Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Name confusion

I read in one of the online news feeds today that "A 29-year-old former marine is hoping a personal touch turns voters into Obama recruiters in essential territory". Now, it could have been that I was reading it quickly, but I read it as "Osama" as in Bin Laden. I'm sure it really has no substantive impact, but you could be forgiven for thinking that Obama could be an unfortunate surname to have if you are running for President in post-2001 America.

Travellers' Tip #785

If you decide to take a selection of DVDs with you on a trip, try not to overestimate how many you will have time to watch. Sitting down to have dinner this evening, I decided it was time to watch one of the 12 (yes 12!!) DVDs I had carried from Australia with me. Mind you - I was quite judicious - only bringing a selection of series - Earth: Final Conflict (3); Star Trek: The Next Generation (3) ; The Munsters (3); NewsRadio (1); Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (2). So - how to decide? It wasn't easy, because I had selected all of them because they were familiar favourites and it was the familiar that I wanted this evening. (It must have been an amazing role for Fred Gwynne to play Herman Munster. Just sorry that the original series was not in colour.)

Smart phone support needed

I am dreading it, but I think I have to go onto the Windows Knowledge Base (not sure what it's called) to see if there are any issues with Windows Mobile 6. As I sit here typing, I can see my smartphone turning itself off and on. Quite odd. It also sounds alarms at random times (which on further investigation turned out to be for the "home" time zone). Very odd. And if I could also work out how to remove Elephant as the default font, I would be extremely satisfied.

Aloud not allowed

I found this under the door at my hotel the other day - there seems to have been some disturbance while I was "on safari" and people were obviously "pithed off" enough that management felt a letter of apology was in order. Of note - the use of "aloud", as well as the clause where the writer may or may not be accepting responsibility. English can be an amazing and confusing language.


I spent a short break yesterday cleaning up the files and icons on my desktop - nothing so complicated or organised as actually putting them into the correct files, but rather just putting them all into one folder so I could see my desktop. Why? Because I found that before I did it, I had to keep moving icons to see the giraffes. There were a few of them (icons), right? Now, everytime I lock the desktop, or go there ... I get a surprise all over again.

Friday, November 23, 2007


This is an experiment to see ... and it does work (although it does put a black bar over the photos and I'm not sure I like that.) When looking at the slide show, if presented with an opportunity to go the hosting site (Webshots) - don't. It has one of those pop-ups that say you've won something and ... you know ... that might be too tempting to avoid - and you never know what happens when you click on one of those things. So best not to go there.
Or try this link to the slideshow itself.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

5 cent fares

JetStar advertised a round of 5 cent fares today (I think there were 5,000 seats at that price) and when I tried to get onto their website to book - and all I got was this.

(I didn't)

Something to sing about

I recently learnt about something called a "complaint choir" (thanks LW). Like-minded folk get together to sing about what irritates them. It's a pretty nifty idea, especially in a world where we are encouraged NOT to complain. ("Hi, how are you?" "Can't complain." Which really means "I could complain but I won't.") So imagine being able to give your complaints full voice - to really sign out about things that don't sit well with you. "Yes", said S who I had told about this only yesterday, "this morning I found myself signing 'No Tray for Me in December' (to the tune of 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina') - while cleaning out the cat litter tray for the umpteenth time in a row because the significant other, and sharer of the litterati duties, is currently offshore. I was envious that I hadn't been able to come up with something so quickly - and it's not that I can't find things to complain about (really!!) Like - don't you really hate it when it takes you longer to get to a news item on the web than you had thought - and when you get there you can only get SOME of it and if you really want the rest of it, you have to purchase it!

Monday, November 19, 2007


Do you ever wonder what would happen if people spent as much time focusing on the future as they do thinking about the past. Case in point - news today on two (unrelated) matters.
One: They have found evidence of a dinosaur that lived millions of years ago that apparently had a protrusion on its head which makes researchers think it "vacuumed" up its food.
Two: that perhaps people have been wrong thinking it was the "big bang" and perhaps it was all just a big bust. Now, if those people were to spend as much time on something "new" as they did on that, the world might be a different place. Which brings us to item number Three: "Malnourished 3-week-old twins found near dead mother in Kansas apartment; 1 baby dies". Surely in our modern day and age we should be able to work out some sort of social networking tool that could prevent this type of tragedy from happening?

