30 November 2008

Jørn Utzon 1918-2008

Jørn Utzon (9 April 1918 – 29 November 2008)

Utzon gave Australia and the world one of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century, finally World Heritage listed in 2007 (I also blogged about this at the time).
The Sydney Opera House constitutes a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. Its significance is based on its unparalleled design and construction; its exceptional engineering achievements and technological innovation and its position as a world-famous icon of architecture. It is a daring and visionary experiment that has had an enduring influence on the emergent architecture of the late 20th century. Utzon's original design concept and his unique approach to building gave impetus to a collective creativity of architects, engineers and builders. Ove Arup's engineering achievements helped make Utzon's vision a reality. The design represents an extraordinary interpretation and response to the setting in Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Opera House is also of outstanding universal value for its achievements in structural engineering and building technology. The building is a great artistic monument and an icon, accessible to society at large.
Reported by Associated Press

Utzon's earliest buildings were private homes. It came as a surprise to many when he won the competition for the Sydney Opera House in 1956. The building, with its distinctive white roof shells resembling sails, is perched on the edge of Sydney Harbour.

Utzon received the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2003 for his design of the opera house. The jury singled it out as among the most iconic buildings of the 20th century, saying it "proves that the marvelous and seemingly impossible in architecture can be achieved."

See also
- Sydney Morning Herald
- ArtDaily

It is still one of my favourite buildings. I love going to the opera there. Aside from the superb performances by Opera Australia, being at the Sydney Opera House is part of the experience.

Perhaps I should forgo a football game next year and go to the opera instead.

Aside from some gardening and having Kim over for dinner, this weekend has been a restful one.

29 November 2008


Today's post is about nothing.

Kim came around for dinner tonight, which was lamb shanks, mash potato and sweet potato, and broccolini. After dinner, we watched Goal 2 - continuing the rags to riches story of Santiago Muñez.

film trailer

28 November 2008

giving thanks for fungi

Seriously, without fungi, the world would be different. The antibiotic penicillin for one. See BBC.

I like how apart from penicillin, people are also dependent onVegemite and Marmite.

Thank goodness, it's the weekend now.

27 November 2008

moralising human nature

An interesting book review published in The Nation
A few years ago, in the course of researching her dissertation on changing sexual mores in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a young Iranian-American anthropologist named Pardis Mahdavi stopped by the Ministry of Education in Tehran to inquire about the country's sex education curriculum. Another visitor happened to be there. An older woman named Mrs. Erami, she was covered head to toe in the most conservative form of Iranian hijab: the tentlike black chador, held in place by the wearer's teeth such that it obscures half the face. Under her chador, Mrs. Erami wore another voluminous layer of hijab, including a hoodlike head scarf and a long, loose coat. Hers was the uniform of the government faithful, the traditional-minded and the sexually puritanical--the very image of the older generation that Mahdavi's main research subjects, Tehrani youth, rebuffed with their outsized vanity and sexual libertinism.

But Mrs. Erami had come to the ministry on a mission related to Mahdavi's. She taught courses on health, puberty and relationships at a Tehran high school, and she had come to talk to the minister about her frustration with her students' unwillingness to discuss sexual matters frankly with her. In a country where premarital sex with multiple partners is increasingly common but remains culturally taboo and punishable under the law, this severe-looking, chador-clad woman was, at a glance, hardly the person in whom one might feel comfortable confiding one's illicit activities or seeking intimate advice. Mahdavi didn't even feel comfortable letting the older woman see her nail polish, which is illegal but commonplace in Iran. Nonetheless, Mrs. Erami could not understand her students' reticence. "They are so difficult," she told Mahdavi. "I can't get them to talk to me, but I know what they are doing and what they are not doing. I had a teenage daughter myself, and I know that they are having a lot of sex, but not doing it right. I just can't get them to talk to me about it."

Mrs. Erami, it turns out, is one of the more dramatic products of the generational upheaval in Iranian attitudes toward sex. A conservative Muslim, she was not sympathetic, some years before her encounter with Mahdavi, when her gay son came out of the closet. Her husband threw him out of the house. When their unmarried daughter announced that she had a boyfriend, Mrs. Erami slapped her and called her a prostitute. The daughter left home that day, never to return. And so the Eramis lost both of their children over their unwillingness to accept sexual behavior that had become the norm not only globally but even within many circles inside Iran. A year later Mrs. Erami's husband died, leaving his wife entirely alone and flooded with regret. That was when she devoted herself to sex education reform, both as a teacher and as a campaigner within Iran's education ministry.

cover of the book Passionate Uprisings (Amazon.com)

I love irony. Repress people's human nature and they will try to express it in an extreme manner.

