Thursday, November 27, 2008

Definitely too much information

Maybe it's just my sometimes uncharitable view of the world and some of the people in it but it seems to me that if you open your door late at night to a stranger who appers to be at the wrong house - and then he pulls out a sharp object (screwdriver?) and cuts you on the face and you counter by smashing him with a baseball bat - it seems that this is not something you want appearing in the press - together with your photo and/or name and location. "Did she do the right thing [chasing him off with a bat]?" is a vote and debate topic in today's The Daily Telegraph. Maybe the question should be whether attack victims should have their details published making it easier for an attacker, or a grudge-holding person (who couldn't previously remember who had hit them maybe because they were drunk or high), to find them.

Too much information

We were warned about it when studying Psychology but I don't think it had a name then - the syndrome where first year university students develop all kind of "illnesses" through their exposure to information in text books about those illnesses. Well, now there is a name for it - or its counterpart on the web - cyberchrondia. Cyberchrondia is defined in a study by Ryen White and Eric Horvitz as "unfounded increases in health anxiety based on the review of web content". And there is no shortage of medical sites or content on the Internet - some of which is incredibly helpful for getting more information about a specific condition- including, in some instances, suggestions for questions to ask your doctor.

Dying wish

Andre Tchaikowsky's dying wish was to take part in "Hamlet" and finally, a quarter of a century after his death from cancer, he has made it from concert pianist to Yorick the court jester whose skull is held aloft after being unearthed by a gravedigger. David Tennant (aka Dr Who) did the "holding aloft" in 22 performances of the play in Stratford-upon-Avon - birthplace of playwright William Shakespeare and primary venue for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The stage appearance has been a long time coming, though, with Tchaikowsky's skull held in the costume store since it's handover to the Company. (The Daily Telegraph)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Life span

A Pal (thanks D) shared the following average life spans for cats with me today:
- Feral cat = 4 years
- House cat that goes outside = 6 years
- House cat who stays inside = 24 years.
We currently have two house cats - one who spends a bit of time outside (14 years) and one who spends the majority of her time inside (16 years). We're counting on both of them to skew the statistics - a lot!

Art imitating art

For reasons slightly beyond my control, I have recently finished reading S's bookclub's novel for this month - and hated it - and have no-one to blame but myself ... since I chose it - casting the deciding vote when the group was split. I had had the deciding vote once before (Water for Elephants) - sitting nearby but not participating I had suggested that if the vote was tied, I could cast the decider because I usually listened to their discussions. This time the deal was I could decide as long as I read the book. I agreed and chose the one I had heard about, knew was available in electronic book format, and that I had already been thinking about reading given the publicity it had received after being chosen as an Oprah book. Alas, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle did not live up to my expectations. (Oh no - it has just occurred to me that I have inflicted this read on the bookclub; it will be interesting to see if this is the last choice I get to make.). A mate of mine once said that if you copy someone else's work, it's stealing; if you copy from two works, that's research. In this case though, I don't feel like giving Edgar's author the leniency - not when this, his first novel with a ten-year gestation period, is being touted as the Great American Novel and as a great work of imagination ... a classic in the making. And it could have been all these things - and may be for some - if there didn't seem to be such a reliance on other people's work.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Behind closed doors

The campaign against violence against women is in the news at the moment - and high time too as research shows that half of all women will be victims of physical violence or sexual abuse during their lifetime. Interesting timing for another story - about a television identity who has been accused of abusing a former girlfriend. His female co-host has now come forward to defend him saying the alleged verbal and emotional abuse was completely out of character and - in her opinion - "just not true". Truth of the matter could be that we all have moments of doing things that are "out of character" - which we are not proud of - like name-calling (my pet hate) which IS abusive. I once stopped the car and invited the friend travelling with me to exit the vehicle for name-calling. While the old saying "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" comes to mind, it also stands to reason that if name-calling didn't have the capacity to affect people - this phrase would never have been coined. The other thing is that none of us knows what goes on "behind closed doors" and while reports of her new partner banning your sister's friend and primary support in past times from her house may have overtones of isolation - it could be a perfectly reasonable and well-meaning directive. Or, more's the pity, it may be that some women don't realize what abuse is, because the've become so used to it.


