Tram Town
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Category: Transport
A fascinating look into the future of different transportation systems from about 40 years back! Thanks /..

Category: Intelligence
Found at Rec-Humor-Funny, a privacy statement on a CIA website:
Privacy Notice
The Central Intelligence Agency is committed to protecting your privacy and will collect no personal information about you unless you choose to provide that information to us.

Category: Audio
If I get a bit of time later today I'd sure like to learn more about Audio Hijack Pro. Looks interesting.

Category: HTC
Some alums are in the paper this morning.

Friday, July 30, 2004
Category: Apple
Oh, and there's just one more thing!

Category: Fillums
Just in case you haven't come across it yet.

Category: Meeja
Just in from Johannesburg:
Fat shoplifters on the rampage
A GANG of oversized women shoplifters has been terrorising shopkeepers and supermarkets in the South African port city of Durban over the past two months, police said.
[Inspector Michael] Read said "several arrests have been made but some of these women are still at large."

Category: Dead
Francis Crick has died at age 88.

Category: Meeja Incompetence
I don't know how long this article will stay uncorrected so go look quickly:
Seven Iraqi Troops Killed in Poland
From a pointer by AEBrain who also explains the name Grauniad.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Category: Blog
Hitherto seen lurking around amongst commenters, the Currency Lad is now blogging himself. This is going straight to the poolroom.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Category: Fiction
We were talking about this this morning: Her life as a fake: bestseller's lies exposed
Key point for mine:
Khouri, now 34, spent much of 2003 retelling this story, reducing listeners to tears and anger, in interviews, book festivals, bookshops and other events. She toured the world with the story, from appearing on network television in the US to being selected for a citywide book club in Adelaide.
While making her new home at a secret location in Queensland and fearing for her life, Khouri became a standard-bearer for oppressed Arab women and triggered a publishing trend of similar books.
The truth is very different, and may affect Khouri's legal residency status in Australia [my emphasis].

Category: Music (and technological illiteracy?)
As described on WinInfo:
Harmony Technology breaks the lock-in that has been a leading factor in the success of the Apple iTunes Music Store. The iPod outsells other players by a wide margin, and iPod customers have been forced to use Apple's online music store because the iPod supports only the company's Protected Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format. Now iPod owners will be able to purchase music from the RealPlayer Music Store, which uses a much higher-quality format--192Kbps RealAudio 10 AAC.
And some comments from there:
This should be fun to watch.
Cause Real didn't break just Apple's DRM, they broke their business model. After all, the whole reason to keep Fairplay proprietary is so that only music purchased at iTunes plays on the Pod *and* the only place iTunes music plays is the pod. Which means: lock-in. Once the pod people have enough invested in iTunes music files, they will have no choice but to buy ipods to listen to it. But Real's process involves downloading the music to the PC in Real-format AAC which is then converted to WMA or Apple AAC/Fairplay. The purchased file apparently stays in the neutral format. Hence, no pod lock-in for music purchased from Real.
The article states "iPod customers have been forced to use Apple's online music store because the iPod supports only the company's Protected Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format." This is untrue.
The iPod supports MP3 (32 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible, AIFF, WAV and Apple Lossless audio formats in addition to AAC (with and without FairPlay DRM). I find it in poor taste that technolgy news writers (not just this one) mislead their readers with such mis-information.
Because of such reporting there are many people who believe that iTunes can only work with the iPod. iTunes can work with a wide array of portable digital audio players that support MP3s.
The limitations and lock-in have to do with FairPlay managed AAC files sold through the iTunes Music Store. There are ways around this however.
Of course you already knew all of this.
Well I had wondered. There seem to be many ways around this so-called DRM stuff so I don't think Real's announcement has much in the way of guts at all.

Category: Music
There's a pitcher about Gram Parsons on at the Melbourne International Film Festival. I missed the first showing on Sunday afternoon but there's another showing down at the ACMI at 9:30pm. Anyone wanna go? Dig (whatever the hell that is) has an interview with the film maker.

