Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A New World (time) Order! 

Well, I'm back after forgetting this site for a few weeks (OK, 7) to give you a few related stories I've found in the last few days.

First up: Time.
As anyone who chats with people around the world may know, it's hard to arrange meetings with people in the US, UK and Australia at the same time. Time-zones and Daylight savings makes converting a date and time for a meeting a nightmare unless you have the right tools.

Enter New Earth Time, an attempt at creating a universal time format. NET, as it's known, uses the 360 degrees of the earth's rotation to measure time. This equates to 15 degrees an hour, and as the clock on the website demonstrates, it has a resolution (fancy word for smallest unit) of about 4 seconds. The clock appears to center around Greenwich Mean Time.

I personally don't see the point of this new system. If we're going to refer to everything in relation to GMT, then why not just keep the current system of hours and minutes, and lose time-zones? In fact, this system is flawed because each new day would start at 180 degrees, thanks to the international date line being on the opposite side of the world to GMT.

Next item of business: the calendar.
The current Gregorian calendar is simple enough on the surface, but rather complicated if you pay attention to the details. Basically, there are 365.2422 days in a solar year. The current system uses 365 days in the base year, and adds a leap day every four years, with the leap day missing every hundred years except on every fourth century. Like I said, it can get a bit complicated.

Enter Richard Conn Henry, a professor at the John Hopkins University who thinks he has a better system. Under the new system, there would actually be 364 days in a year, rather than the traditional 365. This system allows for one advantage over the Gregorian calendar: 364 is divisible by 7, making each date the same weekday every year.

The new year will be divided into the traditional 12 months, although there will be a few changes. Every third month will be 31 days, with the rest being 30. That means January, February, April, May, July, August, October and November will be 30 days long, and March, June, September and December will be 31 days.

'But what of leap years?', you ask. After all, not only are we missing the one day a year, but also those extra leap days every four years. 'Not a problem' says Henry, who proposes adding a 13th, week-long 'mini-month' between June and July every 5 or 6 years (the number varies depending on how many days need to be added to keep the calendar in line). Henry has suggested the name 'Newton Week' for this leap week, and thinks it could be used as a payed public holiday.

Henry has started an organisation to promote the idea, and hopes to have the world adopt his new calendar for 2006, which would allow New Years Day to fall on a Sunday every year.

Question is, what happens to all those poor people who's birthdays fall on the 31st of January, May, July, August, and October? What of Halloween?

Monday, November 01, 2004

Victory declared for Kerry! (well, not really) 

I just found an interesting rumour which has been floating around the net for a few weeks regarding the upcoming US Presidential election. So the rumour goes, if the Washington Redskins win their last home game before the election, the current President (or the parties candidate, if the current president has reached the 2 term maximum) will stay in power. Conversely, if they lose, the opposing party will gain the Presidency.

Interestingly, a recent study into this legend has discovered that it does indeed have historical backing! This trend has proven out in every election since 1936, which was indeed the first year the team played as the Redskins, although at that point they were still a Boston team, moving to Washington by the time of the next election.

So what does this all mean? Well, the last game played which fulfilled the requirements was played on Halloween night, with the Washington Redskins going up against the Green Bay Packers. The final score? 28-14 to the Packers, which predicts a win to Kerry in tomorrows election.

Edit: Nov 3, 2004.
So ends a legend. Bush won the election, thus breaking the trend.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Ice-cream Update 

It was brought to my attention the other day that McDonalds have now started charging 50c for an ice-cream cone. I'll be sure to be on the lookout for a 'Still just 50c' poster in the coming weeks.

Friday, September 10, 2004

<censored>ing Censorship! 

Two links today, to make up for the lack of posts recently. And as you may have guessed from the title, they're both about forms of censorship.

Our first link takes us to the American Library Association page, where they have a nice little report on The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990 - 2000. These are the books that concerned parents and teachers and other groups have asked to be banned from libraries, both in public or school libraries (Private Schools do not fall under this, as they can make up their own rules). Some entries of note are:

Now, on to the next story. Our next link is for The Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2003 - 2004. These are the stories which you may not have seen over the past year, or did see, but not the whole story. Some entries of note include:
Reinstating the draft did make an appearance here on WoMD, showing that we do have our collective ears to the ground and aren't afraid to tell it like it is.

Edit: I actually wrote this story a few days ago, but for some reason Blogger would allow me to upload it, but refused to publish it. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Ahhh, the good old days.... 

