Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shock tactics

News in The Daily Telegraph today of the first person shot by a police Taser gun (as opposed to a citizen's Taser gun?) since the weapons were distributed earlier this month. The man was being arrested near his home following what was described as "a foiled robbery of the Regents Park Sporting Club in February". The man in question was charged with several offences including armed robbery. No details of the circumstances of the arrest which required use of the Taser were included in the report. But in case it ever comes up as a trivia question, the man's name was Filisione Taufahema (aged 26).
And on the subject of "shocking", the current Jaycar catalog carries ads for a number of games which I don't think I'll be buying:
* Who's the Man? Who can win the ULTIMATE hand to hand combat? Strap on the wrist plate and get ready to (arm) wrestle. Loser gets a mild electric shock. 16yr+. Batteries included.
* 21st Century Hot Potato. This ball has a shocking surprise. Catch it and risk a mild electric shock, drop it and lose. Who can stand the pain and who'll wimp out. Rechargeable battery and PSU unit included. 14 yrs+.
* The Pain Machine. The ultimate test in speed, reflex and concentration. The last person to hit the button will get a mild electric shock. Loads of fun. (Seriously - that's what it says "Loads of fun".) Suitable for 16y+. Batteries included.
And when you're ready to proceed to the next level - mmmm, Taser.
(Not sure why the Hot Potato - with rechargeable battery - is suitable for younger folk than The Pain Machine and Who's The Man ... and why is it called Who's The Man?
And, just to give a more complete picture, there are many non-shocking items in Jaycar's brochure - a couple of which might actually come home with me today (no not the Beg Your Pardon burp box, or Ant Habitat or Electronic F***ing Keychain or .... stopping now.)


This is the second time this week I have been surprised by an answer in the Quick One crossword. The clue: essential part. The answer: pith. Up until that moment I would have said that "pith" was the filler, the bits that were just in there for the ride. But, obviously, not so. Pith plays a much more important role.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rapine ravine

Rapine, according to the SlovoEd dictionary, means to pillage and/or plunder. But how would you use it in a sentence eg I'll be back in a bit; I'm off to rapine. Or: rapine now, repent later. It would be helpful if SlovoEd indicated parts of speech: oops, hold on - does that blue "n" mean something? Besides that I need to spend more time with dictionaries? Noun, hey? It was ill-gotten rapine, as rapine often is. Hmm - how is it that "pillage" and "plunder" are both nouns and verbs, but not rapine? (This is why I enjoy doing crosswords - and why having a dictionary on my PDA is particularly useful.)

Monday, May 26, 2008


Conventional bricks and mortar bookstore and no eBook kiosk in sight. (Also, posted this to the wrong blog ... should be at Day in Focus!

Innovation at large

It's billed as a Rumour on Gizmodo, but if it's true, it suggests that Asus is quietly pushing ahead in innovation for the masses. Following release of it's under-$AUS500 Linux laptop; and then it's slightly more expensive Windows XP laptop, news is that ASUS is developing a low-cost desktop computer, as well as a "non-clamshell touchscreen only device" which could be like a PDA, only bigger. Wouldn't it be interesting if this device ran Linux and used a new operating system supposedly being developed by Palm for use with its next SmartPhone (?Treo 850?). Could be the Folio (lap-top sized Palm albeit with keyboard) concept is not yet dead. It doesn't hurt to dream - although this kind of tech speculation is probably not good for me: too disappointing if it doesn't happen - and too expensive if it does.

I Spy ....

