Pearls after breakfast

Pearls before Breakfast, the article I was talking about yesterday, got me thinking about the why and how. I’m convinced it’s bad experimental design (let alone any considerations about the playing style), and to have taken the single instance (a.k.a. “stunt”) as the representative result is a clear example of confirmation bias: they went in with a hypothesis, and in single stroke of brilliance, proved it! (asking the symphony orchestra director was merely a play to setting up the fall, I say – the article starts cynical and stays that way).

There’s two main flaws:

  • He’s standing outside the station exit and inside the doors; it’s a commute area, not one which a group can easily gather
  • It’s morning and turning up late at work is rarely an option

A more representative experiment would have included:

  • Playing in the evening rush home (less time pressure)
  • Playing at lunchtime (open wallets)
  • Playing somewhere other than at the station (location influence neutered)
  • Playing at a different station (comparative sample)
  • Playing on the platform (captive audience of those waiting)
  • A female expert playing (different to “standard” by visual)

There’s a hundred other variables to the experiment, naturally, but these are some obvious ones that wouldn’t be difficult or time consuming to test; they’re things which any ordinary busker would also need to take into account. Finally, the comparison needs to be done: if an “ordinary” violin player had been at the same spot at the same time of day, would the result have been the same, or less? or even more, as people appreciated the attempt? One factor to consider is that if the performance is exceptional, it may blend, in a curious way, with something the people have already heard before.

If you’ll indulge, what if the skill meant that people filed it away, unconsciously identifying it as pre-recorded and ignoring it much as they would a stereo system? :)

The MacBook Review

I got me a MacBook.

At dead on $2000, it’s the most expensive single purchase I’ve done yet. It’s the second most valuable thing I own. I cherish this baby. I’ve “donated” my desktop to the family, removing the need for the ye olde Pentium III that was their computing universe for the last seven years.

Yes yes but how does it feel?

At 13 inches diagonally, the widescreen is about the size of an A4 notebook, and clocks in at just over 2 kg, making it easily luggable. The glossy whiteness of it has been spoilt a little over the last fortnight by various fingers, but the look is slicker than an oily racetrack. This thing grabs attention when it’s opened – the whiteness marks it out as different to the batillion of corporate-clone silver and black Windows laptops out there. The cleverly glowing Apple logo helps for sure.

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Still Smoking

We had a “grads” Christmas party last week, and we’d invited along the summer interns mostly to make up the numbers. As soon as we settled in to start the night, a group pulled out cigarettes. And they kept going through the night. Now, I’d seen it often enough in Europe, and given the reputation of the continent, I could accept it. But my impression of Australia, and Australian ‘youth’, was that smoking was on the way out, a rarity at best.

I’m no innocent; smoking is prevalent enough in clubs that I know how much it happens. But the constant, almost chain smoking style of cigarette consumption was more than a little off putting. As a principled stance, I walked away as soon as it wasn’t blatantly rude – everyone’s free to choose, I say, even if I don’t like it – and stayed away for most of the night.

It puzzles me; these are intelligent people, and most of them are around my age (I’m still the youngest :D). We’ve had the education, the advertising, all the information we could ever need, and yet, these people still persist in doing so. The women were more into it than the guys – it seemed if anything to be an image thing.

I don’t know; I’m not entirely sure what my point is. Basically I was disappointed that people are still smoking by choice.

Politic

The last week of the year for the parliament was an action-packed one to say the least – the like that goes “one week’s a long time in politics” was shown to be quite true.

Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard replaced Beazley at the top of the Labor party, something which I would consider just about the smartest move made by the Labor party over the least 5 years. Beazley had lost it somewhere in his mumbles, and someone who’s lost that many times just within his own party was never going to be a serious contender against the master of Australian politics that is John Howard. Rudd started the week with a couple of strong lines against Howard, willing and able to drudge up the 22% interest rates from when Howard was Treasurer.

The electorate in general is adopting a wait-and-see approach so far. Rudd doesn’t have the down-to-earth populist appeal that Latham originally had, but he’s got savvy and, more importantly, he knows the areas in which he can pitch battles. To put it briefly, he’s about 10 times more likely than Beazley to have an impact. In a world where China is steadily growing in influence, Rudd’s ability to speak Mandarin (fluently, apparently) should hold him well in the future, should he get past Howard.
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Rule of Rose-coloured glasses

The ‘family’ lobby is at it again, with calls for Australia to follow the lead of the Europe in forcing the removal of the game “Rule of Rose“, which puts the player in the shoes of a girl whose world is shaped by a bunch of other girls, the ‘bullies’. It’s a twist on the survival horror genre, but otherwise appears to be entirely devoid of truly original content or technological advance. In summary, were it to have been released without any fuss, it is likely it would have quietly flopped without a trace.

