Wednesday, September 28, 2005


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.


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!)

UN appearances

Sometimes it's difficult for me to take the UN and speakers seriously when I see them against the green marble tile background there. We used to have that exact same type of style in one of our previous bathrooms - including the marbling (can you have marbling on marble - and is that where that term comes from? It possible you question words when you are in a non-your country language for a while?)

Reality TV for sheep

The media works in strange and exciting ways. The report of this I read in the Chinese media said nothing about the sheep being used as sounding boards for writers!
Animal rights activists in Croatia have blasted a new reality show on the web where viewers vote on which sheep to save from slaughter. In the show, shown on, seven sheep in a house in Zagreb are filmed non-stop as famous writers come in and read their works to them. Viewers then vote on which of the sheep is thrown out of the house. After the 'eviction' the sheep has to be 'adopted' by a viewer or it is sent straight to the slaughterhouse. ... The man behind the show, Sinisa Labrovic, said: "I'm not torturing animals. I just wanted to show how people are used in reality shows and become nothing more than sheep." (
I don't know which version of BB Croatia gets, but there's certainly not been anything as culturally nourishing as reading going on in the Australian version!! And come to think of it, it's not a bad idea if you're trying to get a younger generation exposed to writing! Is there a contest by writers to see who will read their work?

Eggs-tremely confusing

So who is it that holds the eggs standing on end record - the Taiwanese group who stood 1972 eggs - or The Egg Man, aka American Brian Spotts who traveled from Colorado for his 15-hour Guinness Book of Records attempt, during which he stood a (poultry) 439 eggs on end? A quick check of the Guinness Book of Records provided no answers, but perhaps I was using the wrong search parameters ... but I did find out that the oldest whole mammoth unearthed was from 23,000 years ago and the Guinness site (go there, type "egg" - with no quote marks - in the search field and then select OLDEST INTACT MAMMOTH from the search results - truly!!) says he has been transported to a cave and is being thawed out with hairdryers.

Shanghai Krispy Kreme Queue - mystery solved

It took me ages - okay, it really meant I just had to walk to the other side of the block - but that's 1, 2, 3 streets the shortest way ... and crossing the street in Shanghai takes forever. You have to look right, look left, look right and then remember the rule that just because you're crossing with the green light - it doesn't mean everything will stop for you: cars going straight ahead usually do, but not turning right into the street where you're walking, and certainly not moped, bicycles, scooters, motorbikes etc. etc. etc. They are trying to work on enforcing a culture which gives pedestrians right of way on crossings, but that's some way away, given how ingrained the current set-up is.
But where was I - yes - mystery solved. I don't know why I didn't see it before - but the queue is for moon cakes, given that it's the start of Autumn Festival. More on this later (truly) - I want to do it greater justice than I can in the lounge at Singapore airport - and there's a newspaper article in my suitcase that I want to refer to. (Ahem, yes, there is every truth to the rumour that I'm taking all the Shanghai papers home - I want to blog about a number of items in them, and I just didn't have time there.)


Oh no, I think I have become addicted to blogging while I've been in Shanghai - I liked it before, but there was just so much to blog about there. I think another culture must always throw up different questions, different ways of seeing things - if you've a mind to let it! And, there's the photo opportunities ... although I think Sooz, 12 (the camera) and I will need to go on a few more excursions. I wonder if we have any cultural equivalents of the Yuan Gardens, or if we can match the spectacular silhouette of the Shanghai Finance District with the JinMao and Black Pearl Towers? Perhaps not, but there is plenty in Australia of interest too. Just need to make sure to look at it with "Shanghai eyes". If you're one of the lucky ones, you already do.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

More piccies

Busy tourist today (you know the drill with the pics!) - will write words for these later (and fix up the order and spacing!)

