31 January 2008

football... not for the faint hearted

From New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 358:475-483 January 31, 2008 Number 5)
Cardiovascular Events during World Cup Soccer
Ute Wilbert-Lampen, M.D., David Leistner, M.D., Sonja Greven, M.S., Tilmann Pohl, M.D., Sebastian Sper, Christoph Völker, Denise Güthlin, Andrea Plasse, Andreas Knez, M.D., Helmut Küchenhoff, Ph.D., and Gerhard Steinbeck, M.D.


Background The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, held in Germany from June 9 to July 9, 2006, provided an opportunity to examine the relation between emotional stress and the incidence of cardiovascular events.

Methods Cardiovascular events occurring in patients in the greater Munich area were prospectively assessed by emergency physicians during the World Cup. We compared those events with events that occurred during the control period: May 1 to June 8 and July 10 to July 31, 2006, and May 1 to July 31 in 2003 and 2005.

Results Acute cardiovascular events were assessed in 4279 patients. On days of matches involving the German team, the incidence of cardiac emergencies was 2.66 times that during the control period (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.33 to 3.04; P<0.001); style="font-style: italic;">Conclusions Viewing a stressful soccer match more than doubles the risk of an acute cardiovascular event. In view of this excess risk, particularly in men with known coronary heart disease, preventive measures are urgently needed.

Source Information

From Medizinische Klinik und Poliklinik I, Campus Grosshadern (U.W.-L., D.L., T.P., S.S., C.V., A.P., A.K., G.S.), and Statistisches Beratungslabor, Institut für Statistik (S.G., D.G., H.K.), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany.

Drs. Wilbert-Lampen and Leistner contributed equally to this article.

Address reprint requests to Dr. Wilbert-Lampen at Med. Klinik und Poliklinik I, Campus Grosshadern, Marchioninistr. 15, D-81377 Munich, Germany, or at ute.wilbert-lampen@med.uni-muenchen.de.
Duh! Anyone who watches nail-biting sports like Australian Rules football, where the lead can change several times in a few minutes know that it is enough to give someone a heart attack.

Tonight I started watching Hex. Very dark and its take on Nephelim is quite different to that in Fallen.

30 January 2008

doors in Tunisia

Many of the houses in Tunisia are simple whitewashed but they feature amazing doors. Of course, they need to be well framed behind a nice arch.

Definitely worth visiting, but not just to see the doors. For a north African country, Tunisia has a European feel, with French and Italian influences. Of course, it was also part of the Roman Empire at one stage.

Food Safari tonight featured Hungarian cuisine. Hmmm... I haven't made gulyás for a long time, perhaps when the weather is cooler.

29 January 2008

Duck Legs Braised With Red Wine and Lime

From the New York Times magazine (27 January 2008), a recipe from Daniel Patterson, chef at COI Restaurant in San Francisco
Duck Legs Braised With Red Wine and Lime

4 duck legs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced
Peeled zest of 2 limes, pith removed and cut into thin strips
2 teaspoons minced serrano chili
1 cup red wine
2 teaspoons lime juice, more as needed
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (coriander)

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 C). Season the duck with salt and pepper. Place a stew pot over medium-high heat, and add the oil. When hot, add the duck, skin side down, and cook until golden brown. Rotate the legs and cook for 30 seconds more; transfer to a plate.

2. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the onions and a little salt and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the lime zest and serrano chili. Add the red wine, ½ cup of water and a pinch of salt. Nestle the duck legs, skin side up, on top of the onions. Bring to a boil, and then cover, place in the oven and cook until the duck is tender but still toothsome, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

3. Transfer the duck and 1/2 cup of the onions to a plate; cover to keep warm. Purée the remaining onions, the cooking liquid and lime juice in a blender. Adjust to taste with salt and lime juice. Stir in half of the cilantro.

4. Mound the reserved onions in the centers of 4 plates. Put a duck leg on top of each, and pour the sauce around the duck. Sprinkle the remaining cilantro over each plate. Serve as a hearty appetizer. Serves 4. Adapted from “Aroma,” by Mandy Aftel and Daniel Patterson.

Apparently, Chef Patterson made up this recipe, especially the saucing technique to make up for braising without stock.

I had forgotten, though, having lived in California for 15 years, the wasteland that is an upstate New York supermarket in February. The produce section, filled with distressed-looking vegetables from South America and limp West Coast greens, was less than inspiring. I felt sorry for local vegetarians.

Fortunately we were an omnivorous group, so I turned my attention toward the meat counter, where I found some nice duck legs. I bought red wine, onions, limes, cilantro and serrano chilies to cook them with, imagining kind of a coq au vin by way of Vietnam.

What I failed to imagine was the resulting dark, watery and oily cooking liquid, which rather unpleasantly put me in mind of the Exxon Valdez. I’m usually pretty good at predicting what will happen during any given cooking process, but as I stood in our friend’s kitchen eyeing the pot, it was clear that the limpid, viscous sauce that I was going for had not materialized.

