Friday, November 08, 2002

I saw the new Harry Potter movie. My reaction is, blah . More on this later, if I feel like it. This is not likely.
Steven Den Beste writes about an undoubted benefit of the Republican congressional victory. Fritz Hollings will no longer be chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. This is undoubtedly a good thing. While on the copyright wars, the record companies manage to reach new levels in head in the sand self-righteouness . Hey guys, look at the software industry's actions around 1980-85. Copy protection doesn't work technically, and there is no way you will get it to work. All you will do is piss off your customers. Meanwhile, the customers are already astonishingly pissed off.
Dr Sullivan is having a good day. He is again absolutely right concerning the utter idiocy of the armed forces discharging people who are gay, even if they are Arabic speakers and the armed forces have a severe shortage of Arabic speakers. ( Here is the New Republic article he is actually following up to). This is just idiotic, at a time when winning the war at all costs should be paramount. As he says, the policy is also morally indefensible, but in the circumstances that is barely the point.

A bureacrat in the Australian Department of Defence one told me that this sort of thing is what happens in peacetime. Military forces fill up with careerists and bureacrats, who implement lots of inflexible rules that are usually counterproductive when you are fighting actual wars. When have a war, it takes some time to get rid of the careerists and replace them with the sorts of flexible people you actually need to run a campaign.
Andrew Sullivan is spot on in talking about why the Republicans won the mid terms, and what this should mean

I've been reading with some disbelief all sorts of proposals for president Bush's next two years. Here's the only one that matters: win the war. If we can rid the world of Saddam Hussein and see Iran's dictators pushed to the brink, then an entirely new set of circumstances prevails in the world. What the president needs to focus on now is disarming Saddam. This election wasn't a mandate for tax simplification or welfare reform (however important those two things are). It was a vote of support for victory. If Bush lets Saddam wriggle through the gaping U.N. net, and lets al Qaeda off the hook, then he will deserve to be defeated in 2004. Getting the war right is paramount. Everything else will follow. Nothing else, in comparison, matters.

That is not to say that the Republicans cannot have a partisan agenda as well, but it needs to be put in perspective. If it were not for September 11 and what followed, we would likely have the normal situation of the president's party losing congressional seats at the mid term elections. These are very unusual times, and the voters knew that.
Blogger/Blogspot has been playing up, and my last post got eaten (grrrr. Ahhhhh.). The plan is to switch to Moveable Type, and another host, when I am clearer about certain questions (like what country I live in) and sorting my hosting situation out is therefore easier. This might not happen for a couple of months, but it is on the cards.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

The joys of being a non-American movie buff

One of the great frustrations of enjoying popular culture and of living outside the US is that one has to wait for movies, television programs, and a great deal else until the copyright holders deign to release them in the world outside the US. Movies and television programs tend to be released or shown in the US, and the US market judges how successful they are before deciding when and if we are going to get to see them. (One thus misses out on some of the more obscure and sometimes interesting detritus of popular culture entirely. The custom of starting lots of new series in the US in August and September and forcing them to suffer through a Darwinian struggle over the next few months, with only the high rating surviving, is something we don't see. Those that don't survive the struggle just don't get seen outside the US. This doesn't matter usually, but once in a while a cancelled series like My So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks becomes something of a classic, and we don't get to see it, which is annoying).

Anthony Lane was discussing in Slate the other day how he couldn't get a ticket to a London screening of the new Harry Potter movie, as the people handling the tickets had never heard of the publication for which he reviews movies (The New Yorker). He also mentioned that movies are now coming to the UK from the US faster than they used to, and in many instances open on the same day, and it therefore is easier for he, a critic for a US publication, to live in the UK.

This is both true and untrue. Certainly in the bad old days we often had to wait a very long time before seeing even the biggest movies. And it is true that the very biggest releases, the Harry Potters and the Lords of the Rings, do now often open on the same day. Many other big budget Hollywood films open in the UK within a couple of weeks of their US opening. The studios claim that if this didn't happen, pirated versions of the movie would appear throughout the world within a few days, and they would lose their business. Therefore they need to open the movie simultaneously. (It's also that case that legitimate copies can make their way throughout the world after a few months too, as the DVD release of films in the US can sometimes occur before the theatrical release abroad. The studios tried to stop this with their silly regional coding scheme on DVDs, but that failed completely). In addition, there is the fact that the media now works in such a way that if you advertise and hype a movie in the US, then the hype will be heard around the world, and close release dates are needed to take advantage of this. News cycles are much shorter and the film will appear stale if released six months later elsewhere. So we get blockbuster movies quickly.