The tech RSS feeds I subscribe to have carried some interesting items over the last couple of days about JIBs (Jack in Boxes), L-Pills and Escape and Evasion Rectal Suppository Tool Kits. Seems odd - and even odder when you consider they're talking about CIA and other spy tech stuff which will be featured in "Spycraft", by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton, which is due for release soon. The JIB refers to "fake" people which can be quickly inflated/activated in a vehicle to give the impression that someone has not jumped out - since the head court remains the same. The Rectal tool kit is indeed a tool kit and although I question this, the article on Gizmodo suggested it could be used to "saw, drill, ply and file your way out of a ... prison camp". And we haven't even touched upon exploding notebooks, water soluble paper or secreting documents in dead rats. You can pre-order your copy of "Spycraft" from Amazon - or, I suspect, other booksellers. (I'm off to Fictionwise to earmark an eVersion if I can.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

What is pornography?

An exhibition of artist Bill Henson's work was closed in Sydney yesterday - and was reported today as CHILD PORN "ART" RAID. But what is porn? I checked and they classify it as: obscene writings, drawings, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit. Obscene gave three results: offensive to morality or decency; causing uncontrolled sexual desire; abominable, disgusting, repulsive. Okay, that probably means you need to view pornography in a wider cultural context - figuratively speaking that is. So what does Wikipedia offer? Pornography or porn is the explicit depiction of sexual subject matter, especially with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer. Now, this is not about a moral stance on pornography but rather questioning "what is pornography?". S and I were only discussing this yesterday as I went through the photos on my iPod. I came across some pics I had downloaded from the web and which I've commented on previously in this blog. There are three shots depicting that special kind of love between a man and a woman; both are naked and are shown engaged in three different forms of sexual activity. Is this porn? Possibly. But is it still porn since they are Lego figures (from The Brick Testament) rather than real people? Is it the depiction of the act rather than the players? Or is it the use to which the images are put? I certainly don't use them for sexual titillation (for a number of reasons which I won't go into here), and am not sure that anyone would, but does that matter? Is it the depiction and possible use rather than the actual use? I'm not sure. And if I can't decide over some Lego characters, how is it possible to make a hard and fast ruling about an art exhibition of photographs of naked pre-teen children? It's possibly a question of exploitation and that's certainly being investigated in the Henson case - especially as all images from the exhibition were available on the gallery's website (but have now been pulled). Hmmmm - more thought/research needed.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Key to new technology

The only thing wrong with Mini (that's it at the back right) is that as well as being small everywhere else, it also has a squidgy keyboard, which makes it a bit difficult to do fast typing (8 finger and 2 thumbs vs 2 fingers - I was starting to get better, but not that much better) - and then I read about a bluetooth keyboard that could be used for all mobile devices - well, at least those using what mine are - the Palm operating system, the Windows Mobile operating system, and Windows. Bingo! Finally a device I could use with all my devices. And I have spent a little while this evening doing just that - and am typing this on the new keyboard which, I have to admit, is a little strange since the keyboard does not have to be in front of the screen. And even I have to admit that it's a much nicer experience being able to type properly rather than doing the "peck" but I can see there will still be situations where that may still be required. (Hmmmm ... wonder if it will work with the iPhone - just kidding T!)
The keyboard is the iGo Stowaway Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard for Smartphones (and seems just about anything else) which I ordered last Thursday from and which was supplied by Digital Media - who had it here seven days later with no special premium paid for postage. Very impressive product and very impressive service.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A point of view

I was a bit surprised yesterday while taking photos at the Central Coast to find out how unfriendly (read: unuseable) my camera is in some conditions. I bought it because it is small with a 5x optical zoom - but the tradeoff was there was (as is the case with so many other smaller cameras on the market these days) no viewfinder. And it was the lack of viewfinder that was causing the problem. If I was standing in the sun, all I could see in the screen was my reflection. Even holding the camera right up to my face wasn't satisfactory because at that range, the image on the screen was out of focus - or it could just have been that I was squinting too much to be able to see properly. In any case, it wasn't so much as "point and shoot" as "guess, point, shoot and hope" which isn't how I usually like to compose my shots ... either that or make sure I (or at least the camera) was in shade as I lined up the shot (and reviewed it). The answer: those hoods they used to use when photography was just starting up - so the screen is in darkness. Just have to work out a way to fix it to the camera body - and not look like a total goose. Or ... make sure I carry either Chaim or 12, both of which have viewfinders - because you never know when there will be a photo op.