Emily didn't come around for dinner last night, so I had baked beans on toast.

25 November 2008

dog mansion or mad house?

One might think that a person who would spend a fortune on the comfort of her dogs while she is away is devoted to them. See Daily Telegraph (UK)
Luxury £1.4 million doghouse built for two great Danes

By Graham Tibbetts
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 24/11/2008

The dogs' owner, a surgeon, has asked her builders to design her house in the Cotswolds so that it can provide all the essentials her pets will need when she is away.

The entry system uses retina scans to verify the animals' identity and cameras will allow the owner to watch their movements from another room or via the internet.

Automatic dispensers will ensure the drinking and eating bowls - both self-cleaning - are filled with just the right amount of chilled, filtered water or dry food.

There will also be a spa bath and the climate of the house can be controlled remotely over the internet.

The home is being made from zinc, glass and limestone and will occupy two plots of land on an estate in Gloucestershire.

Jeremy Paxton, owner of Conservation Builders, said: "I have been very actively involved in this project.

We specialise in building unusual homes and bespoke houses.

"It's a very interesting house with fabulous architecture and unusual requirements."

He added: "Most houses are build with human specifics in mind then animals fit in around that, but this is the other way round.

"There is even a spa bath with a saline treatment built in because it's good for their coats."
No matter how much comforts she has built for her Great Danes, she is sadly misguided. Her intentions are thoughtful, but I think she has missed the point.

Her dogs would be much happier with human company to provide their meals, walk them, groom them and most importantly, talk to them.

£1.4 million will also hire the best live-in carers while she is away.

On the other hand, if she is going to be away that often, then she needs to think about whether her Great Danes are better off in another home, where they will have more regular human company.

All that frenetic activity both at work and home has finally caught up with me. I fell asleep on the couch after work today.

24 November 2008

books - finished reading

The Islamist by Ed Husain (Penguin 2007)

A very insightful book that is also very well-written. It should be read by everyone, especially those who pigeon-hole all Muslims as potential terrorists. This is not the case. There are extremists in every religion - radical Christian fundamentalists do as much damage to society with their hate.

23 November 2008

Buddha would have no bar of it...

Yet another so-called 'Buddha Bar' has opened, this time in London.

Photograph: Sophia Evans (Guardian)

What is really wrong with the London venue placing a statue of Buddha there is that people on the upper level are looking down on Buddha. Goes to show really, how thoughtless and ignorant the proprietors are and totally not having any understanding.

A number of so-named 'Buddha-Bars' already exist, located in Paris, Subiaco (Western Australia), Adelaide, Byron Bay (New South Wales), Waikiki Honolulu and New York city, with many more elsewhere.

Misappropriating a religious symbol as interior decor with no connection to its religious teachings is highly offensive.

If the proprietors of these venues that serve alcohol are Christian, would they have statues of Jesus inside their bars and restaurants? No, of course not. It would be disrespectful. Catholics would be highly offended if a bar serving alcohol was called 'Virgin Mary Bar'.

Not only culturally inappropriate, but also highly insensitive.

A suitable response would be for monks and worshippers from the local Buddhist communities to enter these places without a reservation and to start burning incense and chanting and praying. After all, there is a statue of Buddha on the premises, so it must be a temple.

Today was a horrid day weather-wise. I discovered a bank cheque in unopened mail from June this year. Oh, I must open all my mail on time.

22 November 2008

the point of daylight saving

Most of Australia is on daylight time at the moment. I prefer it, as there is more daylight at the end of the day to do things, especially for folks who work in offices every day. It is amazing what one can do in one hour of daylight.

I always thought that daylight saving was about saving energy. Matthew Kotchen and Laura Grant thought otherwise and wrote in the New York Times
November 20, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor

What’s the Point of Daylight Time?

Santa Barbara, Calif.

