Friday, May 29, 2009

Answers ... not so much

I'm trying to set up a new hotmail account but everytime I go to the sign-up page, I keep being presented with .uk as the only option. So, I've been searching for another way to do it, through options, changing settings etc, but was finally driven to the web. Here's one of the answers:

Hmmm. Not that very helpful at all.

Brutal Ritual (Yes S, this IS one too)

I'm not sure whether it's something they do here or if it's peculiar to the US, but I think I need to go to a Spelling Bee. I was intrigued by the following statement, part of a Yahoo USA News report:
The chairs on the ballroom stage emptied one by one, left vacant by those who had guessed and walked away disappointed. Rarely has a spelling bee round been this brutal.
Is there a Spelling Bee season? Or is it just coincide that this report follows a recent episode of Family Guy where hero (???) Peter Griffin goes back to primary school and, while there, takes part in a SB. Each time he is given a word, he asks for it to be used in a sentence - which the Bee administrator (is there a special name for this?) does - but still Peter hesitates, and then asks for the word to be used in a rude sentence - and only then does he spell the words correctly - eventually winning the Bee. (Do Bees have knees?)
I once avoided watching a film starring Richard Gere about a Spelling Bee (Thanks Google: Bee Season {2005} - guess that answers that question) - but it may be time to revisit it - or take a trip to the States, or do some local research into SBs - although I think the US may be the home of the SB and that would be the best option. So, is there a Spelling Bee Season, and when is it?

On The Boyle

Once upon a time, many years ago, I suspect it was possible for someone to achieve something noteworthy and have people be happy for them. Take the case of Susan Boyle - where, for the most part, after her first appearance on "Britain's Got Talent" (BGT) there has been widespread acclaim for her performance. Post second-performance there appears to be a bit more narkiness - Lily Allen* tweeted about Boyle's performance not being that good, and there's now reports of Boyle blowing up at a couple of strangers who were "winding her up" - a British term for "making fun of". While it's not know what they said, a police officer's words to Boyle afterwards were recorded thus: You are in the public eye, you must learn to expect this sort of thing. Why? Used to be there was a saying something like "if you can't say something nice about a person, don't say anything at all" but that seems to have long gone by the wayside especially with the advent of "humiliation TV", including shows like the aforementioned BGT where there's usually one judge (of three) whose express purpose seems to be to make fun of and be rude to contestants. Is this the price for that 15 minutes of fame? And has the population at large become inured to it?
* I hadn't heard of her before but it appears she is a performer.

Where is Dustin ...

Hoffman when you need him? With the spread of H1N1 (swine flu) throughout the globe, it's good to know that work is underway on a vaccine and that it could be ready by October. If there were a more virulent outbreak - both in intensity and in spread - and if it was Winter in the Northern Hemisphere now, would the push for a vaccine be faster? Afterall, it took only a couple of days on "Outbreak" for a fix to be found. I know, I know, that was the movies and this is real life, but from some of the reports I read, it seems that commercial enterprises announced they were starting work on a vaccine only after governments said they would order a vaccine. Not sure how the non-corporate system works and whether, since news of H1N1 emerged, there have been government "staff" scientists toiling away in their laboratories seeking a cure.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SMS - Health

"Obviously, we did not check to make sure the texts made sense - but this might not be easy, given that many of them appear to make no sense at the best of times." Thus spake a doctor late last year who was looking at ways of determining if young people who had collapsed at "events" were well enough to rejoin the action. The thought that the ability to send a text message could signal "wellness" was triggered from observations at other events where, as soon as they felt well enough, the young folk would start texting their friends to let them know what had happened to them, and to arrange a rendezvous point. But was it a message or gobbledegook - that was the question.

Six month lead time

Dateline: The Vatican. October 2008. Catholic Bishops meeting in Rome advised they wanted iPods to carry the word of God.
Dateline: The Vatican. May 2009. There will soon be an iPhone and iPod Touch application (as soon as it's approved by Apple - as all apps available through iTunes must be) which gives users video and audio news of the Pope's travels and speeches. As well, the Vatican has unveiled a new website, Pope2You, which allows Facebook users to send virtual postcards with photos of Pope Benedict XVI. For those who want to use it now, the Facebook portal is already available.
It would be interesting to see if the Vatican still has the same names for its servers.