Friday, September 16, 2005

More pics (click to enlarge)

Bund traffic 1 Bund traffic 2
Bund Traffic. Not for chickens - use the underpasses to get to the other side of the road because there's no definitely pedestrian access across the road.
Mao surveys Afternoon view
The statues here don't have names on them - but I'm guessing this has to be Mao. And here's another shot - taken just after 4pm yesterday afternoon from the office window (more about the flying humanoid another time if you're lucky).
Bund Baby Britches Taxi view
Yet another view of the Bund and China; and a view from the taxi. There is no way to describe the thrill of seeing so much different traffic, and seeing how politely it behaves. There is tooting of horns all the time, but it's "here I am", rather than angry "get out of the way".
Food queue Haagen Dazs Dish
I noticed this queue the first day and I thought "Krispy Kremes is here" - I'm not sure what the queue is for, but it's there most of the time! The other is someone else's dessert at Haagen Dazs - and they kindly let me take a pic of it. Is dry ice used for the "steaming" effect? (Michael?)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Shanghai Daily news report (Sept 05)

Classes on homosexuality popular at Fudan
MORE than 100 students packed the first undergraduate class on gay issues at Fudan University Wednesday evening, Oriental Morning Post said.
Professor Sun Zhongxin distributed copies of a research paper about homosexuality to the class. "I want to know students' views and expectations of the course and their understanding of gays," she said.
Most students said they would keep it a secret if they knew their colleagues were gay.
Sun hoped that the course could decrease the discrimination and bias against homosexuals.

Western names

I'm having the Riveria* buffet for dinner - as are quite a few others. And to make best use of it I had an entree of prawns and smoked salmon, and I would have had the crab if I could have known if it was genuine hairy crab - a local product in high demand in season - which started today! Somewhere down Nanjing Rd there's a big display - featuring a very large and colourful (although hardly hairly from the pics!) crab to remind and entice the locals!

* The southwestern Chinese city of Kunming is forcing developers to change the names of properties deemed too foreign-sounding, saying they debase traditional culture the China Daily reported yesterday. "Paris of the East" and "French Gardens" are two of the developments which have been renamed, although "Aladdin Gardens", "Champagne Resort" and "South-Carolina-Style Villas" are yet to follow suit. The paper also reported: Foreign sounding names are popular in China, lending a hint of exoticism to cookie-cutter housing developments ... Many are targeted at China's rising middle class, who are better educated and increasingly drawn to foreign travel, culture and ideas.
The Shanghai Daily report suggests there are two reasons for the wide use of exotic names: Chinese citizens take Westernization as modernity; and developers try to satisfy the public's fantasy of an exotic life without getting one step away from home. Whatever the reason - the final word could go to one Kunming official who simply described the phemonenon as a "flattering of poor taste".

Coffee just ain't the same!

I know I go on about coffee but when you're used to having at least one decent cup a day, it really strikes home when you're in a nation of tea drinkers. While my displeasure with the taste could be the milk (and no, I don't want to know where it comes from ... still), it's also how it's made. I had a cappuccino at lunch today - well, it was supposed to be - but it was instant coffee with a squirt of non-dairy foamy stuff on the top. Yum. (It's so lovely looking up and seeing all the Neon and traffic of Nanjing Road outside the window!)


I'm planning to take a day tour of Shanghai on the weekend and see some of the sights (and buy some pressies). Richard, a colleague, today asked me if I had been to the Bund - and when I replied that I had, he assured me, "you have seen half of China". I've yet to take the Bund Tourist Tunnel across to the other side - I'm looking forward to it - probably one night after work.
There are few recommendations from the colleagues (all of whom speak very good English) about what to see. They say they live in a boring place. Oh, if they could see it through my eyes!

Thank heavens for Haagen-Dazs

(which explains why there is a New Zealand Ice Cream across the street!)

I have been looking for a place, not the hotel, to have a coffee (and maybe some cake) and watch the world go by as I do my blogging. I had downloaded all the Starbucks address in the area and will take my map to work tomorrow so I can be shown where they are. Yes, I could just take a taxi* but the whole idea is that it's within walking distance of where I hang out. So, on the way back from the office this afternoon , I decided to check out the Sofitel Hotel and see if it had a coffee shop (the one at HoJo's where I'm staying only has low tables which I couldn't possibly write at). And lo and behold, what should there be, but a Haagen Dazs, and it's selling coffee. Perfect. (I'm still getting used to the taste of the milk here - and no, I don't want to know where it comes from!)

I am still a little shell-shocked by the pollution here. And boy, that typhoon must have packed a punch to clear the skies on Sunday/Monday!

* Taxis are so reasonable here (read: dirt cheap - but that's probably just how we see it as foreigners). The 10 Yuan ($1.70) flagfall includes a set distance (or perhaps time) - which is usually more than enough to get me either to or from the Office.