I skipped over the report about "Outcry over teen drug tips booklet" in today's paper and settled instead on one entitled "Expert tips for children on how to speed dangerously" - which I took to be an ironic piece. I was baffled by the in-article advice which urged readers to pay for their food, rent and bills first - and a couple of other tips that had nothing to do with cars - including "don't buy drugs on credit". The penny finally dropped that the article was about "speed" (the drug) rather than "speeding" - and then the article made a whole lot more sense. Funny how we can skew/influence content by bringing preconceptions to our reading.

Face painting

Happy faces have sprung up on a number of hay bales in northern NSW. The bales - no, not rectangular bales - you know the ones where they roll up the hay into big "logs" which are covered in plastic - had their ends painted with the smiley faces a week ago - some with eyes open, some with eyes closed. According to The Daily Telegraph, Landowner Tony Nell said it was artistic and a bit of a laugh, especially with the world in economic turmoil. In all, about 30 of the 200 bales on his property were targetted with the smiley faces.

Bacon bit

Not sure what to get that person who has just about everything? Well, if you're in the UK then you can forget about getting them a Vosges Mo' Bacon Bar because the only stockist there, Selfridges, has temporarily sold out of the world's first bacon chocolate bar. The earliest net reference I can find to this "tasty" morsel is from August last year so it's not "new" but itseems to have hit the news and blogosphere because the 3oz/£6/bars sold out within 48 hours of going on sale at Selfridge's four stores. An urgent order has been placed for more stock. So what makes The Mo' Bacon Bar have people coming back for mo'? It could be any of the main ingredients ... chunks of applewood smoken bacon, milk chocolate or smoked salt. Mmmm - way too many flavours for me - and too imaginative a combination - but obviously lots of people out there like them. Wonder if they have them here?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wanted: Pied Piper

Hamelin, as featured in the fairytale of the Pied Piper, has a rodent problem - again. According to a Courier Mail report, instead of coming in groups of 20 to 30 - usual rat pack size - the rats overrunning Hamelin are advancing in packs ten times that size. A makeshift rubbish dump on the outskirts of town is being blamed for the infestation - in numbers European media are reporting as matching those experienced during the Great Plague in 1284 - supposedly the basis for the Pied Piper "events". There was no mention of proposed payment methods for a new Piper if sought by the City but given current global economic conditions, if I was a Hamelin child I'd be cranking up the volume on the MP3 player to drown out the melodies of any disgruntled pipers who might be passing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Practice makes perfect

First Timothy McCormack was accused of faking credentials to work as a maintenance engineer on Qantas aircraft. Now he's accused of forging the character references he provided in support of his bid for a lesser sentence for forging. None of the referees had been approached by McCormack whose barrister has now won an adjournment to investigate if McCormack was a pathological liar. A online report suggested the magistrate found the fakes easy to detect -they were all typed and formatted the same way and were signed by the same hand. Pathological liar or a slow learner? Hard to say but I am reminded of something I was once told: Only perfect practice makes perfect. Maybe that's something Mr McCormack may have time to ponder if he finds himself unable to engineer his way out of spending time in the "big house".

Room with a view

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the death of Australian artist and writer Norman Lindsay. While some of us remember him best for his children's classic "The Magic Pudding" others will have other memories: like visiting the Norman Lindsay gallery in the Blue Mointains on a close-to-first-date and only then discovering, when entering a room displaying them, that Mr Lindsay had also made a name for himself - and shocked the nation - with his erotic paintings.