Any lengths

Dateline: Sydney, October 2008. A Sydney couple, before the Family Court, have aired details of the wife's witchcraft practices. The husband learned of his wife's witch status from her emails which revealed she was involved with a coven and possessed witchcraft items including a dagger and a mirror. The husband suggested that he was concerned that the children, who lived with their mother, would be exposed to these activities. She argued that he should not have been accessing her emails two years after they separated - and that her interest in witchcraft was research for a book she was writing. The Magistrate allowed the emails into evidence despite the unauthorised access.
And there endeth the reference to this story ... despite an exhaustive search on the net using a variety of search terms, but, admittedly, only one search engine. Yes, I could contact the person credited with this item (Ellen Connolly) but I don't think I'm going to.

To Serve God

... which shouldn't be confused with "To Serve Man", a cook book, made famous by Rod Serling vehicle "The Twilight Zone". Last year (yes again - there are still a few entries to go) a (former) Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers sought an injunction against God to prevent "death, destruction, and terrorism". A US judged dismissed the case on the basis that as God had no known address, legal papers could not be served. It was thought Chambers might appeal the decision, on the grounds that as God knows "everything", God had notice of the suit. And that's one of the good things about blogging things so much later ... a quick search on the internet (and I could feel it doing my brain "good") suggests that Chambers did appeal, but that was denied. The account I read also had some more details about why Chambers had originally filed the suit - which had to do with his protest at another case which centered around how a rape victim could not say she had been raped because "rape" was a legal term and witnesses can't reach legal decisions. Law and comparisons to a certain stubborn animal come to mind.

Boosting brain power

A report on Engadget last year (catching up slowly) told of a group of scientists here in Australia who claim to have found a way to boost a person's intelligence (Rain Man levels were mentioned in the report I read) using magnets and something that looks like a hairnet. Researchers from Sydney University apparently claim that an electromagnetic 'zap' to the left side of the brain will cause over-analytic, right-brained types to shift to the other hemisphere, where "you will soon be writing operas, penning sonnets and proofreading like a champ." As professor Allan Snyder was reported as saying: "I believe that each of us has within us non-conscious machinery which can do extraordinary art, extraordinary memory and extraordinary mathematical calculations."
Around the same time, the BBC carried a story that use of the internet by persons of middle age and older helped boost brain power.
It has long been thought that activities which keep the brain active, such as crossword puzzles, may help minimise that impact - and that study suggested surfing the web could be added to the list.
I'm going to go one step further and say that the word game I've developed can do the same - heh heh.

Road rage

There was a report last month of a Sydney man who clung to the bonnet of a Peugot for 4km after he and his wife had chased the car through traffic because they had been involved in a minor collision with it. When they caught up with it and approached the vehicle, it drove at them, forcing the husband on to the bonnet - where he stayed for 4km in heavy traffic even though the driver tried to accelerate and brake to force him off. The car was stopped by police and the driver was arrested. The bonnet-rider escaped unhurt - but it does make you wonder if there had been any opportunity during the ride for him to safely dismount the vehicle rather than having his life endangered?

Booting up

There is so much that is unknown. Who knew that Brian Eno composed the welcoming jingle that plays when (your) Windows computer boots up? Brian Eno is currently in Sydney for the Vivid light show (and yes, some Sydney-siders think he is more influential than Tiger Woods).

Larval medicine

Research reported in March (I know, I'm behind the times) suggests that using maggots to clean wounds may not provide any benefits over the use of hydrogel, a standard wound cleaning product. While maggots were found to clean wounds more quickly, this did not lead to faster healing. How do they know? They were able to test it based on the generosity of 267 patients with venous leg ulcers - who received either the maggot or hydrogel treatment. The report I read didn't say whether each of the patients got to choose which they had - but it did say that some found the maggot treatment aka larval treatment more painful. More research is needed to see whether maggots do have a place in modern medicine eg for cleaning wounds prior to skin grafts so patients can have surgery more quickly.

On the run

A New Zealand couple is reportedly on the run after being granted a loan by Westpac. The couple had applied for a $10,000 loan but were instead the recipients of $10 million. Not that much later after realising what had happened, word is that they withdrew the cash, and haven't been seen since. Reports suggest they took themselves, and a couple of relatives, to Hong Kong. Details as to who, if anyone, is pursuing them, are sketchy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Feeling like a million dollars

The very rich Donald Trump is currently suing Timothy O'Brien who claimed in a book in 2006 that Trump was worth between $US15O million and $US250 million. Not so, says Trump, who claims O'Brien knew he was actually worth "billions" - even though it's complicated to tell how much Trump is worth at any point because, as he says, it's constantly in flux - and (and I'm not sure how this works) it depended partly on his feelings. So I'm thinking that it doesn't take the form of him waking up each day and saying "I feel like a million dollars" or "I feel like a quarter." Not surprisingly, O'Brien's legal team is arguing to have the case dismissed.

