Thursday, December 31, 2009

Secret (not any more) plan to save Earth from asteroid

It's like a blockbuster disaster movie
description: 350-metre wide asteroid Apophis could strike Earth in 26 years and could kill "hundreds of thousands" but is actually from today's news. The Russians are said to be preparing to meet to work out ways to prevent a collision when the asteroid passes within 30,000 km of the planet. Meanwhile, the US space agency NASA said in an October statement that updated computational techniques and newly available data indicate the probability of an Earth encounter on April 13, 2036, for Apophis has dropped from one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a-million. It's uncertain whether they wil join with the Russian to discuss the possibility of impact, or if they are making plans for April 14.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holy apparitions

Not sure if this is something you would want or not - in today's paper there is a story of a woman who saw the face of Jesus on a banana peel - and she is no stranger to this type of thing ... apparentlly a friend of hers saw an apparition of Mary in the mould of their shower floor. Now what was that about godliness and cleanliness?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Way too easy

Hmm - Kindle for the iPhone and iPod Touch is now available in Australia and I downloaded it on the way to work this morning ... and "The Lost Symbol" and a sample of "Flashforward" and ... well, that was it so far but it is way too easy to buy books this way especially with the 1-click option! It will be interesting to see if Amazon (owners of Kindle) have eliminated the pesky geography issues that plague some other online ebook sellers. Now if only the Kindl application was more customisable and/or provided a plainer typeface.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Word of the day ...

"paywall" - like a firewall on your computer that keeps bugs and other unfriendlies out - but in reverse - you can't get access unless you pay. Expect to see more of these - especially from the publishers who are keen to have us pay fir content.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Peaceful words

In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize last week, US President Barack Obama reportedly defended the right of his country to wage "just wars" in the name of peace. Somehow doesn't seem quite in keeping with the occasion - although given that the Nobel prize was established by the man who invented dynamite, maybe it's not that far off the mark.

Home for the holidays

It just makes me want to rush out and buy his new book (which I would have already if they weren't holding up the e-version because thy were afraid it would hurt hard-cover sales) ... Author Stephen King and his wife are donating money so 150 soldiers from the Maine Army National Guard can come home for the holidays.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In the news

Seems you can't look at a newspaper or magazine (or blog) these days without reading something about Tiger Woods. I was surprised to find, in one edited transcript of SMS exchanges between the Tiger and one of his "friends", that he referred to himself as "blasian". I'd not heard the term before. Nor the phrase, in the same report, "beyond PR redemption". So does this mean that the saying "no publicity is bad publicity" may need revisiting?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

EPublishing

It's kind of odd that there's so much yet so little happening about electronic publishing. On one hand there's the US magazine publishers who are looking to provide a delivery mechanism for use on all manner of devices; and on the other there's the move by publishers to delay release of ebooks so they don't interfere with hardcover sales. I guess it's all about maximizing profits ... but who knew ebook readers would be worse off the more popular electronic material became?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Holler for a ...

A "to do" list can be a helpful thing: place to hold up - check; hand gun - check; getaway car ... oops. Police yesterday caught a man who had allegedly tried to hold up a hotel in Alexandria, Sydney, as he tried to hail a cab to make his getaway. Whi said there's never a cab around when you need one?

One of a kind?

How do you personalize your wedding? The latest craze seems to be to take part in a "drown the gown" ceremony which is reportedly ((The Daily Telegraph) being adopted by newlyweds looking for more extreme ways to make their wedding their own/memorable. I guess it's different from going out in your wedding best and having a paint ball skirmish. Not sure what it says about the venerated institution of marriage ... or if it affects the resale value ...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On the moose ...

If you’re going walking in the woods near Loftahammer, Sweden, be on the lookout for moose – especially those who have been eating fermented fallen apples. While moose normally run away from humans, if they’ve been supping on the apples they can become aggressive – and, it seems, aggressive enough to kill. A man who was arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife last September was cleared after police decided she was probably killed by a moose - a decision they made after finding moose hair and saliva on his wife’s clothes. Thank goodness for forensics but it's tragic about the apple-affected moose.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sky high

A 56-cm (22") high figurine of King Kong, as used in the original movie about the giant ape, recently sold at auction at Christie's in London for $217,450. The figurine was used in the final scene of the movie where the ape attempts to fend off fighter planes as it stands atop the Empire State Building. How could you let something like that go?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Drawing a conclusion

This is from Sydney's The Daily Telegraph yesterday and highlights the power of drawing .... this "crude" sketch has led to an arrest in a murder case. Details can be found here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Set phaser to "stun"

New technology news tells of scientists showing off a device that would be more at home on Star Trek - a "phaser". Alas at this point, we're still in trouble if the aliens come - unless they're tiny worms called nematodes - because that's currently the only thing the phaser seems to work on. What are the chances?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Eating it up

It makes you wonder about how different the world would be if everyone had access to the same information. In the news this morning, there's a report from Moscow of three homeless men who killed another man, ate parts of his body and sold some of the meat to a kebab stand. The three men were reportedly acting out of "personal hostility toward the victim". Now, if they'd read the newspapers last week, they may have claimed a different motivation - after a man charged with cannibalism received a reduced sentence, if any (I really do need a mobile internet connection that works well - or to note these things down when I read them) because he said he was "starving". I'm not sure if he murdered his victim ... oh wait, here it is ... in Russia, a judge reduced the sentence of a man who had killed his mother (after she had refused to give him money for drink) and then eaten part of her a couple of days later because he was hungry and had to eat. Mmmm ... or rather, hmmmm, what will they think of next in way of defences?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2000 and counting

Life seems to get busier at times but we still find time for the important things - which is why I've just hit the 2000 post mark here. More to come.

Why don't they just say so?

A recent JB HiFi Catalogue featured a range of DVDs which boasted covers with lenticular printing. I suspected that meant those where the images changes and looks like 3-D and that seems to be what it is, but why didn't they just say so?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A matter of record

French President Nicholas Sarkozy appears to have been caught out in a fib. A photo was posted or Facebook which shows him chipping away at the Berlin Wall on the night it came down. Only problem is, is that from official council records it appears he was in Paris that day and would probably not have reached Berlin until two days later. It's amazing because, if it is true that he wasn't there on the day, why would he want to claim he was? Surely being there at all is enough of a slice of history.

Sign of the times?

The new Limited Collector's Edition DVD of Twilight is "brimming" with special features - one of which is a digital copy so, as was noted in the review in today's The Daily Telegraph "(Twihards) can carry the movie everywhere on an iPod or iPhone". What will they think of next? And are there any types of copy protection on the digital copy so Twihards (I don't like the use of this word because I know some and they are very nice people - but it is an amazing neologism (new-word-combination if that in itself was a word ... which I am sure it is but can't find on the dictionary this morning ... of course it helps if you spell it correctly ... not as neogolism - you have to love spell check) and is kind of fun to say - especially if you say it over and over again quickly.

Tourist tax

What will they think of next? First it's parking fees at Sydney's popular beaches and now there's talk of a tourist tax on visitors to the Blue Mountains - plus more parking meters as well! What happened to the land of the free - oops wrong country.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

One for the dogs

Pals who have cattle dogs are quite fond of them - and quite rightly it seems. Teka the cattle dog was given an RSPCA Achievement Award earlier this week for saving his owner, Jim Touzeau, who had suffered a heart attack. The dog did so by jumping up and down on his chest. So how did he know how to do it? ER and hispital reality shows? Or some innate instinct? Like the cat who came to the assistance of someone we know - she was upset and having difficulty catching her breath. The cat came to her, put its paws on her shoulders and stayed with her, breathing on her face as if to model how it was done, until she started breathing properly again.
The "humanness" of animals has been in the news this week with the story of a group of chimpanzees who grieved as a group over the passing of Dorothy, one of their number, at a Rescue Centre in Cameroon, west Africa.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Out of control

It must be very hard for a judge and jury to work out what is truth and what is not ... although in this instance you would hope some medical evidence would be able to help. On 21 October 2007, Adnan Safwan was allegedly in charge of a boat which crashed into a bridge pylon causing the death of his passenger. He was charged with "dangerous navigation" but is pleading "not guilty" by virtue of the fact that his passenger had knocked him out with an anchor before the vessel hit the pylon. This would suggest that he wasn't in control of the vessel and therefore could not be held responsible for piloting it (or not piloting it). The question that comes to mind though, is why would a passenger on a boat hit the person driving it with an anchor? Hopefully these, and other questions, will be answered at the trial and justice will be done.

