlie being OS (Overseas) they got in touch with the local contact provided by Charlie, passed on the news and provided a method for Charlie to have the card cancelled (and a new one issued) before there was any problem. For such superb service they can obviously be named as the NSW Teachers Credit Union. I reckon they deserve the equivalent of an Oscar for customer service.

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March 29, 2003


It can be hard being a teacher. I think one of the features of being a teacher is having certain assurance of your own weaknesses. As a part time teacher I am always horribly aware of my own inability to spell. I am terrified that I will write something wrong on the board or misspell something in an exam (or sometimes that I will leave a out). As a side effect, I have this desire to correct other people's spelling (and grammar) sometimes.

Take this protester (source - email from friend - if this is your image, I am happy to acknowledge it...):


Doesn't it look a bit better corrected:


Of course, "Me a Moron" should be "I am a moron" but the assumption here is that this gentleman's grammar will be equivalent to his spelling.

It would be worse if it turns out that he is a teacher :grin

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March 23, 2003

Talk about popular...

The Crazy Apple Rumors Site ran a fantastic spoof after Al Gore joined the board of Apple. The spoof claimed that George W Bush was challenging the vote (a la Florida). The article was picked up and run by a number of other sites (some of whom did not realise it was humour). It also featured in 'Apple Hot News' which is a fantastic achievement for a rumour/humour site.

As a result, the bandwidth to the site appears to have been overloaded and the most recent posting suggests that the authors are having a "spring break". On the other hand, maybe the spring break is due to the recent visit to the zoo and some excitement that may have occurred there ...

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March 22, 2003

Well I never...

After all that careful research, I got to the polling booth and found another candidate. You could have knocked me down with a feather. No mention in the papers, no junk in the mailbox, no doorknocking, no flyers on poles - absolutely no publicity for the UNITY candidate.

Well that reflects in the current vote count (as at 8pm, 16,500 votes counted) and the UNITY candidate is running at about one third of the Informal candidate who is running neck and neck with the independant and the democrat.

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March 21, 2003

Bad Publicity?

There's an old saying about there being no such thing as bad publicity. Well all the papers and newsites are full of stories about something we can't discuss. As per Basil's advice - "we won't mention the war".

All this alternate news is distracting from the publicity seeking Microslash so they have announced a brand new vulnerability that affects all versions of Windows. It is a real humdinger - highly critical involving malicious web sites and emails and everything. The only solution is to patch everything or $buy$ newer software which doesn't have THIS bug (lots of others included for future publicity and enjoyment).

What was that item a few days ago? Here's a nickel son, buy yourself a real computer.

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March 19, 2003

Beating the English

Oh well, there goes another sporting loss for the UK. From Column 8 in the SMH today:

Once again, Oz has thrashed the Poms at one of their national sports. Mike Dobbie, ex-Wahroonga, and his wife, Ruth Arkell, ex-Woy Woy, witnessed an Australian team win the 19th World Pooh-Sticks Championship, held at a lock on an Oxfordshire stretch of the Thames on Sunday. "Admittedly the A. A. Milne-invented activity is more of a game than a sport," says Mike, "nonetheless, it was great to see the Southern Cross flapping in the Mother Country's breeze."
The skill-filled contest involves dropping a stick from a bridge over a river and seeing how fast it travels. The Oxfordshire lock is not the original Pooh-Sticks bridge where Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin played - it all started in Ashdown Forest, east Sussex.

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March 18, 2003

War Bits and Pieces

This image (from the SMH) sort of sums up the attitude of most people I have spoken to:


In another article the SMH reports that He [GWB] promised the Iraqi people: "The day of your liberation is near." Is that the day Saddam is defeated or the day when the US pulls out?

I guess that we will also have to declare war on all the other nations with weapons of mass destruction (USA, UK, France, USSR, China etc) and those who have a history of killing their own people (including the unborn?).

Actually, I think I have made my feelings clear and like one of my favorite sites I am going to try to avoid saying anything further about the war. Basically it is a tragic mistake and there is nothing I can do or say that will change it.

