31 March 2008

creating the big bang

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built to smash protons moving at 99.999999% of the speed of light into each other and so recreate conditions a fraction of a second after the big bang. The LHC experiments will try and work out what happened.

The facility plans to circulate the first beams in May 2008. First collisions at high energy are expected mid-2008 with the first results from the experiments soon after.

Critics have filed a lawsuit to delay the start up of the LHC to ensure it does not inadvertently create a black hole that could destroy the Earth. See - MSNBC.

I don't know whether to laugh or feel relieved.

The weekends are never long enough. April is going to be a busy month.

30 March 2008

answering the brick

In 1984, 300 000 people owned mobile (cell) phones. Today, the number is 3 billion.

I wonder if today's figure would be this high if the phone still resembled a brick.

an early phone, with its inventor Martin Cooper

I keep my phone in my pocket. Thank goodness they have become smaller.

Today was a do nothing day. I meant to do some gardening, but there is always next weekend.

29 March 2008

Earth Hour

It was great to participate in Earth Hour this year, after the success of the first one in Sydney last year.

I turned out all the lights at 8pm for an hour, but it went over time as I nearly forgot to switch them back on. It's a purely symbolic act of course, as I only use low energy globes.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney harbour

Sydney skyline

Canberra - lights off at Parliament House

Some people think the exercise is pointless and doesn't save much greenhouse gas emission or energy. The point is symbolic and to let people know that they can all play a part and if everybody plays their part, it can make a difference.

Today was Kane's Day (see his blog).

CQ came over in the afternoon for a beer to make up for double booking for dinner. I had planned to make Shepherd's Pie. The best laid plans always go awry.

Aside from the outings with Kane and the visit from CQ, today has been a quiet day, catching up on Torchwood and the latest Smallville.

football - round 2

Brisbane Lions 3.5 8.10 9.14 13.18 (96)
Collingwood 3.3 7.5 12.12 13.16 (94)

Brisbane Lions: Bradshaw 3, Charman, A Corrie, Brown 2, Drummond, Black, Power, Adcock.
Collingwood: Cloke, Rocca, Didak 2, Davis, O'Bree, Thomas, Egan, Swan, Fraser, Medhurst.

Brisbane Lions: Adcock, Johnstone, Brennan, Power, Black.
Collingwood: Didak, Cloke, Brown, Davis, Burns.

Brisbane Lions: Drummond (quad).
Collingwood: Goldsack (face).

Umpires: M Vozzo S Meredith S Jeffery.
Official crowd: 33,867 at the Gabba.

Oh what a nail-biting game last night! See match report.


Charmo (19) in the ruck


Jmac managing a handball

Strawb v Rocca



singing the club song with gusto (again) in the rooms

last four minutes of the game in a nail-biting finish

singing the club song (after the interview with Jed) on the ground

28 March 2008

tomorrow is Earth Hour... so change the windows

Earth Hour started in 2007 as a Sydney event. This year, it has gone global.

Tomorrow night (29 March 2008), many cities around the world will switch off their lights at 8pm for one hour. At work today, staff were reminded to turn off their computers and unplug them from the wall, including any non-essential appliance before they went home.

There was a timely article in the Sydney Morning Herald today about an invention that could revolutionise windows and lighting
Window by day, light at night

Jennie Curtin
March 28, 2008

AS THE world prepares to switch off for Earth Hour tomorrow, the work of a young Sydney designer may make the light switch redundant forever.

Damien Savio, 23, has developed a window which stores energy from the sun during the day and then becomes a light at night. Just four hours of direct sunlight can produce a 60 watt-strength light which will last six hours.

His invention, which he calls the Lightway, has the potential to cut household energy use by 22 per cent.

Mr Savio was inspired by his discovery of organic light-emitting diodes, a new technology which has been used to improve the quality of pictures on mobile phone screens and laptops. He combined OLEDs with transparent photovoltaic cells, another developing field.

"Technically, it's only really, really new," he said. "The whole time I was doing it I had people tell me, no, that's not going to be possible. They were always doubting it and trying to test me on how it would work."

Mr Savio has spoken to a lawyer about patenting his work so was reluctant to gives details on how the Lightway is made, but he did reveal it involves an injection mould used during production of the window.

As the window absorbs solar energy during the day, it is stored in a battery hidden in the window frame. This means it can be used as a light at any future time.

Mr Savio, from Longueville, created the Lightway for his industrial design degree. It has been nominated as a finalist in the Australian Design Awards-Dyson Student Award, which will be announced in May.

He used louvre windows to develop his concept "because they looked good" and also because the panels are removable, so they can be carried around like a torch.

"I also wanted to have the wow factor," he said. "Whenever I do a design I just want to do something different and something that stands out. I like that with this, you don't even know it's a light until it's on."

Mr Savio said the Earth Hour message of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was "one of the main driving forces" behind his creation. LEDs are a particularly energy-efficient form of lighting.

But the designer will not be home to switch off the lights on Saturday. He will be at work in a city bar where he reckons it is already so dark the patrons will not notice the difference.
Here is the entry for his nomination for the Australian Design Award

Student Designer
Mr Damian Savio

University of Western Sydney

Product Description and Principal Function(s)

Lightway is a window and lighting system based around the existing Breezway window louvre system.

The major difference being the Lightway uses organic OLED's and advanced transparent Photovoltaic Nanoscale technology to allow sunlight to enter the household during the day and to fill the house with light during the night.

Lightway is essentially a modular light that absorbs solar energy during the day, using it a night to illuminate an area as if it were daytime again.

The entire system is transparent and extremely efficient. There is also a portable application to the system.

Why does the product represent design excellence and why do you believe it deserves an Australian Design Award?

The project represents excellence largely because it is a concept that is unlike any other that exists today. The idea behind the design is highly innovative taking 2 very new technologies and using them in a simple but effective lighting system that could be the next major revolution in the way we think about lighting. It is a system that has been designed for homes, museums, galleries and shopping centers.

Along with being innovative, the light is also aesthetically pleasing. It is a modern design that incorporates sleek transparent window panels with and anodized aluminum frame. Each panel can be customized with colours, art and graphics that are illuminated to enhance the light for a particular application.

In terms of functionality, Lightway is a cut above the rest. Not only is there no need for it to be connected to any power grid, it is also highly efficient and versatile, capable of producing the same amount of light as a 60watt incandescent globe from just 5 watts. With in the system there is also a mobile unit that can be used to take light anywhere, and that will also charge on its own. Light from the unit can be adjusted to suit the mood that is required, by adjusting the direction of the louvers. Each panel is also extremely tough being constructed from strong polycarbonate. Charge time for the system is 4 hours of direct sunlight with 2 hours daylight. This will give the system a running time of around 6 hours. The batteries used will last for years, capable of handling thousands of on/off cycles. Almost every aspect of the original Breezway system has been redesigned and RESOLVED for Lightway, while remaining Breezway certified.

