Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Touching on typing

Most of us have an inner touch typist waiting to get out - trust me it's faster to get ideas out if you're not pecking at the keys searching for the next letter.  Help is at hand.  Actually help is knowing where to put your hands and a NSW woman has come up with a great idea which will have you putting your fingers on the right keys faster than you can type "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog."  The system she's developed relies on practice ... and labels which are colour coded and numbered which are stuck on the keys.  Even better, they're resilient enough not to wear out quickly - and use an adhesive that is supposed to NOT leave a gooey sticky mess on the keys when you remove them.  The Keyboard Genius is being sold through OfficeWorks in Australia, and will be distributed overseas by Kalnin.

Safe saw

Some time ago I was intrigued by news of the suicide pill - and I wondered how it had been tested.  Now there's the safe saw.  It has an automatic cut-off which grabs on to and immobilises the blade if it comes into contact with human flesh. This feature was demonstrated with a hotdog. But how is a hotdog like a finger - besides the obvious: shape?  It's cold, cooked and not alive.  Yes, the test was impressive, with just a nick on the hotdog - but on the basis of that, would you be game enough to use your finger to put it to the test - or just take their word for it?  And if it worked as well as suggested, wouldn't you think, for demonstration purposes, they would be prepared to ... well, perhaps not. (Thanks Vinicio for the videos.)

Silence is ...

probably an odd choice for a mobile phone ringtone.  But you can have it if you wish.  A San Francisco conceptual artists Jonathon Keats inspired by John Cag'es '50's piece - four minutes of silence composed for piano - has developed "My Cage".  It's a stream of silence compressed to a standard ringtone format.  (Of course there could be a small problem of knowing if you'd activated it or whether it just wasn't working!)

Lighting the way

Some people scoff at technology and gadgets but they can be useful.  I know I use my Palm and phone as torches (when I'm not using my headlamp).  I hadn't thought of using the iPod - but that's what helped a newbie mushroom picker who became lost in the woods in Oregon last November.  He used the light from his iPod nano screen as a flashlight and a beacon that rescuers used to spot him (then ... it's just taken me this long to post this).

On tour

Chances are that if you escaped from jail and were on the lam, you'd try to remain inconspicuous.  You'd probably steal cars to get as far away as possible.  Chances are that you wouldn't steal a singer's tour bus but that's apparently what one recent escapee in the States has done.  The short-version Yahoo report didn't mention if Crystal Gayle was in the bus when it was stolen, or how soon afterwards they were able to apprehend the escapee. However, since then, I have read the longer report:  she wasn't on the bus, and she expressed concern for the escapee for was trying to reach his terminally ill mother.  As well as the bus, he is suspected of stealing a pick-up truck, then the cab of a tractor-trailer, when he allegedly hooked to a Wal-Mart trailer with $300,000 in merchandise. Even though he parked the truck within 50m of his mother's home, it is unclear if he saw her before his re-capture.

Stunning good looks

Taser, makers of the stun gun, have launched a "consumer friendly" model. It comes in a variety of colours, and fits in a handbag to appeal to the safety and fashion conscious. Yes, you're going to be worried about the colour of the weapon that incapacitates a target by shooting a dart that pierces the skin and delivers a paralysing jolt of electricity. More good news - the newer model is likely to be significantly cheaper than the current model. Of course, just because one is safety and fashion conscious doesn't guarantee a conscience. Human rights group Amnesty International has long campaigned against the use of Tasers, which they claim have been linked to more than 150 deaths in the US and Canada since 2001.

Snake tales

There were stories of two snakes in the "odd news" today - one from Malaysia about a rather large snake - 7m - that had eaten a number of dogs guarding an orchard. Villagers who found the huge python did not harm it. Instead, they tied it to a tree then handed to wildlife officials. The other was about an Israeli health retreat - which could have make use of a 7m python. A newly introduced treatment is snake massage where those willing to pay the price, can have six non-venomous but very active snakes "run" loose over their bodies. Sound like something you wouldn't enjoy? The spa operator believes that once people get over any initial misgivings, they find physical contact with the snakes to be soothing. Right.