Category: Important (very)
French go potty over Harry's politics. I reckon the problem with the French is that they think the rest of the world are muggles. Oh and a nice crit of the original article.
This also caught my eye at The Star: Police clam up on killing of Leigh Matthews. I thought it must be the next step in the AFL's campaign to even up the competition: salary cap, draft, kill lethal. Turns out it was a different Leigh Matthews though.

Category: iPod
iPhone? (Not what you think!)
UPDATE: 12 Songs! What are they thinking?

Category: Weird
Hey, Join the US Army and get face-lifts, breast enlargements, liposuction and nose jobs for free. Where do I sign up?

Monday, July 26, 2004
Category: Pitchers
As Tex asks:
Is Warren Beatty the worst actor of all time?
Tex answers:
Not surprisingly, Beatty is a multiple-Oscar winner.

Category: Audio
This looks interesting, Fraunhofer Institute for Media Technology's latest and greatest audio solution!

Sunday, July 25, 2004
Category: Net Culture
Yup, now I've finally got broadband I'm tidying up my bookmarks and keep coming across weird stuff I'd forgotten about. Like All Your Base Are Belong To Us and Tourist Guy. But I'd forgotten about this.

Category: Ep III
Revenge of the Sith!

Category: Marijuana
I am going to maintain a very important table...

Bill ClintonYesNo
Mark LathamYesYes
Tony AbbottYesNo
John HowardDoubt it!NA
Bob BrownIt would explain a lotNA
BracksieAccording to Jon Faine's showPresumably
Alexander DownerAs for BracksiePresumably

Please let me know if any further data points come to light.
Also, can anyone explain how the two "no"s of the third column expected the drug to get into their bloodstream?

Category: Who cares?
Melbourne's Greeks care very much it seems and are willing to redefine Greek-ness if necessary to maintain Melbourne's position on the League Ladder of "Greek cities".
It is a sensitive topic. Melbourne's Greeks still claim they hold the title, noting that they are a very close community and mostly still speak Greek, while those in North America "speak American" and have lost some of their heritage.

Category: Reality
I'm not sure whether I should believe this story about a reality television show supposedly being made in the UK called Make Me a Mum. It certainly seems to plumb new depths.

Saturday, July 24, 2004
Category: Madness
In California:
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Four learning-disabled students sued the organization that administers the medical school admission test, alleging they were denied extra time to take the exam in violation of California's disability laws.
I don't know what to say!

Category: Technology
History of the ATM.

Friday, July 23, 2004
Category: Fashion
From memepool, the list of things that are the new black.

Category: Space TFF
NASA has recently digitised a whole stack of the Apollo 11 mission Happy Snaps, nice work.

Thursday, July 22, 2004
Category: F1
I know nothing about F1. A Screensaver.

Category: iPod
Interesting article on the development of the Apple MP3 player.

Category: Skepticism
The Skeptic's Dictionary has a site that contains some facinating entries. I found it while googling for Lysenkoism.
It was due to Lysenko's efforts that many real scientists, those who were geneticists or who rejected Lamarckism in favor of natural selection, were sent to the gulags or simply disappeared from the USSR.
Why was I looking up Lysenkoism? Because PE Philip Stott mentioned it in an article on EnviroSpin Watch.
And in Russia, 'global warming' has been likened to Lysenkoism.
And on Tech Central Station an article detailing some of what has been going on in Russia recently including this quote from the economic adviser of President Putin, Andrei Illarionov:
'That ideological base can be juxtaposed and compared with man-hating totalitarian ideology with which we had the bad fortune to deal during the 20th century, such as National Socialism, Marxism, Eugenics, Lysenkoism and so on. All methods of distorting information existing in the world have been committed to prove the alleged validity of these theories. Misinformation, falsification, fabrication, mythology, propaganda. Because what is offered cannot be qualified in any other way than myth, nonsense and absurdity.'

Category: Wind
Wind-Farm.org is well worth a visit.
The purpose of this web site is to provide an exchange of information, news and ideas regarding the current proliferation of windfarms particularly in some of the most beautiful parts of Britain - Wales, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands to mention but a few.

