Thursday, August 31, 2006

A certain ring to it ....

A little while ago I blogged about a ringtone being used by US students because it could not be heard by adults. Well, they've started advertising it on Australian television - and I admit I was perplexed when I saw it - because I couldn't hear it. The ad featured a picture of a mobile phone ... but was the ringtone being played? I guess I'll have to co-opt someone young enough to hear it to find out. Talk about feeling old!

And now for the ... nose

The NY Times has become the first English-language newspaper to introduce a regular column on perfume: so declared the BBC Select podcast I was listening to. The question then is what other language newspapers already have a perfume column? And thanks to the Mail & Guardian Online (South Africa) I now know it's Swiss. Also thanks to the Mail & Guardian Online for coming up with the headline: New York Times hires man with nose for a story. The man is Chandler Burr, author of "The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession" (Random House, 2003) and he will review and rate fragrances in his column called Scent Strip in the NY Times' T:Style magazine.

Advertising ruses

An ad on this morning's television spruiked the benefits of a new abdominal exercise apparatus. It was demonstrated with some not very firm "before" shots and some very firm "after" shots - which is reasonable except the "after" shots were tagged with the line "results dramatised". Yep, we'll all be running out to buy that one.

Finally ....

Elizabeth Bolden may be breathing a sigh of "finally" this week - after becoming the world's oldest person. You wouldn't think it would be that hard - but she had to wait her turn. The title was only recently given up by the woman previously considered to be the world's oldest person - Maria Esther de Capovilla who died on the weekend of pneumonia. Elizabeth Bolden was born 11 months after Maria - in 1890 - yes, that's right - 1890! Elizabeth celebrated her 116th birthday a couple of weeks ago with her two favourite things - candy and ice cream (mmmmm .... ice cream).

Noticed ...

Chicago's main airport had a couple of noteworthy features including what must be about the longest concourse in the world! On the way to Louisville earlier this month, we had to change planes and that meant walking from one end of the airport to the other - a brisk 15-20 minute journey. But on the way I noticed the dinosaur (I'd walked past it without noticing it earlier in the day!).
Another feature was the hygienic toilet seat covers: the plastic sleeve is "moved along" one seat's worth when you pass your hand in front of a sensor. I tested: it's not the same bit being moved back and forth. Also worked by sensors:the flush, and the sink taps. And, as you'd expect, there are no main restroom doors so there's no fear of door germs on your way out either The other feature of Chicago that has left me intrigued is the Towers around the City - they look like huge golf tees complete with ball. What are they? Some have suggested water towers; some not. Homeland security devices perhaps - given that Chicago is the busiest airport in the US according to a recent poll - and I'd agree that it seems to be one of the biggest!
But it didn't have the fog San Francisco had that day - or the snow we flew over on the mountains (amazing given how hot it's been in the States!). (Notice the difference in quality between photos taken on the camera - and on the phone!)


It's probably never too early to learn that you should not lie - but is not telling the truth justified at any time? And is it something you should have to go to court over? And are these questions too "big" for an 11-year old? That's the age of the girl, who cannot be named because of her age, who's off to court for allegedly lying about the whereabouts of a seven-year-old boy who was later found hiding under her bed. The boy, Tyler Deacon, had apparently run away the day before. State Emergency Service (SES) officers had asked the girl if she could help, but she allegedly lied to them. The girl has been reported for hindering police and will be summonsed to face court. The report I read in The Daily Telegraph raised more questions for me than it answered. If she "lied" to SES officers, why was she reported for "hindering police"? If she was asked is she could help, is it a matter of semantics - yes, she could help but no she wouldn't. And what were her reasons for concealing Tyler's whereabouts? Did she consider him to be in danger and was she protecting him? Had he asked her to keep his whereabouts secret? And is Tyler to be charged with any offences? Of course, this is not to imply that running away and having someone say you're not there or somewhere else is the right thing to do ... but I wonder how many of us have done it or something similar. The next time the phone rings and you wave to your partner or whoever answers the phone for them to say you're not there, spare a moment think about it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

And now for the news (and how to edit it)

It's good to know when changes have been made to a news item - but it may not be exactly what the publishers had in mind. I had found an item on Yahoo News which read:
Man accused of online overseas extortion
AP - Charges have been filed against a man accused of persuading a teen to send him a nude photograph by threatening to ruin her parents' credit rating and saying he would come from the Middle East to have sex with her.
The encounter turned into a sting operation because the alleged perpetrator did visit the States (from Dubai) and tried to set up a meeting with the girl - who by that time had been to the police who began posing as her online. A number of charges have now been laid.