Falling down

Having seen something similar myself when my uncle toppled over the side of a sleep incline and emerged unscathed at the bottom of the 20m fall, I can believe a report from the UK of a young sleepwalker who stepped out of a bedroom window and landed, on her feet, and unhurt, in the grass, 8 metres below. Some will put it down to the soft landing, others, including me, will think it has more to do with the person not knowing they were about to/falling - so they don't go "tense" and resist the impact. (Did I mention that my uncle was pretty much fully inebriated - and definitely feeling no pain - at the time of his fall.)

Giving him a hand

Bud Tingwell, Australian actor of some repute, was farewelled yesterday at a funeral service at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne. The service was attended by friends, family and colleagues from the acting fraternity - who gave Bud what seems to be the traditional actor's farewell - his casket was applauded as it was carried from the church. He seems to have had a great and lasting impact. Val Jellay, friend and fellow actor, noted at his funeral: "The world would be a happier place if it had more Bud Tingwells in it".

Box office news

I remember hearing that if a film isn't doing too well at the box office, the next step is the "vox pop" advertisement where people give their (positive) opinions of the film as they leave the cinema. Imagine then, my horror when I saw just such an ad for the new "Star Trek" movie. Hopefully times have changed and this doesn't mean that it's flagging within a couple of weeks of opening.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Cherilyn

There's something you don't find out often - it's Cherilyn Sarkisian's 63rd birthday today. Well, it would be if she hadn't changed her name to Cher. Happy Birthday!

Negotiation techniques

Interesting point in the paper today that while schools may be delivering on sex education what they could also be giving is negotiation training. Research suggests that even though teenagers are more aware of the risks* of unprotected sex, they seem ill-prepared to negotiate with a partner about not going all the way until they are ready.
* The report I read said "consequences" but I don't know that any 14 year old can understand how their lives will change if they become pregnant.

Taking a gamble

It's unlikely to ever happen to me but I wonder how it would feel to lose $2 million in 43 minutes while playing baccarat at a casino. Harry Kakavas, who did, apparently told someone a short while before that loss that he felt "deflated" having lost $30 million over four months. Mr Kakavas is currently suing Crown Casinos for $20.5 million saying they should not have allowed him to gamble there given they knew he was a pathological gambler who was banned from other casinos. The trial continues.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Canine capers

A Melbourne cyclist has been robbed at teeth-point after a passing motorist stopped to "help" when he fell off his bike. The "help" included setting a dog onto the man who suffered injuries to his leg, arm and elbow in the attack. It was only after the cyclist had handed over ie throw down his phone, wallet and keys, that the dog was called off and the motorist picked up the "loot" and drove off with his canine accomplice, thought to have been either a pitbull or staffordshire terrier but definitely, with the police searching for them, a hot dog.

More big things

A theme park in China has just been forced to close because officials said it had an "evil influence" on society - even before it opened. Love Land, devoted to the more carnal and sensual pleasures, has been torn down - giant "bits" and all.

The power of advertising

An ad in The Daily Telegraph has two pieces of good news: you can get a copy of the Telegraph with your Breakfast McValue Meal®; the other - tall people get paid more. What they don't mention - and I can't understand why - is that the same recent research that found that taller people get paid more also found that here in Australia at least, overweight people are also paid more - although they didn't say whether overweight people get paid more than tall people, or if tall people who are overweight get paid more twice. The ad also doesn't mention Maccas/McDonald's by name - just has the name of the product and the big yellow M and the "i'm lovin' it®".

Monday, May 18, 2009

Got me licked

I'm not sure which sticks in my mind more - the sight of the young girl coming into the cafe, and while her Dad talked on the mobile phone, her licking the top of first the salt shaker and then the pepper shaker at the nearest table - or ... no, wait, that one does stick the most. The other was simply the sign at KKD's Wynyard store: You're Never Alone With a Box of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Hmmm ... or is that ... mmmmm.

Friday, May 15, 2009

From one extreme

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is making its own contribution to lessening the impact of the global economic downturn by starting a program in the US which will see 70 of its products made available for free to people who have lost their job and health insurance. There are conditions, of course, but this type of philanthropy is not new to Pfizer which has previously provided drugs free on other programs. Cynics might suggest that this is just a way of ensuring brand loyalty - better to give the drugs to people rather than have them switch to generic brands - but whatever the reason is has to be seen as a positive effort. The scheme was first suggested about 5 weeks ago at a management training meeting - so it seems that that was one meeting worth having - and it suggests that Pfizer is prepared to think outside the box and be at least a little innovative in its dealings with its markets. Who would have thought that this was the same company that recently apparently announced price increases due to problems associated with ... the global economic downturn.