There are many beggars in Shanghai but there seem to be only two types: the walking ones, and the sitting ones. The walking ones are usually older and they will come up to you, and tug on your sleeve, or touch your arm as they shake their cup/container at you. The sitting ones are more distressing. They are the mothers with children; the disfigured; and the amputees. Two young boys, both without both arms, were on the Bund (streetside or in the pedestrian underpass) on Sunday and Tuesday. As we walked past yesterday, Kitty said that it was best not to give money to these young boys; she explained that they had probably been stolen by bad men, who had done them harm, and were making money from them. It had occurred to me that it was quite strange to see two young boys, both with both arms amputated just below the shoulders. How sad a life.

Accidental killing

CNN News this evening was reporting on a British investigation which had as one of its subjects the "accidental killing of a young Brazilian man" in London in July. I'd say this was just a bit of a semantic stretch: they may have shot and killed an innocent man in the post-July terrorist attacks, but given the deliberateness of the police actions, it could hardly be called "accidental".

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

View from the window

I am not sure whether it is overcast or smoggy today in Shanghai. Although, as I can now see the reflection of the setting sun (at 4.51 pm?) in the river, I am thinking that this, unfortunately, is not overcast. I cannot imagine how the locals manage to cope with this level of pollution on a daily basis!

To see larger versions - click on the pics

Sorry, can't line up the captions - no time to do tables in HTML. But I'll put their names underneath ... this is the Black Pearl Tower at sunset; the other is my hotel - I hadn't realised when taking the photo that the neon showed Mandarin characters. I wonder what it says?

Views from my hotel room - as taken with the new tripod. [Thank you to the anonymous commenter who suggested a monopod - had a look at them but couldn't keep it steady enough - but it would have been brilliant to carry!) In the middle of one of the shots, you can see McDonalds - and on the next shot, you can see a close-up of the shop-front.

Amazingly, the McDonalds is no larger than a doorway. I don't think I've seen one yet which has a sit-down area at street level.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Turned down

I arrived "home" last night to find my bed had been turned down. This is an industry in itself. They come and make your bed in the morning, and then in the afternoon they come and turn it down. Pity there's not some way to let them know when you'll be out all day so they could just do it all at the one time. But perhaps that's not what the hotel industry is about (and I really do love those little slippers). (And why is the light in my wardrobe always on? It's quite disconcerting to see either end of it glowing when you get up in the middle of the night!)

More piccies

After work yesterday, I went for a walk down Nanjing Road and on the The Bund. This has convinced me that I need a (decent) tripod because I couldn't get the shots I wanted because I couldn't hold the camera steady enough, or find something to prop it on in the right place - d'oh. And to think there's a perfectly good tripod sitting at home. I'll try to borrow one from the colleagues here ... failing that ... guess that means I'll be going shopping!


* Does China have a counterfeiting issue? At some stores they check each note with a reader - others they look at them very carefully!
* "News"papers? I read the Shanghai Daily and the China Daily at breakfast this morning and was totally surprised by their lack of "news". I am getting the idea that things are definitely different here!
* I couldn't find any fresh milk at the nearby convenience store.
* Yoghurt comes in a bottle.
* The last 2 observations are not related (heh heh).

The more things change ...

In George Street, Sydney, there is a Starbucks just near the cinema complex - and it's no different here in Shanghai. I have found a Starbuck (a most welcome find!) in teh Peace Cinema Complex - and even better is the news that it's only a short walk from my hotel - and it's open until 10pm in the evenings. On the strength of that, I have purchased a travel mug (that will teach me to leave mine at home to save room!) - but at least they gave me a free coffee in it.
This Starbucks appears to be a magnet for westerners, and people with laptops (only one of those in sight through - if I could speak Mandarin, I'd ask if there's wireless internet available here - not that that would do me any good since my lappie is back in Sydney).
However, I think there must be - and I think he has VOIP enabled - because he's just started a very spirited conversation with his computer!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Shades go up; shades go down

This information comes from USA TODAY and Captain Meryl Getline
Question: Why do we have to pull up window's shutters before landing? —Jonathan Ly, Mansfield, Ohio
Answer: The raising of your window shades for both takeoff and landing has to do with evacuation procedures. Should an evacuation become necessary, flight attendants need to be able to assess outside conditions so they don't send passengers into undesirable conditions.
Also, according to another site, if the power goes out in the plane, having the shades up lets some light in.
All pretty obvious really if you do think about it - and I guess I've never really wanted to think about it. In fact, I'm now a little sorry I asked the question - because every time I put those shades up or down now, I'm going to think of this.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