In my native Australia, the biggest time of the year for movie going is summer, just as everywhere else. However, summer in Australia occurs during winter in the US and Europe. It used to be the case that the biggest summer movies in the US were actually held over until the Australian summer before being released there. This is unthinkable now, because the hype would have died completely by the time the movie arrived in Australia. (Plus, many of us would have bought the DVD over the internet). In any event, many more big budget popcorn movies are released between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US now anyway, so there is a good supply of material. The biggest movie season in Australia is January rather than November-December, but the studios can cope with this. Still, this year the new Harry Potter movie will be released in Australia before Christmas (although two weeks after the US release), although the Lord of the Rings movie will be held over until December 26, which is the biggest day of the year for film releases in Australia.

However, for lower budget studio movies, it can take six months or longer for a film to get to the UK or Australia. In a lot of instances the distributors want to see how the film does in the US before deciding on their marketing strategy elsewhere, so we have to wait. It is even worse at the level of marginal and independent films, where they wait to see how a film does in the US before deciding whether they are going to release it in the rest of the world at all. Occasionally, this leads to something ridiculous. Ed Harris' Pollock wasn't released in the US until more the 18 months after being released in the US, despite having won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Marcia Gay Harden. The most annoying situation is for small films that get good reviews in the US, and then may or may not ever be released anywhere else. The situation in London is much better than in Australia, because if films are going to be released anywhere outside the US then London is the place, but still, the experience of reading a US review of a film on the internet and wondering if I am ever going to get to see it, remains a common one. One can now usually buy a US DVD and watch the movie, and I have taken somewhat to doing this, but this is expensive compared to buying a ticket and the experience isn’t the same as seeing a movie in a cinema, the way God intended. It also occasionally leads to the experience of deciding that a film isn’t going to get a release in this part of the world, buying the DVD, and then discovering that the film is going to be released after all, merely two years after it was released in the US.

The existence of the internet also makes the situation worse, as we are tantalised by reviews of films we cannot see, or will not see for a couple of years, and if we join in the discussion of these movies on the internet, someone is certain to spoil the ending for us. Also, there is what might be called the “Mosiac Theory”. If a film has been released in the US that for some reason you are particularly looking forward to, and you are unable to see it, the temptation is to read twenty seven different American reviews on the internet. None of these will give away the ending, but if you read all twenty seven, you will discover that they all offer slightly different comments on the ending without actually giving it away, and if you put these all together the combination may well give it away.

While the response to this of many people might be “Well, don’t do that then”, I keep doing it, because by following films and film reviews, and film discussion on the internet, I get a much richer experience of film in general. By forsaking all spoilers, I would forsake this, and I do not want to. If I did not to this, I would probably not hear about many of the movies I wanted to see in the first place.

So much for movies. Television is just as bad. Of US programs, we only tend to get to see those programs that have been successful in the US: this means approximately those programs which have made it to the end of their first seasons and have been renewed for a second season. As I said above, this means that small gems tend to not be seen. (If they are seen at all, it is normally at two O’Clock Sunday mornings in summer). As for successful series, they tend to be shown around six months after their US showing. Australian TV networks never show new, first run material between November and February, so new seasons of US shows tend to commence being broadcast in Australia between mid-February and mid-March. This has one or two odd consequences, such as the fact that usually see Christmas episodes in May. It also has the same internet problem as form movies. If you want to follow the internet discussion then the content of the episodes is spoiled for you. This is annoying. If you have a broadband connection, it is possible to illegally download the episodes of your favourite program over the internet, but this is a nuisance, and is, well, illegal.

British network television has traditionally been even more lax than that of Australia, probably because the British TV market was traditionally much less competitive than that of Australia. American series tend to be shown at the same time of year that they were originally shown in the UK, but a year later. This has led to an opportunity for pay television in the UK, in which cable and satellite channels frequently split the cost of buying the program with a terrestrial broadcaster, and show series nearly simultaneously with the US network. The show is then broadcast on terrestrial television a year or so later. This means that you do not have to have episodes spoiled for you if you are willing to pay for it. I suppose this is something.

