Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Jumping Niece and Nephew

I am currently visiting family in Toowoomba, Queensland, and this afternoon at my sister's house, her children, Chris and Teagen, wanted to show off their jumping skills. Who knew they would have a trampoline and trail bikes in their back shed? But they were both pretty good!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas clothes

Did you get clothes for Xmas - and are you wearing all yours at once? This dashing person (face cropped to protect his identity) modelled his gear for us at a Boxing Day BBQ. It's not that we didn't like what we saw - just that we didn't want to see it all at once. His daughter declared the camoflague pants "not bad", but we are reserving judgement - and once again find ourselves asking - why is it that camoflague pants don't?

Friday, December 23, 2005

No progress yet

Well, the Christmas tree still isn't up, the cards haven't been sent and the gingerbread house is still in pieces but Sooz and I have both managed to do some Christmas shopping. On the way home last night, we saw this bus - destination: First Stop - North Pole. It's one of many decorated buses doing the rounds - one of the the many with Christmas decorations that is. There's apparently been something happening with public transport - not sure if it's buses or trains - where management have requested drivers to remove Australian flags - and the "Cronulla" destination - from their vehicles. I'm not sure that this will do anything to stem the growing tide of racist violence we have here!

Monday, December 19, 2005

HDD clean up

It is just as I feared - the more memory a device has for recording television programs, the more television programs I record. I'm just going through the hard drive of the DVD recorder seeing if there are any of the over 42 programs that I have recorded that I am likely not to watch - and can therefore get rid of to make sure there is room for this week's programs!

Tamagotchi Take 1

I decided to give taking care of Tamagotchi a try - and here, a mere 3 days later, it has turned into an angel. Probably it was not a good idea to try this on a Carolfest weekend, which is the same weekend friends arrived from interstate, and the weekend that Lizzie had her birthday picnic. Of course, none of these is an excuse - but at least I did manage to find it this morning (although it was hairy for a while there). I'll try again tomorrow.

A cool change

We are having ceiling fans installed in the flat today. Will make a change from having the box fan on in the bedroom at night (blowing up a gale). It's been reported over the last week that 2005 has been the hottest year on record in the Northern Hemisphere, and the second hottest in the Southern Hemisphere. We'll be ready for the next one!
On the subject of weather, someone was saying that if things continue as they have, the Gulf Stream may disappear. It's all sounding a bit like "The Day After Tomorrow".

Carolfest is done

Well, Carolfest is done for another year. This was the last with Ben McPherson as musical director. He has resigned (effective May 06) and the choir will be auditioning to fill the position. It's not going to be the same without Ben - he has been wonderful to work with. That being said, it was a good "season", and we did well with most of the pieces at both "performances". Very enjoyable, and a wonderful way to slide into the festive season.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Things unseen

Invisible ink was invented in 1775 by physician Sir James Jay. There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that it was another 20 years before he worked out how to show it to people!

Real estate

"In the Blue Mountains we're keen to boast about our cool summers," writes Leura's Beverley Cooper. But even she thinks this real estate ad is pushing it: 'Nestled on high side of quite colder sack'." SMH 6/12/05
The best we've seen is a house in Rozelle with a "sun-catchen courtyard".
We haven't managed to get the Christmas Tree up and decorated, or the gingerbread house (which won't be as grand as the gingerbread village at the Four Seasons Hotel) but one of the neighbours has started Xmas at the flats. Sooz noticed the Chrissie wreath on their door one day this week.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Pissarro

Our mate Annie from Scotland is currently in town and we met up with her and headed for the Art Gallery of NSW (a favourite visit while she is here). There are two major exhibitions on at the moment - Grace Cossington Smith, and Pissarro*(the first of the Impressionists). We went to the latter. (I realised yesterday that the only time I go to the Gallery usually is when Annie is visiting!) There's nothing like being in the room with works you know have been around for many years. Pissarro died in 1903 so all of his works are now over a century old. It's at times like this I wish I knew more about art but I'm learning a little more with each visit. I'm pleased to say that I think I could now tell an Impressionist work from a Neo-Impressionist piece.
I had only just had the thought about the impressionists maybe having eye problems and that was what had started the first impression movement - the artist/s was/were painting what they saw - when I turned the corner into a new room at the exhibit and read that in his later years, Pissarro was diagnosed with eye problems.
* If you visit the Gallery's Pissarro site you can see some of the works - and send an e-postcard. Good fun!

Did you know...

Caryn Johnson, aka Whoopi Goldberg, was born in New York City on 13 November 1955.
Roy Scherer Fitzgerald, aka Rock Hudson, was born 17 November 1925.
Broadcast of the first episode of Doctor Who in 1963 was delayed 1 day by news of President Kennedy's assassination.
(For more date trivia,visit The Daily Almanac - not sure of the URL since I read it from Avantgo which gathers various channels of my choosing and deposits them on my mobile device for reading at my convenience (but I read them other places as well).

Carolfest

We spent Saturday rehearsing for the annual Carolfest concerts. If you're in Sydney on the 14th (8pm) or 18th (6pm) December, come along to the Great Hall at Sydney University (Camperdown). Admission is $22 adult/$17 concession. Doors and box office open an hour before the concert/s. I'm not sure how long the program runs but it's usually around an hour and a half. Supper will then be served. (Mmmm, supper.)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Headphones

I think our lives could be made just a little simpler if the people who make MP3 and ipods and other portable media devices would work out a way to retract the headphone or earbud cords into the device - or market such a device as well. I waste so much time trying to unravel the cords (especially the really long one) and trying to work out ways to keep them in check - which does not include the do-it-yourself winder already on the market.

CPAP

CPAPWell on Friday night I went into St Luke's Hospital for a test with a CPAP machine - which is designed to help people with a sleep apnea problem. It was an odd experience - made simpler by the wonderful "Hi, I'm Lena and I'll be your sleep technologist this evening". The system is designed to maintain a regular pressure in your throat/airways to keep them open while you sleep - and alleviate the symptoms of apnea. Not sure if it made the snoring go away, but I certainly did wake up a little more refreshed - and this persisted throughout the day. I'm supposed to have an appointment with the specialist in 6 weeks - but I'll need to ring before then because I want one of those machines now (and to get one I need to know what pressure worked for me - that was the purpose of the night in hospital - so they could test various pressures and see which was best. I think they would determine this based on how many times I didn't stop breathing - as opposed to the 22 to 28 times an hour I stopped breathing for my original test). Of course, there is a slight issue about sleeping with the mask ... because what if your partner wants to wear it!
The other thing about sleep studies though is that if you don't take your nail polish remover or acetone to the hospital and then go out into the real world - you spend the day looking as though someone has sneezed on the back of your head (from where they attach electrodes to your head with superglue!).

Friday, November 25, 2005

Monster Sudoku

So, there's now at least one variation of Sudoku - Monster. I found it on the Daily Sudoku. And it comes in 2 sizes - 3x4 (with 12 spaces per box 1-9, ABC) or 4x4 (16 spaces per box, 1-9,0, ABCDEF). Is it possible that some people have too much time on their hands?

Sydney's 1st Illegal Gay Wedding

For their final show of the year, the 2DAYFM radio station has staged Sydney's 1st Illegal Gay Wedding. Well, I'm not quite sure that that's right - it's surely not the first judging on the number of couples "married" at Mardi Gras Fair Day over the years - but it was amazing to hear the toots of support as the motorcade carrying one of the grooms made it's way into the city, to where the ceremony was held at First Fleet Park.

Tamgotchi - where art thou?

"It will definitely be dead by now" Jennifer announced matter-of-factly as we discussed the whereabouts of the Tamagotchi she has nurtured to 4th generation - but had not seen since the weekend - when it goes back to daughter Sophie for her care. When I saw Jennifer on Wednesday she realised she had been without Tama all week, and then it was Thursday and the acknowledgement that even virtual creatures need TLC if they are to survive. But how much? How long can you keep a Tamagotchi going? Have the programmers worked out the average lifespan - of the carer's commitment? Is there a secret prize if you successfully nurture the Tamagotchi and its progeny to a certain point? And what's the best/longest life for a Tamagotchi? And where can I buy one (or perhaps Jennifer and Sophie will loan me theirs. When they find it.)?

Sudoku - the board game

Here's the perfect Christmas gift for my brother Wayne and his family. Rather than playing by himself (and incurring his wife's displeasure) they can now all join in - yes, it's Sudoku the Board Game! And it works with any Sudoku puzzle! And you can play with 3 or more other people! The box includes playing board, 81 number tiles, 32 page puzzle book and a dice. Wonder what the dice is for and how it (the game, not the dice) works.

Stationery aid

If you want to beat the hoarding bug you could try the new trick I've just found. I have finally decided to heed warnings about identity theft from the rubbish bin and we have bought a shredder. Who knew they could be such fun - such fun that I just want to keep feeding pages in. Seems that could be even more dangerous than leaving intact pieces of paper in the recycling - but there's not much chance of that ever happening again. I can't wait to start sorting through the filing cabinet!