Tony's been burned

Tony Edwards, an organist at a crematorium in the UK for 13 years, is about to be replaced by a karaoke machine. A spokesperson for the Counties Crematorium said the $12,000 music system would offer more choice for mourners than $70 -a-service Tony. Others aren't so sure the music system will allow for enough of a human element or give the abililty to adapt and/or make last minute changes to the "program". Tony is said to be disappointed with the decision and one can only hope that, when the time comes, he takes his business elsewhere.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Keep your job or ...

My niece has just taken out a personal loan for a new car and she had some second and third thoughts about taking on a debt in these times of economic uncertainty. And it seems she might not be the only one given the latest ads for Kia - if you lose your job in the next 12 months, you can return the car. There's sure to be more to it than that - but it could give you some piece of mind if you had to let your old car go, couldn't it?

Who knew?

After seeing numerous heavy vehicles overtake us as we cruised at 100km an hour, I commented some time ago that it seemed that trucks were no longer speed limited to 100kph. Not quite sure why that happened originally or how long ago - perhaps a spate of truck-related accidents? - but it, and the trucks that sped past us, seemed to be long gone. But, not so apparently. A report by the Auditor-General suggests that current speed camera technology does not allow differentiation between trucks and smaller vehicles - so as long as trucks are under the general road limit eg 110kph, they will not be "caught". The good news - for truck drivers? - is that "we have the technology ... but aren't using it".

Big Rocket

Moree, in outback NSW, wants to cash in on the culture of "big things" by installing its own Big Rocket which will take pride of place in a space-themed playground. The 14-metre rocket will be "launched" - obviously not literally - on the 40th anniversary of man's lunar landing - which I had always thought was June but seems instead to be July. Moree will henceforth be known, they hope, as "Home of the Big Rocket". The report I read gave no indication as to why a rocket was chosen - is there some connection between Moree and space perhaps? (And if we have "big" things here in Australia, do they have "bug" things in NZ?)

Unfair advantage

It may not fly but Canadian research suggests that oestrogen, the female sex hormone, boosts women's immune systems - making them less susceptible to having a sniffle turn into the flu - as at least one report suggests is wont to happen with men. An obvious next step might be to use oestrogen-based treatments to boost male defences against illness. Or blame Canada (thanks South Park).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrong place, wrong time

A young boy is critically ill in hospital this morning after he was hit in the head by a tyre that had come off a passing car. Witnesses said the rear tyre of a small sedan fell off the vehicle, flew through the air and hit the boy as he stood by the roadside.

Recycled suit for sale

It's 26 years old but there may still be a bidder or two for this suit - worn by Christopher Reeve in Superman III - was this the one where he flew very fast the wrong way around the world to turn back time and bring Lois Lane back to life after she has been suffocated with dirt when her car fell into a very large and recently opened hole in the road and was subsequently buried - the car that is, with Lois in it? The suit - blue and red and yellow - complete with red cape and a big S on the chest - is being auctioned in Australia later this month and could fetch over $15,000. Unlike the fictional version, chances are this one is not indestructable and doesn't help the wearer to fly - although, come to think of it, the flying powers were Superman's, not the suit's.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Stolen property

I know what it's like to go to get your car and it's not where you parked it - but I can't imagine how the guy in Greece felt when he arrived at his holiday home 25km east of Athens and the house and everything in it was gone. Robbers had apparently lifted the pre-fabricated house off its foundations and made off with it.


The future of newspapers (not having a good trot lately - even Warren Buffett has said he wouldn't invest in one) is in your hands - so says the ad in today's The Daily Telegraph. All I need is a webcam and a copy of The Sunday Telegraph on May 17 - and of course to remember to do that - and I too can get to see a new dimension to newspapers. Mind you we did see one yesterday with the launch of Amazon's new, larger approx 10" screen Kindle aka electronic reading device which is supposed to make on-the-device newspaper reading easier.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

First and last

Ratings are an amazing thing. I tuned in to the first outing of new show "Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation" on Tuesday night - one of 1.64 million around Australia to do so - making it the most watched show of the evening and a "hit". However that will be the only time I watch it because I didn't enjoy it. I can't help wonder how many other viewers were driven by curiousity and whether a show needs to sustain good numbers over a few outings to be granted "hit" status? Ah well, I wish them well with it. Who knows, I might give it a try later in the season to see if they've been able to bed down and grow into the format.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Phone tricks

What will they think of next? Need something else on your mobile phone to keep you amused? How about - and they advertise this really is "For entertainment purposes only" - finding out how long you are going to live. Simply SMS your name, year of birth and ... oops can't remember the other thing ... to the number provided and they'll send back your Date of Death. Not sure how much it costs - but if by some strange chance of fate it was true, would you do it?