Not quite sure

The headlines in the Sydney papers today are about whether one of murdered heart surgeon Victor Chang's killers should be released "early" from prison after serving his minimum sentence of 18 years. At this point, it would be good if we knew more about sentencing and minimum requirements worked. One of the more amazing things about the debate though is whether people commit more of a crime if they murder someone who could have done great good if they had not been killed. A comment on the reaction line of a radio station this morning suggested that people who kill drug dealers should get a shorter sentence. They stopped short of suggesting such killers be given a reward (or would that be a bounty in this situation?).
It is an emotionally charged issue, one to which there are no easy answers. But it has raised an issue about process. Apparently, Victor Chang's family were not invited to the initial hearing about his killer's release. Maybe that needs to be done as a matter of course from now on - regardless of how long ago the crime was committed.
It would be interesting to see if this raises new call for the re-introduction of capital punishment: dead men (and women) don't get early release ... or do they?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sailing away

Jessica Watson set sail from Sydney yesterday in her attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world. There has been much speculation about whether, at 16, she is too young to attempt this solo feat. But, some of that concern was questioned this morning on a Sydney radio station, when they said that if she gets in trouble, she can always find a container ship - a reference to her collision with a container ship on her first test outing from Brisbane to Sydney? But it's good to know that she's finally on herf way - and that her mother made a quick sneak visit on board before Jessica set off to leave some secret treats and Christmas presents for her courageous daughter.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Seems about right

While looking for news of the balloon boy this morning, I looked at the Reuters Odd News and there was a headline: Burning bunnies helps keep people warm and cozy. Intrigued, I clicked on the link only to get the message "Sorry, there's a problem with this page". They may have got that right - but until the content can be accessed, we may never know.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Common endeavours

More questions ... again from radio listening. Hilary Clinton has been in talks with the Russians about missile defence and she was quoted (and no, I didn't realise I needed to copy down the quote until after it was over and gone forever in the ether - until the next bulletin at least) as saying it was a "common" interest. Hmmm - this could suggest that they are worried about a common enemy - or does it just seem that way.

What's in a word

Listening to the radio this morning, there was some discussion about whether criminals or their families should be allowed to make money from writing books about their wrongdoings. The word "profiting" was used, but also "profiteering" and I was sent to the dictionary to determine the distinction. I admit, I am still a little confused. Profiteering relates to making an unreasonable or excessive profit. Profiting relates to deriving a benefit from. Both seem to work in this context.

Giving it back

News reports this morning suggest that Ben Lexen, credited with the design of the winged keel, that helped Australia win The America's Cup (way back when) was in fact only a small contributor to the project. A Dutch naval architect claims that he was the driving force behind the keel and was paid $25,000 by boat owner, Alan Bond, to keep the level of his involvement secret. According to The America's Cup rules, the competing boats have to be largely (wholly?) designed by the countries racing them. The question now is ... will Dr van Oossanen (the architect in question) feel compelled to give the money back? And another question is ... why come forward with the news now - when Ben Lexcen can't have a right of reply - and Mr Bond's memory has reportedly him in the past.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Apology

David Letterman's reaction to a blackmail threat last week was quite unexpected. He went public first - admitting on-air that he had slept with some of his female employees. Such was the surprise at this that it didn't even occur that despite having been in a long-term relationship and recently marrying his beau-ette - during his admission he didn't offer any apology - to her or generally. Not that there was any requirement for him to do, of course, but someone must have thought better of it because he has now made an on-air apology to his wife.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Best foot forward

This may be the start of an urban myth but while watching a report this morning on yesterday's Rugby League Grand Final there was the suggestion that Parramatta, the losing side, should have known what was in store when one of its players showed up wearing two left boots.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Piracy

News today is that the latest Dan Brown novel "The Lost Symbol" is now available for electronic download from various pirate sites on the web within a couple of days of its launch - and only a couple of days before "Talk Like A Pirate Day".
If you to procure it legally and electronically in Australia - it is apparently going to be available on publisher Random House Australia's web site from today. Asking price $49.95 - same as the hard copy - except there will reportedly be a 20% discount, although I don't know how long that will be available. I admit that seemed a bit rich to me - especially since some retailers here are selling the book version for under $25 - but I suppose publishers don't get this type of release every day: over 1 million copies were sold on its first day of release in the US, Canada and Britian. While this is amazing, it falls short of the record for a book's debut - 8 million copies in the US alone for JK Rowling's last instalment in the Harry Potter series.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jaywalking

There's going to be a crackdown on jaywalking on the streets of Sydney - but in the article I read about it, they didn't quite say what "jaywalking" was or is. The only clue is that you need to go with the "go" or "green" or "little walking man". But can you cross while you're texting, or have both ears busy with music, or at places on the street where there aren't traffic lights or pedestrian crossing? The fine will be apparently be $56. I always thought that Jaywalking was something Americans did - and it seems we're not going to get an Australian word to cover whatever the behaviour is. According to the Wordbook dictionary by TranCreative LLC - including content from WordNet 3.0, Wiktionary.com and Wikipedia.com: to Jaywalk is to cross the road at a red light. It's ORIGIN: Jay + walk, jay in its obsolete form meaning a dull or ignorant person. Hmmm.
A quick visit to a couple of sites suggests that jaywalking can include staying on the road longer than is necessary to cross it. Hmmm ... again - although it's possible alcohol could be involved in these, and other, instances.

The Living Years

There are some items that seem as though they should carry a "Paid Advertisement" notification ... or at least some explanation as to why it carries the cost it does. In the paper today I saw an article about something which has apparently been called "Facebook for the dead" - a site where family and friends can post photos, videos and memories of their loved ones who are no longer with us. The site is called The Living Years and the site's ambassador - former athlete Jane Flemming - is reported as saying of the site, which the developers have designed to be easy for anyone to use - "if you can Google, you can create a lifebook on Living Years".
It is free to create and keep a lifebook for two weeks but to keep it going after that will cost $5 a month. Now, I know that this has been set up as a business but it seems that the costs could be offset by advertising - or maybe they are. And after having a quick look at the site, it seems that there is now a way to donate to a charity - there are several currently affiliated with the site - as well as other end of life businesses.
When I get a moment, I must check to see what similar sites exist.

Annoyed - The Lost Opportunity

Well, the new Dan Brown book (The Lost Symbol) is out today - for $49.95 here in Australia and since I'm not interested in the hard copy version, I went to Fictionwise.com to buy an electronic version. I thought I was getting fantastic deal - since it's on sale on Preorder for $9.99 plus I had a coupon for 25% discount - which meant I could purchase for the credit I currently have in-store. Well, that was the plan ... until I went through the first stage of check-out only to be told that there is a geographical restriction on the book ... which means I cannot get it. So does that mean it's not going to be available in Australia in ebook form? Not that it would be the first book. But it does seem to be counter-productive to move into a new technology that can use the internet for distribution and not be able to use it globally. I'll check some local booksellers and see if they have it but at this rate, in protest, I may wait for it to be available at the local library - which was supposed to have an catalogue of e-books (in PDF format) go online yesterday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Trapped

I made the mistake of reading what is supposed to be "fact" at the start of an excerpt from Dan Brown's latest novel "The Lost Symbol" - and I am almost hooked but wonder whether it is truly "fact" and if it is, how on earth could Dan (or his wife if she is still helping with his research as was suggested some time ago) know. The fact (paraphrased): In 1991 a document was locked in the safe of the CIA's direction. It is still there and includes refererences to an ancient portal and an unknown underground location. [Of course, I'm thinking Star Gate as opposed to a mere a door]. Where does the portal lead, what does it do, and why is Dan Brown sending Robert Langdon on a mission to "unravel ancient secrets" - what benefit will it provide (besides the obvious ones to the author and publisher)? And when does the book come out?

Not very Christian behaviour

According to a report in today's The Daily Telegraph, after World Youth Day last year, 550 of the pilgrims did not go home. Since then, Federal authorities have caught and expelled just over half of them, but 280 are still out there somewhere. Of course, they shouldn't be hard to find - The World Youth Day pilgrims were noted for spontaneously forming a circle and bursting out singing. And some had legitimate cause for rejoicing, as well as their love of The Almighty, as some (86) were granted protection visas as they could not return home safely. Another 90 are awaiting advice as to whether their visas will be extended.
The most amazing thing about this item was the last sentence: The Department of Immigration and Citizenship deals with 26 million people each year. That's about the current population of Australia.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fresh idea

But it's not necessarily a new idea because the man at the newsagency said he had been trying to explain what a great and easy concept it was to someone over a year ago. A company is marketing Fresh Ink -printer ink cartridges which are categorized by pictures. So instead of buying a Canon BCI cartridge - you buy a Strawberry. A sticker comes with each cartridge so you can put it in a safe place - and, just in case you tire of the novelty (or they go out of business - please no!) it also gives the real model of the cartridge so you can purchase one elsewhere. Oh, and did I mention that even though they aren't brand name, their use won't void your printer's warranty - or so the man at the newsagency said.

