Thursday, May 29, 2003

Thank you Louis for sending me this sort-of "football editorial". It's the second "story" which is the gem though: I like it because it gives me an extra reason not to buy the Observer (in case it being a biased, fantasist so-called "news"-paper wasn't enough reason). Hence much appreciated all round.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I have new stuff on my "personal site", which might just interest you if you know me (you have my sympathies). Check! It! Out!

Friday, May 23, 2003

I think the pseudo-daily "Peter contribution" could be appropriately placed, hmm, here.
He also told me about some mythical article that gives away what happens in 24. Of course, I don't believe him.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Thank you Newsnight Newsletter for this top-quality (if very old) joke. Finally, news just in of a worldwide survey conducted by the UN. The only question asked was: "Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?" The survey was a huge failure. In much of Africa they didn't know what "food" meant. In much of Eastern Europe they didn't know what "honest" meant. In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" meant. In China they didn't know what "opinion" meant. In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" meant. And in the US they didn't know what "the rest of the world" meant. Sign up for your daily joke (and highlights of some obscure news programme on BBC2) at this Centre for Worthy Subscriptions [apart from Panorama, natch] and click on "New Users blah blah blah" (I might be paraphrasing, but you'll never know unless you clickthrough; now that you have though, don't you regret it? Me too. Let's form a little club).

Am I the only student in the country to give at least qualified support to the Government's plans to increase tuition fees for universities? Students are being extremely selfish if they want to keep the current system, or even go back to the old one, for two reasons: Governments will never give enough money to universities ("enough money" meaning market prices), thereby decreasing their standards; and a marketplace in courses can't exist, as there are no market pressures (or at least, market pressures are extremely indirect at best) for new courses or for the scrapping of unpopular ones. Moreover, as shown in a new report (which can be found here) a degree is a very cost-effective investment over one's lifetime. I never ever thought I'd quote Margaret Hodge, the higher education minister (a political hack if ever I saw one) with praise, but she's absolutely right when she says: "The wool has been pulled over peoples eyes for too long. "By asking everyone to pay the same tuition fee regardless of the university they go to we have been implying the benefits of every university are the same. They are not. "By enabling universities to charge differential fees, we are lifting the wool from people's eyes, recognising difference, diversity and the premium that some universities can give you over others. "This is an economic justification for allowing some universities to charge more than others. "If potential students thought and acted rationally, then they would be willing to invest more in universities that offered them a better return on their investment." Praise be, a minister talking sense! More please. Maybe I should start a petition called A good way to show the world not all students are either misguided ideologues or selfish money-suckers, methinks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

If I was to make a film, I'd be very proud to make one like this [Source: BBC]. A study of a hypothetical study of [sic] 1950s bachelors' kitchen habits. A very original (and frankly very funny) idea, and moreover one could explore what the consequences of such a weird situation would be not only on the surface (ie. what would bachelors have done in kitchens in the 1950s?), but the feelings of being watched and studied by another human who can't communicate with you. Brilliant, and weird. Exactly the sort of film I'd love to make. [Thanks Peter for another great story!]

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

More excellent links from the Petemeister (who appears to have a real knack for gleaning the funniest, and hence most relevant stories from the Beeb's news site). Remember: keep it up. And brush your teeth twice a day. Not that you don't, but I just don't want you to forget. Please don't sue me.

So according to The Times I'm currently at the least value-for-money college at Oxford (ignoring Harris Manchester because it only takes mature students). Yes, I'm really happy about it! But it appears that the "cost" column is massaged extremely, well, in a vigorous manner, as can be calculated from the column next to it, "cost condition". It appears that Pembroke's rent in the table is the highest possible, whilst other college's have their minimum possible rents. This does, indeed, make the whole exercise somewhat pointless. But then, this is only British journalism at its most normal!

Saturday, May 17, 2003

So six monkeys can't write Shakespeare? (BBC NEWS | UK | England | Devon | No words to describe monkeys' play). Well, how about monkeys who can type out a third-order approximation of Shakespeare's plays? Would that work? Hmm?!
Oh, and a few criticisms of this "experiment", if I may: firstly, it hasn't been proved that an infinite amount of monkeys could not write Shakespeare, as there were only six monkeys, which is a poor sample size.
Secondly, it hasn't even been proved that six monkeys couldn't write Shakespeare, as they only had the experiment once, and maybe there were certain factors aggravating their abilities during the experiment.
Thirdly, (and I say this as someone who believes extremely strongly in the predictive powers of science), you can't prove anything, so to say the " 'infinite monkey' theory is flawed" is science at its worst.
Fourthly, and lastly: what a complete waste of time and money.
Unless the whole thing is an elaborate hoax (and I pray it is), the lack of irony and the fact the (taxpayer-funded) Arts Council gave �2000 is an indictment on the honour of all those taking part. Maybe I should make an application to "research the cultural and physical dynamics and influences of computer games published in 2003", for which I will of course need a new computer. Anyone willing to donate? It's for a good cause!