Well, it certainly has been a long time between updates, but that doesn't mean we're dead yet! I will continue to post interesting stories until Shay closes the blog or kills my access, whichever comes first. So, on to todays story...

I was in the city the other day doing the university thing, and, as is common for me, I will occasionally eat at McDonalds if I can't make it home for lunch or dinner. So I'm sitting at McD's eating lunch, and I look up, and notice a poster right in front advertising thier ice-cream cones. The poster reads 'After all these years, they're still only 40c.' Ha! I remember when it was 30c for a cone, and it was only a handful of years ago that this was the case.

So later in the day, I have to come back to the same branch to buy dinner, and again end up sitting near the poster. This time, I look up and notice that not only is the sign misleading, but '40c' is in a different colour and font to the rest of the poster. That's right, the cost has been written on a pre-printed poster! Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but surely a poster starting with the phrase 'After all these years' wouldn't need to be updated all that often?

After thinking long and hard on this, the only conclusion I can find is that the promotional heads over at McD Central have been reading 1984 and were suitably impressed with the Ministry of Truth. After all, every update of this poster not only changes the future, but it changes the past! With the application of a few stuck on numbers, several years worth of pricing is overwritten, and lets face it, it's not like people save or are even given recieptss stating the price of the cone they just bought. The only evidence that cones once cost less is in the public's own mind, and the official company line appears to be that prices have always been that way, you just don't remember it well enough.

Kinda makes you wonder about the history of the 30c cones, doesn't it?

Friday, June 25, 2004

And the webmail wars go on... 

Most people by now will be aware that Google have entered the webmail wars with a revolutionary new service called Gmail, which offers an unprecedented 1GB (1000 megabytes) of storage for free. While it's still in beta testing, those of us here at WoMD have had the opportunity to grab ourselves a beta account for awhile now. Anticipation for the new service has been huge, with beta accounts being sold on eBay for as much as $100 in some cases.

The webmail market has been stagnant for years now. The two main webmail providers today, Hotmail and Yahoo!, have been respectively offering 2MB and 4MB free accounts for some time and have so far been attempting to convert more people to a paid service by offering larger mailboxes and slowly decreasing the size of the free accounts. I was lucky enough to grab a Yahoo! account when the inbox was 6MB, instead of the 4MB it has been recently.

Luckily, Gmail has shaken things up enough to snap Hotmail and Yahoo! out of these trends. Yahoo! recently upgraded all of its free customers to a 100MB account, offering 2GB for paying customers. Likewise, Hotmail is now announcing that their free accounts will soon be upgraded to 250MB mailboxes, with paid subscriptions being upgraded to 2GB.

All in all, it's a good time for webmail, and I was more than pleased with the fact that my Yahoo! account now reports as 6% full instead of the 92% it was previously.

All hail our muscle-bound masters! 

Some people seem to grow muscles without a problem, others seem to struggle, lifting weights day and night to find that their arms haven't changed their diameter at all. Ever wondered why that is? Well, scientists are now monitoring a young boy who has taken muscle-building to an extreme, being born with well defined muscles.

The boy, now 4 years old, lives in Germany and is still abnormally strong for his age, being able to hold three-kilogram weights with his arms extended, which is something many adults cannot do. Scientists have known about the genetic mechanism which allows this for a while now, and there is a breed of cows which were bred for this exact genetic trait. They are hoping to develop drugs which mimic this effect to help reduce muscle-loss in patients.

Stories here (New York Times, use BugMeNot below for registration if you don't have an account already) and here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A handy tool for blogger and blog-reader alike... 

One of the things which concern me when I'm writing a post for this site is whether the article I'm linking to will actually be accessible by the intended readers. If I refer to an article posted on the Ney York Times website, for example, I have to keep in mind that many of the stories submitted there require the reader to have an account. In their case, registration is free, but sometimes a site may require a subscription to read their news.

In either case, you will often be asked a series of questions which you may not really want them to know the answers to. Some sites even sell your information to other companies, who then flood your inbox's with spam. Obviously, this isn't a good thing.

Enter BugMeNot, a handy website I was referred to recently. BugMeNot is a free service which provides 'communal' accounts for many sites which require a login to read content. What this means is that they (or people submitting to the site) create accounts to sites and then share the usernames and passwords online so that you can log in using those accounts, rather than making your own.

If you considers this a bad thing, feel free not to use this service. If not, there is also a handy extension to Mozilla-based browsers which allows you to simply right-click on the page in question to access account information.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Sheesh, even 'Joshua' was a better password.... 

