Friday, March 31, 2006

Woman 27 Kills husband 72

Tatjana Edwards has been convicted in London of murdering her husband. In a twist on what could be considered a more expected reason, it seems the motive was that Gwyn was not a millionaire. Tatjana, from Estonia, arrived in Britain as a student, but was raped and forced into prostitution before escaping her pimp's clutches. It was while selling sex for £200 a time at a brothel in North London that she set out to "snare" Gwyn a client, who intimated that he was a multi-millionaire. Unfortunately for both of them, he was not. Things became progressively worse as the money ran out and the court heard that the final row over money ended with Gwyn stabbed to death. Tatjana told the court that Gwyn's death was an accident. She had been trying to commit suicide with the knife when Gwyn tried to intervene - and the knife slipped. The jury did not believe her and she now faces a life in prison.


Australia is due for a census later this year. Hopefully there will be less trouble than the Nigerians have suffered. Census officials have been attacked and killed while looking to put a figure on the estimated 120 to 150 million people in the country. Now comes the news that the Census has been extended because the count had been "delayed in many parts by a lack of materials and rows over payments to officials". There was no mention of the deaths in the second report.

Column centimetres

Poor Mason. His letter in today's "Vent Your Spleen" column in MX had him giving a serve to the boys on the 8.50am city train who laughed at his flatulence. "Body eructations are rarely funny" his letter started - sending me to my dictionary for the definition "a reflex that expels wind noisily from the stomach through the mouth". While I was there I also checked "flatulence" - which could be either "a state of excessive gas in the alimentary canal" or "pompously embellished language". You just have to love English!

Time to play?

I've been doing some research on innovation lately - and stumbled across this link on one of the innovation blogs I visited. Mmmmm ... colours.
Of course, if you've got some more time to spare, you might want to check out Bored or Tickle - not sure what they've got on them, because I haven't had time to visit - but one day I will have time to get there - especially as they're supposed to have jokes, funny and serious online tests, and a heap of unusual facts. (Word of warning - just went to both sites to check the links were working and my pop-up blocker stopped some pop-ups. Might be an idea to make sure yours is enabled.) What would we do without the internet?

Word (Im)Perfect

The Witch's Stone in Dornoch, Scotland, marks the place where Janet Horne was burned at the stake in 1722 because she mispronounced one word in the Gaelic version of the Lord's Prayer.
Thanks to MX for that - and for this one: The gate posts of Margamin, Wales, stood for centuries because of a prophecy that the Mansell family would disappear if they did. In 1744 Lord Thomas Mansell pulled down the pillars. Within the year the entire family was wiped out.
That reminds me of my cousin Robert, who determined that he and his wife should ever only have one child (which they did). The reason - a session with a ouija board left him with the very real and unshakeable belief that if he had more than one child, he would die shortly afterwards.

Big bang theory

Following on from my earlier comments about blasting into space and the dangers associated with it - I'd mentioned that there were no plans in place for health screens of intending passengers. Seems that might have changed. It appears that women who have had breast implants may be prohibited from doing space flights because of cabin pressure hitches. Spokesman for Virgin Galactic (due to begin flights in 2008) is quoted as saying "We're not sure whether they could stand the trip - they could well explode". That's the theory anyway ... not sure if anyone will want to be the first to test it!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Another approach

How do you reduce the rate of domestic violence. In France they've introduced a package of measures, including raising the age women can get married - from 15 to 18. This brings it to the same age as men - and is aimed to combat forced marriages. Tougher penalties for marital rape and assault will now be extended to partners and ex-partners. It will also be an offence to confiscate travel or identity documents to prevent a partner from leaving. And it will now be possible to bring theft charges against a spouse. There was no mention if the laws would extend to de-facto partnerships.

