Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sports Talk

The people in the seat behind me on the bus started talking football - a subject I know little about. As they discussed recent results, one proudly declared "Manly's fourth on the ladder." The others burst out laughing ... which only started to make sense when one added "there's twenty rounds to go". I guess ther's still plenty of time for fortunes to be tested.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


… or how to take up pants without standing on a chair. One down - three to go.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Publishing zeitgeist

German publishing company Bertelsmann AG is planning to publish a series of yearbooks (use of "annual" before that as in the MSNBC report I found this on seemed slightly redundant) whose content is based on the top 50,000 searches on the German-language Wikipedia. A spokesman for the company (which also has Random House and Sony BMG as interests) said the print-version would bring Wikipedia to a new audience. But before they're published, the user-created online entries will be fact-checked. The book will be produced under free-licence, so its content can be distributed and copied. While the on-line authors won't receive any cash for their "contribution", Wikimeida Deutschland eV, which promotes the German-language Wikipedia, will get $1.59 a copy from the $31.80 sale price for the 992-page book.
So, my question is, how is this different from the onl-line fan-produced Harry Potter lexicon which ran foul of JK Rowling with publication in book form. The case against fan Vander Ark is that he infringed Rowling's copyright - although it could be argued that Vander Ark added his own interpretation, creativity and analysis to compile the lists of characters, places and spells from the novels which make up the book. While not denying that it does infringe Rowling's copyright, the publishers of the book are arguing that it is fair use allowable by law for reference books. The trial is still underway.

Live Mesh

Do a quick check and see what devices you have with you at the moment - mobile phone? iPod? PDA? Ultra mobile PC? And how many of those devices have the same information on them eg calendar/notes/tasks? And how many do you WISH had the same information on them? Well, if you do wish you could synchronise your documents, data, music and video across a number of devices, help may be at hand. The surprising news is that it looks like it will be Microsoft who provides the answer - for both MS and Mac systems - with their recently announced "Live Mesh" which will "create an online network of devices .... (which) can be synchronised online and accessed via a web browser". According to the Wired report I saw, Live Mesh is also designed to facilitate the sharing of media online between different users (although surely there be some form of digital rights management built in). Timing for the launch of Live Mesh will be announced shortly.

Naming rights

Who knew there was a name for a person who attach themselves to balloons to float off into the sky. According to Troy Lennon in today's The Daily Telegraph (in an article entitled: Buffoons in balloons that made us gasp) they are "cluster balloonists". And, proving that there's nothing new in show business, Reverend di Carli is not the first person to go missing after going "up, up and away". Another notable is Japanese piano tuner Yoshikazu Suzuki who planned to drift across the Pacific Ocean to the US in 50 hurs. He was spotted by the Japanese Coast Guard two days later (so he couldn't have gotten that far) and that was the last anyone ever saw of him. Hopefully the Reverend will not suffer the same fate ... especially as reports suggest he was incredibly well prepared - carrying GPS, satellite phone, food and liquid for a week, thermal suit, buoyancy chair ... and a good knowledge of survival skills.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Party (balloon) trick

Well, just over a month after positing you would need to us hundreds of helium-filled party balloons to "fly", someone has done it. The Reverend Adelir Antonio de Carli wanted to raise money for a spiritual rest-stop for truck drivers in Paranagua. Unfortunately, at time of writing this, he was still missing somewhere off the coast of Brazil after winds carried him away. Rescuers in helicopters and fishing boats had found pieces of balloons but the priest's fate is as yet unknown.


Brett Sutcliffe may think twice before messing with older women next time - after he was found guilty yesterday of posing as a federal agent. Sutcliffe is a private investigator specialising in uncovering unfaithful partners - and was presumably on the job when he parked in a disabled spot in North Bondi last year. When asked to move by resident Pauline English (aged 77 according to The Daily Telegraph report)) he refused - first saying that he was waiting for his grandmother, and then that he was an investigator. Days later Mrs English received a letter with the Australian Federal Police logo and signed by Risk Officer 34324421234 warning that she had "wrongly interfered" with an investigation. And that could have been the end of it except that Mr Sutcliffe appeared on a current affairs program about six weeks later and was recognised by Mrs English - who reported the "öfficer". Sutcliffe will be sentenced in August for impersonating a Commonwealth officer and using the postal service to menace, harass or offend. The report did not say what motivated Sutcliffe to send the letter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Privacy provisions

A question I've had for a while has been answered ... what happened to Sally Robbins (the rower who stopped with 400m to go in the eights final at the Athens Olympics)? She had been trying for a spot in this year's Beijing Olympics, as a quad or doubles rower. According to today's The Daily Telegraph, she will be denied a spot on the squad. The troubling part, and this may just have been how I was reading the story, it appeared that Sally had not yet been officially informed of the decision to not recommend her inclusion on the Olympic squad. It may be of interest, perhaps even newsworthy, but is it fair that she find out through the press?

