31 December 2008


Recently reported by the Daily Telegraph (UK), the National Ignition Facility (NIF), part of the US government funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in California has 192 lasers designed to create a fusion reaction.

In Europe, ITER (formerly for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, but the use of the name discontinued) is being built as another fusion experiment. China is a member of the consortium so their work on Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) will feed into ITER.

Hopefully NIF and ITER will not end up similar to Doc Ock's fusion experiment, in the Spiderman 2 film, which went amiss. Terribly.

Still, hopefully the results won't be like the Fleischmann and Pons experiments on cold fusion.

Last day of 2008.

30 December 2008

Understanding Tintin

There was a fantastic article in The Economist about Tintin in preparation of the upcoming films - to help "baffled Americans" understand.
In America filming is supposed to begin in earnest on a trilogy of Tintin films to be directed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, using digital “performance capture” technology to create a hybrid between animation and live action. Mr Spielberg secured an option to film Tintin shortly before Hergé’s death in 1983. The delays seem to have been caused partly by American puzzlement at Tintin. In September 2008 Universal Pictures pulled out of a plan to co-finance the project. The Hollywood Reporter, a trade publication, describes the films as being about “a young Belgian reporter and world traveller who is aided in his adventures by his faithful dog Snowy”, and explains that this storyline is “hugely popular in Europe”. You can almost hear the baffled shrugs.
Clearly, anybody who understands Tintin would be much more enthusiastic. More from The Economist
Tintin is not an outsider, or a rebel against the established order. He defends monarchs against revolutionaries (earning a knighthood in one book). His first instinct on catching a villain is to hand him over to the nearest police chief. He does not carry his own gun, though he shoots like an ace. Though slight, he has a very gentlemanly set of fighting skills: he knows how to box, how to sail, to drive racing cars, pilot planes and ride horses. He has few chances to rescue girls or women, moving in an almost entirely male, sexless world, but is quick to defend small boys from unearned beatings. His quick wits compensate for his lack of brawn. André Malraux, a French writer and politician, claimed that General de Gaulle called Tintin his “only international rival”, because both were famous for standing up to bullies.

Tintin is grandly uninterested in money. He is indifferent when—on occasion—he is offered large sums for accounts of catching some villain. Hergé’s disdain for transatlantic capitalism is portrayed in the 1931 “Tintin in America”, in which businessmen bid each other up to offer Tintin $100,000 for an oil well. When the young reporter explains the well is on Blackfoot Indian land, the businessmen steal the land from the Indians.
Hmmm... A lot of the political and historical nuances are going to be lost with an American audience, particularly if the film is directed by an American with no clue.

Also check out
- tintinmovie.org
- www.letintinmovie.com
- tintinmovie.info

I've been house cleaning and tidying. Always best to start a new with a clean house.

28 December 2008

car horn sympony - Slumdog Millionaire

I hate the word cacophony, and Simon Beaufoy, writing in The Guardian about adapting Vikas Swarup's novel, Q and A into the screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire was able to avoid its use. I like this passage
Nuance doesn't stand a chance in the car horn symphony of a Mumbai traffic jam.
And this one
They say that if you get caught in an avalanche it is hard to know whether you are facing up or down when the tumbling stops. The Mumbai slums are like an avalanche of the senses - an excess of smell, noise, taste and colour. Once I've turned the first corner, I'm not sure which way I came in or how I'll ever get out. But in this avalanche, something becomes abundantly and wonderfully obvious.
Beaufoy is a truly gifted writer. The rest of the article is worth a close read.

Simon Beaufoy speaks at the "Slumdog Millionaire" press conference during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival held at the Sutton Place Hotel on September 8, 2008 in Toronto, Canada. (photo from Getty Images via daylife)

More in The Guardian.

Today/Sunday turned out to be terribly unproductive.

27 December 2008

headline of the month

Actually two for December.

From the Daily Telegraph (Sydney)
Princess of Whales to pauper: Mimi Macpherson
By Glenis Green
December 27, 2008 12:00am

FROM the Princess of Whales to pauper in just 11 years - how could it have gone so wrong for Mimi Macpherson?
The story is only newsworthy because Mimi is the sister of Elle Macpherson, otherwised nobody would give a toss.

And from Reuters and subsequent variations in media outlets
Peruvian Jesus born to Virgin Mary on Christmas
Fri Dec 26, 2008 12:46pm EST

LIMA (Reuters) - Virgin Mary, a 20-year-old Peruvian woman, gave birth to a baby boy on Christmas day and named him Jesus, Peru's state news agency said on Friday.