So I did something that I’d never done with a stew. I strained the liquid and then blended it with some of the onions, chilies and lime zest from the pot to thicken it into a sauce, which I seasoned with lime juice and cilantro. I flinched a bit as I did it; having been trained in French technique, with its long-cooked stocks and slow reductions, this seemed like a cheap shortcut. But there was no arguing with the sauce’s dynamic flavor or its smooth texture.

The basic technique is simplicity itself: use some of the vegetables that cooked with the meat to emulsify the cooking liquid into a sauce, much like making a soup. The softened fiber of the vegetables thickens the sauce and binds the free fat, capturing all of the flavor of the braise. Herbs, spices or other aromatics added to the blender can refresh the long-cooked flavors, and a little acidity, like cultured cream, citrus or vinegar, balances its richness.

A water braise is slightly different from a stock braise. It’s especially important to brown the meat well, developing crusty bits on the bottom of the pan that will flavor the cooking liquid. And don’t remove the fat! The fat is what will give the stew its flavor and the resulting sauce its silky texture. Once the sauce is made, don’t bring it to a vigorous boil, which can cause it to break.

This is quite puzzling to me though. I've always braised duck or chicken in red wine without stock - coq au vin for example. I reduce the braising liquid which always thickens. Also, 1 cup of red wine is really not enough. Use the whole bottle!

Back to work today after yesterday's public holiday for Australia Day (if Australia Day falls on a weekend, the following Monday is a public holiday). It was also a very warm day.

Sue B came over with me after work to check out the gardening work (after all, she had been nagging about one particular weed that was taller than a person).

28 January 2008

shoo fly

The worse aspect of summer in Australia are the flies. Lots and lots of flies. But then, it wouldn't be an Australian summer without flies.

Unfortunately, wearing a hat with dangling corks just looks silly

However, I am thankful for whoever created the Enviro Safe Fly Catching System*

And it works too!

This is actually after 16 days

I know flies are part of the larger ecology, like breaking down organic matter, but surely not necessarily in such large numbers.

*this is not an advertisement nor endorsement of the product

Today was a very warm day, so I mostly vegged on the couch with episodes of Angel again.

27 January 2008

life on Mars?

NASA released a composite photo of the Martian surface on 2 January 2008 from the rover Spirit.
NASA'S Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured this westward view from atop a low plateau where Sprit spent the closing months of 2007.

After several months near the base of the plateau called "Home Plate" in the inner basin of the Columbia Hills range inside Gusev Crater, Spirit climbed onto the eastern edge of the plateau during the rover's 1,306th Martian day, or sol, (Sept. 5, 2007). It examined rocks and soils at several locations on the southern half of Home Plate during September and October. It was perched near the western edge of Home Plate when it used its panoramic camera (Pancam) to take the images used in this view on sols 1,366 through 1,369 (Nov. 6 through Nov. 9, 2007). With its daily solar-energy supply shrinking as Martian summer turned to fall, Spirit then drove to the northern edge of Home Plate for a favorable winter haven. The rover reached that northward-tilting site in December, in time for the fourth Earth-year anniversary of its landing on Mars. Spirit reached Mars on Jan. 4, 2004, Universal Time (Jan. 3, 2004, Pacific Standard Time). It landed at a site at about the center of the horizon in this image.

This panorama covers a scene spanning left to right from southwest to northeast. The western edge of Home Plate is in the foreground, generally lighter in tone than the more distant parts of the scene. A rock-dotted hill in the middle distance across the left third of the image is "Tsiolkovski Ridge," about 30 meters or 100 feet from the edge of Home Plate and about that same distance across. A bump on the horizon above the left edge of Tsiolkovski Ridge is "Grissom Hill," about 8 kilometers or 5 miles away. At right, the highest point of the horizon is "Husband Hill," to the north and about 800 meters or half a mile away.

This view combines separate images taken through Pancam filters centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers, 535 nanometers and 432 nanometers to produce an approximately true-color panorama.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University
The image was widely reported in the media on 23/24 January 2008. The only reason why the media took an interest was because of fuss on the internet about the image of a possible humanoid.

The thing is, not even the BBC checked the original facts
The image is from a Nasa posting of the Spirit's landing site in 2004.
Wrong! It was 6-9 November 2007.

In any case, Martian life forms may not be humanoid. The easiest proof would be for the rover Spirit to return to the same site and take another picture of the same place, perhaps closer. If the 'humanoid' hasn't moved, then it is a rock formation.

I slept in today until 10am! Haven't done that in a long time. Most of the day was vegging on the couch watching episodes of season two of Angel. Well, until the late afternoon anyway.

