Saturday, May 28, 2005

Towel Day

Used to be that 25 May was Towel Day - as in Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (H2G2) and that a towel is a very useful thing for any intergalactic traveller to have. 'Used to be' because I didn't see one towel-carrying person (besides me in reflections in store windows) in the Sydney CBD! Hopefully there was more of a show of H2G2 support elsewhere.
But at least something came of it - in looking up the H2G2 (I get confused with the acronym) I came across the h2g2 project. According to part of the Wikipedia entry : h2g2 was founded in April 1999 as the Earth edition of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by the author of the series, Douglas Adams, and his friends and colleagues at The Digital Village. "h2g2" serves as a handy abbreviation for that rather lengthy title, with the advantage that most people are able to spell it.

A touch on typing

Drawing a blankJust when you thought they had come up with everything ... Here's the Das Keyboard - just like a regular 104 key-board, but with one little difference - there's nothing printed on the keys. Metadot Corp had a clear target market in mind when developing Das: : "A keyboard with no inscriptions on the keys was obviously only for a certain type of geek, not just normal ones, only those who are above the pack: the ├╝bergeeks." It costs $US79.95 and is available from www.daskeyboard.com. If you go to the site, note the illustration of the Windows Menu Key. My favourite though was one of the endorsements: "At first I was intrigued, but when I started using it two things happened: it was a joy to type and my colleagues looked at me like I was a superhero! I would not go back to a normal keyboard now." -- Philippe H
On the more practical side, the Das people claim that using the keyboard could help you type up to 100% faster in a few weeks. Theory is since you can't tell what the keys are by looking, you'll memorize their positions - and type faster. Wish they'd had that at school in my day when I was learning typing - we had to do with the low tech version - with a bib tied around our neck - and fastened to the top of the manual typewriter so all you looked down on was the cloth - and you couldn't see the keys. The incentive to get it right was great - cause those were the days you were working on your original with three carbons behind - and those funny little rub-out pencils that could put a hole in the paper if you weren't careful. Ah, progress!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Latest craze

Sudoku has arrived in Australia - and within moments I was addicted! Even though it appears to be a numbers puzzle - and that it should require some considerable skill in mathematics -it's really a logic puzzle. Of course it helps if you can count from 1 to 9. The pic shows a Sudoku grid - and your role as a puzzler is to complete it using numbers inclusive of 1 to 9 only once in each row, column and square. This one was billed as "easy" but I suspect that description works only if you're familiar with the Suduku "slice and dice" methodology and can work the logic. There are sites that explain in great detail how to play - and you'll find them easily with a Google or Yahoo search - or you might just want to plunge right in. It's not hard - and you know the principle - 1-9 in each row, column and square. But be warned ... Sudoku is addictive ... and when you can get the Palm/PDA or PC (not sure about Macs) version you'll notice time simply evaporates (what do you mean it's already May?)!

Bye Hannah (aka Pumpie)

Hannah loved a holeIn my recent post about Billi, I mentioned she was one of the nicest dogs we know. The other was Hannah who last week developed an auto immune problem which stopped her body creating platelets which clot blood. After 10 days in intensive care, where the vet staff did everything they could for her – including transfusions of live platelets from dogs owned by their staff – she was not improving. While she wasn’t in pain, she was very weak and losing a lot of blood. Last night Lyndall, with the support of her partner, and their vet, conceded the miracle they hoped for was not materializing and made the decision to let Hannah go – thus ending as Lyndall put it in her email advising Hannah's passing “the 14 year walk with my (our) mate”. She will be missed.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Fire Safety Aid

Safe evacuationAn email went around the office the other day telling about a safety device called the Evacu-8.It is a fire-retardant hood and breathing appartus which gives the user an extra 15 minutes of breathing air in case of fire that fills the room with smoke.
It's a great idea but I'm not sure how I would go using one. With a lifetime behind me of people saying not to put a plastic bag over your head - here is something which is designed to have you do just that - and secure it tightly with the provided ties. Freakier still would be breathing through your mouth - to take advantage of the charcoal filter in the apparatus. "Don't panic" would be very sound advice in this situation.
The Evacu-8 site also mentions that if you use the device, return it, and provide a testimonial letter - they'll send another free of charge. Can't get a better deal than that.