The baby's father, Adolfo Jorge Huamani, 24, is a carpenter. Religious Peruvians compared him to Joseph the Carpenter in the Bible.

"Two thousand years later the story of Bethlehem is relived," read the headline about the birth in El Comercio, the main newspaper in Peru, a predominantly Catholic country.

The mother, Virgen Maria Huarcaya, delivered the 7.7 pound (3.5 kg) boy, Jesus Emanuel, in the early hours of Christmas at the central maternity hospital in Lima, the capital.
Not really news as the mother couldn't possibly have been an actual virgin in the biblical sense! In any case, news desk editors could not possibly resist a headline from that story.

26 December 2008

rescuing Marley and Me

I read Marley and Me a few years ago on the recommendation of Emily. It was a nice story of a real life account of living with a Labrador. I don't know why it had to be adapted into a film, but here is a good article about some important issues with the adaptation in the Los Angeles Times.
Marley & Me" spreads a rescue-friendly message
5:55 PM, December 24, 2008

Marley When the live-action "101 Dalmatians" film was released in 1996, the American Humane Assn. was overwhelmed by the public's response; filmgoers purchased dalmatians in droves, often with unpleasant end results for the dogs. Since dalmatians are a high-energy (not to mention large) breed, many families found out too late that they didn't fit in with their lifestyles and the dogs wound up abandoned in shelters across the country.

More than a decade later, the organization had an education-centric plan in place for the release of "Marley & Me," the new film based on the best-selling novel by John Grogan and starring Jennifer Aniston (along with the 22 Labrador retrievers who play Marley at various ages).

The idea was threefold: to make sure that Labs (already the most popular American Kennel Club breed) don't become impulse purchases for the "Marley"-viewing public, to encourage adoption and to nip opportunistic puppy-mill breeding in the bud. (Puppy mills have notoriously flooded pet stores with breeds featured in popular movies, like "101's" dalmatians and St. Bernards after the release of "Beethoven.")

The group partnered with 20th Century Fox, the studio behind "Marley," to distribute pet ownership tip pamphlets and educate viewers about the importance of adoption. (Clyde, the dog who played Marley during most of the film, is a rescue himself.) Adoption events and a pet food-blanket drive were held in connection with "Marley" premiere screenings. "[Fox was] one of the most outstanding studios that I've had the opportunity to work with," says Jone Bouman, the head of communications for American Humane's Film & TV unit. "I'm just so grateful to them."

American Humane (not to be confused with the Humane Society of the United States) is the group behind the "no animals were harmed" end-credit disclaimer. They supervise and rate more than 1,000 productions a year to ensure the welfare of animal actors ("Marley" received an Outstanding rating).

Early reviews for "Marley" look good -- Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman calls it "the single most endearing and authentic movie about the human–canine connection in decades." And PETA, not to be outdone, gives it "two paws up."

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Dan Steinberg/Associated Press

It is a timely message as many dogs end up in shelters at this time of the year, surrendered by their people before they go on holidays (vacation) instead of paying for board. They are joined by puppies who were unwanted Christmas gifts.

See also, from the Sydney Morning Herald
- Grim end for Christmas puppies
- Dead dogs walking get reprieve
- RSPCA says adoption is best

People who treat companion animals as if they are disposable are despicable.

Seven days off work now, and I have not done anything I intended like tidying and cleaning the house.

25 December 2008

Canis Resort

Reported by Deutsche Welle (17 December 2008)
Pampered Pooches Get Their Own Five-Star Resort

The four-footed jet set can now enjoy wellness and undivided professional attention at Germany's first five-star hotel resort for dogs. Whether it's just for a day or for longer, those well-off pups can be pampered.

Are you worried that your dog may be bored? Is the day-to-day canine life just not doing it for your pup anymore? Well, your worries are over. Welcome to the first exclusive hotel resort for dogs: Canis Resort.

The hotel, which opened this week near Munich airport, promises to deliver "a unique experience for your dog."

But it stresses that it isn't just geared towards on-the-go businesspeople. Anyone who wants to treat their loved pet to something exclusive is at the right place -- for the right price: overnight care runs at 80 Euros ($110) per night.

The Dog Lodges are a cozy place to retreat

Dogs can run and play on a 350 square meter field. Or, if they want to retreat for some peace and quiet, they can head to their 45-square-meter Dog Lodge and lounge on their resin floors usually found on yachts. The lodges are designed for a maximum of five dogs-- and include a private yard.

For those owners who just can't wait to see their beloved pets when they return to town, a gate-to-gate service -- at extra cost -- takes dogs to the airport to greet their owners.

