Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween treats

Some people will do anything to get something for nothing - so here's your chance if you're that way inclined. Krispy Kreme here in Australia is offering a free SPECIAL HALLOWEEN doughnut to people fronting their stores in Halloween costume on Friday (31/10). Just because we're not in the US doesn't mean we can't celebrate this particular festivity with our American friends. Trick or treat anyone?

Driving me crazy

I noticed this while we were driving north (and south) on holidays recently, and I had completely forgotten about it until I read this letter in the paper today:

[What irks me] People who drive 10km/h below the limit on a single-lane road but when it turns into two lanes they speed up to 10km/h over the limit, meaning you overtake them doing 130km/h just in time for the police to book you. Steve, Coffs Harbour. hottopic; The Daily Telegraph.

I don't know why it is ... but it certainly does happen - except we don't speed to overtake them. As long as it's not raining, I set the cruise control for the speed limit and will Lars (the car) to "take them". Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.

Lack of clarity

A report in today's The Daily Telegraph tells of a car accident in Victoria where, with a learner driver at the wheel, a two-door vehicle hit a pole but none of the eight people in the vehicle were killed. Rescue workers at the scene branded the act of cramming that many people into the vehicle "sheer stupidity", but the Victorian Police Commissioner is reported as saying "the six men and two women were not breaking the law as long as all the seat belts were being used". It may be that the laws differ between Australian States, but I thought that here in NSW each person in the vehicle had to be wear a seatbelt - therefore only as many people can be in the vehicle as there are operating seatbelts - as opposed to it's okay for some people in the vehicle not to be wearing seatbelts as long as all the available seatbelts are being used by someone. Having been involved in a couple of vehicle accidents (thankfully none serious), my preference is definitely for seatbelts - and certainly having anyone unrestrained in a vehicle in a crash becomes a hazard to everyone else, never mind what damage they might do to themselves. I have just finished reading "Rant" by Chuck Palahniuk and one of the key characters is in a vehicle accident with her mother and father. She is lying on the seat at the back at the time, not wearing a seatbelt, and it is her body, as it is thrown forward to hit her parents, that causes the injuries that lead to their deaths.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Life imitating …

In Taree, NSW, last Monday, as we sat having breakfast on a small balcony overlooking a park and then the river, I noticed a young man pushing his way - and his bicycle - through the shrubbery towards us. S was deep in newspaper so I pointed it out to her: "Look, there's a man in the bushes." Quick as a flash, the man said "Russell" (or Rustle) - and then proceeded to secure his bike to the balcony support. "That's not your real name" I said. "No" he smiled, and went on his way.

Space smells

According to a recent report, Space (as in Outer) smells like fried steak, hot metal and welding a motorbike. But how do they know - since chances are no astronaut is likely to whip off their helmet on a space walk and take a great big whiff? No non-human noseometer either probably. No - just the good ol' fashioned sniff test of the spacesuit once astronauts are back on board. I suppose it could be enough to make you scream - although would anyone hear you - if you were a vegetarian. But has the smell of space changed over the years as more stuff gets s(c)ent up there, and if there is no oxygen and/or wind do smells, once generated, stay in the same "spot" in geo-synchronous orbit with Earth? And were they male or female astronauts reporting the smell of space - and could gender affect the olfactory result? And will mere (as in not-cashed-up) mortals ever know? I ask because word from the latest space joyrider (? Charles Simonyi) is that people with the big bucks and the passion will still pay to go to space - whatever the price. If so - no doubt they will be able to smell for themselves!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Experimental findings