Bus stuff

With more buses from the Sydney CBD becoming pre-pay only, it makes sense that there would be one ticket with stored value - and the onboatd dipper just deducts the value of your fare rather than you having to know how many sections you are travelling - can the newsagent/ticket agent advise that or do you need to ring the Bus info line - when you purchase your ticket somewhere before getting in the bus or do you just be done with it and buy a multi-ride ticket for each of the common section lengths?

Ear ear

So news this morning suggests that Van Gogh may not have chopped off his own ear afterall. (It isn't April 1st is it?) New evidence suggests that the injury may have been inflicted by fellow artist Paul Gaugin in a feud over a prostitute. Apparently Van Gogg never spoke of what happened (to his ear) and it was Gaugin who told police that the artist has sliced off his own ear. Credit for these findings go to some German historians who have been studying the "evidence" for 10 years. I wonder what they'll do next?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Customer Service

Kudos to the 3 person at Marrickville Metro who took time out this morning - even though he was the only one in the store after his staff called in sick - to help resolve the issue with my mobile broadband. All's working well at the moment - so I'll stay any plans to move networks for the moment.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Bet each way

I suppose, when you think about it, people who chose to maintain a variable interest rate for their home mortgage rather than moving to a fixed rate, and vice versa, are gambling on the Reserve's Bank decisions regarding interest rates. Of course, it if you wanted to, you could actually having a "real" bet on it. A news item in The Daily Telegraph recently told of a "VIP client" from Sydney's west who has bet $45,000 with Centrebet on interest rates remaining the same after the Reserve Bank's May meeting.

Positive spin

I was at odds to understand two separate news items this morning - both about housing prices - and seemingly saying totally different things. One (the ABC) said Australian house prices had fallen by almost 4 per cent during the year to the end of March - the other (The Daily Telegraph) that they had risen, in Sydney at least, by 2.4 per cent to the end of March - except they were counting only the first three months of the year, rather than the full preceeding 12 months. It's good to see some optimism out there in the press.

What am I

What Am I? More a question than a name really, but some think it fitting for one of only two* hermaphrodite horses racing in the world today. According to The Daily Telegraph, "you could be forgiven for having a wager each way" when What Am I makes a showing at the Ballarat trots this evening.
* The other is Arizona Helen, in Canada.

Diamond "trading"

This isn't something I have to worry about, but word is that some diamonds being sold in Sydney are not the "real deal". Who knew that diamonds could be tampered with to enhance their colour and clarity, or to have fractures filled? And that doing so could actually decrease their worth? One gem, said to be worth about $50,000 was actually revalued at about $1,000 (but The Daily Telegraph* report was unclear as to whether the higher figure would have been for the gem before treatment or if it had been what it purported** to be.)
* I really do need to read a bit more widely, and I do, overseas press as well, but sometimes you can only find some stories in The Daily Telegraph.
** And let that be a reminder to me about how difficult it is to find a word in the dictionary if you don't know how to spell it. Even the excellent WordBook for iPhone, actually iPod Touch, by TranCreative had a hard time helping me out on this one.

On the nose

Found in Melbourne CBD: Numerous evidence bags containing white powder and a plastic spoon.
Lost in Melbourne CBD: Credibility of one Sydney marketing company who reportedly planted 300 of the evidence bags around the city to promote the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Comicide. At least two of the "authentic" looking bags were handed in to police - although it's unsure if those handing them in had read the instructions on the label which would have landed them free tickets to the gig.
No mention was made of the fate of the other bags; what the white powder was, and whether it would harm anyone ingesting it (thinking, perhaps, it was something else).

Contracting service

It's not often that my dissatisfaction with a service coincides almost exactly with the expiration of a contract for that service. Yes "3", this is about you - and that the internet service I've been receiving on my phone seems to have "dried up" - all of a sudden places where I had coverage before have now become "Roaming", with either a loss of service or, so it seems, a service will be available but at an additional charge per Megabyte. Not happy. Research into other providers about to start happening - and yes, I'll pop in to one of your retail outlets for a chat as well. (I can't help but wonder if this has something to do with a rumoured merger with Vodafone.)