Double standards

There has been a bit of a splash in one of the Sydney newspapers over the last week about fashion faux pas (what is the plural of faux pas?). Seems Janet Howard, wife of our current Prime Minister John Howard, has "over-co-ordinated" her wardrobe with visiting dignitaries - first with the Queen where both wore similar lime green outfits, and then, the following week, she and Cherie Blair (wife of the British PM) stepped out in similar white outfits. Of course, I always thought there were wardrobe co-ordinators to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen - but I could have been wrong.
The double standard bit comes in because on both occasions their husbands were dressed very similiarly (to each other - not to their wives, heh heh, that would have been just a bit too silly, although it may have been visually interesting) - and no-one batted an eyelid or commented about that!
I'm not sure the same could be said of friend Cory's appearance at a black tie function last week. He was MCing and wore a bright red tuxedo (with shirt to match). The amazing thing was that he was able to talk a couple of mates into following suit (pun intended).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


I found this title in the "Faith & Family" section of the Target supermarket - which is across the road from the PA Hospital in Brisbane. While it makes a change from CSI (not sure whether it continues the tradition of the annoying flashlights/sunglasses!) it's possible that there may not need to be that many series of the show - seems the perpetrator (of "miracles") would already have been identified!

Thursday, March 23, 2006


When is a helipad not a helipad? When it's being used as a golf green or, in these pictures, a tennis court. According to Snopes, this was February 2005, and tennis pros Roger Federer and Andre Agassi were in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for the ATP's Dubai Duty Free Men's Open, a $1 million International Series Gold event. While in town, they took part in a
publicity stunt (worth a visit for the piccies!), engaging in a friendly exhibition tennis match on the grass helipad atop the luxurious Burj Al Arab hotel.


You know you're spending too much time on computers when you are editing a document on paper and you remove a "do something here" flag, realise you shouldn't have, aren't sure exactly where it's meant to go ... and you reach for the CTRL and Z keys to UNDO.
I'm not sure where it was but best "undo" I remember is in an office missive encouraging people not to pass on chain emails especially bogus virus alert warnings because it put "undo pressure on the email system".

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


The only problem I have with reading eBooks is that, unlike conventional novels, it's hard to tell how close you are to the end - especially if an excerpt of the author's next novel is included. yes, I should have been thrilled to get something for nothing, but instead I was slightly annoyed, because I'd settled in for another 20 minutes of reading and then suddenly, without warning ... the end.

Heady stuff

New research out suggests that some migraine sufferers have been treated successfully by heart surgery. Does this mean that there is possibly a link between heart and head. And how does it evidence? The facts: A hole in the heart, known technically as a patent foramen ovale (PFO), is a minor defect in the wall that separates the two upper chambers of the heart, the atria. In most cases it causes no health problems, but can, in a small minority of people, lead to a stroke. It is also thought that failure completely to filter the blood of impurities in the normal way may result in migraines.

Which way?

What's your sense of direction like? Do you know which way you need to turn when you come out of a building or subway station? I'm lucky because most of the time I do - although I've been a bit wrong-footed! Both in Shanghai and San Francisco. Guess it's something about a grid-street system and the moon being in the part of the sky it was last night - even if you're not. Is a sense of direction something you can learn - like memory skills? And is your sense of direction impaired (although affected might be a better word) if you spend significant time in the different hemispheres?
And on the subject of memory there's a woman who has an astounding memory. Name a day and she can tell you anything about it (and you can check if she's right in the detailed journals she's kept over the years). She might have had an unfair advantage if she took part in the USA National Memory Championship - held recently in New York. Contestants were required to recite poetry, playing card order and strings of numbers. The winner, Joshua Foer, said he didn't expect to - even though he set a new US record in playing card recall. After 5 minutes memorizing a deck of cards, he recalled the entire deck, in order (heh heh, that's the trick) in 1 minute 40 seconds. It was a personal best and now he'll take part in the World Championships in Malaysia later this year.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sign of the time