I recently found myself with enough money to go out and buy WarGames on DVD for my birthday. It was a great movie released in 1983 starring Matthew Broderick. For those unfamiliar with the movie, it involved computer hacking and the threat of nuclear war, and if you haven't seen it before, go out and find a copy at your local video store NOW (the title of this post will make a lot more sense if you do).

Today, I found myself faced with a report written in 1977 concerning the threat of terrorist aquisition of nuclear capabilities, and generally explained why the US security measures were hopelessly incompetent. One of the recent revelations is that, prior to the report, the Minuteman intercontinental missiles, the backbone of the US strategic deterrant, numbering over 1000 missile each carrying a megaton warhead, was protected by the password '00000000', and that every member of the military personnel associated with the program knew this password!

The report has a quick introduction by one of the writers of the original report, so if you couldn't be bothered reading through the whole thing, you can stop there.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Where the hell is Shay?? 

Our Master Blogger has been absent as of late, any ideas on where he is??

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Smart Media 

Gotta love how the media works the minds of the people out there, even myself included. A good example is how all these prisoner abuse cases have arisen in Iraq and yet nothing is really being done about it, I mean prisoners have been murdered while in custody, POW's I might add, and who is getting persecuted for these violations and war crimes???? No one and you wont see anyone get persecuted for it either, yet there is graphic evidence and confessions to it being done. Yet when someone the likes of Slobodan Milosevich or whoever does it, its a totally different story, they get caught and prosecuted and they pay the price.

But getting back to how the media is used to mould and shape how we percieve things, is it not strange how as soon as these abuse cases make the light of day suddenly a US civilian gets their head chopped off and then that is splashed across every newspage in the world? A mere coincedence? I think not, more likely they dont want people to dwell on the 'abuse' subject too long and actually start to use their heads and think 'hey what has happened is not right and the people responsible should be prosecuted further'.

And another question I have is how do people of this calibre (the US soldiers responsible) get into the army in the first place??? These people obviously have a psychopathic condition to even carry out what they did, isnt there a psychological screening process or is this type of people the US wants defending its land and its people?

But as for the bloke who got executed he isnt the first US civilian to die in Iraq-meaning that the others who have died didnt get any news coverage whatsoever-and no one has explained how he came to be held by these 'militants' either.
If anyone does have the facts please tell me because I am yet to hear about it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

This is Israels idea of Peace. 

These pictures speak for themselves.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Journey of a failed Idol.... 

Yesterday, I got up at 4:30 in the morning, put on the best clothes I own, and caught the first available train into the city. The reason? Australian Idol Season 2 has arrived here in Brisbane, and in a common moment of insanity, I decided to go and audition.
I had scoped out the Suncorp Piazza the day before auditions were set to begin, and found a group of 30 people already camped out ready. However, having seen a few episodes of American Idol, I knew it wasn't uncommon to camp out for up to a week in advance, so I took this as a good sign of things to come and left, thinking the line would be manageable the next morning. When I finally got came back at 6:15am on Saturday, I discovered that what had started as 30 people had now expanded to fill 2 large lawn areas and was beginning to fill a third!
So there I was, towards the front of the line on the third lawn, with no chairs, and it was raining. Being 2 hours early, I had nothing to do but stand in line, unable to even read the book I had brought because I could not hold the book and the umbrella at the same time. The atmosphere in the idol line is really incredible though, and in the space of 30 minutes I was chatting with the people around me as if I'd known them for months.
At 7:30, the authorities started moving people into the venue to get out of the rain, and it was at this point that one of the guard came to inform us that the chances of actually getting in before they filled up for the rest of the day was slim to none for those on the third lawn. Many hopefuls left to come back on the Sunday or Monday, but yours truly remained in the line to see if he was close enough to the front of the third lawn line to make it in.
*Long* story short, I did not get in that mornig, but was instead told that auditions had closed for the day when I was only 10 metres from the entrance. I guy I met on the train who happened to be further down the line was also kept out, with only 2 people between him and the chance at stardom.
Today, I got up at the same time, only this time I had company in my quest. A friend who lives a few buildings over came along to audition, so we caught the first train in again, hoping that the large number of auditions yesterday had depleted the crowd of hopefuls significantly. This time, we managed to score a prime position on the first lawn, guaranteeing an audition. This was the start of many reminders that we hadn't actually needed to get up so early, but better safe than sorry, I say.
Having found a spot in the Piazza, we were given a number, and then had to wait until 1pm for our turn in front of the judges. Due to the nature of the contract we had to sign, I can't reveal too much about the auditioning process, but suffice to say there is pre-screening before people get to audition before the celebrity judges, and my friend and I both failed to get anywhere near that far.
So that's the story of my Idol experience. and for those wondering, I sang Kiss From A Rose by Seal, and didn't do too bad a job, I thought.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Southern exposure II 

