Friday, November 25, 2005

Monster Sudoku

So, there's now at least one variation of Sudoku - Monster. I found it on the Daily Sudoku. And it comes in 2 sizes - 3x4 (with 12 spaces per box 1-9, ABC) or 4x4 (16 spaces per box, 1-9,0, ABCDEF). Is it possible that some people have too much time on their hands?

Sydney's 1st Illegal Gay Wedding

For their final show of the year, the 2DAYFM radio station has staged Sydney's 1st Illegal Gay Wedding. Well, I'm not quite sure that that's right - it's surely not the first judging on the number of couples "married" at Mardi Gras Fair Day over the years - but it was amazing to hear the toots of support as the motorcade carrying one of the grooms made it's way into the city, to where the ceremony was held at First Fleet Park.

Tamgotchi - where art thou?

"It will definitely be dead by now" Jennifer announced matter-of-factly as we discussed the whereabouts of the Tamagotchi she has nurtured to 4th generation - but had not seen since the weekend - when it goes back to daughter Sophie for her care. When I saw Jennifer on Wednesday she realised she had been without Tama all week, and then it was Thursday and the acknowledgement that even virtual creatures need TLC if they are to survive. But how much? How long can you keep a Tamagotchi going? Have the programmers worked out the average lifespan - of the carer's commitment? Is there a secret prize if you successfully nurture the Tamagotchi and its progeny to a certain point? And what's the best/longest life for a Tamagotchi? And where can I buy one (or perhaps Jennifer and Sophie will loan me theirs. When they find it.)?

Sudoku - the board game

Here's the perfect Christmas gift for my brother Wayne and his family. Rather than playing by himself (and incurring his wife's displeasure) they can now all join in - yes, it's Sudoku the Board Game! And it works with any Sudoku puzzle! And you can play with 3 or more other people! The box includes playing board, 81 number tiles, 32 page puzzle book and a dice. Wonder what the dice is for and how it (the game, not the dice) works.

Stationery aid

If you want to beat the hoarding bug you could try the new trick I've just found. I have finally decided to heed warnings about identity theft from the rubbish bin and we have bought a shredder. Who knew they could be such fun - such fun that I just want to keep feeding pages in. Seems that could be even more dangerous than leaving intact pieces of paper in the recycling - but there's not much chance of that ever happening again. I can't wait to start sorting through the filing cabinet!

Point made

The Senate inquiry into proposed workplace reforms continues (although I noted this last week but have been tardy in posting). God has rated another mention. After Senator Johnston told the inquiry that unions were less relevant because their membership had declined, the Daily Telegraph recorded this response from union boss Bill Shorten:
"Do you believe in God? Do you go to church?" And then on receiving an affirmative answer he followed with: "Apparently the attendances of traditional, organized religion are down. Do you, therefore, think that God doesn't exist?"
Senator Johnston's response was not recorded.

Sticky tape to the rescue

From almost the moment I unpacked it from the plastic blister pack I suspected the design of the Palm wireless keyboard could be problematic. Now that I have lost the cover to the battery compartment, I'm sorry I didn't put sticky tape on before I lost it. It's harder to use the sticky tape to hold the batteries in without interfering with the way the rest of the keyboard functions, including opening and closing. It reminds me of an earlier design issue with an earlier model Palm which was powered by two removable batteries. When they included a sticker on the battery compartment cover so people would not take out both batteries at the same time, the paper width - not included in the design considerat ions - caused some Palms to not work! D'oh.
I'm hoping that the battery cover will show up - a bit like the 412 bus on a Thursday evening! - and sometimes I'm just not that confident about that either!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hold on ...

There was a version of the Holden Employee pricing ad on television a little while ago which has either been changed or was a shortened version of the current ad. The gist is that you can buy a Holden with the same discount an employee would get - which is good except all the work in the original ad seemed to be being done by robots!