More Shanghai

Having a nap this afternoon seems to have been a really good idea. I had forgotten how draining jet lag and late nights can be (not to mention emotional exhaustion keeping that plane up in the air for 12 hours!).
       I am still trying to get the hang of how Shanghai's streets work. I keep thinking it's on a rectangular grid - but I don't think it is. I wonder if it has anything to do with being in the Northern Hemisphere - apparently the sun being in a different position (relatively) in the sky, can be quite confusing. And even though I couldn't see the sun through today's cloud cover, I'm sure I knew it was up there, and not where I thought it should have been.
       There was no shortage of people to talk to today. I feel as though I've said "No thank you" to most of the touts in Shanghai's Nanjing Road (and there are a few); I would have felt better saying "no" if I could have said it in Cantonese/Mandarin.
       The other people I was talking to were tourists visiting Shanghai themselves. First there was two young men who were visiting from Tian (home of the Terra Cotta soldiers), both students, but one worked in an import/export business so he could speak English and a little German. They are in Shanghai for a convention and were off to a tea ceremony, after having spent 4 hours going through the Shanghai Museum. It was outside this, near the fountain, that they approached me. At first I thought there were touters ... but no.
       Next was a young couple, again students, again from Tian. She started talking to me as I sat outside the Museum checking over my tourist map, again trying to work out which way is which. She and her partner have been in Shanghai for 3 days and have 4 days more. It was her first visit to Shanghai, and his second. Both he and the English speaker from the first pair, had been called Jackie. When I asked the first one if that was like Jackie Chan - he said "no ... Jackie Chan is a big banana, I am only a small potato!".
       And lastly there were a group of Chez workers who are at a town about 30km from Shanghai for the next four weeks working on the new Chinese VolksWagen. They were looking for street markets, and even though my tourist map had the Flower and Bird Markets (which should be around here somewhere!) they were after something a bit more exciting. Since they hadn't found Nanjing Road yet, I pointed them in that direction so their group could go shopping. [I had read on the plane yesterday about the Chinese VW - if I remember correctly, it's the first time it's been produced outside of Germany, and I think it's also going to be a petrol/electric hybrid - but don't quote me on that.)

       Shanghai seems to be a vertical city, a bit like Hong Kong (although not to the same extent). I seem to be turning the camera on its side all the time to get shots. Or maybe it's just that I'm taking photos mainly of tall buildings?
       I have been on the lookout for good Chinglish throughout the day and have only managed to find two bits so far:
       * Good Good Sex in Shanghai Health Care (although maybe this doesn't really qualify), and
       * Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is just so myterious.
       * Some menus in Shanghai are printed in both Mandarin and English. The Mandarin is on the top! This is important because not remembering it can lead to your getting the watermelon milkshake rather than the banana smoothie! (Mmmm [not] watermelon milkshake!)

Seat controls

Sky Bed ControlsHere are the seat controls I mentioned in an earlier blog. Except for the three at the very top, all the rest of them are actually for the "Sky Bed". I'm just hoping there's one on the flights back to Sydney next week!

Room to move

Bathroom Bedroom Sitting Room 1 Sitting Room 2
Here's pics of my room at the Howard Johnson Shanghai Plaza. The last two shots are of my sitting room - okay, I know they're badly put together, but you get the idea. The shot of the bathroom does not do it justice - up the other end is the separate shower.
I think I'll manage to be comfortable here! And even I was surprised when I opened the bureau at the end of the bed expecting it to be hanging space - only to find there's a TV in there bigger than the one in the sitting room!!
Not sure what I can see out my window yet - or in which direction my room is facing.
And didn't we all know that once I made the decision to leave the umbrella at home, it meant it would be raining when I arrived in Shanghai!

Social Engineering

Where do people get their ideas? And why don't they leave the more anti-social ones there? I noticed spam in comments on a blog the other day - and not just one. I thought again about turning comments off on my blog but before I made the decision, I saw Blogger was promoting their comment validation option which, when activated, means commenters have to enter/mirror a word randomly generated by Blogger to be able to post. Problem solved! But it does make you wonder why people spend their days creating new ways to spam.
Back to "social engineering" - it's any behaviour designed to get wetware (that's us) to do things we're probably not supposed to - like being phished out of our credit card details - or identities.