Also on hand are designer grooming and gourmet dog food -- in short, everything to make it feel like anything but a kennel.

"Dog owners often have a bad conscience when they leave their dogs to be looked after because the places feel like kennels," said Thomas Gerteis, the co-managing director.

There is occupancy for 40 dogs, plus a day-care service for travellers who aren't away overnight.

"We have a 24-hour, seven-day check-in service," Sabine Gerteis said. "If the dog wants to be petted, the dog-sitter is right there for him."

And for those of you who may be a bit short-changed in these times of economic crisis, Canis Resort is offering opening specials.

Link - Canis Resort

Hmmm.... I wonder whether this approach only adds to separation anxiety. Still, very smart of a business to profit from people's anxiety about abandoning their pooches.

Thank goodness Christmas is just about over.

24 December 2008

Just because a tradition is old, it does not make it right

A disturbing article from AFP
Saudi court rejects divorcing eight-year-old girl

RIYADH (AFP) — A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty, a lawyer involved told AFP.

"The judge has dismissed the plea (filed by the mother) because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty," lawyer Abdullah Jtili told AFP in a telephone interview after Saturday's court decision.

The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 220 kilometres (135 miles) north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.

"She doesn't know yet that she has been married," Jtili said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.

Relatives who did not wish to be named told AFP that the marriage had not yet been consummated, and that the girl continued to live with her mother. They said that the father had set a verbal condition by which the marriage is not consummated for another 10 years, when the girl turns 18.

The father had agreed to marry off his daughter for an advance dowry of 30,000 riyals (8,000 dollars), as he was apparently facing financial problems, they said.

The father was in court and he remained adamant in favour of the marriage, they added.

Lawyer Jtili said he was going to appeal the verdict at the court of cassation, the supreme court in the ultra-conservative kingdom which applies Islamic Sharia law in its courts.

Arranged marriages involving pre-adolescents are occasionally reported in the Arabian Peninsula, including in Saudi Arabia where the strict conservative Wahabi version of Sunni Islam holds sway and polygamy is common.

In Yemen in April, another girl aged eight was granted a divorce after her unemployed father forced her to marry a man of 28.

Sometimes I wonder whether I judge such a practice as wrong based on Western values. There is such a thing as universal human rights, and the internationally agreed Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Saudi Arabia became a signatory on 26 January 1996 (however, with reservations with respect to all such articles as are in conflict with the provisions of Islamic law).

Marrying off a child is akin to treating the child as chattel, and not far removed from slavery. Just because a practice is old, it does not mean it is

Another almost do nothing day.

23 December 2008

I want one

Remote control Tarantula
What the RC Tarantula is all about...

Arachnophobics – be warned! The Remote Control Tarantula is out there stalking innocent victims, hungrily feasting on the terrified screams of it's human prey.

Forget the warm-hearted heroine in Charlotte's Web – this hairy-legged hood is enough to make the skin crawl on a department store dummy. Or to put it into a spider lover's language "this is soooo cool!".

RC TarantulaYou control it from an inconspicuous distance with the palm-size remote control "egg". It's so realistic – people won't be able to tell the difference until you're up very close (which most people won't want to be). Those furry legs crawl in a disturbingly spider-esque fashion – creeping, stalking and scurrying across any smooth flat surface. And if that isn't unsettling enough, just wait until it's eyes glow red!

Those who love the thought of owning a tarantula – but are forbidden for some reason – will be in heaven! All you have to do is choose a name – how about Incy-Wincy, Aragog, Miss Muffet or "The Devil's Spawn" (that last one is courtesy of our accountant, who obviously has issues).

Perhaps those with severe arachnophobia shouldn't completely discount owning their own RC Tarantula – it might actually be a great way of desensitising yourself, before you face the real thing.

Order your RC Tarantula now – if not to help you spin your wicked web of practical jokes, then at least to help our accountant whose been standing on his desk for 3 weeks.

Product Specification

The RC Tarantula is approximately 17 x 15 x 4.5 cm in size. It requires 2 x AAA batteries (not included) and the remote operates on 2 x AA batteries (not included).

The remote control spider moves in any direction and features independent leg movement to provide real crawling action. It also has light up eyes and a realistic furry texture.

Recommended for ages 6 and above.

A small revenge on all those people who do not let spiders live in their houses (inside and outside), as I do.

Today was one of excitement. A doggy visitor (until 31 December), a human visitor (Kim, for lunch), and walks to the shops then markets sans canine.

Another candelabra added to my collection from IKEA. Hmmm... am getting a nice collection going, including a Georg Jensen.