At the very end of the article is this statement:
(Rewrites throughout to correct suspect's first name to `Babir' sted `Babar,' based on updated information from sheriff's department; ADD that Chaudhry was visiting a brother, other details.)

Make a wish

For her 100th birthday, Gwen Dorling wished for a stripper. Now, two years later - she's finally had one - and for her next birthday - she wants two! Various reports from the UK today tell of Gwen, who lives in a residential facility called The Nunnery in Diss (not sure if Diss is the place), and how she had a few games of ten pin bowls and a "bit of alright" stripper as part of her 102nd birthday celebrations.
For those who can't imagine this story not having a photo to go with it - you're right - you can see it at the EDP site (... where Norfolk really matters!).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

In case you missed it ...

Psycho Killer Raccoons Terrorize Olympia, Devouring Cats, Attacking Dog, Frightening Residents

OLYMPIA, Washington Aug 22, 2006 (AP)— A fierce group of raccoons has killed 10 cats, attacked a small dog and bitten at least one pet owner who had to get rabies shots, residents of Olympia say.
Some have taken to carrying pepper spray to ward off the masked marauders and the woman who was bitten now carries an iron pipe when she goes outside at night.
"It's a new breed," said Tamara Keeton, who with Kari Hall started a raccoon watch after an emotional neighborhood meeting drew 40 people. "They're urban raccoons, and they're not afraid." ...
Read the full report at the ABC News site.

Stargate SG-None

The Sci-Fi Channel has decided not to order another series of StarGate SG-1 - "the longest-running science fiction series on US television to date" (according to the Yahoo News). But StarGate fans will still be able to enjoy the spin-off StarGate Atlantis. I am an unashamed fan of SG-1 but I am still in a daze as to why one of the characters, alien T'elc, suddently went from bald to haired on the show - without explanation.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"… shut up"

The BBC recently carried an interview with Sha Zukang, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. The interview looked at China's emergence as a super power - and its military build-up (it's third in the world - behind the U.S. and Russia). The big question is whether the world should be concerned. It may be that this quote as reproduced in the NY Sun's article reporting the interview, is not the best indicator:

"It's better for the U.S. to shut up," he said. "Keep quiet. It's much, much better." His voice rising, Mr. Sha continued: "It's the U.S.'s sovereign right to do whatever they deem good for them — but don't tell us what is good for China. Thank you very much!"

For more information on the BBC program "What China Wants", and for a link to a transcript of that program, click here.

Root cause analysis

A woman is suing an American company after being attacked by a legless female mannequin in one of its stores. The incident happened a year ago as the woman shopped for a blouse. The only one in her size was on the mannequin and as a sales assistant removed the garment, the dummy's arm flew off and hit the woman in the head. She was treated at the scene by paramedics - and later took herself to hospital. Injuries from the incident: bleeding scalp, cracked molar (requiring a root canal) and recurring shoulder pain.

Of course, in retrospect, it’s easy to see that this was an accident waiting to happen - obviously the mannequin was legless but it wasn't 'armless (well, initially, anyway).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pardon me?

War is … hard when you're being shot at by both sides. It seems that 306 British soldiers were shot for cowardice, desertion and other offences in the 1914-1918 war. One of them was Private Harry Farr - and for years now, his family has been fighting to have him awarded a posthumous pardon and to have his name cleared. Why? Because they believe he was suffering from shell-shock and should not have been returned to the front-lines. The same seems to be true of others - although there may not be full and accurate records to satisfactorily show this - which is why a review of the cases has not gone quickly - and why, in 1998 the Government decided that it could not issue a blanket pardon because: it could not "distinguish between those who deliberately let down their country and their comrades and those who were not guilty of desertion of cowardice".