Learning styles

We all have different learning styles, but what I'm surprised about is that I seem to have different learning styles for different tasks. I'm currently trying to learn a sequence of 37 numbers, and their relationship to each other i.e. how many numbers between one number and another in the sequence, and I am finding it hard going. I have tried a number of ways, but each So for has been found wanting... although, truth be told, maybe I've just forgotten how to rote learn. how sad would that be. Or maybe I need to think about it differently: l'm off to search on the web for a mnemonic. (Hmm -mnemonic, I think 1 read somewhere that there is no mnemonic for mnemonic - and what a strange word it is if you write it several times quickly).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not getting into hot water

If you're in Australia and you're currently using a hot water bottle for those chilly nights, you might want to check the brand. Of 30 brands currently available here, it seems the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found 18 failed safety standards. And it's not just their opinion: in NSW alone, 111 people were treated for severe burns from scalds from hot water bottles from January 2006 to August 2009. It's unclear why it has taken so long for this menace to become public or how many of the injuries have resulted from people not knowing how to safely use a hot water bottle. If you're unsure - or just want to check your current hot water bottle does meet the safety standards - visit the ACCC website at http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/759045/fromItemId/3737.

Dump button

Hmmm - what's the point of installing a "kill" switch to stop inappropriate content going to air if it's not used. I'm referring to the Kyle and Jackie O show broadcast from a Sydney radio station which had been criticised a short while ago for an on-air lie detector test on a young girl. Well, Kyle has been at it again - but this time, even though the "kill" switch was there - it wasn't used. The question is ... why? Were staff too slow to catch it - or did they too think the remark was acceptable? And does having a "kill" switch mean Kyle can now be even more outrageous (if he wasn't currently forced off-air for 10 days) because it is someone else's responsibility to monitor what comes out of his mouth? Whatever the reasoning, I'm probably not the only one who thinks that it's time this stuff was not taking up the front page of the newspaper (if I was more cynical I'd be checking to see if The Daily Telegraph has financial tie-ins with 2DayFM).

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Hard to fathom

I read a report in the paper this morning about a couple who are about to go on trial in France for allegedly murdering their two children in 2005. The children, both aged 8, were allegedly fed poisioned cannelloni because their parents thought they would be "better able to pull themselves out of debt without them". This is a far cry from the story of the woman at the bus stop this morning who was telling me she was prepared to fight her partner (even though she loves him very much) for the opportunity to send their daughter to boarding school to give her a chance at a better education.

QI

A mate has introduced me to a series which has been kicking around in the UK for a while now - QI. It is magnificient - a comedy panel show based on obscure facts. Points are awarded for right answers - and for wrong answers that are interesting - hence the name QI or Quite Interesting. In the last three shows I have watched there have been references to items that have captured my curiousity in the past: the final use of the guillotine for public execution in France (1977), the suicide of Carruthers - the man who invented Nylon, and the 16 mile-high jump out of a balloon by Joe Kittinger. If you see it in your travels, and like good banter, this could be the show for you too.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Facebook to the rescue

The Daily Telegraph today reports on two young girls, 10 and 12, who, when trapped in a drain over the weekend while doing "urban caving", called for help on their mobile phone by updating their Facebook status. Now, I know I'm a little old fashioned when it comes to some things, but wouldn't it have been better to use the phone to call the emergency services and then, as they waited, update Facebook? Seems the younger generation might approach communication in an entirely different way to the rest of us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dilemma

After returning The Daily Telegraph to its spot at the coffee shop, after I'd finished reading it, and making my way upstairs, I saw a scratch lottery ticket under the table where I had my "stuff" set up. Of course, I bent to retrieve it, and at that moment, it occurred to me that it might (yes, I know unlikely) be a winning ticket. How then would I go about finding its owner and returning it - or, if it was the jackpot winner (yes, yes, rich fantasy life) would I be tempted by the $50,000 prize NOT to return it? Rather than face the dilemma, I thought about leaving it there ... knowing that the owner would come looking for it if it was a winner - or, if not, it would be collected by the cleaning staff. Thought about it ... in the end, I decided if I couldn't trust myself, who could I trust? (The ticket was not a winner but it was a pretty green colour, and the person who had scratched it had done a very good job of removing all the - whatever you call that easily scratch-off covering they use on instant lottery tickets.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Crasher

If you haven't heard about Crasher Squirrel yet, do a Google search and see if you can find him in the now famous photo with his new "friends".

Whacking day

Just when children in New Zealand were getting used to the no-smack policy - where it was illegal to smack children - more than 80% of their adults have voted to have that particular legislation repealed. Reading up on the thoughts and rationale about how the legislation passed at the polls in the first instance, and then what led to a vote for repeal, is now on my list of things to do.

Nice work

The Australian Army has commissioned a 3.5-year, $2.5 million study by the University of Wollongong to determine how fit is fit, and how fit someone in the army needs to do be to fulfill their particular role/s. At present, all army personnel face the "romantic idea" that they should be battle-ready at a moment's notice - even if they are support personnel confined to base. The study will question that particular notion - at a rate of $2,747.25 a day, based on a 52-week year, and a 5 day week (and trusting that my mathematics skills and calculator are working as expected).

Cutting back on complaints

Word is that the people of NSW will not be able to take their complaints about the State Government to the Ombudsman, as they used to. The Ombudsman has reportedly written to State MPs to say they may receive them instead as his office is contemplating service cuts as they run out of the readies "... for complaint handling and resolution work." It's a wonder no one thought of it sooner ... take away the complaints handling body to make the complaints go away.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One to think about

Isn't it the tiniest bit odd that you can't really play Uno by yourself? You know - Uno - Italian and Spanish for 'one'.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Telco continuation

Why do companies have databases where they keep your records if they don't keep your records? Or doesn't it work if you ask them to? I rang my Telco again on the weekend about my continuing network issues - and spent more than 20 minutes going through the issue, history, attempted fixes etc before the Customer Service Officer offered to put me through to Priority Care ... except they weren't there yet. Could he please note down the details of the call so that when I called back, I could be transferred through without having to go through the details again? Certainly, he assured me. Hmmmm. That's not exactly what happened - but I was only on for 15 minutes or so before I finally made it to Priority Care - who then only needed the short form version to finally be able to help me unlock my out-of-contract handset to see whether it or the network coverage - or possibly the SIM card - were contributing to my coverage issues. Coincidentally, when I picked up a new SIM card yesterday - might as well cover all the bases - someone else was asking about their decreased network coverage. It may finally be time to have a look for similar issues on the Internet.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Taking a gamble

Been wondering about a winning system at the casino? Wonder no more. According to today's The Sunday Telegraph, Rob Parsons - touter of "how to beat the casino at Roulette and Blackjack" (my paraphrasing) is looking to have as many people as possible use his Roulette system to protest StarCity Casino's "unfair" BlackJack dealing system. I must have misread the report because it seemed as though the system was going to be freely available ie at no cost. I've just been to look at the website mentioned in the article (I wrote that down) - but can't see anything there that supports that - so I'll just have to rely on M to keep working on her system. (I was looking at BlackJack, but if my chances at winning are decreased because of continuous shoe-shuffling or something ... maybe I can seek other ways to make my fortune.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Loophole

This sounds pretty interesting - but you can understand why there weren't more details in the report: a New Zealand woman has been jailed for a year for defrauding a bank of more than $110,000 when she "stumbled" over an Internet banking loophole. Hope she didn't hurt herself in the process.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Overheard at The Post

"What if a little old lady comes in and buys a ticket to Athens and then drops dead because we've given her swine flu."

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Upselling

"For only $5 more you can get another 6" said the young man behind the counter. For a moment I thought I was at Maccas (Fries with that?" - is that still a common practice there?) but no, it's another chain - Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. I'm hanging out here using the WiFi as I wait for S to arrive (she's flying onto the airport - 1 minutes drive away) and felt obliged to buy a drink - stil cheaper than paying for airport parking. It is a day of celebration here - the 5th anniversary of the store's opening. I'm not sure if it would still be as popular with parents with small children if there wasn't today's special attractions - doughnut decorating, facepainting, fairy and magician - and a gold coin donation sausage sizzle (smells pretty good too). And popular it is. Although it would be nice if the fairy - a teenager with big blue wings - seemed more engaged and less distracted; admittedly it is one of the first times I have seen a mature fairy in the wild so I don't know if it is customary for them to be talking into a mobile phone rather than brandishing a wand. I can't wait for the magician. Really.

Why didn't they just say so

Why do people swing their arms as they walk? Some research has been done and it seems that the effort of not swinging one's arms is greater than the effort involved in swinging them. Towards the end of the report it also mentioned that not swinging one's arms actually increased the effort taken by the lower half of the body to keep everything working smoothly. I wonder if that was balance they were talking about - and if it is, why didn't they just say so?