Good news and bad news

Which first? Well ... Billi's prognosis is good - it seems the specialist was able to successfully excise the four growths (there was one they hadn't previously detected in her spleen - so they've whipped that out as well) and it looks like they've gotten it early enough for the prognosis to be good. She was home the day after her surgery (seems they thought she'd be a better patient in familiar territory with familiar people around her).
News isn't so good for her owner though. Her tests revealed cancer, and for someone who thought she knew what the problem was, this was a huge shock. They're in the middle of exploratory scans etc at the moment to find out if, how far and where it may have spread. Not good. You know it's serious when the doctor can get you to see the oncology specialist who has a year's waiting list within a couple of hours.
I can't imagine what's worse - finding out about it - or waiting to find out how bad it is.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Only temporary

Thank goodness some things in life are only temporary. Sooz is currently on assignment at a pathology lab and it would be fair to say it is a pain in the neck. Literally - thanks to a lack of focus on things ergonomic. Just goes to show some companies aren't as diligent as they could be about their people - and that it doesn't take a long time for the effects of muscle misuse to set in. At least Sooz is using a copy stand now and has some stretching exercises to keep her a bit more flexed. The good news is that she's on to it early - and the assignment has only another 4 weeks to run - hopefully she'll come right fairly soon after that (helped by sitting in the dark for two weeks of the Sydney Film Festival).

Billi update

Billi is at a specialist in Brisbane. The consult today revealed a mass near her bottom - and secondaries under her spine. They're operating tomorrow and it will be major surgery - and there's a lab on site so they'll be able to do biopsies and blood tests straight away so they can do what they need to. They'll also be doing a chest x-ray to make sure her lungs are clear. She'll be in intensive care for three days post-surgery, the first 24 hours with a personal attendant. Then, all going well, after ten days she'll front up for the first of five chemotherapy sessions. Apparently chemotherapy for animals is not as disruptive as it is for humans but because Billi is not a dog who handles easily, she will need to be anaesthetised for each chemo treatment.
But we're quietly trying not to worry about her - which is only slightly easier because we have so many wonderful memories and pictures of Billi - and because they have found the problem before it started affecting her health. Usually, said the specialist, dogs don't present until they are definitely not well - and that makes treatment much harder.

Flemington Markets

We were at Flemington Markets at 6.15am last Saturday morning - ditto a whole lot of other people. It is truly a wonderful way to start the weekend - although part of me wishes that we didn't have to get up at 5am for the privilege. But it's fun to be out there with the forklifts and the barrows and the fruit and the vegetables - and did I mention there are a lot of people there as well?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Exploring

If you've got a spare moment or two, you might want to go on a little virtual explore of other people's lives and thoughts. Up the top of this blog - above the Musings title bar, you'll find the Blogger bar. On the far right is the NEXT BLOG>> button. Select that and go for a little wander and see where you end up - but be careful because you never know what you might find (I really wasn't really for the picture of placenta as I ate my raisin toast!!). I'm not sure how blogger organises it, but it seems that each time I go for the NEXT BLOG option, it always takes me somewhere else. The next one this morning was PROMINFO - which just had no text - just links from the headings of each blog item which took you to a site for Prom Dresses (oh - so that was actually headed Prom-Info). The one after that was for Options Trading Information. Now, tell me that that kind of mix isn't going to keep one's mind active!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Billi

Billi is one of the nicest dogs we know, so spare a thought for her while she's at the vet having a suspected growth checked out. Hopefully it will be a "it's nothing - get out of here" scenario - but if not, then ... well it's not going to be very nice.
Spare a thought also for one of her owners. She's due in for a "procedure" this week too. Hopefully both of them will get the all clear.

Podcasting

ABC Radio has started a podcasting trial - making some programs (or parts of them) available for download and playing on your computer or digital audio player. I'm fairly new to this myself, but with the help of a program called ipodder, it's possible to set the web addresses for programs you want to download - and to have the program automatically go off to get any updates. It's worth a look - or would that be "listen" - not just for local Australian content - but because there's a whole world of listening out!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sydney

Gotta love it! This is Sydney - well, one street in Sydney as photographed last Monday morning, just as a heavy blanket of fog was lifting from the city. The photograph looks south, along York Street, towards Sydney Town Hall. To the left is the Queen Victoria Building - and to the right, although you can't see them here, are a bevy of electronic stores including JayCar Electronics (which recently sold me the transmitters and receivers to allow the beaming of wireless television signal throughout our flat).

Collectors items?

I noticed an ad in today's Daily Telegraph for a new $2 "instant scratchies". It's the Star Wars $100,000 and we're encouraged to COLLECT ALL 8 TICKETS IN THE SERIES. But if you're a collector, you're not going to want to scratch the prize panels are you - because that would destroy the reason you bought the collector's series in the first place! And, it seems that you'd have to scratch the games to have any chance of winning. So does this mean the "instant scratchies" people have found a way of increasing their odds of not paying out the "big one"? No scratch-scratchies?