In terms of practicality and ease of use, the system is excellent. Since it has been based around an existing Breezway system, the design incorporates everything they have learned over the 10 plus years they have been in operation. The system incorporates safety features such as lock, security bars and fly screens. The system can be made to fit any sized window or door way. Operating the system is easy, only requiring a simple rotation of the single louver handle to open and close the system. The system also meets Australian Standards in terms both of construction and voltage, remaining below the high risk 32v category.

There is definatley a need for the product, as it has the potential to reduce household and city wide electricity usage by a massive 22%. Which is good news for the environment and the economy. A number of people have expressed interest in the concept for the stated applications and it is a proven concept that will work, as stated by a number of physicists that i have presented it to.

Lightway would be sold and Breezway outlets in a display style showcase, where consumers would come and view the entire package and order the system as required. The product would then be delivered with in 5 working days and fitted.
I am hoping that the technology could be applied to full sized windows.

We had a happy hour at work today and the theme was for staff to wear their football colours. I went for half and hour and must have been the most tragic!

Nick B was supposed to come over tonight to watch the football on tv (live broadcast) tonight, but had double booked. So it's just me and Kane. I don't know if he is concerned by my yelling.

27 March 2008

sport and politics

The Chinese government would be very naive to think that they can control other countries' responses to the incidents in Tibet, particularly any potential reactions to the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games.

I found this Washington Post article quite interesting and well argued
Olympic Fallacies

By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, March 25, 2008; A15

A protester is detained yesterday at the lighting of the Olympic flame in ancient Olympia, Greece.
A protester is detained yesterday at the lighting of the Olympic flame in ancient Olympia, Greece. (By Petros Giannakouris -- Associated Press)

"We believe the Olympic Games are not the place for demonstrations, and we hope that all people attending the games recognize the importance of this." Thus spoke Samsung Electronics, one of 12 major corporate sponsors of the Olympics, when asked last week whether recent events in Tibet were causing it any concern. Coca-Cola, another Olympics sponsor, has stated that while it would be inappropriate "to comment on the political situation of individual nations," the company firmly believes "that the Olympics are a force for good." The chairman of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, was also quick to declare that "a boycott doesn't solve anything" -- just as he was quick to dismiss the demonstrators who waved a black banner showing interlocked handcuffs, in mockery of the Olympic symbol, at yesterday's lighting of the Olympic torch in Greece. "It is always sad to see such a ceremony disrupted," he declared, rather pompously.

And no one was surprised: Companies that have invested millions in sponsorship deals and Olympic bureaucrats who have spent years trying to justify their controversial decision to award the 2008 Games to Beijing are naturally inclined to use those sorts of arguments. But that doesn't mean the rest of us have to believe them.

Look a bit closer, in fact, and none of those statements holds up at all. "A boycott doesn't solve anything." Well, doesn't it? Some boycotts do help solve some things. The boycott of South Africa by international competitions was probably the single most effective weapon the international community ever deployed against the apartheid state. ("They didn't mind about the business sanctions," a South African friend once told me, "but they minded -- they really, really minded -- about the cricket.") The boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics helped undermine Soviet propaganda about the invasion of Afghanistan and helped unify the Western world against it. I don't know for certain, but I'm guessing that from the Soviet perspective, the Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics four years later was successful, too. Presumably, it was intended to solidify opposition among the Soviet elite toward the United States in the Reagan years, and presumably it helped.

"The Olympics are a force for good." Not always! The 1936 Olympics, held in Nazi Germany, were an astonishing propaganda coup for Hitler. It's true that the star performance of Jesse Owens, the black American track-and-field great, did shoot some holes in the Nazi theory of Aryan racial superiority. But Hitler still got what he wanted out of the Games. With the help of American newspapers such as the New York Times, which opined that the Games put Germany "back in the family of nations again," he convinced many Germans, and many foreigners, to accept Nazism as "normal." The Nuremburg laws were in force, German troops had marched into the Rhineland, Dachau was full of prisoners, but the world cheered its athletes in Berlin. As a result, many people, both in and out of Germany, reckoned that everything was just fine and that Hitler could be tolerated a bit longer.

"The Olympic Games are not the place for demonstrations." Aren't they? Actually, the Olympics seem an ideal place for demonstrations. Not only are the world's media there with cameras running, but the modern Olympics were set up with a political purpose: to promote international peace by encouraging healthy competition among nations. Hence the emphasis on national teams instead of individual competitors; hence the opening ceremony -- since copied by other sporting events -- as well as the national flags and national anthems.

These elements make the Olympics special, different from other international competitions, but they also sometimes give the Games a nasty edge. The old U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. basketball rivalry; the parade of East German women with husky voices; the lists of who has won how many medals -- all of that is evidence of the decades-old politicization of the Olympics. There were black-power demonstrations at the 1968 Mexico City Games. A Palestinian group attacked and killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Games. Australian aborigines protested at the 2000 Sydney Games. And everything associated with the 2008 Olympics, from the massive Beijing building program, to the Olympic torch that is due to be carried across Tibet, to the Chinese Olympic committee's Web site (which describes China's commitment to "promoting mass sporting activities on an extensive scale, improving the people's physique, and spurring the socialist modernization of China") is blatantly designed to promote the domestic and international image of the Chinese state, too.

No wonder then, that everyone who hates or fears China, whether in Burma, Darfur, Tibet or Beijing, is calling for a boycott. And the Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee are terrified that those appeals will succeed. No one involved in the preparations for this year's Olympics really believes that this is "only about the athletes," or that the Beijing Games will be an innocent display of sporting prowess, or that they bear no relation to Chinese politics. I don't see why the rest of us should believe those things, either.


What did the Chinese government expect? After all, most of the rest of the world do not censor their media and give their people freedoms such as expression.

Happy Thursday. Today was a normal day back in the office.

I also received a surprise in the mail, which I had to collect from the post office in town. It was two bottles of wine from a winery thanking me for my honesty. I had emailed them about not receiving an order for brandy. They sent a replacement bottle assuming the original shipment had become lost. Anyway, the original bottle eventually arrived, so I let them know and offered to pay for the second bottle rather than sending it back, which I did. Not to do so would be stealing.

I thought this is what other people would do, but the kind note from the company suggests that perhaps they don't. Bad karma I say, for people who do the wrong thing.

After I had my dinner of leftover curry from the other night, Therese from two houses up came over for a visit (without the puppy Jet), so we shared a bottle of wine.

There will be more visitors over the next few days.

26 March 2008

he's having a baby (yes, really)

From FINDitt News and wire service TransWorldNews, and reported in the Sydney Morning Herald
Oregon Man Thomas Beatie is Pregnant
Atlanta, GA 3/25/2008 07:20 PM GMT (FINDITT)

Thomas Beatie claims he is pregnant with he and his wife’s first child. The Oregon man was born a woman but decided to have a sex change. Beatie says he decided only to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy and not to change his reproductive organs.

Beatie wrote an article about his pregnancy for ‘The Advocate,’ a magazine for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered readers. In the article, he says he stopped taking testosterone injections to get pregnant. He decided to carry a baby as his wife Nancy was unable to get pregnant.