What I would like is for Hollywood to abandon its division of the world into international markets entirely. I would like to be able to watch the same movie in the UK, and in Australia, and in Botswana that I can see in New York, during the same week. If a program is being shown on NBC in the US, I would like to be able to tune my television and watch the same NBC in the UK, or in Singapore, or in Tokyo. With television, the technology to offer this to mere is here now. What I am asking for is technically pretty simple. With movies, it is possibly five years away, but it is no more than that.

However, the structure of the movie industry is entirely opposed to this. Their model involves selling product to the US market, and then having foreign subsidiaries to distribute content to foreign markets. It involves selling specific national rights, All these middle-men get their cut, and changing to global systems of distribution would require abolishing these middlemen and completely restructuring the distribution model. There are simply too many vested interests to change it.

Even if technology means that the existing distribution model is no longer viable (it isn't), and even if the existing distribution model is massively contrary to the interests of consumers (it is), the copyright industry is determined to cling to it, and is using intellectual property law to attempt to do so. (It also attempts from time to time to use technological measures to do so, such as DVD regional locking, but is so clueless about technology that one doesn't expect this to be effective). Intellectual property law is being used to attempt to maintain specific monopolies for distributors on importation, to fix prices, and to add legal force to technologically ineffective measures such as DVD region coding. This is once again about maintining existing business models, and protecting existing middle men from technological change, much more than it is about privacy.

There is plenty of fine coverage about how the music and movie industries screw people domestically, but the way in which they use the segmented structure of the international market and the way in which national copyright laws interact with each other to maintain monopolies and fix prices has good less publicity. And this is a shame.

(Sadly this article is a little long and rambling, I think. Maybe I will write a tighter version and attempt to sell it to Salon, or something).

Replacing these with single, worldwide distribution systems requires their model to be
The staff of my local Starbucks has changed: I think this is because Croydon has just changed from being a one Starbucks town into being a two Starbucks town, and the experienced staff have been sent off to run the new store. The very pleasant young woman who served me today looked at the newspaper I was carrying, pointed to the copy of The Times that I was carrying, and asked me what I thought of the Republicans taking over. I said I didn't think that it mattered much for the war, as the key resolution had been passed before the election. I said I didn't think it was a terribly positive development for international trade, given Bush's record on the issue. She looked at me and said that she was really a bit frightened by the way "that country" had behaved over the last year or so. I commented that being brutally and savagely attacked will do that to you. My smile did not leave my face at any point. I had come into the shop to enjoy my cup of coffee, and she was a perfectly pleasant young woman. And after all, I cannot imagine that she was the sort of person who would throw bricks through the windows of Starbucks.

At this point, the woman I think may have figured out that she and I did not perhaps share opinions on the United States, and she smiled at me, and stated that she wished me a good morning and stated that she hoped I enjoyed my coffee. I will give her points for knowing that there is a good time to back out of a conversation. I would have thought, however, that one of the fundamental rules of retail is to never start a conversation about religion or politics with a customer, as you never know where it is going to go. After all, I could have been a Nazi, or the king of Albania in exile, or a Scientologist, or a Mormon. (Actually, not a Mormon. However, if you go into the one city that was built in the US for religious reasons, Salt Lake City, and you go to the centre of the city, you will find the Mormon temple complex. If you go across the road from the front gate, you find a Barnes & Noble. If you go up a set of stairs in this Barnes & Noble, you will find a Starbucks, where you can buy yourself an excellent latte. I think this speaks well of the Americans, personally).
I think the world is divided into two sorts of people: those whose ideal medical breakthrough is Botox, and those whose ideal medical breakthrough is Provigil. Guess which category I fall into. I have written about this before. New Scientist has more this week, however.

I would love to be able to do entirely without sleep. I could get an amazing amount of additional reading done. However, I wonder what the long term effects of this would be. We simply do not know what sleep is actually for, so we just do not know whether removing the urge to go to sleep will do horrible damage over the long term or not. From an evolutionary standpoint, the requirement that we sleep regularly is a substatial disadvantage though, so there must be some reason. The temptation to try it on myself to find out is surprisingly strong, however.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Okay, I had too much faith in markets, and I should have gone with my gut feeling.

It will be interesting to see what happens here. Last year when the Democrats controlled the senate, there were doubts about Bush's legitimacy and mandate. He will argue, justifiably, that this result removes the doubts. Before that, for Clinton's first two years of office he was a long way from many of the congressional Democrats on quite a few issues, so he found lots of congressional obstructions anyway. (His most important victories, eg NAFTA, involved lots of Republican votes). Before that, we had Bush 41 and Reagan and congressional Democrat majorities. Before that, we had Jimmy Carter. So, Bush could conceivably now be the most powerful president in 25 years. It will be interesting to see what he does with it. Certainly the Republicans will try to push their tax cut agenda further. Hopefully we can avoid more steel tarrifs and farm bills.