Category: UN
A nice gag about the UN by Mike H. amongst some comments at Tim Blair's site:
A famous man once said, we've just declared the UN an outlaw organization, the bombing starts in five minutes.

Category: WWW
When you can't be bothered registering or you just don't want them gathering info about you: BugMeNot! Thanks to the Prof for pointing this out.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Category: Patents
Another crazy patent filed by Microsoft: The human body as a computer bus.

Category: iPod

Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Category: Apple
Appallingly incomplete history of the Apple Desktop Interface 1979-2000. What were these folks thinking? Don't even bother clicking here! (As sighted in the SSS this morning, do they even follow the links they publish?) Bah!

Category: Iraq
Chrenkoff is now up to part six of his Good News from Iraq series. Interestingly, this part was also published on the Wall Street Journal opinion site. The good news is getting out.
Also, from Iraq the Model (pointed out by Tim Blair), Omar posts:
You cannot tell a man that saving him and his family from torture, humiliation and death was a mistake and it should’ve not been done because it’s illegal. This is almost an insult to Iraqis to hear someone saying that this war was illegal. It means that our suffering for decades meant nothing and that formalities and the stupid rules of the UN (that rarely function) are more important than the lives of 25 million people.

Monday, July 19, 2004
Category: Meeja
I'm surprised that this story appears to have been covered by only one newspaper.
AUSTRALIAN Federal Police are waiting to interview a man who allegedly terrorised passengers on a Bali-bound tourist flight from Perth.
Official sources say David Mann, 31, told passengers that he had explosives, and lunged past flight attendants towards the cockpit of the Garuda Indonesia flight on June 30.
Thanks to the GnuHunter for the heads-up.

Category: Politics
I must have been asleep the week that the job of Chief Scientist was announced, or perhaps it got as much coverage as that sarin device in Baghdad that negated the "no WMDs" claim. Still, they seem to have got the right bloke for the job; he's one of the few people who wouldn't look like a goal umpire if he was wearing a lab coat...
Photo of Dr Robin Batterham
But... he's going to die unhappy. He reckons we have to cut greenhouse emissions by 50% by 2050. Get real science dude!

Saturday, July 17, 2004
Category: History
Some interesting stuff about the Ukrainian famine of 1929-33 and a journalist, Walter Duranty, in denial.
In all, 10 million Ukrainians, most of them peasants, died as catastrophic, stupid and cruel collectivization policies were imposed by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin on the richest, most fertile, wheat-exporting breadbasket in the world. In the decades before World War I, its annual grain exports regularly vastly outstripped those of the American Midwest.
I learnt quite a bit from this article which I found while grazing on comments at Tim Blair's site.
BTW, both Tim Blair and Maureen McInerney were on the Today show yesterday morning... Snap!

Thursday, July 15, 2004
Category: Design
This ad "popped up" at some site (don't know which). You'd reckon you'd come up with a more impressive design if you were hawking these sorts of wares.

Category: True
As pointed out by The Yobbo, Reasononline's daily brickbats make great reading, e.g.
The Trail Goes Cold (5/20)
Federal investigators say the United Nations has turned over just 20 percent of the paperwork they requested for their investigation of fraud in the Iraq oil-for-food program. And investigators say that the documents the UN did turn over are riddled with errors.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Category: DRM
Top of the Pops? OK for iPod not so much for MS? (or, then again, maybe not).

Category: Politics (US)
'Cos I'm a big fan of Arlo's Dad, I sorta liked this. (Warning, 3.7MB download approaching).
Update: I was just humming this song to myself and it kept morphing into this song. Are they musically similar in tune? I wouldn't know.

Category: Electronic Music
Oops, about to run out of the office like a mad running thing but I'm sure looking forward to reading this! Electronic Musical Instruments 1870 - 1990.

Category: Desktop Collaboration
I really need to find out more about this (possibly with reference to a (slightly) obscure Pete Townshend song). It's sort of like desktop Video Conferencing meets PowerPoint!

Monday, July 12, 2004
Category: Musical Theatre?
History -v- Jobs -v- Gates The Musical! (no mention of Digital or Xerox as far as I can see) (possible free subscription required though as it's NYT).