Beatie says he was pregnant with triplets but he lost the babies. He is now pregnant with a baby girl, who is due in July. He describes how doctors refused to treat him. One doctor sent him to the “the clinic’s psychologist to see if we were fit to bring a child into this world and consulted with the ethics board of his hospital.”

“A few months and a couple thousand dollars later, he told us that he would no longer treat us, saying he and his staff felt uncomfortable working with ‘someone like me,’” he wrote. Beatie added that he and his wife’s situation “sparks legal, political and social unknowns.”
and The Advocate article
Labor of Love
Is society ready for this pregnant husband?
By Thomas Beatie
From The Advocate April 8, 2008

To our neighbors, my wife, Nancy, and I don’t appear in the least unusual. To those in the quiet Oregon community where we live, we are viewed just as we are -- a happy couple deeply in love. Our desire to work hard, buy our first home, and start a family was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we decided that I would carry our child.

I am transgender, legally male, and legally married to Nancy. Unlike those in same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil unions, Nancy and I are afforded the more than 1,100 federal rights of marriage. Sterilization is not a requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights. Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire.

Ten years ago, when Nancy and I became a couple, the idea of us having a child was more dream than plan. I always wanted to have children. However, due to severe endometriosis 20 years ago, Nancy had to undergo a hysterectomy and is unable to carry a child. But after the success of our custom screen-printing business and a move from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest two years ago, the timing finally seemed right. I stopped taking my bimonthly testosterone injections. It had been roughly eight years since I had my last menstrual cycle, so this wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. My body regulated itself after about four months, and I didn’t have to take any exogenous estrogen, progesterone, or fertility drugs to aid my pregnancy.
Is this another ethical dilemma? Not really. If it is possible for men (biological males) to gestate a child in pregnancy, some may jump at the opportunity with the support of the child's mother.

Should the hospital staff and the doctor have refused to continue medical treatment? No, they were clouded by their own narrow values. Surely medical staff would have looked upon it as an opportunity to be part of history.

The weather is becoming colder. At work, training continued today until midday. Then I attended a seminar from a visiting British professor in the afternoon. In my absence from the office, nothing exciting had happened.

Emily came over this evening but missed the walk with Kane (we have to leave earlier now as the days are becoming shorter). I made bangers and mash for dinner, served with blanched broccoli (when the water comes to the boil, I turn it off - there is no need to cook greens any longer).

25 March 2008

When you have to go, you have to go...

A printed map of New York Public Toilets called the New York City Public Toilet Map was recently launched on 23 March 2008 (for sale at US$2 plus 50 cents postage). There was even a write up in the New York Times.

Of course, there are already resources on the internet to help people to locate toilets available for use by the public, such as www.nyrestroom.com and The Bathroom Diaries.

Toilet maps are indeed a useful resource for visitors and for people with medical conditions.

In Australia, the idea actually took on grand proportions, with the federal government, through the Department of Health and Ageing, funding the mapping of all public toilets on to an internet site called the National Public Toilet Map as part of its National Continence Management Strategy.

Surprisingly, the British government has not done this yet.

Even more surprising is that Americans continue to call toilets - restrooms or bathrooms. Do people go to these facilities to rest or to have a bath?

Toilet is not a dirty word! We buy and use toilet paper. What on earth is 'bathroom tissue'? Why restrict blowing one's nose to the bathroom?

It rained when I walked to work and it rained when I walked home. Actually I didn't do any work in the office as supervision training continued today.

24 March 2008

praying for treats

I liked this story from Agence France-Presse (24 March 2008)

Buddhist dog prays for worldly desires

NAHA, Japan (AFP) — Buddhists clasp their palms together to pray for enlightenment, but Conan, a chihuahua, appears to have more worldly motivations.

The dog has become a popular attraction at a Japanese temple after learning to imitate the worshippers around him.

"Conan started to pose in prayer like us whenever he wanted treats," said Joei Yoshikuni, a priest at Jigenin temple on the southern island of Okinawa.

"Clasping hands is a basic action of Buddhist prayer to show appreciation. He may be showing his thanks for treats and walks," he said.

Conan, a two-year-old male with long, black hair and a brown collar, sits next to Yoshikuni in front of the altar and looks right up at the statue of a Buddhist deity.

When the priest starts chanting and raises his clasped hands, Conan also raises his paws and joins them at the tip of his nose.

Visitors to the temple look on with curiosity.

"It's so funny that he does it," said Kazuko Oshiro, 71, who has frequented the temple for more than 25 years.

"He gets angry when somebody else sits on his favourite spot. He must be thinking that it's his special place," Oshiro said.

Conan, originally a temple pet, has become so popular that people come in to take pictures almost every week, the priest said.

Yoshikuni estimated that the temple receives 30 percent more visitors, especially young tourists, than it would otherwise.

"I'm glad that people feel more comfortable visiting the temple because of Conan," he said as he jokingly joined his hands and bowed to the dog.

Conan the two-year-old male Chihuahua joins his hands in prayer beside Buddhist priest Joei Yoshikuni at a temple in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

Today was mostly a do nothing day, well for most of the morning anyway. I caught up on episodes 3 to 6 of season 2 of Torchwood.

I finally de-cluttered the living room by moving stuff to the spare bedroom (on the bed). I still have to sort through piles of stuff, mostly bits of paper and unopened mail. I also cleaned the deck area and made more room for Kane so that he can look out, as well as puppy proofing by moving pot plants.

I made lamb Rogan Josh curry for dinner tonight as Therese was supposed to come over (with Jet, hence the puppy proofing). Nevermind, more for me.

23 March 2008

Olympic boycotts

Some people think that politics and sport shouldn't mix. Sporting boycotts played a major role in isolating South Africa over its past apartheid policy.

No countries are brave enough to boycott the Beijing Olympics. The only team that might consider it, isn't even a country.

See - 'Taiwan ponders Games ban' from the Sydney Morning Herald

Today was a do nothing day. I did catch the latest episode of Smallville, and the first two episodes of Torchwood via the internet. I meant to de-clutter and de-junk, but spending time on the couch was just too appealing.

22 March 2008

the Flying Spaghetti Monster immortalised

I wrote about the Flying Spaghetti Monster on 27 November 2007. The 'deity' has now been immortalised as a statue, which was installed on 21 March 2008 on the lawn of the Cumberland County Courthouse in Crossville, Tennessee.

See - www.itlovesyou.blogspot.com

I wonder if it will become a tourist attraction or a site of 'religious' pilgrimage.

Today was a bit of a run around day.

After walking with Kane to the shops in the morning, I went into the city and met Nell and Declan for lunch at the Seoul Palace restaurant. I introduced them to the joys of BiBimBap. It's the second BiBimBap that I have had, and I prefer the one from Sizzle Bento which uses Bulgogi and not mince. It was good to see Nell, Declan and Olivia again after a few months.