But that's changed now - and Defence Secretary Des Browne has announced that a group pardon would be presented to Parliament for their approval. After the announcement, Pte Farr's daughter Gertrude Harris, now 93, said: "Well to be truthful, I'm overwhelmed. I prayed that it would happen in my lifetime but I never realised really that it would. It's come really as a shock today. "We were determined for my mother' sake because she always said he was no coward, he was a very brave soldier and he fought for his country and he died fighting for his country." For more on this, see the BBC report.

Of course, the question is - what kind of civilised country executes its own people?

Flying suits

How long will it be before you have to strip naked and don an attractive one-size-almost-fits-all "flying suit" prior to boarding an international aircraft?

Public service

Spare a thought this week for Boy George - hitting the streets of New York - with shovel, broom, plastic bags and gloves to do five days of sweeping as part of community Service awarded for "wasting police time". He called them to his apartment late last year - where they found cocaine - and subsequently arrested him. Now, I know there has to be more to it than that - because isn't that what police are supposed to do? But back to the present - where Boy George's first day on the job seemed to be more about the media's interest in his community service than him getting the dose of "humility" he thought the exercise was meant to engender. In the end, the foreperson decided it would be better/safer all round if Boy George went back to the depot and spent his time working on their parking lot. Hopefully the media's interest in the star will fade enough by the end of the week to allow him to return to the streets.

Mystery solved

Listening to an American podcast earlier this year - 24 June - the announcer said "Enjoy the first weekend of Summer!" Does American Summer start early? Well, according to some American colleagues the answer is yes. It starts with the Solstice ... not on the first day of the month.

Raising the bar?

There's apparently a bar in China which lets patrons pummel the staff. BBC World's Select Today's podcast ran an item on it and discovered it does exist but it's only female patrons who get to strike up more than a conversation. And said a gentleman interviewed for the report: "there are a lot of stressed women out there". At least the staff are well-protected and seem to suffer no injuries in the course of these slightly unconventional - by any standards but possibly more so by Chinese standards - duties.


The FBI has nicknames for some of America's most wanted criminals: and it's a Marketing tool. Names like the Miss Piggy Bandit, the Uncle Fester Bandit, and Attila the Bun (whose partner may or may not be the Cookie Monster Bandit!) helps get the media - and the public - interested in helping identify the wrongdoers. Easier to ring up and dob in Miss Piggy rather than "the person who held up ..." - you get the idea. Nicknames are not new of course: remember Billy the Kid and Jack the Ripper?


An English woman in her 90's has started a new hobby - parachuting. She's not just in it for the thrills - she's decided she wants to get the drop on the Americans who have the record for the world's oldest jumper at 96. The UK grandmother - her oldest child is in their '60s - wants to keep jumping into her "hundreds".

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Now you see it ...

Just when you thought you'd never be able to have a tattoo because you work in a conservative industry ... here's a solution. A Colorado tattoo artist has worked out how to use ink that is reactive to ultraviolet light to create tattoos. You can see some of the results -in regular light (oops, perhaps not - since that's the point of it) and under blacklight on the Wired site. Of course, the banking industry and other places of work where they do use blacklight might present something of a challenge for keeping your new tattoo under wraps.

Lost in transit

In a previous Musing I commented on the number of pieces of luggage that go missing each year via air transport - and this is one of the reasons I am unwilling to assign things I really want to see again to checked baggage. The figures at that point suggested that worldwide 200,000 pieces of luggage go irretrievably missing each year - which would work out at about 4,000 a week - spread over all the airlines of the world. With the new security measures in place, you have to wonder how much those figures will increase (well, they would wouldn't they) ... which is why it was interesting to note an item from the BBC News this morning ... reporting that:
Around 10,000 bags checked in by British Airways passengers have gone missing at airports since the UK security alert began, the airline says ... It said half of them were still piled up at airports waiting to be delivered back to their owners.
So, does this mean it's "good bye" for the other half - and is it only the ones with laptops and ipods that aren't waiting for their owners to collect them? (Cynical ... me?) And if these are the figures for one airline - 5,000 in a week - which is more than the previous average for all airlines- what does the global figure look like? And how happy are the travel insurance companies about now?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Headline act