Category: Audio
Tubes Vs. Transistors Is There An Audible Difference?

Sunday, July 11, 2004
Category: Writing
An experiment in alternating paragraphs between a girl and a boy produced an interesting result which is on display over at Wicked Thoughts.

Category: Science
Sir Austin Bradford Hill was one of people who originally found strong evidence of cigarette smoking greatly increasing the risk of lung cancer. In this famous essay he sets out a mechanism for establishing causality. It's a very worthwhile read.
UPDATE: I was looking for this essay because I mistakenly thought Sir ABH was responsible for the dictum: "Extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence". In the best traditions of The Age newspaper, I was wrong. "Extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence" is known as Sagan's Balance but at least one person thinks it should be called Jefferson's Balance. In searching for this stuff I discovered the very disturbing fact that '"crumbly but good" sagan' returned no results in Google. The "crumbly but good moment" was probably the most important moment in the whole Cosmos experience. I also came across an interesting read about Carl Sagan and "science as religion".

Category: Lenny
We had a dog named Lenny who left us for another place a couple of years ago. He was the same breed as this very old dog.

Category: Space
Yobbo points out that Skylab lobbed in the West 25 years ago today.
25 years ago today, the space station "Skylab" crashed to Earth between Perth and Kalgoorlie. Not only was this the first time a space station had crashed into the Earth, but it also marked the first time that anything important ever happened in Western Australia.
My reference point for Skylab is a movie.

Category: Motor Racing
Surely the nail in the coffin for the current qualifyting sytem in F1, cars were braking at the end of their first lap to avoid expected rain at the end of the second session! This after a year and a half of dangerous race starts because the system doesn't necessarily put the fastest cars at the front of the grid.

Saturday, July 10, 2004
Category: Microsoft
OH, I love MS (like you need a "href" already?). Not only have they re-invented Operating Systems and browsers (or should that be invented?) but now they're hard at work re-defining international forms of measurement! That's cool!

Category: Bunyips
The Professor is alive again following exam-marking season at Sydney Orr. This article about Ayers' Rock Uluru is well worth a read.

Category: Humour
If my nephew read Tram Town he would probably enjoy this. Come to think of it, he probably already reads Bacon.

Category: Media
I'm a bit late posting this one but I guess many Tram Town readers will not have noted Frank Devine's recent articles in The Australian peer-reviewing a couple of bulletins of nightly television news concluding with:
Tracking the broadcaster's chronic bias is intensive work. Denials are easy because distortions derive from the wickedness that lurks in the hearts of men and women. But on its own, the way gauche reporters and presenters feel free, night after night on its 7pm news, to give a twirl to the news on the basis of personal prejudice and ideology, is symptomatic of deep-seated intellectual malaise.