Point made

The Senate inquiry into proposed workplace reforms continues (although I noted this last week but have been tardy in posting). God has rated another mention. After Senator Johnston told the inquiry that unions were less relevant because their membership had declined, the Daily Telegraph recorded this response from union boss Bill Shorten:
"Do you believe in God? Do you go to church?" And then on receiving an affirmative answer he followed with: "Apparently the attendances of traditional, organized religion are down. Do you, therefore, think that God doesn't exist?"
Senator Johnston's response was not recorded.

Sticky tape to the rescue

From almost the moment I unpacked it from the plastic blister pack I suspected the design of the Palm wireless keyboard could be problematic. Now that I have lost the cover to the battery compartment, I'm sorry I didn't put sticky tape on before I lost it. It's harder to use the sticky tape to hold the batteries in without interfering with the way the rest of the keyboard functions, including opening and closing. It reminds me of an earlier design issue with an earlier model Palm which was powered by two removable batteries. When they included a sticker on the battery compartment cover so people would not take out both batteries at the same time, the paper width - not included in the design considerat ions - caused some Palms to not work! D'oh.
I'm hoping that the battery cover will show up - a bit like the 412 bus on a Thursday evening! - and sometimes I'm just not that confident about that either!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hold on ...

There was a version of the Holden Employee pricing ad on television a little while ago which has either been changed or was a shortened version of the current ad. The gist is that you can buy a Holden with the same discount an employee would get - which is good except all the work in the original ad seemed to be being done by robots!

Jury duty

Have you ever been called up for jury duty? Did you go? Or did you get out of it? Is jury duty too easy to get out of? And is it fair when some people say you should be concerned when you face a jury because you know your fate is in the hands of 12 people who couldn't get out of jury duty.
I think it would be amazing, and incredibly hard, to sit on a jury. Annie sat on a case once - and wore holes into or out of her sandshoes by tapping her toes in them for the better part of 6 months. As I recall was referred to as the Greek Conspiracy case, and there may also have been something about defrauding Medicare. My Mum sat on a drugs possession case some years ago and Sooz also sat on a drugs case but only for a day before the jury was dismissed after a juror reported that they had seen someone (from the courtroom the previous day) in their neighbourhood overnight and had felt intimidated. The magistrate told the jury he had no option but to call for a new jury - and this could be seen as part of the cost of a healthy justice system.
Neither of us has been called for jury duty since.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Needle in a haystack

So how do you tell if you've blogged about something before? I've tried the Google site search facility (in the Google search bar type in "site:xxxxxxx yyyyyy" substituting the name of the site you want to search for the xxxxxxx and the words you want to search for as the yyyyyy.) While this works well on some sites, it doesn't for the blog (and you'd be amazed at how often one wants to check their own blog for information/making sure not to repeat oneself too often/etc. etc.) Well, now there's the Technorati site. By choosing the SEARCH tab, and then under OPTIONS, you can select to search a specific blog. Works a treat. (Now if only I could remember what it was I was going to look up I'd be a happy person.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Michelle Leslie flies home

Convicted drug smuggler Michelle Leslie has flown back to Australia this morning after her forced deportation from Bali on her release from prison after serving three months for drug trafficking. (Wasn't that a mouthful.) People (except Australian Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beasley) will remember Michelle Leslie as the model who was arrested after being found with two ecstasy tablets in her handbag. (Mr Beasley - as evidenced during an interview yesterday - unfortunately one that was being recorded on video - will remember her as Michelle Lee, although after yesterday's gaffe, he may well now remember her as Michelle Leslie). You may also recall that Michelle changed from skimpy Western wear into more traditional Muslim garb during the course of her incarceration and trial. She had reportedly converted to Islam a month before her arrest. As the Muslim garb has now disappeared - and been replaced with what the Daily Telegraph describes as skintight jeans and a singlet top which exposed her stomach - there have been some suggestions that she was a "fake Muslim" to garner favour from the Indonesian courts. She denies these suggestions. She says she is a Muslim and will practise her faith with or without traditional Islamic headwear.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sparrows and turtles

I think I’ve already mentioned how much I miss not being able to download odd/quirky news from www.ananova.com any more. I have been searching for a suitable replace – but the search is slow. Who knew there could be so many sites in cyberspace catering for this type of news?
The saddest story I came across was this (via the NOS news agency) was about an attempt in the Netherlands this Friday on the world record for falling dominoes – currently standing (or would that be not falling) at 3,992,397. A sparrow flew into through an open window and knocked over 23,000 dominoes. The article didn’t mention if the bird had done it one domino at a time – but it did say that it was only a system of 750 built-in gaps of the chain that prevented most or all of the dominoes being downed ahead of time. It had taken employees of television company Endemol weeks to set up the millions of dominoes for Friday’s record attempt and had the bird disrupted more of them, it might have been difficult to meet their schedule. But the record attempt is safe – from this particular interloping sparrow at least – “The bird was shot by an exterminator with an air rifle while cowering in a corner.” Somehow, it just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.
And still in Europe, at an alpine lake in Bavaria to be precise, police are hunting a snapping turtle. Its crime? Biting a teenage boy. As the report, citing Ananova as its source put it: The boy was bitten through the swimming trunks on his private parts and then bitten again on the hand as he tried to scramble out of the water. The turtle, native to North America, is thought to have been dumped in the lake after becoming too large for its tank. Snapping turtles can reach a weight of six stone and live for 80 years, but police believe that if they fail to catch the latest turtle escapee it will not survive through the winter when the lake freezes over. All attempts to locate it have so far failed – but chances are it’s not the turtle that Iowa woman Marjorie Morris has reportedly found dead in a vacuum-packed brick package of Folgers coffee. P&G, which makes the coffee believes it is an isolated incident. But even so, it’s probably a relief for them to know that Morris says she does not plan to sue.
Others are not so understanding. Take the case of a woman who claimed she found a piece of human finger in a bowl of chili at Wendy’s [International Inc.]. Yes, we’ve all heard horror stories about pieces of things found in food at large burger chains – but this one was true. Not before some major sales damage had been done to Wendy’s, the woman and her husband were arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to planting the finger to obtain compensation from Wendy’s. I will probably need to do some more research on this one – too many questions are left unanswered in the Reuters report – where did they get the finger? Did someone give them the finger? What were they hoping to get out of it? How much of a finger was it? How did the law find out about the scam? Was the owner of the finger implicated in the case? Hmmm. (Only in America?)

Sad news

On Tuesday morning at 3am Billi, our favourite dog friend, died at home with her “parents”. We have many fond and wonderful memories of Billi who we unashamedly believed to be the world’s best dingo/dog. She had been treated for cancer earlier this year (not that long ago) and even though it looked as though the prognosis was good following her surgery and chemotherapy, her body had obviously just had enough. Billi woke M&L to let them know it was time so they could say their goodbyes and be with her. Bye Billi. You will be missed.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wanted: Lawyers

Lawyers for Saddam Hussein have threatened to boycott the next trial session according to a report by the BBC. This follows news that another of their team has been killed, and another injured. So why is it happening? Are people trying to keep Saddam from being tried? From having effective legal representation? Or is there so much hatred towards him that people just want to see him (and his supporters) dead. It is had to imagine the lasting damage done to the Iraqi people and their culture during his reign and the need to take revenge must be palpable. If Saddam wasn't being tried under international law, and was still under arrest or awaiting trial, how would he be dealt with by Iraqi law? Differently? Do Iraqis feel they should be in charge of "handling" Saddam?

Million dollar photo

The first photo ever sold at auction for over $US1 million is a photograph of a photograph aka a re-photograph. It's a photo of the Marlboro Man and it's taken from a 1970's cigarette ad. Taken by Richard Prince in 1989, the appropriation of the original photographer's image/work has been defended because it's the idea behind Prince's work, rather than its intrinsic value as an image, that's important, according to Alasdair Foster, director of the Australian Centre for Photography (as reported in the Daily Telegraph). I'm not sure I agree with this thinking though - just doesn't seem to be right. Although it might help solve a mystery - apparently no one knows who the original photographer was - so perhaps this will flush him or her out of the woodwork.

Headlines

"Paris May Face Curfew ..." screamed the NY Times headline, and I thought, phew, I knew Paris Hilton's latest run-in with the police, had attracted some attention but it hardly seemed to justify a curfew. Of course, they were talking about curfews in Paris, France, in an effort to curb continuing rioting. It was also good to read that the local authorities are planning some proactive measures - trying to address the millieu in which the riots have been able to take hold and look at improving the economic lot of the people in the affected areas (one of the main socioeconomic/political causes of the escalating violence).

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bird Flu

There's no denying that Avian/Bird Flu represents a significant threat to life as we know it. The question is, is the threat real, imagined or manufactured? And if it is as bad as is sometimes made out, how will this translate into a global response - will the economic imperative prevail - the same one that has seen Roche revenues rise by 17% recently. (Roche are responsible for the antiviral drug Tamiflu - seen as the best treatment for bird flu.)
Imagine the probable profits if the United Nation's food agency's warning that the virus would soon spread to East Africa eventuated. It could make the slowness of spending on malaria treatments look like a non-issue. Or what if governments of first-world countries planned to buy enough vaccine to cover the whole population in the event of a flu pandemic?
I can't remember which is was, or where I put the information about it - but there is an Asian nation that is talking about ignoring the patent on
Tamiflu and manufacturing their own. Another country is talking about making Tamiflu under licence. And another saying it will ignore the patent completely and just manufacture it. That shouldn't be too difficult as the main ingredient is a common spice (why don't I write these things down when I hear them) - could be star anise. I hope someone somewhere is making sure there's plenty of the plant under cultivation!

