Stories by Matthew JC. Powell

  • AT LARGE: Monstrous ink

    I got a letter from Optus the other day. This letter has me baffled. Apparently if I want to continue receiving a printed invoice for my Optusnet cable service (which I do, because I claim it back as a business expense and I need documentation for that) then I am going to be charged $2.20 tocover the cost of paper, printing and postage.

  • AT LARGE: Word play

    The last column each year is, traditionally, a little bit like the last day of school — not a lot of work gets done. Instead we do fun things, like playing word games.

  • AT LARGE: A matter of trust

    A couple of weeks ago, the Web site for the popular American "intimate apparel" retailer Victoria's Secret developed an odd bug. On the order confirmation page, where the customer order number appeared, this was an editable field. Customers could type a random number into the field, hit return, and, if the random number happened to match an existing order, another customer's details would appear -- complete with name, address and what type of slinky undies they'd bought.

  • AT LARGE: Trumped by Bill again

    Don't you hate it when Microsoft comes up with ideas right before you do? I suppose it happens with other companies too, but it's somehow particularly irksome when it's Microsoft. Basically, I think I'm a reasonably bright person, and I occasionally come up with an idea that might make for a pretty nifty bit of technology. It would be nice if I could somehow become, you know, rich off it. Bill Gates doesn't need the money like I do.

  • AT LARGE: Think again

    Think. It's an amazingly powerful word, is it not? Starting with the contemptuous unvoiced hiss of the lamino-dental fricative, wasting no time with the shortest of vowels to the back of the mouth with the velar nasal consonant turning your nose upwards, before, dramatically, you cut off the voicing to spit out a plosive from deep in your throat. Thus the word ends - not with a vowel, or some other consonant that could go on for a second or so - but with a "k" that cuts it off immediately. No further time will be spent saying it, it's time to do it. It's remarkably economical.

  • AT LARGE: Video killed the movies

    Don't go see The Transporter. By the time you read this it will have been out for several weeks, and I know for many of you that will mean this advice is far too late to be helpful. But for those who haven't seen it yet and may be considering parting with their hard-earned moneys, please heed my words.

  • AT LARGE: Horse Trading

    I lost money on the Melbourne Cup this year. So what, you say, so did most of us. Except, here's the thing: I don't normally. I have a scientifically proven technique for never losing money on horse races - I ignore them.

  • AT LARGE: Automatic for the people

    I'm not accustomed to driving a car with a manual transmission. When I first got my driver's licence I had lessons on a manual, so that I would be properly qualified to drive any car that I happened to need to drive - then I spent a dozen years not needing to drive a manual and therefore forgetting all I knew.

  • AT LARGE: The truth and nothing but

    Now I'm disillusioned. A few weeks ago, it was revealed that Kenneth Lonchar, the executive vice president and chief financial officer of Veritas Software, had ever so slightly embellished his CV. He had claimed that he had an MBA from Stanford Business College (one of the most prestigious qualifications an entrepreneur can hold) when in fact he holds an undergraduate degree from Idaho State University. Meaning no disrespect to Idaho State (go the Bengals!) this is a rather less prestigious piece of paper.

  • AT LARGE: The best of mates

    Garry Kasparov is at it again. In a couple of months, he's going to play a chess match against Deep Junior, the world's champion computer chess program. In the meantime, there's a match on between someone called Vladimir Kramnik and something called Deep Fritz. No-one has ever heard of either, so consider it a lead-up to the main event.

  • AT LARGE: The seven year itch

    There's something they don't tell you before you get married: it's really hard to type with a wedding ring on. The third finger of my left hand, normally responsible for such mundane duties as the letter "e", has become a blunt, inaccurate instrument with which to operate a keyboard and I've been reduced to hunt-and-peck with two fingers. I presume this becomes easier with time, otherwise I'll have to make the painful choice between my wedding ring and my career as a typist.

  • AT LARGE: Ring them bells

    This is the last one, I promise. By the time you read this, I'll be married and the odyssey of the past six months will finally be over - making way for the odyssey of the next 50 or so years, but that won't be the recurring theme of this column. I promise.

  • AT LARGE: Mobile microwave

    My mobile telephone is cooking my brain. Oh, sure, you may say that the scientific evidence linking mobile telephones to cancer, brain tumours and the rise of Britney Spears is inconclusive and highly speculative, and that therefore I shouldn't make such accusations so rashly. But I need no science to know the truth.