Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Timetables or ...

... "check, check and check again". I planned to catch the early bus to work yesterday morning so I could do some prep work for a first-up meeting. It was a good plan but one which would have worked better had I thought to check the new bus timetable - which changed at the start of the week. I had somehow decided if our usual bus hadn't changed, neither would the earlier one. Wrong. I can't even blame it on lack of a timetable - I'd printed one from the web (and gave it to Beatrice at the bus stop) and secured two from the bus information and ticket kiosk in the city (l'd asked for 5 - one each for Sooz and I, one for the office, one for Beatrice and a spare but he refused to hand them over - fear someone else might want the new timetable!). No, it was my own fault for assuming - and we all know what they say about that (something about asses, isn't it?).

Tunnel trouble?

News services last week carried the story of Federal agents shutting down an elaborate, 360-foot drug-smuggling tunnel found underneath the U.S.-Canadian border. It apparently went from a lounge room to a warehouse and had been well-built. A tape with tunnel-digging-covering-sound effects (a car repair shop) was also found.
I guess because Australia only has sea borders - being an island, and all states being part of the one country - I'd never considered the difficulties of land-based smuggling (nor sea-based - just to keep the record straight!) There's probably a limit to what you can smuggle in and out of a lounge room - as opposed to a garage.
There was no indication in the reports that anything had been smuggled, or what they thought would be smuggled - but fr that sized investment it was probably going to be good (or bad!)

Google Earth

What will those marvellous people at Google think of next? If you visit this link you'll find their newest fare - earth. It's worth a visit - so said a rather comprehensive article on it in the Connect liftout of this morning's The Daily Telegraph (Sydney). Still not convinced? It uses "satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world's geographic information at your fingertips (once again it works best in the US)". Oh ... and there's a software download involved - but it's free.
See you ... I'm off to Shanghai!

Daily Almanac July 26

1933 - Nazi Germany passed a law, requiring sterilization of idiots, schizophrenics, epileptics, or people suffering from depression, chorea, or any hereditarial weakness.
(Chorea = any of several degenerative nervous disorders characterized by spasmodic movements of the body and limbs. Def: SlovoEd 4.13 ex Paragon Software)

How much news in your news?

How do you take your news - radio, television, newspaper, net? Leaving out those who answered "not at all" - how much detail do you like in your news? I use a service called Avantgo which downloads web content onto my Palm. Most of the sites are for news (ok I also get some jokes and movie info). This is a fantastic service but for me it's not 100% reliable. So I've been trying out another way of collecting web content - XML/RSS (really simple syndication) off the net - and it's not bad except it basically doesn't provide all the news story - usually it's a precis and link to the story detail. But I really like the detail. I'm in the middle of the Quick News software trial at the moment so I have 2 weeks of free use yet I'll have to decide between number of feeds (limited with non-paid version of Avantgo) or depth of detail! (Decisions, decisions!)

Are we ready?

I worry about Sydney's level of readiness should a terrorist attack ever take place. This particular concern follows last Friday's parade for Women in Policing which closed down George Street in the CBD. I left the office just after noon to collect Sooz - I wanted to be at the Day Surgery Centre at 1.15pm to collect her. The bus ride takes 15 minutes (tops) and I figured I might have to wait for the bus - so no problem. Not a chance. If there was publicity about the Parade and road closure and alternate bus routes - I wasn't the only one who missed them! The CBD was a mess for people and transport. And - my point is - the authorities knew about this and hopefully had put some planning in place for it - so why was it such a shambles? And if this is what happens for a known event - what's going to happen if it's something more sinister (and I sincerely hope it never is!)?

Butterfly Effect

I watched "Butterfly Effect" on DVD the other afternoon and was pleasantly surprised. I had been trying to catch up with it for ages but seemed to always pick something else from the shelf. I had no idea what it was about - I'd just heard that it was fairly good - and that Demi Moore's current squeeze was in it (not sure if he was; not enough up on the Hollywood scene). It was good, even though it took a while to work out what was going on (a plus) and it seemed to have a major plot inconsistency (why didn't Jason take a more proactive role - ah, I think I see it now! - oops, no I don't! Raises more questions than it answers.)