Quote of the day

"They are a group of year 11 girls at st pats, who think they are top ... but really pathetic sociopathic sluts." Thus commented someone in an internet chatroom about the group Club 21 (aka Big 21) - a group of Year 11 students from St Patrick's College in Mackay, Queensland. According to The Daily Telegraph, the girls rank themselves according to looks, weight and popularity with boys - and parade their ranking on their wrists.
Of course, it would make more sense if an independent observer did the rankings, but I guess that wouldn't make the group quite so exclusive - or as exclusive, as in shunning those who fail to meet the group's "shallow and immature" behaviour.
The Club 21 girls are being offered counselling to work through the issues. The report did not suggest how many were availing themselves of the offer.

Picture perfect

One of the anti-clutter newsletters I'm subscribed to suggested scanning pieces of paper and keeping electronic copies - rather than the clutter of the paper version. But is this as satisfying? I'm thinking specifically of momentos, like concert tickets, etc which some of us keep in memory boxes or photo albums, and revisit from time to time. Would it be the same looking through digital files? Would that helps us evoke memories of the event as much as the physical item?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Snopes error message

I was just reading something this morning about a plan to have advertisers use your mistyped URLs (you know about them - it's where you type in a 67-character string into the address bar on your browser window thinking you're going to get a really cool picture of "something" and you end up at a "404 Page Not Found" message or similar) for paid advertising. When I read this I had the fleeting thought about how amazingly incredible it is that we can land on the page we want on the internet just by typing in a string of characters, and mostly we get there. So, distracted, off I went for a photograph on Snopes of a "Devil's Swimming Pool" on the edge of Victoria Falls - and I missed by one character: http://www.snopes.com/phoos/natural/devilspool.asp (it should have been /photos/) - but I was pleasantly surprised with the error page the site returned. Try it, it's fun! (Just hope it works the same on a standard web browser as it does on the smart phone!)

Map Quest(ion)

... Or update on iPod Adventure ... Well, we made it to BookClub, but it was more a matter of following the street directory and signs rather than relying on the iPod. To be fair, though, it was that it's pretty hard to read a map on a screen that size, even if you are also following text instructions. Ah well, maybe next time (and there will be a next time) I just have to study it more thoroughly before leaving home.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

iPod adventure

We're setting off on an adventure today - with the iPod Touch as our guide. The Touch has GoogleMaps, and it's possible to download step-by-step directions (well, not actually step-by-step since that would be overkill) between places. You download them while you're on WiFi and then the Touch holds them in memory - which makes the function quite useful. We're off to BookClub at a new location today, and I've already loaded the directions and have been reviewing them this morning. It will be interesting to see if I trust them - since it's a way I've never been before - or whether the stress of flexibility will have me going the (longer) way I know.

Best friend

I'll post a pic later but while I'm thinking of it I wanted to blog about "street marketing " (hmmm - who knew that was a real term ... I thought I'd just made it up - oh well ...). When I was in the city the other day, I chanced upon two people handing out cute little cardboard boxes imprinted with the words "Dove Diamonds". So, I didn't refuse the proffered package and was surprised, when opening it later, that (a) it included anything at all because it seemed to be way too light and (b) that it contained a "diamond", well, actually a zircon, but it was still bright and shiny. So, will that entice me to go to the diamond shop and buy one ... I don't think so, but it will probably work for some people! I'll just stick with the zircon - because it still makes tiny little rainbows when the light hits the facets in just the right way!


Having spent some time in hotels lately, I know how difficult it is to get a decent piece of toast at breakfast. Either the toast is too dark, or too light (and putting it through again just dries it out), stuck to the toaster, or hard to get out without a pair of very long tongs and a keen sense of bravado (that would be you Pat). But there could yet be hope. Breville has released the Smart Toaster, with LEDs "which literally sense when your toast is cooked to perfection" - or ... in other words ... done the way you like it. So how does it work? According to one site I visited in search of details: "the LEDs ... count down the moments until your toast is done. This bread browner also boasts a button that raises the carriage midcycle — no more interrupting the cooking process just to check for char." I've been trying to visit Breville's site for further details but can't get it to open in my phone's browser!

