Friday, August 31, 2007

Seen in Newtown

… a man with a yellow golf tee through his ear lobe
… sign outside a laundromat "Quality Socks for sale"

Father's Day

You just have to love Father's Day. It's probably my favourite time of year ... because advertisers have cottoned on to that the ideal gift for a father is probably related to electronics in some way. Result: the newspapers are full of ads and catalogues! Makes the gadget-loving side of me very happy.

Travellers beware

If you're planning a visit to Australia, make sure you bring LOTS of money - especially if you're unlucky enough to be travelling with unscrupulous tour operators - you know the kind: they charge you $100 for walking along a public (ie free) beach, and take you to shops where you can buy a $80 sheepskin rug for $1200. It seems that this kind of thing is becomng an increasing problem on our shores - so much so that the Mayor of Waverley, where the famous (free to walk on) Bondi Beach is located, is pushing the government to crackdown on rogue operators.

Early bird

There's a saying that the early bird catches the worm, but in Camperdown, Sydney, the early birds also get the buns. When bussing past a fast-food outlet, we noticed some commotion on their front step ... and realised it was a small flock of birds trying to peck their way through plastic sheeting to get at two trays-full of buns that had been delivered to the shop before opening, and left on the door-step. They seemed to be having some success .. and while it's unlikely they'll eat all the bread, there will no doubt be some interesting beak and foot prints on the delivery.


On page 15 of today's The Daily Telegraph is a 1/8th page ad offering $20,000 reward for a Acer Travelmate laptop stolen from the Wahroonga area.
PROOF: Send a file or a picture from the olaptop to prove bona fide. Even if data has been deleted and you are a third party recipient, the reward will still be paid.
DROP OFF: Once this is proven, email instructions for handover of cash reward will be given.
I was a bit surprised there wasn't an accompanying story because it seems there could be a story here. What makes a laptop worth $20,000 cash, no questions asked, even if the data has been erased?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Numbers games

Imagine my surprise as I sipped my coffee and feasted on the morning news to find that a quarter of Australians are addicted to coffee and cannot function without it.
Hmmm ... sounds plausible I suppose until you read further. The survey was of a sample size of 552, of which 26% said they were addicted to coffee. All of these drank more than 3 cups of coffee a day. The "self-proclaimed addicts" said they could not "speak to anyone before they had their first caffeine hit in the morning" ... which must make their partners really happy! The report of the survey, conducted by the Home Beautiful magazine, did not outline the methodology employed, how the sample population was chosen, or give any other details which might suggest the findings will be reported in a scientific journal any time soon!
Also on numbers, and "how did they get that?" was another story in The Daily Telegraph today which told of a pensioner who celebrated her 100th birthday by lighting her 170,000th cigarette from a candle on her birthday cake. Now if only I knew what day World War I started in 1914 (when Winnie Langley was 7!), I could re-check the calculations* ... 5 cigarettes a day since then ... say 1 July 1914 (midpoint in year) to 28 August 2008 is 34,000 days is ... (drumroll) 170,020 cigarettes. Close enough but depending on the actual date, they may have rounded up or down to get to the round figure. More research is needed ... but how amazing would it be to smoke no more and no fewer than 5 cigarettes a day. Of course, it's not such a big health risk, she insisted, because she never inhaled ... cigarette smoke ... as opposed to the rather bold headline on the article which proclaimed "100 year-old never inhaled".
*According to Wikipedia, World War I started on 28 July 1914. So even if she started smoking on that day, and smoked 5 cigarettes a day, that would take it to 169,885 cigarettes smoked in her lifetime (so far). But as she started smoking a few days after the way started she would also fall just short of this mark. (Thanks to Palm's Personal Power One calculator which makes it so easy to work out the number of days between two dates!) (I know ... too much time on my hands.)
And finally, on the subject of choice, in a recent newspaper debate over whether TV shows are objectionable ("too sexy, violent") a reader comments "If families don't like this sort of show, then they should turn off turn the TV off or change channels. This is why there are several free-to-air and pay TV stations: to allow viewers to watch what they like." Hmmm, perhaps not - surely the companies who are running the stations are actually looking to make money out of the exercise, with different offerings a way of catching a greater audience, rather than their way of simply increasing the options open to viewers. The plethora of reality shows spanning so many channels attests to that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lunar eclipse

We are lucky enough to have clear skies for the lunar eclipse tonight!