Jury duty

Have you ever been called up for jury duty? Did you go? Or did you get out of it? Is jury duty too easy to get out of? And is it fair when some people say you should be concerned when you face a jury because you know your fate is in the hands of 12 people who couldn't get out of jury duty.
I think it would be amazing, and incredibly hard, to sit on a jury. Annie sat on a case once - and wore holes into or out of her sandshoes by tapping her toes in them for the better part of 6 months. As I recall was referred to as the Greek Conspiracy case, and there may also have been something about defrauding Medicare. My Mum sat on a drugs possession case some years ago and Sooz also sat on a drugs case but only for a day before the jury was dismissed after a juror reported that they had seen someone (from the courtroom the previous day) in their neighbourhood overnight and had felt intimidated. The magistrate told the jury he had no option but to call for a new jury - and this could be seen as part of the cost of a healthy justice system.
Neither of us has been called for jury duty since.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Needle in a haystack

So how do you tell if you've blogged about something before? I've tried the Google site search facility (in the Google search bar type in "site:xxxxxxx yyyyyy" substituting the name of the site you want to search for the xxxxxxx and the words you want to search for as the yyyyyy.) While this works well on some sites, it doesn't for the blog (and you'd be amazed at how often one wants to check their own blog for information/making sure not to repeat oneself too often/etc. etc.) Well, now there's the Technorati site. By choosing the SEARCH tab, and then under OPTIONS, you can select to search a specific blog. Works a treat. (Now if only I could remember what it was I was going to look up I'd be a happy person.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Michelle Leslie flies home

Convicted drug smuggler Michelle Leslie has flown back to Australia this morning after her forced deportation from Bali on her release from prison after serving three months for drug trafficking. (Wasn't that a mouthful.) People (except Australian Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beasley) will remember Michelle Leslie as the model who was arrested after being found with two ecstasy tablets in her handbag. (Mr Beasley - as evidenced during an interview yesterday - unfortunately one that was being recorded on video - will remember her as Michelle Lee, although after yesterday's gaffe, he may well now remember her as Michelle Leslie). You may also recall that Michelle changed from skimpy Western wear into more traditional Muslim garb during the course of her incarceration and trial. She had reportedly converted to Islam a month before her arrest. As the Muslim garb has now disappeared - and been replaced with what the Daily Telegraph describes as skintight jeans and a singlet top which exposed her stomach - there have been some suggestions that she was a "fake Muslim" to garner favour from the Indonesian courts. She denies these suggestions. She says she is a Muslim and will practise her faith with or without traditional Islamic headwear.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sparrows and turtles

I think I’ve already mentioned how much I miss not being able to download odd/quirky news from any more. I have been searching for a suitable replace – but the search is slow. Who knew there could be so many sites in cyberspace catering for this type of news?
The saddest story I came across was this (via the NOS news agency) was about an attempt in the Netherlands this Friday on the world record for falling dominoes – currently standing (or would that be not falling) at 3,992,397. A sparrow flew into through an open window and knocked over 23,000 dominoes. The article didn’t mention if the bird had done it one domino at a time – but it did say that it was only a system of 750 built-in gaps of the chain that prevented most or all of the dominoes being downed ahead of time. It had taken employees of television company Endemol weeks to set up the millions of dominoes for Friday’s record attempt and had the bird disrupted more of them, it might have been difficult to meet their schedule. But the record attempt is safe – from this particular interloping sparrow at least – “The bird was shot by an exterminator with an air rifle while cowering in a corner.” Somehow, it just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.
And still in Europe, at an alpine lake in Bavaria to be precise, police are hunting a snapping turtle. Its crime? Biting a teenage boy. As the report, citing Ananova as its source put it: The boy was bitten through the swimming trunks on his private parts and then bitten again on the hand as he tried to scramble out of the water. The turtle, native to North America, is thought to have been dumped in the lake after becoming too large for its tank. Snapping turtles can reach a weight of six stone and live for 80 years, but police believe that if they fail to catch the latest turtle escapee it will not survive through the winter when the lake freezes over. All attempts to locate it have so far failed – but chances are it’s not the turtle that Iowa woman Marjorie Morris has reportedly found dead in a vacuum-packed brick package of Folgers coffee. P&G, which makes the coffee believes it is an isolated incident. But even so, it’s probably a relief for them to know that Morris says she does not plan to sue.
Others are not so understanding. Take the case of a woman who claimed she found a piece of human finger in a bowl of chili at Wendy’s [International Inc.]. Yes, we’ve all heard horror stories about pieces of things found in food at large burger chains – but this one was true. Not before some major sales damage had been done to Wendy’s, the woman and her husband were arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to planting the finger to obtain compensation from Wendy’s. I will probably need to do some more research on this one – too many questions are left unanswered in the Reuters report – where did they get the finger? Did someone give them the finger? What were they hoping to get out of it? How much of a finger was it? How did the law find out about the scam? Was the owner of the finger implicated in the case? Hmmm. (Only in America?)

