Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Enter Fox News. They have managed to not only get away with making up the news, they got the Supreme Court in the US to agree that there is nothing even wrong with disseminating this 'fiction' as long as it is for 'entertainment' purposes. Somehow it is still sold as 'truth' which is where fiction reverts to 'lies' but the Supreme Court doesn't seem to make this distinction. I never managed to get my head around that one. Just one more big lie on top of a bunch of other lies.
Thanks to Fox News, if one can thank that miserable cauldron of scum for anything, I now manage to accept that a news organization can not only twist the news to their unique bias, but to make it up. Recently I have been shown that an al-Jazeera journalist, Khaled Saleh, has been staging the news. A news reporter representing al-Jazeera being shown in various roles as a protester, rebel, wounded civilian, corpse, leader, – even a reporter. This isn't too far a stretch to believe if you have Fox News Fantasies as a stepping stone.
Which brings me back to my original thesis, I believe that truth in news reporting is fundamental to the health of a democracy. It is a crime against democratic principles to make-up, embellish or otherwise stage the news. This form of information is a sacred trust to empower the citizens of a democracy to make informed choices. The penalties for violating this trust should be as severe as any which endanger the democracy.
- First there are the news-organizations which attempt to give the facts without embellishment. A difficult and noble undertaking as news sources and personal biases are hard enough to remove.
- Second there are the biased news organizations which do not attempt or minimally attempt to remove bias from their content. They report the news from a personal or cultural bias. Most news organizations in the USA are biased in some form or another. To see this, all you have to do is look beyond the US borders.
- Third there are news organizations which make up news stories to fit their personal agenda or to gain rating through sensationalist reporting, e.g. FOX News. This gradient of news is generally reported with some pundit injecting their opinions into the news items.
- Fourth there are news organizations which stage the news. Apparently this now includes elements of al-Jazeera.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Thursday, September 29, 2011
“May I see your license sir?”
“Certainly constable. Was I doing something wrong?”
“You are aware of the hooning laws in Queensland?”
“Why I wasn't speeding or anything. I was going 5k under the posted speed.”
“That is exactly what I am talking about.”
“You mean I am supposed hoon? Drag race down main street?”
“Especially in the school zones.”
“Fish tails and doughnuts?”
“The more tire smoke, the better.”
“But that just seems wrong.”
“It's the law sir. I will have to write you a ticket.”
“But I didn't know I was doing anything wrong.”
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. You do have a Queensland drivers license. What is the name of your car sir?”
“No, like 'Eat My Dust' or 'Lil Speed Demon'. For the ticket I need to know the name of your car. It should be clearly displayed on or under the drivers door panel.”
“I didn't know my car needed a name.”
“An unnamed car is in violation of local motor vehicle law. Your car also appears to be unmodified, is that true?”
“Oh yes, my car is as pristine as it was on the show room floor.”
“Unmodified vehicles are not considered roadworthy in Queensland.”
“What should I do?”
“You will need to have your car towed to a local mechanic to affect repairs.”
“What kind of repairs?”
“You will need rims, high performance mufflers, shocks and window tinting. I would also recommend you have the engine bored and a nitrous tank installed just to keep you out of further trouble.”
“It sounds expensive.”
“If you are on the dole, the government will pay for the modifications out of your hoon allowance. Except the window tinting.”
“Why not window tinting?”
“The tinters didn't have enough money to bribe the MPs.”
“People accept bribes here?”
“How else do you get things done?”
“It sounds screwy.”
“Sir, have you had anything to drink today?”
“Oh no. I never drive after drinking alcohol.”
“I was afraid of that. Please step out of the car sir.”
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
When you think about it, how does the human race go on without some mania in the mix? If everyone were completely logical, would they have taken the risks people took for air travel, space travel or jump rope? And what about enthusiasm? Isn't enthusiasm just a bit of hypomania anyway? For that matter, what about optimism?
I stipulate that sometimes we need some irrational hope or false optimism. A touch of mania here and there to keep us going when we have the urge to quit, to give us hope when things are down.
In fact, I further suggest that a degree of mania is required to be a starting writer. When you are a first time novelist, you know vaguely what the end product should look like; an idea turned into a book with beautiful sentences which people want to read. You don't know what the road to this goal will be like nor do you have any idea if anyone will actually want to read your book a-priori.
Consider that 95% of novels never make it to publication. It takes either a lot of conceit or a lot of self confidence to sit down, write a book, and think that anyone will want to read it. What is self confidence after all, but the rational self assurance, based upon previous achievement, that you have the skills to finish the job and finish it well. Any belief beyond that is irrational or should I say some kind of mania?