Devi came over in the afternoon with her electric (battery) hedge trimmer and trimmed the driveway hedge while I finished mowing the lawn. Devi also did a lot more other gardening than I did, as I took Kane2 for a walk.

I cooked Mongolian lamb (off a leg of lamb, sauce made with a tablespoon each of bean sauce, hoisin sauce, ketchup and a teaspoon of hot chilli sauce and a wedged onion) for dinner with rice.

26 January 2008

How do you tell if you are a true Aussie?

Today is Australia Day and there was a cool article in the Sydney Morning Herald

How do you tell if you are a true Aussie?

Richard Glover
January 26, 2008

TODAY you'll probably want to party, celebrating all the things that make us unique. But how do you tell if you are a true Aussie? Here are my 43 top ways to tell if you're a local.

You know you're Australian if …

1. You know the meaning of the word "girt".

2. You believe that stubbies can be either drunk or worn.

3. You think it's normal to have a leader called Kevin.

4. You waddle when you walk due to the 53 expired petrol discount vouchers stuffed in your wallet or purse.

5. You've made a bong out of your garden hose rather than use it for something illegal such as watering the garden.

6. You believe it is appropriate to put a rubber in your son's pencil case when he first attends school.

7. When you hear that an American "roots for his team" you wonder how often and with whom.

8. You understand that the phrase "a group of women wearing black thongs" refers to footwear and may be less alluring than it sounds.

9. You pronounce Melbourne as "Mel-bin".

10. You pronounce Penrith as "Pen-riff".

11. You believe the "l" in the word "Australia" is optional.

12. You can translate: "Dazza and Shazza played Acca Dacca on the way to Maccas."

13. You believe it makes perfect sense for a nation to decorate its highways with large fibreglass bananas, prawns and sheep.

14. You call your best friend "a total bastard" but someone you really, truly despise is just "a bit of a bastard".

15. You think "Woolloomooloo" is a perfectly reasonable name for a place.

16. You're secretly proud of our killer wildlife.

17. You believe it makes sense for a country to have a $1 coin that's twice as big as its $2 coin.

18. You understand that "Wagga Wagga" can be abbreviated to "Wagga" but "Woy Woy" can't be called "Woy".

19. You believe that cooked-down axlegrease makes a good breakfast spread.

20. You believe all famous Kiwis are actually Australian, until they stuff up, at which point they again become Kiwis.

21. Hamburger. Beetroot. Of course.

22. You know that certain words must, by law, be shouted out during any rendition of the Angels' song Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again.

23. You believe, as an article of faith, that the confectionary known as the Wagon Wheel has become smaller with every passing year.

24. You still don't get why the "Labor" in "Australian Labor Party" is not spelt with a "u".

25. You wear ugh boots outside the house.

26. You believe, as an article of faith, that every important discovery in the world was made by an Australian but then sold off to the Yanks for a pittance.

27. You believe that the more you shorten someone's name the more you like them.

28. Whatever your linguistic skills, you find yourself able to order takeaway fluently in every Asian language.

29. You understand that "excuse me" can sound rude, while "scuse me" is always polite.

30. You know what it's like to swallow a fly, on occasion via your nose.

31. You understand that "you" has a plural and that it's "youse".

32. You know it's not summer until the steering wheel is too hot to handle.

33. Your biggest family argument over the summer concerned the rules for beach cricket.

34. You shake your head in horror when companies try to market what they call "Anzac cookies".

35. You still think of Kylie as "that girl off Neighbours".

36. When returning home from overseas, you expect to be brutally strip-searched by Customs - just in case you're trying to sneak in fruit.

37. You believe the phrase "smart casual" refers to a pair of black tracky-daks, suitably laundered.

38. You understand that all train timetables are works of fiction.

39. When working on a bar, you understand male customers will feel the need to offer an excuse whenever they order low-alcohol beer.

40. You get choked up with emotion by the first verse of the national anthem and then have trouble remembering the second.

41. You find yourself ignorant of nearly all the facts deemed essential in the government's new test for migrants.

42. You know, whatever the tourist books say, that no one says "cobber".

43. And you will immediately forward this list to other Australians, here and overseas, realising that only they will understand.

Happy Australia Day.

There's no point in trying to explain any of these to non-Australians!

I always read Richard Glover's columns in the SMH. He is one of the paper's funniest writers.

This evening I mowed half of the back lawn (overgrown weeds more like), and met the new neighbours (Glen and Janey - I'm writing this down so I don't forget their names) to the right when I asked them if they would mind. This means the neighbours on all three sides are now owner-occupiers.

I'm sore from mowing and need to mow the rest tomorrow.

book - finished reading

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

Marvellous prose which deserved the Man Booker Prize.