I returned home for a few hours and nearly fell asleep on the couch, but thankfully Kane wanted to go for a walk. After the walk, I gave him his dinner and returned to the city to watch the football game at a club with cable tv. I still don't have cable and probably won't for sometime.

football - round 1

WEST COAST 6.2 7.5 10.7 14.8 (92)
BRISBANE LIONS 1.2 4.4 9.6 11.10 (76)

Goals: West Coast: B Waters 2 D Wirrpanda 2 M Seaby 2 M LeCras 2 M Braun D Cox A Hunter C Fletcher Q Lynch B Staker. Brisbane Lions: J Brown 6 D Bradshaw 3 J Charman J Drummond.

Best: West Coast: D Cox B Waters D Kerr M Seaby M Priddis. Brisbane Lions: J Brown S Black D Bradshaw L Power J Drummond.

Umpires: M Head M Ellis C Hendrie.

Official crowd: 39,591 at Subiaco Oval, Perth.

The first quarter was abysmal (30 point deficit margin) and I thought my team was going to be thrashed. Of course, kicking towards the sun wouldn't have helped. During the third quarter we were in front for a short time. Still, my team played well.

Cheynee Stiller being tackled by Matt Rosa

Simon Black tackling Matt Priddis

Jonathan Brown being attended by trainers

Jed Adcock with a possible ankle injury

Nigel Lappin

Luke Power almost being tackled

21 March 2008

Indiana Jones and the chilled monkey brains

In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, there is a scene where Indiana and Willie sit down to a feast of exotic food.

Live eels and giant beetles I could understand, but the chilled monkey brains was a bit shocking.

Here is a recap

It is so great to have a long four day weekend. What a pity that we can't have all the religious holidays of all religions counted as public holidays.

I didn't do much today, but did do some house cleaning - mainly the floors. Kane and I also had a long walk. I've also turned the television off tonight which is incredibly rare to try and de-junk the living room.

20 March 2008

Scandal? What scandal?

I like this analysis from Der Spiegel - it's a good outsider's view


03/18/2008 11:43 AM


Why Sex Scandals Are Good for American Democracy

By Gabor Steingart in Washington

America's two main parties are suffering from the erotic escapades of some of their top politicians. As embarrassing as they are for those involved, the revelations are good for democracy. They expose a particularly audacious type of politician: the hypocrite whose supposed virtue is nothing but a sham.

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned after revelations that he had been a client of a prostitution ring.

Americans cover their bodies in the sauna more than Germans visiting an Italian church. Anyone visiting a health club in downtown Washington who walks into the sauna after exercising will encounter a host of people all wrapped in material. One towel is used to cover the chest and shoulders, while a second one is elaborately draped around the midsection and hips.

But lust often rages beneath these towels and, in the case of some politicians, naked lunacy. When it comes to their sexual behavior, the Western superpower's elected representatives exhibit a number of traits that clearly distinguish them from politicians in other countries. And when it comes to extramarital activity, politicians in Old Europe can hardly hold a candle to their US counterparts, except perhaps some French presidents and British members of parliament, among whom a certain type of love-crazed behavior enjoys a tradition that transcends party lines.

The various political sex scandals with which the American public has been confronted during this year's US presidential primaries serve as a sort of parallel program to the official game of amassing delegates. It's the sort of thing Germans tend to only encounter at the theater, where the classics are presented on the main stage while the studio next door is the realm of the avant-garde theater's naked performers and lunatics.

Only last year, a married Republican senator's feet drifted into the next stall in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport, apparently with the intention of soliciting sex. How could the poor man have known that the man in the next stall was no sex-crazed fellow passenger, but an undercover police officer? The senator explained to the officer that he had "a wide stance" while sitting on the toilet, an explanation that would have earned him an honorable mention in the Guinness Book of Idiotic Excuses.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle are apparently repeat customers for call-girl rings. A Louisiana senator and supporter of former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani turned up on the "DC Madame's" list of clients, while the governor of New York, a Hillary Clinton supporter, was listed as Client Number 9 by the Emperor's Club VIP prostitution ring.

People around the world are now familiar with the sums of money former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer paid for prostitutes. In Suite 871 at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, Spitzer spent more than $4,000 (€2,500) a night on a call girl nicknamed "Kristen." Over the course of several years, Spitzer spent $80,000 on prostitutes. He was considered a difficult customer at the Emperor's Club, because he preferred not to use condoms.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain proves that these things can be done more elegantly. According to the New York Times, McCain may have had a fling with a female lobbyist 31 years his junior during a campaign trip through sunny Florida back in 1999. The debate that ensued is a classic: He did her a favor, which is indisputable, and she did him one, which McCain denies.

What a colossal mistake! Or was it? What could be better for a man who is now 71, and who many voters believe is too old for the presidency, than the suspicion that he is still as vigorous as a buck in rutting season?

Family Values Are a Taboo for Democrats

Affairs are as much a part of American politics as cheese on a cheeseburger. There are many presidents in the cheaters' Hall of Fame. Thomas Jefferson fathered at least one illegitimate child with his black housekeeper, John F. Kennedy was intimate with Marilyn Monroe, and Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky is probably the most well documented extramarital affair in human history.

The recent flurry of affairs and sex scandals provides an invaluable benefit to the public. It shrinks the individual politician down to the size of an ordinary citizen, or perhaps to a size even smaller than that, and brings him closer to the voting public, whether he likes it or not. The political parties can no longer lord it over their voters as the guardians of public virtue, a strategy adopted by the Republicans, in particular, in all previous election campaigns.

The Republicans have used the phrase "family values" as a rallying cry against everyone who was somehow different from their ideal: gays and lesbians, the divorced, single mothers or fathers (who now make up more than half of American households).

Perhaps this explains why the phrase "family values" has backfired on those who coined it. The topic is already a taboo among Democrats, if only out of deference to the Clintons. Barack Obama, who is still married to his first wife, Michelle, would be the only candidate who could derive any benefit from emphasizing so-called family values. His wife recently made a tentative stab at capitalizing on the issue, when she said at a campaign event: "If you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House."

But the Republicans fail across the board when it comes to lecturing the people on so-called family values. Three Republican presidential candidates, McCain, Giuliani and Fred Thompson, have chalked up seven marriages between the three of them. The daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney lives with a woman. Cheney can thank a sperm donor, not family values, for his sixth grandchild, Samuel David Cheney.

After a primary campaign of erotic escapades, the healing effects are visible everywhere. The paragons of virtue have been cut down to size. Private life is no longer politicized, but instead is being made private once again. The campaign is acquiring the discreet rules of American sauna culture. Politics with towels seems to be in demand these days.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Pandering to conservatives is a double-edged sword. Prudishness and excessive modesty is a feature of modern American society, no doubt passed down from the Puritans. Perhaps this why Americans so are obsessed with scandals. Public titillation in the media seems to be perfectly acceptable. A case of schadenfreude.

In Europe where society is less repressed, such scandals would be met with a yawn.

Happy Thursday. More training today at work today. After a four day week, the next four days is a long weekend for Easter. Woohoo!

19 March 2008

The True History of Australia

I like this video

Australian history has been driven by football!

More training today, at work.

Emily came around this evening, but I had taken Kane out for an earlier walk.

