Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dear beer

Do you have champagne tastes on a beer budget? What about beer tastes on a champagne budget? Which is what you're going to need if you want to partake of the latest offering from Carlsberg brewery - at $450 for a 375ml bottle. According to today's The Daily Telegraph, the first 52 bottles of the upmarket (no, really?) Vintage No. 1 beer were sold last week, with plans to make only 600 in total. Karen Myers

Violence on the small screen

If Corey Worthington had not hosted a party which attracted 500 teenagers, the riot police and the dog squad and resulted in a $20,000 clean-up/services bill would he be "enjoying" 15 minutes of fame now? And would footage of him being beaten up earlier this week have been aired on a prime-time current affairs program - and be available as a link on the Daily Telegraph's web site today - advertised in that paper as "Video: See footage of Corey's bashing". And would you want to see the footage - captured by mobile phone - of Corey being tackled to the ground and being hit and kneed in the face. Or, would you want to take part in another web phenomenon called "Slap Corey" where his likeness has been (slapped) - over 850,000 times. The site was supposedly inspired by Corey's "bad attitude" which, in this case, seems to mean"bad" in a negative sense. Seems to be a lot of people's time and energy wasted on a 16-year old who has achieved notoriety because (a) the other two parties in the area the night of his party were closed down earlier by police and (b) he comes across as an arrogant/don't give a damn teenager who shows no concern for the consequences of his actions. But he doesn't deserve to be bashed up for it - virtually or physcially.

Bugs pray

Buddhists are renowned for their conviction to not harming living creatures - that is, for not hurting a fly ... or a mosquito! So Buddhist monks in Thailand may be very pleased with the work of a local fabric designer who is about to offer a new line of robes which are saffron-coloured and infused with herbal bug repellent. The robes will eventually be sold for export to other Asian countries - hopefully including the Philippines where mosquitos have been responsible for the spread of the sometimes fatal Dengue Fever.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Air strip

"A perfectly normal holiday company" is offering a day trip to the Baltic Sea resort Usedom on July 5 for 499 euros. For those with a currency converter, it's kind of expensive but as managing director Enrico Hess says, that's because the plane is small. But people may still want to pay the price if they are keen to take part in the company's "trial nudist day trip". While I often recommend that people keep their shoes on and passports handy for take-off and landing (in the highly unlikely event of a mishap/incident/accident the last thing you want to do is escape the plane and find yourself barefoot and without travel documentation) the word is that once on their plane, the FKK* passengers will be able to give new meaning to the term "air strip".
*FKK or "free body culture" according to the Reuters report, was banned in Germany by the Nazis but blossomed (or one might say "really took off") after the War.

Cultural moment

The multinational company I work for (until I'm retrenched later this year) has something called "Cultural Moments" which are shared at the start of meetings. It's a way of learning and they're often quite interesting as well. Which brings me to the purpose of this piece - and that the point may not be obvious to someone who is not familiar with Australian backyards and washing lines called Hills Hoists ( In a tragic episode on Queensland's Gold Coast on the weekend, a man was shot and killed as he attended a backyard barbeque. The report I read yesterday named the victim as Hill and the alleged shooter as Hoy. The Daily Telegraph today reports "A 31-year-old man was yesterday charged ... He was arrested at a motel at Runaway Bay."

Collector's item?

The last issue of The Bulletin magazine was published this week and I had the passing thought (as did S) that it would be good to get a copy because it may well become valuable in the (distant) future. Well, easier said than done. It seems that there isn't a copy to be had. Okay, so other people may have had the same idea - because it's not like it regularly sells out so quickly. However, this may not be so. The newsagent I spoke with this morning told me that as soon as the magazine was in, someone came in and bought all their copies - and, he continued, he thinks it was someone from the publishing company. Interesting suggestion. Does this mean we can except to see The Bulletin hitting the streets again soon, shrinkwrapped and collector-bound?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Patient from Hell

Catchy title for a book isn't it? It featured in the "In Search" column in today's The Daily Telegraph. An excerpt from the book's website: "It does not attempt to give medical advice -- as that would be quackery -- but it provides readers with a path that will help them to get informed about their diseases and formulate questions to ask their doctors." In the book, "Stephen Schneider, a scientist at Stanford University, details his cancer experiences and his attempts at partnering with his doctors to pursue individualized treatments. He encourages readers who are so inclined to get involved in the decisions made about their diseases and suggests ways of doing so."
Full details: The Patient from Hell: How I Worked with My Doctors to Get the Best of Modern Medicine and How You Can Too (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 300 pp.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dumb ...