Sydney AirportOver the Outback

Tip 1 for the unseasoned traveller - just because it's in a tube in the amenities drawer doesn't mean it's toothpaste. Tip 2 for the unseasoned traveller - shaving cream doesn't taste that bad. Really. And it doesn't froth up that much either. Hopefully there won't be any side effects!
The flight so far has been good. I've been learning a few words of Mandarin on the in-flight language program. If you complete the course, you get a certificate. I'll see if I get that far. As well as doing the test to check your progress, you can also play the words game. Who would ever think that vampire bats would be a feature of a game - although there's probably a lot different out there.
There was a call for a medical person a while ago - hopefully they found someone - but not a great start to somebody's trip.
Not quite sure where we are but the Australian outback is stretching out below us. It looks very empty and very dry.
* (aural)The song "The Water Is Wide" (or a version of it) - song as background music to the safety video.
* Singapore Airlines (SIA) has sky beds where you can actually lie down and sleep! Not that I did this leg but I'm going to on the way home (if they're fitted on the return flight plane).
* Plane food has improved! It could be that I'm up the pointy end and having diabetic fare but there hasn't been a mixed bread finger sandwich in sight. For lunch (entree) I had a lovely steamed chicken, mint, cucumber, tomato and chilli salad. Yum.
* If you're heartbroken by the disappearance of those sandwiches - don't be! I found them in the Raffles Lounge at Singapore's Changi Airport!
* SIA have baby seat belts (according to the safety video).
* Why do window shades need to be up for takeoff and landing? Does there any real reason for this? I might have to look it up on the web! Or send it in to "Big Questions" in Spectrum (in Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald).
* Flying over Hong Kong and surrounds at night - the clouds are lit up from underneath - for miles - an amazing sight! What must it be like on a clear night?
* While water is supposed to drain in the opposite direction in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, it does not appear to do so at altitude. Each time I checked on the plane, water was draining straight down the plug-hole - not swirling to either the right or the left. I wonder at what altitude the effect kicks in - or whether there was some kind of physics anomalies with the 747 Megatop and 777 Jubilee I flew in today.
* I am not very observant. I had been in the taxi for nearly 15 minutes before I realised the driver was sitting on the left. Does this mean they drive to the right here?
* You can still smoke in enclosed public spaces in Shanghai.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Surveys for cash / petrol

Well, I finally decided to redeem some of my hard-earned survey cash - and found that one of the things I could redeem for was Caltex StarCash. In these times, where the price of oil continues to soar, this means one thing, and one thing only - petrol money!! While I was at the Pure Profile site, it implored me to share their news so if you're interested in earning (not) a motza, you could visit them to find out more.

Out of sequence

On the ground at Singapore Airport where they have free internet access - so what else to do but do a quick blog entry. Of course, I have been writing one on the plane (complete with photos) but that will have to wait until I have a photo upload facility! Good flight, but a little tired now. I'd give SIA a big 9 for the flight over.
Be safe!

Almost on the way

Well, I'm blogging this from the Raffles Lounge (Singapore Airlines - and yes, they have separate lounges for First Class and Raffles [Business]) waiting for the boarding call for my flight to Singapore, and then on to Shanghai. It's all very exciting, even though just at the moment it doesn't seem totally real yet.
Sooz was wonderful getting up to see my off. I had the taxi booked for 5.30am, probably a tad early, but since it didn't turn up - went to M Road rather than M Ave - there was still time to wait for its replacement without my having to get anxious (not a good look!).
I'll try to blog regularly while I'm away for the week, and hopefully will be able to post some photos too. I would have posted one of my plane, waiting at the gate, but this technology isn't quite up to it (and I haven't taken that shot yet anyway). More from China!!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Blogger for Word

Just when you thought they couldn’t come up with anything more, Blogger have come up with an add-in which allows you to post direct from Word – which is where this post is being composed.  I am just as impressed with another recent addition to their “tools” – the move to eradicate spam from comments.  Since I had only just noticed spam in comments (not on my blog thank goodness), it seemed as though they had fixed the problem almost before it was a problem.  

Love your work Blogger!


Following the 7.2 earthquake that hit Japan late last month, there were concerns the quake could lead to a tsunami in the area. Although not well-publicised (I saw the report in only one online forum) a tsunami did hit part of the Japanese coastline: the Migayi Prefecture recorded a 10cm (approx 4 inch) wave. There were no reports of damage.