This is what most bothers me about Bush. He does not seem to have any natural instinct of committment to free trade. He may surprise me on this. I hope he does. But his record does not inspire me.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Well, I hope Americans all have fun doing their democratic duty today. A week ago I thought that the Democrats would pick up a seat or two in the Senate and the Republicans would (probably) retain the house. The last week feels like it has gone the Republicans' way, although the Iowa Electronic Market seems to be suggesting that this has not happened. Therefore, I still go with that. Democrats 52-48 in the Senate, and a small Republican majority in the house.

Glenn Reynolds is right about the advantages of ballot papers. They are much less susceptible to fraud and errors than are voting machines. This is why most of the rest of the world uses them. I think one reason why the rest of the world reacted the way it did to the Florida debacle two years ago was, quite simply bafflement at the way the Americans vote. Why use something complicated when you can use something simple?

There are reasons, of course. Americans vote for state, city, county, and federal office holders on the same day, and they vote for a much larger number of offices than is the case almost anywhere else. If you have thirty or forty elections occurring at once, then counting ballot papers becomes tremendously time consuming. In a lot of American instances, I really am not sure that ballot papers are practical. Counting them just takes too long.

The other uniquely American thing about their elections is the lack of uniformity. The combination of elections taking place is different in every county in the country. Therefore, ballot papers are constructed on a county by county basis, and often by local officials who are not experts in ballot paper design. Once in a while this leads to someone designing a butterfly ballot. In most other countries, elections taking place on a particular day are for only one level of government. If it is a federal election, then a federal body designs the ballot papers, and they have a common format nationwide. Because the papers are designed by a federal body, well funded experts can design (and test) the format of the ballot papers.

This still isn't perfect, and if the federal body makes a mistake, then conceivably the whole country is messed up rather than one county. As to whether this is worse than one county being messed up in a close election, I suppose it is hard to say.

Monday, November 04, 2002

I am a big fan of Peter Jackson . I am not as rapturous about The Lord of the Rings as are some people (although I love Heavenly Creatures )., but I think there is something very right about a world in which a semi-mad New Zealander can start out making splatter movies on the weekend in which he films his friends waving axes at one another and covering them with tomato sauce and somehow go from there to being given $270 million of Hollywood's money to make a Tolkien trilogy. And getting to make the movie at home in New Zealand too.

I have been waiting to see what Jackson was planning on doing after he had finished LOTR, and this little article is about the first I have seen about it. It's interesting that he might consider making The Hobbit as well. Certainly Hollywood would like this, as it would mean that they would get four immensely profitable Middle Earth films instead of three. However, I will believe it when I see it, as I imagine that getting the rights from Saul Zaentz will be both difficult and expensive.

However, there are two other good things in the article. Firstly, it seems that Jackson's remake of King Kong may happen after all. Jackson had agreed to make this for Universal about five years ago, but Universal got cold feet after Jackson's first Hollywood studio film, The Frighteneres failed at the box office. Given what Jackson has done since, keeping the King Kong remake on hold for when Jackson wants to do it is very sensible, but one doesn't always get sensible from Hollywood studios. (The one thing we don't need is another by the numbers King Kong remake from some hack).

The other thing is that Jackson appears to want to make another one of his good old splatter movies on the weekends. A lot of us would enjoy this.
One of the great cliches of movies (which may or may not predate Jaws ) is essentially the following. People see fins going through the water and feel a sense of unease. However, the police and other officials pooh pooh this. Then, one person is eaten by a shark. Rather than closing all the beaches, the major tries to hush the whole thing up, because he doesn't want to create panic, particularly during the tourist season. Then of course, when an even worse attack comes, the water is fully of people. Why does this remind me of this old cliche? The Australian government did in retrospect make a mistake in not being clearer about the warnings of imminent terrorist attacks that occurred before the Bali bombing. Thankfully though, it is having nothing of it now. For one thing, the Australian government simply doesn't want any more Australians killed if at all possible. Secondly, if it failed to warn Australians properly a second time, it probably wouldn't survive the reaction. That is a benefit of being a democracy.
Something that has not come up at length in the disussion of London's "Big Brother is Watching You" signs is a discussion of just why the British became so fond of Closed Circuit Television cameras in the first place. It was, of course, as a response to terrorism. London was a target of a great many IRA bombs in the 1980s and early 1990s (to an extent that people who didn't live here generally didn't realise), and London was rebuilt in a way that was defensive against terrorism as a consequence. We got CCTV, the removal of rubbish bins, redesign of traffic conditions to keep cars away from strategic buildings. If you go to the modern office buildings at Canary Wharf , it is a fortress. You cannot drive anywhere near them, there is no parking underneath them, there are cameras everywhere. It is probably safe, but very sterile. I do not want the office buildings of New York to turn into fortresses, but with more attacks it is fairly close to inevitable that they will.

