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So we have a new Premier. But Joe I’m-very-popular Tri­podi and Eric Let’s-build-some-more-roads Roozendaal are still there. And I’m very con­fid­ent the new Premier is just going to pull $10 bil­lion out of his rear end to build the metro now that the power sell-​​off has fizzled. Sigh. Update: Mira­cu­lously, they’re now Fin­ance Min­is­ter and Treas­urer respect­ively. Accord­ing to Wiki­pe­dia, our esteemed Treas­urer star­ted his Com­merce degree but never man­aged to fin­ish it. And now he’s in charge of a $47.6bn budget?

07 Sep 2008 | 1 comment

The New Jews: bias against Asian Amer­ic­ans at Ivy League uni­ver­sit­ies is exposed, and although the stat­ist­ics are alarm­ing, the pic­ture is far more com­plex than it first seems. (Note that in New South Wales, we are for­tu­nate enough to have the impar­tial Uni­ver­sit­ies Admis­sions Centre to man­age uni­ver­sity admissions.)

29 Aug 2008 | No comments

‘Human flesh search engine’ in hot pur­suit of the iPhone girl, pro­claims the head­line. I was ini­tially quite curi­ous as to why there is a search engine that indexes bits of human flesh on the planet. Update: Tommy sug­gests that the phrase “human flesh search engine” is a lit­eral trans­la­tion from the Chinese.

29 Aug 2008 | No comments

The Games Began. Hearts Swelled: Chinese pat­ri­ot­ism is a vary­ing and nuanced entity — from the per­spect­ive of an American-​​born Chinese New York Times writer.

19 Aug 2008 | No comments

The Dar­ling­ton side of main cam­pus of the Uni­ver­sity of Sydney was a renovator’s dream. Its end­less array of con­crete slabs might lay claim to coher­ence in some kind of bru­tal­ist archi­tec­ture, but I sus­pect the uni­ver­sity pretty much built the Engin­eer­ing and Archi­tec­ture fac­ulties out of whatever spare cash they could find at the time.

The USyd Cent­ral build­ing adja­cent to the Union’s Wentworth build­ing is part of the Cam­pus 2010 plan to reverse the years of neg­lect that have rendered other uni­ver­sit­ies with sub­stan­tially more attract­ive (and mar­ket­able) cam­puses. The first part of the USyd Cent­ral to open, the SciTech Lib­rary, has now been delivered, and it sure was a deliv­ery from heaven.

When you first walk into SciTech, the thing that strikes you is how dif­fer­ent it is from any other lib­rary that you’ve been to. With your first steps past the styl­ishly glassy entrance, you are presen­ted with a large, wel­com­ing atrium that envel­ops you and draws you in; the splend­our and the inter­est­ing topo­logy of the lib­rary makes you feel like you are view­ing spec­tac­u­lar scenery from the top of a moun­tain. To the right is a lounge-​​like area, with play­ful, lime-​​green chairs that wouldn’t look out of place in an Ikea store. To the left are the book stands, and in front is a sunken val­ley of study cubicles. At night, the entrance area is taste­fully lit up with small spot­lights that cast small pools of light on the soft car­pet, and dur­ing the day, there is ample nat­ural sun­light from the wall of glass.

SciTech Library

As I intim­ated above, the fur­niture is one thing that sets SciTech apart from any other lib­rary I’ve seen. Col­our­ful, dis­tinct­ive, mod­ern and def­in­itely play­ful — as I write, some people are stack­ing up the lime-​​green chairs in vari­ous con­fig­ur­a­tions, pos­sible as the chairs are made up of three con­joined cyl­in­ders — the fur­niture is fit­ting for a sci­ence and tech­no­logy lib­rary. From the jelly-​​coloured red and orange stools to the Ikea-​​like chairs, they are all invit­ing and very comfortable.

