Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Position vacant:
Waitress/er classy lingerie restaurant, well presented, flex hours, top $$, student/tourist welcome, no exp nec.
[Phone number snipped.]
Classy eh?

Hot stuff

I love The Simpsons episode where Homer hallucinates after eating chillis and starts the search for his "soul mate". You too can have hallucinations after eating chilli if this report is anything to go by. It seems that jolokia chillies are the hottest in the world - tipping the scoville scale more than 30% over the previous record holder - the habanero. Australlia's Chilli Factory is now producing the jolokia - in three varieties - and they are so hot they cannot be handled or cooked raw. Half of one chilli was enough to send Marcel De Wit's wife for a lie down - "she didn't know what was happening. Her head was spinning, hallucinations ..." The chillis will be made into paste, which will be launched at this year's Royal Easter Show in Sydney. So, if you want to have a chance to name this, what promises to be a flaming hot product, go along to their stand (#56 in the Food Hall) for a taste test and enter their competition.

Police procedure

Bikie gang member Peter Zervas was shot late on Sunday evening, a week after his brother Anthony was bashed to death. Peter was warned days before his shooting that his life was at risk. So, knowing this, what efforts were put in place to protect him? A report in The Daily Telegraph suggests his club, Hells Angels, refused to co-operate with police attempts to secure his safety. Now, I'm not sure if this is related, but the report also says that "His refusal to become a police witness meant he was not eligible for ... witness protection". So at what point does police protection for an individual kick in? This is probably something Peter won't waste time on ... he had surgery yesterday and has been listed as in a serious condition.

Testing times

When I went into the CBD the other day, I noticed the message "This is a test of the CBD emergency warning system" scrolling on a fixed electronic board. It occurred to me that they would need to have a few people out and about in the city to check all the boards, and wouldn't it have been nice if they could have tailored the message to something a little more "useful" - certainly it shouldn't have mattered what the words were as long as they were there. The next time I thought about the system was last night, when a power failure blacked out a large portion of the CBD. At least, I thought, the emergency warning system would be useful in advising people of ... well, I wasn't totally sure "what" but it was an option. Ahem. Perhaps not. It seems the emergency warning system runs on power and there is no back-up, but, not to worry, we were advised, because even if the system had been working, it wouldn't have been used because it wasn't ... a terrorist attack. The outage was caused by a "fault" in a 132,000 volt power cable - but no remedial action could be taken until the power authorities determined which one (of four possibiles). The cause of the "fault" appears to have not yet been made public - but at least we know it wasn't a terrorist attack - otherwise the emergency warning system would have been used ... Mind you, and it's obviously a moot point,wouldn't it have been reassuring it the system could have been used to advise people that it wasn't a terrorist attack?
An SMS alert informing 2400 building wardens of the blackout did get out - after 40 or so minutes, and after most buildings had been evacuated.
(Information taken in part from an Exclusive in today's The Daily Telegraph.)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

No harm in asking

In the last few days, he's asked for the door to be left slightly ajar and to have a massage - which has led to the reported comment from an insider "Clearly it hasn't sunk in yet where he is". The "where" is prison where disgraced judge Marcus Einfeld will be until March 201! It does seem a price-to pay for lying over a $77 speeding fine. I wonder - can GST registered entities claim the GST portion back - that's if it applies?
(Source: The Daily Telegraph.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Buried Alive

Planning to go to this year's Easter Show in Sydney?  Looking for something new in the rides department?  Well ... you can try "Buried Alive" - the ultimate horror simulator attraction.  I don't think it's for me - I remember the problems I had getting onto the ghost train ride some years ago - the ride itself wasn't an issue - it was walking through the pitch black to get there - the imagination is a strange and frightening tool.  Want to know more about Buried Alive?  It's apparently the latest motion simulator hailing from the US and the site warns "watch out for bugs". Hopefully this is the horror kind rather than the technical kind - although perhaps "hopefully" isn't the right word in this context. The good news is that you"ll be able to watch your mates on an infrared camera - because, you know, these things aren't as much fun if you go it alone - or if you're claustrophobic, or likely to be influenced by a "haunting soundtrack". On second thoughts, I might go along for a look - actually a listen, because there's nothing quite like the sound of people being parted from their hard-earned cash, and being scared witless in the process. (Can you tell I come from a "show" tradition?)