What do books and hockey sticks have in common now - and basketballs in a minute? Margaret Atwood can tell you - she could even write about it - and she could do it from the other side of the world with her new invention - the Unotchit. But wait, you say, isn't Margaret Atwood a writer - not an inventor! You'd be half right because it was indeed author Margaret Atwood who thought of the Unotchit (pronounced You No Touch It) or LongPen - a remote-controlled pen that allows writers to sign books for fans from thousands of miles away.
While some think this could end the personal contact between writers and readers, Atwood says it will enhance the relationship. Her reasoning is based on that an author can't be in five countries at once - unless they are using the LongPen.
Based on a demonstration at the London Book Show, Atwood writes on an electronic pad while chatting with the book-admiring public through video linkup. A few seconds later in their part of the world, two spindly metal arms clutching a pen reproduced the words onto the fan's proffered book - to make a different kind of digital copy!
Atwood says the gadget has applications which stretch beyond the traditional book tour ie (distance) education and (the long arm of the) law.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Photo opportunities

Amid the ongoing file transfer from Toni (the Sony) to Moses (the Tablet), the decision re how many of the photo files to transfer is a difficult one - how much weeding out needs to be done? Do I keep all the shots? Only the ones I really like? Drop the file size on the ones I'm keeping just because I can't decide to throw them out? Or just trash the lot because I'm fairly sure I have them all backed up on disc anyway?
In the big wide world, there are some very exciting things happening with images - Riya, one of the online photo services has developed software that can automatically recognize who is in a picture and tag it with their names. Currently in alpha testing, the software has proven sensitive enough to tell the difference between twins and recognize members of the same family. It can even read street signs for clues about a picture's location.
The aim? To make every photo in the world something you can find. Which is a pretty amazing thing - especially as it seems that most people are the same as me and find it just a bit tedious to assign names to thousands of photos. And as more and more digital cameras are sold, and the bigger media storage cards get, the more unnamed photos there are going to be sitting on computers all over the world. Riya estimates there are 280 billion images on desktop computers already.
Sharing them around though might raise a few privacy concerns - especially as identifying a person in a photo means their name and email address have to be entered. The service then alerts the person that they've been tagged. The report I read didn't say if the person could choose to be de-tagged. But it does suggest ongoing privacy concerns especially in a world where Google and other search engines can find everyone's name, e-mail address and much more.
For more on this, visit the Wired story


The future no doubt holds many incredible product applications - and there are probably going to be some that are more annoying than others. Imagine wandering down the supermarket aisle in search of your favourite cereal - only to have the packages flashing advertising at you! Or maybe it will be a poisons warning on prescription medicine packaging.
And this is not that far away. Electronics maker Siemens is readying a paper-thin electronic-display technology which is so cheap it could replace conventional labels on disposable packaging, from milk cartons to boxes of Cheerios (mmm Cheerios).
As if parents doing the shopping with children don't have it hard enough, an engineer with Siems said: "When kids see flashing pictures on cereal boxes we don't expect them to just ask for the product, but to say, 'I want it.'" (Add a couple of exclamation points!)
To read more about the technology, visit the Wired report for fuller details.
Although the application is currently talking about "flashing" rather than videos, I can't help but think that one day we will be watching short "videos" on packaging. And then it's only a short sideways step to the photos I dream about - with a few seconds of moving footage on a printed image. I think I remember that Kodak had developed something like this - but I haven't seen anything about it nor seen that it is commercially available.

Kiss of death?