I made pan fried fresh Salmon cutlets for dinner with small thin aubergine cooked in the same pan (no oil), with broccolini and asparagus. I prepared the greens by submerging in water that had just been boiled in a kettle. It is the same effect as blanching, but a lot quicker and saves on electricity.

18 March 2008

How Art Made the World

I love art. Art and culture define humanity's place in the world and in history.

Tonight, there was a brilliant documentary from the BBC, on our ABC called 'How Art Made the World'.

Tonight's episode (the first out of five) was about the representation of the human body.
More Human Than Human...
One image dominates our contemporary world above all others: the human body. How Art Made the World travels from the modern world of advertising to the temples of classical Greece and the tombs of ancient Egypt to solve the mystery of why humans surround themselves with images of the body that are so unrealistic.
My gripe is that this series aired on the BBC in May 2005 and on PBS in June/July 2006. We in Australia have had to wait a few years to see it.

More training today. Sitting down all day, listening can be tiring.

17 March 2008

Saint Patrick's Day

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Pionta Guinness, le do thoil.

I had training (on staff supervision) all day today and it continues for the rest of this week.

16 March 2008

creating a scene

Improv Everywhere causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere has executed over 70 missions involving thousands of undercover agents. The group is based in New York City.
I like their latest installment - an impromptu musical in a food court about napkins

More from their YouTube channel.

I reckon if people aren't so uptight and concerned about what others think of them, that there would be more who spontaneously burst into song. At home, I sing to Kane all the time, to any tune and making up the words as I go along.

Today was an exciting day for Kane (see his blog) and I had a coffee with Therese at the markets. I meant to do some house cleaning and tidying up, but only managed to do a backyard dog poo pick up and clean out the fly traps. There is always tomorrow. At least I did the laundry.

15 March 2008

library table

From Bottega Veneta, a magnificent looking bookcase called 'library table'. Designed and created by Tomas Maier, the 'library table' is sheathed in parchment leather with matte gun-metal edging.

At £18,000 (USD 36,500 or around AUD 39,000), it is way out of my league.

Today was an early start. Mary came over around 7.30am and we went to the farmers' market. The first stalls that I target are the butchers. I usually pick up Saltbush lamb, followed by free range pork. Last time I went (with Sue D), I bought a bag of Saltbush lamb bones for Kane. After tasting those bones, he turned up his nose at ordinary beef bones! So there is now another bag in the fridge.

The great thing about markets where growers sell their produce, is that they are in season and locally grown. Most also do not use chemicals, so fruit like apples look imperfect. I also bought fresh corn cobs and other vegetables. I got a great deal on Sequoia potatoes - $4.50 a kg, but the grower gave it to me for $3 and he didn't even weigh them (which would have been around 1.2 kg). It made up for buying corn (6 cobs for $5) at double the price of the other stalls.

After returning home, I took Kane on a walk to the shops before it became too warm.

This evening, Theresa from two doors up came over for a drink (with Jet). It was great to chat with her.

14 March 2008

Char Kway Teow and Sago Pudding

I love noodles and one of my favourites is the Malaysian Char Kway Teow. I've never tried to make it, but the recipe from SBS Food Safari looks great. Recipe by chef Jess Ong.
It is very important to have all the ingredients ready and chopped before you start. The pan must be very hot as this dish is cooked very quickly over a high heat. A good tip is to heat the noodles first (if they are cold from the fridge) – easily done in the microwave and only cook enough for one person at a time to avoid the ingredients ‘stewing’ in the pan. - Jess Ong


1 tbsp oil
½ Lup Cheong sausage, sliced
4 fish balls, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ handfuls of fresh rice noodles (allow approximately 300 to 400g per person)
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
6 green prawns, peeled
1 egg, beaten
Handful bean sprouts
1 tbsp chopped garlic chives


1. Add oil to hot pan or wok. Fry sausage, fish balls, shallots and garlic for a few minutes.
2. Add warm rice noodles (especially if cold from the fridge) and this is easily done in the microwave. Stir and then add soy sauces. Make space at the side of the pan and cook the prawns.
3. Add egg and cook until nearly set at side of pan, gently fold into noodles.
4. Add bean sprouts and garlic chives. Serve immediately.

I also love sago pudding, but had never found a recipe for it, until now. Also from SBS Food Safari.
Sago Gula Melaka (Sago Pudding)
Susanne Goh


300g sago
1 egg white
200g palm sugar, chopped
½ cup water
4 tbsp white sugar
1 can coconut milk


1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and when boiling, add sago. Stir frequently as the water returns to the boil, to avoid them sticking. The sago will float to the surface and be transparent when cooked. Strain and rinse with cold water a couple of times to remove the starch.
2. In a clean bowl beat the egg white until soft peaks form. Add sago, stir to combine and pour into a jelly mould. Chill until set, about 1 hour.
3. Stir palm sugar and water over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Stir in white sugar. Stir until completely dissolved and then strain through a fine sieve into a ring jelly mould and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour.
4. Turn sago out onto a serving plate, Cut into wedges and serve topped with a little of the coconut milk and syrup.

South east Asian cuisines are amongst the world's best.

My main work output today was finalising a draft media release. We had a work lunch to farewell the head of our section who is leaving before Easter to undertake a PhD. It was at a new Balinese restaurant. Indonesian food is so underrated. Gado Gado is a fantastic salad.

I am so looking forward to the weekend.

13 March 2008

Eating insects in Thailand 2

On 12 July last year, I wrote about eating insects in Thailand, with great photos from BBC News.

There was a great article from Associated Press (24 February 2008) which was picked up by a lot of media outlets.
Eating Bugs in Northern Thailand
By MICHAEL CASEY – Feb 24, 2008

Edible water bugs that have yet to be cooked, are displayed on banana water bugs, at Krua Phech Doi Ngam Restaurant, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2008. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

CHIANG MAI, Thailand (AP) — I broke open my omelet and ant eggs spilled out. They were glistening white, the size of Rice Krispies. I sat up and took a breath. Could I stomach this?

Before I arrived in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai in search of insect cuisine, I envisioned a scene out of Fear Factor. Cages of chirping crickets. Piles of squirming worms. Instead, the bugs were presented in a most unthreatening way: on a tattered board advertising the daily specials: bee larvae wrapped in banana leaves and bamboo worms fried with salt.

The owner's husband, Suwatchai Thipayanon, rushed over to greet me and led me to a tiny table covered in banana leaves. Cigarette smoke mingled with the smell of beer. A Thai love song wafted through the mostly empty establishment.

With only one other table to serve, the waiters gathered around and offered up bemused smiles when their foreign visitor insisted on ordering all the insects on the menu.

The sounds of crackling oil emerged from the kitchen and five plates were soon laid out in front of me. Decorated with chili peppers, tomatoes and lettuce, they were piled high with two types of blackened crickets, battered wasp larvae, bee larvae and bamboo worms.

It was all a bit intimidating. My pulse quickened. Eating bugs may be well accepted in Thailand and dozens of other countries, but not where I grew up in Golden Valley, Minnesota.

This was a thrill I would remember for a long time.

