Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On the road

In Dubbo tonight and planning to go to the Western Plains Zoo tomorrow. We will then make our way to Coonabarabran, following the Virtual Solar System Drive. We found Pluto today - on a billboard outside the Dubbo Tourist Information Centre. They seem not to have taken to heart that Pluto was stripped of it's Planet status some time ago. Even so I was stunned at how small the scale-model of Pluto was (pic to follow when normal nternet service is resumed ... Tell me again why I didn't get an iPhone with Optus or Telstra?) It was overcast tonight so we put off a planned visit to the observatory but as we came out from dinner we noticed that part of the sky had cleared and the Southern Cross hung large in the sky. It was a bit bright to be able to see it clearly - certainly not the clear skies and clarity from Ben and Meredith's vineyard outside of Orange - for the first time I saw the milk of the Milky Way and it truly was an experience to leave one feeling insignificant and in awe of the Universe.
Update: Added pic of Pluto - the small bump mid-way down the billboard and aboiut a qyarter way in from the left.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Coffee on the go

Looking for the perfect gift for that special someone? How about an In-Car Microwave Oven that can be powered via the cigarette lighter socket. We won’t have time to order one before tomorrow's road trip - but if you want to, their site is here - and it's on sale for only £79.97 until 2 September (plus freight from the UK). It will help if you're off on a slow trip - if you want to heat a cup of coffee in the in-car microwave oven, it will take about 6 minutes. Or, if you want a hot cup of coffee on the road - maybe you should just call by the supermarket and pick up some Perketts. It's a range of coffees, packed in "a revolutionary self-heating container for anytime, anywhere indulgence". Mmmm … Perketts (now if only I could find it.)

More on cameras

For those living in earthquake-prone locales, there's good news with the invention of the Active Scope Camera. It was conceived by researchers at Japan's Tohoku University and even though it looks a bit like a camera, it's a fiber-optic camera wrapped in a layer of tiny cilia bristles. It's 8 metres long and can move through rubble and very tiny spaces in search of trapped folk. The more people who know about it the better according to Gizmodo - especially if you ever find yourself trapped in the dark, in a small space … and feel something starting to crawl up your leg …

Cameras away

Tech site Gizmodo recently reported on statistics from a UK insurance group on how customers break their cameras:

  • 16% said it was their children or dogs
  • 3% ran over their camera with a car
  • 75% dropped their cameras onto a "hard surface", into water, or by falling onto it and using it to cushion their fall.

While this doesn't add up to 100% - have you ever noticed how surveys often don't - I can believe that dropping was the most common cause of camera death - because that was what happened to 7 The Ricoh - who I dropped to the slate floor in a bungalow in South Africa. Of course, I wasn't one of of those that "fell over" when taking shots, "often into water."

Back to basics

A report in the British Medical Journal suggests that people who suffer from chronic back pain can find relief through the Alexander technique which encourages the user to adopt good (better?) posture. The study, which followed over 400 back pain sufferers over a year, reported the following "treatments" and pain/days per month (pdm): GP care - including regular consultations, pain killer and exercise regimes - 21 pdm; massages - 14 pdm; Alexander (6 lessons)- 11 pdm; Alexander (24 lessons) 3 pdm. As reported by the BBC: Lead researcher Professor Debbie Sharp said using the Alexander technique should provide help to most people with back pain. She added: "Lessons in the Alexander technique offer an individualised approach to develop skills that help people recognise, understand, and avoid poor habits affecting postural tone and neuromuscular coordination. It can potentially reduce back pain by limiting muscle spasm, strengthening postural muscles, improving coordination and flexibility, and decompressing the spine."

It may not be as successful for everyone of course. Or you may wish to resort to technology (don't say you didn't know that was coming!) to alleviate bad postural back pain. The iPosture - a wearable intelligent nano-sensor - is a 1-inch; (2.54cm) button which the makers suggest you can wear as a pendant, stuck to you, or attached to your clothes. It automatically senses when the body slouches and starts vibrating to alert you to correct your posture. The iPosture's site suggests the following reasons why we should all invest in it when it comes on the market (soon) - for $US99.95:

  • Women with improved posture become more attractive.
  • Men with good posture are seen as more successful.
  • Waist size is reduced an average of 2 inches in women who improve their posture
  • People with good posture are more productive.

Surprisingly, you have to dig a little deeper into their site for the suggested health benefits:

  • People with good posture are generally happier and more confident
  • Women with good posture are less prone to osteoporosis fractures
  • Men with good posture are twice as likely to keep their balance and function as they age
  • Posture correction and exercises can be more effective than other medical modalities for the prevention and treatment of back pain .