Princess Lisa

If you're ever in the mood for a fantastic lunch and you're in the Sydney CBD, wander along to The Lobby Cafe in Castlereagh Street (near King - across the road from the MLC Centre) and introduce yourself to Lisa (pictured) and Charlotte. They're good fun - and the food, coffee, atmosphere are great. Go along, have a good time - and Lisa will (hopefully) wear the tiara - because they always treat you like royalty!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Burglar alarm

I enjoy a flick through electronics stores brochures because you never know what new and exciting things you might stumble across. But it can also pose questions like "why on earth would you have a photograph of a Dummy Home Alarm Kit - showing the unit and warning sticker emblazoned with the name of the system.' Isn't this slightly counterproductive - advertising that thusly branded alarms are fakes - and may as well carry the wording "break in here".
The other item I noticed has a DVD recorder which records up to four channels at once, making it a great candidate for security surveillance with multiple feeds. Guess this could mean the end of surveillance "tapes". How will footage be passed to police or other security forces?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Harry Potter Hard Ball

The decision has been taken that Harry Potter 6 (& The Half-Blood Prince) will not be published electronically. However, that hasn't stopped a group from putting a pirate copy on the web. There's probably a few sites from where it can be downloaded - but I wasn't about to find them yesterday when I had a quick look. I suppose there may be a better way than googling "harry potter pirate download" - which was one of the many options I tried. I did finally manage to find links to what looked like the sites, but I was a little concerned about going there fear it lead to a virus breeding ground, or be a place for contracting other computer nasties.
Besides, I'm more than happy to pay J.K.Rowling and her publishers for an electronic copy. This is how I read these days. And it's how a lot of other people read. If you check with Fictionwise, you'll find I'm a paying customer; happy to part with my money to keep writers writing (please be as kind when you see one of my works available for money - heh heh).
So why isn't Harry Potter 6 available as an ebook? I suggested to Sooz that it might be because J.K.Rowling wants people to know that other people are reading her book too! Which led me to thinking - wouldn't it be good if you could get the latest novels as an ebook either electronically or on disk at the local bookstore - and it came with a little sticker or something you could wear or pop on your electronic book reader - letting people know what you're reading! It might also be a way of converting more people to ebooks as a reading medium! Yes, there will always be people who want to read "books" - I do it if there's not an e-version available - but one day there may not be enough trees to go around - and wouldn't it be nice if we never reached that day! (Which is to say "wouldn't it be nice if we could hang on to the trees" - rather than, "wouldn't it be nice if we ourselves physcially in a living breathing sense didn't reach the day when there were no trees left" - and by "hang on to" I obviously meant "retain" rather than "swing from"). [Love that English language.]

Blogging Notes

When I am away from the computer, I have no trouble thinking of things to put on my "blog". In fact, I'm often doing something or talking with someone and think "that would be good for my blog; I must remember that" - but do I? When I sit down at the computer, does that thought come back in any way at all. No. It does not. I know I could carry around a notebook and write these things down - afterall, what is the Palm for - but I know I think "no problems, I'll remember that" but I never do. (Except for just then - my Harry Potter thought just slid back into my brain...)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Reading between the lines

It's fairly easy to come up with all sorts of ideas - given some time and different news sources!
I posit that the US is considering re introducing the draft to boost its flagging troop numbers.
An indendent consultancy, on behalf of the US Government, is compiling a database of eligible young people. This is ostensibly to ailow targetted marketing by recruiters.
The enlistment numbers in the US continue to drop - not meeting the quotas for several months - even though the quotas have been dropped.
The dangers faced by American troops in Iraq have been exaggerated, adding to the difficulty of recruiting soldiers at home, the Army general in charge of National Guard forces said recently in a Yahoo news report.
The most recent figures I've seen are more than 1700 dead and more than 17000 injured.
The Coalition of the Willing seem determined to occupy Iraq until the job is done (whatever that job might be!).
So where will the troops come from - especially if they're not signing up now with a $90,000 incentive package on offer? If they can't con them into it with big dollars - they may have to think about conscripting them!
Hopefully I'm misreading the signs!