Local currency

A quote from a story on the sad state of affairs in Mebourne in The Daily Telegraph: "After nine o'clock you can get anything you want for a packet of cigarettes". Does this mean it's very difficult find cigarettes so the seller can charge whatever they like - or that you can buy anything with a packet of cigarettes? Or both? I read the story in hopes of finding out what colulmnist Malcolm Farr meant, but I am still unclear.

Twilight (time) zones

You may have heard the song with the words "it's twilight time"; it may even be called that. But who knew that there are actually three twilight each day (counting only those that happen when the sun is setting) - Civil (the period between day and night when it is possible to conduct outdoor activities without artificial light); Nautical (the horizon is still visible allowing navigational readings to be done accurately) and Astronomical (stars and other point sources visible but not nebulae and galaxies).. The differentiation is based on how many degrees the sun is below the horizon - Civil - less that 6; Nautical 12-6; Astronomical 18-12. (With thanks to Wikipedia - which also notes the differentiation is important because the penalty for some crimes (presumably in the US) eg burglary is greater if they are conducted outside of daylight hours.)

Video driving

If video driving games breed irresponsible drivers - as has recently been suggested - why is it that some insurance companies are reportedly considering offering reduced premiums to drivers who play video games? There is, of course, a catch. The offer would be made to older gamers (not sure how old is old) because gaming is supposed to increase mental agility. There could be another reason: if you're gaming, you aren't on the roads (hopefully).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wide open spaces

On our recent trip to outback NSW we had to pull off the road at one stage to allow three trucks carrying massively wide loads to pass. It was amazing to see as the loads took up both sides of the highway. But that's nothing compared to what we might have seen if we were making the trip now. A report in today's The Daily Telegraph has a swarm of locusts 6km long and 170m wide in the Condobolin area. At this stage this swarm, and others around the state, are "low density" but to be on the safe side here in droughtstriken NSW, aircraft are on alert to poison the swarms if they get larger or thicker.

Getting a "hit"

New research from the University of Chicago suggests the area of the brain associated with rewards "lights up" when bullies see someone inflicting pain - they get a "hit" from the hit. The same response is not recorded in people wihout aggressive tendencies. The report I read in The Daily Telegraph did not list the participant demographics so it is difficult to know whether the results can be generalized to the population as a whole. But, according to Psychologist Dr Helen McGrath from the National Centre Against Bullying, if the study proved a link between "reward" and pain this showed bullying was a learned behaviour - and the Government should continue to fund early intervention. Tthere are apparently programs that start with four-year olds out there - which is just plain scary on so many levels.

Career opportunity

I'll have to hunt down the actual article but one of the items in the "what's news" quiz in one of the local Sydney papers was; How much will Wyong Councl pay for information leading to conviction of a graffiti vandal? A: $10,000. Not quite sure what they would need but it seems that a person with a camera and time on their hands in the right location might be able to tap into a new income stream here. The question though is: what is graffiti - and when Is graffiti not graffii but art, social expression or free speech? Hmmm. Seems there could be some questioning of societal norms here but possibly lots of people might agree that those people with paint cans who simply repeat/practice their tags in public spaces may not actually be making valid comment/contribution unless it's a visual metaphor for an ongoing search for identity. (Wyong is a little ways away; I wonder if the local council offers a similar bounty.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Old fashioned fun

Gizmoso reported last week on one of the latest entries in the [US] National Toy Hall of Fame - the stick. Other entrants this time included the Baby Doll and the skateboard. They join existing classics including Mr Potato Head, Crayola Crayons ... and the cardboard box (inducted 2005). The stick was chosen because it has been a staple of imaginative play for a long time - what did you use your stick for ... horse, gun, broom, balance pole ...? - and because everyone - man and beast and Mr Garrett from South Park - plays with one.