If you’re over 39 – and of the male persuasion - you might want to stop reading this now because what follows may be unsettling: new research from the University of California suggests that “at age 39 our brain reaches its peak speed, and it’s all downhill after that”. As reported on SlashDot: "The loss of a fatty skin that coats the nerve cells, called neurons, during middle age causes the slowdown, experts say. The coating acts as insulation, similar to the plastic covering on an electrical cable, and allows for fast bursts of signals around the body and brain. When the sheath deteriorates, signals passing along the neurons in the brain slow down. This means reaction times in the body are slower too." ‘The full findings are detailed in the online version of the journal Neurobiology of Aging – including the framework of the experiment: Scientists asked 72 men, ranging in age from 23 to 80, to tap their index fingers as fast as they could for 10 seconds. The researchers also did brain scans to measure in each subject the amount of myelin (the aforementioned fatty sheath). Both the tapping speed and the amount of myelin was found to decline "with an accelerating trajectory" after age 39. So this raises a few questions: Excluding morse operators, is there a section of the community that is more practiced in “tapping” eg perhaps because of work with calculators, texting, computers or computer gaming? Is there a similar difference in age performance in females - and why were females not included in the experiment? Is there a difference between males and females in “brain speed” … and development? Is there a cultural difference – or perhaps a cultural bias (as with IQ tests)? Is 72 really a large enough sample with which to aver that “brain speed declines at 39”? Study leader George Bartzokis, professor of psychiatry at UCLA, called the results "pretty striking" and said: "That may well be why, besides achy joints and arthritis, even the fittest athletes retire and all older people move slower than they did when they were younger." Others (including moi) might say: more work needed.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kindle up some interest

I tell you, this is music to my ears ... the news that Oprah (as in Winfrey) has announced her latest "new favorite thing "is the Amazon Kindle - wich is an ebook reader (as well as having some other features). So why am I excited even though I'm not going to take advantage of the code which would give me a $US50 discount on the device (although perhaps I should be given today's deep dive of the Australian dollar)? It's a small matter of content. If Oprah's endorsement of the Kindle works as well as her BookClub endorsements - and it seems that there is a perfect companionship here - there will be a burgeoning market for electronic books - and if there's a market there's also the very real possibility that more books will find their way into digital as well as conventional print - and then the rest of us who are already reading our Kindles, iPod Touches, Palms and Pocket PCs will have an even greater choice of material. Yes, yes, I know it's too much to ask to have a price drop on digital works as well - but you can't blame me for dreaming (and doing the happy dance)!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Library news

It's been a while since I went to the Library - at least 4 years because when we moved here I meant to join the Library but never did get around to it - but I was forced there earlier this month when a book M recommended could not be purchased in eBook format. And it sounded just quirky enough that I did want to read it (Men who stare at goats by Jon Ronson), so after an online check to confirm the local book repository had it, I fronted there the next day to join and take out said tome. My, how borrowing a book has changed over the years. It's now all done electronically - scan your membership card and then (s)wipe your item (book, CD or DVD) over the reader mat - then a piece of paper prints out with the name of the item/s and the due date. If the due date rolls around and you want to extend, you can do that online without having to visit the library. And you can have 30 items out at a time! But the innovation doesn't stop there. Used to be back in the olden days, all manner of non-Library rubbish including syringes and other nasties, would find their way into return chutes. Now, the chutes are locked - and you gain access by scanning the barcode on your library card or the item - which is a much safer option. Yes, it's good at the local Library and with this penchant for innovation, I'm hopeful they have an eBook program somewhere on their horizon!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fire wall or stone walling

I'm not sure how much of what is on the internet is true ... but I read a piece recently which would be very disturbing if it were true. I came across it on the Gizmodo site, which referred to an item on the Boing Boing site, which suggested the Australian Government is putting a web censorship program in place which is designed to restrict teenagers access to p0rn sites but could have wider ramifications. The system is an "opt-out"one - so everyone's usage will automatically be censored. According to the Boing Boing item, if you do opt out, you will be placed on an alternative blacklist which instead of blocking "content innappropriate for children", will block any material deemed to be illegal. But what is illegal content - and who decides? Would it be social, cultural. other eg euthanasia, drugs or political dissent? The interesting part of this is that I picked the story up off an off-shore site but haven't seen anything about it in the local (Australian) press. Might be time to do some digging and, as the Boing Boing item suggested, have a word with the local MP to voice some opposition against this. (And to think we had believed we were free of Big Brother - when the news was released earlier this year that the series was not planned to return to Australian shores. Seems the other Big Brother could be infinitely worse.)