SciTech Library

The lib­rary, from the ground up, has been designed to be more than just a repos­it­ory of books. It appears to have been designed for stu­dents to learn, to study and to col­lab­or­ate. The “study val­ley” that I alluded to before encases you as a cocoon encases a cater­pil­lar, draw­ing you away from the hustle and bustle of the out­side world into a study world of your own. The hours melt away as you study in one of the the plush, mul­ti­col­oured pods, or the seats that line the green river-​​like divider that sep­ar­ates the study val­ley from one of the com­puter access areas. As you meander between the mellow-​​coloured book­shelves, you come across islands of tran­quil­lity, where you can sit down and enjoy a book or two. If you prefer elec­tronic learn­ing, power points are abund­ant, and there are mul­tiple com­puter rooms, with desktop com­puters and laptops — now that is some­thing I haven’t seen before any­where in the uni­ver­sity. The only minor com­plaint is that the wire­less con­nec­tion here isn’t as stable as it could be.

Ulti­mately, a lib­rary isn’t much of a lib­rary unless it stores books. Although I find it dis­ap­point­ing that in the move to the new lib­rary, a large por­tion of the Engin­eer­ing col­lec­tion was moved into archival stor­age, because there just isn’t room at SciTech, there is some­thing that they have done that is quite inter­est­ing; some shelves hold the book so that the front is dis­played, much like spe­cial book dis­plays at book stores.

SciTech Library

If the rest of the Cam­pus 2010 improve­ments are of the qual­ity and thought­ful­ness of the SciTech Lib­rary, the uni­ver­sity is onto a win­ner. The design of the SciTech lib­rary shows a thought­ful­ness to the needs of stu­dents and staff at the uni­ver­sity. I look for­ward to the new law lib­rary with much anti­cip­a­tion — and to spend­ing many days and nights at SciTech.

SciTech LibrarySciTech LibrarySciTech Library

More pho­tos here.

The SciTech Lib­rary: Level 1, Jane Foss Rus­sell Build­ing, on City Road

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I’m sur­prised I didn’t know about this till recently, but Google Blog Search is some­thing that no blog­ger should ignore. (Here are some other, albeit some­what old, first impres­sions.) Appar­ently, Google believes in blogs — “Google is a strong believer in the self-​​publishing phe­nomenon rep­res­en­ted by blog­ging…” — and extends their search prowess to the world of blogs. It looks and feels just like the stand­ard Google search, but one must ask the ques­tion: why bother search­ing blogs? After all, aren’t blogs (like this one), just filled with the imma­ture rants of wan­nabe writers who just wouldn’t cut it in the real world of journalism?

No, I don’t believe it’s true in gen­eral. Sure, the qual­ity of blogs does vary quite a bit — but they all serve some kind of a pur­pose. Whether it’s a pro­fes­sional blog­ger con­trib­ut­ing in his or her field of expert­ise, or a uni­ver­sity stu­dent writ­ing about life, the uni­verse and crap like that, it’s all because they have some­thing to say. The abil­ity to link between blogs and com­ment on blogs cre­ates a kind of dynamic that encour­ages people to think — instead of merely being pass­ive con­sumers. That is a great thing to see. I sup­pose Andrew Keen wouldn’t agree, but just because he’s pub­lished in dead tree form doesn’t amount to much: see the Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post review. By being able to search exclus­ively in blogs, you too can par­ti­cip­ate in this part of the Inter­net — par­ti­cip­ate in free speech. You can find out things that tra­di­tional media will not cover — how-to’s in obscure top­ics, polit­ical rants that match your per­sua­sion. The res­ults you get are pretty good — see this descrip­tion of how it all works. Yes, Google’s thorough.

For blog­gers, it is import­ant that you are indexed by search engines, even if you are a small time blog­ger like me. What’s the point of writ­ing pub­licly if you don’t actu­ally intend on any­one read­ing it? I had known of Tech­nor­ati before this, but Tech­nor­ati has many irrit­a­tions that other blog­gers have covered and I won’t cover here; any­way, Google’s over­taken it. To ping Google Blog Search, just add http://​blog​search​.google​.com/​p​i​n​g​/​R​PC2 to your list of serv­ers to ping.

In other news, Google Maps fea­tures con­tent for the 2007 fed­eral elec­tion. Click on the “My Maps” tab and it’s under the “Fea­tured con­tent” part. Over­lay the party col­ours onto the map of Aus­tralia, and you’d be sur­prised about the land area that the Liberals/​Nationals represent!