25 January 2008

Council House 2

Council House 2 (CH2) is a City of Melbourne (formerly Melbourne City Council) office building, designed by Mick Pearce and DesignInc, that was opened on 30 August 2006. The excellent environmentally sustainable features include
  • a water mining plant delivering 100 000 litres of recycled water per day;
  • a low energy cooling system;
  • automatic windows that open at night to cool the building;
  • vaulted concrete ceilings to improve air circulation, cooling and natural light;
  • a facade of louvres to track the sun to shade the Western side; and
  • roof mounted wind turbines to draw hot air out of the building.
I like how functionality is built into the design.

How it works

west facade with the wooden louvres (from Swanston Street)

west facade with wooden louvres open

interior office fitout

roof terrace, with yellow wind turbines

See also
- review in Architecture Australia (Jan/Feb 2007) - lots more photos there
- guided tour with ABC TV Catalyst (19 April 2007)
- 'Green offices that slash absentism' Sydney Morning Herald (16 January 2008)

I only learnt about CH2 from the SMH article last month. I will have to visit the building during one of my forthcoming (football) trips to Melbourne.

I was intending to meet up with Emily this evening at the Australia Day Live 08 free concert, but decided that being amongst 35 000 other people might be a bit much. I only wanted to catch The Basics and Gotye numbers. In any case, I watched it on tv and their sets were very short - two songs from The Basics and Hearts a Mess from Gotye.

24 January 2008

Heath Ledger 1979-2008

Heath Ledger (4 April 1979 – 22 January 2008)

It's hard not to miss all the media coverage of Heath Ledger. I was quite stunned hearing it on the news yesterday (Wednesday) morning before I left for work. It was on the front page of every Australian newspaper this morning.

I remember Heath Ledger in the 1996 series Sweat. He was actually quite good. One could tell that he and Martin Henderson would be rising stars.

Of course, he will probably be best remembered for his 2005 role in Brokeback Mountain.

One of my favourites is the under-rated 2003 film, The Order (released as The Sin Eater in Australia)

Even the Australian Prime Minister issued a statement

Heath Ledger

23 January 2008

It was with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of Heath Ledger.

It is tragic that we have lost one of our nation’s finest actors in the prime of his life.

Heath Ledger’s diverse and challenging roles will be remembered as some of the great performances by an Australian actor.

Our thoughts are with Heath’s family and close friends, especially his two-year old daughter Matilda.

Media contact: 02 6277 7744

Extensive coverage in
- Sydney Morning Herald
- People
- New York Times
- news.com.au (Murdoch Australian press)
which had to index their collection of articles etc

Rest in Peace.

As far as excitement goes, at work, today was one of those days. The departmental secretary presented awards this morning, which was followed by a free barbeque lunch. A cheap lunch of sausages and bread (in Australia, called a 'sausage sizzle'). As if a free lunch wasn't enough for one day, our boss also had her birthday today so her section heads put on an afternoon tea.

Aside from all the food, a rather complex issue dating back to 1994 reared its ugly head again. Argh! This could get messy. But as far as work goes, it is a bit of excitement.

23 January 2008

Church of the Jedi

There really is a Church of the Jedi
The UK Church Of The Jedi started in 2003 when Master Morda Hehol (Head of Church) and his apprentice Jo-Jak Hawil dedicated their life style to the Jedi way. After years of training, Morda trained his brother JonBa Hehol up to be a Jedi Master and the two started a ministry in 2007. Using some teachings from other UK Jedi churches and writing their own, the church grew and they set up an online chapter of UK Church of the Jedi. Now the church organization controls most Jedi churches in the UK, and gains members world wide.
I had to do some editing there to make that more literate!

Apparently, there are lots of potential followers worldwide. In the 2001 census conducted by a number of countries - there were:
According to the Jedi Order, a person doesn't just become a Jedi master

To become a Jedi requires the deepest commitment and most serious mind. It is not a venture to be undertaken lightly. As such, Jedi instruction is rigidly structured and codified to enforce discipline and hinder transgression.

Jedi candidates are detected, identified and taken into the order as infants. One method of detection is through blood sampling -- those with great Force potential often have high midi-chlorian counts in their bloodstream. A prospective Jedi begins training in infancy. All connection to previous family life is lost. In this early stage of training, a single master instructs groups, or clans, of Jedi hopefuls.

Hmmm... if I was to follow Master Morda Hehol's teachings, I'd want him to demonstrate his powers of the mind, such as levitating objects.

I'm waiting for the Sith to start up their 'church' The Dark Side is much more appealing. If it was good enough for Anakin Skywalker...

Yoda - do not to the Dark Side go

Anakin - feel the power of the Dark Side

Good or evil... it's how you look at it.

Jedi or Sith, their beliefs are just as valid as that of Scientology.

Emily visited this evening (instead of tomorrow). We watched the Food Safari episode on Singaporean cuisine. I'm going to have to cook Hainanese chicken rice for dinner soon.

We had t-bone steak for dinner, with carrots, beans and broccoli and then went for a walk.

