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without analysis there's no reason to play.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Playing Life Grandmaster-style

There's a famous chess saying along the lines of: 'victory is gained by the gradual accumulation of small advantages'. The theorey is that eventually, your advantages pile up, and the game is won. What's amazing is that these advantages can be very small, measured in values of tenths of a pawn, and yet put together, these advatages can completely overwhelm your opponent.

Equally amazing is that this works in life as well. It's amazing how many small things put together can mean a great day. Let's tally them up:
  • I have clean clothes
  • I have a clean room
  • I woke during the rising of the sun and saw the sky change from red to blue
  • I had a good sing in the shower
  • I managed to solve a few narky chemical engineering problems, and;
  • I tried my hand at Toast and Tea Freestylin' at Ivan's
Seperately, these 'advantages' were not of day-making type, and yet put together, they've made me feel great. So when next you're having a great day, and you're not quite sure why, it's probably just that a lot of little things have gone your way. And it's so wonderful when it happens.

Things one should not put off

There are quite a lot of things that people are tempted to put off.

Here are some things that seem relatively unimportant and safe to delay, but will probably come back to haunt you later:
  1. Doing the washing
  2. Sleep
  3. Coursework
  4. Shopping

Well, it's not as though I've been sleeping in at home with no clean clothes left, worrying about coursework that needs to be done by next Monday or anything. It's not as though I slept at 2:00 am the night before last, put off washing until last night, and did no work at all yesterday. Or is it?

At least I shopped, so I have food.

Monday, March 28, 2005

City of Churches

Adelaide is not called the City of Churches for no reason. Here are a few that I've come across.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Various Adelaide trip Photos

The trip from Melbourne to Adelaide was relatively uneventful. The conversation was interesting, the car music was tasteful, but the trip was kind of long.

Here was the view outside the window for most of the 9 hour trip from Melbourne to Adelaide:

Last night I went to the themed formal dinner at Easterfest. The theme was "African Safari". I think I was confused by the conflicting requirements of themed and formal. In the end I went dressed neither formal, nor themed. Not that I brought enough clothes with me to put together much of an outfit anyhow.

The food was nice.

Flickr test

Originally uploaded by mechanicalturk.
Yes, this is a photo of a sundial. It is badly taken. How well will this post?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

McLaren Vale

I spent this morning touring McLaren Vale with a large group of fellow Melbourne choristers. I had a good time, notwithstanding the fact that I don't drink. Conversation was good, and McLaren Vale was gorgeous. Ideally I'd have taken many, many photos, but being the klutz that I am, I forgot to bring the camera.

Aside from the wine-tasting, which would normally be the major feature of a trip to McLaren Vale, the valley features a variety of food-lovers' attractions. A specialty confectionary shop and a specialty olive products shop were two of the interesting places I visited. The wineries were great too, of course, but again, being a non-drinker, I wasn't as interested as I could have been.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Packing mezzo-lightly

I've decided to pack as little as possible to Adelaide. I've got two shirts, one tee-shirt cum singlet, a pair of trousers, a pair of 3/4 pants, a pair of shorts, three pairs of underwear, and two pairs of socks. A comb, toothbrush, and towel rounds off the list of normal travel items.

In addition to this, I'm taking one of each of the following:-
  1. Chessboard
  2. Mobile Phone
  3. Laptop
  4. Digital Camera
  5. Transport phenomena problem

I've got a few pens also. Adelaide, here I come!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

To the city of Churches

Adelaide Ho! I've not been to Adelaide before, so spending Easter over there for an AICSA event will be interesting. It's an eight hour drive though, and while I'm going with friends, I'm also prepared for the worst. I've even saved up a reasonably complicated transport phenomena problem especially for the trip. I can't wait to tackle it.

Anyway, I'd better sleep soon in order to wake up refreshed tomorrow morning for a bout of frenzied packing. I just hope I've enough clean clothes.

Extroverted Introvert? Introverted Extrovert?