Job well done!

It's nice to know that good old customer service still exists. Yesterday morning, while the washing was on, and while breakfast was cooking, the electricity on that circuit went out. Okay, it might also have had something to do with the heater and television and three other appliances on that circuit all being operational at the same time. While resetting the breaker switch - the first two times it was okay, the third time it wouldn't cooperate - it was obvious it was time to call the electrician. He was great. Even though he couldn't come, he advised that Energy Australia has an emergency service which could look after small jobs - and he thought it was a small job, just needing the circuit breaker switch to be replaced (he told me what to tell them when I rang up) and that they usually could get there within 4 hours. One call and one hour and ten minutes later, Barry arrived. Gone, seemingly, are the days of tradies/sparkies in overalls. Barry arrived looking neat and tidy in crisply pressed trousers, white shirt and black vest, and a very small waist bag. I took him through to the cupboard where the switchboard lives and left him to it. He came back through a couple of minutes later saying yes, it was the switch, and that he'd tried to repair it - and was it working. Alas, no, so he had to replace it - but he had the necessary part in his truck and it was all done, and operational - with him having checked each socket on the powerpoint, to make sure all was well - within 15 minutes.
Great job Barry and great job Energy Australia! (I did miss Rob, our electrician, though. He is so tall he only needs to use a small step to be able to reach our light fittings.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ignoring reports

It's sometimes hard to tell the differerence between a worthwhile and truthful research report and one that's just a load of ... and I am unsure about this one. Apparently truck drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash or just miss being in a crash than an undistracted driver. For car drivers (and it pains me to say this M) the greatest danger seems not to be texting while driving but dialing while driving. So ... just how helpful are reports like this? Would you feel safer today texting while driving? The report is based on research conducted between 2004 and 2007 by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. There was no mention in the report I read if there could be a cultural, geographic or technological differential with the results - afterall, phone technology has come a long way since 2007. And did it look at types of phones - for example, and wouldn't this be interesting to know - leaving out the obvious no-texting while driving option - is it safer to text with an iPhone than a Nokia? Hmmmm. Or should that be Mmmmmm - iPhone. (And could there be any truth to the rumours hitting the tech press this morning that Apple is going to release a tablet device - somewhere between the iPod Touch and laptop size - before year end? Could this finally be the 10-inch touch screen device I asked for months ago?)

Turn of phrase

I'm not going anywhere near the subject matter which rode under the heading "Vile & Tacky O - Calls to kick out shock jocks after 14-year-old girl is subjected to rape ridicule on live radio" in this morning's The Daily Telegraph but I did want to share one sentence from that report: "The controversy is a new low for the radio duo, who have set the bar close to rock bottom. " Okay - that seems as though it could be telling it like it is. I didn't choose to follow the "link" (remember when we used to call it turning the page) to "Bottom feeders page 25".

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meal choices

According to a report on How Australia Cooks, for Westinghouse, 9 out of 10 people- cook at home on any given day. Our favourite meals are steak or chops with vegetables or salad, followed by a roast dinner - or to put it more correctly - the roast dinner comes in at #2 on the list of favourite meals. I heard about this when the man at the table next to mine at the cafe read the list to a significant other on the telephone. A net search revealed only four news items on the report, which also concluded that ovens played a practical role in the kitchen. Which brings to mind the time I shared a flat with one other and we discovered something brown and furry living in the oven - I'm not one of the 9 out of 10 who cook daily and had never used it. At first we thought it was a rodent's nest of some kind but closer investigation revealed it was the remains of something a whole lot less sinister which had been there for a long, long, long time. The last time R had used the oven was months before I had moved in - she wasn't the word's most frequent cook either - and, as was evident, wasn't super-keen on oven cleaning either!

Dictionary

Way back when I was younger I used to love trawling through dictionaries and seeing what words meant. Then, when I started doing word puzzles, I loved trawling through crossword dictionaries. Now I'm in love with the WordWeb Pro dictionary - is there nothing it can't do? It's billed as a "powerful thesaurus and dictionary for Windows with word and anagram finder" - and it does all that admirably. There's also a free version which will run on other devices too, eg iPod Touch/iPhone - it's not quite as feature-packed but it's not bad. But the Pro is fantastic - type in "dance" and it will show you all the different types of dance - which came in quite useful last night as I was trying to figure out what they were. Hours of fun - and educational too!

In the stars

While speaking with someone the other day (names not used to protect the innocent) they mentioned they had been to see a psychic. This didn't particularly surprise me because this person has been known to seek similar advice previously when at a crossroad. The next bit, though, did surprise me. The psychic told them that basically, their life at present was "cactus". Actually the psychic is reported to have used another, shorter, word starting with "c" but you get the idea. Amazingly, as I don't often put faith in these things (probably because I know I could believe), the psychic was spot on! Good to know that sometimes the only way to go is up.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Good words

As the Masterchef phenomenon fades just a little post-Final ABC News Online's Rebekah van Druten summed up, for me anyway, why this program have succeeded where other reality programs have failed:
Audiences have tired of malice and manipulation.
Hear, hear! Or is that "Here, here"?

Community service

I've done mine this week ... I let the Prime Minister's website team know they still have the last Prime Minister's details searchable on their site. While fact-checking for a forthcoming Minutes In Time Samagrams entry, I was looking for confirmation of John Howard's birthday. A Google search on his name gave loads of result, the second of which was www.pm.gov.au - which was true once but Mr Rudd has held that seat for nearly two years now. (And no, I don't think I will check to see how long it takes the website team to rectify the matter.)

Artists impressions

I never cease to be amazed at how unflattering court drawings are. Is there a rule that if you are in court as the defendant that you have to be portrayed in the worst possible light? Or is the artist just reveals the accused's true inner self? Of course, it could be that you just look that way. I remember my brother once telling me that licence photos are as they are (haven't seen a flattering one yet) because that's the way you'll look when the police pull you over. Wonder what it is that makes someone embark on a career as a court artist- and how often do job openings come up?

Shot in the arm - well, finger ...

What is the world coming to? Two men out for a quiet bike ride have been shot at with air guns. Oh wait - it wasn't a quiet ride - it was the 13th stage of the Tour de France. Riders Oscar Freire of Spain and New Zealand's Julian Dean were in someone's sights with Friere sustaining an injury to a finger. Organisers have asked police to investigate.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Question time

I bought a new pairs of headphones today and when I went to put them on I realised they didn't have an "L" or "R" - so I was stumped ... which was the correct way? So, some quick research later and I was none the wiser ... nothing. I read through the instructions that came with them - thoroughly ... nothing there either. I examined the headphones again - and the only point of differentiation is that there are three raised dots on one of the arms. Hmmm. Is there some secret audiophile business happening here? More concentrated searching on the net finally uncovered the answer on a forum. Without going and looking - do you know what it is?

Friday, July 03, 2009

And that's "App"

I cannot believe that it has taken me over a year to get this - that the iPhone (and iPod Touch) App Store could be short for APPLE and application. D'Oh.

Quit - for life

Not sure I'd be lining up to take these (were they around when I became a non-smoker I wonder?) but there will be many who do turn to anti-smoking drugs to help them kick the habit. The US Food and Drug Administration have reportedly just ordered Pfizer (makers of Chantix or Champix here in Australia) and GlaxoSmithKline (Zyban) to place warnings on the drugs highlighting the possibility of "serious mental health events" such as behaviour changes, depression, hostility and suicidal thoughts while taking them. The report I read gave no figures as to what prompted the FDA to take this step but it seems that somewhere along the line, for some people, not smoking somehow became as risky as smoking.

You may have missed ...

News reports today tell of the passing of two very different types of actors - Mladen George Sekulovich also known as Karl Malden (97) and Mary Isobel 'Mollie' Sugden (86). I'm now curious and wondering if anyone has done any research on whether, as a sub-group of the population, thespians live longer.

Safety first

Want to pick up something along with your email? Chances are that if you're using a public computer at an internet cafe (or library?) you could be exposed to 5 times the bacteria that you'd find on a personal device. The UK research, reported in today's The Daily Telegraph, also noted "high-use, multiple-user internet cafes and computer labs are hotspots for harbouring germs such as the potentialy fatal golden staph". Could this be another reason for investing in a low-cost netbook to take with you so you can just plug into someone else's wireless network - or, better still, an iPod Touch?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

TV re-runs

"House is back" the promos all but screamed and ordinarily I would have been pleased to see this rude but brilliant diagnostician return to the screen - except I've seen it all before - or rather, them - because they're repeats. Why can't they just mention that in their ads? Ironically, I would watch a repeat if I chose to tune in rather than being misled, even if unintentionally.