I cannot resist doing "nothing" - that's what I thought I'd written, probably having copied a quote from somewhere. What I'd actually written was: I cannot resist doing "not Room 101" from 1984 the play, a line by Winston, and also by my character - whose identity left my conscious memory many years ago!
This was from the night of my sleep study at St Luke's Hospital, but more about that another time - I'm off to do "nothing".


While reading highlights from the Snopes (Urban Legends) site I chanced upon the article: "Working with Idiots Can Kill You!" - about doctors finding a direct link between heart attacks and "working with stupid people".
The article appeared on Yahoo about 3 years ago - after it appeared on another news source - The Weekly World News.
I used to love reading The Weekly World News. Where else could you find headlines like:
* B52 Bomber found on Moon (including photo of said plane in situ)
* Alien found dead clutching half-eaten cheeseburger
* B54 Bomber disappears from Moon (including photo showing Moon which indeed was now without plane).
While it may be a news source, the Snopes description seems remarkably apt and accurate: ... the Weekly World News, an entertainment tabloid with its
tongue firmly embedded in its cheek to a depth not measurable by any instrument known to man.
But it had some great stories!

Abusing the system

My partner was sent home from work the other afternoon for ... well, we're not exactly sure what is was for as the three warnings about the inappropriate internet abuse that should have been sent before she was locked out of the network were lost in transit/never received. Inappropriate content in this instance appears to be streaming live audio and podcasts from the ABC (Australian government broadcaster) - definitely objectionable material. 0f course, the infraction could have related to the quantity accessed, not the subject matter. Apparently the internet useage policy was not discussed whcn she started the assignment, and certainly she would not have used the net for non-work purposes had she not been encouraged by a supervisor to "plug in and save your power". Had her portable device been an MP3 player rather than a radio, there wouldn't have been an issue.
Because a lock-out of the network meant she could not do her work, she had to miss two days while the system administrators reset her access. Why it took over so long to sort out is unfathomable; not sure if we should expect more or less because it is a Federal Government department!

Recalling teachers

Which of your teachers do you remember best? What has set them apart from the rest? Most people say they remember a teacher from their school days who made a difference in their lives, an AP-AOL News poll found. For many, that teacher connected with them on a personal level far beyond the class subjects.
There are three teachers I can instantly bring to mind - all for different reasons: Mrs Tremble (Grade 7/Primary School - she always let me take the chalk ends for my younger brother; and it was in her class that I learned to read upside down - although this is not something she set out to teach us - we didn't have enough books to go around and some of us had to s'it on the other side of the desk to follow along in books. This is a valuable skilll - and a great party trick!); Mr White (8th Grade/High School English teacher - who our class made a complaint against for inappropriate comments and was replaced); and Mrs Holland-Batt (9th/10th/11th year Commercial subjects and Home Room/High School - who was wonderfully encouraging, and treated us like adults - and NEVER called us cabbages - the way Miss Russell our Year 9 French teacher did - funny I had forgotten her name until just then.)

Last Words

The Pentagon in the late 1980s began selecting operation names with themes that would help generate public support for conflicts. Now they're putting them on gravestones! Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they can have government-furnished headstones engraved with "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom" at no extra charge.
(Yahoo, where I read about this, has more details.) Some also just find it there which is a bit of a shock as the vast majority of military gravestones from other eras are inscribed with just the basic, required information: name, rank, military branch, date of death and, if applicable, the war and foreign country in which the person served.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says "The headstone is not a PR purpose. It is to let the country know and the people that visit the cemetery know who served this country and made the country free for us." And which country would that be? Iraq? Afghanistan? And how free is a country where you can be sent to fight in a place, kept there for longer than the normal tour ofduty, and then have Government advertising on your grave?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Family history

I have recently been remembering my paternal grandfather and his career in show business. As well as being a trick rider in a travelling rodeo, he also ran the dancing chicken concession. Wouldn't that have been a wonderful business to inherit? Not sure what ever happened to it, but suffice to say none of the family are in the chicken business - dancing or otherwise. But, at least we know the secret of the dancing chickens. They would stand on a sheet of corrugated iron, which was then heated from underneath. Somehow feel this practice would not have a leg to stand on these days! This also explains, in some small part, Pop's teasing - he would put a florin* on a lighted wood stove and then say we could have it if we could pick it up. Oh, how we tried!
* Florin: Australian pre-decimal currency coin. Equivalent to four zacks or a couple of bob. In new money, 20 cents.