Thinking gap

You'd think that if you were going to take someone to a well-known suicide spot like Sydney's Gap, and throw them off, you'd at least try to make it look as though they'd taken their own life. Not so for men currently on trial in Sydney for the death of a luxury car dealer in 2005. Although reports suggest that they had only wanted to "put the fear of God" into their victim who they had kidnapped from his home, it seems they were intent on a little more as they lifted him over the safety fence, stood him on the edge and then, with him blindfolded and his hands bound, they reportedly "tossed him over the edge like a 'football'". That could be the type of thing that leads the police to think there may be "suspicious circumstances".

Does it martyr?

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph today, US forces in Afghanistan came so close to capturing Osama bin Laden in 2004 that he instructed his men that "they should all die and martyr him as well" should it look like he would be captured. The questiion is: if someone else is responsible for killing you, can you die a martyr? According to the SlovoEd dictionary a martyr is someone who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion, or a person who sacrifices something of great value and esp. life itself for the sake of a principle. Certainly since the War on Terror was announced, martyr has certainly brought to mind the image of someone who voluntarily takes their own life (and that of others) in their cause. Of course, the suggestion that Osama bin Laden may have asked his followers to kill him may just be part of Western propanganda. In the Newsweek story The Daily Telegraph was reporting on, it seems the US has not had a serious lead on the Al Qaeda chief since 2002. The 2004 near-miss seems to have been random.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More Singapore photos

More pictures have been posted but you'll need to go to the 101 Journeys (August 2007) blog to see them.

Wizard wonders

Within days (China) and weeks (France) unauthorised translations of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" have appeared on the internet. The Chinese effort was the work of a team who worked tirelessly save for reported consumption of instant noodles. The French version was a sole effort and has already been ordered off the web by the JK Rowling camp - which seems a bit harsh given the official French version of the long-awaited and much-hyped final instalment of the adventures of the young wizard and his mates won't be available for some time yet. So much for simultaneous global release! (Yes, yes, we understand about production schedules and such but e-publishlng would help reduce lead time!) In both instances it has clearly been a "non-commercial" exercise with at least one of the sites publishing a notice to that effect. But I suppose there's a commercial imperative at work here - can't give away something people will pay money for - even if they have to wait to do so.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Not saying the two are related but ...

June 30 2007: World Youth Day 'will proceed' despite racecourse concerns: The head of World Youth Day 2008 says next year's Papal mass at Sydney's Randwick Racecourse will go ahead, despite concerns by horse trainers.
August 25 2007:
Equine flu threatens Randwick: In a major escalation of the equine influenza situation, today's Randwick meeting is almost certain to be cancelled after pleasure horses using nearby Centennial Park returned positive tests to the highly contagious disease.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Singapore shots (not those kind of shots!)

The original?

Of course, you haven't really had a Singapore Sling until you've had it at Raffles, where it was invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon sometime between 1910 and 1915. My manager was kind enough to take me off to that Hotel for the experience and being an long-time visitor to Singapore he realised that it wasn't just about getting to the Long Bar but about understanding a little more about the place. So we took a walk around part of the hotel so we could see the front of it - and imagine the days when horse-drawn carriages pulled in to the drive to discharge their passengers. And then a must was a look at the Tiffin Room and the Writers Bar. Then we could go to the Long Bar - but not before we'd walked through to the internal courtyard and admired the many fountains sprinkled through the grounds.
After we'd supped on Slings and beer and thrown peanut shells on the floor, we hurried back to the hotel to bid adieu to two of our team that had assembled for the Workshop we were attending - but as we descended the wooden circular staircase someone mused about the many people who would have treaded the same boards over the years eg Somerset Maugham, Charlie Chaplin, Queen Elizabeth II ... and now members of the AP CBP Workshop team.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


When I was looking for a good home for a television recently, a friend suggested I try Freecycle. It's a Yahoo! Group .... and messages are delivered to your email. It's free and easy to use. As the Group home pages says: Freecycle (TM) Sydney Central is a group for people in the Central, InnerWest and Eastern Suburbs of Sydney who have things they don't need or want anymore and are looking for the item to be reused rather than thrown away. Don't dump it or send it to landfill, give it away instead!
So, you post your available items to the group and maybe your junk will become someone else's treasure! If you want something just ASK - you never know! Everything must be FREE, SAFE and LEGAL. Non-profit groups welcome. No politics, spam or silly business please. (colour added)

It worked a treat and the TV was soon on its way to a new home! Now I watch in wonder as the emails come in with the OFFER, TAKEN and WANTED notices.