Expect more exciting news about the one horse local elections instead :-)

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Legal Support

The SMH has a very long article about containing snippits about the war. Normally I don't quote articles directly but in this case the relevant part is quite short:

Legal case for war dubious, warns Clark
The United States and Britain were unlikely to find legal support for an attack on Iraq, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said today. They would "stretch back through a string of UN resolutions to construct a legal edifice for what is happening", she said. "I think they will fail to convince most international lawyers. I think the lawyers will argue about this until kingdom come."

I can solve the problem. Any lawyers who don't support the legal case for the war can be sent to the front. Won't be any problem getting legal support in that case ....

[HINT FOR HUMOUR IMPAIRED: No I do not agree with the war - see the song below and earlier articles - I am pointing out the silliness of haggling about the legality/illegality of a war that should not happen.]

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March 17, 2003


Pass the smelling salts.... What a shock election discovery.... The SMH noticed today that Labor to benefit most from the Greens' preference deals.

Who could have expected that? Not that it has been any different in any election in Australia since the Green party was formed.

There are three problems with the Greens: First they are fundamentally a one issue party which can't cope with more generic issues of government (e.g. legalizing drugs?), second they ignore perfectly valid evidence that doesn't fit their preconceptions (e.g. the bush vs burnoff issue), and thirdly they are just a just a mechanism for funneling votes back to labor.

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March 15, 2003

UK vs France

Talk about stating the obvious. The BBC had this article , I mean what did you really expect the UK to do? Applaude them? Kiss them on both cheeks?

UK condemns French veto stance
War with Iraq appears a step closer after Tony Blair said he believed a second United Nations resolution on Iraq was "now probably less likely than at any time". His official spokesman said that efforts were continuing to secure a diplomatic solution to the crisis - but accused France of "poisoning" the diplomatic process.
Government sources said efforts could continue into next Monday if necessary, but Downing Street said they could not "elasticate for ever".
Amid rising tension, the Queen has cancelled a visit to Belgium next week on the advice of the Foreign Office because it was felt that it would not be appropriate for her to be out of the country "given the present circumstances".
Earlier Foreign Secretary Jack Straw condemned France's "extraordinary" intention to veto any further UN motion on Iraq and implied their action had made it more difficult to avoid war.
Chancellor Gordon Brown said he would back military action against Iraq without a second resolution if France used an "unreasonable" veto, arguing that Mr Blair should be given "100% support".
The leader of the British opposition, Iain Duncan Smith, met Mr Blair on Thursday morning and said he had been told a second resolution was "less likely than at any time before".
Mr Duncan Smith reported the prime minister as blaming the "intransigence" of France in rejecting Britain's efforts to find a compromise second UN resolution.

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March 07, 2003

Bombs Away

Looks as if Bushie has forgotten a basic rule about not trying to fight on too many fronts at once. Currently he is fighting the "war on drugs", "war on terrorism" and he is itching to fight "Gulf War II - rewriting history". Now he is preparing another "front" against "North Korea".

In the meantime, another blog has a fascinating list of places that the US has bombed since WWII. As the site points out, none of these attacks has really made a great improvement in the countries concerned.

Checking the list makes me wonder why the Muslims are so angry with the US - surely most of the targets are Catholic?!

P.S. This is an early entry for Friday as I will not be in a fit state to post anything tomorrow due to planned day surgery.

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February 28, 2003

Golf War II

Getting away from local politics, how about the global situation. Headlines in the SMH this morning were about Bushie Jnr covering for his dad's failure to remove Hussein last time round. Funny that, I didn't see any hits from the SMH in the logs. :wink

Seriously, there is (and should be) a lot of opposition to a gung-ho attack on Iraq. That is not to say that the war should not happen but all options need to be investigated and tried. A friend recently pointed out that the real truth of the matter is that any action now (or even last time) would be too little to late and one of the links below points out the reality that America will have to face.

Here's a couple of cool links:
Flash-game prediction of Mideast chaos
Idleworm: games
Annonymous powerpoint article send via email
P.S. Yes I know it should be Gulf, not Golf!