Last night I was sitting in the roadside restaurant near my apartment and leafing through the Thai newspapers when I spotted a pictorial on the violence down south. Thai newspapers don't think twice before putting pictures of yesterday's bloodied corpses on their front pages. Neither do the evening news broadcasts actually - just a few weeks ago I was attempting to eat dinner while watching footage of a girl having her mangled hand removed from a factory machine.

But there was something wrong with the pictures of the youths who had been massacred in Pattani. Every single one of them had a gun or knife placed firmly in their hands. Not one of them dropped their weapons upon being riddled with bullets before taking their final few paces, none even had their weapon lying beside them. All of them were still holding their weapons. The one that clinched for me the impression that something was wrong was the shot of a boy of about 18 lying a few metres from a motorcycle, bullet holes in his back, and knife in his hand - his right hand at that, the one that controls the throttle and brake. I'm no biomechanist, but if I were riding a motorcycle and were suddenly hit in the back by a dozen bullets, before being thrown from my bike, hanging onto my knife would be the least of my worries.

The Thai media, new to this democracy and short-lived freedom of the press thing and unwilling to question the official line, bought it hook, line and sinker. No questions appeared to be asked, at least through my browsing of the headlines (my Thai reading isn't quite at the level where I can read the full stories without giving up too many hours of my time). This is most disturbing because there must be a reason for this massacre, there must be a reason the fighting broke out - a bit of police brutality perhaps, but who knows? And none will ever know if the press don't pressure the government to look into something that stinks to high heaven.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Southern exposure 

Well it's not often that Thailand appears in the international headlines, but yesterday's violence, resulting in more than 100 deaths, certainly brought it to the world's attention so I suppose I'd better say something. However, I've only passed through the Southern Thai provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat on buses on the way to Malaysia, so for me to talk about them is like an Englishman claiming local knowledge to discuss events in Italy.

The southern insurgency has been making headlines here for a couple of months now, with frequent minor bombings, usually of military or police targets. This appears to be an attempted endgame, and a suicidal one at that, with many of the attackers mere teenagers armed only with machetes. But it is an area which has never settled comfortably into Thailand, and with recent upheavals all over the Islamic world, it was only natural that Southern Thailand should follow.

Here's the historical background, in a handy, oversimplified, bite-sized chunk. The Andaman peninsula becomes less Buddhist and more Muslim as you travel south. Over the course of several hundred kilometres, you see fewer Thai faces and more ethnic Malays, but there is not a handy "tear along the dotted line" border. Thailand has ruled this area for over 200 years, and used to rule the four northernmost provinces of Malaysia too, before being forced to hand them over to the British in exchange for avoiding invasion (the same reason they gave Laos to the French).

While the people there were overwhelmingly Malay, the Thai government has pursued a policy of encouraging ethnic Thais to resettle there, thus watering down the cultural mix and giving themselves a good reason to resist allowing independence or a merger with Malaysia. So nowadays among the mosques, there are a goodly number of temples, and the government can argue that they cannot abandon the ethnic Thais there whenever the issue of separatism is raised. This same policy has been pursued in China to justify the continued occupation of Tibet and the Uighur west.

A good idea by the government for their own sake, but it leads to resentment and the constant feeling of invasion, as the two cultures do not mix too easily. In recent times a more heavy-handed approach by the police and military has been rumoured (though not reported much by Thailand's media, ever scared of government reprisals for asking hard questions). This has led to the usual spiral of resentment, attack, reprisal, revenge, and so on. You know the story because it happens all over the world wherever cultures collide uncomfortably. And there is no end in sight.

And now for a bit of fun... 

I found this in my random trawls of the net and thought people might have some fun with it.
Lets see if we can work out some good things to write on that board!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Well put. 

Im not going to say much here but this article pretty much hits the nail on the head.


Would John Howard please explain to all those brave soldiers in Iraq how being stuck in the Iraqi quagmire for two years fails to qualify as a long-term commitment? Perhaps while he's there he could explain to the Iraqis how an invasion by foreign armies will satisfy their craving for freedom.

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