I'm fairly sure I'm an introvert. Or least I was, until I told that to a friend, and she called me a lier.

I'm a strange one. I tend to be reasonable extroverted when I'm happy. I like to try and spread the happiness around; to infect people with my happiness. I also tend to be introverted when I'm tired or depressed.

This behaviour pattern has a tendancy to make my life very polarised. There's a positive reinforcement loop at work here. When I'm happy, I meet more people, have more meaningful conversations with others, and generally feel that people are nicer towards me. This in turn leads to further happiness, greater conversation, and more niceness. When I'm unhappy, I tend to follow the armadillo's example. I curl up into a little ball (figuratively of course, I'd not get anything done by rolling around Campus) and try to distance myself from everybody. This behaviour leads to me feeling lonely, displaying contempt for others, and general nastiness. Again, the positive reinforcement loop kicks in, and I'm in the downward spiral.

All this spiraling means that I'm dispropartionatly affected by the weather. The disparity between my mood on warm, sunny days, and cold, cloudy days is shocking. This and this are examples of posts I've made on rainy days; very introverted, serious stuff. This and this are examples of posts I've made on happier days; short and frivolous. One could very well compile a record of the weather in Melbourne based on my archives, it's that obvious. No prizes for guessing the weather in Melbourne this morning. Here's a few hints: Long, ranty prose, semi-serious tone, and I'm feeling cold and lonely.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cheap n' Nasty

Why is it that the cheapest food available on Campus also the unhealthiest? Were it not for the fact that I'm able to fill myself up for less than $5, I'd go for some of the healthier options, rather than all the oily gunk I ate today. At least I get tomato sauce to hide the taste of the oil.

It could be worse: I could be spending money destroying my health rather than saving money by destroying my health. I could be drinking or smoking. Or drinking and smoking. They'd both probably have the same detrimental effect on my attention span during lectures as all this fatty food.

Ick, I feel sick. Why do I keep doing this to myself?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Double degree woes

I've often been asked by other students whether undertaking a double degree in Eng/Law is hard. I usually reply that it's not especially hard, but that it's spectacularly long. I mention six years and they start looking at me as though I were insane. Aside from the length of time it takes to complete a double degree though, double degree students face other doubling related problems.

The chief among these is the problem of maintaining interest in both branches of your degree. This can be difficult, especially if your chosen branches are as diametrically opposed (so they tell me) as Law and Engineering. The main thing is that if the two branches have little in common, then that which you have learnt in one branch won't directly help or link with, your learning in the other branch.

Related to this problem, is the problem of year-level drift. Again, at Monash, with Eng/Law, this problem is especially pronounced. The manner in which the course is (was) structured means that in first year you take no law units, in second year you take two semester-long units, in third year you take another two semester-long units, in fourth year you take four semester-long units, and in the fifth and sixth years, you take straight law.

YearNo. of Law Units

Table 1: Distribution of Semester-long Law Units in Monash Eng/Law (following 2004 course structure).

Now, straight law is 4 units a semester or 8 units a year, so it's easy to see that even in fourth year, you'll still be doing first year law units. The difficulty with year-level drift is twofold: firstly, you travel a different year-level path to your coursemates, which can be a very lonely experience, and secondly, you find that the difficulty level of the two branches can become very disparate. In my case, I'm studying third year Chemical Engineering subjects concurrently with a first year Law subject.

This year-level difference effects me personally more than any mere differences in subject matter would. The significance is in the difficulty level of the material presented. Generally, you don't notice it overly much in the course of your studies, (or at least I didn't), but as your course progresses at university, the material you deal with becomes both more difficult and more specialised. So while the third year engineering units are both difficult and specialised, the first year law unit is relatively easy and general.