Excellent error message

This is quite a nice way of delivering the news:
Hi. This is the qmail-send program at postoffice.telstra.net.
I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Birthday

I know lots of people think The Daily Telegraph doesn't stack up to other daily newspapers, but it's okay by me and today marks it's 130th year of operation ... and it's "Still only $1.00" as it says on the front page.

Missing millions

It seems a bit low but he probably thinks he has a good reason ... UK tycoon Scot Young has been ordered to reveal where $820 million disappeared to soon after his wife filed for divorce. The disappearance has been dubbed "mysterious" and a High Court Judge has told the developer that he will be jailed for 6 months if he doesn't make a full disclosure of his finances by September. So, let's see ... if he chose to go to prison rather than making the cash available, that would make his time in jail worth about ... $3,061 a minute (checked that a few times to make sure it was right). Now, just where is the incentive for doing the right thing?

Just the ticket

UK fans of Michael Jackson who had already bought their tickets for his "This Is It" tour have been offered the option of either getting a full refund or receive souvenir tickets instead. Hmmm. Who would pocket the difference? The promoters (AEG Live) or Michael Jackson's estate?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Free Mini Tattoo

Yeah, sure, and you'd wake up with a big tattoo, right? Of course there are other types of tattoo - and if you're at Sydney Domain this Sunday at 10.30am you'll be able to see one - a band mini tattoo to commence a colourful parade of Standards and Banners to celebrate Reserve Forces Day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Not news any more - really!

Yet there it is again ... as "news"!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is there ...

... a mnemonic for mnemoic? Seems like that could be useful.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stars in her lies

Was there seriously ever any doubt that the European lass who said she asked for 3 stars to be tattooed on her face - and after she fell asleep, woke up to find she had 56 - was not being totally truthful? She now says she did ask for 56 and had blamed the tattooist only after her father was horrified when he saw a galaxy where the left side of his daughter's face should be. Despite it not being his error, the tattooist offered to pay half the cost of laser treatment for removal of the tattoos because he didn't want to have a dissatisfied customer. He's also thinking of having people give written approval to the work they've asked him to do - before he does it - just to be on the safe side. Tattoos aren't for ever - but they don't just rub off either - although there is this new ink ...

Taking it seriously

Following news of Australia's second death from the H1N1 virus, and full-page newspaper ads about being alert but not alarmed (well, that's not actually what they say but it may be what they mean) it's good to know our elected Government officials are setting such a fine example - one continues to attend parliament despite being treated for possible swine flu after he had contact with a relative who had contracted the virus. If this thing does take off, I don't hold out much hope for its containment.

Lightning test

I wouldn't try this myself but word on one of the technology news feeds is that a woman has survived being hit by lightning because the iPod she was carrying absorbed most of the charge. She wasn't uninjured in the incident but the iPod was apparently totally "fried". There was no indication of whether the iPod was on at the time or what she was listening to or if what she was listening to had in any way led to the bolt from on high as in "where's that awful din coming from, it's very annoying, zzzaatt".

No pressure

According to today's The Daily Telegraph, celebrity Todd McKenny has asked his co-star to have a child with him. She has not yet given an answer to him but at least it's good to know there's no pressure. It's not as though the proposal - to have the child - is public ... oh, wait ... yes it is. There is no suggestion of a romantic involvement for the pair even though they have been "good mates" for nearly 30 years.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Little Rock?


By definition you would probably think that Little Rock could be a smallish place - but possibly not so. A tractor-trailer hauling pigs crashed near there recently and some of the livestock got loose - meaning a stretch of the highway between Little Rock and North Little Rock had to be closed while the hogs and the wreck were cleared.Only question now is, is there a South Little Rock - and how big are the Little Rocks really - individually and collectively?

Water bottle doohickeys

People just never stop thinking of things to spend money on and now you can have designer doohickeys to pop into your designer - or tap - bottled water. As the report I read on Gizmodo pointed out, this is one kind of organism you wouldn't mind sharing your water bottle with - although, you'd hope they came in a sealed plastic bag - or could be sterilized - before adding to your water bottle. A good point on the Gizmodo report - and definitely worth remembering if you have a penchant for slamming down the water - chances are that if it's small enough to fit into the neck of a water bottle, it's probably small enough to choke you. More details - and pictures - can be found here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Selective attention

Cardboard king Richard Pratt has been remembered, two months after his death, at a memorial service yesterday. It was probably fitting, in that context, that no mention was made of his lover and their daughter (neither of whom attended), or the fine of $36 million his company had earned for price fixing. His good works during his lifetime, however, were mentioned and hopefully will serve as an inspiration for and to others.

Hold the phone

Telstra's State of the Nation report is now out and its findings raise more questions than it answers. Over 1200 Australians were canvassed in May this year - all right it was 1201 - about their mobile phone message behaviour and use. It seems that one in four Australians have found out their partner was cheating by reading a text on their partner's phone. "One in four Australians" ... hmmmm ... that should probably have read "One in four of the 1201 surveyed" rather than the blanket statement they used. But, IS this indicative of the population as a whole? Or could it be extrapolated that people who use Telstra as their carrier are more prone to philandering? Rather than, as was once suggested to me by someone who wouldn't have a mobile because ... only people wanting to have affairs have mobile phones?

Rising numbers

Rarely has an invasion been so successful. Today marks the 74th anniversary of the introduction of Cane Toads to Australia. What started as 101 of them, caught in Hawaii by Reginald Mungomery of the Bureau of Sugar Research, has now burgeoned to ... well, people have actually lost count of how many there are now. Films have been made about them, sports have evolved around them, and souvenir shops carry them or their likenesses. Yes, successful indeed ... but did their introduction do what it was planned to do - control the beetles which were munching on local sugar cane crops? The jury is probably still out on this. But it's interesting that there are a couple of numbers about how many of the toads were initially released. The first figure of 101 came from The Daily Telegraph's "on this day". An Australian Museum fact sheet puts the initial release figure at more than 3000.

Proof of ageing

... or is that "aging". In any case, you know it's happening when you have to take a photo of a Gary Larson "The Far Side" cartoon, using macro, so you can then zoom in on it in the camera, to be able to read the titles of the books the cat and dog are reading. Was it worth it? Definitely.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

No laughing matter

Contrary to popular opinion, word now is that Hyenas aren't laughing when they make that giggling sound, they're actually "frustrated" or making fighting sounds. The research which led to this finding was carried out on captive hyenas - would it be any different for hyenas out in the wild, in their natural habitat? More on LiveScience.

Mistake ahead

Scientists have conducted some research that suggests that the brain can tell when a mistake is about to be made. There's about a second's notice - but it seems that the brain needs to know there is a mistake about to happen as opposed to the real advantage of knowing you're about to make a mistake even when you don't know it's a mistake. Of course, word is that there are practical applications based on the brain wave activity that accompanies the "awareness" of thius mistake ... such as in air traffic control. You can read more here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bugs

There are stories where you just wish there was more detail - like this: Authorities said a woman obsessed with rabbits is in trouble again. In violation of probation terms, she was found holed up in a hotel room with more than a dozen rabbits. Officers said they had to break into the room Tuesday and found eight adults and half a dozen baby rabbits, one dead. The police say some were caged, some roaming.
It really bugs me that there isn't more detail.

Texting and cut and paste

A 15-year-old girl with a 500-texts-a-day texting habit thumbed her way to the $50,000 grand prize at the L.G. National Texting Championship in New York on Tuesday. Well I'm sure she probably didn't use cut and paste but I did on the iPod Touch to do this blog entry. While the iPhone 3.0 update cut and paste may not be as elegant as some tech reviewers would have liked, it seems to work just fine.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No ... really?

I don't think it should be allowed ... how on earth can the millionth English word be "Web 2.0" - it's not even a word - oh, wait, it is now! In the running, but missing out on being the millionth - N00b, slumdog and Jai ho. Hmmm, once upon a time words were composed of letters ... but that was before the N00b style of doing things I guess. So - who decides? Apparently it's a US company which monitors internet traffic and once a "word" or perhaps that would be a conglomeration of letters, numbers and/or symbols travelling in close proximity, has been used 25,000 times, it's "recognised". I can feel a new hobby coming on - coining a new word which could be something like ... Samagrams. Hmmm.

Forget the shoe phone

Here's a good use for technology - GPS shoes to track Alzheimer's patients. A new shoe has been developed with a GPS chip which will offer peace of mind to caregivers and relatives of people who suffer from this tragic disease. The units are accurate to within 10 metres and can be used in conjunction with "geo fences" so if the person wearing the shoes leaves a designated area, an alert is sent out. This will certainly make finding people easier - and can have much wider uses - and users! (Heaven knows we could have used it 20 years ago when my grandmother went missing and finally showed up several hours later - luckily spotted by someone who knew her and the family; she was in a part of town where none of us had, or would have thought to have, looked.)
Hmmm ... or perhaps the shoe phone might have worked - although maybe the person might have just wondered where the ringing was coming from.