Shocking news

The NSW Police (previously known also as the NSW Police Force and/or NSW Police Service) has announced they are introducing tasers. Tasers, for those not familiar, are devices that shoot out wires which attach to a person (piercing their skin) and deliver an electric shock large enough to incapacitate someone but not enough to kill them (so they say although their are numerous taser-related deaths on record in North America). It's useful in situations where (capsicum spray hasn't worked and) the alternative is to use "deadly force" aka shoot people.
Taser has been on the web lately because they have just demo'd their latest invention: peel-and-stick taser tape that will turn any surface into the equivalent of an electric fence. Obvious law-enforcement applications are police shields; and if it's made available to the general public - there is a line of consumer tasers for personal use - there's no limit to possible applications.

Underworld figures

Somewhere in Melbourne's underworld sits a person about to collect a $1,000,000 reward for their part in the arrest and return to Australia of Tony Mokbel. Mokbel was found in Greece and was flown into Australia by private jet (hire cost rumoured to be $400,000+) on the weekend. Assigned the codename "3030", the informant is said to have held a position of trust in Mokbel's empire allowing them to pinpoint the his whereabouts following his conviction on drug charges and subsequent flight from Australia. The reward is not dependent on a conviction - but it probably does require 3030 to remain in good health - and since this is the "underworld" - as portrayed in the recent television series "Underbelly" - and including a trail of gangland killings - about now you'd think 3030 might be feeling a little nervous knowing their secret was out. It's a far cry from people suspecting Mokbel was "given up" to knowing that was the case. A cynic might even suggest that identification of the existence of 3030 might save payment of the reward money.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tales from (beyond) the Grave

We visited the Camperdown Cemetery the other day (they have guided tours the first Sunday of the month - which we will go back for one day - but this time we were on our own). We came across a couple of headstones which seemed to have a story attached. The first was Nicholas Charles Bochsa, and Anna Bishop ... who, according to some web research, seem to have eloped together and travelled to Australia, where Bochsa died from dropsy. The large harp erected above the tomb was destroyed by vandals.

The next was Ernestine (nee) Ernest. It seems someone (unknown except for the initials BLE and or AC) have chiselled out the name of Ernestine's husband. A quick look on the web failed to provide any information.

Central Coast

You just have to love a day at the beach ... check out the seagulls in the first picture - the one top left is obviously having a very fine time!

Friday, May 16, 2008

New Dollhouse

Since I was a wee thing I have never been fond of dolls - but that is all set to change, because I have just discovered the Dollhouse. Of course, it's no ordinary Dollhouse. It's a new science fiction offering by Joss Whedon of Buffy and Firefly (aka Serenity) fame. The seven-episode series launches in January in the US - which means it will be a little while longer before it makes it to Australia - drat! I think I will come to like Echo, Victor, Sierra, November.
Full synopsis from the imdb site follows:
The show follows an organization that employs mind-wiped DNA-altered humans known as Dolls who are implanted with false memories and skills for various missions and tasks. When they are not 'at work' they are living in a real life Dollhouse which gives the show the name. One of those mind-wiped humans, a young woman named Echo, is slowly starting to become aware of herself and what's going on - all the while somebody on the outside is trying to bring the Dollhouse down while getting closer to Echo - possibly not aware that she is one of the Dolls he is after. Written by


There has been a trailer on the television for a new film and just watching it has convinced me that I don't want to go anywhere near it because it just looks too scary. I thought that might be a little shallow-minded of me since I didn't really know anything about it. So I went to the site (Shutter) and read the synopsis but really it was the plot keywords that confirmed this would not be high on my list: vomit, nightmare, blood. I didn't mind that Japan and Japanese were there - I quite liked the original Japanese fantasy flicks with big monster creatures like Gamera and Godzilla - but the scary pictures they're showing in the Shutter trailer, even without context, are deterring me big time.