"Gun Herald reporter has his day in court - but at least he has good taste in newspapers" screamed the headline. A crime reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald allegedly pulled a gun on a reporter from The Daily Telegraph earlier this month. He (the alleged gun-wielder) is currently on leave following a group of his colleagues urging management not to fire him. The matter - a charge of common assault and possessing a prohibited weapon without a permit - is due back in court later this month. But will the Herald reporter repeat yesterday's trick - turning up at court with the opposition's paper?


I like it when I work stuff out … suggests the mind is still working: and that's a good thing. I received a wmv file from my brother earlier this week called "Ice" which shows a snappily-dressed businessman coming out of his house to find all the cars in the street ice-bound. He takes to his car with his briefcase scrapping off ice; chipping off ice, hitting off ice. It is hard, slow, cold work. But finally he is done... and he presses his alarm fob and the car in front of "his" beeps its response. I got there two seconds before this punchline - and I'm sure the folks around me wondered what was so amusing - but had to explain its the joy in realising a man has just de-iced someone else's car.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Jews or Christians

Listening to a podcast this morning, I heard someone of the Jewish persuasion suggesting there was one way to settle the question about Judaism or Christianity once and for all. When Jesus arrives, he said, just ask him if he's coming or returning ... that way we'll all know whether we should be Jews (coming) or Christians (returning).

Banking on it

Do you tell your bank that you're planning to travel overseas? And if you don't - do they have your current contact number so they can reach you when they've decided to block your credit card because they've noticed some uncharacteristic activity on the card - like buying a video iPod in California? The first indication I had that something was awry was when I received a phone call from a supplier who does a regular transaction on my card. They advised my card had been declined. "Declined?" I spluttered ... "Not possible." I was online at the time so I was able to check that no-one had been using my card and taking me up and over the limit - and then I thought, perhaps there was a "limit" on overseas transactions or some other glitch. Luckily, it was still business hours in Australia (10pm in the States) and I was able to quite quickly contact the Card section and find out they had blocked my card because of the iPod transaction ... not that they knew it was for an iPod. This is a very good reason to have memorised your customer number and identifier - it means you don't have to go through the whole "prove you are who you are" exercise - a very expensive option if you're overseas. "And is there a reason you didn't contact me before blocking the card?" I asked. Well, she assured me, they had tried to phone me (yes, on my home phone number as I later found out) and they sent me an email (never did get that). Never mind, at least someone had told me ... and I had found out within a couple of hours so it's not too bad - and they did agree to remove the block straight away. First thing Monday, I'll be checking my contact details with the bank and confirming their policies re card blocks.

Keyboard woes

It looked as though my Palm Keyboard had stopped working while I was in San Ramon. I was distraught. How could I cope on the plane home without it (this was obviously before they started preventing all but the most essential items travelling as hand luggage post 22/8 revelations of plans to blow up flights from the UK into the USA).
I tried to locate a replacement at stores within walking distance of the office and hotel in San Ramon - but the best I could find at Greatlands Target was a 30GB video iPod. But, back at the hotel the next day, I tried the keyboard again and lo and behold, it worked ... and then it didn't - and the Palm was pretending the keyboard was connected even when the keyboard was turned off. Hmmm ... maybe there was some kind of interference in that part of the hotel room - which it seems may have been the case because the keyboard is working fine now! Just as well I didn't buy a new one - that would have been wasted money (that could have been invested in an iPod!)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

For Peet's Sake

Well if you can tell how good a place is by how busy it is - then Peet's Coffee is fantastic. I eschewed the hotel breakfast this morning in favour of a decent coffee - hence Peet's. The place is packed. What a buzz - and that's not just the coffee talking! Although there's no doubt that it was calling.
Update: Borders wins. A different, quieter crowd but definitely a crowd. And there are more tables here too - inviting long lingering although it may be that there is no other kind. It is cool to see so many people, all ages, reading.