I chose a half-inch-long cricket to start and gobbled it down, spindly legs and all. To my surprise, it had a crunch consistent with shrimp or peanuts and a slight woodsy taste. Next up, the cake-like bee larvae. They tasted sweet and were as soft as marshmallows. I was on a roll. But then I came up against the wasp larvae, complete with bulging eyes. Their oily taste made me gag. I reached for a glass of water as my stomach tightened.

A glutton for punishment — or insects — I then headed to the family's other restaurant across the busy roadway.

The regal-looking owner, Jitsophit Thipayanon, offered up an "I dare you" smile as she invited me to try her insect selection.

Jitsophit said she was the first in the family to open a restaurant, a decade ago, and the customers had clearly rewarded her. Tables were full of ogling couples and extended families. A Heineken girl made the rounds, serving up beer. Hawkers strolled through, offering garlands of lavender.

Waiters rushed in and out of the kitchen with herb salad, fish and vegetable soup and of course insects — mostly soups with ant eggs, which were in season.

The place had a lived-in feel, similar to a local bar in an American city. On the walls were covered photos of relatives, prominent Buddhist monks and Thailand's royal family, as displayed in almost every Thai business. Signs advertising local beer competed for space with red and gold Buddhist prayer banners.

My order quickly arrived, and I found myself again surrounded by cooked bugs. I figured the worst would be the water bugs. Black and brown and almost two inches long with small claws, they smelled liked used socks.

I took one bite and swallowed hard. They had the consistency of leather and a taste that I imagine was akin to rotting leaves.

Jitsophit tried to be helpful. Perhaps if you ate them with a bit of hot sauce, she suggested. Or maybe with some sticky rice, a staple in northern Thailand.

"No thanks," I said politely, and moved on to the omelet. With no sign of ant eggs, I thought maybe I had caught a break.

But when I pierced it with my fork, the eggs spilled out in such a rush that I thought they were alive. Waiting a moment to confirm they weren't, I scooped a forkful into my mouth. Not bad, I thought. Crunchy and slightly sweet.
The story wasn't published in The Age / Sydney Morning Herald until 11 March and their photo was from a Lonely Planet file.

Tastes like chicken? Fried bamboo worms.
Photo: Lonely Planet Images

Still, AP was beaten to the post by BBC for originality. And yes, I would try insects as food.

Today was another warm day. I am not minding them, but poor Kane does feel the heat.

I left work early today to attend a medical appointment in the city and went home from there. I do like getting home early. Courtney came over in the afternoon for beer and an early dinner of bangers and mash, and baked brussel sprouts. We had split up at Saturday's football game as he bumped into friends from Sydney. Unfortunately, he had his wallet and mobile (cell) phone stolen. No wonder he had left early.

I saw Theresa tonight on the way out walking Kane, so was able to give her some bones for Jet.

I've finally gotten around to watching Entourage - I only purchase DVDs on sale. Not bad.

I'm a Border Collie!!

What dog breed are you? I'm a Border Collie! Find out at Dogster.com

Border Collie

The Achiever

You've heard about this "second-place ribbon" thing, but really don’t ever plan on getting one. Not a chance. Highly competitive, you keep one eye on the Best in Show prize and one on the rest of the pack, making sure you're always at least one paw ahead. You love your family and enjoy the company you keep, but you'd trade all of them in a heartbeat for a corner office and some meaty stock options. When you're not licking your professional coat, naked skydiving and triathlons keep you entertained. You idolize the top dog and will do so until you sniff out a way to take over the company and do a little "restructuring."

12 March 2008

good airports

Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport is about to open, in its reporting, BBC News wrote about five features of good airports


Sign at Stansted
Black text on yellow began at Schiphol and spread to the UK

Orientation is always among the top demands by customers, says Paul Mijksenaar, whose company by the same name has designed the signs for airports in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Athens.

"The first requirement is reliability, that once you are looking for something that you find it on a sign close by and you are sure it will direct you all the way to reach your destination. A lot of sign systems are not good and sometimes the trail is lost and it stops."

Charles De Gaulle airport is particularly bad, he says, because it uses too many figures and jargon.

There are so many services in airports that it's difficult to direct people to everything, so it's best to point out "clusters" like a food court or shops.

Sign at Charles de Gaulle and Schiphol
Charles de Gaulle and Schiphol have contrasting styles
Colour coding saves reading time by a third, he says. It's common to use black text on yellow background for flying information (departures, arrivals), yellow text on black for bathroom facilities, green for exits and blue for food and retail.

"Passengers don't even realise it. People use a system like that but an hour afterwards, you can ask them and they have no idea. It's very intuitive."

Pictograms should only be used for services easily imaged like taxis and phones and all signs at one airport should use just one font (his favourite is Gill sans serif).

"What would be fantastic for a passenger is to fly from London to, say, Hong Kong, and you find the same pictograms, colour coding and nomenclature.

"It helps enormously and makes you feel at home. Airports like to be different but airport signage is not the tool to be different, it should be in harmony."

Tell that to the architects, who commonly prefer signs to be discreetly placed and understated.


An architect's key aim is trying to reduce passenger stress, says Simon Smithson of Rogers, Stirk Harbour and Partners.

He was project architect of the new terminal at Barajas in Madrid, which won the architectural Oscar, the Stirling Prize, and he thinks a building's design can go a long way to easing traveller tensions.

Roof at Barajas
The wavy roof in Madrid is calming
"The most obvious is being able to understand how the building is organised. Some of the worst cases like Gatwick or Schiphol, you enter the building and you have no idea what your route is."

Out with corridors and enclosed areas, in with space, daylight and views.

Barajas has a high, wavy roof that makes the space feel airy and unconstrained, he says, and the roof almost floats, as if looking at the water surface while snorkelling. The glass walls are like "great big curtains" and give views of the planes outside.

Airports are the new plazas, the new town squares, he says, and should try to be a public space rather than a building.

"The visual and acoustic onslaught of advertising spaces and announcements is very wearing.

"Your foreground is a riot of information and conflicting objectives - 'Buy, buy, sell, sell, go here, go there'.

"As architects we recognise that we have little control over that foreground but we have control over the container."

Terminal 5
T5, yours for £4.3bn
Travel editor of the Independent, Simon Calder, picks Marseille's budget "mp2" airport as a model of simplicity.

"Flying is a simple pleasure instead of the ghastly experience it is at Gatwick and Heathrow.

"Marseilles is industrial-feeling in design, bare concrete and steel, nothing extra. It's extremely efficient and a model of airport design, unlike Terminal 5, which is all very well but I can think of better ways to spend £4.5bn."


No matter how snazzy an airport building, a fraught journey getting there will put passengers in a dark mood.

The forecourt connection between air side and land side modes of transport - the space in front of the building - is most innovative
Simon Smithson
Rogers, Stirk Harbour and Partners
The luxury and speed of the Heathrow Express, for example, comes at a high price (£15) compared to the often overcrowded Tube.

Driving to Terminal 4 can be stressful too, says Mr Smithson. But Terminal 5, with which he was once involved, is a huge improvement and recognises that airports are major transport hubs.