22 January 2008

when fiction offends

I read this article from the Bangkok Post (22 January 2008) with bemusement

Air hostesses all steamed up over steamy soap


Free Image Hosting - Photolava.com
Reacting furiously to a steamy new TV series about passion at high altitudes, which it says tarnishes its air hostesses' image, the labour union of Thai Airways International is urging the airline's management to suspend sponsorship of all programmes made by the show's producer Exact Co.

Somsak Srinual, president of the union, said yesterday the demand for the suspension of sponsorship would put pressure on Exact and its parent company, GMM Media Plc, to adjust the story line of its prime time series Songkhram Nang Fah (Air Hostess War), which was launched on Channel 5 last week.

''I'd like to ask Exact if the series will improve society or benefit viewers. It introduces violence just to improve the series' ratings,'' he said.

The labour union is complaining because the show depicts air hostesses engaging in fisticuffs, with a dashing pilot as the prize.

The story tarnishes the image of flight attendants and is immoral, Mr Somsak said. Although the series claims to be based on the true story of a flight attendant, scenes of air hostesses fighting each other are fictitious, he said.

He demanded Exact adjust the plot and said his union was ready to advise on the professionalism of air hostesses in real life. Only when the company agreed to the demand would the union stop applying pressure for the programme to be pulled.

He claimed flight attendants of other domestic airlines also disliked the series and backed the THAI union's actions.

The union yesterday filed a written complaint with Exact and will also complain to the Culture Ministry and to Channel 5.

THAI's in-flight manager Pichitra Taveerat said she found the uniforms worn by air hostesses in the show were inappropriate. The skirts were too short and the attendants showed too much cleavage.

Ms Pichitra suggested the series should present the life of flight attendants constructively, in the same way that Japanese series Good Luck!! did.

THAI flight attendant Benjamas Pooklomtuan said the series damaged the image of both flight attendants and the national airline.

Nawat Kulrattanarak, the actor who plays the pilot, said fights over affairs of the heart could happen to people in any profession. ''This story can be found in every profession, not just in the airline business. The lead role in other stories may be a businessman,'' he said.

If nobody was watching this show in Thailand, they will now. If you read Thai - here is the website. Anybody who has ever flown Thai Airways and experienced the polite service from the cabin crew would know that a fictional show is just that.

The image “http://www.tv5.co.th/drama/war_angel/images/war_angel.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The image “http://www.tv5.co.th/drama/images/air01.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

For a start, the local industry and the Thai media could do away with using the term 'air hostess' which is rather demeaning.

I wonder what they would have thought about the UK series Mile High (which I quite enjoyed when it was screened here in Australia).
Mile High is a heady mix of fast paced drama and sexy comedy. Set around the antics of Fresh airlines staff their saucy and dramatic antics soar as high as the planes they service on. Starring gorgeous British actress Naomi Ryan as the sensual, impulsive but vulnerable Lehann, hunky Tom Wisdom as sweet, shy, boy-next-door Marco; Adam Sinclair as the flamboyantly gay Will and the lovely Jo-Anne Knowles as the Bitch From Hell purser Janis.
The image “http://www.skyone.co.uk/images/programme/25/current/mil_overview_pic.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

File under 'storm in a teacup'.

I fell asleep after I arrived home from work today, which I haven't done in awhile.

21 January 2008

It's only rain... water

I wrote about bottled water on 17 April 2007 and how buying bottled water is very environmentally unsound and followed up with another post on 16 September 2007.

I've just discovered that 'Tasmanian rain' is being bottled, packaged and being sold by a company called Tasmanian Rain.

That's right, 12 bottles of 750 ml each for US$59. May as well pay a bit more and buy wine instead!

Hmmm... Most drinking water in Australia (of which Tasmania is just one state) is rain water, collected in catchment dams and then treated. The northwest of Tasmania where 'Tasmanian rain' is supposed to originate, is supplied their water by Cradle Coast Water.

Nevertheless, Tasmanians who are not connected to the reticulated water supply or who prefer rainwater can source their drinking water from 'Tasmanian rain'.

I like this advice from the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services
Rainwater Tanks

Rainwater from your roof can be a valuable resource particularly in areas where reticulated water is not available. To help ensure good quality water, it is important to correctly install and maintain the rainwater tank and catchment area.

What can go wrong?

Water collected from roofs may be tainted by substances washed off by the rain and may even be unhealthy to drink. These may be chemicals such as components of paint or wood fire deposits or they may be micro-organisms from bird and animal droppings. Contamination can also be caused by decaying leaves and dead animals which have fallen into the tank. In addition, tanks can act as breeding sites for mosquitoes which in some circumstances may be carriers of viral diseases.