Sad news

On Tuesday morning at 3am Billi, our favourite dog friend, died at home with her “parents”. We have many fond and wonderful memories of Billi who we unashamedly believed to be the world’s best dingo/dog. She had been treated for cancer earlier this year (not that long ago) and even though it looked as though the prognosis was good following her surgery and chemotherapy, her body had obviously just had enough. Billi woke M&L to let them know it was time so they could say their goodbyes and be with her. Bye Billi. You will be missed.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wanted: Lawyers

Lawyers for Saddam Hussein have threatened to boycott the next trial session according to a report by the BBC. This follows news that another of their team has been killed, and another injured. So why is it happening? Are people trying to keep Saddam from being tried? From having effective legal representation? Or is there so much hatred towards him that people just want to see him (and his supporters) dead. It is had to imagine the lasting damage done to the Iraqi people and their culture during his reign and the need to take revenge must be palpable. If Saddam wasn't being tried under international law, and was still under arrest or awaiting trial, how would he be dealt with by Iraqi law? Differently? Do Iraqis feel they should be in charge of "handling" Saddam?

Million dollar photo

The first photo ever sold at auction for over $US1 million is a photograph of a photograph aka a re-photograph. It's a photo of the Marlboro Man and it's taken from a 1970's cigarette ad. Taken by Richard Prince in 1989, the appropriation of the original photographer's image/work has been defended because it's the idea behind Prince's work, rather than its intrinsic value as an image, that's important, according to Alasdair Foster, director of the Australian Centre for Photography (as reported in the Daily Telegraph). I'm not sure I agree with this thinking though - just doesn't seem to be right. Although it might help solve a mystery - apparently no one knows who the original photographer was - so perhaps this will flush him or her out of the woodwork.


"Paris May Face Curfew ..." screamed the NY Times headline, and I thought, phew, I knew Paris Hilton's latest run-in with the police, had attracted some attention but it hardly seemed to justify a curfew. Of course, they were talking about curfews in Paris, France, in an effort to curb continuing rioting. It was also good to read that the local authorities are planning some proactive measures - trying to address the millieu in which the riots have been able to take hold and look at improving the economic lot of the people in the affected areas (one of the main socioeconomic/political causes of the escalating violence).

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bird Flu

There's no denying that Avian/Bird Flu represents a significant threat to life as we know it. The question is, is the threat real, imagined or manufactured? And if it is as bad as is sometimes made out, how will this translate into a global response - will the economic imperative prevail - the same one that has seen Roche revenues rise by 17% recently. (Roche are responsible for the antiviral drug Tamiflu - seen as the best treatment for bird flu.)
Imagine the probable profits if the United Nation's food agency's warning that the virus would soon spread to East Africa eventuated. It could make the slowness of spending on malaria treatments look like a non-issue. Or what if governments of first-world countries planned to buy enough vaccine to cover the whole population in the event of a flu pandemic?
I can't remember which is was, or where I put the information about it - but there is an Asian nation that is talking about ignoring the patent on
Tamiflu and manufacturing their own. Another country is talking about making Tamiflu under licence. And another saying it will ignore the patent completely and just manufacture it. That shouldn't be too difficult as the main ingredient is a common spice (why don't I write these things down when I hear them) - could be star anise. I hope someone somewhere is making sure there's plenty of the plant under cultivation!