WHY do we — along with 75 other countries — alternate between standard time and daylight time? Although many people believe it has an agricultural provenance, daylight time has always been a policy meant to save energy. As Benjamin Franklin argued, if people moved up their summer schedules by an hour, they could live by “sunshine rather than candles” in the evenings.

Energy conservation was the motivation for daylight time during World Wars I and II and the oil embargo of the 1970s, and it remains so today — even though there has been little scientific evidence to suggest daylight time actually helps us cut back on electricity use.

Recently, however, we were able to conduct a study in Indiana, where daylight time was instituted statewide only in 2006. Before that year, daylight time was in effect in just a handful of counties. This change of policy offered a unique, natural experiment to measure the overall effect on residential electricity consumption. We could compare the amount of energy used by households in the late-adopting counties during the two years before they switched to daylight time with the amounts they used during the year afterward — while using counties that always practiced daylight time as a control group.

We found that daylight time caused a 1 percent overall increase in residential electricity use, though the effect varied from month to month. The greatest increase occurred in late summer and early fall, when electricity use rose by 2 percent to 4 percent.

Daylight time costs Indiana households an average of $3.29 a year in higher electricity bills, or about $9 million for the whole state. We also calculated the health and other social costs of increased pollution emissions at $1.7 million to $5.5 million per year.

What explains this unexpected result? While daylight time reduces demand for household lighting, it increases demand for heating in the early spring and late fall (in the mornings) and, even more important, for cooling on summer evenings. Benjamin Franklin was right about candles, in other words, but he did not consider air-conditioners.

In regions of the United States where demand for air-conditioning is greater than in Indiana, this spike in cooling costs is likely to be even greater. Arizona, one of the hottest states, may have it right; it does not practice daylight time.

Eliminating daylight time would thus accord with President-elect Barack Obama’s stated goals of conserving resources, saving money, promoting energy security and reducing climate change. At the very least, we should abandon the notion that we are saving energy while enjoying the extra hour of sunlight on hot summer evenings.

Matthew J. Kotchen is a professor of economics and Laura E. Grant is a doctoral student in environmental science and management at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
A flaw with their argument is latitude and basing a study on just one state.

I prefer the morning to feel like the morning and not feel like the sun has been up for hours. Anyway, I like dawn/sunrise. It is the most peaceful part of the day. I'd rather see it at 6am than 5am.

It was a cold and rainy day.

21 November 2008

whales - part 5

A former Japanese government official has admitted that there is no point in continuing with whaling. Exclusively reported in the Sydney Morning Herald

Tomohiko Taniguchi was the official voice of Japan for the last three years. The spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo fronted the international media every day to answer, avoid and argue questions. Of the hundreds of matters he dealt with, the one he dreaded most was defending Japan's whaling program. It was part of his job to defend official policy.

"I was being summoned by CNN, BBC and ABC on this issue far more than any other issue," Taniguchi says. "I hated this issue because there's no point in Japan sticking to its position," he tells the Herald in flawless English.

No point? Today Taniguchi is an adviser to Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs. But, since July, he is no longer an employed official, so he is free to speak his mind. And he does.

"The Japanese whaling industry generates revenues of 7.5 billion yen a year, which is $120 million at the current exchange rate. It's tiny."


"Japan has nil national interest in the whaling industry," Taniguchi continues. "The stake for Japan is near zero. If Australians criticise the Japanese auto industry, Japan must do everything possible to protect the auto industry. This is not the auto industry."

He is writing a long piece for a Japanese magazine, Wedge, to ask Japanese to consider the balance sheet of national interests. On the other side of the ledger, he contends, "this issue is doing substantial damage to Japan's image in Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand," the entire English-speaking world.


Taniguchi hopes the whaling industry will fade away. Whale meat is not a big seller, an uneconomic activity. About 80 Japanese parliamentarians support whaling, but it is a core issue for only six to eight. With the Government's deficit worsening, the annual subsidy becomes harder to defend. But Taniguchi advises Australia, and others, not to press too hard, lest this only entrench Japanese political support for whaling.


Many countries have an ugly blemish that mars the total image and makes other peoples recoil in distaste. China has Tibet, the US has Guantanamo Bay, Turkey has Armenian genocide, and Japan has whaling. Uneconomic and increasingly costly to Japan's image, Taniguchi expects it will disappear in a few years. But in the meantime, he fears that escalation could damage the interests of Australia as well as Japan. "Japanese children would be horrified to learn that Australians routinely kill and even eat kangaroos, which they think are much cuter than whales."