Monday, August 18, 2008

Parting ways

Friday was my last day with the company I've been with for the last 4.5 years and I have moved in to my MOJO* stage as I try to work out what it is I want to do next - and where.
But for just for a moment I wanted to reflect on my farewell. I have never been one for being in the limelight (long story which we won't go into here) so I was tempted to decline the offer of a farewell function but relented because I did want to celebrate my time with the company. It was agreed we could be a small gathering so that's how eight of us (5 employees, 3 partners) came to be in a very nice restaurant overlooking Sydney Harbour on Thursday evening. The food and atmosphere were superb. But the highlight of the evening was definitely the effort Darien (my immediate supervisor) and American colleagues had put in to the event. Darien had emailed overseas colleagues with whom I've worked asking if they wanted to share any farewell messages at the dinner. They did - and it was truly heartwarming to be so fondly thought of by the people with whom I've worked. It was also pleasing to my partner to understand that these people had seen and appreciated the qualities that she sees in me including my attention to detail, inquisitiveness, enthusiasm and sense of humour. They had also been kind enough to present her with a basket of flowers in acknowledgement of the impact my travelling and out-of-hours work had had on her. Very nice and much appreciated. And then it was time for the surprise - the global team leads for the project I've been working on for the last 18 months had organised framing of some group pics from our team meetings and to have the team sign them. The package arrived from the US in time for my farewell.
As I said in an email to colleagues on Friday, I have learnt a lot about business, people and life during my time with the company and will cherish those memories and learnings - and this is the bit I didn't add - that I will miss working with them. It has been, quite simply, a wonderful ride with a great bunch of folk.

*Mit Out Job Okay - but not without things to do! (This is a reference to the old days of film where they would say MOS when they were filming "with out sound" - or "mit out sound" as non-English film folk would say)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pic of the bunch

We visited Taronga Zoo yesterday, and I've posted a "few" of the photos on the travel pics site.

I took some of the pics with my new Panasonic DMC-TZ15 (purchased on Friday) which features 9.1 Megapixels, 3-inch screen, 10 x Optical zoom, and wide-angle lens. It also has something called "Quick Menu" which allows you to navigate (computer menu style) through a range of options including white balance, image size and others, based on which mode the camera is in. The only thing it doesn't have is a viewfinder - but this isn't an issue. Even in bright sunlight yesterday, I could still see the screen thanks to the various settings (one is even automatic) for adjusting the on-screen contrast. It also has a setting which allows you to see the image when you're holding the camera at arm's length in the air! Did I also mention that it's small enough to fit in your pocket and that it does HD video recording (although I haven't tried that yet - and a quick look at some review sites suggests the sound could be better - but hey, this is pictures)! I am going to have lots of fun playing with this over the coming months - especially since we have Western Plains Zoo in our sights in coming weeks.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Elvis lives

Just in time for this Saturday's anniversary of Elvis' death, diehard fans and collectors can now vie for Elvis and Priscilla - the wedding dolls. Asking price for the dolls, part of Mattel's Barbie range, according to The Daily Telegraph, is $75. The couple are wearing facsimile's of their 1967 wedding gear, and look quite like themselves.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time and money

It's funny how you think of things sometimes after the opportunity to put them into practice has passed. I dropped the car over to the mechanic this morning and took a taxi home since it's too far to walk and there's no direct bus route. What I hadn't considered is that there are two bus routes that almost meet that I could have used instead - but they would have taken at least half an hour longer - connections permitting. Which led to the time and money equation - although this is just one way of looking at it. If you have more time to get from A to B, then you can do it more cheaply than if you need to B in a hurry.


"Everybody needs to steal something from someone they love" said one of the characters on Dead Like Me, an interesting series I stumbled upon a week ago. It tells the story of a young girl who is killed by a toilet seat falling from space and finds herself in an "undead" condition, She has all her memories but none of her looks - in that she doesn't look like she did while she waa alive - so she will not be recognized by people who knew her. Her new role in life - and she appears to have no choice in this - is as a Grim Reaper but not THE Gtim Reaper. She and others like her release people's souls as their physical bodies meet their demise, The program is full of quirk as the Reapers themselves deal with being undead and with the greater questions of death and life. Even though I'm only the pilot and 5 episodes in, I'm glad I picked up the second series on DVD too.
But back to the quote with which I started this post: it seemed to be suggesting that we should all have something with which to remember people by - especially those we care about. The "stealing" reference I'm not quite so sure about. It makes the idea seem just that little bit creepy (but maybe that's just me).

Saturday, August 02, 2008

At risk

According to research presented at the 2008 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Chicago, becoming single in midlife through death or divorce dramatically increases risk for dementia in older years. As reported in The New York Times*: ... "people who were living with a spouse or a partner in midlife ran a 50 percent lower risk of developing dementia during their older years than people living alone ... Living alone for your entire adult life doubled risk, but those who had been married and then divorced and remained single in midlife showed three times the risk. Those at greatest risk of developing dementia were people who had lost their partner before middle age and then continued to live as a widow or widower. The study showed that these individuals had a six times greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s than those who were married."
This may mean that the old saying may need to be modified; you know the one: 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

* Well worth a look for the readers' comments. (I wonder if this says something about the NYT readership?)

Making a difference

As I stood in line to order my coffee today (alas not at Starbucks which has closed or announced the closure of most of its Australian stores this week) a young woman came in to the cafe carrying a large box. She introduced herself as she opened the box to the baristas. In it were chocolate-covered strawberries which she and other friends were selling to raise money to help their 37-year old friend, a single mother with two small children, who had been diagnosed with cancer. The baristas bought some and I gave a donation - and marvelled at the depth of people's caring and their capacity for putting that caring into action. And I found myself wondering about taking up some volunteer work so I, too, could "give something back'".