Friday, July 09, 2004
Category: Transport
In today's Hun, Ashley Gardiner, Transport Reporter, had the following to say (typed, by the way, with me own 'ands because I can't find it online):
E N G I N E E R S have cleared the air in the Burnley Tunnel by finding a better way to suck out the fumes.
A trial that changed the flow of air in the underground road has cut smog by 85 per cent.
Trucks were the main cause of the visible haze that used to last an average of 59 minutes a day.
By turning the large exhaust fans on and off at certain times, City-Link has cut the smog to an average of 9 minutes a day.
The chief executive of CityLink, Brendan Bourke, said thanks to engineers the efficiency of the ventilation system had been dramatically improved.
Engineers changed the speed of airflow by running more fans in one part of the tunnel and fewer in the other, he said.
I don't even know where to start with this. What is the method of determining a state of visible haze? Which of the many possible definitions of "smog" is being used? Has this supposed 85% smog reduction had any positive effect other than reduction of visible haze? Is degree of visibility of the haze related in some sense to toxicity or general safety? Did any engineers get the sack for not trying to do something about this "smog" sometime earlier in the life of the tunnel?
There are many questions that should have been asked by AGTR before publishing a good news story on behalf of CityLink.
The lesson for me is that I should stick to the web version of the Hun because it has way fewer articles by light-weight AGTR and, thereby,.way fewer reasons for me to get angry.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Category: Science
Half of women infertile 'in a decade'
That looks like an attention grabber, doesn't it? Particularly given that the issue, higher incidences of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), seems to be associated with the greatest of modern evils, obesity:
Australia's already low fertility rates would plummet as obesity rendered more women unable to fall pregnant.
But it did seem a touch overcooked when I read the whole article so I did a bit of research myself. There's no doubting the credentials of Dr David Knight so, even though I can't find anything about Dr Robert David with a bit of rough Googling, I assume him to be similarly qualified.
The gist of the report is that, because obesity is a cause of PCOS and obesity rates are going through the roof, we should expect fertility rates to drop. No basis is given for the headline claim, however.
But... Looking at pages that discuss PCOS, I constantly came across suggestions that obesity is a symptom not a cause, for example from here:
Polycystic ovaries are two to five times larger than normal ovaries, and they have a white, thick, tough outer covering. This condition is commonly called Stein-Leventhal syndrome, and usually develops shortly after puberty.
A woman with polycystic ovaries stops menstruating, menstruates erratically, or may not have ever menstruated. She will gain weight, eventually becoming obese. She may develop excessive amounts of facial or body hair (hirsutism). Some women exhibit virilization, or development of male characteristics.
It looks to me as if Knight & David are putting the cart before the horse and making extreme claims as a means of gaining publicity. It would also appear that they are being very unfair on true long-term sufferers of PCOS suggesting that what they really have is a weight problem.
Disgusting journalism!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Category: Fillums
My Girls went to see Spidey2 last weekend, they thought it was a bit long but generally liked it. Boy, were they sucked in! Fools!

Category: Uranium
Remember all that fuss about Niger's lack of uranium trading? It increasingly appears that Tony Blair wasn't lying after all. At least according to the Financial Times. Thanks to Tim Blair for pointing this one out.

Category: Art
$75,000 for a kindergarten painting? Sounds about right for the kooky world of art.

Sunday, July 04, 2004
Category: Justice
Saddam has his day in court.

Friday, July 02, 2004
Category: Security
Aussie!, Aussie!, Aussie! Cert!, Cert!, Cert!

Category: Climatology
This quote is from page 774 (chapter 14) of Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In sum, a strategy must recognise what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible [my emphasis]. The most we can expect to achieve is the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions. This reduces climate change to the discernment of significant differences in the statistics of such ensembles. The generation of such model ensembles will require the dedication of greatly increased computer resources [my emphasis, again] and the application of new methods of model diagnosis. Addressing adequately the statistical nature of climate is computationally intensive, but such statistical information is essential.
Paraphrased: The day may come in the future when we can have a guess about human effects on the climate but it will require serious computing power which we don't currently have!
Think for a moment about how much money has been spent on the IPCC to conclude that we know very little at this stage of the possible existence of a threat of unknown proportion. This is the same IPCC, you will remember, whose chairman called Bjørn Lomborg a nazi.
Oh, and by the way, the IPCC is a UN body.
Thanks to the folks at Bizarre Science for the location of the quote.

Category: Advice
Good advice!

Category: Advice
Good advice!

Thursday, July 01, 2004
Category: Transport
I really like monorails and now I could go on one, if I was in Las Vegas at least.

Category: Technology
Hey, iPod watch out! I've had a VIC20 for 20+ years but this could be the Apple Killer, or this or this. C64 emulation might be next.

Category: Film maker
I think this article gets The Don Lane Show James Randi incident wrong. It suggests Uri Geller was the fraud being exposed; I think it was Doris Stokes (ahh, yes! confirmed by an article by black-shirt Phillip Adams who I would otherwise deem to be beneath contempt). Neither here nor there really but looking at the James Randi site brought the incident to mind. Why was I at the James Randi site? In one of the forums RichardR dissects the Charlton Heston speech as carefully edited in Bowling for Columbine and places the bits the dishonest film maker elected to include in bold. It is fascinating to see quite how dishonest a documentary maker can be.
Thanks for the pointer John Ray.

Category: Fun facts
About terrorism... about the French. IMAO designs at ThoseShirts.

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