Australians aren't against whaling because whales are cute! Kangaroos are not an endangered species, and provided they are harvested humanely, provide a good source of non-greenhouse generating protein in a sustainable manner.

Kangaroos are also confined to Australia, and do not cross global oceans and thus not a global concern, unless of course they are endangered or killed inhumanely.

It has been another long week at work. This morning, I had multiple urgent tasks to be completed in the morning. No problem, but I deserve another holiday soon!

Tonight, I watched the Resident Evil: Extinction. The third in the series of movies about zombies and based on a computer game. I still don't understand the scientific logic of zombies. If zombies are technically dead and decomposing, why do they need to eat?

20 November 2008

BNP - oh what irony

The Guardian yesterday reported that
The entire membership list of the British National party has been posted on the internet, identifying thousands of people as secret supporters of the far right and exposing many to the risk of dismissal from work, disciplinary action or vilification.

The BNP leader, Nick Griffin, claimed today that he knew the identity of the person who published the list, describing him as a "hardliner" senior employee who left the party last year.
In an ironic twist
The BNP leader admitted the party was relying on the Human Rights Act, based on EU legislation, which it opposes, to try to protect the privacy of its members.
A party that wishes to deny the rights of others now wants to use the same protection for themselves.

image from LOLGRIFFIN

I hope the names are leaked even further. Perhaps then, these misguided people will understand how it feels to be on the receiving end of hate.

Nothing to report today.

19 November 2008

Australia... more than the outback

Baz Luhrmann's film Australia premiered last night to much hype. There is a quintessential image that is always invoked in film to represent Australia.

The outback.

Telstra advertisement featuring verses from the song 'I am Australian' written by Bruce Woodley (of the Seekers)

1998 Qantas advertising featuring the song 'I still call Australia home' written by Peter Allen

Interestingly, it took a foreign film director to point out that most Australians have little association with the outback. From a review for his film Newcastle in the Sydney Morning Herald

WHEN Dan Castle set out to make an Australian surf movie, the US director expected such a surf-crazed country would be replete with gnarly surf films. Yet all he found were two films: Blackrock (1997) and Puberty Blues (1981).

Castle was "astounded and dumbfounded", he says. "Not just with the lack of surfing movies but with how few coastal films are made in Australia."

Why the reaction? "About 98 per cent of your culture, of your society, lives along the coast somewhere, yet every film-maker goes to the outback to make films about Australia.

"OK, that's a part of it," Castle qualifies. "But the psyche, the lifeblood of Australian culture has been, and always will be, on the coast. The myth of Australia might be in the outback but the drama of everyday lives is definitely on the coast."

Yet, when most Australians refer to the middle of nowhere, they think of the outback, in particular, the back of Bourke as a place they do not really want to visit. Woop Woop really. Yet images of the outback are etched into the national consciousness.

See also

- Qantas campaign, I still call Australia home since 1997 (The Inspiration Room)

- original song 'I am Australian' performed by The Seekers

- trailer for film 'Newcastle'

Happy Wednesday

17 November 2008

over-rated words 2

Over-used by the media, the word decimate is still used incorrectly.

Decimate comes from the Latin decimat, past participle of decimare meaning to take a tenth.

Most of the time, the media really means destroy. They should just say so, or use other words like annihilate, exterminate, destroy, or devastate.

Somebody please make them use a dictionary.

This week should be a better one at work.

16 November 2008

listen or read?

The BBC recently published an article called 'Can you listen as well as you read?', which I found interesting.

I would rather read a speech than listen to it. I lose attention while listening, as my brain switches off from time to time. Besides, I read much faster than people can speak and am impatient.

Still, I think neuro-linguistic programming is a load of rubbish based on dodgy pseudo-science.

Today was a busy day, but I managed a late afternoon nap.

Tonight, the ABC screened ITV's remake of A Room With A View. What a waste of a production. There was no point in making another version when the excellent Merchant Ivory production is timeless, and now a classic, and definitely one of my most favourite films of all time.