Friday, April 18, 2008

More on evolution

Have you ever wanted to read the first draft of Charles Darwin's "Origin of the Species". Good news ... you could start it this weekend - but it would take more than the weekend to get through it. The only thing missing from the reports I saw was where to find Darwin's papers online: try here http://darwin-online.org.uk/.

And it really is survival of the fittest out there in the animal kingdom ... so here's news of two wins, noted today on various news sources:
US researchers visiting Vietnam have discovered a rare giant turtle (Swinhoe's soft-shell) which was previously thought to be extinct in the wild.
At the other end of the scale, comes news that Borneo's pygmy elephants may be descendants of a Javian elephant race, which was understood to have perished nearly 300 years ago.

Voice box

Big news of the week is that scientists have, using fossil fragments and a synthesizer, replicated a vowel used by Neanderthals. The ultimate aim is to replicate an entire sentence - which may be interesting given nobody today speaks Neanderthal. But an interesting aside to this story is how people pronounce the word "Neanderthal". On a report I listened to on ABC Radio yesterday, scientists repeatedly did not pronounce the "h", ending the world with "tal" (as in shall ... where's phonetics training when you really need it?). Today, in general news reports and interviews, the "h" was back. (H)mmmmm.

Out of date

Okay, I admit it, I'm out of touch and no longer able to keep up with social networking. Reading on Wired today, there's a new Facebook application which lets users blog to multiple net publishing systems at the same time. As the report says: Blog It (the application) reduces that feeling of social fatigure by letting you blog, tweet, tumble and pownce all from one place. (Did you hear that whoosh of air as that went way over my head? Alas, there just aren't enough hours in the day to investigate this stuff - although, I did open a twitter account yesterday ... now I just have to work out what it does!)

Against the odds

Planning a visit to Melbourne's Crown Casino? You may want to avoid their $2.50 roulette tables where they've just doubled the house's chance of winning by adding an extra 0. According to The Daily Telegraph, the addition of 00 to the wheels, which also retain the 0, has doubled the house's chances. If I was more into the science of odds - or knew my roulette table better (I know you've tried M) - I could tell whether the punter's chances have gone from 1 in 37 to 1 in 38, or something else entirely.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Say hello to Mini, the most recent addition to our tech family. Mini is the same brand as Moses and can be used as a conventional laptop or as a tablet PC. Exceptional. And it makes a great (novel-sized) eBook reader as well!

KD Rules

After months of waiting and excited expectation, last night finally arrived - and off we trekked to see KD Lang sing, nay - perform, at Sydney’s State Theatre. This is the first time I’ve seen her perform live – and she was simply fantastic! It’s 25 years since KD (Kathryn Dawn) hit the music scene (which would make would make the “man-child” in the band 28) and she still seems to be going strong - and enjoying what she does! But it’s amazing to see anyone with such a passion and energy for life. Many hours of listening to KD albums coming up me thinks.
But it does raise a possible opportunity as noted by offshore bloggers who actually do blogging for dollars. If you go to a concert and then blog about it - should the price of the ticket be tax-deductible?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Drop dead sexy

Rhino horns are still regarded as an aphrodisiac in some circles which is why rhino populations have been decimated in recent years. Those who are keen to experience the "benefits" or make a profit from others seeking to, will take the horns wherever they can find them. But as well as being illegal, it could also be lethal - so beware the thieves who last week stole two of the horns from a Cape Town museum. According to a spokesperson from the museum, the stolen horns were originally preserved with arsenic (a common taxidermy practice/process before the middle of last century) and regularly treated with DDT to prevent insect infestation. Anyone ingesting the powder from these horns may find they become permanently "turned off" rather than turned on.

Buying power

Have some spare cash lying around and want to make an unusual investment? If you do, and you're successful in your bid you'll get to name your purchase. And what will you call your 65 million year old triceratops skeleton? It goes under the hammer in Paris at Christie's on Wednesday and is expected to fetch around half a million euros. (To find out the value in local currency, you can do a search on Google eg "australian dollars to euros".) A similar 7.5 meter long skeleton sold in 1997 - and was named Sue.

On this day ...

You could be forgiven for thinking that Josh Hosler has too much time on his hands but it's good that he does because otherwise how would you know which Song was top of the U.S. charts on any particular day? I read about the site on David Pogue's (NY Times Technology guru) blog. It's easy to use - go in, select a month, day, and then the year. As an added bonus, when you click on a song title it will take you to the iTunes store (as long as you have the iTunes software loaded) so you can buy that tune.