It has been a struggle for me change between the mindset required for conceptually difficult, time intensive, specialised work to the mindset required for relatively straightforward, less time intensive, general type work. When I'm in the right mood for my third year subjects, my law unit seems overly straightforward and dull. When I'm in the right mood for my law subject, my engineering units seem to be overly-specialised techno-babble. In both cases, I tend to lose track of the other branch of the double degree. In the engineering case I lose track because I'm not able to understand the concepts or the mathematics, and in the law case I lose track because I cease paying sufficient attention during lectures.

I think I must have masochistic tendencies though, since I've nonetheless found the Eng/Law degree to be a worthwhile experience so far. (Hey, I love exams, loved running around stressed during the Monash Orientation Carnival, and fully intend to take both Taxation Law and Advanced Taxation Law: I must be a glutton for pain.)

Hardware Issues

It seems the more proficient I become with computers, the nastier and more uncommon my computer problems become.

Exhibit A: USB Pen Drive after removing lid.

Desired behaviour:

Actual behaviour:

That's right, the USB portion of my USB memory stick snapped off. I've not heard of this kind of hardware failure mode for Pen Drives before; neither had the storeperson, who was suitably amused. Luckily for me, there's a two year warranty which appears to, inter alia, cover this oddity.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Lament of the chronic procrastinator

Oh, lament for the things that could have been done.
Oh, lament for the things that should have been done.
Lament, for the time which could have been better spent, and
Lament for the possibilities which have ceased to be.

But lament not too long, procrastinator,
For time cannot be taken back,
Cannot be respent,
Will not come again.

So says he who is blogging instead of studying.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Searching for meaning at University

University life is hard. I've been so lonely lately, even when surrounded by housemates and friends. It's difficult to see the applicability of the work that I'm currently doing, it seems that remote from the real world. I haven't had enough "me" time, and yet I've also had too much.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bad Day, Superhumanity and Random words.

Ever wake to a grey sky on a freezing cold day? Ever skip breakfast because you ran out of milk and cereal the day before? Ever trudge to University curiously observing other small groups of trudgers also heading towards University? Ever feel despair at the whole dystopian, post-apocalyptic nature of it all as you pass by the bio-med building where they're throwing computers from the 8th floor into a dumpster through a flimsy-looking tube of plastic sheeting? Ever cringe at the loud banging noises caused by said computers being thrown off the building?

Today was just one of those days.

Recently I blogged about how much I love studying law in contrast with engineering. I think I've discovered a more sinister reason behind this way of thinking than merely simple course preference. It's because I'm finding the engineering work to be more difficult; and not just difficult in the "I should be able to do it, but only if given enormous amounts of time" sense of the word, but difficult in the "I've got absolutely no idea what's happening, and by the way, what do all those crazy symbols on the board mean?" sense of the word.

The Linklaters information session I attended on Monday also gave me little joy. The feeling I came away with was that one pratically needs to be super-human in order to even be considered there, or any other big law firm. My experiences with engineering lately have left me feeling bereft of any inkling illusions of superhumanity.

On a random side-note, our crim. lecturer used the words inchoate, contemporaneity and nebulous today.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Turk's law of inversely proportional blogging

I'm uncertain whether this is a personal idiosyncrasy or whether this is a wide-spread phenomenon, but here's what I've observed:

As the importance and number of blog-worthy events in life increases, the frequency and length of blog posts decreases.

In pseudo-engineering/science language:

The frequency and magnitude of blog-worthy events is inversely proportional to the frequency and magnitude of blog posts.

Lately, this observation has certainly held true for me. So many blog-worthy events have happened in my life lately. I've become president of the Monash University Chess Association, I've meet heaps of awesome, interesting people through various Monash clubs and societies, and generally adjusted to living with my housemates. For me, these are important, life changing events. Yet, for whatever reason, I can't blog about them. It just doesn't feel right.

So I just avoid the issue by blogging about trivialities, and making random observations like this one. How very odd.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Go? What is this Go?