Question time

Much has been and will be written about recent raids which saw the arrest of a number of reported terrorists in Sydney and Melbourne. The raids followed a hasty change to legislation so it was a crime to plan an act rather than to have committed it. This all happens against the backdrop of other counter-terrorism legislation being introduced into Federal Parliament.
There was an interesting comment in the Sydney Morning Herald's Letters to the Editor (10 Nov 05)
A top-secret raid involving 18 months of covert operations by secret intelligence groups - and still the media are there to film it unfolding. And it's not political?
Garry T. Smith Tuckombil

Observations

I'm not sure why it has taken so long for this to make the press, because it is something Sooz and I have been commenting on since Day 1 of his "reign". We've even noted one day that Homer (our boy cat) was drinking like Morris Iemma.
Here is the Spike column from the Sydney Morning Herald 10 Nov 05:
Every day we see a new side to our once-shy Premier, Morris Dilemma. We have had Morris the sports fan, Morris the tax-canceller and, this week, SuperMorris, terrorism-squasher extraordinaire.
But in every guise, there's something strangely familiar in the Morris that we see, and we've just worked it out: he speaks with his head at an almost constant angle of about 15 degrees. To the left.
At press conferences, door stops, even on the parliamentary website, he leads the people of NSW with his left shoulder. Every breath he takes, every speech he makes, he'll be watching you … slightly askew.
Is he mimicking Lady Godiva? Is side-saddle the new black? Is he permanently poised to cut and run?
We asked one of his many flacks, were met with laughter and haven't heard back. So we're forced to speculate - which is just how we like it.
We asked one of his many flacks, were met with laughter and haven't heard back. So we're forced to speculate - which is just how we like it.
We're looking forward to the suggestions.

Nature strikes back

Have you ever wondered about the consequences of some countries doing rapid deforestation to create large tracts of farmland? In some places in South America they already know - especially if there's also a disappearance of large numbers of cattle (to market, to market)? You end up with vampire bats ... lots of vampire bats. Weren't expecting that were you? Or maybe you were.
I was reading an article recently about vampire bats killing at least 23 people in some of Brazil's remote Amazon regions. The victims died of rabies - as borne by the bats.
The BBC Report (and even I thought it was going to be from The National Enquirer or at least a trashy tabloid)) told how health authorities were trying to cope after 23 deaths in the region in the last two months. While it's not the first attack, it's unusually serious and has been caused, some experts say, by deforestation.
Health authorities say they have treated more than 1,300 people for rabies after being attacked by vampire bats, almost always at night in their houses.
As soon as I read this I thought of the "open window" angle - and that a “real life" vampire or perhaps that should be "fiction" vampire needs to be invited in, and an open window can be seen as that invitation. Which only goes to show that I am not thinking as a third-world person - especially as these poor people are trying to fill gaps in the walls of their huts with banana leaves to stop the bats getting in.
So why is it happening? Deforestation means the bats' natural habitat is destroyed. But rather than dying out, the bats' numbers may have increased with the appearance of an abundant food supply - the cattle. The BBC report stated that mass attacks on humans have occurred in other cattle regions in Latin America when the cattle are suddenly removed.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What is the world coming to?

A report in the Daily Telegraph today tells of Hong Kong robbers who have stolen the ashes of three people from a local cemetery. They are demanding a reward of almost $9,000 for their safe return. A note was left demanding the money be deposited in a bank account. (Now, if they have the same laws in place for opening bank accounts in Hong Kong as they do here in Australia, they should be able to track down the perpetrators based on the bank account - but there was no indication of this in the article.)
* My Ananova subscription with Avantgo is not working at the moment and I am having to look at different sources for my quirky news!

Who wants to be a Millionaire ...

... and how badly? A recent contestant on the show has been cleared of cheating or as The Daily Telegraph put it "The Nine Network has publicly exonerated Who Wants to be a Millionaire contestant Martin Flood". Apparently Mr Flood was investigated after a rather unorthodox approach to answering questions on the show - what was described as "incoherent reasoning" resulted in the correct answers. The episode with Mr Flood, which aired on local television on Monday night, was taped three weeks ago, and after it he was assessed by a psychologist and a risk management team. This might have had something to do with him having correctly answered the $250,000 question. Mr Flood suggested he had an idea the audience and host might have been frustrated when he took 12 minutes to answer a question. Host Eddie McGuire said it was the first time he has really been worried on the show "... I didn't know whether he was receiving cosmic rays into his head, whether he was cheating, whether somebody was signaling".
The next episode, where Mr Flood will win or lose the million, has already been taped and will be broadcast next Monday in the show's last outing for this season. The network has refused to comment on whether Flood took out the big one.
All of this raises a very perplexing question: If the show is pre-recorded why on earth do they drag it out so long? If the network is serious about making Millionaires, you'd think they'd want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to do so. Maybe it's just me, but slow television including "we’ll find out if you're right after this break" does nothing for me!

Racing terminology

Winkers, nose rolls, standard race plates (front and back) - what are all these things and why are they included in the form guide?

Breaking up is hard to do

... so why do other people make it harder?
How do people react when friends break up? Is the strength of their reaction relative to the strength of their own relationship - or perhaps their past experiences. I suppose it also depends on the circumstances of the breakup and how the parties in the relationship are about it. For example, was it a mutual decision (although I have a feeling that even mutual decisions are actually driven by one more than the other)? Or did one of the partners go off in search of other companionship? Is there a move to divvy up friends or do the friends take sides?

Reading on the web

I have been a bit confused over the recent opposition to Google’s project to digitise books so they would be more available on the web. There was much opposition to the project, particularly from the Society of American Publishers - presumably because Google was looking at publishing books that aren’t already in the public domain – meaning there would be copyright issues if they were to proceed. Google's project would involve digitising millions of works from Harvard, Stanford, and Michigan universities to make them searchable.
Running at the same time is a project by Microsoft and Yahoo, who are planning to put 150 works (already on the public domain) on the net.
But will putting these works on the net make people readers? Would you read more if you didn’t have to pay for it? Or is it a matter of being able to get access to works for which you would otherwise need to travel overseas for? Is the move designed to meet a niche market or is it something most of us would want to access?

Buried grader

Urban legend or truth? That is the question following the collapse of part of the Lane Cove tunnel (currently under construction in Sydney) last week. The collapse happened on the doorstep of a block of units and to make the area safe, 1000 cubic metres of concrete was poured into the hole. But was there an excavation grader in the hole at the time, and did they leave it there? I've heard the story from three different sources now (one from within the RTA) so I guess it is possible, even if a little hard to believe - unless you think of it from a safety point of view ... the event happens - the tunnel collapse is in progress - the driver of the grader escapes - and then when the time comes, the decision has to be made whether to send someone back into the hole with the possibility of the block of flats above caving in to it - or leaving the grader, which is probably already partially covered in rock and earth. Chances are, as the rush is on to stabilise the area that someone will say "Leave the grader ... Just make sure someone marks it off the asset register so we don't spend forever looking for it. And someone put up a little plaque: Here lies George the Grader."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bronte Blue Bird


We were down at Bronte Beach with friend Margaret (who we were lucky enough to spring from hospital) this afternoon. It was a stunning afternoon for it - sunny but not too hot. And there was no shortage of people or wildlife. Had we not been taking photographs of the gulls at the end of the beach, we would never have seen the blue gull - flying away in the third pic. It's the first we've ever seen - not quite sure of its genealogy - or whether it was a naturally occuring phenomenon or if the bird had somehow come off second best in an incident with a paint can!

Pacific Sing

We went off to a performance by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir yesterday afternoon - for a tour on the Pacific Queen, with songs from locations around the Pacific Rim. It was a great afternoon. Now there's a choir which knows how to sing ... and to have fun.

Sydney Tower Skywalk


I finally got in to town with "12" (12 x optical zoom camera) and managed to get a couple of shots of the Skywalk, which give an idea of what's involved. I'm certain now that you wouldn't catch me up there (full stop).

Saturday in Sydney

There just aren't a lot of people in Sydney on the weekend. As I remember how many people were on the streets of Shanghai, I feel a bit sorry for travellers to Sydney - not able to see a friendly face to ask directions. It is so busy on weekdays that it's hard to believe it's the same place! But I did manage to find some skateboarders on the steps of the Westin Hotel (formerly the GPO), and a contortionist in the Pitt Street Mall.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Great Race

... and it was. Makybe Diva won her third Melbourne Cup in a row. It was an amazing run - she held back and then you could see her charging through the field, white blaze on her forehead (that's how I could tell it was Makybe Diva) and roaring across the finish line. Glenn Boss, her jockey, was overcome with emotion as he spoke about her effort, and even managed to get some swear words into the broadcast interview. (Maybe Magistrate Pat O'Shane is right - maybe community standards regarding swearing have greatly relaxed. I'm not sure I agree with it though.)
Luckily, I had drawn Makybe Diva in one of the office sweeps, and Sooz and I were able to dine out on the proceeds last night.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Journal

It's not every day you see a young person keeping a journal but that's what I saw on the 412 bus to Campsie this afternoon. It was wonderful - sturdy hand-made deckle-edged paper, proper punctuation (!), different colours, and memorabilia and piccies included. She seemed to be late teens or early 20's and from the City to RPAH she was engrossed in her writing. I was in awe of her ability to do legible writIng on the 412 - I know I can't - even when it's stopped!