If you go down to the woods today ...

you could find that there has been a massacre of sorts. Where: a patch of bush (forest?) south of Perth, WA, at a place called Gnomesville. Why is it called that? Because it's home to about a thousand of them. Or was before persons unknown took it upon themselves to lop off the heads or smash several dozen of the locals. Emergency workers in WA are offering a reward for information on the "Gnomesville Massacre". Six orange-colored gnomes depicting emergency workers were among those destroyed, Gnomesville is apparently a popular tourist attraction, easily reached by buses visiting nearby vineyards.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Surfeit of smells

Had a less than wonderful start to the day with the discovery that one of the mini watermelons we bought at the markets on Saturday had exuded a foul-smelling clear foamy liquid - and lots of it. It had pooled in the bottom of a bag and seeped through that and spread over the kitchen floor. So I cleaned it up, all the while lamenting our choice of generic paper towels and not the more expensive absorbent type. Putting the disinfectant and paper towels away, I whiffed another something awful. It turned out to be the cat litter tray and a very fresh deposit which, had it been a smidgen to the left, would have been out of the tray. So I cleaned that up but then I heard one of my least favourite sounds - a cat vomiting. There are few things I hate more than cleaning up after a cat especially if non-absorbent paper towel is in the mix. Luckily there were no other surprises around the house this morning.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's a sale

We go out to a fruit and vegetable market early on a Saturday morning sometimes. You can hire a trolley - which we do - by leaving a $10 deposit, of which $7 is refunded when you return it. This morning my partner returned it with instructions to sell it to someone for $8 if she could. This had happened to me once before. By buying someone else's trolley you save a couple of dollars on the deal - and while we've never done it, we have sold ours and made a dollar. And every dollar helps. Alas the whole concept was lost on my partner who was indeed approached by a trolley buyer. How much they asked - and they received the cheery reply "$7". It was only after the transaction was concluded that the penny dropped that I hadn't been making a joke. Ah well. Maybe we'll start on our fortune next time. And to be fair, the first time it happened I had to have it explained to me.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tall storey

It may seem like a tall story but a man in the US has survived a fall from a 17th floor window at a Minneapolis hotel. Yes, he had some broken bones and internal injuries but he is expected to recover. The man, Joshua Hanson, 29, had returned to the hotel after a night of drinking and crashed through the floor-to-ceiling window at the end of a corridor. The report suggests he was running at the time. A roof awning, one floor above the ground, broke his fall.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Word for today

A new word on the news has attracted my attention. Upskirting. This is the act of photographing up someone's skirt. There has been a bit of it about at the Australian Open with a couple (three?) charged. There was also someone caught in a youth hostel - with a camera poked under a bathroom door. In one case the camera was concealed in a shoe. So is this a new phenomonem? Or just getting more coverage? And is there a reason for Upskirter interest in the tennis?

Where ...

Listening to Dr Karl (Kruszelnkicki) via pod the other day and the question was asked:
If time travel is possible - where are all the time travellers?

Reading choices

I have been pondering reading matter of late. I have just finished "Lullaby" by Chuck Palahniuk and even though the concept of the book was brilliant, the more I read, the more I questioned whether I would be able to recommend it to anyone. It may have had something to do with the necrophilia. Not that I'm a prude - or maybe I'll have to review that given my concerns about the 3rd World Products series. I'd stumbled across Book 1 through Fictionwise and about a third-way through I realised I was enjoying it enough to want to read more. So back to Fictionwise - and sure enough, there are eight more in the series - and all nine of them are in the one category - Erotica. Now you would have thought I'd have noticed a little thing like that while I was reading - and sure enough, a short while later, I chanced across the first almost gratuitous bonkfest in Book 1. Now I'm unsure whether I want to keep reading - because the further I read the more bonks there are - and, it seems, less story.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Truth in advertising

My young nephew is selling his car. Well he wants to and has a notice in its window to attract interest. Unfortunately he seems to have done too good a job. Each time he looks at the notice he thinks "I wouldn't mind owning that". One of the key features is the six-speaker sound system - which may or may not be a four-speaker system with another two wired in and knocking around in the back of the station wagon. Still he has had a bit of success with previous sales - and on complaints. I wonder if this could be the key to a career?

Water choices

We are currently in drought in varying degrees around Australia. Globally we are being warned of the dangers of a pandemic. It would be incredibly fraught if these challenges were to happen at the same time. If it takes 20 seconds to thoroughly wash your hands and if that represents x litres of water - where x is the actual amount (which I would include if I knew how to calculate x) - would we have enough water to survive the pandemic? Hmmm.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Another 15 minutes

American Idol is back with bumper ratings and more opportunities for people to be on television. But is it worth it? Especially if it takes the form of humiliation tv where Idol failed try-outs are featured complete with less than polite comments from the panel of judges. I'd like to say that no-one finds this behaviour funny but I don't believe that would be true. The Idol formula seems to call for at least one rude judge - and for them not to hold back. This is supposedly "entertainment" and for some it does seem to be. Even or perhaps especially, as Rosie "O'Donnell commented on the program The View earlier this week, when you are making fun of a person's physical appearance. But it behoves the question: if people know a joke will be made at their expense - and surely anyone who has seen the program knows that everyone is fair game - why would you do it? Why would you put yourself in that position? Does it all come back to the 15 minutes - or any minutes - of fame? Has this become the American Dream ... okay, to be fair - not just American?