Question time

Much has been and will be written about recent raids which saw the arrest of a number of reported terrorists in Sydney and Melbourne. The raids followed a hasty change to legislation so it was a crime to plan an act rather than to have committed it. This all happens against the backdrop of other counter-terrorism legislation being introduced into Federal Parliament.
There was an interesting comment in the Sydney Morning Herald's Letters to the Editor (10 Nov 05)
A top-secret raid involving 18 months of covert operations by secret intelligence groups - and still the media are there to film it unfolding. And it's not political?
Garry T. Smith Tuckombil


I'm not sure why it has taken so long for this to make the press, because it is something Sooz and I have been commenting on since Day 1 of his "reign". We've even noted one day that Homer (our boy cat) was drinking like Morris Iemma.
Here is the Spike column from the Sydney Morning Herald 10 Nov 05:
Every day we see a new side to our once-shy Premier, Morris Dilemma. We have had Morris the sports fan, Morris the tax-canceller and, this week, SuperMorris, terrorism-squasher extraordinaire.
But in every guise, there's something strangely familiar in the Morris that we see, and we've just worked it out: he speaks with his head at an almost constant angle of about 15 degrees. To the left.
At press conferences, door stops, even on the parliamentary website, he leads the people of NSW with his left shoulder. Every breath he takes, every speech he makes, he'll be watching you … slightly askew.
Is he mimicking Lady Godiva? Is side-saddle the new black? Is he permanently poised to cut and run?
We asked one of his many flacks, were met with laughter and haven't heard back. So we're forced to speculate - which is just how we like it.
We asked one of his many flacks, were met with laughter and haven't heard back. So we're forced to speculate - which is just how we like it.
We're looking forward to the suggestions.

Nature strikes back

Have you ever wondered about the consequences of some countries doing rapid deforestation to create large tracts of farmland? In some places in South America they already know - especially if there's also a disappearance of large numbers of cattle (to market, to market)? You end up with vampire bats ... lots of vampire bats. Weren't expecting that were you? Or maybe you were.
I was reading an article recently about vampire bats killing at least 23 people in some of Brazil's remote Amazon regions. The victims died of rabies - as borne by the bats.
The BBC Report (and even I thought it was going to be from The National Enquirer or at least a trashy tabloid)) told how health authorities were trying to cope after 23 deaths in the region in the last two months. While it's not the first attack, it's unusually serious and has been caused, some experts say, by deforestation.
Health authorities say they have treated more than 1,300 people for rabies after being attacked by vampire bats, almost always at night in their houses.
As soon as I read this I thought of the "open window" angle - and that a “real life" vampire or perhaps that should be "fiction" vampire needs to be invited in, and an open window can be seen as that invitation. Which only goes to show that I am not thinking as a third-world person - especially as these poor people are trying to fill gaps in the walls of their huts with banana leaves to stop the bats getting in.
So why is it happening? Deforestation means the bats' natural habitat is destroyed. But rather than dying out, the bats' numbers may have increased with the appearance of an abundant food supply - the cattle. The BBC report stated that mass attacks on humans have occurred in other cattle regions in Latin America when the cattle are suddenly removed.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What is the world coming to?

A report in the Daily Telegraph today tells of Hong Kong robbers who have stolen the ashes of three people from a local cemetery. They are demanding a reward of almost $9,000 for their safe return. A note was left demanding the money be deposited in a bank account. (Now, if they have the same laws in place for opening bank accounts in Hong Kong as they do here in Australia, they should be able to track down the perpetrators based on the bank account - but there was no indication of this in the article.)
* My Ananova subscription with Avantgo is not working at the moment and I am having to look at different sources for my quirky news!

Who wants to be a Millionaire ...

... and how badly? A recent contestant on the show has been cleared of cheating or as The Daily Telegraph put it "The Nine Network has publicly exonerated Who Wants to be a Millionaire contestant Martin Flood". Apparently Mr Flood was investigated after a rather unorthodox approach to answering questions on the show - what was described as "incoherent reasoning" resulted in the correct answers. The episode with Mr Flood, which aired on local television on Monday night, was taped three weeks ago, and after it he was assessed by a psychologist and a risk management team. This might have had something to do with him having correctly answered the $250,000 question. Mr Flood suggested he had an idea the audience and host might have been frustrated when he took 12 minutes to answer a question. Host Eddie McGuire said it was the first time he has really been worried on the show "... I didn't know whether he was receiving cosmic rays into his head, whether he was cheating, whether somebody was signaling".
The next episode, where Mr Flood will win or lose the million, has already been taped and will be broadcast next Monday in the show's last outing for this season. The network has refused to comment on whether Flood took out the big one.
All of this raises a very perplexing question: If the show is pre-recorded why on earth do they drag it out so long? If the network is serious about making Millionaires, you'd think they'd want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to do so. Maybe it's just me, but slow television including "we’ll find out if you're right after this break" does nothing for me!