(Not so) Merry Xmas

The Grinch is alive and well - both here and overseas. The Croatian Prime Minister has, according to BBC Online, banned State-run firms from having Christmas parties and giving presents due to the credit crunch. Closer to home, The Daily Telegraph reports thieves have stolen $15,000 worth of Xmas decorations from the yard of a house on Queensland's Gold Coast. The decorations formed part of the Turner family's entry in the Gold Coast City Council Christmas Light Up competition which they won last year. The family spends $50,000 and three months annually working on their display - with proceeds donated to the Gold Coast Hospital. Be on the lookout for two larger-than-life fiberglass Santas, a sleigh and nine reindeer.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Amy Taylor and David Pollard are divorcing three years after they met, fell in love and married - all on the Internet. As well as their cyber-wedding on Second Life (a computer generated world where your cyberself aka avatar can interact with other avatars) the couple also had a real world registry office wedding. But their life has taken an unexpected turn - unexpected for everyone but them I suspect. Amy found out that David was cheating on her - having sex with a Second Life prostitute. Even though Amy hired a cyber PI to look into the matter, and despite her hurt, she and David, still insisting he had done no wrong, patched it up and all seemed well until she soon after discovered he had allowed his avatar to become intimately involved with another, female, avatar in Second Life. When confronted David confessed he had been talking with the player for a couple of weeks and that their marriage (that is David and Amy's) was over. The next day she went to a real world solicitor to file for divorce.
On reading this tale I found myself wondering about people living their "other" life in Second Life. Where do they find the time? What do they do there? And how do they decide on their avatars - and whether they are going to resemble their real life identity at all: case in point - David and Amy's avatars bore very little resemblance to them in real life. But maybe that's the point in a youth and beauty conscious world ... chances are that if you're unemployed, middle-aged, bald and not in peak physical condition, and you get a choice, that's not the image you're going to choose to project to a pretend world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

One, two, three ...

I was listening to Dr Karl Kruszelnicki's radio program the other day and mention was made of the number of hairs on a human head - 100,000. (I have to keep telling myself that Homer Simpson's three hairs don't count because he isn't real.). The question I have is how do they know what the average number of hairs is - did someone actually count them ... strand by strand, or make an estimation based on weight of a sample and coverage area. And if you wanted to question their figure how would you go it? Does the total vary between races? Genders? Ages? Depending on your diet? Oh wait - that would be to do with texture of your hair rather than how much hair you have - as in "eating your crusts will make your hair go curly" - and if they're wrong about that, could they not be wrong about the number if individual strands as well?

What's in a name

Mlckey Mouse officially turns 80 next week - but would he have enjoyed such success and longevity had Walt Disney named him "Mortimer" instead? We'll never know of course but somehow Mortimer Mouse isn't quite as catchy - and certainly doesn't scan well with the Mickey Mouse Club opening song. And to think that the world may never have had Mickey. According to today's The Daily Telegraph, Disney chose Mickey after he lost his biggest star - Oswald the Lucky Rabbit - in a trademark dispute. Disney had considered a horse, dog, cat, frog and cow before deciding on Mortimer Mouse - but Disney changed the character's name after his wife told him she "disliked" it. Happy birthday M. Mouse!

Special delivery mail man

German police are today searching for a prisoner who escaped by mailing himself out in a 120cm by 150cm carton. Described as "tall and broad-shouldered" the convicted drug dealer had been working with other inmates on stationery and when their shift ended he climbed into a cardboard box and was taken out of the prison by express courier. Shortly after the truck left the prison, he escaped by cutting a large hole in the tarpaulin of the lorry and jumping off. According to the BBC report I read, the driver, on noticing the tarp flapping in the wind investigated and alerted prison officials. The prison Warden, not surprisingly, said the incident showed that security needed to be beefed up urgently.