Sitting at a coffee shop this morning, I heard a man excitedly telling someone that elections are currently being held in Lebanon and they are paying people's airfares to get them to come back to vote. They also pay for motel accommodation but his friend who had taken up the offer had opted to stay in the village instead. Not sure if it's true or not but you'd think that a system for postal voting would be a lot cheaper although not nearly as people-friendly.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Comment: Garbage

Letter to the Editor, The Daily Telegraph, commenting on NSW Premier Mr Nathan Rees, who used to be a garbage collector:
"I would not trust Nathan Rees to bring in my garbage."
(My emphasis - I could have sworn it worked the other way!)

Hold the phone

How much are you paying for your SMS text messages? An article in The Daily Telegraph this week (I do their crosswords and puzzes) surprised me - at 25 cents per 160 characters, that puts SMS messages at $1000 per megabyte. It's a pretty penny to pay - and if they weren't included in my phone/data plan already, I might have to think seriously about using them as a (serious) communications method.

Pocket watch

The broad-headed snake is the most endangered in Australia - apparently because of encroaching bushland. However, I am confused - or I could just be reading the situation incorrectly. According to the article I saw in The Daily Telegraph "The snakes are only found in small pockets within 200km of Sydney". Rather than the researchers suggesting more bushfires might be the answer to saving the broad-headed snakes, shouldn't they be looking to have more people with clothing with small pockets move into the areas?

Freedom of Information

News yesterday of proposed new Federal freedom of information laws here in Australia that would mean the Government could not refuse a request on the grounds that it would embarrass them. Neither will they be able to refuse on the basis of causing misinterpretation of its activities or causing confusion or debate. Why is it that I’m getting the feeling that freedom of information prior to this hasn’t really been … especially since application fees have been charged. The report I read in The Daily Telegraph (“Still only $1”) did not say when the draft legislation is likely to be enacted.

Cheerio Homer

Homer passed away earlier today from lymphoma complications.  He was 15. This is him in happier times, doing one of his favourite things (he had many) - playing the bed game. Thanks for spending the time with us Ho. You were terrific and it's not going to be the same around here without you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Great Escape?

Most of us remember the iconic scene where Paul Newman's - big oops - that should be Steve McQueen's* character, on the run from the Germans, riding a motorcycle which was later (reportedly) used by The Fonz in "Happy Days", attempts to jump a fence to freedom. Of course, some of us cannot remember whether or not he made it (or, apparently who "he" was). The question is not that ... but rather whether the film "The Great Escape" was based on the real life escape On This Day in 1944 where 76 prisoners of war escaped from Stalag Luft III. Only 3 made it to "freedom". Of the others, when recaptured, 50 were executed as an example to the other PoWs. (How much has film and television done to desensitize us to the real impact of war?)
*The bits in red were added as an update - for obvious reasons - once the error was pointed out - ever so discreetly - thanks D.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Special little somethings

If you're after that special something for a little person in you life, Smiggle has two products that rate a second look. First there's the Voodoo Pencil Case (heart-shaped black and red pins apparently sold separately) which is doll-shaped, made of canvas, and has a place on the head for a photo! And then, supposedly, but I haven't been able to find details on this, there's another product which encourages children to "Hug a Stranger". Concern about these products has been raised with Smiggle by the Kids Free 2B Kids group.
For all non-children whose curiosity is now piqued and who do want to hug a stranger, full instructions can be found at Hug-a-Stranger which also has links on how to give a good hug; and how to defend against a bear hug from behind.

