The perils of repeating someone else’s material

Natalie Bochenski writes in the SMH under the heading “Game of Thrones season 4: did TV creatives get Wall battle right?”:

In her Washington Post blog, Alyssa Rosenberg mourned a moment from the book that was changed for the episode.

“For some reason…they were afraid to preserve a key moment from Martin’s novels: Jon’s belief that it may have been his arrow that killed Ygritte, the woman he loved,” she wrote.

“In the books, that uncertainty reinforces Jon’s loyalty to the Night’s Watch and what it has cost him. Here, that task is given unambiguously to a child. When Jon holds a dying Ygritte in his arms, there is no fear or anger that either of them need to push aside.

Except that the scene in the book reads:

“He found Ygritte sprawled across a patch of old snow beneath the Lord Commander’s Tower, with an arrow between her breasts. The ice crystals had settled over her face, and in the moonlight it looked as though she wore a glittering silver mask.
The arrow was black, Jon saw, but it was fletched with white duck feathers. Not mine, he told himself, not one of mine. But he felt as if it were.

So: source in error; SMH likewise.


More “impossible to refrain from commenting on stuff that shouldn’t be there” from the SMH.

First, just the usual little stuff:

But the introduction of the new aircraft has not been without it’s problems.

The company aims to have the reliability up to the level of it’s long-range 777 model, which has a reliability rate of 99.4 per cent.

Srsly? Once is a typo; but … twice?

And then this: Apple to raise app prices by up to 30 per cent:

The position is:

  1. Apple has 88 different price tiers for an app. The content owner chooses the tier for their app (Apple has no say in this; it is solely the owner’s choice). Tier 1 is priced at US$0.99. That is the price charged in the US App Store. Tier 2 is US$1.99, Tier 3 is US$2.99, etc
  2. Apple then applies an exchange rate to produce the prices for the App Stores in other countries. That is what Apple has just changed.

Importantly, when comparing prices in Australia, you have to take account of GST.

After the present change, an A$1.29 tier 1 app will be A$1.17 ex GST. That gives a derived exchange rate of  0.84.

For a Tier 3 app, the prices are US$2.99 and A$3.79, which gives an exchange rate of 0.87.

Tier 6 is US$5.99 and A$7.49, for an exchange rate of 0.88.

Over the past three months, the exchange rate has moved between 0.87 and 0.93. It’s clear that Apple is forecasting that the present 0.92 rate will drop; which is exactly what economic pundits are predicting.

Most importantly, consider the period that was just superseded: it was in place since about June 2013, and the A$:$US exchange rate applied by Apple during the period was 1.00; i.e. US$0.99 was A$0.99. During that time, the actual exchange rate has averaged around 0.90, and ranged between 0.87 and 0.97, meaning Australians have had better prices than on the US Store for that entire 6 month period. The current change is a correction, with a clear bearish bias.

But you won’t see any articles in the regular press about that; one only sees articles picking out when the pricing is Australia is disadvantageous.

A very unfortunate title

The SMH currently has a top of front page story with a very unfortunate heading. What is not clear until you click the link is that the title has been truncated so that the last word is missing; in full, the title is: “Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes abused daughter’s friend, court told”.

Worse, as shown on the front page, the comma has been replaced with a colon.

So the statement on the front page is “X is Y: court”, while in the full story it is “X is Y, court told”.

The way it is expressed on the front page inaccurately converts it to a statement that originated with the Court (which carries the implication of a finding by the Court) rather than one that (as is the case) originated with a witness. Not good at all. 

The use of “allegedly” in the first paragraph is also poor. If that over-used term is to be used at all, it should be: “It has been alleged in Court that X …”. Far better: “A witness today in the trial of X told the Court that Y”.

Sports manglish

I initially thought the following clumsy paragraph was a simple sub-editor’s mistake in the SMH. However, on re-reading, it seems to have been intentional:

The following evening as his younger brother Mitch watched their 28-year-old sister Melissa play her final home match in her top-level basketball career Shaun was an absentee, by virtue of notification the South Africa tour duty that had been called off for him was suddenly back on, and that he needed to pack and get to the airport for a 11.45pm flight from Perth to Johannesburg.

Brain hurt. But wait; there’s more. Continue Reading →


It looks like Justice Gordon has found ANZ’s late payment fees to be penalties. However, this does not make them “illegal” or “against the law”. Penalties are void or unenforceable (see Andrew v ANZ), but this is as a matter of contract (including, and often in particular, principles of equity).

The word illegality has a chameleonic quality, but it is better used to describe conduct involving a breach of the criminal law (or breach of statute) — in other words, conduct contrary to law — rather than conduct that is simply ineffective at general law. (The former question can sometimes itself be difficult to determine, as recognised in Miller v Miller).

Hence the SMH is wrong to say that the Federal Court “ruled [the ANZ’s] late payment fees charged on credit cards were illegal”. The AFR is likewise technically wrong to describe them as an “illegal penalty”, although the word is there used in its more lay sense. The real description is that the relevant fees were invalid because they were penalties.

More facepalm-inducing is this howler:

It also throws out ANZ’s six-year statute of limitations, meaning anyone who has ever been charged a late fee by ANZ can potentially now claim those fees back.

How anyone could think that a “statute of limitations” could be “ANZ’s”, rather than, say, a statute enacted by a Parliament, is just … I don’t know