Old or new news

Not sure what the agenda is here but the news feed I get on the iPod Touch from the Sydney Morning Herald's Technology page always seems to have this entry.
Speed adds spice to cable war
Wed. 11 Mar 2009 11:26 +1100
Telstra plans to increase speeds on its cable network by between 70 and 100 megabits a second - three times faster than is currently available.
Is it possible that, now that's it's June, it's time to drop it - or report on progress?

China censorship

What do Australia and China have in common? Apparently, it appears that the web filter projects for both, designed to keep children safe from porn, have the ability to be used to censor politically sensitive material. Hopefully, the Australian version (when I last heard it was undergoing testing) won't be installed on individual computers because when they've been testing this in China it apparently opened users to security risks - and drew calls from a Californian software company that that version contained stolen portions of their software. Curiouser and curiouser.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Blue skies

... turning me grey. New research suggests that grey hair may be caused by sunlight, smoking and poor nutrition. At the rate the transformation is happening - and given smoking and poor nutrition aren't issues, it has to be the sun! No more sitting in the park for this little black (soon to be grey) duck.

Rules is rules

Dateline: New Zealand. A cinema has refused entry to a mother and her child to see the movie The Reader because the child - at five weeks old - was below the minimum age limit, ie 16 years, to see the film.

Mixed news

Biotech company CSL is hard at work on a swine flu vaccine - so much so they're in the market for 300,000 chicken eggs a day for testing. That's a lot of eggs.
Also in the "lot of" category, it apparently takes 3 (or 4) crocodiles to supply the material for one Hermes crocodile skin handbag. After a two-year wait, because that's how long the waiting list is, you can get a bag, hand-prepared in France, for $60,000. Unlike other companies, Hermes is faring well in the global recession and a spokesperson suggested the waiting list may continue to be long: "We cannot face demand ... we are limited by our ability to train new craftsmen." And to get crocodiles apparently. In an effort to ensure supply and cut out the middle man, Hermes has started their own crocodile farms, mainly here in Australia.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Weekend prices

There was a call today for Australian consumers to report service/petrol stations that were charging "too much" for petrol for the coming holiday weekend. I can't recall if the cheapest day for petrol during the week (there is one) is Tuesday but I do know that was when I bought petrol this week and paid $1.18/litre as opposed to the $1.30/litre I would have been charged today. The expected price for this weekend is $1.28/litre. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow (Saturday) brings at the bowser.

Wrong spelling?

I'm not quite sure how it came up, but I was speaking with someone about cafes this morning and I mentioned that a good barista could make very hot coffee without scalding either the beans or the milk. "Well," Christine, told me, "the first time I saw the word 'barista' was where someone had written it as their occupation on a form, and I thought 'He's a barrister? He can't even spell it!!!!" I like it.

Dropping the ball

It's sometimes seen as a bad thing - dropping the ball - but there's at least one place where they do it daily, on purpose. Sydney Observatory first dropped the ball back in 1858 to mark it's opening on 5 June (yes, On This Day, The Daily Telegraph). The Time Ball was dropped from a tower at 1pm to signal the exact time - a tradition that continues to this day (and beyond).

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Chicken nugget

Reuters reports that Chinese health authorities are putting a stop to restaurants serving chickens which have been bitten to death by poisonous snakes and cooked up for a supposedly detoxing meal. At first I was amazed at how they could possibly find enough of these to meet demand ... and then I read another report of how the snakes and the chickens are kept "out the back" or at the front (finally remembering the snake cages streetside in Hong Kong) and are "prepared" as required. Does make you wonder how people come up with ideas for dishes: oh no, our last chicken has been bitten by a poisonous snake, perhaps we shouldn't eat it; oh no, says hungry companion, poisonous-snake-bite-chicken is very good for you, cleanses the blood. And so a dish was born - or maybe not. Mmmm ... chicken.

Sleep on it

Donna Sheppard-Saunders, 33, is a free woman today after an English court found her innocent of trying to smother her sleeping mother with a pillow because she, Donna, was sleep-waking at the time. Donna apparently has a history of sleep-walking, which her mother says is a side-effect of leukemia treatment she underwent as a child. Donna and her mother were sharing the same bedroom when the incident happened. Her mother had beem asleep for about an hour when she felt something on her face - which turned out to be a pillow. Her mother managed to push Donna away, and in a call to Emergency Services, made by Donna, Donna is reported as saying "I didn't know what I was doing 'til Mum woke me up". She said that she herself had gone off to sleep and the next thing she knew her mother was "shouting and slapping her". However, this does seem at odds with that she is also quoted in the TimesOnline article I read as saying that after the incident, Ms Sheppard-Saunders had followed her mother out of the bedroom, apologising to her for her actions and mentioning that she had "tried to stop her snoring". Mention was made in the article of testimony by Donna's father that she does have a history of sleep-walking. However, the report carried no answers to my now burning questions: why did Donna and her mother share a bedroom; where was Donna's father at the time of the incident; was there a change made to Donna and her mother's sleeping arrangements following the "smother" incident; and lastly, if Donna had no recall of events after she had gone to sleep, why did she tell her mother she was trying to stop her snoring?

Cocaine

Just when I thought I had seen it all, there are reports that a new energy drink is about to hit the market - Cocaine. Now if only I could remember which existing energy drink has been banned in at least one country overseas because it reportedly really did contain traces of cocaine - as opposed to Cocaine which apparently doesn't.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lost in space

Today marks the 44th anniversary of the first American's "walk in space". This is an interesting turn of phrase considering they don't - walk in space. Try as I might, though, I can't think of something else short and snappy enough to describe it - "just popping outside into the vacuum of space to mend the robotic arm" doesn't really do it. "Walk in space" as a label is probably a fairly descriptive tag - once we know what it means. Could be interesting to ask a young person what they understood by "walk in space" - and whether the timbre of the answer would vary depending on whether they'd had an imaginary friend or not.

Imagine that

Research out today suggests that having imaginary friends helps children "learn the complexities of spoken expression sooner". Children with imaginary friends also tend to be more creative, a first born or an only child. My older brother had an imaginary friend - which I am taking to be the chicken (yes imaginary) who he used to play darts with - or was that my grandfather? It was a long time ago. Funny though that it would be a chicken (just thinking out loud now) since my grandfather had the dancing chicken concession on the rural show circuit - really! I'm not sure how the research classifies "imaginary" though. One of the reports I read started off referring to teddy bears and dolls. These aren't imag'inary - sure, you have to make up what they say, but they're real! Did the researchers cross reference their findings with earlier findings which suggest the verbal quotient (I may have just made that up and unfortunately don't have internet access so can't check but the meaning can be extrapolated from the context) increases with each child born into a family. I'm not sure if that research covered what happened to the exisiting members of the household as new ones came on board. Usual age for imaginary friends - 3 to 9. Other benefits, besides creativity? In adult life those who had imaginary friends are more likely to be achievement-oriented and emotionally responsive.
All this talk of imaginary friend has just gotten me thinking about Harvey, and wondering what he was, and where my copy of the film of the same name is.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Domino effect

The other day I heard that a certain starlet (and I say that because I cannot remember who it was) had been singled out because she did not know what "Dominos" was. Imagine then my own surprise at missing it as an answer to a clue in today's crossword. To be fair I was channelling home renovations rather than games when I read "Pipped tile".

Monday, June 01, 2009

Testing personalities

Also in the news ... the Church of Scientology. Sydney Council will tonight vote on whether a planned redevelopment of the Church's Sydney headquarters can go ahead. If it does, chances are that it will be banned from "trawling" the street outside the building for new recruits through the use of personality tests. Which means they could just move further afield - to the next street?. And the recruitment process seems to work - although the 2006 Census had only 2507 folk self-identifying as Scientologists here in Australia, Scientology spokesperson Vicki Dunstan is quoted as saying that the organisation now has more than 240,000 members here - and the numbers are growing.
Other Scientology news - it appears that Wikipedia has moved to ban all Scientology IP addresses "in an unprecedented effort to crack down on self-serving edits". Although, if they are maintain Wikipedia entries as well as their own website is maintained - there may be little to worry about.

Downsizing

It's not just businesses that are being downsized. Latest published news - via news item and advertisement - is that Mars Australia (provider of Mars Bars and other confectionery) has announced that - in the interest of public health - they are downsizing their bars to make them lighter. The Mars Bar itself will now weigh 53g instead of 60g. The only thing that isn't set to drop is the price. Which isn't surprising since there have been other products in the marketplace that have been dropping their size but not their price over the last little while. At least Mars has been upfront with it - even though it could also have mentioned that it was still after a healthy profit margin and that the slim down might be more beneficial for it than ... no, wait, as nutritionist and GP Manny Noakes has been quoted as saying "... paying the same for less is not a bad thing". Hmmm.