A news item last November read a little like an urban myth ... Christina Desforges, a Canadian with a nut allergy had died after kissing her boyfriend who had eaten peanut butter.
It wasn't refuted at the time, but now the Coroner investigating the case has said Christina's nut allergy was not the cause of death. This will probably be of some consolation to allergists who were a bit non-plussed at the ramifications of this type of allergy-related death.
Surprisingly, the Saguenay Coroner has not yet made a final ruling -just confirmed it wasn't the nut allergy.
According to the BBC report the coroner said he wanted to speak out so the case would not be used in a proposed ad campaign by the Canadian Association of Food Allergies.
Miss Desforges died in hospital in Saguenay, about 155 miles (250km) north of Quebec City, last November, after she failed to respond to days of treatment.
Her 16-year-old boyfriend had kissed her some nine hours after he had eaten peanut butter on toast, the AFP news agency reported at the time.
The coroner Mr Miron said that, contrary to media reports at the time, she did not get an adrenalin shot, a standard treatment for anaphylactic shock, immediately after the kiss. He said she had not used her syringe to give herself a shot because she did not have an allergic reaction to peanut butter.
Symptoms of a peanut allergy can include hives, a drop in blood pressure and swelling of the face and throat that can hinder breathing.

New Pepsi Max poster ads

"We'd hate sugar's guts if it had any." "I'd kick sugar, if I had legs." I can't help wondering if this new macho image advertising for Pepsi is their way of going head to head with the new Coke Zero - zero sugar, real coke taste. Hope it's not too long before it goes away.

Billy Graham

I thought Billy Graham had left this mortal coil but apparently he's just retired. I'd read a report where William Franklin Graham III or is it the IV (Billy's son) "The day I take over the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, it will be the saddest day of my life, because that will mean the retirement of my father." Alas I had finished reading at "my life". So imagine my surprise when I saw a piece earlier this week about Billy Graham Snr's service in New Orleans (the Big Easy sermon). It his first service since June and there was no mention if this was a "one-off" or whether he was back with a vengeance (or not - as the case may be). (Thank you ABC News podcast ... Billy Graham is suffering from Parkinson's Disease and will not have a continuing presence on the Ministry stage.

Origami anyone?

Origami is the code-name for the Microsoft project to shrink laptops - or is that to make PDAs bigger. The device - the UM (Ultra Mobile) PC was launched on 1 March - or, more correctly, the prototypes so people could touch and play with them. When I was spreadsheeting which tablet PC to buy, the Origami was on the list - thanks to the advance rumours. I'll have another look when they hit our shores, but I don't think I'll be ready to part with Moses for a while (not in a mo' anyway).

Woodpecker Challenge

Are there really people out there who watch synchornised swimming? The 2006 Commonwealth Games are getting a bit of airplay this weekend - and at the moment they're doing the solo swimming sans commentators - to give us a chance to enjoy the music. I went channel surfing instead and ended up on TVS (oops, their site appears to be out at the moment) - our sixth free-to-air television channel. As yet, I have not noticed their program guide in the press, and it's been a while since I've checked their website to see if it's there. But at least, this way, you never know what you're going to stumble across. Today, it's 4WD TV and Rodder's Life. What you see is what you get - and this stuff is an eye opener! I admit I lead a fairly sheltered life so had no idea there were whole families and communities out there concentrated around throwing 4WDs over increasing rough terrain (you'll have to wait until November for the next Woodpecker Challenge) and/or showing off their rods. I should have realised though because when we went up to Weston (NSW Hunter Valley) a couple of years ago, a local fair was graced with cars buffed to an inch of their existence lining both sides of the streets, bonnets up and being shown off to the world. It's a different life - and a different language. A gentleman is being interviewed about a big red car at the moment and is just reeling off a list of numbers to describe his pride and joy. Oddly, though, the rods all seem to have personalised number plates - like Fuggly. Life is good.

