Monday, July 30, 2007

Movie outing

We took the opportunity of a relatively free day yesterday to catch up with the newly released The Simpsons Movie which we purposefully attended at a certain cinema because they were advertising a "free poster" offer - which didn't eventuate because they had "run out". Seems like pretty poor planning - since we were there on Day 4. But that was the only disappointment from the show. Not surprisingly The Simpsons Movie was "pure Simpsons" and certainty felt like a complete experience rather than 3 episodes strung together. The producers are also to be applauded for their use of trailers. Even though there were several released in the lead-up to launch, none gave the plot away. And, even though it's billed as Maggie's first word, what she utters during the credits, is in fact her second (The first [voiced by Elizabeth Taylor] was uttered in an episode some time ago.). Rating: 9.
But what about the other big movie out at the moment: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix. Well, we managed to see that yesterday as well and while it was a masterpiece of special effects, I found it oddly unsettling, partly because Delores Umbridge is played as such a vile character it hardly seemed like entertainment to see her wielding her wretched influence at Hogwart's. I know there are characters we "love to hate" but this is not one of them.
I am now faced with the dilemma of whether to go back and re-read HP 6 before reading HP 7 as I appear to have forgotten what happens. Hmmm. Are there any study guides out there - or perhaps a good review? And how odd would it be to be reading Fight Club, Lost and Happy Potter & The Deathly Hallows at the same time.
And why is it that JK Rowling and others refuse to release their tomes as ebooks? Maybe they could meet us halfway - we buy a hardcopy book - in miniature form - which has the eversion of the book (suitably coded to our credit card or similar) which has a sticker we can place on our reading devices to show what book we are reading!!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Staying alert

In the news earlier this week .... Airport security officers have been advised to look out for terrorists doing "dry runs" - practicing to carry explosive components onto aircraft. The alerts were based on four separate incidents at different airports where people had been found carrying strange things. Investigations are continuing.
The four seizures were described this way:
* San Diego, July 7. A U.S. person -- either a citizen or a foreigner legally here -- checked baggage containing two ice packs covered in duct tape. The ice packs had clay inside them rather than the normal blue gel.
* Milwaukee, June 4. A U.S. person's carryon baggage contained wire coil wrapped around a possible initiator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes and two blocks of cheese. (The bulletin said block cheese has a consistency similar to some explosives.)
* Houston, Nov. 8, 2006. A U.S. person's checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a 9-volt battery, wires, a block of brown clay-like minerals and pipes.
* Baltimore, Sept. 16, 2006. A couple's checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a block of processed cheese taped to another plastic bag holding a cellular phone charger.
While it is possible that the two cheese incidents were part of a new cheese-smuggling ring, it's not likely.

Headline act

I am in awe of some of the sub-editors (and/or others) who are responsible for intuiting the headlines - because surely it is more than merely writing! News today told of unsubstantiated claims of at least two astronauts who had turned up for flights into space while still being intoxicated. The headline to go with this the Sky network: Sloshed in Space.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A matter of honour

The war dead from the Iraq coalition forces continues to rise. Twenty soldiers sent to Iraq from Fort Lewis in Washington State were killed in May. This was a new monthly high. There are now moves there to change how the dead are honoured and remembered. Rather than holding services as casualties (I think that's the US euphemism for "deaths") occur, a once-a-month collective service may be held instead. Strange, you might have thought that they would think more about the number of people they were putting in harm's way, rather than working out how to cut down the time it takes to arrange/hold the services. Or maybe it's not about the logistics at all. Or maybe it's a bit like not showing photographs of plane-loads of coffins arriving home. It's easier to make out there are not so many "casualties" if you don't have individual services.

Smoking harms ...

... especially if you're James Oyebola. He was shot, and critically wounded, at a London nightclub after he asked three men to stop smoking. Smoking is now against the law in public places in England and he was helping nightclub staff who were receiving no cooperation from the men when they asked them to stub out their cigarettes. Doctors are unsure if Mr Oyebola, a former UK champion boxer, will survive.
Update: Mr Oyebola did not survive the injuries sustained in the shooting. His life-support was turned off on July 27 and he died soon after.