On a final note, Google Blog Search and these spe­cial maps rather emblem­atic of the prob­lem that Google has so many fant­astic ser­vices writ­ten by so many fant­astic engin­eers that just aren’t see­ing much of the light of day because… there are just so many of them.

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If you’re plan­ning to protest while the APEC legis­la­tion still stands, take note of the advice from Human Rights Mon­it­ors (I got this as a handout at the SULS APEC talk).

Some high­lights:

  • There is no legal oblig­a­tion to tell the pub­lic where the red areas are…
  • The legis­la­tion does not appear to provide a limit on how far a per­son can be escor­ted from the green area…
  • No crim­inal con­vic­tions are neces­sary to be on the list. It is only neces­sary that the Police Com­mis­sioner sat­isfy him­self that a par­tic­u­lar per­son would pose ser­i­ous threats…

Given the good-​​natured protests thus far, police con­cerns have hardly been war­ran­ted, and a please explain might be in order as to why their fears were even remotely believ­able to begin with.

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Protesters at Railway Square

Pro­test­ers protest­ing about some­thing at Rail­way Square: passers-​​by (like me) seemed to treat them as a curi­ous spec­tacle with all our cam­era phones instead of pon­der­ing whatever mes­sage they were try­ing to get through. (I tried to work out what they were try­ing to say, but I couldn’t work it out. Prob­ably “Bush Sucks” or some para­phras­ing thereof.)

An insane num­ber of police — every­one was well behaved though. I saw an officer record­ing the entire thing on tape — prob­ably not for fun­ni­est home videos. I was going to take a photo of him but I remembered the lady from Red­fern Legal Centre at the SULS APEC talk — “there’s only one crime, and that’s piss­ing off a police officer.”

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Grace men­tioned this quite a while ago, but her par­ents’ shop at Suth­er­land sta­tion will be for­cibly taken away by Rail­Corp, which wishes to widen the con­course at the sta­tion to, appar­ently, ease con­ges­tion. Des­pite their invest­ment in the busi­ness, from what I under­stand, the prob­lem lies in the fact that their con­tract does not provide for recom­pense in the event that Rail­Corp needs to do some­thing with it.

I’d say that most people would be sup­port­ive of rail­way infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment — who doesn’t want bet­ter sta­tions, and bet­ter trains, and bet­ter ser­vices. The prob­lem here is the way in which this devel­op­ment has been ear­marked to pro­ceed — to the det­ri­ment of one fam­ily, and with dubi­ous bene­fits to rail­way com­muters as a whole. RailCorp’s alleged atti­tude (i.e. silence) doesn’t instill con­fid­ence in the abil­ity of this case to res­ult in an equit­able solu­tion. As I com­men­ted (on the news­pa­per art­icle), just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you should do it. If the redevel­op­ment of the sta­tion must go ahead, other solu­tions, such as buy­ing out the busi­ness, or offer­ing to relo­cate the busi­ness to another part of the sta­tion, are both reas­on­able altern­at­ives that Rail­Corp should con­sider. Rail­Corp is a cor­por­at­ised busi­ness, but at the same time, as a busi­ness owned by the people of New South Wales, a more caring atti­tude would not go amiss, and should be man­dated in the organisation’s practices.

Some­how, I get the impres­sion that push­ing Rail­Corp but­tons won’t work in this case. The Ngs will have to search for other, big­ger but­tons to push. Let’s all rally behind them in their moment of need.

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In news that shouldn’t sur­prise any­one, trains on the East Hills line (the bane of my exist­ence) and the Bank­stown line were stalled for an ungodly thirty minutes around the City Circle because there was this lun­atic run­ning around on the tracks in the tun­nel near St James. Did I hear someone mut­ter the word “fragile”?

What made it worse was how the sta­tion staff respon­ded: almost like chooks with half their heads cut off, they had no idea what to do. It was mildly amus­ing when this train pulled up (from the oppos­ite dir­ec­tion), and after a few minutes, the sta­tion staff asked the guard if he was leav­ing yet, but he threw his hands up in the air and told them he didn’t know where his driver went… he some­how just disappeared.

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