Measures to Safeguard Tank Water Quality:
  • Install screens on all tank inlets. Install first flush bypass devices which collect roof debris. These are available from tank suppliers.
  • Roof gutters and screens should be regularly checked and kept clean.
  • Cut back overhanging vegetation to prevent falling leaves, bird droppings and possum faeces from collecting on roof and in gutters. Bird and animal repelling devices could be considered.
  • Keep wood heaters in good repair. Remove 'Chinese hat' type chimney flue cowls.
  • Keep roof in good repair and check with suppliers of materials before using them on a roof used for collecting drinking water.
  • To be assured of microbiologically safe drinking water, disinfect the tank with the appropriate amount of chlorine. If gross contamination occurs, such as finding a dead animal in the tank, empty and refill. In addition, in these cases the tank may need a higher dose of chlorine - seek advice. Until the tank is treated boil all water for drinking and food preparation.
Aside from the environmental cost of manufacturing glass bottles, transport etc, water is a scarce resource in Australia. Water from Australia should not be bottled to be sent offshore. Most of the Australian population are on water restrictions and many gardens have died. It's despicable that a private company is allowed to remove some of our water for huge profits. End of rant.

20 January 2008

Euphronius Krater

From Associated Press

Italy Unveils Returned Euphronius Vase

ROME (AP) — With the return of a long-sought masterpiece of antiquity, Italy on Friday trumpeted one of the successes of its campaign to recover what it says are looted treasures from museums and collectors around the world.

The 2,500-year-old vase by Greek artist Euphronius, which Italy regained after signing a deal with the Metropolitan Museum in New York, was feted in Rome at an official presentation.

The Euphronius Krater — a large vase painted with scenes related to Homer's epic poems "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" — is regarded as one of the finest examples of its kind. The vase was used as a bowl for mixing wine and water.

"It is universally considered the best work by the artist," Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli said at the ceremony. Also attending was his predecessor, Rocco Buttiglione, who started the country's high-profile campaign to recover art.

Rutelli sought to reassure art lovers that the Met's artistic richness would not suffer.

This "doesn't mean we're taking an opportunity away from the public," the minister said, stressing that the deal calls for Italy to lend equally significant artifacts to the Met for four years. "The policy of exchanging items resolves a tough confrontation without hurting" museum visitors, he said.

The Euphronius Krater was at the heart of negotiations with the New York museum. And it was the focal point of Italian government efforts to recover ancient treasures that have ended up in museums or private collections with what Italy claims was false documentation after being allegedly looted from archaeological sites.

Euphronius was one of Athens' greatest vase painters during a time of unequaled mastery for pottery in the ancient world. Like many other vessels, the krater was exported to Italy, and it is believed to have been used by the Etruscan civilization to decorate a tomb near Rome.

More than 2,000 years later, the priceless vase was looted from the site by Italy's "tombaroli" — or tomb raiders — and smuggled out of the country, Italian authorities say.

The museum bought it for $1 million in 1972 from American art dealer Robert Hecht, who is on trial in Rome on charges of knowingly acquiring allegedly looted ancient artifacts. He denies wrongdoing.

The deal that was eventually sealed with the New York museum in February 2006 called for the return of the vase by mid-January 2008. The museum also agreed to return 20 other antiquities.

Italy has secured the return of dozens of Roman, Greek and Etruscan artifacts in deals with museums including the Met and California's J. Paul Getty Museum. Italian art officials have said the agreements for long term loans of prestigious artifacts should discourage looting.

Rutelli also gave details about a recent agreement with a private U.S. collector that signals Italy's intention to broaden its campaign.

The deal with New York philanthropist Shelby White calls for the return of 10 artifacts from her private collection, the Culture Ministry confirmed Friday. It was first reported in The New York Times, which said White and her late husband insisted they bought the items in good faith.

Telephone and e-mail messages left for White's spokesman, Fraser Seitel, were not immediately returned.

Nine of the items already have been given to the Italian Consulate in New York and the 10th — another vase by Euphronius — was expected to be returned in two years, the ministry said.

Associated Press Writer Alessandra Rizzo contributed to this report.

Now if only the British Museum would return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

After yesterday's do nothing day, on account of the weather, today was a busy day.

Devi came over around midday (her sister Fiona had a desire for yum cha/dim sum) so we went to the Dumpling Inn up the road, but they were closed (for a week). We then went to the newly built part of Lake Ginninderra (not far) and stumbled upon Prince Palace. Very freshly made dumplings, but a bit more expensive ($20 per head).

Stumbling on Prince Palace was serendipitous as my alternate suggestion was actually 2 Yummy, which was next door, for noodles or duck etc.

I finally cleaned the floors, tidied up the deck area and did some weeding - in between re-watching episodes of Torchwood.

19 January 2008

evil clowns and coulrophobia

BBC News (15 January 2008) has reported that a University of Sheffield study published in the Nursing standard magazine found that children are scared by clowns.
Researcher Dr Penny Curtis said: "As adults we make assumptions about what works for children.