15 minutes

Mobile Phones have been in the news of late but more for non-call related features. There was the story of a phone catching fire in a man's pocket causing him severe burns and $75,000 worth of property damage. (More recent reports say the phone may not have been the ignition agent although there have been no other options, not even spontaneous human combustion, offered). Another story related to mobile phone video capabilities. Images of Saddam Hussein's hanging were recorded via a mobile phone and posted on the internet. There are numerous stories of "happy slapping" - where an attack on a random victim is filmed by the assailants on their mobile phones and distributed, including posting to the net.
In another recent story it's not specified if the recording media was a mobile phone when three teenagers beat another girl while being videotaped, and then turned the camera on themselves to brag about the incident before posting the video online. Or if a US man used a mobile phone when he kidnapped, raped and tortured his wife, then hung her from a tree to film a two-hour bondage pornography video.
Have these incidents always happened? Or has the ability for people to broadcast to a wider audience quite easily and cheaply led to more people wanting and making/taking their "15 minutes" of fame? And then the public broadcasters give air time to the "newsworthy" ones?

Drinking contest

How many people does it take to stage a radio contest? Well if you don't count contestants - and if you take recent head lines as an indication - then 10 would seem a reasonable number. That's how many people were sacked this week after a woman died following a radio contest where people were asked to "Hold your Wee for a Wii". The contestants were required to drink as much water as they could, at a fairly rapid rate, without going to the toilet.
Unfortunately, too much water too quickly without elimination leads to water intoxication - where the body's balance of electrolytes is disrupted - causing brain swelling, seizures, coma or even death.
Jennifer Lea Strange is reported to have drunk around 2 gallons of water. (The reports I read do not indicate if this was enough for her to win the Nintendo game console). She reportedly did not look well, and called in sick to work after the contest. She was found dead at her home about five hours later.
Reports coming in now suggest that charges may be laid in relation to her death.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I am watching the entire 7 seasons of Buffy and am enjoying it immensely. What an amazing mind Joss Wheldon must be - to conceive of Buffy and the other characters and their lives as teenagers and how they would grow and mature over the course of the show. I also love the way there are small references to future incidents which a first time viewer may not fully understand. Good stuff. At this stage - not taking into account that the first season was shorter than the others - I am half way through. So it must be time to start thinking about the next series to turn my attention to. By that I mean a series new to me, not a re-watch. And at this stage it may be Babylon 5. Let's see why some folk like it so. Oh, and that I found the first season for under $30 helped.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Happy whistler

It could be fair to say that happy people whistle. But how hard is it to smile and whistle at the same time? And have you ever whistled spontaneously while you were sad?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Real estate opportunity

Now is your chance to buy Bran Castle, formerly home to 15th Century prince Vlad Tepes also known as Vlad the Impaler - who inspired the Dracula character in Bram Stoker's novel. Word is that you can snare the castle for about $A99 million. Bargain.

Sky writing

Well you would probably think it would be fairly easy to find out how they form the letters in skywriting but for some reason this seems not to have made it on to the web. You can find out how high up the planes go and how big the letters are but nowhere can you find out if they do the letters flat, vertically or at an angle. Nor how they know how to form the letters. Do they work on a grid system or freehand? (Ta for having a look as well Deb.) But the news is that there is a new type of skywriting called sky typing where several planes fly parallel to each other and, controlled by a computer, they leave dot matrix style printing in their wake. I would like to see that.

What's in a name?