Waxing and waning

I give Emma her insulin injections morning and evening, and noted tonight that after I give her the injection, l rub the area where I've given it. Why? I think it might have to do with waxing - and the story Charles told one day after the Footy Show. It was the first Footy Show I'd seen and in a charity challenge, some guys would receive a couple of hundred dollars for having bits of hair on their body ripped (oops, I meant waxed) off: bikini line, chest, eye brow - that kind of thing. They did it, but they had tears in their eyes and it looked like a very painful experience - confirming stories I'd previously heard from women who endure it regularly, only because "you get used to it" or "it doesn't seem to hurt as much".
When water-cooler conversation turned to it the next day, Charles - a regular participant in the Gay & Mardi Gras Parade - said when he had his lower back waxed, he didn't feel pain. You only feel pain, he explained, because your skin doesn't know how to react. His waxer rips off the strip with one hand and gives the newly-denuded area a good hard slap with the other. This, Charles assured us, means the skins knows that it's been hit - rather than all the nerve endings running around screaming "what's happened, what's happened". That's the theory anyway, and I'm going to have to take Charles' word for it because I'm not going there! No point trying to a an empirical test if that one can't actually "remember" the intensity of physical pain. Or Sooz suggested it might be the "a new pain overrides an old pain".

Friday, March 17, 2006

Not so hard "Cell"

I have just finished reading Stephen King's latest novel Cell. The Fictionwise site describes it thus:
There's a Reason Cell Rhymes with Hell. There are one hundred and ninety-three million cell phones in the United States alone. Who doesn't have one? Stephen King's utterly gripping, gory*, and fascinating novel doesn't just ask the question "Can you hear me now?" It answers it with a vengeance.
It took me a little while to get into it (the premise of a Pulse sent through mobile phones that would make people go crazy) seemed a bit far fetched. But once I settled into the read, I found I couldn't put it down (made easier by reading it as an eBook on Palm). And, of course, now I really am noticing how many people carry cell phones (or mobile phones as we call them here in Australia), how many talk on them out in public and on public transport. I even counted pictures of three people with mobile phones in the paper this morning.
Don't get me wrong, I like a mobile - at one point there I found I was noting what models people were carrying (that did scare me!) - but there ARE a lot of them!
* They're not wrong about this - one of the reasons I found it a bit hard to get into.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Let's go

Another David Pogue find - as passed on to him by a reader who suggested this be "filed under weird".
Here it is, your link of Zen: the Bible, as illustrated by hundreds and hundreds of full-scene Lego scenes, lovingly built and then photographed (by "the Rev. Brendan Powell Smith," who admits that he "is not an ordained member of any earthly church").

Monday, March 13, 2006

Texting to North America

Here's another tip from David Pogue (NY Times) that lets you send a *text message* to any North American cell phone. From your computer. For free. In your e-mail program, address a message to (That is, the cellphone number, plus In seconds, your message pops up on the person's cellphone, without ringing and disturbing the movie, the meeting or whatever. And you don't even have to pay for sending a text message, which you would have had to do if you sent it from your cellphone. Not to mention how much easier it is to key in a message on a real keyboard
It would have been great if this had worked for Australian cell phones but at least when I tried it (unsuccessfully) they sent back a very polite message saying I hadn't appeared to have used a valid North American number - but if I thought l had, I could contact their support department for help. Very decent of then.

Uncle Sam wants you

Or possibly not. Seems there are three factors which can help those in the prime recruiting age group of 17 to 24 be less desirable to the US Military. The secret lies in the following points:
* the rising rate of obesity; some 30 percent of U.S. adults are now considered obese;
* a decline in physical fitness; one-third of teenagers are now believed to be incapable of passing a treadmill test; and
* a near-epidemic rise in the use of Ritalin and other stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Potential recruits are ineligible for military service if they have taken such a drug in the previous year.
More details on the Yahoo site, but be quick because their stories don't seem to stay up that long.
A tattoo can also help you appear less attractive so imagine what having KlingonHave you always wanted Klingon ridges in your forehead or Devil horns sprouting from your skull? Another reason to make the appointment for a subdermal implant sooner rather than late.

Bad weather

Snow and sleet fell across the San Francisco Bay area in an unusually late winter storm over the weekend. Two people were killed in a 28-vehicle pileup on a slippery highway just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, authorities said.
Before I'd been to San Francisco this may have been just another story in the press, but now I find myself wondering where this happened and if it was one of the places I visited. You'd think the more people traveled, the smaller the world would actually seem - and that all of us might start to think about people on the other side of the planet as people - not statistics or "the other". And the it might occur to us all that the person or the other side of the fence, or in the next suburb, even if they dress or speak differently or have different religious or cultural beliefs we have more in common than not.