By the book

Doing some reading on the internet about "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" I discovered an interesting feature at an online bookstore (not Amazon but it also does have this feature although you have to be logged into their site to use it). At the Harper Collins site you can browse inside a book - i.e. you can "search" and even read some sections of the (available) book/s online - which means the book could be available electronically - for those of us who prefer to carry our books on a "device" rather than in paper form. While I am more of a device person myself I was forced to read an actual book recently and it seems that this format does have an advantage of sorts - it let's other people know you are reading rather than playing games or social networking. I've also commented on this blog previously that it could be good advertising for the author if there was some way to "show" what you were reading on a device - similar to the bookmark you can printout from one of the Edgar Sawtelle sites I visited yesterday. Hmmmm - I can see it now - tiny little dustjackets for your electronic handheld reading device - mine currently being my iPod Touch. Which reminds me - Apple here in Australia have recently started advertising the Touch on free-to-air TV as being "fun" and showing a whole slew of games - this fits in well with recent overseas news that Apple is going to push the Touch as a gaming device - although its use as a reading device should not be undervalued.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dead Unlucky

A Brazilian woman on her way to her husband's funeral was killed when the hearse in which they were travelling was involved in a traffic accident. The coffin hurled forward and hit her in the back. Her son and the driver suffered only minor injuries.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Word play

Words are wonderful. Take "pauper" fo example - which tells you what it means: poor (pau) per(son). Porpoise doesn't work the same way though - meaning neither bad posture nor unfortunate kitty.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unarmed bandit

From today's The Daily Telegraph - but undoubtedly this story will be all over the "odd" news today:
Munich: Baffled police are hunting a handy thief who managed to steal a 60cm TV from a shop in broad daylight - despite having no arms. The limber bandit had two accomplices clamp the television set to his body before they strolled out of the shop in Munich, Germany. Staff had no clue until they noticed a TV was missing from its stand, then saw the heist on CCTV recordings. A police spokesman said: "It's hard to believe the sight of an armless man walking with a TV clamped to his body did not get anyone's attention."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shiny guy

Reading about the Star Wars exhibit starting at Sydney's PowerHouse Museum this December, I remembered an article I thought I'd clipped in the last couple of days which referred to things noticed by children. Try as I might I am unable to locate it but the general gist was: in Star Wars the shiny guy worries a lot.


It's not often that I find myself agreeing with the Daily Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman but I found I was this morning. He wrote about Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's announcement that his Government would lead an international push to end capital punishment globally. The timing is interesting - coming only hours after the men convicted for their part in the 2002 Bali Bombing (in which nearly 90 Australians were killed) were executed by firing squad. Piers Akerman wrote: "the timing of this mission reeks of gutlessness, hypocrisy and political opportunism". While I would not have put it quite that strongly, I had wondered about the timing - especially as, understandably perhaps from a political standpoint, the Rudd Government did not seem to be campaigning against the death penalty for the Bali Bombers. This is not the forum for a debate on capital punishment but it does seem that it is a very personal issue which everyone needs to take some time to think about and reach their own conclusions rather than simply following the party line of the Government of the day.

Gun Number

Watching a television commercial for the Australian military the other day, I was surprised to see that there was no mention of the "enemy". In it, a young man talked of his role as a "gun number" where he and the others in his team could have their artillery gun in place and ready to fire within a couple of minutes. Sounded easy ... although they themselves were not under fire at the time - and there was no suggestion that those recruited via the ad (for that was its purpose) would have to perform in combat conditions - yes, yes, you'd think people would work it out but it just seems this isn't (whole) truth in advertising.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Google time

Ever since we went into early daylight saving time last month, I have been unsure of the time. I used to be able to confirm the exact time by ringing a number which gave the time -The Talking Clock - but I've decided there has to be another way - like the Internet. There was a site called which gave time zones from around the world - but there's an easier way. It's Google. Just do a search on "time" and it will show your local time zone - not quite sure how it knows where you are though, probably it has something to do with your IP address or some such detail. It would be interesting to see if it worked when you are accessing the net through a corporate server to see if it could still correctly identify your time zone. (Orr - hi there - if you're still reading, this might be one for you.)