I started a new blog the other day and realised how many blogs there must be out there because it was fairly difficult to come up with a name I was happy with. Blogger kept offering options of course - and that was okay but not the same as just being able to have your first pic (sic heh heh). In the end I didn't mind but that was a chunk of time that I will never get back. Curious? Check out the link on the left. (I tried posting this from the mobile phone email account - a couple of times - but it didn't seem to work - but don't be surprised if it shows up again!)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Dream

Back in September last year U.S. citizen (and mogul) Steve Wynn had just contracted to sell his Picasso "Le Reve " (The Dream) when he managed to put a hole in it with his elbow. The cost of the damage? He's saying the incident wiped $54 million off the painting's value. But will his insurer Lloyd's of London make a speedy settlement? Not so far. So Mr Wynn is suing them to move things along.
I suppose it makes sense that you would insure your artwork - and that you'd take out some sort of accidental insurance - but at what stage does personal responsibility get factored in? And is the insured value a set amount i.e. what Mr Wynn paid for it or is the value market price? Me thinks it would be unwise to dabble in these things without knowing.

Mole 1 - Man 0

A German man, a retired construction foreman, developed a high voltage device - a 380-volt cable and metal spikes rammed into the ground - to eradicate moles in his garden. Well that was the plan. Unfortunately all did not go as planned and he ended up electrocuting himself instead. The moles survived.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Recipe for ... ?

First take one TV cult show (Jackass). Add a drunk person; coffee table; hand; staple gun. You get the picture. Surprisingly, Jonathan Maybery, from Swansea, UK, says he was so busy laughing he didn't feel any pain while performing the stunt. I'm guessing that didn't last. And it will certainly give the paramedics who attended something to talk about: unable to separate Jonathan's hand, stapled, from the table, they took him and it to hospital.

Law and order

News in The Daily Telegraph (10 Jan 07) of a NSW Police office worker who pushed a woman in front of a train after she was criticised for coughing and spitting. The attack happened during the festive season and it has been suggested that the alleged attacker, Suzanne Kiloh, had consumed alcohol. Both women involved in the incident had been sitting at Circular Quay railway station when Kiloh began to "cough loudly and spit". Margaret Schestopalov, sitting nearby, allegedly said "Can you please stop spitting and cover your mouth" - which would seem a reasonable request for anybody, let alone someone had been hospitalised recently for respiratory illness. A couple of minutes later, Schestopalov stood to board an approaching train. It was then, according to court documents, that Kiloh stood up and walked with increasing speed [towards Ms Schestopalov] and with both her hands pushed [her] in the back causing her to propel forward and land face forward on railway tracks. Even though the train driver hit the emergency brakes, the front of the train travelled over Ms Schestopalov, who was severely injured in the incident. She is still in hospital more than a month after the incident. Facing court yesterday for the first time, Suzanne Kiloh's charges have been upgraded to include attempted murder.
The moral of the story: even though you may work with the law, it doesn't necessarily mean you're above it.

Milk with that?

Good news is that what scientists have long claimed - that tea is good for you - has been confirmed. But the European Heart Journal also had some bad news: while tea helps improve blood flow by increasing the ability of arteries to relax and expand, if you're partial to a wee drop of milk in your beverage, this counteracts the benefit!

Going Potty

The next and supposedly final instalment of the Harry Potter story has just become available for pre-order - and has topped the best seller list. Of course it matters not that the author is still writing the book nor that, once she finishes, it will still be at least another six months or so before it is edited and published. I will probably put an order in soon and hunker down for the wait ... Usually when I place a pre-order, it's for the very next week. (And who said I was an impulse buyer?)

Plane sailing

Thanks to "RainMan" (the movie) most of the world is aware that Qantas has an excellent safety record - notwithstanding that on a March 2006 flight from Singapore to Frankfurt, flew and successfully landed with a 3m hole in its fuselage. The hole was apparently the result of an exploding tyre on takeoff. The crew and passengers were unaware of the damage until the hole was noticed by ground staff and waiting passengers after it landed. No mention as made of anything that might have fallen out of the plane in transit (lost luggage anyone?) or where exactly on the plane the hole was (which is quite odd because it could also be about where the hole was not).
So if this happen with the "safest" airline, what can we expect from an airline in Mexico which doesn't have ticketing arrangements with Qantas and which we haven't previously heard about ... although this latter may not bea bad thing. You would think that if it had a dismal safety record, word would have reached us by now. Although it could be that news of incidents - similar the Qantas fuselage hole (a near miss?) - was not released.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hey Scooby

What do Scooby-Doo, Muttley and Astro (the Jetson's dog not Boy) have in common? Besides the obvious ... that they're all cartoon dogs! They were all the work of animator Iwao Takamoto who recently died of heart failure, aged 81. As MSNBC reports: it was his creation of Scooby-Doo, the cowardly dog with an adventurous heart, that captivated audiences and endured for generations. Takamoto said he created Scooby-Doo after talking with a Great Dane breeder and named him after Frank Sinatra’s final phrase in “Strangers in the Night.” The breeder “showed me some pictures and talked about the important points of a Great Dane, like a straight back, straight legs, small chin and such." Of course, anyone familiar with Scooby knows he's nothing like this - because Takamoto decided to go completely counter to this and gave him a hump back, bowed legs, big chin - and the wrong color. Takamoto also worked on “Josie and the Pussy Cats,” “The Great Grape Ape Show,” “Harlem Globe Trotters” and “The Secret Squirrel Show.” Brings back some memories, doesn't it?