Early arrival

I wonder if those conceiving life in Star Trek's 24th Century ever imagined that things like self-opening doors or their advanced medical techniques would make their way into the real world 200 years earlier. Perhaps they did. I think I read somewhere that the Star Trek folk consulted/played with key academics for input. May have been life imitating art - or vice versa. So it may come as no surprise that Star Trek medical procedures are becoming a reality like operations where you don't have to cut into someone - or which can be done across distances. The US military are said to be working on the latter so wounded soldiers can be treated from a safe distance. And NASA is also interested - although their distances will be slightly larger ... especially as there are plans to launch astronauts further and further into space.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


On the bus on the way home last night I realised I was not going to be home in time for the "new" neighbours. I rang home - no-one there - so I resolved to check out the episode guide on their site ( and find out all I could. Yeah, right. I found out that the driver of the van had escaped - how else would he have been breathalysed? There was no word on his condition, nor on girlfriend Steph's. We know that ex-novice Camilla survived unscathed but her underage romantic interest is not yet out of the woods - nor the medically-induced coma he is in. As to the other passengers - we'll need to consult someone who saw the episode. But they have to be found first ... which is why I raised the question with the hairdresser at lunchtime. Yes she does watch Neighbours she said - getting my hopes up - whose hair did you like? Gulp - no-one thanks, I thought, thinking of all those who had ever fronted a salon clutching a magazine with a picture of their-soon-to-be new hairstyle. No, I managed to say, I want to know who died in the crash?! Alas she couldn't tell me as she had also missed the ep. As long as the bus stays on schedule tonight, I'm hopeful I'll catch the next ep and get some answers.

Dead unlucky

Spare a thought today for the 36-year old diver who was killed recently off Florida when lightning hit his oxygen tank as he surfaced. He was dead on arrival at hospital.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Birthday boys

Who would have thought that John Howard and Sir Mick Jagger would have a birthday in common? It's this Thursday - July 26 - when John Howard, who has recently been described as old and out-of-touch, will be 68; while Sir Mick hits 64. You have to wonder if this rather timely article about their joint birthdays is somehow intended to promote a perception of "youth" by association, promoting the idea that one is as young as they feel - and be blowed what the electorate or political opponents think. Co-incidentally the only ad on this same page of The Daily Telegraph was a free pass coupon for the Annual Sydney Retirement & LifeStyle Expo which runs from July 27-29.

Changing Neighbours

Some time ago Channel 10 (which broadcasts Neighbours) had a teaser spot saying "a change is coming" (or similar words) - and I dutifully tuned in at the allotted time - 6:30pm 23 July - to see what the fuss was about. And what do you know - there were new opening credits, and a wedding - and a young boy mucking around at the controls of a large truck so that he released the handbrake in time for it to career backwards into a mini-bus of Ramsey Street regulars returning from the wedding. Yes, there certainly will be some changes on Ramsey Street - but we'll have to wait until tonight, or perhaps even later this week, to see who, if anyone, will survive the fiery wreck. Something tells me that Neighbours will never be the same. (Not sure, but I think they may also be filming the show on a different medium - the images looked slightly "different".)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Phantom questions

I need to do more reading - or perhaps it's just a specific Google search. The Phantom (aka Ghost Who Walks aka Mr Walker) when required to take someone out of action for a while, punches them - leaving a skull imprint at the point of contact. This "looks like it was stamped in with a sledge hammer" and cannot be rubbed off - ever. So what is the secret of the Phantom's ring? Surely the Phantom, mere mortal despite his PR, can't hit someone that hard? Or is some special jungle "juju" at work here? To mix superhero taglines: to the computer cave ... Log-in!