... Sling

It looks like a massive drink but it wasn't that big - but it was my first Singapore Sling ... in Singapore of all places.
The team went out to dinner tonight at the Hog's Breath Cafe and since Singapore Slings were on the menu - it seemed like an okay thing to do.
But we are the last of the big drinkers. While a group retired after the dinner to bed, or to the bar, ten of us went of to Swensens in search of ice cream!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


"We're just about to fly past Ayers Rock" said the pilot on our way to Singapore "and those on the left side of the plane should be able to see it". Lucky me, I was in 12A on the left ... even luckier, a while ago I blogged about what the Rock looks like from the air - otherwise I'd still be looking for it!

It was rainy in Singapore today (I think that makes it 3 in a row) so it was quite funny to see people brandishing open umbrellas walking past the travel agent with the sign "Sunny Holidays".
On the way to dinner at a Chinese restaurant (Shanghai style) we
passed this church, saw where the Hogs Breath Cafe was, and were within a meatball's throw of an Italian restaurant.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Phone blog

I spent 1 hour and 40 minutes on the telephone with the Modem and Data support section of 3 (aka Hutchinson 3) here in Australia as they tried to help me get my mobile phone (Palm Treo 750) working as a modem for the laptop. It worked!!! It was a true testament to customer service as I was led, step by step, through the process ... including one of the techs sending me a ppt of the process. It had us all stumped for a while but ... bravo 3!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Borrowing from Big Brother

Have a pic you really wish was better - maybe without an ex or perhaps that car obscuring a vital piece of sceneny? The good news is that help will soon be on hand - thanks to a new digital photo tool from the UK. As best I can understand, the tool is an algorithm which will analyse your photo, then go and check against online photo libraries such as Flickr to find similar images.  It will then piece together the "best fit" from 20 of the images it finds, to match the lighting, camera position and composition etc of your image, and then create a better composite.  Tests suggest that even in its preliminary stages, 30% of the improved photos couldn't be detected.  Move over Big Brother.

Personality Power

If one person sitting on a stool can generate enough power to turn on four LED lights how much electricity could you generate from a rock concert?  A lot apparently - enough to move a train.  The idea is that of two graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who believe the mechanical movement of hundreds or thousands (as opposed to "hundreds and thousands" which is a confectionery of sorts) can be milked to produce electrical power.  And it wouldn't just be concerts; you could also harness the collective energy of crowds of commuters, and shoppers.  While James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk even have a name for it - Crowd Farm (which makes me think again about wind farming) - they see it more as a learning area in the near future.  But if you could move a train - what else could you move?  A space shuttle? A launch would run to about 84 million strides, leading one of their project reviewers to quip (the highlight of the Associated Press report) “That’s one small step for man, eighty-four million, one-hundred sixty-two thousand, two hundred and three steps for mankind.” 

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blind, drunk

Not sure which one it is but there's a reality program where someone is blindfolded and has to drive a car following their passenger's directions. A 20-year-old Estonian man has gone two better. He was arrested for the second time in a week for driving while blind - yep just blind the first time, and blind and drunk and following the directions given by his 3 passengers the second time! Police were keen for the man's car to be confiscated and for him to be put in jail for a spell in the hope he would see the light.


While sorting through a mountain of paper, filing and getting ready to tackle my tax, I found the packaging from my first 128MB SD card. The price sticker was attached: $169.95. Yesterday's catalogue price for a 2Gig SD card from Australia Post: $35.


China has been prominent in the news of late not because of next year's Olympics so much as the recall of goods manufactured there. So far on the list is pet food, fish, cough syrup, children's toys and hotel toothpaste. But when is a product recall more than that? When the boss of the toy factory hangs himself. Chinese media has reported that Zhang Shuhong, a Hong Kong businessman in his 50s and boss of the Lida Toy Company in the southern province of Guangdong, was found dead in his factory workshop on Saturday - after the recall of about 1.5 million preschool toys made by the factory for Mattel Inc.'s Fisher-Price. At least he didn't have to suffer through today's news of another toy recall - again related to high lead levels. Good but sad news is that no problems with the toys - some of which have been around since 2002 - have been reported/recorded.