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

So only 40% of Spaniards have lost their virginity in "a bed", whilst 25% had their first sexual experience in a car? [Source: The Guardian] Apart from the obvious reactions to this (and I'm not including in this category the idea of giving hotel discount vouchers to "amorous youths", the inspiration for the article), one has to wonder if it's the same in other countries in Europe, and whether people might just prefer to do it out of bed because it's more erotic, and not, as the Guardian puts it uncharacteristically prudishly, because of "traditional, non-consenting parents". (This can't be true if only because I don't think they'd ask their parents!). Maybe, even, most people are against the proposal not because it's a stupid idea (and it is: are they suggesting that when a couple wants to copulate they pick up a voucher from a pharmacy immediately beforehand?), but because the current situation provides certain voyeuristic opportunities. Cynical? Moi? Never...

Monday, May 12, 2003

Woah, it's been almost a week since my last post. Not that anyone should care... If you do, please stop it now. Thank you.
Thanks to the human-entity that is Peter I have absolutely loads of good lynks (as he called a sub-batch of these) which I will put up. Although he is the first non-self Official, he's a bit shy (or more likely just overwhelmed by my sheer blogging abilities [in a good or bad way I can't say]) and so I'll put these up (as well as his off-the-cuff comments, if he doesn't wish otherwise) just as soon as I've made sure they're top quality, which I'm sure they are. Excuse me for a few minutes, would you? [Turns around]
Just because I've been here for three hours doesn't mean I looked at all of these: I get distracted by "tangential issues" (ie. irrelevant things) too easily. But now at least I'll be able to just come back here and access these sites from here, instead of the ugly email interface that my wonderful university provides. So here they are, probably in a strange font. Enjoy them all! If you don't, send them in their original packaging and I'll send you a refund.
Oh, and Peter: don't be scared. Be very afraid... That's not right, is it? Oh yeah, and keep up the good work. - this one goes to the top to show I'm right about Weakest link and monopoly - I want this book. -- [Update: Utterly weird and wonderful collection of rubbish. Inspired if insane] -- [Update: A very pointless ghost site, offering an auction of lots of vote-type domain names, and a database of people's details. Nice. Still pointless, though, because the auction happened a long, long time ago.. Ah well, the voyeuristic thrill of seeing a site going through bankruptcy is always fun] -- [Update: Appears to be a (IMPORTANT: fake) satirical card game, but it has a seemingly fully functional store and forum. The "tour" of what cards are available is very funny nonetheless]
That's it, I think. Thanks for watching! Or listening. Whatever. Go now. Shoo. Come back tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

I was having a heated discussion with (of all people!) a philosophy student friend of mine [suspicious compound noun notwithstanding]. He and I were arguing about whether spending money on so-called "luxuries" instead of giving it to a charity which could otherwise save the lives of children in deep poverty makes us as morally guilty of their deaths as if we had strangled them ourselves. Of course, this is total nonsense, but why? Took me a while to even begin to answer this, and even now I haven't quite worked out all the details. Help me if you're reading this, agree with me, are a dab hand at philosophy (especially ethics and "acts and ommisions" which my learned friend tells me this covers), and can write better English than me. Not too tough, I know. Here's what I wrote to him (because for some reason he wanted me to write my argument in the form of a paragraph. Pah!):
It is not necessarily morally worse for me to spend �20,000 on a car than it is for me to give �20,000 to African citizens. It can be argued that by spending �20,000 on a car, I have killed a number of African citizens whose lives could have been saved by giving them the �20,000 directly. Unfortunately, the situation is not as simple as that, as it cannot be argued that a priori it is necessarily the case that by buying the car I have not saved just as many lives, or even more lives, in the long run, than if I had given the money to African citizens. This is because one could genuinely believe in the following theory, which cannot be dismissed out-of-hand: by buying the car, I have used the money in a way which maximises individual utility (for it is true that for most people buying a car is preferable to giving the equivalent amount to charity, assuming there is only enough to spend on one or the other). Moreover, I have invested in, and thereby encouraged, a system to come about and flourish which tries to maximise people's individual utility, and thus I am creating and nurturing, in my honest opinion, the best system long-term for creating jobs and wealth, which means it will reduce unnecessary, unnatural deaths more than any other system.
So what do you think? Whether you agree or disagree, or have a link to some relevant site, tell me: email, forum, comment, or telepathise. Of course, the last one is not free, but prices are availiable on request. Just make sure you don't kill any children while you do it, of course...

Monday, May 05, 2003

Maybe I should take back my flippant comments about modern art: it seems that sometimes it can be put to good use after all, like in this collection considering the heart and how it can be damaged by smoking and other such Bad Things. Gave me a warm glow: pass the Eno.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Here's an example of an (thank goodness non-violent) anti-captialist potesting about "dirty capitalism", trying to "vacuum it up". It's hilarious. His comments on how consumerism is a religion are so ironic they almost don't exist. His choice quote is "I've got no illusions that what we do is going to stop people shopping but after seeing us [pretend] praying, they may go home and have a question in their mind about the society we've created." Does he mean a society which has allowed such nonsense ideas to become worthy of mainstream media attention? He might have a point if he does! [Source:BBC NEWS -- 'I'm vacuuming up after capitalism'] [Courtesy of Peter]