Posted by Ozguru at 06:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mark of Cain

What is it about Australia that encourages everyone to tell us what to do. Recently we have had advice from Malaysia (Bali was our own fault), Indonesia (tourist warnings will harm our close relationship) and the Americans (we are not allowed to be rude about Bushie Jnr). Now we cop it from the Chinese.

How about some rational thought here. First our Yankee Doodle mates have got this missile shield thing. Well the PM in his pro-American best thinks we should take a gander. The temporary leader of the opposition naturally opposes this (that is why they call it the opposition). Either way the use of this defensive shield is something for Australia to consider.

To help push us into the deal, we have some advice from one of our closest allies the friendly Chinese! Apparently Feng Tie on behalf of the Chinese embassy in Canbera believes that Australia having a reasonable defense option would upset regional stability and lead to an arms race. ;-) Actually sounds just like the opinion they offered Taiwan. :-)

Right. Sure. If we could defend ourselves, this would be a threat to who? New Zealand? We all know they are envious of Australia but seriously they seem to be able to cope with our current pro-American attitude without getting too upset. Who else? Indonesia would like a chunk but they still have to recover from the loss of East Timor and PNG is a more likely target.

There must be something that gives all these nations the idea that somehow we would appreciate their advice! Maybe it is because we are so free at handing out advice to them ... :-)

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February 27, 2003

AI vs Minsky

Every since taking some AI subjects in Cognitive Science at UNSW, I have wondered how some leading AI researchers get away with it. The continual promises of solutions (just around the corner) and the bucket loads of money that are poured into "pure AI" are literally unbelievable. Well today there is an interesting article on slashdot where the discussion points out that there have in fact been some spin-offs from AI. The problem is that once some aspect of AI is "solved" it tends not to be be seen as AI anymore. In effect we move the boundaries. This does not really absolve people like Minsky who are still promising the "real thing" any day now but it does suggest that AI has had some benefits (expert systems, character recognition, voice recognition) which are now sort of independent of AI. The classic quote was about who the definition of intelligence ("using tools") has changed ("making tools") and changed ("self recognition") as we learn more and more about our environment.

The trigger for the AI article was a story about the Loebner/Minsky prize in Salon.

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February 24, 2003

Microslosh Strikes Again

The whole world (or at least the whole internet) is running around patching SSL due to a recent vulnerability which was announced last week in Switzerland. The truth of the matter is somewhat more interesting that the original reports suggested. The actual vulnerability is not in SSL itself but in the way that SSL is used.....

Imagine a locksmith who makes a great new security lock for front doors. Now you get a builder who constructs entranceways to your house using this locksmith's products. As a consumer, you just want to be able to access your house. This builder does this by arranging it so that you put your key in the lock to open the door and then go inside BUT your key stays in the door until you leave the house. You should have picked a smarter builder :wink

Now the locksmith is OpenSSL, the builder in question is the Microslosh corporation and the entranceway product is called Outlook Express. When you start up a connection (enter your house) the SSL key is used to establish a connection. Outlook Express continues to send the key to the server every time if checks for updates. It does not close and reopen the connection as required and it does not make full use of the keys. It sends a simple data packet (including the key) at least once every five minutes.

Like I said above, get a better builder. And don't listen to promises of a secure future, this builder has been promising to make things secure, safe and bugfree since (at least) 1995 [Bill Gates claims MS Software is bugfree in Risks Digest] and still have not delivered.

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February 19, 2003

Britain Too Dangerous?

An item in the SMH today states that Bush has decided that Britain is too dangerous for his neice to visit. I wonder if that is because of possible Iraqi (Eyerackee) retaliation or because of public opinion being against political will. I mean, after all, Bush is not exactly popular in Europe at the moment.

Of course the article could be a load of old cobblers because it mentions a younger brother of the president named Neil. Really? The only dynastic mentions in the past have been about a brother named Jeb (renamed Jed in a previous entry to invoke memories of the Beverly Hillbillies). Are there yet more Bush offspring who will become presidents (ala the Kennedy family) or was it a typo, a stuffup or someone who didn't check carefully. Actually I don't care enough about the issue to investigate it any further......