Hold the phone

I know it’s scary enough thinking about the bill that might be incurred if I lost my mobile phone and someone found it and started making calls. But how would you be if they ran up a $1.21 million bill. Thankfully, it’s someone else who has this particular problem – following the loss of a satellite phone in Iraq. While the Daily Telegraph report suggested that insurgents had stolen the phone, Britain’s Foreign Office would not confirm this. The phone was barred in June after some bill “discrepancies” were noticed. Now, if it was insurgents, and you could track down the numbers that calls had been made to, that might provide some good intelligence (“Hi, is that Osama?” … oops, sorry, for a moment there I forgot that no connection has been proved between Iraq and Osama bin Laden – by the Coalition of the Willing or anyone else.)

Race that stops a nation …

Today, in Victoria (actually in Melbourne), they will run the Melbourne Cup – a 2km horse race. It is billed as “the race that stops a nation”, “yeah, right, for three minutes” added a Tooheys New beer ad on the front of the paper. But stop the nation does, with people gathering around television sets or radios to experience to the race – the sound of galloping hooves, excited punters, and hats – lots of hats. Racing is the perfect venue for milliners to show off their wares – what is a race meet without hats? - hoping the day won’t be so windy that creations are buffeted rather than rippling gently in the occasional zephyr .
Not that everyone is interested in hats, of course, but it occurs now that it gives the “ladies” something to look at – especially if they’re not that keen to following the action on the track. Is this where the fashion aspect of racing comes from? (I think I feel a Google coming on.)

Fair P(l)ay

As Australians are facing the prospect of of new era in workplace relations, it's good to know that some have faith in the system - or is it? The new Fair Pay Commission (a team of 5) is chaired by Professor Ian Harper, an Anglican who describes himself as a "Christian economist". He is reported as saying: "The minimum wage will be set by God's will" with his Christian faith providing him with a moral compass in the task of setting wages. The Daily Telegraph noted that he and a narrow circle of Christian brothers and sisters spent a lot of time praying for wisdom, discernment and courage - to ensure it's God's will being done - not the will of individuals! Let's hope that it's a God of love and compassion at work on the day not one who's insisting on a vow of poverty or the one who is mindful that the Church is a major employer in its own right.

Death sentence

I'm not sure that I've ever really thought about capital punishment but the current case of a young Australian man awaiting execution in Singapore for trafficking heroin has me thinking. There have been numerous calls for the Australian government to intercede on his behalf. But is it a good enough reason: that our decision not to have capital punishment here should mean our citizens when tried and committed (and having confessed to the crime) in a foreign country should not be subject to the laws and penal codes of that location? Yet I can see how you would want to preserve life. It does seen incredibly barbaric to punish a person by killing them (as the man who was about to be executed via electric chair reportedly said: this will teach me a good lesson.) So what is the answer? People need to know that drug trafficking won't be tolerated and that, when caught, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. So what do you do with them? Maybe it's time to have an international body policing drug trafficking which is responsible for their prosecution and imprisonment. It might be difficult to arrive at a consensus re penalties - but once decided, it would be non-negotiable. Penalties could be based on the nationality of the perpetrator so there could be no mismatch between crime and punishment.
That would still leave the question of capital punishment though. How do you convince people that killing someone as punishment is not necessarily in anyone's best interest. And if murder carries the death penalty - who sentences the executioner, and their executioner - and so on?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Pears

I'll try to get a better photo and post it here in the next couple of days - but we've just had one of my pics (the Pears aka Pears 1) blown up - on canvas - and framed. It now sits on the living room wall with the two Margarets (Preston and Olley). I'd show more of the room in this shot except I had to crop out the table because the cat was sitting there (or perhaps the table was just a clutter-trap - yes, we'll go with that.)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Skywalk

Unfortunately it's not the world's best pic (I'll try again later when I have the big camera - 12 x optical zoom) - but this shows the viewing platform that is part of the new Sydney Tower SkyWalk. I keep looking out my window to see if people are using it - but even though it has re-opened following its brief closure (for "welding") the day after it opened - I haven't seen anyone out/up there yet.

This little piggy ...

Do you still have a piggy bank - somewhere to stash spare change until finally there's enough to buy a litre of milk or petrol or take to the bank to have them safeguard it for you? And if you do, what shape is it? The traditional pig shape? The same pig shape that some London banks, Halifax and NatWest, have stopped giving to children and have stopped using in their advertisements - lest it offend Muslims. The report I read in the Daily Telegraph didn't say what shapes the banks were giving out instead. Of cause if the kids in London are anything like my nephew Mark they'll be making their own. One of Mark's best, designed to ensure he didn't dip into his car fund was a welded metal pipe. This seemed much more fit for purpose than the jar with the top sealed on with wax so he could easily see if anyone had been tampering with it.

New technology

As l browsed through the Tandy Store in Leichhardt yesterday, I realised that I had reached the end of an era ... I shouldn't need to buy blank videotapes again! We have invested in a DVD recorder which will record onto its built-in hard drive, CD or DVD. You can even watch it while you're still recording - a feature they call time-shifting. Another wonderful thing is that if you record on the HDD you don't have to label the tape - despite my best intentions I am often quite undiligent about labeling which can make it just a little difficult to find programs. I'm sure there are a lot of programs that I really wonted to watch that I'll find as I take one last long walk through the mountain of VHS tapes secreted in various nooks and crannies throughout the flat working out which to record to the new media for future use. (Dead video tapes anyone ?)
(Only pity is I didn't know Strathfield Car Radios were going to drop the price another $100 this week. D'oh! Ah well, maybe it's not the model I purchased.)

Great Grandmother!

Jennifer at work emerged triumphant from her office one day last week to proclaim that she had become a grandmother. Now, we know Jennifer's daughter is 6 years old so we were understandably intrigued. But we needn't have worried because it was all legitimate - the Tamagotchi Jennifer's been carefully tending for Sophie (since the toys were banned from school) had not just survived under her care, it had thrived and procreated. Crammed onto the tiny screen were now two creatures to be tended, fed, watered and nurtured - by a doting grandmother (although perhaps it should be great-grandmother given the genealogy - Jennifer, Sophie, Tami as in Tamagotchi, and the new "baby".
I couldn't help but wonder how many parents in similar circumstances have taken over care of these electronic entities - taking them on business trips, to meetings, and trying to not forget them when they're tied up with corporate busyness.

Black or blue

We have a continuing quandary at home - which socks are blue and which are black. Even when we have managed to separate them after they've been through the wash, selecting the correct colour from the drawer is difficult. But I think we may have stumbled across a solution. We've decided that from now on, we'll "fold" the black and blue socks differently. Now that's what I call "breakthrough" thinking.

Monday, October 24, 2005

David Copperfield to 'magic' girl pregnant

David Copperfield says he plans to impregnate a girl on stage - without even touching her. Speaking to German magazine Galore (as reported on the Ananova site), the illusionist rejected the theory that there were only seven different kinds of magic tricks. He said: "Bull s**t! There is a great deal of new territory to conquer. In my next show I'm going to make a girl pregnant on stage." He added: "Naturally it will be without sex. Everyone will be happy about it, but I'm not telling you any more."
So we'll just have to wait ... and wonder ... and perhaps even worry a little about what the world has come to, what kind of abomination might be borne of this union, and whether it's all some kind of trick to boost his ticket sales.

SUMs

We have just started rehearsals for Carolfest with SUMS (Sydney University Musical Society) and it seems that there are very few undergraduates singing in the choir. Yes, we know it might have something to do with them being busy with examinations at the moment - but looking round on Wednesday night, there were very few Soprani and among them, very few young faces. Even those we know as young faces have been in the choir for a while and must surely have graduated by now (they don't keep you back in Uni do they?
So where have all the youngsters gone? Or didn't they join the choir in the first place? And what does that mean for the future of SUMS (putting aside for a moment Voluntary Student Unionism and the havoc that might play on the funding available from the Union). SUMS is supposed to be an undergraduate choir but despite the best efforts of the rank and file, the undergraduates just do not appear to be joining up. Why - or why not?
Perhaps it is because younger people today don't have the time or the tradition of singing. You're hardly going to join a choir unless you like singing - and if you've spent the previous years cramming for the HSC, busily doing 3 and 4 unit Mathematics, Physics, English etc there may not have been that much time for much music besides Violin (and that would be Violin lessons and exams). Katrina (our stand-in musical director the other night) was also lamenting the disappearance of the High School Concert series - which was a great opportunity for promoting all things choral for teenagers.
It's probably only by really knowing why they aren't signing up that there's going to be a real chance of enticing them back - and that's something the choir really needs to do.
The other thing we really need is a sponsor. Not quite sure why, but for the last few years, SUMS has always seems to be in a dire financial position - looking for fundraising ideas - and finally, starting to seriously seek a sponsor to take the place of Optus (who ceased being a sponsor some years ago now). If you have any ideas - and remember, naming rights don't come with this one, but I'm sure there would be suitable signage and promotional mentions - don't hold back.

