Friday, March 24, 2006


A few years ago, when quite a few of us were procrastinating during our PhD’s, we stumbled upon the Political Compass web site. It defined your political leaning not just by traditional left/right categories, but also whether you were social libertarian/ authoritarian. It then placed your position on a Cartesian grid and you could compare yourself to dictators, humanitarians, etc. Most of us turned out to be left leaning libertarians. My score was –7 (ie left) and –6.05 (ie social libertarian).

Anyway, recently I was thinking whether the following two scales would also form a compass of some sort. Maybe it’s exactly the same as the political compass, I’ll have to think about it. Here are my two scales.

1) The first one is in regards to legislative law.

After the fact ----------------------------------------- Preventative

After the fact: The law against murder exists to provide justice after the act has been committed It is assumed that a person will murder someone whether or not the law exists.
Preventative: The law against murder exists because, if it didn’t, everyone would go about murdering willy-nilly.

2) The second scale is with respect to your social conscience.

Selfish ------------------------------------------------------ Selfless

Selfish: You only do things to benefit yourself and this ultimately benefits society as a whole.
Selfless: You only do things to benefit others and this ultimately benefits you.

Do you think this would make a good compass? Where would you put yourself?

Aside: I think the second scale may also apply to relationships. I have seen couples where one is at one end, and the partner is at the other. Seeing these couples and how they have gone, only one seems to get hurt, the selfless one. I think you need to be on the same side for both to be happy. Is this too simplistic?

Saturday, March 18, 2006


I can't watch the commonwealth games coverage. The 'how good is Australia' crap that they go on just gets me angry. Just to let you know, I am not a fan of nationalism, patriotism, and any of those similar isms. I judge a person on their individual merits or achievements, not on their nationality. I refuse to praise someone just because of an accident by birth. An analogy that springs to mind is the monarchy. I see no difference in monarchists who follow someone just because they were born into a particular family and so called patriots who follow someone who happens to have been born in a particular country. It' s the same line of logic.

There are 71 countries and territories competing. But why is the division at the country level? Why isn't every Australian state represented by its own team? At the Olympics, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland don't compete as separate entities. I mean the Australian federation of states was only just successful in coming together. Image if the states competed against each other. Channel 9 would have to have a separate commentary team for each state exhibiting that parochial crap. You would only see Victorian winners and Victorian interviews in Victoria, Tasmanian winners and Tasmanian interviews in Tasmania, and so on. Victory ceremonies and anthems would only be shown in the appropriate state. Stuff the other states.

And another thing. In the individual sports, and I hate to tell you this, but competitors compete for themselves. They don't compete for 'queen and/or country'. What drives them is their desire to be their best. I have no problem with that. In fact I think that is what sport should be about. I don't give a rats about what banner they happen to compete under, I want to embrace their grit, determination and talent. This is what should be highlighted no matter where they come from. So until the coverage reflects this I don't think I'll be watching much. I won't hold my breath.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fact or fiction

If there is one thing that gets me going, it's newspaper articles that are poorly researched. Take, for example, an article from the Good Weekend about a tribe called the Sentinelese who live on North Sentinel Island. It's an article that was first published in the London Observer under the title Survival comes first for the last Stone Age tribe world".
The last paragraph in the Good Weekend edition reads

"When the tsunami struck in 2004, the Sentinelese knew the evil spirits were up to no good. Minutes before the waves struck, tribal leaders scattered pig and turtle skulls around their settlement and hurled stones toward the ocean before gathering their baskets, bows and arrows and amulets of ancestral bones for protection.

They all survived - for how long, though, it is hard to say."

I found this hard to believe mainly because the whole article was about how isolated this tribe was and how little contact they had had with the outside world. The first question to arise was, how did the reporter know that this scenario in fact happened? I decided to check the facts.

Firstly let's look at the first contact after the tsunami struck. Two days after the tsunami, the Indian Coast Guard decided to check the damage caused to the island. The helicopter pilot saw and took pictures of a lone man firing one arrow at the helicopter. This fact turns into a group of tribesmen firing a shower of arrows. Sounds so much better then just one guy. This "fact" is now used in subsequent stories.

The paragraph states that all of the islanders survived. I'm sorry, but the author cannot definitely know this to be true. Why? Firstly, no one outside the island knew before the tsunami what the population was. The Indian government made an educated guess but that's all it was, a guess. Other guesses put the population between 50 - 250 inhabitants. After the tsunami, no outsider was able to count the population. So to say with certainty that they all survived is just fiction.

As to the story of turtle and pig skulls being scattered around by the Sentinelese, this again is just made up. No one has successfully interviewed an islander since the tsunami struck (highly impropable since no one knows how to speak the language) so it is impossible to know what they did. So where do they get this story from? It is known that that Onge tribe from another island of the Andamans do scatter these objests about during ceremonies. Onge/Sentinelese, what's the difference? Anyway, it makes for a better story. Why let the facts get in the way.