The original and the best

14 November 2008

from knackers yard to a decent life

I found this story about a mare who was rescued before she was due to become pet food very touching. From the Sydney Morning Herald.
The $600 mare and her $100,000 foal

Dam fine … owner Rebecca Bates leads Decency and foal Tyra, believed to be worth about $100,000 each thanks to their impressive pedigree.

Dam fine … owner Rebecca Bates leads Decency and foal Tyra, believed to be worth about $100,000 each thanks to their impressive pedigree.
Photo: Paul Harris

November 14, 2008

A horse once destined for the slaughterhouse is repaying the faith of its canny owners, writes Phil Wilkins.

Viewed's win in the Melbourne Cup had its annual reverberations across the thoroughbred industry, not least for a mare named Decency, now found at Woodwinds Farm in the mountains behind the Gold Coast, having been rescued two days before she was to be slaughtered in a dogger's yard in Brisbane.

Early last year, the powerful brown mare - who has a terrible scar extending from mid-belly to her flank after she was impaled on a stake while squeezing through a gate with other horses - was discovered in abattoirs by an astute young woman named Rebecca Bates, who was searching for a riding horse for a friend.

There was something about the doleful animal standing at death's door that attracted Rebecca's attention, something that caught her horse lover's eye.

She returned home and told husband Shannon: "I can't get this mare out of my head. She's so lovely, so quiet, so nice to ride. We have to save her. I've got a feeling there's something good about her pedigree."

They purchased her. Normally, a sale of her dubious circumstances would cost $400, but she was such a big mare, she cost $600. For want of a better name, they called the unknown, unnamed acquisition Mary, as in mare, mare Mary. They took her back to Woodwinds Farm, a fertile, 40-hectare stud - formerly a dairy farm until deregulation of the industry and drought forced the family to close down the bails - in the picturesque Numinbah Valley on the northern side of the range wrapping around Mt Warning.

Pursuing Rebecca's hunch, they began research. The mare's brands made her traceable through the Australian stud book, and to their delight they discovered she was New Zealand born and bred from a reputable stud farm, that she came to Australia as a yearling and was, in fact, the daughter of the well-credentialled stallion Defensive Play from an obscure mare named Lovers Knot. The word was around about her abattoir fate. "Mary" was listed as dead.

Further research authenticated Mary as the thoroughbred mare Decency, leaving unanswered the reason for her sad decline to the point she had been about to be put down for dogs' meat. The suspicion was she had a history of slipping foals, further complicated by her terrible belly wound. The Bates basically discounted her for breeding purposes and regarded her as a sale proposition to a nearby riding school.

The day before Decency was to be inspected for purchase by the trail farm operators in July last year, a quail burst out of the grass, startling her and sending her tumbling down a bank, leaving the mare with a fractured wither.

"She was so sore it put paid to her becoming a riding horse," Rebecca said. "We nursed her through the injury, and I looked at her and said, 'You don't want to leave us, do you? You just want to stay here. But that's all right. You're a lovely, big girl."'

In August last year, equine influenza struck, slamming shut all property gates, preventing movement of horses in Queensland and NSW, with Numinbah Valley classified as a buffer zone, further delaying the normalisation of horse transport.

The family's ambitions of utilising the new stud's two stallions for servicing mares flew out the window.

In desperation, they covered Decency with Tanabota, their Redoute's Choice-sired stallion.

Shortly after servicing, Rebecca took the mare for a short ride and came back, declaring to her mother-in-law Erica: "I've had a talk to Mary. She's going into foal. We'll be all right."

By October of last year, Decency was confirmed in foal. The following month, Efficient won the Melbourne Cup. Efficient was foaled by a mare of Defensive Play, the stallion that sired Decency. Now Decency has her own strapping brown filly foal, nicknamed Tyra, bouncing at her side.

"Decency could not be a better name for her," Rebecca said. "She has a wonderful temperament. She's a wonderful dam, everything about her. She's a totally decent mare."

Browsing through the weights for this year's Melbourne Cup, Shannon Bates spied the nomination of the five-year-old stallion Viewed, trained by Bart Cummings. Glancing at his breeding, he saw something that made his head spin. Viewed was out of Lovers Knot, the same mare that threw Decency.