Clarification

A small item on pg 2 of yesterday's The Sunday Telegraph carried the heading "Clarification" . It referred to an article the previous week which had stated that Chanel uses Chinese factories [for manufacture]. Apparently not, according to a spokeswoman for Chanel who "states that Chanel does not use factories or any other kind of manufacturing in China".
My question/s: is this a clarification or an apology, what prompted it, and if it's not billed as an "apology" does this mean here are/not legal ramifications if Chanel chose to pursue the matter?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Answers ... not so much

I'm trying to set up a new hotmail account but everytime I go to the sign-up page, I keep being presented with .uk as the only option. So, I've been searching for another way to do it, through options, changing settings etc, but was finally driven to the web. Here's one of the answers:



Hmmm. Not that very helpful at all.

Brutal Ritual (Yes S, this IS one too)

I'm not sure whether it's something they do here or if it's peculiar to the US, but I think I need to go to a Spelling Bee. I was intrigued by the following statement, part of a Yahoo USA News report:
The chairs on the ballroom stage emptied one by one, left vacant by those who had guessed and walked away disappointed. Rarely has a spelling bee round been this brutal.
Is there a Spelling Bee season? Or is it just coincide that this report follows a recent episode of Family Guy where hero (???) Peter Griffin goes back to primary school and, while there, takes part in a SB. Each time he is given a word, he asks for it to be used in a sentence - which the Bee administrator (is there a special name for this?) does - but still Peter hesitates, and then asks for the word to be used in a rude sentence - and only then does he spell the words correctly - eventually winning the Bee. (Do Bees have knees?)
I once avoided watching a film starring Richard Gere about a Spelling Bee (Thanks Google: Bee Season {2005} - guess that answers that question) - but it may be time to revisit it - or take a trip to the States, or do some local research into SBs - although I think the US may be the home of the SB and that would be the best option. So, is there a Spelling Bee Season, and when is it?

On The Boyle

Once upon a time, many years ago, I suspect it was possible for someone to achieve something noteworthy and have people be happy for them. Take the case of Susan Boyle - where, for the most part, after her first appearance on "Britain's Got Talent" (BGT) there has been widespread acclaim for her performance. Post second-performance there appears to be a bit more narkiness - Lily Allen* tweeted about Boyle's performance not being that good, and there's now reports of Boyle blowing up at a couple of strangers who were "winding her up" - a British term for "making fun of". While it's not know what they said, a police officer's words to Boyle afterwards were recorded thus: You are in the public eye, you must learn to expect this sort of thing. Why? Used to be there was a saying something like "if you can't say something nice about a person, don't say anything at all" but that seems to have long gone by the wayside especially with the advent of "humiliation TV", including shows like the aforementioned BGT where there's usually one judge (of three) whose express purpose seems to be to make fun of and be rude to contestants. Is this the price for that 15 minutes of fame? And has the population at large become inured to it?
* I hadn't heard of her before but it appears she is a performer.

Where is Dustin ...

Hoffman when you need him? With the spread of H1N1 (swine flu) throughout the globe, it's good to know that work is underway on a vaccine and that it could be ready by October. If there were a more virulent outbreak - both in intensity and in spread - and if it was Winter in the Northern Hemisphere now, would the push for a vaccine be faster? Afterall, it took only a couple of days on "Outbreak" for a fix to be found. I know, I know, that was the movies and this is real life, but from some of the reports I read, it seems that commercial enterprises announced they were starting work on a vaccine only after governments said they would order a vaccine. Not sure how the non-corporate system works and whether, since news of H1N1 emerged, there have been government "staff" scientists toiling away in their laboratories seeking a cure.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SMS - Health

"Obviously, we did not check to make sure the texts made sense - but this might not be easy, given that many of them appear to make no sense at the best of times." Thus spake a doctor late last year who was looking at ways of determining if young people who had collapsed at "events" were well enough to rejoin the action. The thought that the ability to send a text message could signal "wellness" was triggered from observations at other events where, as soon as they felt well enough, the young folk would start texting their friends to let them know what had happened to them, and to arrange a rendezvous point. But was it a message or gobbledegook - that was the question.

Six month lead time

Dateline: The Vatican. October 2008. Catholic Bishops meeting in Rome advised they wanted iPods to carry the word of God.
Dateline: The Vatican. May 2009. There will soon be an iPhone and iPod Touch application (as soon as it's approved by Apple - as all apps available through iTunes must be) which gives users video and audio news of the Pope's travels and speeches. As well, the Vatican has unveiled a new website, Pope2You, which allows Facebook users to send virtual postcards with photos of Pope Benedict XVI. For those who want to use it now, the Facebook portal is already available.
It would be interesting to see if the Vatican still has the same names for its servers.

Any lengths

Dateline: Sydney, October 2008. A Sydney couple, before the Family Court, have aired details of the wife's witchcraft practices. The husband learned of his wife's witch status from her emails which revealed she was involved with a coven and possessed witchcraft items including a dagger and a mirror. The husband suggested that he was concerned that the children, who lived with their mother, would be exposed to these activities. She argued that he should not have been accessing her emails two years after they separated - and that her interest in witchcraft was research for a book she was writing. The Magistrate allowed the emails into evidence despite the unauthorised access.
And there endeth the reference to this story ... despite an exhaustive search on the net using a variety of search terms, but, admittedly, only one search engine. Yes, I could contact the person credited with this item (Ellen Connolly) but I don't think I'm going to.

To Serve God

... which shouldn't be confused with "To Serve Man", a cook book, made famous by Rod Serling vehicle "The Twilight Zone". Last year (yes again - there are still a few entries to go) a (former) Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers sought an injunction against God to prevent "death, destruction, and terrorism". A US judged dismissed the case on the basis that as God had no known address, legal papers could not be served. It was thought Chambers might appeal the decision, on the grounds that as God knows "everything", God had notice of the suit. And that's one of the good things about blogging things so much later ... a quick search on the internet (and I could feel it doing my brain "good") suggests that Chambers did appeal, but that was denied. The account I read also had some more details about why Chambers had originally filed the suit - which had to do with his protest at another case which centered around how a rape victim could not say she had been raped because "rape" was a legal term and witnesses can't reach legal decisions. Law and comparisons to a certain stubborn animal come to mind.

Boosting brain power

A report on Engadget last year (catching up slowly) told of a group of scientists here in Australia who claim to have found a way to boost a person's intelligence (Rain Man levels were mentioned in the report I read) using magnets and something that looks like a hairnet. Researchers from Sydney University apparently claim that an electromagnetic 'zap' to the left side of the brain will cause over-analytic, right-brained types to shift to the other hemisphere, where "you will soon be writing operas, penning sonnets and proofreading like a champ." As professor Allan Snyder was reported as saying: "I believe that each of us has within us non-conscious machinery which can do extraordinary art, extraordinary memory and extraordinary mathematical calculations."
Around the same time, the BBC carried a story that use of the internet by persons of middle age and older helped boost brain power.
It has long been thought that activities which keep the brain active, such as crossword puzzles, may help minimise that impact - and that study suggested surfing the web could be added to the list.
I'm going to go one step further and say that the word game I've developed can do the same - heh heh.

Road rage

There was a report last month of a Sydney man who clung to the bonnet of a Peugot for 4km after he and his wife had chased the car through traffic because they had been involved in a minor collision with it. When they caught up with it and approached the vehicle, it drove at them, forcing the husband on to the bonnet - where he stayed for 4km in heavy traffic even though the driver tried to accelerate and brake to force him off. The car was stopped by police and the driver was arrested. The bonnet-rider escaped unhurt - but it does make you wonder if there had been any opportunity during the ride for him to safely dismount the vehicle rather than having his life endangered?

Booting up

There is so much that is unknown. Who knew that Brian Eno composed the welcoming jingle that plays when (your) Windows computer boots up? Brian Eno is currently in Sydney for the Vivid light show (and yes, some Sydney-siders think he is more influential than Tiger Woods).

Larval medicine

Research reported in March (I know, I'm behind the times) suggests that using maggots to clean wounds may not provide any benefits over the use of hydrogel, a standard wound cleaning product. While maggots were found to clean wounds more quickly, this did not lead to faster healing. How do they know? They were able to test it based on the generosity of 267 patients with venous leg ulcers - who received either the maggot or hydrogel treatment. The report I read didn't say whether each of the patients got to choose which they had - but it did say that some found the maggot treatment aka larval treatment more painful. More research is needed to see whether maggots do have a place in modern medicine eg for cleaning wounds prior to skin grafts so patients can have surgery more quickly.