Is there a doctor onboard?

In the future, as told by Star Trek, medical science will have come a long way … but how far? And what will be the practical inplicatlons? First guess is that there won't be as many Doctors ... which I'm basing on the fact that the USS Enterprise seems to have only one doctor at a time - even though there are roughly 5,000 on board. (Hmmm ... I wonder what the doctor:patient ratio is in the general community in a modern country these days?)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Waiting ... Waiting ...

Italian police have found a 70-year-old woman living with the mummified corpses of her two older sisters who are said to have died a year ago. Also in the house - which almost repelled police with its stench - were the remains of a dog. Police were tipped off by an anonymouse phone call and are not sure whether the sisters, 73 and 78, died of natural causes or were killed. I wonder why they didn't use "murdered" in the report I read, which suggested there was a religious element: "Everything is clearly linked to religion, they believed in resurrection." The women had isolated themselves from everyone (well, maybe not "everyone" since there was the matter of the anonymous caller - unless it was the remaining sister) some time ago and it seems their friends thought they were living at their holiday home. The remaining sister was taken to hospital. No further details were available as local police were not available for comment.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hands up …

anybody who was planning to hear Big Ben in London over the next six weeks. Sorry to disappoint but it seems the 13.8 tonne bell that provides the chimes and "dongs" for the clock (often wrongly) referred to as Big Ben will be silent as maintenance (cleaning and glazing) is carried out. The clock itself should be working again today.

Wash your hands people ...

There's apparently a new fingerprint technology out which could provide information on a suspect's diet, sex and race. The technology site reports that gelatin tape is used to remove a fingerprint for analysis under a spectroscopic microscope. Residues found could indicate if the suspect had come into contact with gunpowder, narcotics or biological or chemical weapons. Or, in the example cited in the report I read: Strong traces of urea, a chemical found in urine, could mean the fingerprint belongs to a male. Ewwwh. Not quite sure where the ability to distinguish race will come from - curry anyone?


This is probably a headline you won't ever see: Man held on croc-fighting charges.

Net worth

Tale One: A man tries to find a bride over the net (second time around) and goes to Mali to meet up with his new bride and take possession of a large amount of money as part of the "dowry". He is kidnapped and held for ransom, but escapes after 10 days in captivity when he is released to pick up part of the ransom money. Also playing a part in the episode: Australian Federal Police, the South Australia Police, the Canadian Embassy in Mali, and Mali's national police.
Tale 2: A woman (cybername Chatty) in Ballina NSW is saved from death after she types "I feel sick and giddy" in a socuial networking chat-room and then goes quiet. Sweetpea in the UK rang through to Chatty's daughter in Queensland who rang through to Chatty's neighbour who knocked on Chatty's door, and, receiving no response, called emergency personnel. Chatty had collapsed in a diabetic coma and could have died except for the Sweetpea's actions. Sweetpea is a great believer in the internet. She originally came from Nebraska (US) but moved to the UK after meeting her British husband, Bill, in a chatroom.

Non-fast food

I knew it was possible to have your burger at McDonalds made up without lettuce. I didn't realise that you could also have burgers made to order ... say with up to eight meat patties and nine slices of cheesen - known as a "double-pounder". The burger has attain cult status after a video of a lad eating it was posted on-line. Nutritionists liken the double-pounder, which costs around $18 and isn't listed on the menu, to eating 45 Tim Tams - or five Pizza Hut deep-pan Hawaiian pizzas. (Would "Hawaiian" be legal in Scrabble?) You can also Have It Your Own Way with big big burgers at Hungry Jacks.
All this talk of over-the-counter food reminds me of a comment I heard the other evening as I waited (and waited and waited) to be served at the McDonalds outside Gatton, Qld: "I thought this was supposed to be 'fast food'".

Off key

What is the world coming to when even karaoke isn't safe? Reports from Seattle tell of a woman who was so unhappy at one chap's rendition of Coldplay's Yellow that she told him he "sucked" - and then pushed and punched to to get him to stop singing. In an attack akin to what I imagine could mirror that of a rabid raccoon, it took several people to separate the woman from the would-be crooner.