Three stories from the US on the wires today were wonderful examples of, well, what not to do.
No. 1: Two young boys, mimicking a scene from a movie, stuck their tongues to a frozen flagpole.
No. 2: If you're planning to fly, probably best to use a plane. Five young men were killed when their vehicle ran off an embankment as the sped along a private airport runway (servicing the fly-in community where John Travolta and others live). The car was airborne for almost 200 feet before it smashed into a tree.
No. 3: And lastly - a woman used a popular internet site (Craigslist) to recruit someone to kill the wife of a man with whom she'd had an affair. The request was not quite that explicit, of course, but when people responded to the advert for a "freelance" job they were given details of the woman to be "eradicated". The hit did not go ahead - thanks to Craigslist users who raised the alarm.

Searching question

An article in the Technology section of the Sydney Morning Herald this week focused on the increase in net searches following the death of Heath Ledger. Nothing unexpected in that, right? What about the statement that Yahoo reported that four of the fastest moving terms on its Buzz index were Ledger related - with "Heath Ledger" skyrocketing 110,285 per cent? And the next one - "A solid 62 per cent of those searches came from women, and the biggest search traffic came from New York, Arizona, and California" Yahoo said (as reported in the Herald). So - how do they know this? Okay, it's a matter of web statistic regarding number of hits and searches but how are they able to tell where the searches originate (possibly IP or service provider?) but what about the sex of the searcher. Yes, possible that Buzz is a service you have to be signed up for (and sex is part of the demographic information recorded) but if not ... where are they getting the stats from?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Look both ways

What would we do without the internet? Well, be more concerned about mirrors for a start - especially in strange locales. While visiting the Gold Coast yesterday, M pointed out a communique she had received which tells you how to tell if the mirror you're using is a real mirror or a two-way mirror. Ah ha, I thought, there's something for the blog and despite her efforts to press a copy on me, I refused ... because it was so easy to remember that you can tell it's a real mirror by touching your finger to the glass and if you can see a gap between your finger and the reflection then it's a mirror ... which, alas, means the mirror in our bathroom cabinet isn't. Finger pressed - no gap. I did it a couple of times to be sure. Now, who would want to put a two-way mirror in our bathroom? And why? Or - and here's a more scary thought - have I mis-remembered it? (Well, not according to a couple of sites I just visited on the net.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Software advice

Post-nausea yesterday, it was time to browse the clearance bins at the local electronics store. I wasn't particularly looking for anything, but am "blessed" with an almost genetic drive to secure a bargain. As I browsed, I was approached by one of the store assistants and in the brief conversation that followed, I found myself telling him that even though I wasn't looking for anything specifically I had been thinking of sourcing some software to start organising my five years' worth of digital images. Okay so I don't have as many as his 80,000 but I reckon I have a few. He told me he was using a "free licence for non-professional use" software called Faststone Image Browser to organise and tag his collection and recommended I give it a try. Which I have and it's pretty amazing. And that's another reason I keep shopping there (Harvey Norman @ Broadway).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Viral marketing

... really works. I only heard about the movie two or three days ago and already I've seen it (thank goodness it was so close to release date). Now, I am sitting in a cafe having a coffee and trying to settle my stomach after watching "Cloverfield". When T told me she was planning NOT to see it, even though it was a J.J. Abrams (of Lost fame) production, because the pre-publicity reminded her of the unsteady handheld of The Blair Witch Project, I thought "how bad could it be". Let me tell you, I think it must be something about incessant camera movement because at one point there I felt absolutely sick to my stomach and realised (late flash of insight) that it was motion sickness. The only respite came when the camera was focused on a television or lying on the ground and was thankfully still for a couple of moments. Hmmm - I hate to admit it, but I fear I may be in the wrong demographic for this one. However, it was almost worth it for the line "it's time to leave the electronics store" (I am sure that is a misquote but it's hard to remember correctly when you're feeling nauseous!). And one other thing. The session time was advertised as 9:30am, I arrived at the cinema at 9:45 and asked what time the feature started ... when they said "it starts in 30 seconds" I thought I'd risk it, hoping it wasn't one of those where the scene is actually set during the opening credits (a la "Independence Day" aka ID4). I made it in plenty of time and was settled in my seat at least one commercial before the feature started. And my point is? Cloverfield is one of the shortest movies I have seen in ages. It started at about 9:50am and was over at 11:10am or thereabouts making 80 mins approx with long title and end credits. In this instance, I'm not complaining.
Verdict: Scary. That so many people today record the world on digitial devices (yes, I know, I'm one of them).
Rating for the movie: 6/10