Personal responsibility

Where does personal responsibility begin and end? A man out on the town is refused a ride by a taxi driver. He's had a few ales at a couple of pubs,and rather than let his friends lead him away and try to find another taxi, the man alledgedly becomes aggressive, hurls fascist slurs at the taxi driver, and even slaps him. So, who takes responsibility for his actions: hands up eveyone who said the staff at the first pub he went to and supposedly had 8 beers, not all bought by him. You'd be right based on a case in Sydney this last week.

Last Drop

I am trying out a new café* in Dulwich Hill this afternoon - The Last Drop. It's not bad, although I am always dubious about establishments that have the menu item, in their beverages, "bowl of coffee" - only because I like a large coffee, and I like it "hot", and I don't know how you would successfully keep a bowl of coffee hot (which is why I am having the "long latte").
They, like a number of places these days, have artworks for sale on the wall - a mixture of paintings and photographs - and under each is a sign with the name of the artist, the price, and "All proceeds to
Dulwich Hill Public School". Hmmm, Kazbah thinks, perhaps this could be a fundraising opportunity for SUMS!
(*The PocketPC - as yet not personalised with a name - insert the little mark above the "e" - pretty spectacular!)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Child support

I have lost the copy of the Daily Telegraph I saw this in so I am hazy on the details but the gist is there. The story starts with two women who wanted to have a baby so they enlisted the aid of a sperm donor. The donor did not want to be involved with parenting or raising the child in any way, and he wasn't expected or wanted to. However at the time, he was required to sign a document confirming he was the child's biological father. I'm not sure if this was at the behest of the mothers or a local legal requirement. And so everyone should have been happy - a good samaritan does a favour for two people who wish to give birth to, raise and nurture a child as part of their family. But alas the story doesn't end there. A while later, the women decide they no longer wish to be a couple and split up, the child going with one of the mothers (I think it would have been the biological mother but I don't recall if that was mentioned in the article). Not news yet right? But then the biological father is required to pay child support! Now, just call me old-fashioned but that seems unfair. It should be the other mother who is required to be in part financially responsible for their child. Would the donor have been expected to contribute if the child had been the result of an anonymous contribution through a sperm bank or the result of a manufactured sexual liaison to acquire his sperm?

More British Bities

Ananova (from a report in The Mirror) reports the capture of a non-native species of wildlife in a block of flats in Manchester. This comes as a relief to the tenants who had taken to weighting their toilet lids down with bricks to prevent Keith, the rogue 10ft boa constrictor, popping out of their loos.
Keith is thought to have been living in sewage pipes, feasting on rats, after being abandoned by an evicted tenant about three months ago – but he only turned up in the flats' toilets last week. This wasn’t particularly surprising to those in the know about things herpetological – apparently boa constrictors can swim well and they can hold their breath for more than 20 minutes - which you’d really want to be able to do if you were living in sewage pipes!
Of course, now that I have seen the picture of the snake, I'm even more concerned about finding some bricks in case the same thing happens at our place - but I'm not sure a couple of bricks would hold something of this size! (Click on the image make it larger.)

Sheltered?

Had a wonderful and unexpected moment on the way home this evening. It was raining, not heavily but persistently and enough to get you drenched if you were out in it long enough. As I stood at the corner waiting for the lights to change the woman standing next to me moved her umbrella over so it was sheltering us both - while she simply said "look at me standing here with it just over me". She walked me over York St and George St before leaving me under cover and with a final call of "stay dry" she went on her way up Market St - a good Samaritan in search of another good deed. I'm sure I felt my faith in humanity meter go up a couple of notches. Although that may also have been because she's been staying with an elderly relative helping them sort out the house before the move into retirement care on the 28th of this month. The house has been in the family 92 years - and the item that most amazed my umbrella provider was the relative's sewing basket - with bits passed down from generation to generation of women. "You can tell from it that those were the days when women stayed at home and looked after the family" she assured me, and added, I thought perhaps a little wistfully "not like today."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Head for heights?

It was worthy of the Daily Telegraph's headline writer - "Look Skywalker!" - but it was The Sydney Morning Herald's piece about Sydney's newest tourist attraction. For a mere $109 per adult (less for children!) you too can be breath-tested and walk 260m above the CBD on 25mm thick reinforced glass. Not my idea of fun - it was bad enough being enclosed in the Shanghai tower let alone being able to look straight down at the city. I know I would freeze and they'd have to carry me down or helicopter me off.
The two-tier Skywalk is around the roof of the southern hemisphere's tallest tower - but they don't say what it is. Hopefully the ad campaign will. Heh heh - it occurs to me that the 350m high space capsule in Shanghai is just slightly higher than the Skywalk. It's not obvious in the photograph but I think it's a fair bet that the breath-test is not the only safety process in place!

Family Values

At what point do you take other people's feelings into account. The Korps, tragic family that they have turned out to be, are in the news again. There was what was described in the press as "a heated mediation session between family members discussing Korp's estate", his children by his first marriage had requested some of their father's ashes - and they have now discovered that the ashes have already been scattered - around his former house in Melbourne last week - just before it goes on sale. (I wonder if a discount or premium would be attracted with a house which has two recent deaths associated with it?)

Fair (or bear) warning

I received an email today which made me realise, yet again, that it's important to slow down enough in life to be able to read the instructions. The subject line of the email included the words "read the text first". I didn't heed the warning - didn't even notice it - which is why one of the pictures was such a surprise. The first two pics were of a dead bear - a massive dead bear - a bear so big that on all fours it would be at eye level with a grown man; a bear that was killed by a ranger but not in time to have it not eat two people (remains found in its stomach) or a third victim whose mutilated body was the subject of the third photograph. Let that continue to be a lesson for all of us!

How to catch a "dirty cop"

If you were going to set up operations to catch crooked cops what would you do? Or perhaps as importantly, what wouldn't you do? Here in NSW they're about to start "cleaning out the pockets of police corruption" (I just love what The Daily Telegraph does with headlines!). We know this, from the Telegraph piece which also reports that suspect officers will be set up in targeted sting operations. Is that the smartest thing to publicize? Or is it a clever ploy? By making it public that you are going to target officers perhaps all of them will start doing the ''right thing".

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Ronnie Johns Half Hour

The new comedy show on Channel 10 has received a truckload of complaints. Surprisingly, I happened to watch part of its debut and yes, the humour was "adult", and I was certainly surprised and mildly offended by the use of serious swearwords and by some of the sketches but if I were to raise a complaint about the show it wouldn't be about any of this. It would be because it just didn't think it was funny!

Fitting job?

"It was not a pretty sight." So said the woman at the table behind mine this morning as she told her friends that she had worked at one of the major department stores when she was a teenager. The job? Fitting bras. But, she assured them, I learnt a lot about bras!

Mercy visit

Imagine being injured and waking up to find John Howard or Alexander Downer at your hospital bedside. Who would be your least favourite politician or public figure to find there?

Great description

"... like a dimunitive but malevolent version of Sesame Street's Big Bird" - all this they can tell from the 90-million-year old skeleton of the "probably feathered" creature which they're suggesting is a turkey-sized carnivorous dinosaur. But who coined the Big Bird description - did it come off the wire or is there a wit at work at the Daily Telegraph?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Phial tribute

"The pair wore vials of each other's blood on strings around their necks." The two were Billy Bob Thornton and then wife Angelina Jolie. She also sported a tattoo of a black dragon with the words "Billy Bob". But just as some loves are not destined to be forever, so too can body tributes be fleeting. Ex-husband Billy's name appears to have disappeared from the tattoo (which would be appreciated by her new beau Brad Pitt).
I'm not sure I'm the partner-adorning type somehow - although I did find a bottle at Reverse Garbage that would be perfect for it! Nope, the only thing I want to wear on my arm is my sleeve; and sometimes I might want to wear my heart on that!

Flying high

If you could fly like Superman or other action/cartoon characters, with arms outstretched in front of you (try it now!) would you have your hands open or closed into fists! Would it depend on where you were flying to - if it was to save lives or battle evil, or a joy flight, or perhaps to the shop to pick up some milk (and if your flying suit had no pockets, would you need to hold the milk money in your hand)?

History in the making

A little while ago the chef who lived next door moved out. It was a fairly quick move - helped by his two flatmates having left him in the lurch. He threw out all their rubbish as well but unfortunately the strata's bins were not big enough to contain everything and many items overflowed. When we realised he was gone and the rubbish hadn't, we arranged for a Council (free) rubbish pick-up. The only down side was that the Council will only collect rubbish at the kerb so we had to move it all including electric rice cooker complete with baked in rice. Maybe we wouldn't have been so hasty to throw it away if we'd realised what we held was history in the making. All we needed to do was wait a few years and then this item from BBC News may have been us: Oldest noodles unearthed! The remains of a 4,000-year-old noodle meal have been discovered in an upturned pot next to China's Yellow River.

Haven't the foggiest

While checking my hotmail account this afternoon, I noticed an ad for an upcoming film, The Fog. There was nothing particularly strange with that - what was odd was a news piece I had seen this morning about a mystery fog engulfing Lagos in Nigeria. The city has reportedly been enveloped in a thick, white, malodorous fog, causing panic and traffic jams. It is reminiscent of Ladies in Lavendar and the young man with no evident identity being found wandering, mute, on a beach. Life imitating art again perhaps?

