I Am Rich!

In these difficult economic times, people have to be creative to get ahead.

An enterprising fellow by the name of Armin Heinrich, capitalised on conspicious consumption centred around Apple’s much-hyped iPhone, released last month.

He created an iPhone application named “I Am Rich”, whose sole function is to display a computer-generated image of a glowing red ruby, as a status symbol in order to flaunt the wealth of the owner.

Apparently, 8 people purchased this application, for the listed price of $999.99, before it was removed by Apple, following a complaint from a purchaser who claimed he accidentally clicked on the buy button.

The LA Times has a fantastic article, with pictures of the Apple store advertisement and an application screenshot.

WA Opposition Leader Troy Buswell Steps Down

August 5, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Australian News, Australian Politics 

Yet another politician’s career has been ended by committing a social faux-pas. In this case, the WA Liberal Opposition Leader, Troy Buswell, was forced to step down, due to a chair-sniffing incident with a female colleague back in 2005.

His colleagues may have had good reason to take offence, but it was a private matter that should not have concerned the media or the public, and they should have been able to resolve it between themselves.

Why this had to resurface 3 years later is anyone’s guess. I wish we lived in an age where politicians were forced to step down due to their incompetence, poor planning or managerial skills – things that actually affect the electorate!

$12b Sydney Metro a “disaster”

July 30, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Politics, Sydney News 

According to the front page of today’s Sydney Morning Herald, a ‘buried report’ commissioned by the State Government indicated that the proposed $12 billion Sydney Metro line would be a disaster. The article has some logical sounding arguments explaining why the proposed route is unsuitable.

It is my personal opinion that the State Government did not issue this plan in good faith. On a number of occasions, they have announced so-called plans to dazzle the media and boost their popularity with voters, only to scrap them later.

$12 billion is a lot of money. The State Government simply does not have it,  and it would not have the stomach to raise the money through a massive bond issue. They could not even manage to implement a new ticketing system which is a comparatively trivial task. It would be more prudent to fix the problems with the current system, that is used by lots of people, rather than spend lots of money on new poorly planned infrastructure.

I do have a word of advice for the Premier, Morris Iemma. Instead of demonstrating your self-proclaimed “strength of character” by forcing through a power privatisation that nobody wants, why don’t you instead deal with the corruption in Railcorp and State Rail, and break the power of the Transport union, so that additional drivers can be hired? Maybe then, our trains will arrive on time.

Pope’s Apology at WYD 2008

July 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion, Sydney News 

Yesterday, the Pope Benedict XVI issued an apology for the sexual abuse of children by the Australian Roman Catholic Clergy, at World Youth Day in Sydney.

This was especially prudent, considering Cardinal George Pell’s alleged coverup of an assault complaint against a former Catholic teacher, Father Terence Goodall.

Pell’s response, where he stated that his letter was ‘badly worded’  and that the he believed that the sexual act was consensual, only digs him in further. Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t the rules say that clergymen cannot consent to any sexual act?

I will say that the Pope’s statement was a positive first step, as it brought some much needed relief to victims for the pain and suffering they have experienced, and undid some of the hurt caused by Pell’s actions.

This is not however, a conclusive resolution. In my opinion, that would require the following:

  • The open threat of excommunication for clergy that perpetrate sexual abuse against children under their care or teaching.

A deterrent requires something with bite – not just a few hail Marys and a transfer to the parish around the corner, so that they can perpeptrate their behaviour elsewhere.

  • Removing the requirement for clergy to adopt a celibate lifestyle.

The requirement for clergy to adopt a celibate lifestyle and the need to interact closely with young children is by definition going to result in the natural selection of sexually frustrated individuals who get their fix by preying on those who they have power over. In our modern society, I do not see any reason why someone cannot have normal human interactions and remain pious.

Disclaimer: I am neither Catholic, nor religious

Saving Money on Tea

July 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: General, Uncategorized 

I enjoy drinking all varieties of tea. I usually have black tea with one spoon of sugar. I usually drink green tea and white tea plain. The only exception is Moroccan green tea, which is made by taking green tea and adding a fresh mint leaf and lots of sugar. I consider the presence of milk in tea to be an abomination, but this is probably a result of my upbringing.

My favourite supermarket brand is Twinings. Usually, I buy tea in tea bags, but I discovered that loose leaf tea is far better value for money. The other day at my local Woolworths supermarket, I found a large pack of loose leaf Lady Grey for less than half the price of a much smaller pack of teabags.

The traditional problem with loose leaf is that it is hard to make a single individual cup – people usually make a whole pot, which is messy and requires a lot of paraphernalia.

I have solved this problem for myself with the aid of a split-sphere mesh tea infuser (the top utensil in the image below).

When you want to make a cup, you squeeze the handle, scoop up some loose-leaf tea into the bottom sphere, and then release the handle to close the spheres.