Mobiles for kids

There's a section in the Sydney Morning Herald on a Saturday - Icon - which has the latest on technology. Yesterday it carried a small item on "Paradise Kidz Mobile Fones" - a chocolate biscuit shaped like a mobile phone. And there's a website where you can find out more about them!


I looked out the window of the flat this morning and noticed that the washing line was full of clothes. And in that instant I knew that even if we hadn't already met our new neighhbours, Heidi and Jean, we would know two things about them from their washing. All the adult clothes on the line were black with or without skulls, and there were teeny tiny pink baby clothes! That's right, the new neighbours, Heidi and Jean, are Goths, and they have a baby! I shudder to think what people could know about us from our washing!


Well, you know when it's the beginning of the trend when a Gloria Jean's opens in the main street of your suburb. Up until now we've had cafes and restaurants and we've had a GJs in the Marrickville Metro - but you'd expect that - but never had I even countenanced that we would have a GJs in the main drag! What are they thinking? Well, obviously they're trying to catch a new demographic that we suspected was moving into the area. And, as a homeowner, you hope that people will move into the area and keepty help push the real estate values up - but we'd been hoping that would happen and Marrickville would still retain it's cosmopolitan little-bit-of-everything feel for a while yet.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Search Engines

When I was looking for a pic of the cell phone gun, I turned to my search engine of choice - Google - to see if I could find a news item on it, or a web item. I was absolutely flabbergasted when I did not get a result for this or any combinations on Google. I tried for "gun" - nothing; "rifle" nothing. Hmmm, I thought, perhaps this is a deliberate policy on their behalf. I also thought, hmmm, perhaps I shouldn't be publicising the cell phone gun - but hoped nobody who read this blog would have a use for such things anyway!
So, having decided I would include it, I went to Yahoo to see what they had anything on offer - and I had no trouble finding information there.
Even stranger is that I've just been back to Google to see if I could replicate the "no result" - and I can't. Maybe their search engines were momentarily busy searching for other people or perhaps that would better be put as searching on behalf of other people. [But wouldn't it be amazing if you were able to use a program like Google to find anyone in the world - based on their profile, likely location etc. etc. - ooops, better not give anyone too many ideas!)

More cell phone news

Bet Disney won't be putting out a version of the cell phone currently doing the rounds in some countries - they're actually guns. This is obviously a bit of a worry for law enforcement officers, and could explain why you're asked to show your cell phone at airports in the future. I was amazed to learn about them - and to find that there is also a stun gun version.

Rats! ...

Why didn't I think of that? Apparently Disney is about to start pitching a mobile phone plan in the US - targetted at families with children as young as 8. It's a great way to expand a market where other demographics must fast be approaching saturation point! I wonder if the plan will feature character phones? Will it offer surveillance features? We'll have to wait until next year to find out.

Grave concerns

Sarah Michelle Geller (she's the one standing!), possibly better known to some as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has such a phobia of real graveyards that producers had to build a fake one to film the second series (Peter Trute, Daily Telegraph, 8 July 2005). You know, I'd never for a moment questioned whether the cemetery on the show could be real. I guess I'd just assumed it was a set! Now I know it wasn't, at least for the first season, I feel slightly uneasy - and I'm not exactly sure why. It may have something to do with my own fear of graveyards- (wouldn't catch me dead in one after dark) or that somehow it's slightly distasteful to film in one as they ought to be sombre, respectful places - not quite the same as having back-flipping rowdiness and dusting of vampires as well as the whole movie-making entourage! Hopefully you're not going to get the latter without the former!