Tablet technology

I am an unashamed convert to tablet technology! I have recently made the decision about which computer to buy and have done the deed - welcoming Moses the Fujitsu Lifebook T4010 Tablet PC into the fold. The handwriting technology is simply amazing! Wants me want to do text entry this way all the time! I'll see if I can get a photo of this to demonstrate! And I haven't ever tried the voice recognition software yet. Undoubtedly, there will be more to follow!

Ban all butts

David Mansford of Canterbury (NSW?) has sent in this letter to The Daily Telegraph:
The answer to our worst litter problem is simple: ban cigarette butts. Then the only litter that smokers leave behind would be a bit of papeer and a bit of tobacco (not a synthetic filter that lasts for decades). What possible objections would the smokers have? The risks to their health?
And speaking of rubbish - what do you do when you see someone drop rubbish on the street - right next to a garbage bin? Is there a proper etiquette for getting them to pick it up and bin it ... "Hey Tosser"?

Teacher-student relations

High school teacher Robert Drummond has been sacked after a year-long investigation into his relationship with a student. The relationship because public after the student, Melanie Docwra, sat her HSC exams at the end of 2004.
Why does it take so long to investigate these and similar allegations? Does it take longer if the student/teacher are both willing participants? What if Melanie had accused Mr Drummond of unwanted sexual advances? Would this have taken a year to investigate? Or would this have become a police matter?

Fact or fiction

July 2005. Rural Turkey. Five members of the same family are found to suffer from a recessive gene disorder which has caused brain damage affecting balance and movement. Result: they walk on all fours - using their palms like heels, with their fingers angled up from the ground (as opposed to the knuckle walking more often associated with chimps and gorillas). Their 14 siblings are not affected by the disorder. The family are treated as outcasts by many villagers - but that may change after the BBC documentary about them screens next week.

More "interpretation"

A small item "buried" on page 26 of today's The Daily Telegraph notes that 24* people have disappeared from cruise ships between 2003 and 2005. As well, 178 passengers reported being sexually assaulted - with almost half of these assaults committed by other passengers according to International Council of Cruise Line figures. So the other half must have been committed by ... cruise staff members? I wonder if the single older women who choose to go sailing because they feel safer will feel as safe knowing this - although it's probably something the cruise lines don't publicise.
The report didn't say where the figures were from, or if they were global figures, just that they were being presented to a US congressional panel.
* 24: 12 were deemed suicides; 1 was an accidental fall overboard and the others are "missing for unknown reasons" - which leaves the field wide open. Murder on the high seas?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Web for rent!

Amazing what you find on the web!
Ever wanted your very own copy of the internet? lt's getting closer thanks to Amazon subsidiary Alexa which can, for a price, give anyone access to a regularly updated copy of much of the information found on the web. All this - 4.5 billion web pages from more than 16 million websites -for (and this is probably in $US currency):
$1 per processor hour
$1 per gigabyte/year of user storage
$1 per 50 gigabytes of data processed
$1 per gigabyte uploaded/downloaded.

Time on the web

The more popular wireless internet gets, and the more affordable, the slower is my connection. I am not the world's most patient person, especially when waiting for a multiMB podcast to download, or for a bandwidth heavy page to load. But it's not just frustration - it's absolute frustration because I am being trapped on web pages that I find unappealing. A Canadian study says we can tell in the blink of an eye, literally, whether we like the look of a web page or not - and that influences our experience with the rest of the site.
"If the first impression is negative," said the researchers "you'll probably drive people off." That's if you can actually get enough oumph from your ISP to be able to leave the site!