Boxed lunch

We've heard people talk about them but what is a "boxed lunch"? Why it's lunch that comes in individually packed boxes. And everything in them seems to be individually packed - or at least the non-dry items: an individual slice of tomato, a slice of pickle, a lettuce leaf. Other stuff in the box: a breadroll with ham on it, two cookies (it is the States!), a packet of crisps, a sauce sachet ... and I think that was it - except for the moist towelette.


"Contents under pressure. Cap may blow off causing eye or other serious injury. Point away from face and people especially while opening" warned my ginger ale bottle. I had been looking for advice as to whether the bottle was glass or plastic. Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone could make plastic glasses feel like glass - slightly cool to the touch and with the right weight. Yes, yes, I hear you say, if one was going to replace glass with this substance - why not just use glass? I don't know "the" answer.

Flawed thinking?

The hotel I was staying at in San Francisco doesn't have a 13th floor. Well, to be exact, the 13th floor isn't labelled as the 13th floor - so it must be the 14th. I don't think there's just an empty space where the floor is meant to be - although it would be a pretty neat trick if there was. Although if you were intending not to freak people out - you'd have to put up a facade so it looked as though the top part of the building wasn't just floating there. Or perhaps the 13th floor is there but only 6" high.
What's the word for fear of 13?

Sunday sights

This should have gone with the last lot of pics but I was so busy trying to get them into a table ...
More sightseeing in San Francisco today - but not as much as I'd thought I would squeeze in. Might have something to do with the 11km walked yesterday - but it was fun - except that by lunchtime today - with another 8km up, I realised my feet were very sore and ready for a decent rest. I'd arranged for a car from the hotel at 6pm, hoping I'd be able to meet up with some friends who were flying into San Fran cisco today, but in the absence of word from them - I brought the car forward and here I am at 6pm, in San Ramon having a dry ginger ale and some pretzels while my laundry is quietly agitating in the laundry. And just as well too as I am down to my last sets of things (no need to go into details here). It's funny how places you've been before can seem familiar and fill one's heart with a feeling of comfort (or something akin to it). Can't wait to get home now and experience that feeling for real.
But first, some pictures from today's wanderings and Muni rides. I started out at Third Street and made my way up past the Meteron where lots of children were excitedly waiting to visit the Titanic Exhibit. Just before then, for those who know San Fran, there's the Sony shop - and I would have been prepared to excitedly visit it and openly (figuratively) salivate over the new Sony UX UMPC - oh, if only they'd been open - probably a good thing they weren't!!
Hmmm. If I'm going to describe the whole day - it could take a while. So, the short version. I took the F
Trolley to Castro and saw the biggest rainbow flag ever - and wondered where the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir - about to be in San Fran - are staying. Then back into town to have a wander around the markets at the United Nations Plaza. I think this is a less desirable part of town - and I would suggest that it is coloured by lots of neon and possibly some adult shops at night. Another short trolley ride took me back to California Street - and a visit to the Hyatt right next to cable car turn-round (although this one doesn't have the same turntable or crowds as Powell Street). Then it was down to Pier 1 and along that stretch - including a wander up to the TransAm building (the pyramid-shaped building). On the way there, I found a film crew although I couldn't tell what they were filming - although from the looks of the bikes, it could have something to do with motorcycle cops. I had a look at the cop/actors, but no-one looked familiar ... yes, yes, I know that, with my facial recognition skills, that means nothing!
Then I went along the pier fronts to have a proper look at the Bay Bridge (top level goes into San Fran, bottom level goes away from ... ) - and that was when I chanced upon the installation art. I know we have some BIG things here in Australia - but the mother and daughter (I have made the assumption that this is the intended relationship) and bow/arrow are up there. I am unsure of the symbolism of the life-sized and illuminated chef on the other side of the road.
I feel as though I know San Francisco a little more after this weekend - not yet enough, but it's a decent start.