So, if cheering was prolonged as Viewed and Bauer duelled along the Flemington straight, and joyous for Lovers Knot's canny owner-breeder Ian Johnson from Finch's Crossing Stud on the Hawkesbury River when Viewed muzzled his way to the Cup, it was even more thunderous in the community hall at Numinbah Valley as locals celebrated their "connection" with Viewed in the Cup sweep. "Having Defensive Play as her sire was our first payback for saving Decency, and then learning she was from the same dam as Viewed was our second payback," Erica said, still glowing in the reflected glory of the Cup, and brandishing a $5 each-way betting ticket that returned her $239.

So, the $600 rescue fee has been more than justified. How much more? One bloodstock agent suggested the broodmare value of Decency, now 11 years old, at about $100,000. Her foal, he thought, depending on her soundness, was also in the vicinity of $100,000. Such is life in the horse breeding game.

I still find it disturbing that some animals, once they have no 'economic' value, are killed. Rebecca Bates saved a life and now good fortune smiles on her. It is surely more than mere coincidence.

It has been a very long week at work.

13 November 2008

Naomi Klein on the Wall Street debacle

I wrote about the Wall Street mess on 21 September, referencing an excellent article from US News & World Report.

Naomi Klein has now written an excellent commentary in Rolling Stone magazine. Worth a read.

and a very apt illustration

Today was a rather long day at work.

12 November 2008

Philippe Starck about 'why design?'

Philippe Starck is considered to be one of the world's best designers. He has designed bathroom fittings (sinks, bathtubs, toilets, taps for Grohe), a mouse for Microsoft, furniture, interiors such as hotels and for Eurostar, toothbrushes, lamps, shoes, vehicles, etc.

In March 2007 he gave a talk to the TED conference Technology, Entertainment, Design).

He was also funny.

Happy Wednesday.

11 November 2008

it's a monarchy, stupid!

According to the Daily Telegraph, only 17 per cent of Brits want Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall to be Queen.
Public support falls for Queen Camilla

By Andrew Pierce

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 10/11/2008

A Daily Telegraph/YouGov poll commissioned to mark the 60th birthday of the Prince this Friday showed that only 17 per cent wanted the Duchess to become Queen.

When the same question was asked on her 60th birthday in July 2007, the number in favour was 28 per cent. The drop in popular support will be a blow to the Prince, who wants his wife to also become his Queen on his accession.

The Duchess, 61, who performs only half the number of engagements as the Queen who is 82, will now be under pressure from within the Royal household to take a higher public profile.

The Duchess accompanied the Prince on a 10-day trip to the Far East at the end of last month but before they left it was announced she would not complete the final leg, to Indonesia, because of the heat and humidity.

When the marriage of the Prince and Camilla Parker Bowles, his long time companion, was announced in February 2005 a statement was released by Clarence House which tried to resolve the accession issue.

The statement said it "was intended that" the Duchess would be known as Princess Consort when the Prince succeeds to the throne. The statement was immediately challenged by constitutionalists and historians who argued that the wife of the Prince was automatically the Princess of Wales and on accession the Queen.

However, the new poll has delivered better news for the Prince who celebrates his birthday with a private dinner and concert at Buckingham Palace for members of the Royal Family on Thursday.

There will also be a party on Saturday for 200 friends at Highgrove, his Gloucestershire home, hosted by the Duchess. Rod Stewart will provide the cabaret.

In the poll, when asked if the Prince should succeed the Queen, 42 per cent were in favour compared to 35 per cent who thought Prince William should be the next King.

When the same question was asked in 2005 the positions were reversed with only 31 per cent backing the Prince with 42 per cent preferring his eldest son.

The poll also revealed strong backing from the public for the Prince to continue to speak out on issues such as global warming, genetically modified food, and organic farming.

Asked if he was right to speak out publicly on controversial issues, 68 per cent were in favour with only 24 per cent against.

More than half those polled thought he was doing a very good or "pretty" good job with 48 per cent regarding him as a force for good in the UK.

What a stupid poll.

Hello? It's called a monarchy. The people have absolutely NO say on the matter. Why poll them? They do NOT get to choose.

These people cannot have their cake and eat it too. If they want to have a say and choose the affairs of their head of state, then go republic.

Bloody hell! When will people ever learn?

Today was a very busy day at work, and then some.

