June 2005

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Case one. On Saturday, Foxtel called me up to arrange a time to collect my set-top box. My cable TV has been disconnected about three months now, and I'm not sure it's really worth the money to keep a few dozen channels of shit I don't really miss. Over the phone we arrange that the courier will arrive on Wednesday between eight and ten in the morning. This would be early enough that even in the worst case, I'd still get to work at a somewhat reasonable hour.

On Tuesday, I get a call from the courier company responsible for picking up the box.

"We're just confirming we're picking this up tomorrow, between 10am and 1pm?"
"Huh? Foxtel said it would be between 8 and 10"
"Yes, we know, but..."
"Sorry, I have to go to work after that, I can't be there any other time."
"OK. Between 8am and 10am"

The moment I hung up the phone, I knew that there wasn't the slightest chance that anyone would show at the allotted time, but I dutifully sat around twiddling my thumbs anyway. The moment the clock struck ten, I logged a call with Foxtel customer service and made sure they had it on record that I was here waiting. I suspect the bill for me wasting their time would be pretty high. Why can't I charge them for wasting mine?

Case two. I'd like to think there's a special section of Hell reserved for those members of the media who decided it was a good idea to give Pauline Hanson a second life as a minor celebrity. If anyone deserves to rot in obscurity, it's her. One day, I hope, karma will catch up with all of them, from the Seven executives who booked her into that stupid dance program, right through to Rove McManus for lending her legitimacy by featuring her on his chat show.

Case three. Unless you've been hiding under a pretty big rock lately, you'll know that (a) Michael Jackson is probably guilty of molesting children, but (b) it couldn't be proven in court to the satisfaction of a jury.

On one hand this kinda sucks, because you'd like to think that if someone does something wrong, they'll be punished for it. On the other hand, from post-trial interviews it seems the jurors feel the same way, but were aware that being "pretty sure" someone's guilty is no substitute for a prosecution proving their case beyond reasonable doubt.

The British and American legal tradition incorporates the belief that criminal penalties should only be applied if someone is proven guilty under very stringent conditions. All sorts of laws and conventions regarding the gathering and presentation of evidence and the burden of proof exist to protect the innocent at the expense of also protecting the guilty. Personally, I prefer this society over one where guilt is just a matter of someone in authority saying you did something wrong.

Certainly, if I ever find myself accused of a crime, I'd like to think that society will be required to prove persuasively that I did something wrong before it has the right to imprison me.

On the third hand, however, ample evidence exists to suggest that this ideal of the law applies far more to the wealthy and famous than it does to the average Joe, and that for every celebrity court case with the benefit of twenty-four hour media scrutiny, there are dozens of obscure trials where the burden of proof tends to be be interpreted far more loosely.

The first thing that sprang to mind when I saw this shot during the keynote was “Leni Riefenstahl”.

(I originally had a different gag here but someone pointed out it'd been done a couple of years ago in similar circumstances, and it was already being spectacularly misinterpreted on Livejournal)

Apple have been lobbing grenades at Intel ever since the G3 was released. (See also, the Intel guy on stage during the keynote: “They set fire to our bunny-man!”) The performance comparisons between PowerPC and Intel have always been fiercely debated, but Apple have insisted on, and heavily marketed, the superiority of the PowerPC in both speed and architecture. Intel, of course, never responded directly because when you're winning, you don't have to.

Now during the keynote, Steve Jobs has the mammoth task of turning all that marketing around with a single “Integer units per Watt” bar graph. Eight years of “Megahertz myth”, architectural arguments and slightly dodgy benchmarks have to be erased in half an hour. (Leaking the story to the press the weekend before the event helped soften up the crowd a little, I suspect).

Of course even the Macintosh most faithful who have made the pilgrimage to WWDC to stand in the full force of the reality distortion field are going to be a little stunned after the announcement. So after it's all over, Steve stands calmly under the words “Apple is strong”, projected three feet tall in the familiar, reassuring Apple font, and tells everyone it's going to be alright.

And we believe him, because he's Steve Jobs.