Kelp Help

Looking out the window of my hotel, I can see a build-up of kelp ... but is it growing there, or has it been washed in/ And if has been washed in, what happens to it then? Will it wash back out again, will people take it away, or will it just "disappear"? And why is it that "The Wide Sargasso Sea" just popped into my head?

Touch iPod

... which is not to say that I have been overcome by technolust and have lost the ability to speak coherently ... "Me went to Apple Store. Touch iPod." Rather, it is to suggest that I did go to the Apple Store but that I played with the new Touch iPod - so called because a touch screen has replaced the now-familiar iPod click wheel. According to the gentleman at the store, the Touch iPod comes in an 8GB or 16GB model and if I wanted to know more than that, they had a really good website I could visit. No, it wasn't quite that bad ... but he wasn't able to answer the one burning question I have. If you look at the Touch iPod as a next generation entertainment system, on which you can also run your calendar and contacts, and even surf the web, why is it not apparent if you can actually read books on the device as well? The text capability of the iPod has always been a huge disappointment for me - the file sizes are SO limited - and there is no automatic synchronisation as there is with music and video files (well, as long as they're the right format). Ah well, I'm not in the market for a new gadget at this point (oops, did I say gadget, I meant "tool") so I'm not sufficiently interested to look it up on the Apple site. But it would be interesting to know. And who knows ... if the Touch did have that capability, would that help push a sustainable growth in e-publishing - or would that be iPodlishing?

Sending it home

According to a report in the NY Times recently, migrants from poor countries send home more than three times the global total in foreign aid. So here's a thought - why don't countries already donating foreign aid halve that, make a concerted effort to attract migrants and then put into place capital infrastructure works which can employ migrants and locals. Helps all round - as well as being socially responsible and treating migrants like people.

IM not afraid

What could be the single most important aid to helping teenagers tackle difficult communications - such as asking someone out on a date? If you guessed "a mobile phone" you're half-way there. It's "texting" which according to a report reported in Wired, gives "a significant number of young people the courage to say or do things they wouldn't necessarily say or do face to face". This raises a number of questions ... like is it mobile phone companies that are behind such studies; and if people do this, is it possible that the very face of communication will change? Will we one day be talking about non-verbal behaviour as a popular but largely baseless paradigm that was phased out in the early 21st Century?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On safari

Not yet, but I've booked for next weekend. Alas, time does not permit a visit to Kruger National Park but there are some game parks within two or so hours drive from Cape Town which do have the "Big 5" or most of them. The quad bike option looks interesting! (One of the other parks also gives a horse-riding option. Hmmm.)

Weekend at the office.

Well, it's a Sunday and I'm catching up with paperwork - but hey, with a view like this, it's not all bad.


This vessel - not quite sure what it is - is currently moored half a kilometre off the beach across from the hotel where I'm staying for the next two weeks. It's a good point of comparison for the larger container ships that pass between it and Robben Island (which you can't see it this image as it is dark).

Coming out in the wash

Bliss is putting on the first ironed shirt in over a week. Yes, I know I'm not one that's usually given to ironing, but sometimes it's just nice not to wear a shirt that's travel-crumpled. Even if you have to iron it on a fold-out board that fits under the kitchen bench.
Mind you there is definitely need for the laundry police here at the moment. I had not done any at the last hotel so here's the pile waiting to go off today - with some trepidation given the last time I sent my shirts to a hotel laundry they came back several sizes smaller. So, luckily, all my current crop are drycleanable - and that's what they're destined for - although I'm not sure how much they'll be able to help the yellow shirt. It would be fair to say that this is the shirt that in a single day has had the most spilled on it - starting with some mango juice (spot removed), a cludge of sauce (spot removed) until finally this - and you should have seen the kitchen (who said that tops were always screwed on tightly) - which convinced me it was time for it to see the inside of a laundry.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Grand glands?