Racing terminology

Winkers, nose rolls, standard race plates (front and back) - what are all these things and why are they included in the form guide?

Breaking up is hard to do

... so why do other people make it harder?
How do people react when friends break up? Is the strength of their reaction relative to the strength of their own relationship - or perhaps their past experiences. I suppose it also depends on the circumstances of the breakup and how the parties in the relationship are about it. For example, was it a mutual decision (although I have a feeling that even mutual decisions are actually driven by one more than the other)? Or did one of the partners go off in search of other companionship? Is there a move to divvy up friends or do the friends take sides?

Reading on the web

I have been a bit confused over the recent opposition to Google’s project to digitise books so they would be more available on the web. There was much opposition to the project, particularly from the Society of American Publishers - presumably because Google was looking at publishing books that aren’t already in the public domain – meaning there would be copyright issues if they were to proceed. Google's project would involve digitising millions of works from Harvard, Stanford, and Michigan universities to make them searchable.
Running at the same time is a project by Microsoft and Yahoo, who are planning to put 150 works (already on the public domain) on the net.
But will putting these works on the net make people readers? Would you read more if you didn’t have to pay for it? Or is it a matter of being able to get access to works for which you would otherwise need to travel overseas for? Is the move designed to meet a niche market or is it something most of us would want to access?

Buried grader

Urban legend or truth? That is the question following the collapse of part of the Lane Cove tunnel (currently under construction in Sydney) last week. The collapse happened on the doorstep of a block of units and to make the area safe, 1000 cubic metres of concrete was poured into the hole. But was there an excavation grader in the hole at the time, and did they leave it there? I've heard the story from three different sources now (one from within the RTA) so I guess it is possible, even if a little hard to believe - unless you think of it from a safety point of view ... the event happens - the tunnel collapse is in progress - the driver of the grader escapes - and then when the time comes, the decision has to be made whether to send someone back into the hole with the possibility of the block of flats above caving in to it - or leaving the grader, which is probably already partially covered in rock and earth. Chances are, as the rush is on to stabilise the area that someone will say "Leave the grader ... Just make sure someone marks it off the asset register so we don't spend forever looking for it. And someone put up a little plaque: Here lies George the Grader."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bronte Blue Bird

We were down at Bronte Beach with friend Margaret (who we were lucky enough to spring from hospital) this afternoon. It was a stunning afternoon for it - sunny but not too hot. And there was no shortage of people or wildlife. Had we not been taking photographs of the gulls at the end of the beach, we would never have seen the blue gull - flying away in the third pic. It's the first we've ever seen - not quite sure of its genealogy - or whether it was a naturally occuring phenomenon or if the bird had somehow come off second best in an incident with a paint can!

Pacific Sing

We went off to a performance by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir yesterday afternoon - for a tour on the Pacific Queen, with songs from locations around the Pacific Rim. It was a great afternoon. Now there's a choir which knows how to sing ... and to have fun.

Sydney Tower Skywalk

I finally got in to town with "12" (12 x optical zoom camera) and managed to get a couple of shots of the Skywalk, which give an idea of what's involved. I'm certain now that you wouldn't catch me up there (full stop).

Saturday in Sydney

There just aren't a lot of people in Sydney on the weekend. As I remember how many people were on the streets of Shanghai, I feel a bit sorry for travellers to Sydney - not able to see a friendly face to ask directions. It is so busy on weekdays that it's hard to believe it's the same place! But I did manage to find some skateboarders on the steps of the Westin Hotel (formerly the GPO), and a contortionist in the Pitt Street Mall.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Great Race