On the run

A New Zealand couple is reportedly on the run after being granted a loan by Westpac. The couple had applied for a $10,000 loan but were instead the recipients of $10 million. Not that much later after realising what had happened, word is that they withdrew the cash, and haven't been seen since. Reports suggest they took themselves, and a couple of relatives, to Hong Kong. Details as to who, if anyone, is pursuing them, are sketchy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Feeling like a million dollars

The very rich Donald Trump is currently suing Timothy O'Brien who claimed in a book in 2006 that Trump was worth between $US15O million and $US250 million. Not so, says Trump, who claims O'Brien knew he was actually worth "billions" - even though it's complicated to tell how much Trump is worth at any point because, as he says, it's constantly in flux - and (and I'm not sure how this works) it depended partly on his feelings. So I'm thinking that it doesn't take the form of him waking up each day and saying "I feel like a million dollars" or "I feel like a quarter." Not surprisingly, O'Brien's legal team is arguing to have the case dismissed.

Falling down

Having seen something similar myself when my uncle toppled over the side of a sleep incline and emerged unscathed at the bottom of the 20m fall, I can believe a report from the UK of a young sleepwalker who stepped out of a bedroom window and landed, on her feet, and unhurt, in the grass, 8 metres below. Some will put it down to the soft landing, others, including me, will think it has more to do with the person not knowing they were about to/falling - so they don't go "tense" and resist the impact. (Did I mention that my uncle was pretty much fully inebriated - and definitely feeling no pain - at the time of his fall.)

Giving him a hand

Bud Tingwell, Australian actor of some repute, was farewelled yesterday at a funeral service at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne. The service was attended by friends, family and colleagues from the acting fraternity - who gave Bud what seems to be the traditional actor's farewell - his casket was applauded as it was carried from the church. He seems to have had a great and lasting impact. Val Jellay, friend and fellow actor, noted at his funeral: "The world would be a happier place if it had more Bud Tingwells in it".

Box office news

I remember hearing that if a film isn't doing too well at the box office, the next step is the "vox pop" advertisement where people give their (positive) opinions of the film as they leave the cinema. Imagine then, my horror when I saw just such an ad for the new "Star Trek" movie. Hopefully times have changed and this doesn't mean that it's flagging within a couple of weeks of opening.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Cherilyn

There's something you don't find out often - it's Cherilyn Sarkisian's 63rd birthday today. Well, it would be if she hadn't changed her name to Cher. Happy Birthday!

Negotiation techniques

Interesting point in the paper today that while schools may be delivering on sex education what they could also be giving is negotiation training. Research suggests that even though teenagers are more aware of the risks* of unprotected sex, they seem ill-prepared to negotiate with a partner about not going all the way until they are ready.
* The report I read said "consequences" but I don't know that any 14 year old can understand how their lives will change if they become pregnant.

Taking a gamble

It's unlikely to ever happen to me but I wonder how it would feel to lose $2 million in 43 minutes while playing baccarat at a casino. Harry Kakavas, who did, apparently told someone a short while before that loss that he felt "deflated" having lost $30 million over four months. Mr Kakavas is currently suing Crown Casinos for $20.5 million saying they should not have allowed him to gamble there given they knew he was a pathological gambler who was banned from other casinos. The trial continues.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Canine capers

A Melbourne cyclist has been robbed at teeth-point after a passing motorist stopped to "help" when he fell off his bike. The "help" included setting a dog onto the man who suffered injuries to his leg, arm and elbow in the attack. It was only after the cyclist had handed over ie throw down his phone, wallet and keys, that the dog was called off and the motorist picked up the "loot" and drove off with his canine accomplice, thought to have been either a pitbull or staffordshire terrier but definitely, with the police searching for them, a hot dog.

More big things

A theme park in China has just been forced to close because officials said it had an "evil influence" on society - even before it opened. Love Land, devoted to the more carnal and sensual pleasures, has been torn down - giant "bits" and all.

The power of advertising

An ad in The Daily Telegraph has two pieces of good news: you can get a copy of the Telegraph with your Breakfast McValue Meal®; the other - tall people get paid more. What they don't mention - and I can't understand why - is that the same recent research that found that taller people get paid more also found that here in Australia at least, overweight people are also paid more - although they didn't say whether overweight people get paid more than tall people, or if tall people who are overweight get paid more twice. The ad also doesn't mention Maccas/McDonald's by name - just has the name of the product and the big yellow M and the "i'm lovin' it®".

Monday, May 18, 2009

Got me licked

I'm not sure which sticks in my mind more - the sight of the young girl coming into the cafe, and while her Dad talked on the mobile phone, her licking the top of first the salt shaker and then the pepper shaker at the nearest table - or ... no, wait, that one does stick the most. The other was simply the sign at KKD's Wynyard store: You're Never Alone With a Box of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Hmmm ... or is that ... mmmmm.

Friday, May 15, 2009

From one extreme

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is making its own contribution to lessening the impact of the global economic downturn by starting a program in the US which will see 70 of its products made available for free to people who have lost their job and health insurance. There are conditions, of course, but this type of philanthropy is not new to Pfizer which has previously provided drugs free on other programs. Cynics might suggest that this is just a way of ensuring brand loyalty - better to give the drugs to people rather than have them switch to generic brands - but whatever the reason is has to be seen as a positive effort. The scheme was first suggested about 5 weeks ago at a management training meeting - so it seems that that was one meeting worth having - and it suggests that Pfizer is prepared to think outside the box and be at least a little innovative in its dealings with its markets. Who would have thought that this was the same company that recently apparently announced price increases due to problems associated with ... the global economic downturn.

Tony's been burned

Tony Edwards, an organist at a crematorium in the UK for 13 years, is about to be replaced by a karaoke machine. A spokesperson for the Counties Crematorium said the $12,000 music system would offer more choice for mourners than $70 -a-service Tony. Others aren't so sure the music system will allow for enough of a human element or give the abililty to adapt and/or make last minute changes to the "program". Tony is said to be disappointed with the decision and one can only hope that, when the time comes, he takes his business elsewhere.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Keep your job or ...

My niece has just taken out a personal loan for a new car and she had some second and third thoughts about taking on a debt in these times of economic uncertainty. And it seems she might not be the only one given the latest ads for Kia - if you lose your job in the next 12 months, you can return the car. There's sure to be more to it than that - but it could give you some piece of mind if you had to let your old car go, couldn't it?

Who knew?

After seeing numerous heavy vehicles overtake us as we cruised at 100km an hour, I commented some time ago that it seemed that trucks were no longer speed limited to 100kph. Not quite sure why that happened originally or how long ago - perhaps a spate of truck-related accidents? - but it, and the trucks that sped past us, seemed to be long gone. But, not so apparently. A report by the Auditor-General suggests that current speed camera technology does not allow differentiation between trucks and smaller vehicles - so as long as trucks are under the general road limit eg 110kph, they will not be "caught". The good news - for truck drivers? - is that "we have the technology ... but aren't using it".

Big Rocket

Moree, in outback NSW, wants to cash in on the culture of "big things" by installing its own Big Rocket which will take pride of place in a space-themed playground. The 14-metre rocket will be "launched" - obviously not literally - on the 40th anniversary of man's lunar landing - which I had always thought was June but seems instead to be July. Moree will henceforth be known, they hope, as "Home of the Big Rocket". The report I read gave no indication as to why a rocket was chosen - is there some connection between Moree and space perhaps? (And if we have "big" things here in Australia, do they have "bug" things in NZ?)

Unfair advantage

It may not fly but Canadian research suggests that oestrogen, the female sex hormone, boosts women's immune systems - making them less susceptible to having a sniffle turn into the flu - as at least one report suggests is wont to happen with men. An obvious next step might be to use oestrogen-based treatments to boost male defences against illness. Or blame Canada (thanks South Park).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrong place, wrong time

A young boy is critically ill in hospital this morning after he was hit in the head by a tyre that had come off a passing car. Witnesses said the rear tyre of a small sedan fell off the vehicle, flew through the air and hit the boy as he stood by the roadside.

Recycled suit for sale

It's 26 years old but there may still be a bidder or two for this suit - worn by Christopher Reeve in Superman III - was this the one where he flew very fast the wrong way around the world to turn back time and bring Lois Lane back to life after she has been suffocated with dirt when her car fell into a very large and recently opened hole in the road and was subsequently buried - the car that is, with Lois in it? The suit - blue and red and yellow - complete with red cape and a big S on the chest - is being auctioned in Australia later this month and could fetch over $15,000. Unlike the fictional version, chances are this one is not indestructable and doesn't help the wearer to fly - although, come to think of it, the flying powers were Superman's, not the suit's.