You then put the tea-filled infuser in an empty cup or mug, and pour in some freshly boiled water. You can optionally add sugar, and then stir it using using the handle of the infuser, saving the need for a separate spoon.

Once you’ve brewed the tea to the desired strength, you can remove the infuser from the cup.

To clean the infuser, hold it over a waste container and squeeze the handle. You may need to gently knock the handle against the side of the container. The bulk of the used loose-leaf tea should fall out in a ball-like mass. Rinse the infuser under a tap to remove any remaining tea leaves.

After many uses, tea residue may build up and discolour the mesh. I found that I could return the infuser to mint condition by standing it in a glass of dilute laundry bleach for a few minutes, then rinsing it under a tap.

I purchased my infuser from the local gourmet tea store T2 for just under $4. They can also be purchased from most tea shops and online.

Tipping Sucks

July 17, 2008 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Business, Finance and Investment 

Hello Everyone,

First of all, I am alive and well. I have been away on vacation recently in the USA. I had naively hoped to return home to better economic news, but it turns out that the opposite is true. The price of oil has continued to climb, more American Banks have become insolvent and the repercussions are being felt worldwide.

Most people have found few things to be positive about, but I can think of one thing. The weak US dollar made my vacation far more affordable. I can’t say that I lived or travelled like a king, but I certainly ate like one. Even in the most touristy areas, such as Niagara Falls, I was able to get a satisfying meal for $10. In contrast, last weekend in Sydney, I paid that same amount for a mere tomato bruschetta in a cafe, located on Broadway.

Two things however did annoy me very much about the USA. These are the practices of quoting prices ex-tax and the need to pay an additional tip for table service at restaurants. Tax was usually around 10% and tips averaged to 15%, so the menu price would be inflated by 25% in most cases.

Here in Australia, these practices do not exist. You pay the advertised price and that is that.
I expressed my feelings of frustration to other travellers I ran into, who would often answer “When in Rome, do as the Romans”. I did, but I really didn’t like it. Here are my main reasons:
Read more

Happy Birthday Israel!

May 14, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Middle-East Affairs 

Today is the 60th Anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence, proclaimed on this day in the Tel Aviv Museum in 1948.

Israel is a modern marvel – 1/4 the size of Tasmania, with almost 15 times the population – 7.3 million people consisting of various Jewish, Arab, Circassian and other ethnic groups.

It has the 33rd highest GDP per capita at $25,799 – just behind New Zealand and just ahead of South Korea.

Despite many challenges that include having limited natural resources, and having faced the constant threat of annihilation from its neighbours, it has maintained a Western Democratic, pluralistic and multicultural society, with freedom of the press and an independent judiciary.

Some of its long list of achievements include:

  • 8 Nobel Laureates
  • Prominent contributions to Arts, Medicine, Agriculture, Natural Sciences and IT
  • A historic role in providing humanitarian aid to other countries

On this occasion, I take the chance to wish the people of Israel the best for the future. May they have the will and determination to deal with the challenges they face, and may they continue their excellent work in building their society and contributing to the world community.

Comparative Advantage for Everyone

One very interesting topic in economics is the principle of comparative advantage. This topic is traditionally taught in the context of teaching the justifications and benefits for International Trade between countries, even if one trading country could produce all of its desired goods at a cheaper price than its trading partners.

When I have asked economics students to explain it, I have found it to be poorly understood. I have come up with my own analogy to explain the principle. Furthermore, it also explains how this principle applies to individuals in everyday life. Here is my example:

Let’s say I have a day job as contract web developer for which I get paid $50/hr. After work, I can either eat out for dinner or buy ingredients and cook at home.

When I go out to eat, my favourite meal is a Thai stir fry which has meat, vegetables and rice, which I can buy for $10. The resturant takes care of all the preparation and cleaning. All I do it eat and leave.

When I eat at home, I might prepare something in the kitchen with frozen vegetables, beef and potatoes, and the ingredients for that will average out to $5/day over the course of a week.

On the surface, it seems that I am saving $5/day when I eat at home, but this is not the whole story.

In addition to the time spent shopping, I will also have to spend time to unpack and prepare the ingredients, wait for them to cook and clean up afterwards. Let’s say that the total time from preparing to washing up takes 1 hour.

What If instead of doing that, I worked for an additional hour per day and decided to always eat out?

I would earn an extra $50, spend $10 on the Thai meal, leaving me up $40 from my starting balance, and $45 ahead of cooking at home. Amazing.

I can extend this further to the Thai restaurant itself. Let’s say the owner/head chef wants to promote the restaurant by creating a website. She could either close the shop, read web design books and learn how to use HTML editing software, or she could hire me. The website the chef wants is simple – it just has the restaurant’s name, phone, address, a street map and the current menu.

I could hammer this out within 2 hours, for which I would charge $100. The chef is also clever, but she might take 5 hours as she has to perform software installation, read documentation and debug common beginner mistakes.