As part of my homework from the outplacement specialists I am working with in the lead up to my departure from the company I have worked with for the last 4 years (I was "left standing" aka retrenched after the restructure) I have to make a list of all my contacts - and the target is 120 people. These are the people I will presumably let know that I am in the job market and make sure they know what I do (which is where another part of this week's homework may come in handy: a 30-40 word positioning statement about me) - and will be able to let me know if they hear of anything from their contacts etc etc etc. It's a great idea - but I am having some trouble reaching 120. That said though, S's cousin who works in government recruitment, rang last night to invite us to a birthday party - and it was only then that I realised he wasn't yet on the list and that he might actuallly be quite a good contact as I search for the next phase of my career. So ... must try harder with those contacts. It's a good exercise too as it means I am actually thinking about people I know, where they work, what I know about the companies they work for and so on - so it's a real focus area - much more so than I had originally thought when the exercise was suggested.


Once upon a time, a thought could enter your head and you could let it go because it required too much effort to follow up. But technology has changed that in some instances. The other evening I picked up a small (but thoughtful) gift for my partner and was going to present it as a memento of our having been together for xxxx days - but how many was xxxx? Now, at that point I did a rough mental calculation and came up with around 6,500 (18 years x 365 days - leaving leap years out of the equation for the moment - and not getting into the question about where one starts from if you're not married and don't have a wedding date to count from). Now even at that point I could have stopped, but then I remembered the excellent calculator on one of my Palms which calculates number of days - either by entering two dates and calculating the difference, or entering one date and number of days to calculate the date that is that many days difference. Which is how I now know that on this year on 6/6 is 6666 days. Aren't numbers fun? And no, there is no special significance to the 6's - although 666 does always remind me of a cartoon I once saw about "333" - billed as the not-very-intelligent son of the Devil (666 being known in some circles as t'he "Mark of the Beast" aka the aforementioned Devil).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Content question

I was feeling a little soppy and sentimental on the plane on the way home the other day so tuned in to watch BoyTown on thr inflight entertainment. It's an Australian film about the revivial of a boyband some many years after their original successes, and about their making it to the top again, and then not, and then again. But the bit I wanted to watch was the ending, where they are on a plane on their way to the US when they are invited into the cockpit and one of them (in a move set up throughout the film) asks "what does this button do" as he presses it and the plane plummets to the ground, killing them all. Well, that was what I remembered happening - but that certainly wasn't the ending I saw this time. The button press, plane crash, and funeral/s (complete with their angelic accompaniament) were cut. Of course, when I thought about it, sitting in a plane at 40,000 ft, the edit made a little sense but it did get me wondering about what other entertainment censorship is practised by the airlines ... did they edit out the plane crash at the start of Castaway and, if they did, how did they explain Tom Hanks'character's arrival on the island? And what about films that are set on a plane eg Snakes on a Plane? Might go for a little wander on some websites and see what I can find out.

Travel sick

Hearing a sneeze on the plane on the way back from Manila reminded me of a story I read on the inflight news - about a mystery illness hitting a train in Canada last Friday. The train had been quarantined and only people wearing protective gear could enter. One person had died and others were ill with mild flu-like symptoms. But, according to a report on BBC News America, the death of a woman on the train and the other illness were probasbly unrelated and the train, and surviving passengers, were able to continue on their way a few hours later.