What angers me each time there’s a call for games like this to be removed is the catch-cry of those baying for the blood: won’t somebody please think of the kids? The assumption is obviously: it’s a game, it’s played by kids. The truth is, however, the average age of PS2 (the platform the game is published on) gamers is around 21, last I heard – some years ago at that. And we already have a hugely restrictive censorship regime which judges games far more harshly than movies. The interactivity makes the case for this to occur in some instances, but if the existing system were to be applied to movies, many of the current ‘MA’ rated movies would effectively be banned. It’s a double standard which will increasingly get even more glaring over time as games approach movies for style, graphics and general flair. If the classification system isn’t working because parents are getting kids the games anyway, then it’s not really the games or the classification we should be blaming, but perhaps the parents.

Rule of Rose was pulled by the publisher following bad publicity in the UK and Europe, where the mayor of Rome called for the game to be banned. The media’s comments suggested the game was full of torture, brutality, s&m, and among other things generally encouraging of bullying. The family lobby here has seized on this, and the pulling of the game, and twisted it pleasantly in their own direction. However, you play as the victim, so your goal can only be to free yourself – something I can only consider a good thing. Clearly, without investigating it one iota, they jumped a passing bandwagon and hope for the best. This frustrates me very, very much.

Rule of Rose would probably have gone unheard of in my neighbourhood, but since it’s been highlighted as something controversial, now I want to try it – giving this game far more credit than it deserves. The “family” lobby needs to grow up with its views on gaming and understand that those kids who were showing off their Ataris have grown into mature adults, but still want to play games occasionally.

Presidential Options

(a.k.a. more multichoice questions)

You are the President of the USA. Imagine that scenario. You may be the first of your kind (Black/Indian/Asian/Australian/Woman/twentysomething – now wouldn’t that be a combination…… i may digress.), and you want to make an impression, so that you will be remembered for all time.

You decide to go on a spending spree, spending $300 billion over 4 years. Three Hundred Billion US Dollars. You:

a) Wipe out poverty, worldwide.
b) Pour money into research to cure HIV/AIDS, and as a follow up trick, most other major diseases known to man
c) Send astronauts to Mars & the Moon. Twice. For laughs.
d) Rid the world of nuclear weapons
e) Give every man, woman and child in the USA $1000 each.
f) Give every member of humanity $50 each.
g) Catch Osama bin Laden, or at the very least set that as a bounty on his head.
h) Free a mid-sized Arab country from the rusty grip of a delusional, harmless despot.

Hmmm.

Sydney Race Riots

I was going to write about this sooner but following the completition – for the most part anyway – of the site’s design I decided to go for a full format and in the process have been busy, as well as loosing internet for the better part of the day. Anyway.

There’s plenty of news reports around – CNN, BBC, Forbes (problems grow to Adelaide & Perth), The Age (mostly AP reports); hell, Google News has 1000+ stories on it – so it’s pretty much reached international incident status [aside: this is what it takes for Australia to get on the news? sheesh]. Each report has its own spin, as the media is wont to have, inevitably, but these are the facts that i’ve gathered so far:

  1. 2 Lifegaurds get bashed by a gang of “youths with Arab or Middle Eastern appearance” (all of which have now been arrested by the way).
  2. A week of simmering tensions ensue, with much anger at the supposed “attack on the Australian way of life”, since lifegaurds are an integral part of the Aussie beach culture.
  3. Sunday: Rally of “white” Australians in Cronulla – a prominent beach suburb with a overwhelming majority of Australian residents, generally above average economic profile. Majority of ‘rally’ participants are from other parts of Sydney as Cronulla is easily accessible by train, young, and fuelled by alcohol. Rally quickly turns ugly as people with non-“white” skin are attacked simply for being in the area. Police step in and riot ensues. Ambulance attacked while treating on the victims of the mob.
  4. Sunday night, Monday night – gangs of “Arab youths” go to suburbs of Cronulla and Maroubra – a similar suburb, but further north and closer to the city. Cars smashed and various other incidents of violent vandalism. A number of arrests made.

Continue reading Sydney Race Riots