Photo story

Front page news last weekend had nude photos of one of Australia's more controversial political figures as a teenager ... almost. Pauline Hanson immediately protested saying they were not photographs of her teenage self and has had papers served on several media outlets - probably including the one that said when they contacted Ms Hanson before publication she had not kicked up a fuss - and surely, they posited, she would have if it had not been her. Ms Hanson is contesting a seat in this weekend's Queensland elections. It was odd though that the next day, when media were interviewing the gentleman who provided the shots, they had obscured his face. He reportedly found the photos, taken over 20 years ago, while going through images to be digitally copied and the person helping him commented that they would be worth some money. Going price for chivalry: $15,000 or thereabouts was the figure mentioned I think.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Numbers question

If there are 10,921,246 people currently online with Skype - am I one of them - ie are there really 10,921,247? If I go offline, and without wasting other people's time on this ... how can I check if the online number has decreased by one ... hmmmmm (^scratches head thoughtfully^)

Extreme sports

Hillah, Iraq: It was a close game ... and in the final minute of play the BudKirat striker had only the Sinjar goalie to beat to tye the game at 1-1. Then a shot rang out - yes, that was a shot rather than a shout - and the about-to-score player was dead. A Sinjar fan was arrested soon after. I suspected some people took their sports seriously, but this is taking it too far.

True words

There's a saying that goes a little like: if we forget history, we're doomed to repeat it. But what "makes" history? "On this day" gives little slices of it, and two of today's entries in The Daily Telegraph's column deal with famous "true" words. In 1912, with the words "I am just going out. I may be some time" Englishman Lawrence Oates, on his way back from the South Pole with Robert Falcon Scott, and celebrating his 32rd birthday with frostbite, left the tent in which they were sheltering - and died in a blizzard.
In 2003, citing as one of his reasons that he believed Saddam Hussein's regime did not have viable weapons of mass destruction, British cabinet minister Robin Cook resigned rather than support plans to invade Iraq.
In retrospect, both of these were statements that turned out to be correct. Would the course of history, as we know it, have been changed if, at the time, people had "heard" what they were saying - and acted accordingly?

Monday, March 16, 2009

More "hope"

"Someone will call you soon ... hopefully." What a strange and worrying thing to be told after registering your arrival for an appointment. Was it because I was 15 minutes early - having been third in line at the General Enquiries desk when I arrived - or because "soon" is a relative term of time at a customer-service-based government organisation.

March madness

Hearing of the massacres in Alabama and Germany, I was wondering yesterday about other similar tragic losses of life and remembered the one at a school in Scotland some years ago. incredibly, it was noted in today's "On this day". It was at Dunblane, Scotland, and the shooting spree left 16 children and their teacher dead. That was 1996 - March 13. So, is there a possibility that these are not random dates? Has any research been done on the timing of similar incidents. Could they be related to Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Northern Hemisphere? Or is this just a way of trying to make sense of the unfathomable?

We hope ...

Words you don't necessarily want to hear/remember as you're sitting atop a rocket waiting for it to blast your shuttle into space - something like:  "we hope the repairs took care of the (dangerous) leak".  NASA apparently wasn't able to find the cause of last week's leak but have replaced the parts which could have been causing the problem - and hopefully this will fix the problem.  

A bli(m)p on the radar

Hmmm ... more from Slashdot - and just as well it isn't April 1 (yet) or I'd be worried that what I was reading wasn't truthful.  The headline "US Pentagon Plans For a Spy Blimp".  The story:  the Pentagon is intending to fly a blimp at 65,000 feet to provide a continuous view of Earth's surface via radar surveillance.  It would be too high for surface-to-air missiles, or other aircraft, to reach, and solar power will keep it operational for its 10-year life.  A prototype is under design.   Of course, there's getting to be so much "stuff" in orbit now that before long there'll be no space for anything else.  Don't believe me ... here's an artist's impression.

Personal worth

Ever pondered the real value of your contribution to your workplace?  The 'good' news is that some companies, reportedly with IBM and Microsoft among them, are apparently measuring just that for each employee.  The key currency seems to be (non-verbal) communication and the greater the measure - the greater your value:  better to be one with a large dark-coloured circle - 'thought leader' rather than a small pale circle 'not contributing a hell of a lot''.  (Thanks to Slashdot for the article.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ink jet

My fountain pen has sat, unused, in my drawer for some time but I fished it out this morning to start using it again. Ink colour this time: purple - a change from the usual jet black. Well that's the eventual plan but first I have to wait for all residual traces of the black to depart. I flushed the business end of the pen under running water for several minutes earlier today yet three crosswords, several notes and a dozen scribbles later, the ink still writes black. Thank goodness I am a patient person with a passion for the feel of ink on fine quality writing paper. There's nothing quite like it.