Words are fun(ny). Isn't it great how "individually" contains "individual" and "dually". Does this make it a reverse dichotomy.
separation of different or contradictory things
(Microsoft Encarta Dictionary)


(communication) an inoffensive expression that is substituted for one that is considered offensive
(SlovoEd Dictionary for Palm)

Listening to a podcast the other day, I heard "the procedure was postponed" ... which is to say that the execution of a man on death row in California had been delayed pending further legal argument.


Ouch. Lightning on Saturn is apparently 1000 times more powerful than on Earth. That's something you'd really want to know before landing there! But how do they know such things? And how long will it be before man sets foot on Saturn? And do the rings go all the way around or are they just confined to the one orbit above the equator? And if we send probes to other planets first to find out "stuff", why wouldn't others ... planets that is, not the Russians or Chinese.

Space ... the next frontier

For a small fee (well, actually for thousands of dollars) you can have your or your loved ones ashes blasted into space. Of course, you will soon be able to be blasted into space while you're still alive - for a great deal more - but you'll have to be screened first to make sure you're not a terrorist. Thus spake the US Federal Aviation Administration on drawing up space tourism rules designed to prevent a terrorist from destroying a spacecraft or using it as a weapon.
The screening won't cover your health though. The report has no strict proposals on the health of any would-be space tourists.
But you would have to be given safety advice by the flight operators including how many flights the spacecraft has been on, and if there have been any problems with the craft. You'd also be given pre-flight training to handle emergency situations such as a loss of cabin pressure or fire. But hopefully you'd never had the chance to find out if the saying is true or not. The saying? "In space, no-one can hear you scream".
And all this is not too that far away. Virgin Galactic aims to start flights into space from New Mexico by the end of the decade.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Open to interpretation

Railfares in NSW are set to increase even though the Government has previously said that until services are improved, there will be a price moratorium. The letters and comments in MX suggest that services are far from improved but still the State Government forges ahead - possibly helped by a story in this morning's The Daily Telegraph saying that 90,000 more passengers a week are using city trains since the introduction of new timetables last September . Transport Minister John Watkins said the figures were an indication that commuter confidence in the troubled rail system was returning.
I read this to mean "they're using it, so it must be better" although I wonder if they really meant "this happily coincided with very substantial petrol price rises meaning people couldn't afford to drive their own cars to work and were forced to use trains - and the extra people are just making the train riding experience more cramped and less comfortable for everyone - but let's not mention that".

Watch this

Earlier this week all employees of our company received a watch from our Chairman in appreciation of our collective contribution/s last year. (Thanks Dave!)
It seems we weren't the only ones so honoured. A British train company also gave its staff watches - atomic watches worth $112,000 which went to 1500 drivers, station staff, guards and controllers ... so they could get their services running on time! Bosses had found that staff watches weren't always right - meaning they weren't always "in the right place at the right time". Let's hope this solution works for Virgin Trains - and that it doesn't blow up in their faces.

Neatness counts

Well, actually not just neatness ... A Cyprus court has jailed a Pakistani man for eight months for forgery after he was caught carrying what was reported as an "almost original" Afghan passport - except for that some words just weren't spelled right: Menistry and Goverment. Of course, this might just be how it was reported in MX, free Sydney afternoon daily newspaper, but how many countries have English on their passports?

Business cards

I was reading a story today about the Catholic Church being critical of Harry Potter stories because they could lead children into Satanism when I found myself wondering about business cards. Do you have your company name, your name and title - in that order. And what about:
The Vatican
Father Gabriele Amorth
Chief Exorcist.
Given his occupation, and if I'm ever in the market for one to come calling - I want to see "Exorcist" on the very top line, and in very big print. Fear does powerful strange things to someone's eyesight.
Father Amorth, 80, has carried out more than 3000 exorcisms since 1986. That's 150 a year, or about 3 a week (unless there's a seasonal variation). And if Father Amorth is the Chief Exorcist, how many of them does the Vatican, nay, the Catholic Church, have? And do I really want to know?