Friday, January 18, 2008

It's time

Obviously it's my subconscious (or would that be unconscious - I always get them confused) trying to tell me something. I want to go to the movies but am torn between three choices: Cloverfield (a monster the size of a skyscraper attacks New York); Alien vs Predator: Requiem (alien attacks alien in small US town); I Am Legend (a remake of Omega Man - one lone healthy man trys to save the world and the mutants left after a virus sweeps the globe). If it wasn't a work day, I could very easily make the decision to do a movie marathon - but I suppose that's what weekends are for!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Clearance items

I know January is "sale" time but, even so, I was a bit taken aback by what I stumbled across on the net today. It was the CLEARANCE section of the site - which is odd when you consider they're selling ebooks - and at any point they're aren't going to be any of them lying around to be put into clearance bins!

Kudos Microsoft

… for getting me hooked on Brain School - one of those mobile brain training programs where you're encouraged to "use it" so you don't "lose it". I was offered, and accepted, a free demo of the program (downloaded and installed while I was doing toast at The Post) and started playing it almost immediately - and became addicted as quickly. To buy or not to buy - that is the question. Or should I save my money for the next shiny thing that comes along?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sex bomb

Passing a local florist shop this morning, I noticed their display had changed and was now looking more like Valentine's Day. On pedestals in the window, in pride of place, rested two large-grapefruit-sized sacks, one red, one black, with the words "Sex Bomb" printed on each. Just what you want to give to that special someone in your life ... and a clever marketing ploy because it works on multiple levels. According to the Slovoed dictionary, bomb has a number of meanings: including failure; great success; or something unexpected and unpleasant. Hmmm.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chicken question

It's a while since I've seen an ad for Red Rooster Chicken but I would swear that it used to be "Red Rooster chicken is barbequed ..." which is why I was surprised to read an ad in the Daily Telegraph this morning for a "mouth-watering franchise opportunity" (Red Rooster) offering people the opportunity to "be part of Australia's largest home-grown, oven-roasted chicken business ..." (I knew this not watching television would lead to confusion!)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Air tales

I'm glad I'm not planning any flights in the near future because there have recently been more bad news plane stories than I care for.
Mice were found on a United Airlines flight to Beijing recently, some dead, some alive. The problem with this, besides mouse droppings where you don't want them, is the possibility of one of the little rodents chewing through the plane's wiring and circuits.
And we know the problems that might bring following a recent Qantas flight which reportedly lost it's power generating capacity after a drip tray dripped onto and shorted wires. The plane used back-up power for the remainder of its flight - although this may not have ended so well if they had not been so near the airport!
But at least the future is brighter. Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet may offer passengers something more to do with their time than watch movies. Apparently the FAA is concerned that as the computer network in the passenger compartment is connected to the plane's control systems, there is a possibility the aircraft will be vulnerable to attack by hackers.
Of course, that's not the only type of attacks air-travellers could be concerned about. Reports last week advised that American Airlines is set to test its anti-missile system. Up to three of their jets will be fitted with laser technology developed to protect planes from terrorist missiles. Makes you wonder how they'll test it, doesn't it?

Old saying

Overheard at a cafe in Marrickville this morning: "What's that old saying? Familiarity breeds content." (Well, not quite, but it's much nicer that way.)

Rice One

Having a hard time getting around to all the relatives to show off the new baby? Here's an idea that might help - "Dakigokochi" rice-filled bags which are shaped like a bundled-up baby and printed with the new-born's face and name. Amazing idea right? Oddly Enough (Reuters) reports that it's not original. It's an improvement on what was already on offer from "other rice shops (which) sell bags printed with baby photos, but they use regular bags". The new ones are tailor-made to weigh the same as the child and shaped so the rice fills the bag - making it all cuddly. The Dakigokochi are sent as "half-return" gifts. In Japan, it's customary to send gifts or money on significant occasions, such as birth, and the recipient responds with other gifts, worth about half the amount they received - hence the name "half-return". Narou Ono, owner of Yoshimiya which makes the innovative bags, suggests that recipients face a dilemma once they have finished cuddling the rice proxy. People say they have a hard time opening the Dakigokochi to eat the rice - which is understandable.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy birthday Fran Walsh