10 November 2008

over two billion words in the Oxford English Corpus and some of them are rubbish

The Oxford English Corpus is at the heart of dictionary-making in Oxford in the 21st century and ensures that we can track and record the very latest developments in language today. By analysing the corpus and using special software, we can see words in context and find out how new words and senses are emerging, as well as spotting other trends in usage, spelling, world English, and so on. Using the corpus enables lexicographers to examine one word in detail by looking at all the different contexts in which it occurs.
The OEC now contains over two billion words. Some of these are just rubbish. One misuse that particularly irritates me include
Could of and would of

The Oxford English Corpus contains about 1,000 instances of could of and would of, as in I would of stopped her. About 850 of these occur in representations of direct speech (mostly from the Fiction domain, but also from interviews and courtroom transcripts).This leaves 150 instances of could of and would of as a genuine written form compared with 4 million instances of the standard English syntax would have and could have. However willing we may be to convert have to of in spoken English, the corpus shows that the habit has not spread into written English.

Jeremy Butterfield has collected words that are annoying in the book Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare.

I was up very early this morning.

09 November 2008

over-rated words 1

Used a lot in literature. Impressive the first time, but exceedingly pretentious thereafter.


Note to authors - you weren't the first to use this word, and if you read widely and were so impressed with it that you'd use it. Don't.

Today was a busy day. I used to veg on weekends, but now spend most of it on home projects.

08 November 2008

the first dog dilemma

Oh dear. The world's media and cyber-space are now focussing on which breed of dog the new President will adopt. From Associated Press
Who should be the first dog? Here are candidates

By LINDA LOMBARDI – 8 November 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — Among the offices Barack Obama has yet to fill, one has a special importance to his family: first dog.

At his first postelection news conference on Friday, the president-elect called choosing a dog a "major issue" in the Obama household and a hot topic on his Web site.

"We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic," he said. "On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me."

Add to that the strain of the inevitable attention that comes to a cute pup in the White House. On Thursday, President Bush's normally docile Scottish terrier Barney bit a Reuters reporter on the right index finger.

So, how to choose?

No breeds are completely hypoallergenic. However, some breeds have a tendency to cause fewer problems — mostly those that don't shed and need to have their coats trimmed regularly, or those that tend to shed less, said Stephen Zawistowski, an executive vice president for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Relatively common no-shed breeds include poodles, bichon frise, Portuguese water dogs and Maltese, but these breeds need professional grooming, which can be expensive. Other breeds that have a tendency to shed less are Schnauzers, Westies (West Highland white terriers) and Scottish terriers, Zawistowski says.

Purposely bred crosses like goldendoodles also have the no-shed coat, but random-bred mixes of dogs like poodles will also tend to have that coat, Zawistowski says.

The Obamas could adopt from either a shelter or a breed-specific rescue group. Gary Weitzman, director of the Washington Animal Rescue League, says that right now about a quarter of the 250 dogs in their shelter are purebred, but the number can be higher.

"In September we had 78 dachshunds — we'd just done a rescue from a dachshund puppy mill," he says.

An ideal first dog should also be good with kids and visitors. One advantage to adopting an adult dog is that personality traits are fully developed and good temperament testing can help choose a dog that's suitably sociable.

If the kids insist on a puppy, it's harder to predict. Almost any breed of dog can do well with children if raised with them.

Stanley Coren, a psychologist who has written a series of best-selling books on dogs, recommends breeds including beagles, cocker spaniels, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and poodles for families. But whatever breed is chosen, a puppy will need intensive socialization.

"Start introducing it to what it's going to be dealing with around the household," says Zawistowski. That includes children, but dogs can also be afraid of anything — men with mustaches, people with hats — if they're not used to them, he notes. "Those Secret Service guys look intimidating even on television."

A new dog can be a daunting choice, especially when made in the spotlight. But it's worth it — and for more than just the kids.

"I'd like to know that President Obama has a dog," Zawistowski says. "When he has a bad day, what's better than having a dog walk over and say, 'Hey, things aren't so bad?'"
There is one breed that will be out of the question. A pitbull terrier, particularly with lipstick.

Today was a busy day, mainly focussed on outside activities. I did manage to have an afternoon nap on the couch though.

07 November 2008

Africa is a continent made up of lots of countries

Just in case anybody else isn't aware...

Why would anybody make this up?