Anyone for monkey gland sauce? It's supposed to be "chunky" and is a speciality of the Santa Ana Spur chain of steak restaurants in South Africa. I'm going to pass this time - and try to put it out of my mind completely while eating anything meat-based with a sauce while I'm here!

New Zealand pics finally posted

It's about time ... the pics from last week's trip to New Zealand are on the travel blog (but alas, no captions). It may look as though there are repeats ... but actually they're just incredibly similar because sometimes it's really hard to choose - especially if it's mountains, lakes or birds!!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Kenny's Conference

It's an example of life imitating art, and they're sure to have happened before, but if Kenny was real and perhaps he is, especially as there's news of a series based on conveniences around the world, he might have dropped in to the 4-day, 40 participating countries toilet conference held recently in Delhi. Or he might have dropped in on the rest room we found in New Zealand - it would certainly seem to be one place where youd hope very hard that the cord didn't break.

And just in, thanks L, there's news of a man who "spent a penny" in a toilet exhibition somewhere overseas and then, when told what he had done, said he wanted his money back!


When I arrived at the hotel last night, the room wasn't ready - and I had been upgraded.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

An idea you wouldn't read about

There were some people at my high school who couldn't wait to get into the library at lunchtime or before and after school. Alas, they were mostly not the popular ones, but they were certainly well-read. But in a move to get the "cool" kids into libraries - possibly hoping that there will be some rub-off effect, some high schools in the United States are installing coffee shops in their libraries. Surprisingly, this may not be the only recent effort to boost literacy. On the flight today the entertainment system was not operating to normal parameters for the first couple of hours. As well as sending people to books and magazines, it had the additional benefit of having people talking to each other - even people who weren't travelling together - something one of the flight attendants thought was unusual and wonderful.


Speaking to a friend of mine who's a nurse the other day, she lamented that people do not give thought to DNRs - making it clear that you are not to be resuscitated if you would not benefit from it. Yes, yes, you would still be breathing - but whether you would be "alive" and fully functioning is another thing. There's a move on in Britain to let experienced nurses decide if a patient should be resuscitated rather than doctors. The reasoning - it's thought that nurses actually spend more time with patients than doctors do, and may therefore be better placed to know patients wishes ... especially as it isn't always appropriate in the final stages of someone's life to ask them or their families if they want to be resuscitated - and the reigning policy has been that if in doubt, the patient must be resuscitated, even if there is a small chance of success.So, I asked my friend, if you don't want to be resuscitated, is it better to have a big DO NOT RESUSCITATE tattooed on your chest. She gave an emphatic yes.

On the road again

Here I am somewhere over an ocean - not quite sure which one - on the way to South Africa via Antarctica. Seriously - the plane took us down to Antartica and then headed back up to Johannesburg. Don't believe me - well, here are the pictures: one of the monitor showing where the plane is, and another two out of the plane window. Those things down there are ice bergs. (The photos are the first outing for the new camera - not sure whether it will be called 18 or Ollie. I'll need to consult with S who is good at naming my toys - oops, make that tools.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Compulsory voting

I'm off to South Africa tomorrow and in the brief turnaround period since arriving back from New Zealand this afternoon, I have made enquiries with the Australian Electoral Commission about the best way to cast a vote in the forthcoming Federal Election on 24 November - since I will still be away. Well, said the person with whom I spoke, you know that it isn't compulsory to vote if you're overseas when the election takes place. But, I said, fearing that she thought that would be an end to my enquiry - no compulsory requirement = no reason to vote - what if I still want to have a voice. In that case, since absentee voting wouldn't apply (I would be out of the jurisdiction), and since early voting wouldn't open until 14 days before the election, the options were a postal vote (which we weren't sure would find its way to me in South Africa and back to Australia in time), or voting at an early polling station - either in Rockdale or Haymarket. Of course, there is probably another option - depending on whether they have started asking for identification when you roll up to vote - which is just to have someone zip into a polling place on the day, get my name crossed off as having voted - but, most importantly, to cast my vote to help change the balance of power in the lower and upper houses of Parliament. Have to do something ... otherwise how (ir)responsible would I feel if the party I wanted to win didn't for lack of a single vote. Unlikely I know ... but anything's possible in a democracy.