Choices

If you were walking along and 3 fire engines came barrelling past, and pulled up a block down the street, and were soon joined by another 5 engines - would you stay to see what the commotion was about - especially if there was no obvious reason for their presence - or would you walk away as fast as you could? That was the situation Sooz and I found ourselves in the other night. Before I could even think about whipping out my camera though, Sooz was powering away and some good distance in front - and she wasn't about to slow down until we were well away from the area - and out of any possible harm's way. It's something for me to remember if it happens when Sooz isn't there to drag me away ... sometimes it's safer to "run" away.

Bits or Bytes

Stumbled across an interesting notion the other day regarding download speeds and how they are described. When I chose my wireless broadband plan it was based on a 1Mbps download rate - which is pretty fast, but not as fast as I'd thought - because it isn't 1MBps (note the change in capitals) - which would mean 1MegaByte per second; rather, it's 1MegaBit. There are 8 Mbps to 1 MBps or, in real terms the best speed I'd ever be able to achieve in downloads is 125kb a second (which I think is a pipedream because I'm sure there are a whole lot of factors besides the download speed of your provider which come into play!). However, I've reached 45kb/s yesterday - and when you're used to 3kb/s on dial-up it's blazingly fast!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Gadget Grrl

I think I have just found a new hobby - well, a way of playing around with my existing interests. I am going to call myself "GADGET GRRL" and offer assistance to people who don't have time to read instructions for their new purchases. I can provide the "five easy steps" - or "what you really need to know". That way I can play with the latest technology without having to buy it! Now, if I can just get me an interested new i-pod owner! (That means you Lizzie!)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Wireless

No, not wireless as in radio - but wireless as in no wires broadband. I have finally decided to give it a go and have signed up with a group called Independent Service Providers (ISP for short). It took a minute to get the system up and running - after a false start which was PEBCAK - but it's working like a charm now. Just like a store bought one. It works in the office, and at home - but will it work at my morning cafe? Stay tuned.

That's service

Following on in my quest for a replacement pair of sunglass clip-ons for my current frames, I wandered into the Optical Superstore in the Sydney CBD and gave them the "story so far". Even though I explained that my health care fund had already been in contact with the frame suppliers, they said they'd give it a go anyway - and what do you know? - yes, the supplier could get another set of sunny clip-ons; they'd have to import them but they'd be in three weeks. Well, of course I ordered them there on the spot - and resolved that the next lot of frames I need would be coming from the Optical Superstore. If they give my this kind of service for frames I didn't get there - imagine what after sales service they'll give me on a pair I do!

Big Brother

Well, it's that time of year again - when they lock a group of complete strangers (and they may or may not really prove to be strange over the coming weeks) in a house at the DreamWorld theme park on Queensland's Gold Coast. I can't believe I am actually watching the starting show on television - especially as I have told myself many times over since it ended last year that I am not going to get caught up with it again. Of course, at this point, I am just saying that this has to be better than watching "Sixty Minutes".

Pieces of Art

Today we went to the Art Gallery of NSW with Annie, a mate who's out from Scotland. (Her Mum is fairly ill and Annie wants to be here rather than half way around the world.) The Archibald and Sulman have recently been judged and entrants are currently being shown. There is some amazing work on display - but I found I had really only one comment: why is it that artists who choose to do a self portrait feel they need to do it of themselves in the nude? Annie suggested it might have something to do with the outward looking nature of artists generally - their willingness to "exhibit". I guess that makes sense.
As well as the Prize exhibits, we also went for a walk through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gallery - and there was some wonderful work in here as well. It's interesting to see the way that aboriginal art seems to have been influenced by non-aboriginal artists. The "Fruit Bats" is amazing and I'm sorry that the piece is only available as a "poster" - although it will look wonderful on the wall of my office!
I am always amazed by how many ideas are floating around "out there" and how it is that artists come to record them - through a variety of media. It's also amazing how people have different reactions to the same pieces - I guess art appreciation is based on many things - including one overheard comment "there's lots of stupid stuff here".

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A great reception

When we moved into our flat last year (is it really 5 months?) we arranged the dining/living room according to how the furniture fitted. This meant we couldn't use the wall jack (with the external antenna feed) for the television. And that was okay. We were used to not brilliant reception. But today, well, today we bought a 7.5m lead so we could try the jack and see if there was an improvement. Improvement is an understatement. For the first time in years (including the time we spent at our last place) we can channel surf and get good reception on every channel without having to adjust the rabbit ears this way or that. It means there is a chance we will be able to tape programs on different channels without having to worry about the best compromise on different channels - because the rabbit ears settings were different for all channels. We are on "cloud 9" - and still getting used to it - everytime I look up at the set I am amazed at the clarity of the image. Now we just have to work out a way of making this all work without metres of lead everywhere. I think I feel some wireless technology coming on.