The big issue is going to be WWDC in May. How can I convince my wife that it will be safe for me to travel to the US when they don't think it safe to travel OS?

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February 18, 2003

Go Kiwis

Most of the world may not be aware of the America's Cup (yacht race). This is normally a big, expensive race between billionaires. Last time round a small country put a team in - sort of a national effort. That was a really big deal. The funny thing was - they won in 1995 and defended successfully in 2000.

It was a big deal because Australia only got excited about the cup after it had been won by Alan Bond (back in the days of robber barons and West Australia Inc.) whereas this country was united behind the team from the start.

Well this time round the Kiwis will win again. How do I know? Both remaining teams are Kiwis. One is team is the "national effort" of New Zealand which is approaching the problem just like last time. The other team consists of those who abandoned the Kiwi team to follow the lure of the almighty dollar (or in this case Swiss francs).

No matter who wins it will be a victory for New Zealand but it would be nice to see the national team win!

News about today's race

Late Edition

The Sydney Morning Herald which missed this story yesterday has caught up today with an article. It mentions Swiss joy at the win yesterday but fails to point out that the Swiss (like the Australians) only started to get excited after the winning commenced. Unlike Team NZ, the Swiss team is only a Swiss team because the guy who owns it happens to be Swiss not because the Swiss people had any input into the challenge.

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February 15, 2003


Naturally (this being Saturday), I haven't been on the bus today. I note that the weather forecast (right) says 26 degrees but the thermometer reads 32 and rising. I have been busy running around this morning, taking DragonFly to physio, shopping for more potting mix at Big W and then out to the nursery for yet more plants. Now it is too hot to do anything except vegetate and fix the web site (done).

Anyway I used the time to finish off a book: "The White Plague" (Frank Herbert). I found it one of those books that was hard to finish but also hard to put down. It was extremely depressing and I found the ending weak. Written in 1982, it reflects on the results of DNA fiddling gone bad. It was sort of topical (given the current embryo debate) and I almost wonder if it should be made compulsary reading for proponents of the new research. Actually I just found a review on the web that might have saved me from reading the book: "Genius scientist goes wacko after death of wife and cooks up killer disease that offs the female half of the world. Social implications at 11."

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February 12, 2003


Is everyone else as confused as I am about the current official position of the Labor party? Checking the news headlines before heading home I see yet another fun day in the hot-air capitol of Australia.

Apparently the leader of the opposition wants to know why Mr Howard was not preparing for war earlier (and inoculating the navy). Yesterday he was attacking Mr Howard for preparing for war before the parliment had voted on any potential participation.

To keep the Americans as confused as his own constituents, he also allegedly advised the American ambassador to "butt out" of local politics after the ambassador responded to verbal slurs aimed at both America and George Bush by some back benchers. The confusion stems from the fact that Crean had previously apologised for the behaviour of the back benchers.

Maybe it is all a plot to distract NSW from the upcoming State election (March 22) which is being contested between Bob Carr (Labor, shoe-in) and whats-his-name (Liberal, unknown). Really Crean can relax, it is unlikely that whats-his-name will get organised in time anyway....

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February 11, 2003

Mental Games

The lady in front of me had a large print book today. It was describing a character playing mental games with herself. You know where you say to yourself something like "I'll do my exercise today only if a get a green light at the next intersection....". A sort of self as observer bargaining with self as actor.

One upon a time that sort of deal would probably have been an intellectual challenge to God - "I'll believe in you if you do this miracle for me....". I guess society has changed so much that we sort of do that bargaining with ourselves. Sort of mini-gods.

Of course if you believe Dennett ("Consiousness Explained") then "we" don't exist other then as the loudest shouting thread in a mental storm which means I guess we can't really bargain with ourselves. For that matter, who could challenge us if we cheat.....

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February 01, 2003

Sharing the Paper

The man next to me was reading the paper (SMH). He was very concerned that I would read it as well and kept trying to twist and fold the paper to prevent me seeing it. Why was that? Does having someone else read the paper somehow devalue it for him? Does it somehow cheapen his experience? I wanted to tell him that I prefer to read "The Australian" and only read the SMH online .....

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