Gadget guy

The writers at Gizmodo are often very tongue-in-cheek - sometimes more so than others. In a recent story they told about a young man, Scott Boe, who broke into a house to charge his cell/mobile phone suggesting a "serious dependency" on gadgets. Of course, it could be that Mr Boe was just breaking into the house - as might have been evidenced by the backpack pokice found at the scene with him which included several knives, a large pry tool and other suspicious devices. Gizmodo suggested the excuse that may have been offered by Mr Boe ... "that stuff isn't mine" might have been as lame an excuse as the urgent need for charging his phone. (Hmmm, I wonder how many people - besides me - actually carry their phone charger with them? Yes, yes, I know ... "serious dependency".)

Water into wine

We've all heard stories about water being turned into wine - those with a Christian upbringing anyway - but it recently happened (again?) in Italy where wine gushed through taps into homes during a grape festival. Alas, it wasn't a miracle, but a plumbing error. An integral part of the Marino's wine festival is where sparkling white wine flows from the fountains from the main square. This year, a technical error meant the wine was directed not to the fountain but to domestic plumbing - and in the couple of minutes before the error was discovered and rectified, where there was water was now ... wine. According to the BBC report I read, the grape festival, Sagra dell'Uva, is one of the oldest in Italy, and commemorates the return of Admiral Marcantonio Colonna to his home in Marino after his victory over the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in October 1571. The town sent more than 250 sailors to the battle. The sagra is celebrated on the first Sunday of October to give thanks for their safe return. No doubt the local householders who received the unexpected wine, together with a bar on the town square, gave thanks as well.

There's no snow ...

I remember hearing that Eskimos have 32 different words for snow. You can go to this BBC News report for more on those words but here are a couple to help pique your curiosity, as the BBC said:'Kannevvluk' is no problem but avoid 'mingqutnguaq'.

Calibration or something more sinister?

Anyone with a touchscreen device - and there are more of us all the time - know that they are not infallible and that sometimes where you touch the screen isn't always properly recorded by the device. So, it may not be the world's smartest idea to have touchscreen voting machines in situ for the US election - especially as, according to a report in Gizmodo, early voters in West Virginia have complained that when they have tried to vote for Barack Obama, the touchscreen voting machine has recorded their vote as one for John McCain. Hopefully, this is no more sinister than a case of bad calibration - easily fixed if you know how - because we would expect only fair play from the nation which goes out of its way to protect the idea and ideals of democracy. Still, if any of our US friends do find themselvces on a touchscreen voting device, it's probably best to check how your vote was recorded before you leave the booth. (Will we Australians, in our lifetime, be able to vote electronically - either at a defined voting station or over the web - or, perhaps, if not electronically, by using pens - rather than pencils - on our ballot papers?)

Friday, October 24, 2008

TXT your love

You can get many services via mobile/cell phone these days - even relationship help. I recently saw an TV ad for a service where you can assess how strong your relationship is and whether you and your partner should stay together by sending a TXT. I can't recall whether you needed to provide any personal details to help the service "decide". I guess if you were in a relationship with someone who wanted to check how the relationship was progressing by doing this, if they came back with a "break up" it could be doing you a GR8 big favour.