"We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."

She said: "Very few children like clowns. They are unfamiliar and come from a different era. They don't look funny, they just look odd.
BBC News (16 January 2008) followed up with an article on why clowns are scary and suggested that popular culture may be to blame with horror films spawning an 'evil clown' genre which began with Stephen King's It.

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Pennywise the clown from It
Stephen King's It - Pennywise howling

Aren't all clowns evil? Little wonder that coulrophobia is quite common.

What's really scary is a clown encouraging children to eat junk food. Why do clowns want to hang around children anyway? Something sinister there.

How many children have disappeared from fast food restaurants, only to be eaten by a certain clown?

Today was a do nothing day as it has been raining and cold. Some new posts in my music blog.

tying a bow tie

Now I just have to buy a bow tie and practice.

How to tie a bow tie

tying a tie

I've been doing the half-Windsor for years...

How to tie a double Windsor knot

18 January 2008

a new genus of 'suicidal' palm found in Madagascar

Numerous media outlets have reported about a new genus of palm found in Madagascar. This is almost as big a find as the discovery of the Wollemi Pine in 1994. Here is the original press release from the Linnean Society of London (I prefer original sources)
New Genus of Self-Destructive Palm found in Madagascar

Published 17 January 2008

A gigantic palm that flowers itself to death has been discovered in Madagascar. This previously unknown genus is entirely new to science and has been named Tahina spectabilis, which is Malagasy for "blessed" or "to be protected", and is also one of the given names of Anne-Tahina Metz, the daughter of the discoverer of the palm.

The palm has a huge trunk which towers over 18m high and enormous fan leaves which are 5m in diameter – the most massive palm ever to be found in Madagascar. It has an unusual and spectacular lifecycle; growing to dizzying heights before the stem tip converts into a giant terminal inflorescence and bursts into branches of hundreds of tiny flowers. Each flower is capable of being pollinated and developing into fruit and soon drips with nectar and is surrounded by swarming insects and birds. The nutrient reserves of the palm become completely depleted as soon as it fruits and the entire tree collapses and dies a macabre death.

Xavier Metz, a Frenchman who manages a cashew plantation nearby, and his family were walking in a remote area of north-western Madagascar when they stumbled across the giant palm with its huge pyramidal flowering structure sprouting out of the tip. They had never seen anything like it before and their photographs soon reached John Dransfield, co-author of the Field guide to the Palms of Madagascar and an Honorary Research Fellow of Kew, who was astonished when he saw material and images of the tree.

“I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the images posted on the web,” he says. “The palm appeared superficially like the Talipot palm of Sri Lanka, but that had never been recorded for Madagascar. Clearly this was going to be an extremely exciting discovery and I just couldn’t wait to examine specimens in detail.”

When material of the palm collected by John’s Malagasy student Mijoro Rakotoarinivo finally reached the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the details of the flowers and inflorescence branches immediately suggested it was a new, undescribed species and genus with an affinity to the palm tribe Chuniophoeniceae. Leaf fragments were sent to the Jodrell Laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for DNA analysis, where John’s conclusion was confirmed, that the palm was not just a new species but an entirely new genus within the tribe Chuniophoeniceae. There are only three other known genera in this tribe, Nannorrhops in Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kerriodoxa in southern Thailand and Chuniophoenix in Vietnam, southern China and Hainan. The palm is from an evolutionary line not previously known to exist in Madagascar.

“The tribe has an extraordinary distribution and it is very difficult with current knowledge to explain how it could ever have reached Madagascar” says Dr Dransfield.

He travelled out to meet Xavier and Nathalie Metz - who had discovered the palm. It was concealed at the foot of a limestone outcrop in the rolling hills and flatlands of the Analalava district. This area has eight dry months a year and a mean annual temperature of 27ºC. The palm grows in deep fertile soil at the foot of the limestone hill in ground that is seasonally flooded. He was astonished that this enormous palm had never been discovered before and concluded that the life-cycle must be unusually long for this extremely rare flowering and death sequence to have never been detected. The palm is so massive that it can even be seen in Google Earth.

“Ever since we started work on the palms of Madagascar in the 1980s, we have made discovery after discovery – new species and new genera – but to me this is probably the most exciting of them all,” says Dr Dransfield. “Most particularly it represents an evolutionary line not previously known from the island and one with a highly paradoxical distribution. Coupled with the great scientific interest of the palm is the fact that it is such an amazingly spectacular species and with such an unusual life cycle. In a way discovering this palm is every bit as significant from a biological point of view as when the extraordinary Aye-aye lemur was first discovered.

“With less than a hundred individuals, this new palm presents significant challenges to conservationists, especially as the habitat seems so limited and flowering and fruiting of such a rare occurrence. We have very few opportunities to manage regeneration at the site or to disseminate it to botanic gardens in Madagascar and elsewhere. In a way the palm highlights the conservation challenges for all palms in Madagascar, many of which are seriously threatened with extinction mostly through habitat loss.”