Oscar-winner Fran Walsh turns 46 or 48 today - depending on whether you want to believe The Daily Telegraph or Wikipedia. Her name not familiar? Fran is a screenwriter, producer and composer who won three Oscars for her work on the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King film. She has also won a stack of other accolades. Let's hope her two children and husband, (the) Peter Jackson, help her celebrate in style.
(Isn't it wonderful to see that there is such a successful collaborative partnership at work here. Wonder if she's also been involved in his other projects?)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Where there be Dragons…

Speaking with a colleague today about voice-activated software, O advised that one of our mutual contacts uses such a product. He is a Kiwi (ie someone from New Zealand) and does have the accent which comes with that. She (from Thailand) was saying she had tried talking to Pat's software, and it hadn't been able to understand her. That raised the question - yes, forget for a moment that you probably have to "train" the software (hmmm that reminds me, I do have similar software on my tablet PC which I have never truly played with) - but does it give you a start by having "accent" versions? (Hopefully O's recently diagnosed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome [CTS] is of a transient nature and she will not have to seriously consider voice-activated computing.)
And on the subject of hands ... this is the fourth hand-related problem I've heard of in the last few weeks:
(a) Numerous stitches required after run-in with a hedge/power-saw. Thank goodness for the gloves D otherwise it would have been much worse.
(b) Fractured wrist required pinning and plates S walked away from waves surging up the beach and she tumbled over a large clump of seaweed
(c) Tendons in hand cut while placing plates in a dishwasher over knives with blades pointing up, and
(d) O house-work-induced CTS.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Three strikes

There's a move to scrap weekend and mid-week jail sentences in NSW because people tend not to show up for this periodic detention. Some people are regular offenders in that they keep not showing up - and one in five offenders who have breached can't be found by authorities. This has led to a re-visit to the "three strikes and you're out" rule although it would seem more appropriate if it were "three strikes and you're IN".


I've been trying to find a word. It's the word for when you look at a cloud and can see a shape. I've been trying to look it up on the net and in dictionaries, but it's pretty difficult to find a word if you don't know what it is. I did have something to go on - I had seen it before (but alas, not copied it) and knew it started with a "p" and had something to do with seeing pictures in clouds. And that was finally what yielded the answer - "pictures in clouds" and Google. The word is PAREIDOLIA and a practical example of it, besides cloud, tree or rock charades, is the inkblot aka Rorschach test. And did you know that there are LOTS of websites with pictures of cloud shapes? Seriously, just do a search on "cloud shapes". I prefer tree shapes myself - which is how we came to see Tree-Rex on the drive back from holidays.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Eyebrows ahead

When speaking with a young health professional yesterday, I was surprised that the entire conversation was not spent staring at his eyebrow piercing. We have come a long way when a metal rod through part of a person's face doesn't, well, (and I just can't help this) raise an eyebrow. But what was surprising was a later conversation with my brother and sister-in-law about the niece's body art - and where it was and wasn't. Seems eyebrow piercings are not totally desirable as they can lead to permanent Bells Palsy - where the muscles on one side of your face cease functioning. It's a condition that usually affects older people and is not often permanent. But with eyebrow piercing the effect can come on immediately or up to a year later and can be permanent. This may not be something that the piercing artistes broadcast if it is true … because it does seem to have a ring of urban myth to it.


Pelican feeding at the Central Coast yesterday afternoon. There are, of course, many many more pics which may turn up on the travel pics blog in the next couple of days - but no promises.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The good crystal

Thinking of a South African colleague when I saw these (hi R) ... what to do with coke bottles once you've finished drinking the contents - with our without red wine! Found these gems at the restaurant at The Big Prawn at Ballina. They must really like their condiments there.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Travel stop

We're still on the road - or to be more precise, we have stopped at a small motel which has riverside units and we're sitting outside drinking in the scenery. It helps that when we left the Gold Coast this morning it was raining quite heavily, and continued to do so for several hours. At one stage I was peering through the windscreen, wipers going as fast as they could, trying to keep in sight the tail lights of the car in front of me. What a relief to be sitting in the gathering twilight, not a serious rain cloud about, enjoying the evening. A wonderful start to the new year!

Happy …

It's a mistake anyone can make … merging the names of two regularly-visited blogs – happysinger and talesofapeakhourtraveller – to get  Hello Bert and Claudette who started the blog to keep folks updated on their travels. Alas … it doesn't seem that they've been getting out much – they reported on their recent visit to Cabo St Lucas in their last entry dated "thursday, january 27, 2005". (Not that I can talk about  blogs that aren't updated regularly of course ... makes me curious though about how many blogs are languishing unattended out there - and what happens to them.)