Sounds like …

... an episode of Seinfeld to the "T". The owner of the Tea Cosy, a Brighton (UK) tea room, has verboten certain behaviour including mobile phones, dunking biscuits, disrepecting the Queen, skirts above the knee and conversation "louder than two tones abo e the chink of a tea cup". Just how wonderful must the tea be?

Woman 1 ... Raccoon 0

When a five year old boy was attacked as he walked through woods in Connecticut, a friend of his mother's wasted no time in leaping to the rescue and killing the assailant - a rabid raccoon. I'm not quite sure how rabid raccoons act but I have a vivid mental image of roiling fur, gnashing teeth, and lightning fast unpredictable movement - and I'm well prepared to believe a local official who is quoted as saying "she is one tough lady".

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pained expression

Tattoos are consistent: they hurt going on and coming off. But that's probably part of their allure - a double testament to your devotion to that special person, pirate, mermaid or who or whatever convinced you to have a tattoo etched into your flesh by inserting ink under the skin (or by producing scars).
But the question is whether it's still as much of a commitment if there is a relatively easy way of removing said tattoo. And there now is. It's a new way of applying the dye which can then be removed with a single laser treatment. Of course it costs more than the regular dyes but given the multiple laser treatments required for removing conventional tattoos, if you're not absolutely sure about the commitment, and know you don't always cope well with excrutiating pain, it might be a worthwhile each-way bet.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

All at sea

Question: What's more exciting than a drinks stand at the beach?
Answer: A drinks stand at the beach with an 8 ft yellow and blue Lego man standing outside it.
Said Lego man was found all at sea, well, bobbing off the beach at a Dutch resort and drifting off towards England when rescued by workers from the drinks stand. Reuters reported the Lego giant was sporting a huge grin when rescued. There was no mention of a search for the rest of Bob's family. (You'd have to call him Bob wouldn't you?)

Look! Up in the sky ...

No it's not the NZ boy whose parents want to christen him Superman after their first choice, 4Real, was rejected by authorities. It's a crocodile in Russia which appears to have made 3 attempts to escape the apartment where its kept by jumping out a 12th floor window. Khenar (sex uncertain) lost one tooth in the latest fall but seems to be okay otherwise. No details were given in the report I read about Khenar's size, but it seems s/he was able to comfortably fit on the back seat of the owner's car when he came to collect it. At this point it seems reasonable to think, if only for the sake of passersby, that the owner put bars on the window, or at the very least sit down for a heart-to-heart with Khenar to see why the crocodile wants "out" so much.
(I wonder what other animals/reptiles can legally be housed in Russian apartments.)

Bright eyes

Tired of not having that "bright eyed look" ... well, there's help at hand from Nintendo DS. Players can now do "Face Training" which is 16 types of exercises designed by beauty expert Fumiko Inudo. Each of the exercises takes between 2 and 10 minutes to complete but faceners (well, what else would you call someone doing "facening") are warned not to do more than 15 minutes at a time lest they overexert their facial muscles or get them "out of balance". As well as the onscreen model (and live images on the dual screen of your face) an electronic voice encourages you through the exercises: twist your mouth, drop your jaw, wink, glare at the ceiling etc. There's only one bit of bad news ... the program is currently only sold in Japan and plans for international sales are uncertain.

070809 10:11

Well, it will be at some point today, for those of us who ascribe to the yymmdd method of date recording.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Waking up from a nano-nap on the bus (not to be confused with a "nana nap") I discovered the true meaning of disappointment when I realised I was on the way TO work and not on my way home. (It was an early start this morning, okay!)

Life imitating art

There's an episode of The Simpsons where a crayon, long-embedded in Homer's head, is finally removed, immediately making Homer smarter. A similar thing has recently come to pass in Germany where a 59-year-old woman had most of a pencil that went into her head 55 years ago, removed. She has suffered headaches and nosebleeds from the foreign object for some time. It is only because of improved technology that doctors were willing to try to extract the pencil from Margret Wegner's head. According to Reuters, most of the pencil, some three inches long, was taken out in an operation at a private Berlin clinic, but the tip had grown in so firmly that it was impossible to remove. The report carried no advice as to whether Margret has become more intelligent with the pencil's removal.

Carrots McMMM

So, tell us again who says that advertising doesn't work? Recent research with preschoolers found that, in their taste tests, as long as food was in a McDonalds' wrapper, it tasted better than food that wasn't. Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the Golden Arches packaging. Just two of the 63 children studied said they'd never eaten at McDonald's, and about one-third ate there at least weekly. Or maybe advertising doesn't work as well as some people think - because, surprisingly, not all recognized the McDonalds' logo (but they did know McDonalds!).