Dangerous games

Despite it's appearance as an almost romantic pasttime in Titanic (the James Cameron version) and its widespread practise in China, I have never been a fan of spitting. But I never realised how dangerous it could be. Today's The Daily Telegraph carried a piece on a 29-year-old Swiss man who, while in a spitting competition with a friend, died when he lost his balance and fell 6.4m from a hotel balcony. Their report omitted another detail gleaned from the web - that the man had taken a run-up from inside the hotel room to help give him the advantage. (Does this mean he's a contender for this year's Darwin Awards?) While searching for further details on the web I found news of a similar incident last June - where a German man was seriously injured while trying to out-spit his 12-year-old son - it appears he was leaning forward over the hotel balcony to get an extra bit of distance on his effort when he fell. The moral of the story - spitting kills - or maybe it's not spitting - but trying to "cheat" that can be harmful to your health.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Olympic signs

Until my recent trip to the Philippines, I had no idea when the Olympics were due to start in Beijing. Now I know, and given the Chinese preference for lucky number 8, it shouldn’t have been that hard to figure out!!


There are many lessons we can learn from our Asian neighbours. My latest is "breakfast shirt". This is where you wear a shirt to hotel breakfast which is not the shirt you're planning to wear the rest of the day. That way if food flies at you and attaches itself to your front (and who of us has this not happened to) you don't have to fret and stress with "oh no, this is my only clean shirt - what will I wear?" Instead, you just go upstairs and change, as you'd always planned to. It's a much better way to start the day! (Thanks for the tip Derrick!)

Monday, May 05, 2008

More flavour of the Philippines

And here's our afternoon tea today - with two versions of Lumpia Ubod, both Fried and Fresh (like rice paper rolls), and another dish (from two angles) Pancit Palabok - Malabon rice noodles and crab paste sauce with shrimp, squid barbecued pork and vegetables. The small fruit (about the size of a large marble) is like a lime, but is not.
And here's some shots from the taxi on the way back to the hotel. Note the security at the carpark.

A taste of the Philippines ...

... as seen from the back of a taxi on the way from Green Hills Shopping Centre to the hotel. (Words will follow when there is time.)

And this is what Pat (thank you Pat) haggled over for me at Green Hills ...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Refrigerator help

You just never know what you'll find in the fridge - but obviously this iceblock that had consumed a squeeze bottle of condiment had to be stopped before it took over more real estate. Fortunately it had formed around the shelf and disengaged itself from the wall of the fridge with the slightest of tugs'... and then just melted away.


I'm looking forward to getting out and about with the camera tomorrow to get the shots I missed out on last time. This would be just about all of them because they worked us fairly hard and there was no time to go out exploring. The only foray l managed was on our last night when a New Zealand colleague and I went in search of a grocery store for supplies. But come to think of it, I did take a photo along the way - which I've posted here. There's a message in that for all of us I think!

Hot as ...

When we were told that Manila would be quite a bit hotter in May than when we were here in April, we listened but I don't think it actually sank in ... until this evening, at Manila airport as I waited for a transfer to the hotel and perspiration started flowing freely. I took off my travelling shirt (long-sleeved and with a pocket for my passport) and was grateful that I was wearing another, short-sleeve, lighter shirt underneath. But still my hair was saturated - and not even the glow of the nearby fireworks could make me feel more appreciative of being here. But hopefully I will acclimatise quickly - although it could be that Brian, who checked me into the hotel, might not think so. When he asked me how many keys I would like for the room - I said "one" because there is only one of me. He suggested perhaps two, so I could leave one in the slot near the door for running the air conditioner even while I was out. And even though I care about the planet, I must admit it was a very tempting offer ... but when push came to shove - when I was coming down to have a coffee just now - I just couldn't leave it there. I'm now almost looking forward to that cold shower when I go back upstairs. It's a far cry from last week when I was having trouble getting my freezing fingers in Sydney to do my (typing) bidding! I know. Some people are just never happy.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Classics