In the worst case scenario where terrorism becomes a much greater problem throughout the developed world, it may be that poorer countries turn into Turkey, with semi-permanent and fairly arbitrary military rule, and richer countries turn into Singapore, with invasive and intrusive security and violations of civil liberties. Neither of these options is especially attractive to me. The excuse that is now made is that the CCTV cameras are about protecting people from crime, something at which I think they are not terribly effective. (The crime simply takes place somewhere else). The puzzle is why the British authorities seem to think that people will be glad that their liberties are being eroded. I am not glad myself.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Eric Raymond (via Instapundit ) discusses the changes in food in America over the last several decades. In particular, he talks about what he calls the capsaicinization of America: the trend of Americans to eater spicier and spicier food. He compares the food Americans eat now with the bland and unexciting food that they ate twenty or thirty years ago, and also how chili based food and cooking is "mens cooking", whereas most cooking is generally a female responsibility.

I think that there are actually two different trends here, that are mixed together in the US. One of them is the trend to spicier food. The other is the trend towards more diverse food. The first is largely (but not entirely) a US trend, and the second is a worldwide trend.

To illustrate this, let me compare Eric's experience with my Australian experience. I was born in 1968, and was a child in Australia in the 1970s. At the time, Australian food was generally a matter of “meat and three vegetables” type cooking. It was English style cooking, and it was generally pretty awful. (It was somewhat better than English food at the time, however, as Australia is a land of agricultural abundance, and the food was therefore made from fresher and higher quality ingredients than could normally be obtained in England). We would also have barbecues a lot, and this was something that men would cook. What was barbecued was steak and sausages, and maybe a few onions. The only condiment that these would be served with was tomato sauce. (Australians do not generally use the word "ketchup". When I first went to the US in 1991, I was asked if I wanted any ketchup in a McDonald's and I had no idea what that was. The word was used in both the US and the UK but not in Australia, which is etymologically quite unusual. The word is now used in Australia a little, but still is not standard).

At this time in Australia, there were actually quite a lot of first generation immigrants in the country from southern and Eastern Europe: from Italy and Greece in particular. Australia was also then opening its doors to people from Asia, and a substantial number of Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Indian people arrived in the next few years. People from these countries obviously brought their food with them, and such things as Italian and Greek food must have existed in Australia in the 1970s, but this was not something that had really worked its way through to the kitchens of Anglo Australians. I don't recall eating much in the way of "ethnic" food in the 1970s, but in the 1980s I recall an explosion of it. My mother started buying pasta from a local Italian delicatessan that I now realise was every bit as good as you get in Bologna. Australia was suddenly full of all manner of interesting restaurants: Italian and Greek, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Turkish, Indonesian and a huge number of others. While Australia has had Chinese restaurants for a long time - since Chinese people came to Australia during the 1850s gold rushes - it was suddenly possible to get fairly authentic regional Chinese food rather than general westernised blandness. Suddenly Australians seemed to be eating all kinds of foods, both out and at home. Supermarkets were suddenly full of all kinds of ingredients and spices that had not been widely available ten years earlier. I thanked immigration for this revolution and I was certainly at least partly right to.

That said, the trend to spicier foods that Eric describes did not happen in the same way it did in the US. The variety of what we ate increased dramatically, and some of the cuisines that became available (particularly Thai, which Australians took to in a big way) were spicy, but there wasn't a general trend to spicy food. The update to the Instapundit article alludes to this. Australian men do not trade capsaicin-zap stories the way Eric descibes. Our barbecues are still are much the same (although we may now drink wine as well as beer with them). Australia lacked the Hispanic influence, and although our food changed immensely, it did so without the capsaicin-zap. Tomato sauce still dramatically outsells salsa in Australia.