You're getting sleepy...

... or at least feeling generous - now hand over the cash! Welcome to Moldova, eastern Europe's poorest country, where a hypnotist bank-robber is at large. So far the suspect, identified as Vladimir Kozak, has bilked $40,000 from entranced tellers. The Daily Telegraph did not mention if he also had the tales act like chickens, put skewers through their arms, or pretend they had x-ray vision.

Time please

I was watching the "other" morning television show yesterday and noted the bottom-of-screen crawler advising what was coming up next. I can't remember the exact times but the interval is spot-on.

7:10am Olivia Newton John's latest heartbreak.
7:12am Virgin Blue's ... (and I'm not sure what the rest was.)
How on earth can they expect to cover "heartbreak" in 2 minutes?

More lies

Not sure if it's the same MRI reseachers but scientists have discovered that pathological liars have a different brain structure: less brain grey matter and more white matter. It is believed to be the latter which enables quick, complex thinking - needed to lie and get away with it. As one of the researchers, as quoted in today's Daily Telegraph said: Lying is not easy. But nature seems to have made it simple for some.

eBay sales

It's amazing what you can buy on eBay - and how much would you pay for a piece of grilled cheese toast complete with Virgin Mary image ($37,000) or a piece of Nutri-Grain that looked like ET ($1035) or the house where Bob Dylan grew up ($133,655)? However one thing you can't buy is used underwear - unless it's a bra belonging to Britney Spears and it's "memorabilia".

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Cursed bunny?

I know there is no connection between Isle of Portland "Something bunny" poster and the burning down overnight of the warehouse where the Wallace & Gromit props and models were stored - but it is a bit spooky!

Go figure!

When Darien (my manager) and I were discussing a business case the other day, and we were deciding whether to include 5% or 10% as the expected growth figure, I suggested we split the difference and go 7.5%. No, he said, best to go for a round figure: using an exact figure like 7.5 suggests you have specific information to support that - 10% is a round figure and doesn't need to be supported as keenly (grasshopper!)

More crocodile tales

From the Daily Telegraph. Darwin. Yesterday. At least 5 crocodiles remained at large after escaping (read: leaving via a left-open gate) from a crocodile farm at the weekend. Most have been recaptured on neighboring properties although one was reportedly shot dead by a home owner. Residents said they should have been warned the crocodiles had escaped. Valid point ... but perhaps not a job any publicist would want to get their teeth into!

Lie still

Polygraphs apparently have an 80% to "no better than chance" range when it comes to lie detecting. So it's probably a good thing that there's another option - magnetic resonance imaging machines. Initial research (reported on the Wired website) reports MRI machines have a 90% success rate. They show that more blood flows to the parts of the brain associated with anxiety and impulse when people lie. In the research, at the Medical University of South Carolina, questions were projected onto a screen while participants were in the MRI and they pressed a button for their yes/no answers. Unfortunately the test doesn't work if the subject doesn't lie still!

Monday, October 10, 2005

What to wear

Would you believe that a German woman has baffled scientists by proving she can distinguish between colours by touch? Gabriele Simon showed her talent on Wetten dass, a popular TV series. While blindfolded, she used her fingertips to recognize different colours. The skill is the result of about 20 years of pure learning and concentration for Gabriele. There’s a very practical application too, now that she can tell colours by feel, she doesn’t need to ask her mother about what to wear anymore.

Something bunny going on

I’m looking forward to seeing the “Wallace and Gromit” movie – and hopefully I’ll get to see it sooner than the people in Isle of Portland, Dorset, get to see the poster for the film … because according to Ananova (and Sky News), the poster has been banned (unofficially). Why? Because they are superstitious about the word “rabbit” – which really does need to appear as the film is The Curse of the Were Rabbit. For more than 100 years the word "rabbit" has been considered bad luck there because burrowing caused by rabbits has caused land slips in the area's famous quarries. So, instead of having rabbits, they have “underground mutton” and “furry things”. In fact, in the past, if quarry workers (stone from the area is world-famous and was used to build St Paul’s Cathedral) saw a “furry thing” they would stop work and go home for the day. The only poster for the film on Portland is on the road off the island and says: "Something bunny is going on".

Another crocodile tale

... and the rest of it. What do you keep in your garage - and is it what you expect it to be? Not so for a Florida woman who opened the door of her garage - and found a 9ft crocodile there. Naturally, she dashed back inside to tell her husband who is reported to have said "It was just lying there, and it was just staring up at her when she opened the door. Needless to say, it scared the hell out of her." The 200lb male endangered American crocodile was caught at the house in North Miami, Florida, by professional trapper Todd Hardwick. Unfortunately the report didn't say if Mr Hardwick also removed said crocodile. Let's hope so.

F U N E?

English comedian Ronnie Barker has died but his passing reminds us of a restaurant sketch which included:
Patron: F U N E X ?
Waiter: S V F X
Patron: F U N E M ?
Waiter: S V F M
(if this is new to you - say each letter out loud slowly and if it's still a mystery - when did you last have eggs and ham for breakfast?)

Comparison shopping

As Australian (and world) petrol prices continue at record levels a National Australian Bank survey - as reported in The Daily Telegraph last week - suggests we would rather give up our morning coffee to save money rather than leave the car at home and catch public transport. This raises an interesting point - I think I'm paying about $11.99 a litre for coffee at the moment! You've got to be pleased cars run on petrol.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sony vs ...

The Australian High Court ruled in favour of Eddy Stevens on Thursday. Eddy was one of several hundred small time operators who modify Play Station (1 and 2) to override "region specific coding". He is also one of a group of about 30 such "chippers" who received a letter from Sony warning they risked a $68,000 fine if they kept doing it! So it was off to court for him, and interestingly, his position was backed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which argued regional coding was detrimental to consumer choice and should not be supported. (The court found making a pirate copy of a game was illegal, but the device which allowed a pirate game to be played was not.)
This raises the obvious enigma: how would you eradicate region coding eg DVDs and books? Even the recording standards for videos around the world - Pal, NTSC and Secam act as region coding of sorts. And if you do remove region coding, how do you set license regions, and help ensure the manufacturers remain profitable and keep producing?

Not as it seems

How odd must it be for the other voice-over artists on The Simpsons television show to relate to Bart given Bart is voiced by a woman. Or maybe it's all part of acting where you are pretending to be someone else so it's easy to work with someone who is also pretending to be someone else! But I think it would be difficult.

Morning radio

Julie McCrossin (former host of ABC Radio National Life Matters) has abandoned the 702 ABC Radio breakfast slot she recently took up because the early hours are bad for her health. Now, you'd think that people would understand that rather than having a go at her! The Daily Telegraph's coverage of the story included quotes from shift workers saying that while it did take a little time to get used to, starting earlier in the day did get easier. For my two cents, I would be asking if maybe it was the change of formats as well as shifts that had contributed to the decision. I know that Sooz is not the only one to be missing Julie at her old gig.

Miracles happen

This is a direct quote from Spike, Sydney Morning Herad, 7/10/05
News that Tom Cruise and his fiancee Katie Holmes are expecting a child puts a new perspective on his roles in Risky Business, All The Right Moves and Top Gun. Not to mention Losin' It and Eyes Wide Shut.
Cruise has been waiting for 43 years and 2½ wives - Mimi Rogers, Nicole Kidman and Holmes - to kick a fatherhood goal. And what irony that, after all this time, it must have been an immaculate conception, as Holmes has declared her intention to remain a virgin until married.
In light of this, perhaps Tom, Katie and child will form some new holy trinity for the Church of Scientology? Regardless, after surviving years of scuttlebutt and innuendo, Cruise sounds as if he's successfully completed his most impressive mission impossible yet.

Friday, October 07, 2005

4 God so luvd da world …

“In da Bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da Earth." So begins the SMS version of the Bible as translated by Australia's Bible Society. You can access all 31,173 verses for free via a 7MB download from their site and then amass an approx $8000 bill to spread the Word (based on 25¢ a text!).
UPDATE: Well, that seemed to be the way it would work based on the report I read in The Daily Telegraph. What I should have understood from reading it is that you can download a program from Australia's Bible Society and install it on your computer; this program then works as an index/interface with their system. You then start an account with them and as you send out messages via your/this system (you can also do it via mobile phone with the right configurations) you spend down your credit. (As Sooz says, there's no such thing as a free Bible - although once, on the corner of George and Park Streets in the City, there was a man handing out free copies of the New Testament.)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Lobby

The tiara got a little bit of a work-out at The Lobby (Castlereagh St, Sydney) on Friday as it was Charlotte's last day. She's off to work for The National Gallery - good luck Madge (as we know you ... long story). And to mark the occasion, she and Lisa were (among other things) putting together a packed lunch for one of the regulars who was planning to catch a flight to Perth that evening - and didn't want to face the prospect of plane food - so instead, they made him a "Thank you for flying Lobby Airlines" care package. I hope he was suitably impressed when he took out his dinner, and miniature fruit salad, and chocolate, and drink as well as his frittata and salad - nothing plain about that plane food!

It's an ill wind ...