22 December 2008

decades apart, when love reunites

There was an interesting article in the Weekend Australian Magazine of 20-21 December 2008 by Kate Legge about couples who reunited after decades apart, returning to each other after another lifetime of separate marriages etc, and rekindling their first love.

An excerpt
Karl Mineur’s sister remembers finding her brother’s initials carved next to Marion’s inside the wooden lids of desks that had serviced thousands of students at Sheffield High. The couple met as 13-year-olds through their fathers, both separated, who lived as neighbours in this tiny Tasmanian township. Karl’s stepdad was Dutch, Marion’s father was German. Her mother lived in Hobart and she insisted Marion finish school there. Distance killed the courtship. “We had no electricity, let alone a telephone,” Karl recalls, “and I was lousy with a pen.” Marion had no money for stamps.

They both married other people. Karl moved to Brisbane, working as a roofer; Marion was living in Melbourne, where she split with her first husband. They have two kids. After buying a new computer she registered with the website Friends Reunited. Karl’s sister was registered too, so Marion emailed her seeking contact details for Karl. Later that evening she phoned him. “She said, ‘Do you remember me?’ I said, ‘Of course I do.’” They spoke for six hours.

“I just had such a good gut feeling. We have such similar backgrounds because we knew each other so long ago. The old heart hoped for something good and it has been,” he says.

Six months on she’d moved to Brisbane with her son, leaving her teenage daughter, who wanted to stay put with her peer group, in the care of her ex-husband. Soon she fell pregnant. Now their toddler son is more than a year old and they plan to move back where they began. “We’ve got the most incredible support from both our families now,” Marion says.
Unfortunately, things don't always work out, especially in some cultures. Reported in the Guardian

Octogenarian forced to seek out lost father for wedding approval

Robert Tait
The Guardian, Saturday 20 December 2008

After a life of spinsterhood, Setareh, an 80-year-old Iranian woman, assumed she was fated to see out her remaining days alone and was preparing to move into an old people's home for company.

When the boy-next-door from her youth suddenly reappeared and proposed, she thought her long-forgotten dreams of marriage were about to be fulfilled.

But Iran's laws require a father to grant permission to his daughter before she is allowed to marry. Now the lovestruck octogenarian has asked a court in Tehran to establish whether her father, who abandoned her when she was two, is dead or alive so that her wedding can go ahead.

The legal obstacle came to light when Setareh and her betrothed, Jamshid, tried to tie the knot at a registrar's office, only to be told the ceremony could not go ahead without either the written agreement or proof of death of her father.

It represented a cruel blow to the elderly couple, who had been childhood sweethearts but were forced to scrap plans to wed after Setareh's mother protested that it would lead to her being left alone. Reluctantly, Setareh resigned herself to living with her mother.

Appearing before Tehran's family court, Setareh, a former foreign languages teacher, explained that Jamshid subsequently married another woman who had since died. The pair had rekindled their affair just before Setareh was due to move into a care home. "Seeing Jamshid made my heart start beating faster and suddenly the passion of youth returned," she said. "When I heard him proposing to me once again, I thanked God for the second chance, because I had found another spur for the remaining days of my life."

She said her father had been forced into marrying her mother during the 1920s. The marriage was loveless and he walked out after Setareh was born. Neither mother nor daughter heard from him again.

The judge, Mahmoud Baghal Shirvan, asked the Iranian registrar's organisation to examine the father's status and pronounce whether he is dead or alive. He also asked officials to check whether he had passed through Iran's land, air or sea frontiers since abandoning his family. If the father is found to have died, the court is expected to permit Setareh to marry.

Her plight is an example of what campaigners say is systematic discrimination against women under Iranian law. But the state-linked Iranian Women's News Agency said women needed their father's permission to protect them from "emotional" marriage decisions.
One would think that at 80 years old, that part of the law would not be applicable. Poor Setareh, the law is an ass.

Third day of 16 days off work, and I still haven't tidied the house.

21 December 2008

Twilight after Interview with the Vampire

It seems that the film Twilight, adapted from the Stephenie Meyer novel has made vampires fashionable again. In an article for the BBC News magazine, Brendan O'Neill wrote
With the hit film Twilight, the transformation of vampires from terrifying, bloodsucking killers to sensitive, emotionally-intelligent, misunderstood souls, is complete. How was Bram Stoker's legacy so drastically betrayed?
O'Neill must be new to the genre. The transformation was complete over a generation ago by Anne Rice. I wonder if the new readers of Stephenie Meyers have even heard of Anne Rice.

