Saturday, September 22, 2007

Matildas outdo Socceroos

Lisa De Vanna Remember the excitement last year when the Socceroos got into the round of 16 in the FIFA world cup?

Well, there isn't quite as much excitement about it around the traps but now the Matildas (Australian women's soccer team) have exceeded the blokes in the women's equivalent, the FIFA women's world cup, by getting into the quarter finals.

Anyone notice the difference in media coverage?

The game isn't quite as fast or as dependent on raw strength, but it's just as dependent on dexterity and skill. In fact, I wonder if it's true to say the women's game has more display of dexterity than the men's because they have less body weight to throw behind the ball?

Huge credit to Lisa De Vanna, who's already scored 3 goals to get the team into the quarter finals. On Thursday, watching her maintain control of the ball, weave and feint to set up an equaliser against Canada in the last minutes of injury time is up there, to me, with watching Harry Kewell score an equaliser against Croatia last year!

Good luck against Brazil tomorrow night!

Image by Associated Press via The Age.
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Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Chaser's war on ABC ratings

Chas 'bin Laden' Licciardello
Aunty is no doubt very proud of herself. Not only was the ABC Howard's choice of platform to announce that if he gets re-elected for the fourth time he'll be retiring (??!) but the proud sponsor of the Chaser boys whose show last night was apparently the most-viewed over all TV networks.

While some of the stunts (such as attempting to load furniture on to a public bus) were weak as usual, the APEC stunt was incredible! If you didn't see the Chaser show last night, you can download it or watch online from the website. The funniest thing was the way Julian Morrow, dressed carefully in formal attire, was the only guy the police were eager to arrest, while Chas Licciardello, dressed as Osama, was of no interest at all and just had to trot along behind Julian in the hope of getting some attention!

What impressed me most though are how the responses to that self-praising ABC news item seem to indicate one way in which Australian society is actually functional, even if the same can't be said for our security expertise.

Here are some of the responses:
The Chaser stunt was a perfectly poised political stunt carried off immaculately. ... Its time both levels of government saw this US created war on terror for what it is - a complete joke. -- Chris
The Chaser proved that $160 million was spent on crowd control and not security against terrorism. What did they catch? Some blokes in fancy dress and one nutter with a dart and iron bar. -- Bob Erwin
Possibly one of the funniest things I have seen on television. I hope anyone who disapproved of the stunt last week, saw last nights episode. I don't think its possible to not laugh at the incompetence of the APEC security. Even the cops involved found it funny. -- Old Gregg
Sure it did show the security up for what it was: a joke but what if security personnel had responded with violence thinking they were under threat, what if someone had started shooting and people were injured. ...there is time and a place for that sort of well intentioned joke and an APEC summit is not it. Its like yelling 'bomb' on a plane. -- JOhnC
Of course if the Secret Service or Police were allowed to issue shoot-to-kill orders to the snipers, the whole stunt would've had a rather different outcome. ...we should be thankful we didn't have trigger-happy people in charge as in some other countries. -- Norton
Responses to tut-tutters (which really made me happy that people are using their brains!)
I find this line of argument truly absurd. You (and the chief of NSW police) are asserting that highly trained snipers would "shoot first, ask questions later"; there was not a single attempt to stop the team by police, and certainly no instance of them not following directions. They were directed through, and then co-operated completely when finally bailed up. -- Geoff
Not to mention the fact that they expected to be stopped at the first check-point and should never have reached an area where snipers could shoot at them. To say they were putting anyone in danger is ridiculous. -- Jenny
Of course, the Chaser guys don't appear to give a toss about the people they hurt in the process of their pranks so it's certainly fair criticism to say this:
With all the money and hype with security it all still comes down to how our human brains work, we see want we are accustomed to seeing and respond accordingly, the Chaser team use our human (if you like) weakness to great advantage and great amusement. -- J Dunn
Chas Licciardello image courtesty of ABC.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A little reflection on flying

with 100mL bottles not safely tucked into clear plastic bags

Refresher mister Previously I'd hated the way my skin would completely dry out from the air-conditioning in the plane and airports. So this time I bought a little 100mL mister containing rose-scented, vitamin-E-fortified water (something like the thing in the picture) to cope with the over 70 hours of flying I'd do for the return trip to Egypt. In Melbourne airport, when it came time for putting my liquid items in a clear plastic bag, I simply couldn't find the little bottle and assumed I'd either lost it or that the x-ray scanner guys would find it when I put my hand luggage through the scanner. The x-ray scanner guys found a bottle of drinking water I'd stupidly forgotten to remove but no 100mL mister. Security passed, I boarded the plane to Bangkok. Sometime during the flight I accidentally came across it right at the bottom of my carry-on bag. Oops, terrorist attack opportunity number 1...

Skip ahead to my return flights and on the flight from Cairo back to Bangkok I was using the little mister -- I remember it because I gave it to Marya to use as well -- and then put it away somewhere. Some 6 hours later getting ready to board my flight back to Sydney, I again searched in vain for the mister. Gone! I discovered it at the bottom of my carry-on bag about 24 hours later in Adelaide. Terrorist attack opportunity number 2 missed... Turns out that little bottle with up to 100mL of liquid had flown two long flights connected to Australia without being safely removed from my carry-on luggage and placed in a clear plastic bag!

And my question now is what is the point of going to all this hassle of making people remove their liquid-containing items (which by the way must not have a capacity above 100mL) and scan them separately in their little plastic bags when it is so easy for them to slip by undetected in hand luggage?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Polticial preference in the DNA?

Which direction? I found this article fascinating... Apparently ethics and principle don't play any role in adopting a political preference. It's merely about how well one's brain adapts to breaking a routine!

Dozens of previous studies have established a strong link between political persuasion and certain personality traits.

Conservatives tend to crave order and structure in their lives, and are more consistent in the way they make decisions.

Liberals, by contrast, show a higher tolerance for ambiguity and complexity, and adapt more easily to unexpected circumstances.

The affinity between political views and "cognitive style" has also been shown to be heritable, handed down from parents to children, the study published in the British journal Nature Neuroscience says.


Using electroencephalographs, which measure neuronal impulses, the researchers examined activity in a part of the brain - the anterior cingulate cortex - that is strongly linked with the self-regulatory process of conflict monitoring.

The match-up was unmistakable: respondents who had described themselves as liberals showed "significantly greater conflict-related neural activity" when the hypothetical situation called for an unscheduled break in routine.

However, conservatives were less flexible, refusing to deviate from old habits "despite signals that this ... should be changed".

Image courtesy of
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