Horror story

Four years ago and just after midnight - Maureen Wyer was harassed by undertaker Adam Lee as he followed her through two suburbs - in his hearse. He was sounding his horn, "ranting and raving", driving into her path, forcing her on to the median strip and banging on her car door. She was fearful for her life and he only stopped when she flagged down two police officers. Now, that time frame again - four years ago ... December 2004. In court yesterday, Mr Lee was placed on an 18-month good behavior bond and ordered to seek treatment for the depression which allegedly contributed to the incident, as, supposedly did alcohol. The woman was unknown to the man - which was partly accountable for the light sentence according to a TV news reports I saw. Understandably she wants to put the episode behind her - and now, four years later, and with justice "done", she may be able to do so. But why does it take four years for a case like this to make the courts, and how much more severe would the sentence have been if he was doing it to a known person rather than just some random person. And is it possible that the court-ordered treatment for his condition could have benefited him, and the community, way back when the harassment happened? Hmmm.
Update: Ms Wyer has branded the sentence "an insult" according to today's The Daily Telegraph. It also added that the incident had left her so traumatised she had been unable to drive for six weeks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Flight risk

A report on SlashDot tells of a US TSA employee who has been discovered selling goods worth approximately US$200K on the internet. For those who haven't travelled by air in the US, the TSA is part of Homeland Security, and is responsible for doing security checks on goods/luggage travelling by plane. The options when securing your luggage for air travel there are to: not lock your bags; lock your bags with a TSA-approved lock which TSA personnel can open; or lock your bags with a non-TSA-approved lock which the TSA will bust to check your luggage. That's the official checks anyway - which it appears were not how the TSA employee ended up with the goods found when his home was searched, which included: 66 cameras, 31 laptop computers, 20 cell phones, 17 sets of electronic games, 13 pieces of jewelry, 12 GPS devices, 11 MP3 players, eight camera lenses, six video cameras and two DVD players.
The report did not mention the total value of goods purloined by the employee nor what the most amazing piece of stolen luggage was, nor how long the scam had been going on, nor what safeguards would be put in place to prevent a recurrence.

The stuff of dreams

A recent study out of Scotland's Dundee University looks at whether the way we dream - in colour or in black and white - is affected by the television we watched in our younger years. Unfortunately the study only used a small sample size, so this may need to be re-visited but it seems that people (now over 55s) born before television, dream in colour; those who were children (now under 55s) when black and white television was most common, dream in black and white; and children (now under 25s) born when colour televisions were commonplace, dream in colour. What an interesting concept - especially if there is an st/age where children are more malleable than others: eg is there a golden teaching period?
And on the subject of dreams, the BBC reports on a study from the University of the West of England which suggests that women are 'more prone to nightmares'. The 170 subjects in the study recorded their dreams - and 19% of men and 30% of women reported a. nightmare. There was reportedly no difference in the number of dreams recorded by members of each sex - although there was some evidence that women had more "emotional" dreams.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whale watch

The whales continue to make their way along the coast and when we're in the unit, we keep an eye out - way out. The two whales shown here - one fin, one part of indeterminate origin - are captured with a 12x optical zoom - so they are a long way away. It is still a huge thrill to see the splash and then watch for them to surface again. So why do whales breach? Is it courtship behaviour, play activity or barnacle removal? Experts seem divided on the reasons, but it's good that whales do breach otherwise it would be nigh impossible to spot them.


How do we remember things? And how is it possible that 30-something years later, key shorthand (Pitman) strokes are still "in there" - and able to pulled out enough to be able to take down shorthand at slow talking speed. We were commenting on this as it was happening - and S commented that this - writing shorthand - was another skill I could include on my resume - "but" I protested "I can't read it back" - "doesn't matter" she replied "you're only saying you can write it". Hmmm.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


At Burleigh Heads Beach on the Gold Coast, at Monday mornings at 8:30am, the Council provides free Tai Chi lessons. The only thing better would be if they then provided Chai Tea.

The times they are a-changing

... apologies to Bob Dylan. After being immortalised in an episode of "The Simpsons" the legendary letter-returning skills of former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr are coming to an end. Although it took many many years for Marge Simpson to receive a reply from Ringo , current-day (real) fans may never receive one following the release of an online message from Mr Starr saying he is too busy to sign or read fan mail. Would be interesting to know if fan mail has increased or decreased with the general uptake of the internet.