Yodelling comes of age

Ananova reports: results of a recent study claim that yodelling (yes, yodelling) is healthier than yoga or jogging. Scientists at Graz University found yodelling eased tension and stress by releasing endorphins, as well as giving lungs a healthy workout. So, Austrian tourism officials have started offering yodelling courses and have been stunned by the demand. The biggest course in Graz is oversubscribed with almost four applications for every place. What to do to meet the burgeoning demand? How about an online yodelling course for the overflow? Yodelcourse offers ten yodelling lessons in six languages that end with a diploma (Certificate of Yodelology) for those who complete the course. I'm not sure if the course work is in six languages - or the yodels - and if you trian in one language, does your qualification translate to others?

Need a cuppa?

I take part in online surveys for cash - not that it's a big source of income; I've been doing them for years and my total take home -should I ever redeem my balance is less than $70.
But I see it as a way of keeping my finger on the pulse of what's happening next in the retail world. I may even have, in some small way, helped prevent self-saucing microwave fish from bursting onto the market!
It's also an opportunity to stare into the minds of marketers and glimpse how they think our minds might work - and how they might use this to their advantage.
Case in point: a recent survey for a brand of tea. Here's part of the survey:
Sometimes we associate a personality to different brands. The following list contains several different words that express personality traits. Now that you have watched this ad, please tell us how much you agree or disagree that each trait is associated with the brand XXXXXXXX. There aren't any right or wrong answers – it’s just your impressions we’re interested in.
The list included: Conservative, Approachable, Honest, Modern, Intimate, Elegant, Down-to-earth, Exclusive, Sophisticated, Snobbish, Old-fashioned, Stylish and Posh -
probably all - and more - that anyone could ever wish their tea to be! Beverage, anyone?

Thin veneer

It has been a catastrophic week for residents of the southern United States who are battling with the after effects of Hurricane Katrina both in property and personal terms.
New Orleans is no more. Even if they rebuild in the coming years, there is no way they can recreate New Orleans. One of my colleagues was lamenting the loss of the city - and its historical allure (even down to the lamp posts - each of which had its history - the move from gas, to oil, to electricity). All gone - and mostly unsalvageable.
Will it go on? Will the spirit of New Orleans survive?
More of an immediate issue - will the residents of New Orleans survive? There are some horrific stories appearing in the Australian media - and the more I read the more it seems all those "B" and "C" grade productions over the years about the complete and utter breakdown of society - post some climatic event - are, sadly, not that far wrong. One can only hope they ARE wrong, or at least badly reported given the difficulty even journalists would have in traversing the affected areas.
Pity then that some of the reports of looting, rape and murder come via mobile phone firsthand from people in the area to their Australian families - and more so when they add that they are scared to leave their (hotel) room as there are 3 corpses in the stairwell. Heaven help them.
And is it only because telecommunications are so good between the US and Australia that we are hearing these stories? I don't recall anything like this after the Boxing Day Tsunami ravaged South East Asia last December.
Update: National Guard Troops in New Orleans have apparently been given orders to shoot to kill looters - ? and other law-breakers - supposedly because authorities do not have the ability to declare martial law in the area!
There are many questions following Katrina, the largest natural disaster in the US.
* Why has it taken so long to get assistance to the area?
* If authorities had run computer modelling on exactly this scenario, why has the response seemed to lack co-ordination?
* Why did authorities not do more to assist those who could not arrange their own evacuation to escape before Hurricane Katrina struck? This should have been plannable for given the known socio-economic make-up of the area is well-known. It's pretty simple really: if people are too poor to have cars - they need help!
* Could the racial divide be sadder than this: The Associated Press has separately captioned two photos of looters in the wake of Katrina. The photo of a black man refers to his "looting," and the photo of a white pair refers to their "finding." Possible explanations for this are explored further at the Snopes site.

Professional behaviour

The media are covering the trial of Zdravko Micevic, a bouncer, accused of killing David Hookes (ex-Australian cricket star) last year. Micevic has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. Following his cross examination yesterday, the Daily Telegraph reported:
Micevic...told the court he had never ordered and denied calling one of them a "bitch", as other witnesses in the trial alleged. "I wouldn't have used those words, it's not professional."
He admitted telling the group to "f... off ...
[my emphasis] but the report neglected to say if this was as "eff off" or as "f... off" - which presents the obvious question: which is the more professional?