So glad the work week is over.

06 November 2008

the doctor will leave the house... err Tardis

The BBC has reported that David Tennant will be quitting the role of Doctor Who in 2010.


Happy Thursday.

05 November 2008

hope and change

Congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama.

The rest of the world watched this election very closely and sighed with relief.

President Obama has charisma that even surpasses JFK.

Results map from CNN

Strangely, my favourite places are in blue. Always blue. I'll be sure never to visit Alaska.

Today was a hectic day at work. My crisis management skills were put to heavy use.

04 November 2008

when two Chinas need each other

Aside from the US presidential elections, an historic diplomatic event occurred. Reported by Reuters
FACTBOX - Taiwan, China sign trade, transit deals
Tue Nov 4, 2008 8:01am GMT

(Reuters) - Top officials from Taiwan and China signed deals on daily direct flights, new cargo routes and food safety Tuesday during Beijing's highest-level visit to its political rival in 60 years.

China negotiator Chen Yunlin and his Taiwan counterpart, P.K. Chiang, signed the following agreements to increase trade and tourism between the two longtime political rivals:

-- Daily direct China-Taiwan charter flights, up from Friday through Monday now and totalling 108 per week, to smooth passage for Taiwan investors in China and bring in more Taiwan-bound Chinese tourists

-- New, shorter direct Taiwan-China flight paths to save time (existing direct flights must detour through Hong Kong airspace for security reasons)

-- Sixteen new Chinese airports, in addition to the current five, that can accept direct flights to or from Taiwan

-- Sixty direct cargo flights per month between Taiwan and China, cutting out third countries or regions per the current practice mandated due to sovereignty concerns

-- A launch of direct sea cargo routes between 11 Taiwan ports and 63 China destinations, sparing costly detours, required due to sovereignty concerns, for Taiwan investors with China factories

-- An introduction of direct postal links between five Taiwan stations and eight China stations, reducing delivery time from the current seven to 10 days by sidestepping third countries

-- A framework to handle food safety issues by quickly notifying, removing and investigating tainted products, in light of China's contaminated milk powder scandal that has prompted product recalls around the world, including in Taiwan.

(Compiled by the Taipei Bureau)
An agreement is usually between two equal sides with national flags on the negotiating table. I wonder if Taiwan signed as Chinese Taipei and had to acknowledge that it was not a national government but a province.

Interestingly, some people in Taiwan were also sensitive to the issue. See Taiwan News article.

Today was a public holiday. I meant to do much more at home, but it was mostly relaxing and not on the couch. Just more spring cleaning.

03 November 2008

PPP indices

I always found the Economist Big Mac Index rather interesting as a measure of purchasing power parity and variations on the true market value of a country's currency.

The CommSec iPod index is also an interesting measure of the implications for trade as a result of currency exchange rates.

Aplia suggested an iTunes index.

The thing is, the 'market' does not set the prices of those items so that they could also fluctuate along with currency exchange rates. Rather, prices are set by the producer/manufacturer.

Happy Monday!

02 November 2008

Europe's biggest - Westfield London

The largest indoor shopping centre in Europe opened in London on Thursday.

Sarah Bell of BBC News wrote about shopping centre design. Kathryn Flett from The Observer/Guardian wrote about trying to avoid spending money.

Westfield is an Australian company. The mall next to my work building is a Westfield. It needs to be razed to the ground and re-designed. It is an ugly monstrosity.

Today was another busy day. Thankfully, I had time for an afternoon nap.

01 November 2008

headline of the month

I enjoy reading word play (puns) used in newspaper headlines. After all, writers also need a bit of fun.

This one from the Northern Territory News was very clever.

Gypsies, amps and thieves


ROAMING Irish gypsies have targeted power-stricken Territorians by selling them dodgy generators that could be fatal.

I might assume that younger print journalists are unfamiliar with old Cher songs, so it was probably a quick-witted editor.

Today was a very busy day. I was up at 6am and the front door had one coat of paint by 7.30am.

Nell, Declan, Olivia and Kim came over for dinner. Technically Olivia did and didn't as Nell brought over her own baby food. I made roast rolled shoulder of pork (marinated in the soy, preserved lemon and marmalade mix that I usually use), roast sweet potato and beetroot, with blanched asparagus.