Readers of my blog may have noticed my sporadic postings mentioning the game Go. Well what is Go? It's a strategy game with very simple rules but leading to very complex positions. There is a certain elegance this game, which only uses two types of pieces; white stones and black stones. Unlike Chess, where you start with all your men, in Go, the board starts empty. Unlike Chess, in Go, you play on the intersections, not the squares. The board is also much, much bigger.

The reason for this random rant is mainly to link to these people

They're the Go club at Melbourne University. If you go to Melbourne University or will go there in the future, look these people up. Go is good for the brain. So, if you're not going to join due to an undying love of Go, join to sharpen the mind. You'll need some brain-food after having to endure hours of mind-numbing, poorly organised lectures.

Blogging a good career move?

From Tim Bray's blog:

Ten Reasons Why Blogging is Good For Your Career

  1. You have to get noticed to get promoted.
  2. You have to get noticed to get hired.
  3. It really impresses people when you say “Oh, I’ve written about that, just google for XXX and I’m on the top page” or “Oh, just google my name.”
  4. No matter how great you are, your career depends on communicating. The way to get better at anything, including communication, is by practicing. Blogging is good practice.
  5. Bloggers are better-informed than non-bloggers. Knowing more is a career advantage.
  6. Knowing more also means you’re more likely to hear about interesting jobs coming open.
  7. Networking is good for your career. Blogging is a good way to meet people.
  8. If you’re an engineer, blogging puts you in intimate contact with a worse-is-better 80/20 success story. Understanding this mode of technology adoption can only help you.
  9. If you’re in marketing, you’ll need to understand how its rules are changing as a result of the current whirlwind, which nobody does, but bloggers are at least somewhat less baffled.
  10. It’s a lot harder to fire someone who has a public voice, because it will be noticed.

I've always thought that blogging would have beneficial implications career-wise, though I've never thought about why I think so. I've been heavily debating with myself over whether or not to publish my blog url in my resume.

On the benefits side, if the prospective employer follows the URL, they'll get a much clearer insight into who I am, what I do, that will help them determine whether or not I'm compatible with their company, even pre-interview. They'll also be able to find out much more about me than I could ever possibly convey in a CV/Coverletter arrangement. Overall, I think that this is a good thing. I like to think that employers value honesty. What could be more honest than a blog?

On the otherhand, blogging is still a relatively new phenomena. When I tell people I blog, I still get "You what?" replies more often than any other response. I mean just how newish-technology-friendly are the people most likely to read your CV? I'm worried that potential employers will take the "He blogs. He could be liability" stance rather than the "He blogs. Let's hire him!" stance. Gross oversimplifications notwithstanding, what do people think about inclusion of blogging and blog URL in the interests section, or even the personal details section of the CV?

I'm seeing the careers counselor next week, and this has been a stumbling block for me. I wonder what Ivan thinks, since if I recall correctly, he started blogging just before he started working with his current employer.

The Goods and Bads of home-based WiFi

Good: You can use the 'net whereever you want.
Bad: You use it on the dining room table, and don't notice that it's covered in sticky food stains.

Good: You can surf in the garden and relax outside.
Bad: You get rained on.

Good: It's relatively easy to set up.
Bad: It's easy to set up insecurely (e.g. my neighbour).

Good: The number of computers you have connected through a router to the 'net doesn't depend on the number of ports on your router.
Bad: Your flatmates use up all your bandwidth.

Still despite all this, I love my WiFi. It's pretty darn cool.

Edit: This is also pretty darn cool. My post has been translated into French by Canard Wifi.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Wannabe Blawger

Now that Wannabe Lawyer has decided to take a break from blogging, I'm starting to feel like king Wannabe. I link to Aussie blawgs, I join the "legally inclined weblog" webring", and then? Where's the law related posts? There's only this, but that one is also about my lack of law related content.