Monday, November 05, 2007

View of Mt Cook

New Zealand is so beautiful it is hard to put it in words - so here's the first of many pictures to be posted here or on my travel pics blog.

Thoughts from NZ

12 on the blink
What could be worse than-being in a land of majestic scenery and not having a camera? Being in such a place with a camera that keeps displaying a "Please turn the camera off and on again". Aargh. So I turned the good camera with the 12 times optical zoom off, and on, and off, and on. And then I put it away, wondering what the next camera I bought would be like – and really, shouldn’t a camera last more than 2 years … and then, after we got to the hotel, I turned the camera back on and it was working again and all was right with the world. (Note to self: remember to change memory cards often just in case.)

The road less travelled (we wished)
We drove from Queenstown to Wanaka today - a trip of just over 100km - unless you take the high road aka the road over the Crown Range. In retrospect (a time which didn't take long to arrive – in fact, less than a minute) I don't mind admitting that taking that road was a huge mistake. On the map, it was the road I'd suggested we take - a minor road but not a goat (or sheep) track. What I hadn’t realized that it took over 50km off the trip by going up and over the range – and the first 5km of that was on a very steep, very windy road, with traffic coming both ways, and no guard rails on the downhill side. Very hairy, very scary – and even though it was majestic views from the top – so traumatized were we that we didn’t stop; we just wanted it over with as quickly as possible.

NZ adds
New Zealand television is slightly different from our standard fare in Australia – well, maybe not the programming so much but definitely the advertising. They just had an ad on for Viagra. I’m not sure if it was on cable television or free-to-air, but it’s something I’ve never seen in Australia. There’s also another difference – Guy Fawkes Night is to be celebrated on Monday – and according to another ad that’s been on a couple of times already this evening, you can buy fireworks to let off in celebration (legally!).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Land of the Long White Cloud

Sometimes when people say things, you figure that they are probably joking - like when they say that New Zealand is the "Land of the Long White Cloud". Well, you know what ... it appears that it is. That's how we knew we'd arrived at New Zealand this afternoon - besides that we'd stopped flying over water - there was a long white cloud running down its length for as far as we could see. Ah ha, I thought, that must be New Zealand (not for a moment thinking that there might have been another parcel of land which had popped up out of the Tasman in the couple of hours since we left Sydney - which it hadn't - or that we had taken a wrong turn and ended up at Norfolk). Once I saw land fall I was excited - and for the first time this trip, it felt like I was on vacation and had 6 days of vacation - and probably about a thousand photos - stretching in front of us. Some of these may be snow-covered mountains stretching into the distance; the ocean from New Brighton (near the new library), boiled egg and marmite sandwiches, and looking from Christchurch towards the south.

Song titles

"Do you know where you're going to": for C with his new phone with GPS which doesn't seem to be able to locate a satellite to tell him where he is (even when he knows - like on the walk home from the station.) His knowing the longitude and latitude of specific locations would help - but then he wouldn't need GPS, would he?
"Ain't no mountain high enough": D was telling me yesterday about one man's grand plan to increase the height a hill had to be before it could be called a mountain. This didn't succeed because some countries, including Australia, would have failed the new test as even our highest "Mt Kosciuszko" (hmm - looks like suspect spelling to me) wouldn't have made the grade.

New Zealand

We're at the airport waiting for our cheap flight to the land of the long white cloud - and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the forecast is still for showers. But that's okay. It could make for some atmospheric photos and some interesting driving. I have spent some time now on a site ( recommended by a NZ colleague which gives place-to-place driving directions and have printed out the most likely routes (and brought them with us). Alas we are in for a short wait as the flight is delayed - but not cancelled as has just happened to another flight to NZ.