More Sudoku

I am still enjoying Sudoku even though I am sure I am not even close to pronouncing it properly! I had been playing it on Palm but that was slightly unsatisfactory - you couldn't do "pencil marks" when figuring out what numbers might work in a particular space - and it would show only the numbers that could fit in a space, rather than all 9. While this could be seen as an (unfair) advantage it made it harder for (give me no hints) me! I could only click on a box when I was positive what went there. But the great news is that there's been an update of the Sudoku for Palm program. You can now do "pencil marks" which allows you to have multiple numbers in a space while you're in the throes of your figurings - and you can opt to see all digits not just "valid digits". I feel less like a person who might inadvertently cheat now!
Of course the other thing is that there is also a Hong Kong connection - I received an email from Sooz's brother about a retired judge, Wayne Gould, there who wrote a computer program that produces Sudoku puzzles. He's just been featured in the Hong Kong Standard.


I've become accustomed to checking my email as soon as I arrive in the office and I've finally worked out why. Being a multinational, at any time of the day someone, somewhere in the world is doing our company's business. This means big-ticket items, requests, even information you've asked for can arrive overnight as well as during business hours. This isn't necessarily a fabulous advantage - the biggest, most time-consuming requests are often delivered in the wee small hours of the morning. This is why I make a bee-line to my email box in the mornings - to see what's lurking there!

A thousand words

Sooz's brother recently visited us and in his travels here did some window shopping - including taking photos of items he liked. This has come in fairly handy as he's sent some of them down by email as a shopping list! When I rocked up to the store this evening, with photos of T-shirts in hand (well, on Palm) to make the purchase on his behalf, the woman serving me mentioned I was the first person they'd in the store "shopping by photo"! It was a great way to do it - I don't know how long it would have taken to find T-s with the required pattern/s without the pics.


I don't know why some researchers don't just ask me sometimes. I was reading last week that Bristol University has carried out research to see if birds prefer to do their droppings on white or darker-coloured cars. It took Charles West and his 40 helpers to conclude that which most of us have known for a good while - birds leave droppings on vehicles. Full stop. But apparently 2000 vehicles don't lie - if you don't want to clean it as often go for a navy blue to black car - because according to bird expert Dr Derek Toomer birds do respond to colour ... and they associate the colour white with predators and "bomb" them.


Before I put on the DVD to accompany my exercise bike riding this morning, I chanced upon a program called "Life". I think it's one of those ministry-type programs because they were talking about a Summer of Sermons - that wasn't exactly it, but that was what I remember. We at home could help with the ministry by donating a dollar for each day - $94. Now I'm not quite sure how that works because I thought Summer was three months, making it 93 days tops but that's another issue. I couldn't help but notice this statement scrolling across the screen during the program: The figures shown in this program are in $US. Please allow for conversion when making your offering. Again that probably isn't the exact wording, but you get the gist! Conversion indeed.


We trooped along last weekend to see Steven Spielberg's latest offering - War of The Worlds (TW2). And I have to say, it's amazing that in this one he gets to do it all - Alien, Titanic, Independence Day, Godzilla, Lost - and more.
I can't remember the original TW2 in great detail (accuracy?), but I recall it as more subtle, less violent and certainly less graphic. And I'm not sure if it was as colourful - although probably when I saw it, it would have been on black & white television (I said it had been a while!) I kept looking for parallels between TW2 and Schlinder's List -especially the use of colour. Was it intentional that the girls in both wore red - or in this instance, has it more to do with where the attackers may have come from - perhaps some place far away and red?
I'm going to have to give the original another look to see how the new one differs - and to see how the message about the invaders may have changed. Some of the reviews for the new version suggest it borrows terrorism imagery and there certainly is a shot of people running and ash - reminiscent of the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers. In this case though, the ash is ... well, you might have to refer to another movie (Soylent Green) for the answer to that one.
I'm not sure I would recommend TW2. Even though it's technically proficient and the acting is adequate, I'm not sure that it has anything new to say. The theme of America being attacked is not new - it just seems that there's different attackers - and given the number of allegorical films there have been, you think there might be already be a modicom of recognition that theirs is not an unassailable nation. But perhaps that's one of the messages here. American is not brought to its knees by the random acts of terrorists - some isolated sleeper cells; no, it can only be brought to its knees - and it's not even close to that - by hordes of destructive, shield-protected technologically-superior tripodal robot-machines which, incidentally, seem to power themselves from the blood of humans (but that's another story). And of course, it's made worse by the use of electro-magnetic-pulse technology against humanity - what chance is there if mankind can't get cars started, or use the telephone system, or keep food in the refrigerator, or can't turn the lights on?
In retrospect, I give TW2 a rating of 6 out of 10.