"The forecourt connection between air side and land side modes of transport - the space in front of the building - is most innovative.

"If you come out of an airport you can feel you are nowhere but you exit there and feel you are in a street space. It is setting a precedent."

That's great if you want to get a taxi, but it's still the slow and crowded Piccadilly line for people who need the Tube.

Fewer problems at Birmingham, where the long-term car park is a short walk from the terminal building.

Or at Hong Kong, where the Airport Express train takes passengers from downtown into the heart of the airport in 20 minutes.


There are lines for check-in, then passport check, then security, then the gate, then your seat on the aircraft and then baggage reclaim and immigration at the other end.

No queues at Denver airport
If only all airports were like Denver
It's not all the fault of the airport or airline - the Immigration Service and the government rules on security play their part, says Rod Fewings, who lectures in airport design at Cranfield University. But Birmingham can offer lessons in how it's done.

"Birmingham security is very quick and efficient. The airport has expanded its terminal building piecemeal but they seem to have got the balance right and baggage reclaim is pretty quick."

Other top performers, he says, include Munich, Helsinki and Luton.

Online and self-service check-in is becoming more common to speed things up, and there are plenty of kiosks at T5 for this purpose, he says. But it's no good if the bag drop-off is under-staffed, as it was once in his experience at Madrid.

The processing of people may be beyond the control of architects but a good design can ease the trauma of queuing, says Mr Smithson.

"The actual function of the building and the perception of the passengers is to some degree out of our hands but the quality of the space in which we are waiting - the views, the acoustics and daylighting - can make an experience either good or bad.

"Ten minutes in a horrible space can feel like half an hour but in a nice space can pass relatively fast."


Air passengers need to be entertained and ever since Shannon, Ireland's second airport, opened the world's first duty-free shop in 1947, retail has become a big earner for airport authorities.

Suvarnabhumi airport
Shops at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, blend in
This week Ferrovial, which owns BAA, sold its World Duty Free shops to Italy's Autogrill for £546.6m ($1.10bn), partly to pay off Ferrovial's debts.

Shopping is now fundamental to the passenger experience, says Robbie Gill, president of The Design Solution and an expert on retail architecture.

"The danger is that too many airports are beginning to look the same and the challenge for the smartest airports is to integrate with local flair the well-known national brands and the international powerhouses."

This is something that Rome Fiumicino and Barcelona demonstrate well, he says.

But there is an ongoing tension between retail planners and architects, he says, because the latter treat the commercial activities as very much secondary to the "architectural dream".

No passengers like to feel overwhelmed or pressured into buying, says Mr Smithson, and one way Barajas tries to avoid this "invasion of space" is by maintaining outside views.

I have been through a lot of aiports, and my favourites, where I do not mind spending time there waiting for a flight, include
Still, airports are quite boring.

My dear friend Malgosia (we used to work together) told me today that her dog Jack died yesterday. He had a great life with Malgosia.

Today was quite warm. It was a busy day at work, even if I didn't produce much.

Emily came over this evening for dinner and tv. I made teriyaki marinated roast pork belly.

11 March 2008

ethical debate: cosmetic surgery to hide Down's Syndrome

I am quite fascinated by ethical debates. They show the murky grey area between what is morally right and morally wrong. There are many of these, and while I sometimes do not agree to a point of view either way, I find them thought-provoking.

The UK Daily Mail recently reported about a mother's wish for plastic surgery to 'normalise' the appearance of her daughter with Down's Syndrome.
Why this mother believes her Down's syndrome child should have plastic surgery to help her 'fit in'
Last updated at 08:48am on 10th March 2008

Ophelia Kirwan is a beguiling toddler with wide eyes and a mop of blonde hair. At the age of two, she's too young to know that she has Down's syndrome, or to understand why this makes her different from other little girls.

And as she plays in her pink nursery surrounded by toys and teddies, she is blissfully unaware that her distinctive features this week placed her at the centre of a fierce ethical debate.

At the weekend, her parents - a world-renowned plastic surgeon and his surgically-enhanced wife - admitted they are considering altering their daughter's appearance with surgery in the future to help her become more 'accepted' by society.

Considering surgery: Chelsea Kirwan with her daughter Ophelia

Laurence Kirwan insisted that he would make that decision if Ophelia - who is two this month - reached the age of 18 and was being unfairly judged on how she looked.

The procedure, he explained in the blunt words of a surgeon, would correct "eyes slightly wide apart, flat nasal bridge, thin lips, tongue that sticks out, thick neck".

But would the decision to erase these tell-tale features of Down's syndrome be made with their daughter's happiness in mind? Or would it simply be an attempt to mould a child into a society which cares more about looks than vulnerable children?

Her mother Chelsea said: "It just isn't right that Ophelia and others like her should be judged on how they look - particularly if they are turned down for a good job that they could handle.

"It's a matter of self-esteem: if you're not happy with yourself then why shouldn't you fix something? All I want is for Ophelia to be happy."

While their admission is extraordinary, Laurence and Chelsea - wealthy and doting parents who have two non-Down's older daughters - are not alone in their desire to alter the natural appearance of a child with Down's.

At least one other couple have already gone ahead with radical and painful cosmetic surgery to alter their daughter's Down's syndrome "appearance" to help her "fit in" with her peers.

By the time Georgia Bussey was five, her parents Kim and David, from Pimlico, South-West London, had put her through the ordeal of surgery three times.

In the first procedure at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, her tongue was reduced to stop it protruding. Then, folds of skin were removed from the inner corners of her eyes to take away the "slantiness" characteristic of Down's syndrome. Finally, she had surgery to stop her ears sticking out.

The couple - who deliberated for a year before arranging for their daughter's face to be surgically altered - claimed, like the Kirwans, that they were simply motivated by love for their child.

Kim insisted: "We live in a society that judges people by the way they look. Society is not going to change overnight - so Georgia has to fit into society, rather than society fitting into the way she is.

"The people who criticise us are usually people who don't have Down's children of their own. They don't see the teasing that goes on and the problems Down's children have. I just want to give Georgia a helping hand - an "edge" to get on in life."

Perhaps her attitude is understandable, yet the surgery that Georgia Bussey went through was criticised by the Down's Syndrome Association, which says no one should have to have an operation to make them more visually acceptable to society.

Moreover, there are many parents with Down's children who are horrified at the idea of somehow airbrushing their children's appearance, as though having the condition is something to be ashamed of.

Some claim that the procedures - on a child who could scarcely comprehend the pain they were suffering - were tantamount to child abuse.

Rosa Monckton, the wife of former newspaper editor Dominic Lawson and mother of 12-year-old Domenica, who has Down's syndrome, agrees.

"What these children bring to our lives is something so deep and extraordinary, it is humanity stripped to the bone," she says.

"It is not about how they look, but who they are. First and foremost, they are our children, children to be loved and cherished - not tampered with and altered because they look slightly different.

"It's a sad indictment of what our must-have society has become - the expectation is for something perfect. Anything which isn't aesthetically perfect - be it breasts, bodies or the faces of children just out of babyhood - must be fixed until it is. These are grotesquely skewed values.