Does success have no other definition than to sell your novel? You work on this novel for a year or three, mostly without feedback. The grade is either pass or fail. You have a 5% chance of passing. Add to that the capricious nature of the publishing industry where good writing can be rejected and bad writing can be put upon a pedestal. Admit it, you have seen it!
So I say, you should be fitted for a straight jacket if you presume to set out to be a successful, published author.
Where does that leave us? Well, there is evidence which suggests that persistence, more than any other ability, produces successful authors. In the face of the odds, what is persistence here but an irrational belief that you will succeed. A mania, a faith, an unreasonable notion that you will produce a novel worthy of publication.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Recipe for Writers' Wrage
Mix 2 bushels of frustration with 1 peck of raw irritation. Simmer until it smells unpleasant.
Slowly stir in a handful of isolation
Add, alternating, massive amounts of self doubt with freshly scaled floundering. Mix until scabrous between each addition
Simmer until unbearable, skimming off any bits of hope which may float to the top
Take a sack full of recriminations and whip until bleeding. Fold into other ingredients and slowly grind until you stare out the window in apathy.
Take resulting mixture and push into casings made from bitter inner voice.
Basting with pity, bake in a lack of measurable success for 12 months or until entire thing explodes.
Serve on a bed of shredded self esteem; garnish with wilted ego.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
1. The degree is paid for by the govt. Once accepted the program is paid for but the schools do not get paid anything the student's dissertation is approved (accepted). This is good in that there is no fees for Perm Res. and Citizens (like me). Problem: there is a motivation to push the PhD student through as fast as possible. Some schools are referred to as battery farms, USYD School of IT for example.
2. It is difficult to get research funding. Where it is/was widespread in the USA in Computer Science, it is the exception here. This means that most students must have part time jobs to feed themselves or acquire fantastic loan balances. Few RA positions and no TA positions. This also impacts the amount of research the student can do. I believe you get a better student and subsequently better graduates if you immerse the student in their field of interest rather than have them foraging for food and shelter half the time.
3. The dissertation is not defended in a semi-public forum like most US universities. The requirement is usually to have three journal/conference papers before you can submit your dissertation. Your stature here depends upon the number of journal publications you make and the quality of the journals (yet another problem which I will not discuss). This has a side effect of creating many publications which contain minimal content or changes - little signal with a lot of noise. The US institutions require publications as well, but I think a rigorous evaluation in an open forum by my committee and my peers is an additional valuable test.
4. There is no comprehensive test to gain entry in PhD programs I have seen here. It is done by evaluating your transcripts in an ad-hoc manor. The do however take Honors programs very seriously here. But the point I would make is that there are major difference between the way schools teach Computer Science and there is no check and balance to see how broad the knowledge base is. Additionally, this tendency to weight transcripts towards honors is faulted. The honor student may well be preoccupied so much with grades that they tend to take the "safe" classes and avoid the growth they might achieve by taking a more interesting, yet possibly more difficult class as an undergrad or a Masters level student. As a Masters student, the concept of honors was foreign to me and so I took a variety of painful yet very interesting classes. These classes in turn gave me a broad-based education which I believe is superior to the equivalent Australian institution.
5. A PhD from most Australian universities is perceived as less valuable than from a university in the USA, possibly because of previous points I brought up. But consider this: an Australia PhD ~= 3 years while USA PhD ~= 4 years. Does time make a better graduate?
6. In Australia you can't choose your dissertation committee, it is chosen by the school. Either way this can be a disaster, but I would rather it be MY disaster. I want to choose the best people to evaluate my work. In the same vein, where in the USA you have a thesis advisor, in Australia you have a thesis supervisor. The system is more authoritarian to be sure.
7. Some PhD students in Australian universities work in comparative isolation. They aren't generally required to give colloquia although PhD students are expected to speak at conference. A friend of mine, a kiwi who just graduated with PhD from Sydney Uni felt completely alone. I prefer to be in the thick of things, being a social animal.
8. There is no teaching requirement. In fact, you will not go far if you state that you are even slightly interested in teaching. I would like to do some teaching just to get down the subjects I like the most (which are most of Computer Science).
What Australian universities do well:
The Australian universities are very good at research and they teach their students how to do it right. USA universities could take some pointers on that score. Graduates here tend to be very narrowly focused and can do brilliantly if you don't expect too much lateral thinking.
Both in the USA and Australia funding is being hacked away by the government and by an unproductive overburden of administration. I think the Australians are micromanaged by their system and that they waste a good deal of time and money with useless planning and then trying to account for every bit of funding. This creates in some research environments like CSIRO the feeling that you are working in some kind of research gulag or futuristic dystopia. Details of your life, interests, future plans, and research known and tracked by "the man".