What motivates people and how they react to others. This question was raised by the reaction by some in Australia to the Schapelle Corby verdict - "guilty" and a sentence of 20 years. Some want their donations to the Tsunami appeal returned; others refuse to give to the Salvation Army's Winter Appeal because the Salvos made help available to Indonesia post-Tsunami - and forget for a moment that those on the receiving end for the Appeal will be here in Australia.
All of a sudden, with that one decision, any goodwill to our Indonesian neighbours has evaporated and some younger people feel so strongly negative towards Indonesia that they are reportedly planning to boycott Bali. So much for forging stronger ties between our countries.
Is Schapelle Corby guilty? Maybe but only she knows and while revelations about baggage handlers may have supplied more than a "reasonable doubt" in most people's opinion, this wasn't the case in the court where she was being tried.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

MP3 player

Comsol in Australia has released a card reader which doubles as an MP3 player. It's reasonably priced at $60 (give or take a few cents) and if you've got a spare SD or MM card lying around, it works out as a very cheap way of getting a AAA-battery powered MP3 player. Most of the MP3 players around at the cheaper end of the market seem to require recharging from a USB-port, and if you don't have a tower computer, they can be a little difficult to keep powered up - especially if you like using them. The Comsol unit works well for just simple playing. It doesn't have a on-board screen display, shuffle, or anything fancy, but you can play and skip through MP3 files on a card. I'm using mine for MP3 downloads from ABC Radio's Late Night Live and Life Matters at the moment - but I'm also thinking about using a larger card and carrying some of my favourite music too.

Post Office Ad

Put the deposit downSaw this in an Australia Post store a few weeks back - I'm not sure what it was advertising but the thing that caught my attention was the 3rd last line which said "Put the deposit down for June and Bill's holiday" - how nice of them I thought, and then I realised that they couldn't possibly really mean that they'd done this for Sooz's parents! Pity that. But they do say it's the thought that counts, don't they?

Park Critter

Park critterWe took our coffees down into Steel Park in Marrickville to have a bit of a sit in the sun and a little soak up of nature - and believe it or not we found a critter. And what a friendly little critter it was too. We had to tell it that although it was nice to visit, we couldn't stay - and we certainly couldn't let it come home with us. We're fairly sure it wouldn't have wanted to come home with us anyway - it looks well-fed and well-cared for and we figured it probably lives in one of the houses across the road from the park.

New doovers

Found a new shop the other day - Florentine - in the QVB building, in the Sydney CBD. It has wonderful things in it - like this leather-bound journal (which should work nicely as a travel journal for friends on their way to Malta!). I'm back off there this week to have a more detailed look. I have a feeling it's going to be a favourite.
Also in the picture - my new Maxwell Williams mug - of which I have two, one for work, one for home. Keeps my Milo or hot chocolate deliciously hot until the very last drop.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Now with photos ...

Rainbow over Sydney CBDLooks like is now offering the same service as MSN - easy uploading of pics into blogs - EXCEPT IT'S MUCH BETTER. Last time I visited MSN (which also offers a blogging service), you could post pics but you could only append them at the end. It didn't give you the option of placing them with wrap-around text. Well done Blogger folk - and thanks - because I won't have to remember the HTML to post images anymore! And thanks Lizzie for the tip on this new functionality! (This is a photo from one of our office windows of a spectacular rainbow over the Sydney CBD late last week. It has been followed up by rain - lots of it - which is funny, because I thought it worked the other way ... rain - rainbow.)