Sydney Ferris

Whisper on the street is that a temporary Ferris wheel may soon be erected near Sydney's Circular Quay. If the proposal gets the go-ahead from the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, the wheel could be (a)round from later this year to January next year. The (generic) Ferris wheel is named after American engineer George Washington Gale Ferris who "designed such a wheel for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893." The SlovoEd dictionary for Palm goes on to say that a Ferris wheel is "an amusement device consisting of a large power-driven wheel made in two parallel sections having seats suspended between the sections; the seats maintaining a horizontal position while the wheel rotates in a vertical plane".
The Sydney version is planned to be 45 metres tall, and have 36 six-seat air-conditioned gondolas.


Checking the news online this morning, I clicked on one of the ten most popular stories links at and saw a story about Coke and the Australian Dental Association's concern about a full page ad the (among other things) drink company is using. The advertisement on the same "page" as the story was for Colgate (see screen grab); it will be interesting to see if the same juxtaposition happens in the hard-copy newspaper.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Whale of a time

I have spent some time this afternoon (after a post-lunch siesta) looking far out to sea looking for some sign of whales as they migrate north to their breeding grounds. Container ships ... check. Helicopters ... check. Small planes ... check. White caps aka white horses ... check. Whales ... nada. Until about 4pm when I noticed a largish splash a distance out. Then nothing. Half an hour later - another one. But by the time the binoculars were out and focused on roughly the right patch of ocean, no sign. S jokingly accused me of perpetrating some odd form of torture, as I called her each time to witness the whales. And then, there it was - two splashes at the same time that we both saw. I was lucky enough to see whales and fins ... And found myself wishing for stronger binoculars, better eyes, and perhaps an industrial-strength telescope - or even a boat. The whales were incredibly difficult to track across the ocean but from time to time I'd see the splash again - or a large puff of spray from a blowhole. Heaven. (At this point I will mention that the actual whale sighting came AFTER I had employed a trick from "Finding Nemo", one I had tried often but unsuccessfully as I sat on my balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean when I was in Cape Town last November. It is, of course, "speaking in whale". Thanks Dory. It works.)

Getting a grip

Why is an octopus called an octopus if it has ten-tacles? Yes, now I know that it has to do with "tentacles" - as derived from the Latin tentaculum which means to feel/probe. But what is the difference between a tentacle and an arm ... especially if octopuses, squid and cuttlefish all have 8 - but cuttlefish and squid have 2 extra but different "tentacles". According to Dr James Wood: tentacles are longer then arms and they usually only have suckers at their tips.

Lights in the sky

From our 16th floor holiday unit on the Gold Coast, we are able to watch the planes swing around to line up to land at the Coolangatta airport. Last night, as I lay in bed, watching yet another set of lights in the starry night, I realised that this one didn't seem to be moving. Sure enough, over the course of the next (more than) twenty minutes, it continued to "hover" there. I tried to have a look through binoculars but the best I could make out was three lights - red, green and white. I couldn't tell how far away, or what, it was but it may be that I will check the local paper to see if there were any reports of UFOs in the night sky. If not, then I'm going with that it was a helicopter - although I had heard that most helicopter pilots would avoid prolonged hovering because it is dangerous.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A question of ethics ...

or courting sympathy? Is it appropriate for children to be allowed in court? Reports of a NSW rugby player's appearance in court yesterday to try to regain access to the girlfriend he allegedly injured in a domestic violence incidence, was accompanied by a picture of the man (mid-20s) holding his (much) younger brother's hand. At first I thought it might have been a bid to show what a "good guy" he is, but reading of another source's reports that he was supported in court "by his mother, sister, uncle and two little brothers" suggests otherwise. But, and here is the question of ethics - or is it morals - is it appropriate to have young children in court? Would it be different if it were a violent crime or, say, possession of drugs? And, have there been any studies done on whether an accused supported by family including children, fares better in the justice system than those without (lawyers notwithstanding)?

On the street where you live ...