As I said, I had thought that the trend to greater diversity in food in Australia was due to the large amount of immigration Australia had received. However, having now travelled a lot, I don't think this was as important a facter as I once did. One thing that we have seen is a reform of the supermarket business. When I was a child, supermarkets in Australia sold largely dry goods: canned and packaged food. Now, go into a supermarket in Australia and you will find a huge amount of the store devoted to fresh food: a wide diversity of fruit and vegetables, fresh pasta, cheeses, meats and the like. Plus you will find a choice of a great many spices, sauces, and ingredients from all over the world. The change is dramatic. (My mother uses these ingredients and cooks much more interesting, varied and appetising food than she once did. These days she is an excellent cook of a wide variety of different cuisines).

When I travel, one thing I always find interesting is to visit a supermarket, as you can learn a great deal about a country by seeing people buy groceries. And the revolution in what is sold in supermakets that has occurred in Australia has occurred in a great many other countries. I have seen it in the UK, in South Africa, in Finland, in Hong Kong, in Japan. Some of these places are immigrant countries. Some are not. In all of them however, the diversity of ingredients that are readily available has increased dramatically, and eating habits have changed considerably in the last two decades. Sure, people are travelling more, discovering foods and ingredients and then wanting them at home but I don't think this is the whole story either.

Why is this? I actually blame a fair bit of this on the computer revolution. Inventory management is now an advanced science. It is possible for a supermarket to carry a vastly greater number of lines than was the case a decade ago. A store can keep track of what is purchased, and how often, and can keep track of deliveries, sales and shelf life of every item it carries. Refrigerated container shipping means that is is much easier to move products from one part of the world to another. It has simply become logistically much easier to provide diverse food than it once was, and therefore people are eating more diverse food. This has happened everywhere.

Finally, a story. The biggest influence on British food in the last 40 years has been Indian. (Some would say that the Indians were the people who brought edible food to Great Britain). In any event, the UK is full of excellent Indian restaurants and British people today eat a lot of curries. British people eat much spicier food than they used to. This is an Indian influence. When I was studying at Cambridge, an English student of my acquaintance made a comment to an American friend of mine that Americans did not have this Indian influence, and therefore that Americans couldn't handle spicy food. (While one can get excellent Indian food in the US, I think it is fair to say that it hasn't been the huge influence it has been in the UK). My American friend was outraged by this remark, and challenged the Englishman to a duel. They went to a local Indian restaurant, explained the situation, and over the next couple of hours they were served hotter and hotter curries. Eventually they were served the hottest curries that the restaurant was able to make, and both managed to eat them. We all found this deeply amusing, as did the staff of the restaurant. Both the British and the American diets have become much spicier than they used to be. However, the influences from which they did so were different, so the sort of cultural misunderstandings that led to this duel do occasionally occur.
A tiny bit of good news

Australia has just signed a comprehensive free trade agreement with Singapore. This has been on the cards, and is not a big deal on a global scale, but is clearly good news. What would be nice from here is for Australia, NZ, and Singapore to negotiate membership of NAFTA (which presumably then would change its name) on essentially the same terms as Canada. I can see no reasonable arguments against this, so I wish they would get on with it. (Of course, there are unreasonable arguments against it - agriculture as always. What would be nice would be for Bush to demonstrate some guts and negotiate a deal regardless. However, I would not bet the farm on this one, given his record).

What would be nice would be for a deal like this to give citizens of the two countries complete freedom to move and work in both countries, as does the deal between Australia and New Zealand. Plus it would also make most professional qualifications from one country recognised in the other. From what I can gather from read, the deal allows freedom to work in the other country for many professionals, and includes recognition of professional qualifications in some but not all professions. Thus on immigration matters it seams closer to the NAFTA model (which allows fairly free movement for professionals but not for other workers) than the CER model between Australia and NZ (which allows genuinely free movement).

(Hmm. I just did a couple of google searches to attempt to find out a little more about the agreement, rather than just what the newspapers choose to tell me. Looking for a few terms such as "Singapore New Zealand free trade immigration", I found a 1994 Usenet article on aviation rights between Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Not strictly relevant, but it looked interesting. I was about a paragraph in when I realised I wrote it).

802.11 map of Manhattan

This is cool. It's interesting to see how much telecommunications infrastructure can grow organically without central planning if you let it. Also, notice the lower density downtown on the east side in Manhattan's administrative and public sector area. And the way it drops off north of Central Park. (And what are those sites actually in Central Park). Plus of course you can see where the World Trade Center was as a gap downtown).

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