So here's some random advice for anyone just starting or intending to start studying at Monash Law School:

  1. The Law Faculty holds lectures in interesting places

    This seems to be because there aren't many lecture theatres available within the law building itself. I suspect that holding lectures in varied places around the campus also serves a secondary objective. By observing when students arrive in these often hard to find locations, the lecturer is able to quickly determine the intelligence or organisational skills of the students. Those that arrive early are more likely to be the ones that were able to quickly pin down the building, or the ones that had looked ahead of time. Probably, one could discriminate also between full-fee paying and HECS students on a similar basis, but I won't go there. Especially since I had some trouble finding the building myself. What can I say? I'm a transfer student.

  2. Law textbooks are expensive

    Expect to pay upwards of $150 per subject in order to get the prescribed texts. More if you want to get the recommended ones. Heck, the Waller & Williams Casebook for Crim costs $130 just by itself. Well we all know where my vacation work money is going...

  3. Having good lecturers helps

    I think this is easier in Law than it is in Engineering. If you've got a good lecturer, then you'll be able to stay interested and hence motivated during semester. Lately, although it's not really a fair comparison, I've been turning up to my Law lectures enthralled, and failing to stay awake during the Engineering ones. Maybe it's just the subject matter, but I'm tempted to think that the Law lecturer I have for Crim (Dr. Jonathan Clough) is just a damn sight better in both manner and style than my Engineering ones.

  4. Building 12 is the Law building

    I didn't know that until yesterday. After finding the lecture theatre for last Thursday's lecture to be in the Biomed building (Building 13A), I assumed that the tutorial also be somewhere around there, maybe in Med. Needless to say, the Law building was the last place I thought to look; needless to say, I arrive to my tutorial very, very late. It seems I fell for the ol' one, two combination.

  5. The Law building has great WiFi coverage

    One of the major benefits of being a Law student. I love WiFi. It's cool. Though a note to my neighbours: please secure your wireless network so that my flatmates don't accidently leech your broadband Internet connection.

  6. Law and Chess go well together

    I like both. Both are about problem solving. Both are about working well under time pressure. Obviously playing chess is good for your law studies. Ignoring my flawed logic, I've found that thinking in Law related studies is in many ways analogous to thinking in Chess. You need to play with a plan, and be constantly vigilent for ways to improve your position. Your milage may vary on this one.

    And lastly

  7. The Law Students Society (LSS) has cool keyrings

    Insofar as it's possible to have a fasionably cool student society keyring, LSS has done it. Ok, this one even more trivial than my previous ones, but I just had to say it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Firefox and HSBC Australia Internet Banking

HSBC's Internet banking service lately hasn't been playing nicely (for me anyhow) with the Firefox browser. I spent this morning trying to figure out how to make it work, and stumbled upon the User Agent Switcher plugin. Using this, I was able to identify as MSIE 6.0 (Internet Explorer), and successfully login to HSBC. After getting past the login screen, I needed to open the next page in a new window so that I had access to the menu again. I then identified as default again (Firefox).

This was needed since HSBC requires DOB confirmation for electronic transfers. The javascript code that verifies the validity of the DOB entered is browser-dependent. If I stayed identified as Internet Explorer, the code would popup an error telling me to enter a valid year between 1850 and 105. By identifying as Firefox again, the javascript code works correctly, and the DOB confirmation is successful.

So while it's a fiddly process, it is nonetheless possible to use HSBC's web banking on Firefox on a Windows or GNU/Linux system. For Macs, HSBC seems to skip the browser check altogether and I was able to logon using Safari and Camino.

Look, I just don't like IE, ok? I don't trust it.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Falling off the edge of the Blogosphere

Ok, so spheres don't have edges. But insofar as it's possible to fall off the edge of the Blogosphere, I've done so. There's been a number of reasons, mainly lack of Internet connection, and moving house. I haven't really had the right mindset for blogging lately.

Anyway, here are a few shots of what I've been doing, courtesy of the Bigpond Snap Squad:

I spent the weekend getting our new wireless router setup. I ended up fiddling with the security settings a lot, and then having a play around with kismet. The result of all this is I've finally got access the the net at home again. Hopefully this means that I'll blog more.