Teacher Julie McIlroy and electrician Allan Donnelly are planning to wed after they met on an internet dating site. Nothing too strange about that for the couple, who have both been based in the same street in Cardiff, Wales, for the last 17 years but had never met. Is this a case of them previously looking for love in all the wrong places? Or, when Julie began emailing Allan after seeing his photo on the net, did she do so because he seemed "familiar"? It is heartening though - to know that they do not have the "geographically-difficult" dimension that sometimes precludes internet daters from meeting although, as has been often showed, where there's a will, there's a way.

Get the message

Australian television station Channel 10 has been found guilty of using subliminal advertising during last year's ARIA awards. Despite the station's denials, the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that logos for KFC, Chuppa Chps, Bigpond and others were flashed on screen while the nominees for the awards were read out. Most people who "saw" the flashes would not have consciously registered or realised what they were seeing - such is the shortness of the "flash". So, is this a common practice amongst television stations here and abroad? Possibly not ... especially as the ad breaks just seem to be getting longer and filled with more ads. But it does make you wonder about the products that would be best advertising (or not) via subliminal advertising. Is it just the ARIA demographic or do major ticket items eg cars, international travel not translate effectively to subliminal advertising? Or did some companies, if indeed they were offered the opportunity, not agree to have their products so advertised? And what other uses could sublimal messaging serve? Wikipedia's entry on subliminal messages includes: In 1978, Wichita, Kansas TV station KAKE-TV received special permission from the police to place a subliminal message in a report on the BTK Killer (Bind, Torture, Kill) in an effort to get him to turn himself in. The subliminal message included the text "Now call the chief," as well as a pair of glasses. The glasses were thought to be of significance to the killer because when BTK murdered Nancy Fox, there was a pair of glasses lying upside down on her dresser. So, police felt that the glasses would stir up some remorse emotion and included them in the subliminal message. The attempt was unsuccessful, and police reported no increased volume of calls afterward.

Safety feature

As if the possibility of making a (possibly) life-changing phone call while under the influence of alcohol wasn't bad enough, with the increasing availability of email on people's phones, there's now the chance that a more enduring and no less embarrassing message may be released into the wild. But fear not, Google is on top of it. It's just released a new setting for its Gmail accounts (yes, they probably need to be set before drinking commences) where the user will need to correctly answer some simple mathematics questions before they can send email. Sounds reasonable. Now if only there was something like that for mobile phones!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


What do the Vatican and the US Army have in common? Both are making efforts to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels. Wired reports that the Army is planning to build what could be the world's most powerful solar power plant. Elsewhere, Gizmodo reports that the Vatican has just installed the first panels of its intended 2,400-strong solar panel roof project. If all goes to plan, this could see the Vatican as the first carbon-neutral body in the world - and striking a very real blow against what they have called "the sin" of poilution.

Right place

Luck, or was it fate, was on the side of a 6-year-old boy found drowning in a pool at a resort in northern NSW. Alerted by screams from his mother, other guests at the resort rushed to help including a paediatrician, an intensive care paramedic, a doctor and a paediatric nurse. The boy was being treated in hospital last night for water in his lungs.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Counting on this

On this day ... In 1571 "A Turkish fleet is destroyed by Christina forces commanded by Don John of Austria at the Battle of Lepanto. About 30,000 men die." So how long have people been counting for - and why did they start? According to Wikipedia, there is "archeological evidence suggesting that humans have been counting for at least 50,000 years ... and that it was used primarily to track economic data such as debts and capital". So, then, why did different types of counting groupings come about, take as an example Metric (10's) and Imperial (12's) - could this have been due to regional differences or the physical means used to track the counting of numbers eg fingers vs ... something else. And at what point were "bigger" numbers needed eg millions, billions, trillions ... and is there any time correlation between this and the need to break time into ever smaller increments - ie once upon a ... time, the smallest time measurement might have been a day - because there was no reliable way of measuring anythi ng smaller. Was there an economic imperative with the creation of time measurement as well - eg people needed to know how long a labour period was and how to measure it efectively? Strange then, too, that the traditional gift for long service with a company was (and still may be) a gold watch.