One in three weddings end in divorce - so what makes the difference in the other two-thirds? And does it mean that the rest of marriages end with the death of one (or both) spouses? And what of de facto relationships -what is the "success" rate? Is there any credible research in this field - especially as the rate of marriage generally is supposed to be decreasing?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A lot of lolly

Today's The Daily Telegraph tells of the 50th anniversary of the Chupa Chup - which, although not the first lolly on a stick, has probably become the most recognisable - aided by its appearance in Telly Savalas' mouth when he played the famous Chupa-Chup-sucking detective, Kojak*, way back in 1975. (Hands up anyone else who feels old realising they watched the initial series run over 30 years ago!) What I hadn't known about Chupa Chups was that it was Salvador Dali, in 1969, who was commissioned to design the wrapper for the Chupa Chup, or that they were the first lollipops in space, sent to the Mir space station, when requested in 1995 To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this lolly-pop, Chupa Chups Lane will open in Oxford Street Market, Bondi Junction (NSW) today until 17 November. It will feature art works, light boxes and installations. There was no word in the report whether Chupa Chups will be on sale in situ or available gratis.
*The producers of Kojak had apparently come under fire because of the hero's smoking habits; they had him quit smoking and suck lollipops instead.

Fire works

Come Christmas each year, I like to tie some tinsel to the car's aerial so I can find it in crowded car parks. But if you're not the tinsel kind, Gizmodo reports that there is an alternative. What could be a better way to find your vehicle than having a holographic fireworks display "go off" over it - the Fireworks Locator System? Of course, this will probably work better while you're the only one in your neighbourhood with one - otherwise it could be a multi-pyrotechnics display because, and you know it's true, if some folk had one of these they'd be setting it off all the time regardless of the distraction it might prove to passing pedestrians and drivers - which is exactly why I'll be sticking with tinsel.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Naming rites

Obama may have been named the US President Elect this week but it doesn't stop there. Word from the BBC is that babies throughout Kenya (birthplace of Obama's father) are now being named Obama in his honour. .

On time

A recent report on the BBC News online tells that the Vatican is reintroducing "clocking in" for its employees to improve time-keeping and efficiency. This brings to mind the old Curia story: when asked how many people worked on the Vatican, Pope John XXIII replied "about half".

Monday, November 03, 2008

Just the shot

Arriving at my local coffee shop this morning, I couldn't help but notice various signs declaring "Sam's Gone Mad" - and listing 3 specials. When I asked Sam about it, and whether it was because business was not booming he said it was for a number of reasons - but primarily to lift people's spirits. "Usually, this time of year, there's a buzz [in the lead-up to Christmas] but people's morale is down." He's also planning to introduce random spot specials eg $1 coffee. The Post Cafe is in Marrickville Rd, Marrickville, and was well worth a visit even before Sam went mad! But isn't it fantastic to see such a positive grassroots response to changing conditions!

Man on (a) high

In Adelaide yesterday, circus performer Roy Maloy took 11 tries to do what others would consider to be either the stuff of dreams - or nightmares - when he walked 5 steps on 17-metre stilts. Yes ... that was 17 metres - or 57 feet - making them higher than a four-storey building. His previous successful attempt was on 5m stilts. He will have to wait to see if this attempt secures him a world record but remains fairly grounded and down to earth in terms of his achievement - today's The Daily Telegraph reports Mr Maloy as saying: "I was more convinced that I was going to die than at any other point in my life, so I'm really thrilled." Over on the ABC site, they report Maloy was assisted in the death-defying record attempt by the city's fire brigade: "As we were up there, I was holding on to two guys and I turned to one of them and said, 'You know that you are all that's separating me from life and death right now', and he said, 'Look I don't need that pressure'."
I haven't yet been able to find a photo but am hoping footage of the feat will pop up on YouTube sometime soon. In the interim, YouTube does have Roy's video diary of preparations for the record attempt and only by watching that did I truly appreciate the heights this man had reached!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sculpture 08

Sculpture by the Sea 2008 finished today and we were lucky enough to get there on Friday. Pics are posted at 101-Journeys (and there's a link there to a slideshow of the images).