A good while ago a work pal told me of his response whenever someone made a disparaging remark to him. He replied with "and so am I" which, he told me, left the other person with nowhere to go because he was agreeing with them. This tactic made an appearance in Sydney's The Daily Telegraph yesterday in an article about bullying. "Fogging" as it was called, is reportedly a good counter to bullies because it confuses them - they usually expect their intended victim to fight back rather than agreeing with taunts. Hmmm. As long as the bully isn't a thug too this could work well.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Fighting Words

The Palm operating system for PDAs may be dead (or at least dying) but it seems PalmI the company, is not. A recent Engadget report tells of Roger McNamee's claims that the new Palm Pre will bring the downfall of the iPhone. McNamee is with Elevation Partners, "the Palm-rescuing investment firm'! The rationale - by launching the Pre two years after the i Phone's appearance, all the "early adopters" will be coming off the two-year contracts they signed and be looking for the next funky new thing - the Pre. It might just work - for the initial push - but for the not-so early adopters, the battle to convert them may just depend on features and functionality - and if Apple ever introduces copy and paste functionality for the iPhone and iPod touch!

Plane sight

Spanish police have arrested a 66-year-old Chilean at Barcelona airport after discovering the cast on his broken leg was made entirely of cocaine. X-rays revealed the man did indeedhave a broken leg - but there is some speculation as to whether the break was intentional. The man was also transporting cocaine in two fake beer cans, and in two hollowed-out stools. Total haul - just under 5 kg. So much for hiding the contraband in plain sight!

Time on your hands?

There is probably at least one person right now who is scanning Google Earth, pixel by pixel on a computer monitor looking for items of interest: Atlantis? Crop circles? Naked people? If you're pressed for time but are still a little curious, you can check out the Top 10 Google Earth finds as reported in a recent issue of Time.

Vegetable peeler 0; Swivel Sweeper 1

I purchased a new vegetable peeler the other day - one that slides on your finger and fits in the palm of your hand. And that should have been all there was to it - except that when I tried to peel on apple it wouldn't. Hmmm. Not very good; until I realized it was a vegetable peeler, and an apple isn't a vegetable. I have not yet had the opportunity to try it on a vegetable and I am actually a little hesitant because I don't want to know I wasted my $3-something, or that I'll need to take it back to the shop for refund or exchange. The good news is that I am absolutely ecstatic with the Swivel Sweeper - a carpet sweeper/vacuum clearer hybrid of sorts - and it's not just because it has "headlights": it works ... as long as you remember to empty the dust tray when it's full!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Facing the cuts

Aaargh - the global economic downturn continues and has now started to hit television - remember that was what some of us were planning to watch more of rather than going out on the town.  Latest casualties from the UK are Wire In The Blood, Heartbeat, and The Royal.  The Bill is being cut back to a single episode a week.  The good news is that I still have entire runs of some programs on DVD and will keep investing in ones that take my interest when the price is right.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Vinyl revival

Well, not exactly, but it may be a way to finally get those LP records transferred to a digital format so you can listen to them in the car, or on a portable music player. In Jaycar's new catalogue, out today, I noticed something called a USB/SD Turntable/Receiver which can record your LPs directly to an SD card or flash memory without a computer or software. Of course, you could use it as a turntable too, but that wouldn't be as convenient to carry around as, say, an MP3 player or iPod Touch. The price is a very reasonable AU$169 - and as well as recording to SD card, it can also do playback from them. Hours of fun - and useful to boot.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sending a message

A German bus company has apparently introduced "chat buttons" so passengers can let other passengers know they are open to having a conversation. I was unable to find other reports on this in a quick net search so I don't know the details of how it works - and whether it can also let your co-riders know that you're not interested in chatting with them. (Source: Daily Telegraph)