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Quote from BBC

"Artificial scents are set to be pumped into British pubs to mask the smell of stale beer, sweat and other odours previously camouflaged by cigarette smoke, a newspaper reports." Hopefully this will work on clothes as well - after a (rare) trip to a hotel on the weekend I kept getting whiffs of beer - which I now realise was "odd" because it's usually stale cigarette smoke! Will be interesting to see/smell what scents best mask the eau d'hotel.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lost in translation

"Raise fewer babies but more piggies", "Houses toppled, cows confiscated, if abortion demand rejected" and "One more baby means one more tomb.": these are but a few examples of slogans from China's one-child policy. Hopefully something has been lost in the translation. But even if not, according to recent reports, there is a push to have the policy explained in "more amiable", AKA less threatening, terms. A list of 190 acceptable slogans is currently being issued, with the older slogans to be banned. The move was explained by the official Xinhua news agency as the result of a decision by the National Population and Family Planning Commission "to win more understanding to the country's population control policy."
Among the new slogans recommended are "The mother earth is too tired to sustain more children" and "Both boys and girls are parents' hearts."
Despite China's 28-year-old family planning policy limits, China has the largest population in the world (1.3 bn in 2005). But without the policy, which limits urban couples to one child and allows some families in the countryside to have a second child if their first is a girl, the numbers would have been much higher. However, critics would also say that it would have prevented forced abortions, female fetus abortions, and sterilizations.

On the nose

You just never know what's going to happen ... We learned today of a colleague who chose to send some perfume using the company's preferred courier. Somewhere along the way the package had a mishap and the perfume was spilled. Now you wouldn't think that that would cause too much of a stink (sorry, couldn't help myself). But wrong ... because our company regularly despatches materials which travel with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which gives vital safety information, and because there was no clear indication of what the liquid seeping from the package was, and whether it was dangerous, there was quite a flap. The outcome: it looks as though the company may be fined $50,000. Question arising from this: if the colleague who despatched the package did not have supervisor approval to use (and reimburse) the company account, would s/he be liable for paying the fine?

No MG for me

That's it, you can keep your fancy MGs ... I want a M200G Volantor. It will be Earth's first commercially produced flying saucer, will be able to glide 3 metres above the ground, and carry 2 people. The M200G, which has been referred to as a "Jetsons-like personal flying pod" the size of a small car, is manufactured by US company Moller International. It is designed to take off and land vertically and will reportedly be able to travel over any surface, including water, at speeds up to 50mph.
Depending on demand, the company has said that it will sell the vehicle for around (AUD) $105,000. But well worth it!

No escape

The recent collapse of a bridge in Minnesota (U.S.) was tragic but it has served to remind that that nation is one of many peoples and cultures. Among the victims were Julia Blackhawk, a Native American from the Winnebago tribe, and Artemio Trinidad-Mena, a Mexican. Among the missing is Somali immigrant Sadiya Sahal and her 20-month-old daughter, Hana. Also missing is Christine Sacorafas who was on her way to a local Greek Orthodox Church to teach kids Greek folk dance. It does make one wonder about fate and what congregated them all on the bridge when it went down.

On the run

It beats surgery ... but there could be another way. Indian police recently forced a man to eat 40 bananas in the hope he would "produce" the gold necklace he had snatched and swallowed. He did - but only after a second meal. But it raises the question of "why bananas"? Did they provide bulk to move everything along? Would laxatives not have done the same thing (could all those movies be wrong?)? It's even stranger because I like bananas when I'm feeling unwell in the tummy - and I find it hard to imagine them being used for the opposite efffect. And I suppose the next question is: once your necklace was recovered, how much do you want it back?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Only in America ...

... or other country where they still have pennies (or cents). Starbucks have recently announced that it will increase the price of its U.S. prices for lattes, Frappuccinos and other freshly made drinks. The price increase will be nine cents. Doesn't sound like much - certainly doesn't seem as much as 10 cents - but you couldn't do it here in Australia where 1 cent and 2 cent coins are no longer in common circulation. (Which is not to say that there are not some of us who have a jar or two of them secreted around somewhere!) Or maybe the price would just be rounded up or down to the nearest five cents.