... and it was. Makybe Diva won her third Melbourne Cup in a row. It was an amazing run - she held back and then you could see her charging through the field, white blaze on her forehead (that's how I could tell it was Makybe Diva) and roaring across the finish line. Glenn Boss, her jockey, was overcome with emotion as he spoke about her effort, and even managed to get some swear words into the broadcast interview. (Maybe Magistrate Pat O'Shane is right - maybe community standards regarding swearing have greatly relaxed. I'm not sure I agree with it though.)
Luckily, I had drawn Makybe Diva in one of the office sweeps, and Sooz and I were able to dine out on the proceeds last night.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


It's not every day you see a young person keeping a journal but that's what I saw on the 412 bus to Campsie this afternoon. It was wonderful - sturdy hand-made deckle-edged paper, proper punctuation (!), different colours, and memorabilia and piccies included. She seemed to be late teens or early 20's and from the City to RPAH she was engrossed in her writing. I was in awe of her ability to do legible writIng on the 412 - I know I can't - even when it's stopped!

Hold the phone

I know it’s scary enough thinking about the bill that might be incurred if I lost my mobile phone and someone found it and started making calls. But how would you be if they ran up a $1.21 million bill. Thankfully, it’s someone else who has this particular problem – following the loss of a satellite phone in Iraq. While the Daily Telegraph report suggested that insurgents had stolen the phone, Britain’s Foreign Office would not confirm this. The phone was barred in June after some bill “discrepancies” were noticed. Now, if it was insurgents, and you could track down the numbers that calls had been made to, that might provide some good intelligence (“Hi, is that Osama?” … oops, sorry, for a moment there I forgot that no connection has been proved between Iraq and Osama bin Laden – by the Coalition of the Willing or anyone else.)

Race that stops a nation …

Today, in Victoria (actually in Melbourne), they will run the Melbourne Cup – a 2km horse race. It is billed as “the race that stops a nation”, “yeah, right, for three minutes” added a Tooheys New beer ad on the front of the paper. But stop the nation does, with people gathering around television sets or radios to experience to the race – the sound of galloping hooves, excited punters, and hats – lots of hats. Racing is the perfect venue for milliners to show off their wares – what is a race meet without hats? - hoping the day won’t be so windy that creations are buffeted rather than rippling gently in the occasional zephyr .
Not that everyone is interested in hats, of course, but it occurs now that it gives the “ladies” something to look at – especially if they’re not that keen to following the action on the track. Is this where the fashion aspect of racing comes from? (I think I feel a Google coming on.)

Fair P(l)ay

As Australians are facing the prospect of of new era in workplace relations, it's good to know that some have faith in the system - or is it? The new Fair Pay Commission (a team of 5) is chaired by Professor Ian Harper, an Anglican who describes himself as a "Christian economist". He is reported as saying: "The minimum wage will be set by God's will" with his Christian faith providing him with a moral compass in the task of setting wages. The Daily Telegraph noted that he and a narrow circle of Christian brothers and sisters spent a lot of time praying for wisdom, discernment and courage - to ensure it's God's will being done - not the will of individuals! Let's hope that it's a God of love and compassion at work on the day not one who's insisting on a vow of poverty or the one who is mindful that the Church is a major employer in its own right.

Death sentence

I'm not sure that I've ever really thought about capital punishment but the current case of a young Australian man awaiting execution in Singapore for trafficking heroin has me thinking. There have been numerous calls for the Australian government to intercede on his behalf. But is it a good enough reason: that our decision not to have capital punishment here should mean our citizens when tried and committed (and having confessed to the crime) in a foreign country should not be subject to the laws and penal codes of that location? Yet I can see how you would want to preserve life. It does seen incredibly barbaric to punish a person by killing them (as the man who was about to be executed via electric chair reportedly said: this will teach me a good lesson.) So what is the answer? People need to know that drug trafficking won't be tolerated and that, when caught, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. So what do you do with them? Maybe it's time to have an international body policing drug trafficking which is responsible for their prosecution and imprisonment. It might be difficult to arrive at a consensus re penalties - but once decided, it would be non-negotiable. Penalties could be based on the nationality of the perpetrator so there could be no mismatch between crime and punishment.
That would still leave the question of capital punishment though. How do you convince people that killing someone as punishment is not necessarily in anyone's best interest. And if murder carries the death penalty - who sentences the executioner, and their executioner - and so on?