Eating him up

Armin Weiwes, sometimes billed as "a real-life German cannibal" is upset because his legal bid to block the movie version of his (alleged) gruesome crime has failed. The film features a cannibal called Hartwin, but there the differences end: the plot is almost identical to the real-life events (which, as you may recall, were documented on video by Weiwes). Director Martin Weisz said the film was merely inspired by real events - but that hasn't stopped them trying to get as much interest in the film from the public's fascination with the case. (And fascinated we are - I'm not sure if this is my third of fourth mention of same here.)
And speaking of things copyright (well, almost) - it will be interesting to see if Michael
Balgent and Richard Leigh are successful in their claim that author Dan Brown lifted ideas central to their work The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail for the Da Vinci Code. At what point does an idea or concept become copyrightable, if at all? And is there a difference between ideas and themes?

The Sperminator

I have to stop channel flicking because I keep finding these snippets which are far too intriguing/disturbing. Tomorrow night on SBS there's a program called The Sperminator. I could have heard incorrectly but it seems to be about Dr Cecil Jacobsen who ran a fertility clinic with a difference - there was only one sperm donor. Him. "Who else could you rely on to produce sperm as required?"
Of course, now I'm never going to be able to find the piece I read somewhere else today about a group of women who meet regularly on the net. (Short pause. Much rummaging. There it is.) The thing the 11 women have in common is that they discovered their children were sired by the same sperm donor - N0. 401 - from a Virginia fertility clinic. The report doesn't say if the women used Dr Jacobson's clinic - also in Virginia. What do you reckon the odds are?
(Sorry TK, I just have to go on.) And all this reminded me of a story in a USA paper about someone using a "Whizzinator"** - a fake male appendage which can be filled with (someone else's) "whizz" to help people pass drug tests. I say "people" because you would think that it would probably only be men who could use them. Apparently not so. A US service station attendant was shocked recently when taking something out of the microwave which looked very much like an amputated boy-bit. The couple who asked for the item to be heated because it was a "matter of life or death" hurriedly explain that she was going to have a drug test and would be using the device (read "whizzinator"). They had needed to heat it (and its contents) to make sure the contents (read "whizz") passed the temperature aspect of the test. Only in America ... But the service station attendant wishes it wasn't, 'cause they're still recovering from the shock - I know how I felt when I chanced upon the leg (artificial) in the wardrobe!
**I would have provided a link to the Whizzinator site - but, believe me, you really don't want to go there! It's a bit graphic. However, if you're really interested in finding out more, and possibly even ordering online, you may want to visit the apty named

Danger in the skies

An ad on Channel 7 just then, for their News, carried a snippet from a recent story - about a new danger to airline passengers - people shining lasers into pilots' eyes.
Funny, that's the same technology they were talking about introducing to Washington some time ago - to flash pilots straying into restricted airspace. Those stories suggested the practice wasn't dangerous - just a friendly warning which is probably upgradeable to something not so friendly if needed.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I am on the hunt for a tablet pc but looking at all the specifications is like trying to understand a whole new language. The good thing is that there is Wikipedia and I am slowly making my way through the list of GH and MHz and IEEE394 and IrDA and GPU and ODD and GB and you get the idea. It's been an eye opener, too, to see the differences in specifications sheet from different manufacturers, and different reseller sites. Particularly wonderful was the site I found yesterday (now what was it again?) that allowed you to compare up to 4 different models using "drag and drop". Pretty snazzy - except it didn't have all the models I want to compare. Still, it's good to do spreadsheets - helps me work out what the most important features are!


News this morning suggests William Shakespeare suffered and probably died from a rare form of cancer of the tear duct. This follows forensic investigation of contemporary portraits of the writer where several seem to show progression of the condition. (Let's not go into the controversy surrounding this revelation - particularly that some seem to think that only one of the several portraits is actually believed to be of Shakespeare.)