Wars of the World

It's been a good while but I re-watched The War of The Worlds - the original version (1953) - yesterday. I had forgotten lots of it, including the growth of the relationship between Dr Clayton Forrester and Sylvia van Buren. It was interesting to see this relationship re-visited in the re-make of TWOTW where the actors made a cameo appearance as Tom Cruise's character's wife's parents in the final scenes of that film. Besides the very different plot details of the two offerings, another obvious point of difference was the original's lack of non-white faces/actors.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Seeds of revenge

A recent report on Snopes tells of wronged partners taking their revenge by turning the inside of their ex-lover's house into a lawn by spreading seeds over carpet, watering them in and waiting. I had thought there would be something more to it - like some vindictive message spelled out in the grass - but apparently not, which is a shame because that could be quite a nice touch (as long as the wronged party had truly been "wronged").

Evolution update

Well maybe not, but there is news of a new species of frog found in a remote area of Indonesia. What makes it different? It has no lungs and breathes through its skin. (It reminds me of the story of Buddy Ebsen who was originally selected to play the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz but was allergic to the paint; and also of the rumour that someone had died on a Bond film when they were completely covered with paint and had "suffocated". That may be one to check on Snopes.)

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Stripe (the face of Xmas) came to Manila with me. The rather bland wall in the background belongs to the hotel room, and the item on the left is a souvenir Jeepney. Jeepneys were jeeps left behind by the US after the second world war; and they (not the original ones) are now used for transport, cartage, and tourism. They are not usually as small as the one shown here.

Mouse work

Have you ever wished your computer mouse could do something else ... well this isn't the computer mouse but it is a computer mouse. You plug it in to a working USB port on your computer and the faster you type, the faster it will pedal. Hours of fun.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Fish dish

The workshop team went to dinner at Abe last night - a restaurant which serves Filipino fare. The cameras all came out when this fish dish did. The sides were filleted but left attached to the fish for cooking (deep fried?) and presentation. Thed dish made from pig's cheek, though not as photogenic, wasn't bad either!

Monday, April 07, 2008


I was just a little taken aback last night when arriving at the hotel to find we were stopped by security before we drove on to the forecourt and the underneath of the vehicle was checked with a mirror "for security" and the K~9 patrol did a check of the exterior of the vehicle. Once past the boom gate, my luggage was also checked by a K-9 and I needed to go through a metal detector to access the lobby. Welcome to Manila. I had seen the travel advisories about the Philippines but had not considered the would be practical, everyday ramifications. Or that most public buildings would also have a quite visible security presence.


I had my first taste of the Philippines tonight as I caught a hotel transfer from the airport to my lodgings for the week. I have never seen so many people on the one motor bike – unless you count the sheep on Wallace’s motorcycle in “A Close Shave” – but they weren’t actually people. I saw up to 7 (it was a little hard to tell in the dark) on the one machine – thanks to some amazing engineering which results in quite a large frame around the bike chassis which then provides generous seating for passengers. I will be trying to capture this in photos over the next couple of days, as well as the buses I saw tonight. But I have to admit that the thought of riding the buses palled a little when I saw some of the passengers covering their noses and mouths with handkerchiefs – and they were very serious about it!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Revenge on the machines

Wired is asking for submissions for "Destroy your most hated gadget, take pictures" to give people the chance to vent their frustrations on gadgets that have "done them wrong". I personally can't imagine doing this but I'm sure some people would find it therapeutic and useful. It just reminds me of a question I have asked several colleagues: if you were angry enough to actually throw your computer out the window, would you unplug it first? (Thinking now ... how would I do it ... drowning, sledgehammer, dropping off a tall building, drill, chainsaw ...hmmm just as well I don't have any gadgets to spare! Which is not to say that I haven't had some problems over the past with my various Palms #$%^@)
The best 10 pics to Wired - they must be your own photo - will win pride of place in a gallery on the wired.com home page (which today features "How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse" amongst it's more serious offerings). So get to it - and as the Wired folk say "Just keep your activities within the realms of safety and good sense." And have fun!!

Hear here

A mild ear infection (and probably a little stress) has left me with only partial hearing out of my right ear. I did the right thing straight away - since I'll be flying to Manila on Sunday - and saw the doctor early this week. She prescribed some antibiotics but they aren't working nearly fast enough. Someone was talking to me yesterday and I didn't hear what they said, and asked them to repeat: "What are you ... deaf?" was the (uncalled for) reply. Well, as a matter of fact ...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Vale Dad

After a long illness (and beating the survival stats for inoperable anaplastic astrocytoma) my Dad died peacefully in the early morning of Saturday 22 March. We sent him on his way on Friday. If he'd been there (in more than spirit) I believe he would have enjoyed the send-off. He liked a good party.