Experience the difference

When is a movie not a movie? When you're charged $3 extra for the ticket because it's "an experience" - or that's what I was told on Sunday afternoon when buying a ticket for "Journey To The Centre of The Earth 3D". I suspect the additonal $3 was to cover the extra costs associated with the 3D glasses. I've just checked an ad to see if the higher price was included - and it is covered thus: * SPECIAL EVENT CONDITIONS APPLY; and, in another ad: NO DISCOUNT TICKETS. 3D PRICES ONLY. That will teach me to check session times electronically rather than in the press - and to be ready for anything at the cinema. Especially the middle-aged gentlemen who lost his mobile phone and in an effort to find it, I rang his number so we could hear it ring - or at least light up if he had put it on silent. It worked ... and off he went muttering that his mother would have had "his g*ts for garters" if he'd lost it. Hmm - this could explain why, as we were leaving the complex, my phone rang and, as I was driving, S answered it. The person on the other end wanted to know why I had rung them. D'Oh.

Crocodile fears

Following the disappearance of a man beside a crocodile-infested river in Far North Queensland last week, local authorities have been trapping crocodiles in the area and will be testing them to check for human remains. So far three have been captured. At first I was concerned that the crocodiles were going to be killed so the tests could be conducted, but no, apparently they are to be x-rayed. The first crocodile to be tested has returned a negative result but will not be returned to the stretch of the river from which he was taken; instead, word is that Charlie will be put out to stud (at a crocodile farm). It is unclear what will happen if one of the crocs returns a positive result. Or how authorities will manage the co-existence of humans and crocodiles in the area in the future.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Birthplace oif an idea?

I have included a screenshot here of what I fancifully believe could have been the birthplace of the Palm PDA. It's from the final episode of Series 3 of The X Files dating back to 1995. Wouldn't it be amazing if this had been Jeff Hawkins's inspiration for a palm-sized personal computing device? There had long been non-electronic versions of palm-sized writing pads/cardholders available - especially the leather versions through quality stationers. But, to my mind anyway, the Palm was a huge leap forward. (It does make me wonder how ideas are born - and whether life us better for people who are more observant - or who have two right hands.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Best case scenario

The origin of words and sayings can be interesting and thought-provoking. Take, as an example, "best case scenario". Did this have a meaning before the advent of "Deal or No Deal", the television program where a contestant has to choose a single case from many - each of which contains a $ amount from 50 cents to $200,000 (Australian version). They then have to open the other cases - and depending on which amounts are revealed, they are made an offer for their case. As an offer is made they have two options - "deal" or "no deal". The object of the game is to end up with a sizeable amount of money - either by making it to the end with your case being the one to contain big dollars, or to make the "deal" along the way - to sell your case, with whatever it has, for the offer. It was in yesterday's program that the presenter, outlining the possible options to the contestant with $2,000, $5,000 and $50,000 still in play, used the phrase "the best case scenario". So where does "best case scenario" come from? Did it ever refer to physical cases (aka ports, bags, suitcases) or does it relate to case as in "proceeding in a court of law" or "a problem requiring investigation" ... or something else entirely? According to the SlovoEd (Palm version) dictionary it's: being, relating to, or based on a projection of future events that assumes only the best possible circumstances [a best-case scenario]. Somewhat surprising, in a quick search on Google for "best case scenario" three of the first 10 results show (in bold print) "worst-case scenario".

How to lose an hour ...