Evangelist Franklin Graham, son and designated successor of the Rev. Billy Graham, has reportedly said that Hurricane Katrina could lead to a spiritual rebirth of a sinful New Orleans. Of course, this wasn't to say (and he didn't) that the devastating storm was a punishment from God. However, the article on Yahoo News did note that the city's Mardi Gras revelry and ties to voodoo were adverse to Christian beliefs, as you would imagine were the "satanic worship" and "sexual perversions" which also rate a mention. The good news is that "God is going to use that storm to bring revival. God has a plan. God has a purpose." What these are, or how it would work (perhaps in mysterious ways?) was not immediately apparent in the article.

Not such a good year blimp

This photo has been credited to Ron Davidge and shows one of the 3 North American Goodyear blimps just before it fell to earth in June during a violent storm in Florida (not sure if it fell foul of one of those shoot-first don't ask questions gun-toting etc. etc. I envisaged hunting for unsuspecting travellers to their State.)
The other blimps are the Suffield, Ohio-based Spirit of Goodyear and the Carson, Calif.-based Sprit of America. Heh heh - that's why punctuation is always a good thing. For a moment there I thought they were called the Suffield and the Carson - as opposed to the Spirit of Goodyear and the Sprit of America (although I think that could be a typo on the site should be Spirit of America. )

Blogging v dogging

According to a survey reported by the BBC UK more people know what dogging is than blogging, which suggests that Brits are not as tech-savvy as might be expected. If I have do idea what dogging is, does this make me more tech-savvy or less British? (Ooh, I just found out what dogging is - and if I'd known, I'm not sure I would have chosen it as a topic!)

Duck and cover

We've all seen the movies and TV programs where anyone approaching or leaving a helicopter crouches down as they walk/run, making sure they are well clear of the spinning rotor blades even if they are well above them. It's probably an instinctive natural reaction and I'm sure I did the same when I went on a helicopter ride a few years back. So you have to feel sorry for the helicopter instructor in Qld who suffered a compound skull fracture yesterday. His injuries may have been less severe had he not already removed his helmet before being caught by the slow moving (20 to 30 revolutions a minute) main blades of the helicopter he had just shut down. It does make sense that the blades, when not at full speed, would flex downwards at the ends enough to cause a serious damage.

Travel warning ...

How would you feel about a planned trip to somewhere if you read about the death of another traveller who was probably killed by a four-metre crocodile - and that this could be the second such fatal attack within weeks - and that this death happened on the same day a surfer fought off a great white shark with his bare hands.
You'd certainly want to know about this wouldn't you - which is probably why the British press is making it known that this is Australia - another name for the great Danger Down Under.
The article quotes an Australian High Commission spokeswoman in London as saying: "There are dangers wherever you go, As you travel, you always have to be careful and look for warnings and signs." These dangers include flora, fauna and nature itself – but there is hope through the suggestions offered by a local, Bob Cooper and his Survival Guide:
  • Spiders: Don't play with them, wear gloves in the garden
  • Jellyfish: Heed swimming signs, check the season
  • Sharks: Don't swim near seals or at sunset, in shark areas
  • Crocodiles: Heed signposts (or maybe they don't!!)
  • Currents: Only swim where Royal Lifeguards are on duty
  • Plants: Don't eat them
The other thing worth noting about the article was the comments. I’d copy a few of them here – but really, there are just too many good ones – the mite, the badger, the lip-stinging jellyfish, and the poor driving! But one worth repeating is: I am not going to Australia. I value my life too much. I don't want to wake up with a snake in my bed or a crocodile at my doorstep. No way. I'm sticking with Britain. Mo Ham, UK
Obviously Mo Ham had not read today’s news about how a woman revealed she came face to face with a crocodile - in a village duck pond in Cornwall. Stacey Clayton was feeding the ducks with baby daughter Alanna when she spotted what looked like a 2ft log in the water, says the Sun. Stacey, 20, said: "Then I realised it had eyes. I thought to myself: "Logs don't blink!"
"I threw a stone at it and it lifted its head and looked straight at me. I saw its tail and about a dozen teeth coming down from its jaw." Stacey fled home in St Blazey, Cornwall, and called the RSPCA. Officials think the beast may be a Cayman - a relative of the crocodile. Caymans are sometimes kept as pets and the RSPCA reckons the pond predator has escaped from its owner. Another local had reported seeing a moorhen being dragged below the surface of the pond by an unseen creature.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

More travel advisories

Guardian Unlimited (on the web) has a news quiz - and this was one of the recent questions:
US campaigners are advising British visitors to which state that they may be in danger under a law that allows gun owners to shoot anyone they feel threatens their safety?
Hands up anyone else who's going to give Florida a miss.

Travel advisories

Terror has hit the shores of Bali again. This time the death toll is lower than the 2002 bombings at the Sari Club but still many have been killed and injured. And already the criticisms of the Indonesian government and their stance on terrorism have started. I'm not sure whether this is justified or not but it seems that the Indonesian government would not knowingly encourage terrorism against its own people and against Westerners. Yes they are going to have different approaches and sensibilities and different cultural dictates but not so much that this type of violence is encouraged or fostered. Rather than finding someone to blame, perhaps it's time to look at the root cause of terrorism and try to counter it in a constructive way rather than taking point-scoring shots at foreign governments through the press.
On a positive note, it seems not everyone is determined to blame the Indonesian people for this latest atrocity. Overheard at lunch: people at the next table lamenting the plight of the Balinese people - as poor as they are, relying on tourism that now is unlikely to come their way; why should they be made to suffer?
And an interesting comment by a Chamber of Commerce representative in Kuta: if the Australian Government issues travel advisories against visiting Bali following these bombings, why didn't it issue similar advisories following the London bombings and the 9/11 attacks on New York? (Of course, this is where I take myself off to research that statement and see if it is true: just because it sounds right, doesn't necessarily mean it is - but it does sound as though it's true - doesn't it?)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Girls and Gadgets

Well, now I’ve heard it all.  Just when I thought I was different, I found this quote about someone who likes technology (as much as I do?) – and the thing that captured her interest initially was …
It is cars, not kids, that gave Ms Fitzgerald her first taste for technology. "My love of gadgets started when I bought myself a convertible and the roof went up and down," she says. Hooked ever since, her appetite for clever devices spans her work, communications and entertainment choices.
(I still have the video footage of the convertible Sooz and I hired earlier in the year – with the top going up, top going down, top going up, top going down – you get the idea!!)
To read more of Ms Fitzgerald and other women who like their technology, visit Gidget’s gadgets in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Monday, October 03, 2005

File footage

On the late news they've just given the weather forecast for Shanghai - blue skies - I don't think so!
As I walked back to the office after lunch today, and seeing clear blue skies, I thought again about how lucky we are to live in a county where the air is mostly clean and breathable, where the water is potable and where we do not have a war or internal strife raging and making death by suicide bomber or terrorist a likely daily occurrence - which could make the current "be alert not alarmed" advertising push look a little like overkill.
And could someone please explain to me why whenever anti-terrorism plans or measures are reported on television, they're accompanied by vision of balaclava'ed people abseiling from helicopters or running en masse, machine guns drawn into an obviously empty single or double storey building? Or, if it's not this, it's the same old file footage of two Muslim women, complete with burqas, walking down the street in a suburban shopping centre.
And speaking of file footage there was a piece on radio the other day talking of the live coverage of 9/11 and the now infamous footage of Muslims dancing in the streets; unfortunately this most recent report failed to note that this footage had not been filmed at the time as suggested by its appearance then - rather, it too had been file footage. This was reported then, although not widely enough and now seems to have been "lost".

Censorship?

At lunch on Friday, D (you know who you are - and this is a matter of protecting identities!) was trying out the new Pocket PC especially its ability to recognise normal handwriting rather than having to adapt to the its graffiti. This is part of what she wrote: f Id I J 1X tuck Flick ftuck.
At this point you might be able to work out what she was trying to write (I am not sure why) but she just could not get the PPC to accept it. It truly was as though PPC knew swearing was involved and it didn't wish to be involved or encourage it! By the end I was laughing so much I couldn't see properly ... but D had prevailed - she had penned the first four letter words on my pristine and now no longer "pure" machine. Then she said she was sorry she hadn't done the "C" one as well and I told her not to worry because she would - and in other versions of this story, she does!

Colour your world!

What ever happened to red or black or yellow? Just the simple colours that you knew rather than the new-fangled ones now making their appearance. Take a look at the Colorware site which offers a choice of colours and combinations for your new iPod nano which comes from the manufacturer in basic black or white. Color ware can customise year iPod to the colour/s of your choice including caution, carbon, dragon, ferrari, mystique, powder and prowler. You can go to their site and colour the virtual iPod with these or perhaps alpine or flush.

Pick up the phone?

On September 29 in 1950 - Bell Laboratories and Western Electric created the first telephone answering machine ... and look how far we've come since then. A piece in Icon in today's Sydney Morning Herald offers the services of "the Squirrel" - a "cutely intelligent robot which detects when you want to want to want to answer your phone by your body language". Its creator Stefan Marti was interested in a mix of psychology and technology - and the squirrel is a combination of the two. To find out more you can visit the cellular squirrel site. Hopefully there's a link from there to his work on the prototype - a shoulder-mounted parrot.
NB - funny the things you notice: I picked up the pic accompanying this story from the SMH site - and realised it seems they'd picked it up - and cropped it to remove the copyright material - from the Cellular Squirrel site - where, with ears and a full tail, it actually does look more like a squirrel!