Cooks River

(This is a slightly old entry - which has been languishing on Palm but that's no reason not to post it!)
We're sitting in a park overlooking Cooks River in Marrickville. I thought some relaxing in sunshine would help my cold. The park and river are fairly busy - some sculls have just gone by on the water, and 3 bicycles carrying father son and daughter have just been past on the bike path. And across the river, on the opposite bank, the same sorts of activity.
They say the bike path goes all the way to Tempe. Sooz says we should buy bikes and see. Seems Jennifer at work may have a more sensible idea - perhaps we ought to hire a couple of bikes and try it!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

3108 Day

Guess this is the only date that would work!You see, using numbers as letters really doesn't work that well unless you know how to do HTML superscript and subscript when you're posting your blog. When trawling for some Palm software for blogging today, I discovered that 31 August 2005 is blog day. (I guess no other date would have worked quite as well ... don't people's minds work wonderfully well!)
BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors. With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. In this way, all Blog web surfers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.To find out more you can go the Wikipedia entry.
Well, I'm not really a joiner but I'm prepared to enter into the spirit of things. Stay tuned for five from me.

Waterproof Paper

The Blue Squirrel Newsletter this month offered me some waterproof paper - yes waterproof paper - if I invested in some of their software.
You can spray, dunk, submerge, drench, and soak the paper in sleet, rain, snow or even a lake and it completely retains its solid form. The Squirrel's didn't believe it either, until we tested Rite in the Rain's paper for ourselves. The squirrel's turned on the sink water full blast, gushing water all over the paper and couldn't believe what we saw. We could write on the paper with pencils while wet, and still read the written and printed ink. When we turned off the water, the paper was 100% still in tact as though nothing had happened.
Of course there are practical applications for waterproof paper - but you know, the more I thought about it, the more I remembered a story about the Fisher SpacePen and how the Americans spent millions of dollars developing a pen that would write in space; and the Russians used a pencil.

Not Russian there!

Apparently Novosibirsk in Russia has no law about keeping deceased friends in warehouse freezers. When I told Sooz this, she said "No, we're not moving to Russia".
An Ananovan report tells about a Chinese man who, rather than get caught up in local bureaucracy and red tape, decided to store his friend's body rather than turn him over to the officials when he died of natural causes two years ago. Instead he popped him in the freezer at his warehouse - and that's where he can keep him - so say the authorities after they found the corpse during a routine health and safety check at the warehouse. (How often do routine health and safety checks happen in Russia do you think?)

World Records

I admit to watching Guiness World Records which screens here on a Sunday evening. I also admit that I am so impatient, that I often look up the details for that evening's show on the web rather than having to wait through the entire program to find out whether any records are made/broken. So imagine my delight when I read the other day that residents of a Taiwanese country had made a successful bid for the "eggs standing up" record with 1972 fresh eggs made to stand vertically, on their ends (at noon one day - to mark the summer solstice!). Great work!

Shades of Jurassic Park

When I think of North America (NA), I sometimes thing of "home home on the range" and "deers and antelopes playing". Well, that may not exactly be the vision of scientists who are planning to reintroduce rather large mammals - elephants, lions and cheetahs - back into NA. As well as acting as breeding sanctuaries for animals under threat in Africa and Asia, the parks, set up over large tracts of NA, could be major tourist attractions. Again, shades of Jurassic Park - or Jumanji as the Yahoo report said. Yes, yes, we all know that most modern African species never lived on the American prairie, but the scientists have thought of that and they believe today's animals could duplicate the natural roles played by their departed, even larger cousins - mastodons, camels and saber-toothed cats! (I'm not sure which of the animals they're planning to transplant equates to camels)

How much is a laptop worth?

Would you stand in line, endure a stampede, risk being beaten with a folding chair, and even go so far as to wet yourself rather than give up your place in line - all for the chance of being able to purchase a laptop computer for $50. To be fair, those in line probably weren't aware it was going to turn as nasty as it did but it was probably always a fair bet that there would be a fair amount of competition for the laptops.
About 5,500 people turned up for the Henrico Country school's sale of 1,000 laptops at the bargain price of $50 each. The Apple iBooks, when new, usually cost between $999 and $1299.
Even though there was much questionable behaviour by the shoppers, there were no arrests - although perhaps there should have been: given a little girl's stroller was crushed in the stampede; witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement; and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd.