Monday, February 25, 2008

Mmmm ... doughnut

But not your typical doughnut. Molecular biologist Robert Bohannan has patented a process for introducing caffeine into foods - which apparently includes modifiying the bitter coffee taste to make it more palatable. Bohannan's company, Onasco, is looking for partners to produce caffeinated (or Buzz) doughnuts and bagels. I suppose this will make it quicker and easier to have a coffee and doughnut - and make it a one-handed operation (which might be useful for US law officers if the stereotype is to be believed) - but it just won't be the same!

Muscle memory

I spent several moments the other day wondering why the IR between my computer and Palm wasn't working. Usually when you place the Palm in front of the IR port, a distinctive "blttt" sound from the computer signals when the IR link is established and that files can be beamed. When the "blttt" didn't happen, I moved the Palm out of range and tried again ... nothing ... and again ... until finally I realised that I had earlier moved the computer to the port replicator - and I was actually trying to use the keyboard (not the computer) for the transfer -and there was no way that was going to happen. But it was a wonderful example of "muscle memory" - where the do the same thing you're used to doing without actually having to engage brain.

Greater than the sum of its parts

Listening to the Science Talk (the podcast of Scientific American) the other day, I was intrigued to learn that it is possible to get more than 100% satisfaction with the cutting of a cake. In the old days - well, this was how it was taught to us - if you had to share a scrumptious goodie with someone, one of you would cut and the other would choose. This was guaranteed to have the cut made as fairly as possible. But with a theory which includes the world "equitability" somewhere in its name, Science Talk reports it is possible to have both people 100% happy with the cut - especially, if, as in the example used, the cake is half chocolate and half vanilla and IF both parties have different preferences for chocolate and vanilla AND if both parties let those wishes be known. In that way, the cake can be cut according to their preferences eg the person who prefers chocolate more, gets more chocolate, the vanilla person, more vanilla. While this works in theory, said the podcast, in application it is not as successful as it appears people are not quite so forthright about saying what they want.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I received a list of neologisms via email the other day (thanks E). In this instance they appear to be the "a new word, usage, or expression" type rather than "a meaningless word coined by a psychotic" [thanks SlovoEd - which sandwiches neologism between "neolithic: (1) cap of or relating to the latest period of the Stone Age characterized by polished stone implements, and (2) belonging to an earlier age and now outmode" and "Neo-Malthusian: sdvocating control of population growth (as by contraception)".]
The Neologisms email appears to have been generated as "The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologisms, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words."
Some of the winners are:
Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp. (E's favorite)
Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
But the word-play talent of people doesn't stop there. The email also notes "The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word  from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition."
And some of the winners are:
Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease.
Karmageddon (n): Its like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an a**hole.

By the book

I had occasion to visit a "bricks and mortar" bookstore yesterday and I was stunned at how "out of practice" I am. How difficult is it to go into a huge room with rows and rows of shelving trying to find one book in particular*, not being familiar with where they keep certain types of books, and not being able to use the computer at the Information station because it is marked "Staff Use Only" - and there not be any staff in sight? How easy is it - and how easy is it to get used to - logging in to your favourite eBook site on the web, typing the name of the book you're after into the search field, and almost instantly finding out if they have it or not. But alas, the novel I'm after isn't available in eBook form so I'm off in search again today - perhaps I'll try a smaller bookstore - with obvious staffers - or a library.
But it does show how easily we can get out of the habit of being a browser (that would be the "gatherer" part of "hunter and gatherer") meandering through the bookstore shelves looking for something of interest!
* "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
* "Affinity" by Sarah Waters

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book poll

Book chain Dymocks has published results of a survey of over 15,000 of its book club members on their (and by extrapolation - Australia's) top books. Heading the list in the 101 choices were at:
#5 - Gone with the Wind ($24.95)*
#4 - The Da Vinci Code ($19.95)
#3 - To Kill a Mockingbird ($21.95)
#2 - The Lord of the Rings Books 1-3 ($39.95), and coming in at
#1 - Pride and Prejudice ($7.95 unless you get it as an ebook which will cost you either $4.95 or $5.95).
The site is very impressive. When you search for a title, it lets you refine your search by picking the required format eg book, digital book, audible book.
* Prices may vary.

Scrabbled thinking

Reading the paper today, there was an item about Fidel Castro who has now resigned as President of Cuba. But would people have described him as an "infidel" - which seems to be reserved for talk of someone who doesn't follow a particular religion ... as in "you infidel" ... as opposed to "infidelity" - which, while it can refer to "lack of belief in a religion" is more commonly associated with "marital unfaithfulness or an instance of it". Fidel. Infidel. Infidelity. (Me thinks this is my subconscious* crying out for a game of Scrabble.)
* As ever, I'm not totally sure of whether I mean "subconscious" or "unconscious" ... which according to the Slovoed dictionary (cited above as well) are defined as:
Subconscious: existing in the mind but not immediately available to consciousness.
Unconscious: the part of mental life that does not ordinarily enter the individual's awareness yet may influence behavior and perception or be revealed (as in slips or in dreams).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Right of appeal

Listening to the news as I drove this afternoon, I was surprised by two news items. The first was that one of the Bali Nine (Australians who were found guilty of smuggling drugs into Bali) had appealed his life imprisonment sentence and received the death penalty instead (wonder what he'd risk getting if he appealed again?)
The other item was that there is a suggestion that in the US, to counter recent mass-shootings in schools, students should be allowed to carry fire-arms with them - but only if they are licenced and trained and, one would hope, also able to prevent intending gun-people from taking their weapons from them.

More TV ...

According to The Daily Telegraph, contractors from Channel 9 in Sydney have been spraypainting the outline of bodies on sidewalks - to advertise their new series "Underbelly". But, before you can say "Agatha Christie", a team from rival station Channel 10 has been adding their own artwork which says "Case Closed - Solved by the Women's Murder Club" - one of their current programs. Then, Channel 9 does the rounds again, erasing Channel 10's messages. After all this effort to spread the word, you'd at least think these guys might try to start their programs ON TIME!!! (Ooops, still slightly bemused and irritated.) Or perhaps it's only Monday night programming that's subject to slippage!!!

Viewer question

How is it possible for a pre-recorded program to run 20 minutes over schedule? Does it represent a complete disregard for viewers that the change in program length is not advertised either in the weekly program guide, or during the program itself. Of course, I wouldn't have cared except that I had already set the recorder to capture the program AFTER it, and while I give a 10 minute margin on either side of programs I'm recording, I knew it was unlikely the station would be able to make up the overrun.
So, why do they do it? Is it because they think you won't notice and then realise, too late, that you've missed the start of that program you were planning to watch on another channel? And that being the case, might as well just watch whatever their next offering is?
Which then brings us to the question of G-Code* recording. I will need to do some research on this to see if it is linked to the actual program - or whether, it too, is time-based. (Slight pause while internet is consulted.) Well, that settles it - G-Code just tells your machine what time to start recording, and isn't linked to the television stations and their programs. Interesting point noted from a forum I just visited: "the G code is only provided by the tv magazines,cause the station isnt allowed to assist in copyright violation".
Ah well, look slike I might need to give half an hour lee-way either end - except for the news - that always seems to begin and end at the advertised times!
* G-Code novices: if you go to your television program in some countries, after a program description you may find a series of numbers. If your recording device is G-Code-enabled, you can input these numbers to set up your recorder, rather than having to manually program station, time, date, duration etc - eg in Sydney today - Days of Our Lives 221890.

Monday, February 18, 2008


There's a saying that "actions speak louder than words" but after an episode late last week, we may also have to consider the possibility that "actions speak faster than words". Sitting in a conference room, someone had flipped up the butchers' paper to write on the whiteboard underneath. The two of us watching could see that there was a potential concern in the making - "a permanent marker on whiteboard" event. By the time we had actually given words to the warning, the marks had already been made. However, Pat assured us he had checked the marker before writing - but noted that he had been in another situation where someone had just thrown something and hit the "about to be" writer on the back of the head. That worked. And more quickly than words.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No cause for alarm

I do not profess to know how or why it works but I had heard or read somewhere that your car alarm remote would have a greater effective reach if you held it to your head. Sure. Well this morning as I stood in the rain, on the median strip, waiting for the traffic to calm so I could finish crossing the road to the car, I thought "wouldn't it be good if I could turn off the alarm from here". Tried it from the normal position. Nothing. So what did I have to lose - except possibly a little dignity by looking like a silly person holding the remote to my head - but, behold, it worked! And I was suitably surprised - and humbled - by a very tangible example of science at work.

Solo activity

That's one of the things about working at home ... If you don't count the cats, it's very hard to "share" stuff. This morning Australia's Federal Government will issue an apology to the Stolen Generation. As I read somewhere "it's history in the making" and will be broadcast across the Nation (and probably available to a much wider audience). But because S will be at work, I'll be watching it alone - except for the aforementioned cats. Given it's seen as a way of bringing our nation together it just seems that one should see it "with" someone.

Mistaken identity

This is a direct quote from today's The Daily Telegraph: "A man, 46, was shot in the neck after he opened his front door to two men wearing balaclavas." Now, wouldn't you think that you would never (except if you were in the middle of a fancy dress party, and then you'd probably be wise to think about it) open your door to people wearing balaclavas. Rarely are they up to any good. Of course, it may be that the man did not have a "peep hole" in his front door, or a chain on the door, or any other precautions - like asking "who's there" before opening the door - but perhaps its just a function of gender. Maybe men are more likely to open a door without knowing who's on the other side. (The attacked man is in a serious but stable condition in hospital. Another man, sleeping in the house at the time of the attack, was not injured.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Selective Attention

I'd prefer to read the "Letters to the Editor" in The Sydney Morning Herald - but their e-version now excludes that, as well as the very wonderful "Column 8". So as I sit looking at The Daily Telegraph, at their Letters page, which also includes their "Blog on ... Hot topic" I am amazed at the subject: Woman murdered, road rage with hammer.
The subject matter for the blog is usually drawn from the previous day's edition - which I distinctly remember reading, but have no recollection at all of this item. I can only think that I just didn't see it - the same way the brain doesn't allow one to see something which it knows is going to be distressing: for example, in some instances people driving past the scene of an accident have not seen the covered body at the roadside - as if the brain says "nope, not letting that in". Amazing, but true.

Night light

Australian mother Jan Hawley has her own business, and if you go online and search for Intimoglow, you'll find her range of glow-in-the-dark lingerie. This may very well be the answer to "what do you get the person who has everything?" - especially if green is their colour - which is how it looks in the dark! It is probably little wonder that business seems to have picked up with Valentine's Day fast approaching.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Good to go

On top of GV to GO! Juice cap there's the wording "". Thought it would have been good if it was Maybe there's an opening for that one too! (And that would certainly be something the Coca-Cola Company could get behind as well, don't you think?)

Friday, February 08, 2008

In the news ...

A Romanian train driver made a valiant attempt to catch his runaway train the other day, but despite a 6km taxi chase and jumping aboard the moving engine, he slipped and fell under its wheels, and was killed. The engine travelled another 26km before it was stopped by other rail workers. The report of the accident on Reuters gave no indication how the others managed this feat.
Ioan Colceriu, the man who paid for a mistake - and lack of proper job safety checks and planning - had left the handbrake of the engine off when he went to collect some papers from the station office.
Also reported on Reuters, was the story of a German man who was convicted after he, unsolicited, sent a picture of his penis to a woman who didn't know him. So ... would it have been okay if she had known him or would he still have been fined for distributing pornographic material?

The Mist

I am still reeling after seeing Frank Darabont's film adaption of Stephen King's novella "The Mist" yesterday. The novella was recently advertised/re-released (?) on ebook site Fictionwise and I decided to re-read it. Then, within days of finishing it and finding that a movie was due out within the week, I found myself champing at the bit to see it - and was there on the release day. (With "Cloverfield" I actually waited for the Saturday.) Well, I must admit the film was quite close to the story ... except the ending. That's the bit that's thrown me. An aside: when I read a review of The Mist today, I found mention of a comment by Stephen Kind soon after the film's release in the US - which , paraphased, says that if anyone reveals the ending, they should be hung by the neck until dead. Well, that may be so, but it's hard to open the debate if you can't discuss it .... so ... in deference ... If you are planning to see the film - STOP READING NOW. SPOILERS AHEAD. To read further, you will need to take the initiative and highlight the following space to reveal the text.
I'm not sure whether the revised ending is to do with the director - or Hollywood per se. In the novella, the main character, his son and a couple of others escape and are seeking a place in the world that is "normal". The question of whether the strange creatures that have recently come to inhabit the Earth (having come with The Mist) will actually inherit it, is left open. The last word in Stephen King's story, literally, is "hope"
Fast forward to the movie version. Again, main character and son, and others, are on the move ... until they run out of petrol. They are in The Mist, waiting for strange creatures to find them and despatch them to their Maker in probably a very painful manner if the other deaths are anything to go by. Luckily, though, main character had, as they set out, risked his life to retrieve a gun (useful in killing creatures) - and so there they are - five in the car - with a gun and four bullets. The timeframe is uncertain, but at some point, we see/hear four shots in the car - and the main character is left, alone, with The Mist. He is distraught and after placing the gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger several times as if one more bullet will magically appear, he gets out of the vehicle to await his fate. Through The Mist, he can hear them coming ... and in his grief, they cannot come soon enough. Except, the thing that looms out of The Mist is not of another world, it is a tank, and then another, and another and another ... with soldiers on foot wielding flame throwers and weapons and hell-bent on despatching the creatures and reclaiming the good ol' US of A for humans. The main character stands there and screams and screams and screams. Understandable really. Especially as on one of the refugee trucks that follows the tanks is a woman who had been trapped with them in the supermarket where the townsfolk took refuge, but who left - despite repeated warnings not to - because her children were at home, alone. She has, of course, been re-united with her children. His is dead in the car, despatched with a bullet, so he could make sure he kept his word to ensure "the monsters don't get me".
The Mist is a film about choices from the original author who makes "what if" into an art form (of sorts). Except the movie takes it several steps further by inviting the watcher to question the choices the characters have made ... and how these choices may have been manipulated to ultimately manipulate the viewer. Case in point, if Mrs Carmody had been despatched with one bullet, would (a) escape from the store have been possible, and (b) would there have been 5 bullets remaining in the gun for the penultimate scene? And given the not so c-overt manipulation, what is the central message of the film: that we have nothing to fear but fear itself; that the military will "save the day", or that society is a very thin veneer and in the end, it's the most charismatic, motivated and determined who will "lead" rather than those who are best suited and give the greatest chance of survival?

I'm still thinking about it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Visiting a local department store today, I noticed their "Dollar Deals" range - with items "starting from $2" each. A conundrum that don't make "cents".

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I wish I understood Australian Privacy laws. It would make some news reports much less confusing for me. Take the one in today's The Daily Telegraph with the headline "Mate, your girlfriend was a bloke". The gist: Allegedly. A man is arrested for suspected theft. While he is being held in custody, two police officers look up details on his girlfriend and advise the man that "you're r**ting a bloke". When the man is released on bail he goes to her apartment and starts "belting the hell" out of her. She spends several days in hospital after the attack. The man is charged with assault. The two police officers who revealed the information about his girlfriend are prosecuted under the Prfivacy and Personal information Protection Act and plead "not guilty". The story of their trial is reported in The Daily Telegraph which includes the names of all players as well as a photograph of the girlfriend - who had previously told only a few close friends of her gender reassignment. Police knew of her changed status only because she had sought their help after previous violent incidents.
So - do Privacy laws not extend to/affect the media? With the reporting of the trial, there now appears to be more public than private about the girlfriend's circumstances.
And, as an aside, as the police allegedly were aware of violent episodes between the man and his girlfriend in the days before his theft arrest - should they also be charged for their part in taunting him - which could be argued to have instigated the attack?

On a roll

Having trouble getting out of bed in the mornings? Turn on the "snooze" once too often? Well now there's Clocky to put an end to all that. Clocky is an alarm clock on wheels and if you press its snooze button it jumps on to the floor and hides and beeps and beeps and beeps until you find it and shut it off. Interested? Want more "fun" in your day? Clocky is available from


What's a 5-letter word for "Icy cold"? That would be GELID. Just goes to show that even the "Quick One" crossword can help increase one's word power!

Monday, February 04, 2008

On the up and up

For the person who has most everything - a desk that goes up and down - with built-in treadmill. But if you do need to leave your desk - take heart - there's now even a hip-top computer which is either supported from your hips by an apparatus; or a waist-top computer which is supported by straps around your neck. What will they think of next?

Bridal party

UK magazine "You & Your Wedding" have released recent survey results which suggest some brides would like their bridesmaids and maids-of-honour to be just that and sign a written pre-nuptial agreement that they will not put on weight or get pregnant before the "big" day. Half those surveyed also said they would sack a bridesmaid who broke the contract ... which seems to suggest the other half aren't serious about it (makes you wonder how the question was phrased in the survey) or, and this wasn't mentioned in the report I read, perhaps they'd prefer to opt for a cash settlement!

Mean girls

What is the world coming to? Hot on the heels of "Slap Corey" and news of his real-life bashing (which reports suggest may have been a PR stunt) comes reports of a new craze at an elite Melbourne girls school. It's "Slapfest Days" where - and this is a quote from Tory Maguire's column in today's The Daily Telegraph "Girls not putting out for the boys down the road, wearing the wrong jeans or generally not fitting in get slapped on the arms, back or legs - where ever and whenever the teacher isn't looking." Gives the "mean girls" label a whole new meaning. Makes you wonder if it's restricted to Generation Y - or whether they're the ones who just started it!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Groundhog Day

... was yesterday (2 Feb) and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow - which means the northern hemisphere should brace itself for another six weeks of winter. (Which is way better than the unending rain in "The Taking" - the Dean Koontz novel I am currently reading.) I can't think of Punxsutawney Phil without thinking of "Groundhog Day" the movie where Phil Connors the weatherman (played by Bill Murray) is destined to repeat the same day. Funny - up until now I had never realised that the Groundhog and the Weatherman shared the same name. (Sounds like a title for a story or something, doesn't it - "The Groundhog and the Weatherman"?)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Water Board

Human beings are amazing creatures aren't they? Who else could come up with waterboarding - currently the subject of a US Senate investigation. Waterboarding is used as a form of interrogation where the subject is "drowned" without causing death. This is achieved in a variety of ways. The question before the US Senate is whether this form of interrogation constitutes torture. Now, why on earth would anybody think that ... just because it involves the subject's head being submerged under water or their mouth being forced open and water being poured down their throat.

Friday, February 01, 2008

On this day

On this day in 2003 (1 Feb) the space shuttle Columbia fell to earth; and the following year Janet Jackson fell from grace after a "wardrobe malfunction" exposed her breast during the half-time show at the Super Bowl.
And here in Australia in 1992, 1c and 2c coins are no longer available from banks but can still be used as legal tender (up to a point - 20c?). The copper coins are stored for prosterity and a time when they become collectors items or ... The price of copper escalates so much the value of metal in the coins invites smelting!

Lest we forget

Yesterday (31 Jan) was the 5th anniversary of the Waterfall (NSW) rail disaster which killed several people. It seemed like an eerie coincidence then when a lightning strike disrupted rail services on the Sydney network last night - by striking lines at Waterfall.