More Smoot

Apparently Smoot went on to become the head of the American standards association - or so it was reported in the next Column 8 update on Friday.
And Duncan Hall , formerly of Cambridge, Massachusetts, but now ensconced in Glebe, has given us the authoritative word on Oliver R. Smoot. What started off as a college prank paid a dividend to Smoot as he was later made chairman of the board of directors of the American National Standards Institute, and later president of the International Organisation for Standardisation. Duncan refers interested readers who want to know more to The Journal of the Institute for Hacks, Tomfoolery & Pranks at MIT.

Crest-fallen

Ah, remember when families had crests? Did they also have songs? Deb and I were discussing family songs the other day although I'm not sure how!
Our family do have a family song "Running Bear" - or so I learnt at the family reunion back in 1990. I was sufficiently not curious enough to ask the history of the song, or why that particular song had been chosen. Or why our family song should be about two lovers who try to reach each other across a raging river and die trying! I'm sure copyright issues come to play here - so here's a link to the lyrics
Deb was saying that the family she knows sings its song at all major events. They'll be there and then someone will sing the starting note and everyone will join in. At first, she said, she had no idea what was going on.
I can't remember our family actually ever singing the song. Maybe it's time. We're planning an immediate family reunion just after Christmas and it's time the younger members were apprised of this particular heirloom.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Priorities

I don't mind a parade as long as it's one I want to go to and doesn't disrupt city traffic too much. So the parade for this year's winning AFL footie team didn't seem out of place - on a Friday so there would be people around to help celebrate the win! There are some though who are questioning the whole notion of the parade - and this would be the people who were denied permission to parade through the city in August to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific. They reportedly had to move their celebration to a Saturday because a Monday parade would have disrupted traffic! The letters to the editor (Daily Telegraph) about this today were less than impressed with the priorities of the decision-makers.

Smoot?

At Scrabble the other evening we talked of many things including:
(a) that many people throughout the world could be working on the same thought/idea at the one time (a bit like the notion of a universal unconsciousness) and (b) whether "smoot" is a word.
Then I read this in today's Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Apropos of nothing at all, Patrick Delahunty, an architect, wants us to know that the length of New York's Brooklyn Bridge is "364.4 smoots plus one ear". This was established in 1962 by the rolling of one Oliver R. Smoot "end-over-end along the bridge by his colleagues, one smoot being his height of 1.7 metres".

Monday, September 26, 2005

Too easy!

I have been missing the Shanghai Daily and went online to read some of the articles. At the bottom of one I found the familiar icons - to print, email or - and this was one I am not used to - blog. So, I hit the blog button and it opened a new window which contained a permalLink URL for the article PLUS the html script for linking to the article - which was wonderful, except in the first instance, the html didn't work!!:

City set to PK those who mess with lingo by Zhang Shunyi -- SOME Shanghai lawmakers think the Internet is pulling a PK on the Chinese language and fear that Mandarin will no longer shine like an MM.

(You'll have to follow the link to find out what these cryptic references mean!)

A study of credibility?

A recent Ananova article suggested that eating cheese before you go to bed can help you have a good night sleep. Well that sounds reasonable enough - but how can they be sure? Well, perhaps the British Cheese Board could commission a study? Which is what they did. Two hundred people ate cheese before bedtime for a week and 72 per cent slept well say researchers. And why was that so? Scientists say cheese contains an amino acid called tryptophan which reduces stress and aids sleep. Perhaps there's an ice cream board out there that wants to field a similar study. If so, I hope they know where to find me!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The dark side

I may have to revise my blog's intent now that I have entered the realms of "the other side" and acquired a Pocket PC (yes, I heard that very sharp intake of breath Trish and Lizzie) - but I thought it was time to see what I've been bagging! Of course, to fund this I will have to let the T5 go and I have spent this afternoon moving items between Palms and PPC to get the right files on the right machines. Not a small job! I think the most astounding thing was that I found a driver for my Palm wireless keyboard for the Pocket PC on the Palm site! (One of the pre-loaded text phrases on the PPC is "I love my Pocket PC!" We shall see.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Alcohol at Altitude

During my stay in Shanghai, I had made it a practice to have foods that people I know would have enjoyed if they were here. I had crabs for Dad, pavlova for Mum, lamb chops for Sooz, smoked salmon for June, vanilla slice for Chris, anything Chinese for Mejrem, crispy bacon for Deb, and now, on the plane, I'm having a gin and tonic for Kerry (congratulations on the screening of your documentary "Vietnam Symphony" today Kezza). I'm not sure if the G&T was my most brilliant idea because I am starting to feel a little light-headed (but that could also be because my right ear has not yet "popped - oh otitis media how irritating art thou), but more likely because the gin is dilating my blood vessels - and making nerve cells more receptive? (I don't think another G&T would help the situation. Luckily the stewards are about to go into dinner service so that should take my mind off it - and the swallowing we be good for my ear.

Elections all over

It seems there are elections all over the world this weekend - Germany, New Zealand, Afghanistan, NSW (by-elections). But what price democracy? And what determines if a nation is democratic? Is there any way that a country can be fast-tracked into democracy or is there a set of conditions which need to be in place - optimal breeding conditions. I ask this because there was an interesting piece in one of the Shanghai dailies - which had been syndicated from a European outlet. It suggested that democracy was tried to the economy - and the more stable an economy, the more likelihood that democracy, if it didn't exist, would take root there. They weren't saying that people had to be affluent but certainly the majority of people have to be aware of where their next paycheck was coming from.

Whistle stop tourism ...

... 0r it felt like that.
I spent Saturday in Shanghai doing tourist thingsl I started out with my card from the hotel - with most of the major tourist locations printed in both English and Chinese - for taxi drivers. Because it also had a tick-box near each name it looked a bit like a "to do" list.
I managed to get to the Yuan Gardens, Old Street, Jade Buddha Temple, Jinmao Tower (tallest hotel in Asia), Pearl Oriental Tower (tallest communications tower in Asia), the Bund (again), Nanjing Street (again) and ... well, I can't remember, but it certainly feels as though I visted more places than that. And, of course, there was the launch of Shanghai Tourism Festival in the amphitheatre across the street. I didn't have to go to enjoy the music - there was no problem hearing it - and it may have been because of this that the hotel left a basket of fresh fruit and chocolates in my room (and probably everybody else's - unless they give it to you on the occasion of your 8th consecutive night!) In any case it was greatly appreciated, especially as I arrived back from my first sightseeing jaunt absolutely famished!
I wasn't the only one out and about yesterday - although I was the first one into the Yuan Gardens via one entrance (not the main one). This was very fortunate as it meant I had half of the gardens virtually to myself until I met the first of the tour groups in the middle. Not that there aren't enough nooks and crannies (there are certainly those) to be in and enjoy the solitude that only thousands of years can bring. One of the most amazing things about it was the places, especially coming down old stairs, where you reached to steady yourself, and the rock was smooth - from countless others having done the same thing over the centuries. Truly left me with a feeling of awe and of being one with history.
Being one with modernity was achieved through the tallest buildings. I decided to go up in the Black Pearl - and it is amazing, not least of all because there are 3 viewing levels (each with different pricing attached) - 90m, 263m and 350m. I was okay most of the time while I was up there, but just once or twice, I was overtaken by the "what if" scenario - certainly not helped by having to go through security screening before entering the tower. I don't know, but security screening doesn't put me at ease - is it supposed to? But even worst was trying to figure out how to get back to terra firma. (I don't think the tower swayed.) While it's only one lift up to 263m, you need to take two to get back down - you need to change at 90m.
It was at 350m that I glimpsed an understanding of how absolutely mind-bogglingly huge Shanghai is. High-rise apartments stretch for as far as the eye can see in every direction. Unfortunately 12 (camera) can't see through the smog as effectively as the human eye so it's impossible to show just how big in the photos, but it gives an inkling.
Jade Buddha Temple was amazing. There are a number of Buddhas in residence there - most of them on the ground floor, accessible, and able to be photographed. The more special ones there are Reclining Buddha (and talk about repose - is this where the term comes from?) and the Jade Buddha. The Jade Buddha costs an extra 10 Yuan to see and you have to climb four sets of stairs, but it is worth it. Alas, no photographs allowed, and I can't do it justice - so if you're ever in Shanghai pop along to see the temple (10 Yuan admission) and the various Buddhas. Not sure what the significance of it was, but when I was there, the trees and woodwork of the temple were festooned with red papers. It was only when I looked at the photographs last night that I realised it makes it look as though they are ablaze (as opposed to the incense sticks used in worshiping at the temple). The only thing I missed at the temple was monks. At one point I felt I was stalking them, trying to get at least one decent monk shot (as in photograph) but not to be! I did get one blurry one at the long end of the lens (very stalkerish) so that better not see the light of day!
This morning I finished off my souvenir and gift shopping. There is no truth to the rumour that I spent some time in the local convenience store looking for likely items (that was for a lock for my extra bag ... all the better to carry home pressies in - including the new tripod for moi!)