Miss-conception busted

Who talks more ... men or women? Apparently neither. Research released earlier this month suggests that when you actually count the words, rather than relying on anecdotal observations, men and women talk pretty much the same. Hmmm.

Of dragons and dinosaurs

Some people believe that dragon parts have magical properties - as evidenced by the Helen Reddy vehicle "Pete's Dragon" where the dastardly doctor wanted to make his fortune from dragon clippings. And he's not the only one to believe in dragon healing properties. According to recent reports, Chinese villagers had unearthed dinosaur bones which they mistook from dragon bones (a mistake anyone could make) and ground them up for use in traditional medicines.

Joke's on us

Last month a Texas death-rower put out a call on the internet for a joke to tell at his execution. The story was picked up by the media ... which then reported, following his death, that Patrick Knight had had the last laugh ... he did not include a joke in his final statement. But perhaps that was the joke.
And speaking of executions, US style, a colleague (that would be you Steph) recently said that he thought it was shocking that anyone should be put to death in the electric chair. Alas, too late, he realised that he could have chosen his words a little more sagely if he wanted his point to be taken seriously.

Late news

This item has been languishing on my PDA since the start of the year (or was it the start of last year?) ...
An American woman who received an ornate box for Christmas from her brother returned it to her local Wal-Mart because it was damaged. Fair enough - until Judy Money's brother pointed out that the box contained their sister's ashes. Oops - especially when Wal-Mart had already thrown the box out in the garbage. But the story has a "happy" ending. The Money box was found amid garbage piles at an area landfill. (Which raises questions like: is trash not compacted in the US; how long did Money and her brother spend looking for the box; was someone able to tell them the approximate whereabouts of Wal-Mart's rubbish?)
"My prayers have been answered," Money told the Omaha World-Herald. "Just the thought of having her in the dump was awful."
If the ashes had been lost, they would not have been able to consider using the services of someone like Canadian artist Luke Seaward. He has started a business which offers to draw a portrait of the departed from their ashes. It only takes about a tablespoon of the ashes which are incorporated into a pencil which is then used to draw the portrait - but currently only in shades of grey.
His newly formed company, Honor Industries, will market the concept to funeral homes (and has applied for a patent for the pencil-making process). Cost of the portrait - starting from $A5,500 depending on the size and complexity of the work which can take between 30 and 200 hours.


I admit the Wired heading intrigured me: "What's Inside Red Bull: Meat Sugar, Caffeine, and Bile!" Yum. But it's not really that bad: the "meat sugar" is actually Inositol - and while it is a carbohydrate found in animal muscle, it is by no means the main ingredient in Red Bull. That would be glucose (non-technically: sugar water). You'll also find caffeine (which could have something to do with the "wings") and some other stuff including Taurine (aka 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid) which was originally isolated from bull bile in 1827 but is now made synthetically.
But back to Inositol which could stand to be a starring ingredient given research which suggests it's a wonder drug that significantly reduces depression, panic attacks, agoraphobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Of course to get that affect now, says Wired, you'd need to drink 360 cans of Red Bull (with current inositol levels) a day - and it would probably only be available at pharmacies!

Right to know?

How hard must it be to have people ask you what you do for a living and not want to answer because you don't want everyone (anyone?) to know you are an executioner. Missouri has just introduced a law which allows its executioners to sue anyone, even the media, who discloses their names. But there are some who don't think it's such a good idea - especially The Missouri Press Association (MPA). They have complained that the measure would violate the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press (and that's probably already received enough of a knocking around under anti-terrorism measures).
One of the reasons for the bill is to solve a small problem the Missouri State Corrections department seem to be having - they are unable to recruit a doctor with expertise in anaesthesia (as required by Federal law) to assist in executions. Until they can do that, executions in the State will remain on hold and the 48 peoplle scheduled to be executed will remain on Death Row.
So really, why has all this come up? And what are the implications? The MPA is reported as acknowledging that there is a need to protect the identity of prison employees especially if they could be harmed if exposed. But, their arguments is that if you don't know who is carrying out an executions - how do you know they are qualified to do it? For example, if an executioner has been sued 20 times for malpractice, does the public have a right to know that that individual is the executioner? What about the prisoner? Would he or she have the right to request another executioner? Where does the State's responsibility to duty of care begin and end on Death Row?