Community action

BP Australia has introduced Opal Petrol - a very low aromatic petrol blend which has been designed to reduce the incidence of petrol sniffing, a very real issue in remote communities. The company is working with local communities on a number of initiatives to educate & increase confidence, especially of children.

On your bike!

They say some things are like riding a bike - you don't forget - but what if you did? Would you, in your non-childhood years, approach a bicycle with a masterful gaze and be prepared to give it a go? Or would the thought of precariously balancing on two wheels as you ride along on rough bitumen, and being unsure of how to stop safely, put you off (so to speak). Purdue University USA might have something to help - bearing in mind it was developed to help with the initial bike riding learning process.
They have invented a combination tricycle and bicycle called “Shift”. The faster you go, the more bicycle it becomes, but if you lose confidence and slow down you won’t fall off, because it becomes a tricycle. The design features a single front wheel and two slim rear wheels that are initially splayed outward to stabilize and prevent the rider from toppling over. As the rider accelerates and leans forward, the rear wheels shift inward, narrowing into a single wheel surface that essentially makes it a two-wheel venture. Go on - on your bike!

Problem quotes

There are so many idiosyncrasies one has to be on the watch out for when blogging. With that last post I almost went spare trying to get the link to work. I have been trying to memorise the code for linking to another web page – to save looking it up each time – and thought I had it – but no matter what I did, it wouldn’t work. Then I realized that the “marks” looked different – and sure enough, if they’re not in a compatible format – all bets are off. (And I still don't know why the "Comments" option is still not showing!!)

Road trip

We have decided that it’s time I finally saw some of the United States of America. For a very long time I have wanted to go to Disneyland, and Universal Studios – and eat Chinese food out of a wax paper carton (ok so I can do that one here) – and just sup on the experience that is America. We have provisionally decided on a date – Sept/Oct 2006 – which will give us time to save – and decide what we want to do. Sooz wants to go back to places she has been before – and that’s one of the reasons we are planning to go in the U.S fall – because Boston is great that time of year. Our mates Lizzie and Michael may also join us for part of the trip – which would include New York and the aforementioned Boston – and there’s also been talk of a short roadtrip. Which brings me to the blog I found this morning - US Road Trip 2005. Maybe this time in 18 months ours will be there (well, not there exactly, but there.)

No cross words here

I often get promotional emails from various Palm software vendors and sometimes there's a gem in there. A short while back one of them carried an ad for a crossword puzzle program. Now I just love crosswords and other word puzzles and games - and despite what anyone may have thought - this is one of the main reasons the Daily Telegraph is my hard-copy newspaper of choice - it's puzzles, especially the one with the anagram - suit me better. The pack, from BeOcean, came with a selection of sample puzzles (310) by various compilers (because not all puzzles are created equal) - and it's possible to download others free from the net (you just need to convert them to Palm format - using the converter that came with the Palm software). For all this I paid the princely sum of $9.38 Australian. I am one very happy customer – especially since the clues, hints and solutions are all included too! The puzzles from Thinks are great - a bit quirky, but definitely manageable - and if you have the time, and the right software on your computer - you could even do them online.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

And now ... the answer to OTT ...

Well, before I forget, it's time for the answer to the OTTFFSSE- sequence. Did you get it? If not, you might just want to count the number of letters now - just to make sure you got all nine. One, Two, Three, Four, F, S, S, E and finally Nine.
When I finally realised, I couldn't believe how easy it was. Paul, who put me on to it, said that a university professor had given his students this puzzle and by semester's end, they still hadn't cracked it. I can believe that, just as I can believe that when the puzzle was given to a group of first-graders, they had it solved within a day!
Hope you had fun with this.

More "selling up"

Our Saab (for a day - or two)Well, I don't know where the concern I had with "up selling" last week came from - especially as I allowed myself to be "upsold" very easily on the weekend. We were at the Gold Coast, picking up our hire car and we were offered an upgrade from the 3-door economy model I had reserved - to a Saab convertible. For an extra $22 a day what could I say?
And it was fun. We managed to work out how to take the top down (no can opener involved and, truly, a masterpiece of engineering). I just wish my Ripway account could host videos but as it can't I'll just have to make do with a photo recording the occasion.

Innovations and the drawing board

The GE site has this cool feature where you can draw a picture and then share it with a friend. They can add to it or change it - and you can do some more - and then they can - etc etc. From the looks of the site, it might actually be possible to do this in real time, rather than emailing the link for the updated drawing to each other. I drew a "Bombe Alaska in a Box". A really cool thing is that when you click on the link in the email - and it goes to the site to open the drawing - it doesn't just present the finished drawing - it draws it onto the screen!
For those looking for a practical application - think noughts and crosses on the net!