"Our natural instinct as parents is to cherish and love our children. Not to gaze at the faces of toddlers and wonder what we might change surgically later on.

"The thought of allowing your own child's face to be cut open in an attempt to make them more 'acceptable' to society is appalling. Perhaps these parents are struggling to come to terms with the shock - and it is a shock - of finding out that your child won't be exactly as you expected."

When Rosa's daughter Domenica was about three weeks old, she and her husband were contacted by Professor Brian Stratford, an expert in Down's syndrome who had a Down's daughter himself. He had read an article that Dominic had written in The Spectator magazine describing Domenica's birth, and offered to come and examine her.

Rosa says: "I was still in shock from the birth and the diagnosis, and was sitting in the kitchen with Domenica and the professor when my eldest daughter, Savannah, came running in.

"She was an impossibly beautiful two-year-old, with enormous eyes. Brian looked at her, looked at Domenica in the cot, and looked at me. 'What did you expect?' he asked. 'Another designer child off the production line?'

"It was a shocking moment - those words came as a physical blow. It made me really think about how much of a parent's love for their child is transferred ego. How much the need for beauty, perfection and achievement is simply the desire for parents to bask in the reflected glory."

When Domenica was born on June 1, 1995, it was to one of Britain's most prominent families. Father Dominic - son of former Chancellor Nigel - was the editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Rosa was a successful businesswoman and close friend of Princess Diana, while Domenica's aunt was television cook Nigella Lawson.

Rosa, whose older daughter Savannah is now 15, says: "I had lost my previous child six months into my pregnancy, so this baby was going to be a new start for us. I was induced, so we knew exactly when she was going to be born. We had everything ready - it was all going to be perfect.

"But it was obvious from the moment she was born that things were not perfect. Domenica was blue and floppy, and I was told almost immediately that she had Down's syndrome.

"Nothing could have prepared me for that shock, and I found it so hard. I'm ashamed at how difficult I found it.

"But I was grieving for the child that I thought I was going to have - and the future I had always imagined for her. Even in my darkest despair, I wasn't worried about what my daughter was going to look like; it was a fear of what her life was going to be like.

"Domenica was three weeks old when Professor Stratford made the remark about designer babies.

"It was a turning point for me - I started to question my own feelings, and my own desire for the perfect child. I realised that I actually loved my baby how she was - and I wanted to fight for her.

"We christened Domenica on July 1, when she was just four weeks old. My brother sang a lullaby he had written for her, and a psalm was read about not being frightened. I walked out of the church feeling so much happier and stronger."

Among Domenica's godparents was Rosa's close friend Princess Diana.

Rosa says: "She held the baby and saw instantly how beautiful she was - and she asked to be Domenica's godmother. If she was still alive now and heard this row about whether children with Down's syndrome should have cosmetic surgery, she would have picked up the phone straight away.

"The irony is that Diana - one of the most beautiful women in the world - knew that every child was beautiful. She would have been so upset to think about children undergoing surgery to 'fit in' with society."

Yet both Ophelia and Georgia's parents disagree.

Kim Bussey argues: "No one says anything if a 'normal' child has had his or her ears pinned back, for example. Why should it be any different for a Down's child?

"At first, my husband David was against the idea of surgery. Georgia had been very sick as a child and David felt she'd been through enough with her faulty heart valve.

"But then she had a couple of falls and her teeth went through her tongue - which was very large and protruded, impending her speech and making her dribble constantly - and that made our minds up. It was clear that Georgia was going to be better off with a smaller tongue.

"Even though there was no medical reason why she should have it done, I saw nothing wrong with wanting to improve Georgia's appearance."

The couple then decided to have surgery to have her eyelids "corrected" at the same time.

"I am not trying to hide the fact Georgia is a Down's child," Kim insists. "But I know what kids are like and I didn't want her to be teased at school."

Yet Rosa Monckton, 54, is outraged by this suggestion.

She says: "The best thing I can do as a mother is to transfer parental love into self-esteem. It isn't about altering the face of a child, it's about giving that child the self-confidence to be who she's able to be. I wouldn't consider plastic surgery for my older daughter Savannah any more than I would for Domenica.

"You have to believe in your own children so that they believe in themselves.

"There isn't one bit of my children's lovely faces I would change."

But why is the quest for physical perfection now so great that parents are discussing surgery to alter the faces of children too young to understand?

Rosa says: "Our glossy celebrity-led culture is greatly to blame. We have perfect faces and tiny frames leaping out from glossy magazines, and teenage girls demanding plastic surgery to look more like their idols.

"Our society is based on celebrity and power, and somehow that has sparked the quest for perfection in our children.

"It is hard to come to terms at first with a child who has Down's syndrome. I remember walking through Hyde Park shortly after Domenica was born and looking into other people's prams, almost by way of comparison.

"But as your child grows, you come to realise that every small step they take, every time they prove a doctor or a medical expert wrong, brings the most tremendous thrill.

"One of the proudest moments in my life came when Domenica ran in a school race a few years ago.

"She was utterly determined to complete it, and through sheer determination she forced herself to keep running. She came last by about half a mile - but the whole school stood up and cheered. I stood there with tears running down my face.

"Nobody who applauded my daughter that day considered the way that she looked. They were just celebrating her achievements - as I do every day of my life.

"In many ways, I consider myself lucky that Domenica does look different, because it alerts people to her condition. I have friends with autistic children, and when these children misbehave in public, everybody just assumes they are naughty.

"When Domenica runs around a luggage carousel at the airport, or if we lose her because she simply wanders off, people understand that she has Down's syndrome.

"Domenica herself knows that she has Down's, and she is beginning to realise that she looks different. It doesn't bother her.

"Recently, someone came to see us, and I heard Domenica say: 'I've got Down's syndrome and I'm small - what do you think about it?'

"She is shorter than her friends, but we wouldn't consider stretching her on a rack any more than we would consider paying for her to have painful surgery, just to make us feel 'better' or to make her 'fit in'.

"I look at my confident and happy daughter now and I honestly can't imagine her any differently."

Meanwhile, in a pretty bedroom in Knightsbridge, little Ophelia Kirwan continues to play with her toys and giggle with her big sisters - unaware of the controversy which is swirling around her.

It is for her parents to decide whether they will choose to put their daughter under the knife when she is older.

Whatever their decision, Rosa Monckton is certain of one thing: they should love their daughter because of who she is - not despite it.
I do agree with the point that Ophelia's appearance is part of her condition, which alerts others of it.

On Sunday (2 March) two young girls with Down's Syndrome knocked on my front door letting me know they were lost, and asked for help to return home. As I could tell that they were special, I made a greater effort in communicating and trying to understand them.

I can understand Chelsea the mother's intentions, but she should talk with other parents before making a decision.

Personally, I think other people have the problem if they do not accept her daughter for who she is. Perhaps the real issue is education and acceptance.

Back at work today. Thankfully, staff where I work are able to claim the hours that we spend travelling on flights for work, so I should have enough hours for a day off soon (or two).