As you walk down the street carrying your murse, contemplating your next blog entry - because it's not a flog - does a feeling of truthiness come over you because you know you are about to be plutoed? And if so, do you thank all things good for the existence of the American Dialect Society and its continuing quest to find the word of the year. This year is is plutoed. As MSNBC reports: to "pluto" is "to demote or devalue someone or something," much like what happened to the former planet last year when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto didn't meet its definition of a planet. Other contenders this year were "climate canary" (an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon), as well as murse (man's purse), flog (a fake blog that promotes products) and macaca (an American citizen treated as an alien). "Truthiness" was top word last year. The word is credited to Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert, who defined it as "truth that comes from the gut, not books." Last month, an online survey by dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster also declared truthiness to be its word of theyear.The challenge ... today see if you can weave plutoed and truthiness into at least one conversation. (Thanks Vinnie, I managed one!)


Apparently there is a guy who does most of the sky-writing along Australia's Eastern Seaboard. I know this because my boss met him over the holiday break. He was at the Camden airport and was in town to do skywriting for the start of the Sydney-Hobart Race and also to do a big question mark above the harbour on New Year's Eve. I have always been enthralled by skywriters and how they draw their symbols in the sky - how they know how to form the letters. So I asked the boss if he'd found out how it was done - and he said yes ... he had - but what he'd found out was how they made the smoke - not how they used it. But he thinks he will see him out at the airport again and, if he does, he will certainly ask more questions!

Life's little mysteries

From the U.S. comes a tale of two cities - New York where a strange odour hung in the air, and Austin where birds didn't. Both are mysteries and big ones considering quite a few city blocks were closed in Austin where the bird bodies littered the streets. At time of writing (which is to say I'm not going on to the web to check out what's been happening with these stories) no apparent cause had been discovered for either of these ... but it is curious, isn't it. Is there something in the air?

Peoples names

Going through my Contacts to tidy up in the move from Pocket PC to Palm, l realised that there are some people whose last name l never use and was surprised to find there was a surname! At first l thought l had inadvertently merged two names was my confusion.
(And on the subject of names, let's say a big hello to Pantaloma and Zerfina, two cats who shared the waiting room with us at the vet's the other evening.)

Heart attack

Well, he may have thought he was going for the heart, but it turns out it was really a part of a lung - which is certainly no consolation to the man, a fellow prison inmate, who was killed in the process. The attack happened last week in a French prison and apparently followed an unsuccessful request for isolation by the (now) self-confessed killer who is said to be schizophrenic. No reason has been given for the attack but according to a report in The Daily Telegraph, a saucepan with traces of fat and onions was being examined. So where did the onion come from?


How does power work? As in electricity. I have often wondered if electrical power varies - especially between home and the office. I have noticed that both the laptop and the Palm charge faster in the office. And seem to hold their charge better. Of course this could be some kind of aberration but it doesn't feel like it. This may give the Palm the new lease of (battery) life I've been looking for - especially now that I am using it more.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Advertising vs packaging?

Which works better at getting the message across to teenagers ... pastel-coloured, fruit-flavoured cigarettes in packs which illuminate under fluorescent lights OR pictures of people whose mouths or limbs are affected by cigarette-related diseases and/or graphic representations of the chemicals inhaled while smoking cigarettes. Tough one isn't it? Which is probably why there are moves afoot to ban the funky packaging ... although I would also appreciate it if they would pull the graphic ads as well - or work out a way of them being visible only to current smokers. Wouldn't that be interesting - truly targetted marketing!

All coming out in the Wash?

Hmmm. Hate to sound cynical but did you hear about the death of the newly-elected mayor of a town in Louisiana who was found dead a couple of days before he was due to take office? The body of Gerald Washington was found on the weekend, shot once in the chest. But was it the suicide the coroner claims, or does it have more to do with that Wash (as Gerald was known) was the first black mayor-elect in the mainly white town? Wash's family has demanded a state police inquiry into his death.