E-tales: Sits vac, or evac?

Is Douglas Webb regretting his rashness in taking the telecomms commissioner's role? On offer: exotic location, high-profile job, advising on "licensing policy, spectrum and interconnection management, consumer protection, the role of regulation, internet issues". Interested yet?

Is Douglas Webb regretting his rashness in taking the telecomms commissioner’s role? On offer: exotic location, high-profile job, advising on “licensing policy, spectrum and interconnection management, consumer protection, the role of regulation, internet issues”. Interested yet?

What about Kalashnikovs, mines and bombs? It’s just that the Afghan government, in association with the US Agency for International Development-funded dot-GOV programme and Internews Network, is apparently looking for an adviser for a few months (a little optimistic?) to rebuild the scant landline, cellular and ground-based satellite comms.

“It is essential that Afghan citizens be provided with telecommunications access and the physical infrastructure for development of the internet, radio and TV.”

Ah yes, can’t have them missing out on series five of Sex and the City. You would be helping create a strategic and legislative framework for the telecommunications in a country that has, setting aside horrifying political and social issues, “very poor physical infrastructure, a diverse and geographically and socially isolated population”. And you have the pleasure of sorting out who’s the best out of the squabbling multinationals to service such a, er, greenfields site. No mention of money, sorry.

PR lesson one

Reporter to receptionist: “Is [IT manager] there?”

Receptionist: “I’ll put you through. He’s doing nothing, as usual.”

PR lesson two

It’s timely to remind ourselves that the forward and reply commands are not one and the same. One of our reporters was caught out by a PR person after replying rather than forwarding an email to his editor. The email did, to the reporter’s credit, contain a backhanded commendation of said flack for not “padding this out with bullshit” about potential interviewees.


Does anyone know what the TelstraSaturn ads mean? A woman gets bees on her head. Um, you’ll get stung for charges? A courier times himself going up and down stairs. Something about delivery speeds for packets?

Houston, we have a problem

Someone’s been watching too much TV lately. The new CTO of Lord of the Rings digital effects provider Weta Digital is Scott Houston, not Scott Watson, as another publication suggested. Watson, of course, is otherwise engaged, serving a 17-year non-parole sentence for the murders of two young people in the Marlborough Sounds in 1998. He’s been in the news lately as fresh doubts about the prosecution appear.


Those who regularly read the Guardian’s website would have seen a story about how UK cinemas were scrambling to be first to show Star Wars: Episode II. The story ended with a quip about how “we await with interest the first story of diehard fans flying to Australia to exploit the fact that May 16 arrives there first”. Do we not exist? Have we no feelings?

We reminded them that, as has been the case since the 1870s (see Time Zones), New Zealand is usually two hours ahead of the Australian east coast (and some would say far more years ahead socially). Hence last Wednesday, at 11.59pm, was the first public showing of the film anywhere. The Guardian site, bless its cotton-rayon socks, changed the story to reflect this reality. This reminded E-tales about how news sites react when facts get in the way of a story, and changes have to be made. IDG will change a story if it’s demonstrably wrong, sites like Slashdot add an update button and the eagle-eyed have noted sites like CNN completely morphing a story without missing a beat.

Good for the goose

Network Associates is this week having an office warming party for IT journalists. This is the same company that has imposed, as a condition of using its products, the undertaking that the user won’t review or publish the results of tests without its permission. While a case goes on in the US over whether the firm is breaching the constitutional amendment regarding free speech, we thought it only fair to impose some conditions of our own:

1. Network Associates will not, without the permission of the abovementioned, disclose to any third party how much alcohol assembled IT journalists consume at the party.

2. Network Associates will not, without the permission of the abovementioned, publish the results of any benchmark tests concerning the ability of assembled IT journalists to speak coherently or meaningfully after consuming this (undisclosed) volume of alcohol.

Incy wincy spoiler

If you’re the type who doesn’t mind websites that spoil the surprise of upcoming movies, take a squizz here. There you’ll find all the continuity errors in the looking-pretty-brilliant upcoming Spider-Man movie. Boy, are there a lot of them — 135. But not as many as The Matrix, featuring Keanu Reeves, the most error-prone of all time with 147 bloopers. New Zealand-made Lords of the Rings is rated the most recent error-prone movie, currently including 114 errors, making it fourth on the overall list. Second “worst” is Titanic on 136 and fifth is Gladiator, whose hero is of course Russell Crowe, on 96.

Bright SPARCs

New name, new confusion. Sport and Recreation New Zealand says from mid-June it will be known as SPARC. Clearly the bright SPARCs behind this move aren’t aware — or care not a jot — that SPARC is the name of Sun’s processor family.

PC filth

Workstations are 400 times dirtier than your average toilet and the office is a “bacterial nightmare”, says a US study. University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba has found the telephone is the dirtiest office fixture of all, closely followed by the desktop itself and the computer keyboard, while office lavs are the cleanest. Most workstations are hardly ever cleaned and Gerba says they can “sustain millions of bacteria that could potentially cause illness”, reports newswire Vnunet.com.

Sad, old or gay?

Online tests can just about reveal anything, apparently. For instance, UK psychologist Dr Paul Goldin has created a test that asks users to choose colours in order of preference, which he says reveals their personality — see www.colorgenics.com. We think it’s a have that tries to convince you how sad you are and desperately in need of therapy.

BBC Online features the BBC Health Life Expectancy calculator, which asks a series of questions to work out how long you may live — see . And rival UK TV station Channel Four has created the “Gayometer”.

Compiled by Darren Greenwood.

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