What should the chef do? Let’s say the restaurant serves 20 people per hour, and makes an average margin of $5 on each meal, the restaurant’s hourly income is $100/hr.

If the chef builds her website herself during restaurant hours, she would forego $500 in revenue. If she hires me, her total out of pocket expense is $100. Hence, she is $400 better off by hiring me to build her website.

For this example, we would conclude that my comparative advantage is in web development, and the restaurant’s comparative advantage is in preparing food.

This principle can be used to justify why a multi-talented business owner may be justified in hiring a graduate fresh out of university for clerical tasks, or why one would hire an accountant to do a simple tax return.

Of course this example makes a few assumptions. If I were in a permanent job, perhaps I would not have the ability to work an extra hour. Also, some people might in fact like cooking at home or spending time with family. Also, some Thai restaurants use excessive amounts of oil which could lead to weight gain.

How to Win the War on Global Warming

May 11, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Science, Uncategorized 

This was the title of a recent special issue of Time Magazine

The moment saw it, I immediately recalled the climactic line from the movie Wargames, when the military computer Joshua discovers the futility of nuclear war and announces – “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play”.

I state my view straight up with no sugar on top. Global Warming Alarmism is Bullsh**. It is the greatest scientific embarrassment of the 21st century. I have not yet seen any evidence that proves that human activity has had a significant impact on Global Climate.

Children are having nightmares about disappearing polar bears and living in underwater cities. Billions of dollars are being spent on promoting monopoly money (carbon credits) and the whole thing stinks.

Amongst the most recent stupidities, the great polluting nation of New Zealand has announced that its Kyoto Protocol liability will exceed $1 Billion. Our own Government plans to spend $2.3 Billion of the budget windfall on fighting climate change.

In the process or whipping up this world frenzy, I have seen the following fundamental scientific and logical errors:

  1. Lack of falsifiability in weather predictions
  2. Combining measurements obtained using inconsistent methods, e.g. those used to produce graphs of historic temperature, ice thickness
  3. Mapping a relationship between variables by curve fitting instead of creating a correct model of the underlying process
  4. Retrospectively adjusting models to fit experimental data after abherrations are found
  5. Violating Occam’s Razor
  6. Confusing causation and correlation

To my knowledge, these are the only things that have been proven:

  • We have more Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere today than we did at the turn of the century, largely attributable to industrialisation
  • Global temperature was in a downward trend between 1940 and 1970 and since then has been in an upward trend.
  • Animal migration and breeding is linked to the weather in a certain area.

I include the following websites that do a far better job of explaining the specifics:

http://junkscience.com/Features.html

Basic Greenhouse Equations ‘Totally Wrong’

I expect a barrage of criticism, so I preemptively will answer the following questions:

What about the Polar Bears stranded on ice?

This is a myth that originated from a widely published photo. Polar bears can swim.

What about the Movie, “An Inconvenient Truth”?

A High Court judge in the UK found that the contains 9 scientific errors covering many of its key points concerning attribution of certain events to anthropogenic climate change.

What about the “Scientific Consensus”?

Science is not a popularity contest. The only valid science comes from the application of the scientific method – you need to have a testable hypothesis.

In any case, there certainly is not a scientific consensus. The following links on Wikipedia describe the controversy and scientists who oppose the “Mainstream Assessment”.

What about the IPCC report?

Short answer: the contributors who disagreed had their opinions suppressed.

OK Mr Skeptic, then, do you believe that CFCs harm the Ozone Layer?

That was genuine science. The ability of CFCs to break down Ozone was experimentally proven, and the presence of CFCs was detected in the upper atmosphere.

In fact, the evidence was so convincing, that the Montreal Protocol that phased out the use of CFCs was ratified by more countries than the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

What has made Global Warming Alarmism so popular?

These are my guesses:

  • Economic rivalry between Europe and the USA
  • A convenient distraction for the UN to cover up its failure to act on Human Rights Abuses throughout the world
  • A way for the Left to attack Capitalism
  • A sure-fire way to attract research funding for academics who otherwise struggle for money

I will update this article with more comments at the next convenient opportunity.

The New Seven Deadly Sins

May 11, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion, Science, Uncategorized 

In March, the Vatican official Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, named the new mortal sins in an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. .

In response, I have created my own alternative list of virtues and corresponding sins:

  1. Critical Thinking vs Blind Faith
  2. Logic vs Rhetoric
  3. Win/Win Negotiating vs Zero-sum (Win/Lose) Negotiating
  4. Lifelong Learning vs. Ignorance
  5. Good Hygiene vs Bad Hygiene
  6. Financial Literacy vs Financial Illiteracy
  7. Consistency vs Hypocrisy

This article was sitting on the back burner, and I didn’t want it to get too stale. This list isn’t in any order. I plan to add comments about each when [if] I have time. Your comments and criticism are welcome.

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