I was speaking to someone the other day about Psycho - the Alfred Hitchcock 1960 thriller. I have a book which has most of the frames and dialogue from the film - hmmm, I wonder where that is. Anyway, it's not a film I've ever thought to add to my collection - which is why I was pleased to find it on offer on the plane to Singapore. Even though it's over 50 yeas old -oops, make that over 40 years - not sure how I could get that wrong! - it has stood up well to the passage of time. Amazing wht a good plot, excellent direction (my favourite sequence is where Marion Crane* is in the shower - while she's alone - because of the absolute "rightness" of the sound of the soap wrapper - and fantastic cinematography will do for a film.
It was also good to be reminded that it's a B&W film - unlike The Day of the Triffids and the original War of the Worlds - which I'd only ever watched on B&W televisions before now and had thought for many years that they were not in colour. (Not sure if I've blogged about that already but it's hard to check mid-flight - and I know I've been meaning to.)
*Given the amount of avian taxidermy in the film, it's a nice touch giving Marion a bird's (sur)name.

Look back

One of the things with airline travel is that, as long as the entertainment system is working, there's usually a variety of films to watch - old and new. Which is how I came to be watching Twister, Cloverfield, Independence Day and Jumper today. And it was while watching snippets of each, since I've watched them all so many times before, I found myself wondering about that part of human behaviour which is portrayed thus in the movies: Menace of some sort hits community, then individuals are attacked and chased by xxxxx (insert name of Menace - terrestrial or extraterrestrial here). Person/people being chased run/s "like hell" but takes time to look over shoulder to check their escape progress. Now, I've never been in a life-threatening situation such as this (and hope never to be) so I don't know if this is art imitating life or a dramatic device - but I am curious. Looks like another job for the internet.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Daily activity

This is an interesting site Giveaway of the Day ( You can sign up for daily notices about the giveaway or go direct to the site for the latest offering. It's sometimes got some interesting stuff on - like this one ... hours of fun!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rubber band

If you had a spare 18,500 condoms, what could you do with them? Well, if you were Carl Dionisio and you wanted to relive a very special moment – you’d construct a 98ft bungee cord – it took him and a friend 4 months – and you’d jump. Even though he’d used a “tried-and-true mathematical formula” according to emag Gizmodo, he was still not 100% he would survive the attempt, but he did. There was no suggestion if he plans to try anything else in an attempt to qualify for the Darwin Awards.


I don’t usually imbibe but I have been known to have a pre-mixed vodka and some sort of softdrink, but on the weekend, that has just become a little more expensive with the price increasing by roughly 30% when the government increased the amount of excise payable on “alcopops” in an attempt to deter Australian teenagers, particularly girls, from binge-drinking. And now, to make sure there is an equitable excise on popular alcohol products, there’s talk that the Government is planning to increase the excise on beer and wine by 300%. Of course, this could just be a furphy released just before the 2008 Federal Budget so when the excise is increased by less than 100% we all breathe a sigh of relief because it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be – and get on with it. Although perhaps not quite in the same way: an ad in The Daily Telegraph today notes that one chain of liquour stores will now not be stocking some RTD (ready-to-drink aka alcopop) products. It may be enough to drive some people to the hard stuff!

Watch this space

There were a couple of items in the tech press over the last couple of days about watches. One was about Lee Loree’s invention The Sleeptracker. And what is The Sleeptracker (spoken with an authoritative tone with perhaps a little bit of reverb)? It’s a wristwatch and software which record’s a person’s sleep pattern ... so they can be woken from sleep when they are “least cranky”. (I know someone who would like to order one!)
The other watch story was about the digital watch which is actually a (very small) digital photo frame which holds about 60 photos. Possibly well worth $99.95 – but I’d prefer it if it worked like those photos I used to dream about years ago – and which have since appeared in the world of Harry Potter – where there are a couple of seconds of motion images in a photograph. I used to have this, video games and a timepiece in my “dream” watch. I think I read somewhere a couple of years ago that Kodak had actually invented the moving image photo – on a single sheet of paper – but if they did I don’t think it ever made it into commercial production.
And just one more ...
It appears that a student somewhere, trying to imitate art (and Pyro from X-Men?), has successfully built a wrist-mounted flamethrower. You can see the video here.