... before Daylight Savings starts. It began with the observation that "Encyclopaedia" was the answer to one of the clues in today's Quick Crossword in The Sydney Morning Herald. I had remembered the "a" in the middle because of "The Mickey Mouse Club". S advised me that I was remembering it incorrectly - and we both sang our versions of the Jiminy Cricket song to compare them. Both scanned - so we decided to settle it over the internet. Out came the iPod Touch for a quick search for Jiminy Cricket on YouTube (hmmm - it was actually easier to spell "encyclopaedia" than "Jiminy" but that's another story). Well, of course S was right - even though I still insist that the version we saw in Toowoomba Qld DID have the "a" - and from there, after a couple of replays of the song, I went in search of my 1967 favourite "Adventure Island" (opening and closing sequences) .. which then led to "Gilligan's Island" because I thought the Island theme songs had similar feels ... and then onto another favourite yesteryear program "The Littlest Hobo" ... by this time S was begging me to leave so more reading of Einstein's biography could take place ... and a quick search on Einstein found some footage of the great man himself and ... Einstein the Parrot, who was very, very good and, as S said, made it "all worth it". Then, to round it off, I looked for footage of the Kangaroo that used to signal the overnight close of transmission for Channel 7 Sydney (I saw the last time the temporary close happened) in the days when stations did not broadcast 24 hours a day. As well as the Kangaroo, there was, and I had forgotten this, the song "My City of Sydney". Ahhh, those were the days ... and that's how to lose (at least) an hour on a Thursday evening. But it truly is amazing what is available on YouTube - and how easy it is to look it up if you're using a portable wireless device which turns on rather than "boots up".

Thursday, October 02, 2008

On Writing

I am in the middle of reading Stephen King's* "On Writing" - a "how to" manual which is proving to be quite different from what I had expected. (Take writing advice from Stephen King? You bet. You'd be doing well to be half as successful as he, and if your penchant is to write "literature" rather than "popular fiction" the same tools/rules apply.) Key learning thus far: if you are writing about the possessive, always use an 's even if the word ends in an s. Oh, and his other advice: if you want to be a writer, you have to also be a reader. I would also posit that you would do well to have a good editor. Also, if you want to be a writer: write ... regularly each day .. set yourself a limit and just do it.
Which reminds me - it's going to be November in a minute - and time again for NaNoWriMo otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Some 100,000 people took part in the event last year where you simply undertake to write something each day in November - and have a 50,000 word novel completed at the end of the month. The site is currently having difficulties but you can check there in a few days to find out the details, or get more of a flavour for the "event" from the NaNoWriMo entry in Wikipedia (sorry, remote posting this means I can't insert a URL link).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Positioning statement

Way back when – not sure of the exact date, I commented on this blog about the way newspapers report on who you are. In today’s paper there is a reference to a woman being a “redundant marketing consultant”. This will be helpful in the period between now and when I start in my next position – until then, if asked, I am a redundant business analyst. Although, come to think about it, that could be just a little confusing – but possibly helpful - in these difficult economic times.

Target audience

Australian broadcaster ABC launched the local version of the car show Top Gear earlier this week. According to The Daily Telegraph “More than 1.3 million people tuned into the debut episode ...” This is the second time I’ve heard that kind of number mentioned in the last day. I can’t remember the exact number cited the other time, except that it was over a million: i.e. the number of users signed up to use the on-line dating service that was advertised on television just after midnight last night. Now, I’m not sure what the exact population of Australia is (quick Google search suggests over 20 million in 2006) but that does seem like an awful lot of people to be looking for love on-line. I wonder if there have been any statistics produced about success rates? Or, and this is probably recent viewing of an “X Files episode where the suspect was using on-line dating sites to target women so he could feast on their lipids rather than their lips” talking, has anyone produced reliable statistics about why it may not be such a good idea to use the internet for initiating on-line relationships – or a “how to” guide so people can do so safely? (Yes, I know ... time to turn off the television.) Is this something that could be included in the next Census – or the subject of someone’s doctoral thesis – although collecting data might be tough because of the sheer size of the population (random sampling might help) and because if someone had had a not-so-wonderful experience with on-line dating, they may not want to talk about it. Lots of food for thought there ... including whether there is a specific personality profile that would prefer on-line dating, and whether modern lifestyles means there is a preference for on-line dating over other ways of meeting people. (This ramble is probably another reason to turn off the television – especially when midnight rolls around. Seems to be a different target market in the wee smalls of the morning.)