Black, refried or pinto. This was the choice of beans to go with my mixed grill on Friday night at Chevy's - home of the Fresh Mex (I think that's what the welcoming neon promised.) No doubt I looked as confused as I felt because my Server casually said "so I'll surprise you then". Yes, that would be best. The refried beans were very nice - in fact, the whole meal was - the Mixed Grill. So if you're at Chevys, on Third (SoMa - as in South of Market, San Fran) I can recommend it.

Monday, August 07, 2006

And still more

... and there was going to be more SanFran pics but they wouldn't co-operate - and have been loaded into the previous post!

SF - more pictures

Techno Lust

I have seen a new UMPC (ultra mobile PC) in operation ... not only that I have held it in my hands. On the way to breakfast I noticed a young man writing, tablet style, on a device slightly larger than a novel. Yes, I know I shouldn't bother strangers, but he was kind enough to let me interrupt him - and then to show me his Fujitsu Lifebook UMPC. It's about a third of the size of my Fijitsu LifeBook Tablet PC (Moses for short) and has all its features - except for an onboard DVD/CD. It makes up for that by having about a gazillion connectors including 3 USB ports. I may have to wait for a while before I even seriously consider buying one - although if I wait long enough they might find a way to include mini Blu-Ray or bring the price of standalone DVD/CD's low enough to be feasible - plus they also have to work out how to make them the size of DVD case for ease of portability. Hmmm ... technology.

Dog's breakfast

It doesn't have to just be breakfast either, because there's a list of general items for your pet available 24/7 via In Room Service at the W San Francisco. And as I was having my breakfast coffee and pastry this morning in the Cafe, I was pleased to see a cute young dog with its human. Very civilized. Not quite sure where they might go walkies though - I might check to see if there are parks in the vicinity while I'm doing my sightseeing today.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

More SF

I had a great day sightseeing and taking photographs in San Francisco today. The high point was Lombard (The Crooked) Street - which I chanced upon because I was trying to get to Nob Hill. But it was good - with tourists lining up to take photographs of other tourists going down Lombard Street.
I'll just post the pi
cs now, and come back on comment later!

Another place - another post

Finally. It's been a while coming but it's been a big week - so it's nice to be able to spend the weekend in San Francisco before heading out to San Ramon for meetings there next week. This was the view from my bedroom window this morning - still haven't quite got the times right because I wasn't actually planning to see dawn in the City by the Bay, but I'm glad I did.
I arrived yesterday afternoon and took myself off on the Muni (public transport) to see what I could see. The Muni is good - you can ride for 2 hours for $1.50 and the buses and trolley cars go all over. I'm still to locate a map of which routes go where - it was fairly hit and miss yesterday but I wanted to see everything so it didn't really matter - but today I want to go to specific places. Hopefully I'll be able to track down a better map than I currently have.
So one of the things I did yesterday, apart from riding public transport, was to take a cruise on the Bay, out under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz (Island). It was a smallish boat but a wonderful way to get cold (the heat wave that had settled on California causing around 100 deaths has now moved to the East Coast) and wet. Unfortunately during a bag swap in a slightly over-tired and befuddled stated, I left my spare battery back at the hotel - and for the first time ever found myself with a flat camera battery and some great shots going missing. Torture ... made worse by the lack of capability of the camera in the mobile phone. D'oh. I may need to re-do the cruise tonight. Hope I can get the $10 ticket again.
Of course, San Francisco is not just about "the Bridge". There's also hills. It's hard to capture just how steep they are - that's one of the things I'll be attempting today. As we were sitting half-way up a hill at a bus stop yesterday, I found myself thanking the inventor of effective braking systems - and hoping that the Muni never skips on brake maintenance. It would be horrific to think about a fully loaded trolley car hurtling backwards down one of the hills. Hmmm. Of course, from that, it would come as no surprise to know that I woke at one point during the night thinking "now what do you do in case of an earthquake?" Especially when you're on the 19th floor. The hills of San Francisco are due to much seismic disturbance - the last big one being back in 1989.