Unkind cut

A clan elder in Egypt was kidnapped recently and his moustache shaved off before he was returned to his family otherwise uninjured. The man will spend the next weeks indoors, waiting for his moustache - the size of which indicates a man's honour in his part of the world - to grow back. The shaving was apparently by way of revenge following a coffee shop altercation. (See coffee is bad for some.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Black out

It's hard to imagine what a world without electricity would be like - but we got a small taste of it this afternoon when the lights went out for over an hour. I was in a cafe in Camperdown at the time and thought it was just theirs, but it turned out to be a much wider blackout - spreading at least as far as Marrickville. I'm watching the news at the moment to see if there is any mention of it (the power came on in time - and there had been nothing on the radio) - and how wide the outage was. Luckily we had headlamps (so there all those who have previously sniggered at my insistence of having two on the premises) to use around the house until the lights came back on - and even though we made it home in one piece, I know that the lack of traffic lights undoubtedly created a couple of bingles that may not otherwise have happened. But it does make you wonder what it would be like if the power was out for a long time. We have come to rely on it!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rats ...

Some people are just better entrepreneurs than others. Take the folk in China who have seized the opportunity of a rat plague and turned it into a windfall by trucking the rats from Hunan province to Guangzhou where, it's said, people will eat most anything that moves. The rats are being sold as a gourmet dish - and it's okay if the Guangzhou locals develop a taste for it because there appears to be no shortage of supply. The plague is the result of flooding of a lake which has displaced an estimated two billion (yes, that was TWO BILLION) rats.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the ... art of misinformation

With now only days to go until the release of the latest (and supposedly last) instalment in the Harry Potter series, there's no shortage of leaks about the plot line. In one case, someone has posted photographs of every page of the book to the web (which is more than the publishers will do ... Sorry, can't help myself - just take it as yet another plea - falling on deaf ears - for an ebook version of the young wizard's adventures!). But it's hard for the impatient among us to know which spoilers, excerpts and leaks to take as the genuine article - some of the versions on the internet have different endings; and, wrote The Daily Telegraph's Justin Vallejo, "punctuation and spelling errors a seasoned wordsmith like J.K. Rowling would be unlikely to make". Looks like we'll all just have to take our turns lining up first up at 9.01am Saturday Sydney time to get our copies. (Hopefully there will be enough time to finish reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows before The Simpons Movie hits the big screen next week!)

Leaping from rooftops

Want to be part of the newest fad doing the rounds - shouldn't be that hard - just find yourself a "great height" - could be a tree or the top of a building - and jump. According to The Daily Telegraph, the activity is supposedly based on the French sport of "parkour" and has been described as the "art" of defying gravity. Hmmm. Seems like a great way to end up with a spinal cord injury (or worse). Not sure if having your leap filmed is part of this new sport though - seems to be because there are a few YouTube videos available showing youngsters leaping off school roofs and carparks in Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle. Somehow I don't think this one's for me.
* Parkour, also known as PK, involves making one's way from Point A to Point B in the most efficient manner using only the power of the human body. It is supposedly more akin to a form of martial art than a sport. (Paraphrased from Wikipedia.)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cramped quarters

As if air travel isn't uncomfortable enough what about those willing to smuggle wildlife on the flight with them. There was a case a few years back of a woman with a "fish apron" with pockets which held bags of life fish; or the man who had a vest for smuggling bird eggs. Imagine sitting in economy for a 20-hour flight with that kind of apparel.

Too good to be true

At the time, it seemed like just one more ingredient of a fantastic story - that the female astronaut was accused of racing half-way across the country to confront her fellow (that is female) astronaut who was after her fellow astronaut wore a daiper for the trip so she wouldn't have to waste time stopping to use restrooms. But according to her lawyer it wasn't so ... she did not wear a daiper ,,, and maybe that means she didn't do the rest of it either!


What do the stealth bomber, nicotine patches and NSW's Hunter Valley have in common? It seems that Don Panoz, American billionaire, will have a part to play with all of them: he was head of teams involved with inventing the nicotine patch and designing parts for the bomber, and how he has his sights on breathing new life into the Hunter's tourist industry. Will be interesting to see what this former US agent can achieve.

A friend in need

And from America, news of the kindness of strangers ... actually, it's not that at all ... it's about a young college student who lost his leg in a car crash. Police report that while the man was still in hospital, his roommate told them that he was the injured man's brother - and took possession of his wallet, and went on a $22,000 spending spree. It seems a lot to keep in a wallet but ...