Madagascar is home to more than 10,000 plant species and 90% of Madagascar’s plants occur nowhere else in the world. The country has a highly diverse palm flora with over 170 known species, all but six of which are endemic. Scientists predict that there are less than 100 individuals of this palm in Madagascar. Only 18 percent of Madagascar’s native vegetation remains intact and a third of Madagascar’s primary vegetation has disappeared since the 1970s.

Dr Dransfield had long talks with Xavier and Nathalie and local people from a nearby village to discuss how they thought the palm could be conserved. They worked together to set up a village committee to take control of the conservation of the palm and a patrol to protect the area it was found in. They are currently working with Kew and the Millennium Seed Bank to develop a method of selling seed to raise income for the villagers and to distribute the palm as widely as possible to botanic gardens and growers around the globe.

Some sites have sourced additional information or pictures from the Society. Disappointingly, there was one site that used a picture of a coconut palm tree (seriously).

Now for the abstract of the scientific article
A new Coryphoid palm genus from Madagascar
Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 156 (1), 79–91.

A new Coryphoid palm genus from Madagascar


(1) Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AE, UK
(2) Kew House, Lot 11 J 131 B, Ambodivoanjo, Ivandry, Antananarivo, Madagascar
(3) Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 11935 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, Miami, FL 33156, USA
(4) c/o Mme Helimino, Société Fraise, BP 28 Antananarivo, Madagascar
(5) VERAMA Cashew Estate/Groupe UNIMA, BP93-401 Mahajanga, Madagascar


Tahina J.Dransf. & Rakotoarinivo, gen. nov. (Arecaceae) is described as a new genus from north-western Madagascar, with a single species T. spectabilis J.Dransf. & Rakotoarinivo, sp. nov.Tahina is included within tribe Chuniophoeniceae of subfamily Coryphoideae, based on the strictly tubular imbricate rachilla bracts, the flowers grouped in cincinni with tubular bracteoles, and the stalk-like base to the corolla. This position is corroborated by evidence from plastid DNA. Lamina anatomy is discussed in detail, and similarities with and differences from the other members of Chuniophoeniceae are discussed. Based on the ecological characteristics of the single locality, predictions are made on where else it may occur in Madagascar. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 156, 79–91.
This is significant scientifically, which is exciting.

I watched The Cave tonight. Nearly as scary as The Descent. Underground caves are the new fear frontier!

17 January 2008

raving to classical

Nightclubs in Berlin which usually have DJs playing techno now host classical events. Yeah, beer in hand, one can stand around watching and listening to a string quartet.

One of these is Berghain

See - The Guardian (9 January 2008)

I wonder if it is polite to carry on a conversation during the 'performance', after all most classical music was originally written/composed for the masses.

Emily came around this evening.

16 January 2008

public art goes private - Banksy

A wall painted by British 'graffiti' artist Banksy was sold on eBay for £208,100 (AUD453,700 or USD410,830). The wall is located at Portobello Road in London. The vendor Luti Fagbenle actually owns the wall as part of the building which houses his media production company. Personally, I think that Banksy should be paid a 'royalty' percentage.

See reporting by Reuters

Some of Banksy's other works are also just as amazing, and even cheeky.

Balloon Girl - Always Hope

Pissing Guard

Kissing Coppers

In Melbourne (Australia), one of Banksy's works, 'Little Diver', painted in 2003 during a visit, has suddenly become valuable. Adorned on the rear of the Nicholas Building on the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane, which is also heritage listed, city officials now want to protect the artwork.

Andrew McDonald, director of the Citylights public art project does not believe it should be preserved.

"It's strange because graffiti isn't meant to last, it's ephemeral," Mr McDonald said. "So trying to save it is a pretty funny thing to do. I'm sure that irony's not lost on Banksy. And there's a fair bit of irony in somebody selling a wall."

Reported in The Age

Happy Wednesday.

random footy pic

Ash McGrath, round 2 (2007) at the Gabba (versus Saint Kilda)

15 January 2008

LEGO art

Nathan Sawaya is an American artist who creates 'sculptures' using LEGO bricks.

Is he just playing with toys and would he go crazy at LEGOLAND?

Not much happening again.

14 January 2008

the new cool in Beijing

Modern architecture that will change the skyline in Beijing appear to have a European feel.

The new CCTV headquarters designed by Rem Koolhass. Very Parisian monument.

The Olympic National Stadium designed by Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron - dubbed the bird's nest. Despite the nickname, very German.

Water Cube - Beijing National Aquatics Centre designed by PTW, CECSC and Arup. A mattress from say, the Netherlands?

I wonder if Feng Shui was incorporated into the designs.

Not much happening. Skins is on tonight.