Just like JK Rowling, a lot of modern literature is derivative and really don't deserve the praise they receive, without acknowledging the pioneers of the genre.

Another do nothing day.

20 December 2008

beer in Iceland

The sale of beer was illegal in Iceland until 1 March 1989. See - Iceland Ministry of Industry and Commerce (page 19)

Surely some people made home brew and gave it away.

I did mostly nothing today.

17 December 2008

Black Forest cake

When I lived on campus at university, it was a time when most of us turned 21. Somehow, I ended up making birthday cakes for several friends. It was Black Forest cake, or a variation of it, using packet mix chocolate cake. I became quite renown for my triple layer twenty-first birthday Black Forest cakes.

I've now found a great recipe that was shown on tonight's Food Safari on SBS. Recipe by Martin Boetz

Legendary around the world, the Black Forest cake epitomizes Germany’s love for a huge selection of indulgent cakes! Layers of buttercake, chocolate cake, morello cherries, cream, chocolate custard and kirsch make this a decadent dream-come-true for all cake lovers.


Butter Cake
300g butter
300g caster sugar
300g flour
6 eggs
1 ½ tsp baking powder

Chocolate Cake
250g chocolate
250g sugar
1 ½ cups flour
6 eggs
180g butter

Chocolate Mousse
4 egg yolks (80g)
200g unrefined caster sugar
100ml whole milk
150g top quality dark chocolate
Generous pinch of table salt
200ml whipping cream

Chocolate Ganache
95ml whipping cream
1 tsp glucose syrup
Pinch of table salt
95g top quality dark chocolate
20g unsalted butter

1 jar of whole sour cherries (Morello)
1 vanilla bean
1 tbsp sugar

To Build Your Black Forest Cake
All of the above - ie. 2 x butter cake, 2 x chocolate cake, the chocolate mousse, cherries, cherry syrup and the chocolate ganache plus:
Freshly whipped cream
Shards of dark or milk chocolate (this is your ‘forest’)
10 whole fresh cherries that have been soaked in Kirsch for 1 week


Butter Cake
Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs one by one and fold in flour and baking powder. Pour into a greased baking tin & bake at 180°C for 55 minutes.

Chocolate Cake
Melt chocolate and butter together, then beat the eggs and sugar together and fold the cool chocolate mix through. Sift the flour and fold into the chocolate mix.
Pour into a greased baking tin and bake at 180°C for 1 hour.

Chocolate Mousse
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar for 5 minutes, or until stiff. A food mixer with a paddle attachment can be used for this.

Gently warm the milk in a small pan. Remove it from the heat and stir in the beaten egg yolks. Return to a medium heat and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Use a digital probe to monitor when the temperature of the mixture reaches 80°C and remove from the heat.

Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a medium sized bowl. Pour the warm milk and the eggs over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. Add the salt and leave to cool.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold the cream into the cooled chocolate mixture.

Chocolate Ganache
(Martin uses the mousse recipe from the Heston Blumenthal book but any basic mousse recipe is fine to use.)
Gently heat the cream, glucose syrup and salt. Break the chocolate into a bowl then stir in the warm cream. When the chocolate has melted entirely, add the butter and stir until that too has melted. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and place it in the fridge for at least an hour to stiffen.

Drain a jar of whole sour cherries (morello cherries), keeping the juice in a saucepan. Add a vanilla bean and sugar and reduce to a syrup.

To Build Your Black Forest Cake

Start with a layer of butter cake (one half of the butter cake cut across the diameter)
Splash cake with Kirsch
Pipe a layer of mouse around the outside of the cake (you are building a wall to keep in the cherries)
Add the cherries within the confines of your ‘mousse wall’
A layer of chocolate cake
A layer of cream
Another layer of butter cake
Pipe on another layer of the Mousse Wall and then add cherries
Another layer of chocolate cake
Another splash of Kirsch
Then another layer of cream
Another layer of butter cake
Topped with another layer of mousse (but this time fill the mousse over all the cake – no wall and no cherries)
Final layer of chocolate cake
Pour ganache over the top
Add topping of chocolate shards and whole cherries (preferable fresh ones that have been soaked in kirsch for 1 week)

Let set and settle for 3-6 hours.

For my own 21st birthday, a friend made a carrot cake for me - still one of my favourites.

I returned to the dentist this morning for the fitting of my ocular splint. Dental care has now become an important part of my daily routine.

16 December 2008


Gaius was a common Roman given name, or rather praenomen (only used by immediate family).

One of the most famous Gaius was Gaius Octavius Thurinus, who after adoption by by his great-uncle Julius Caesar in 44 BC became known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.

There are very few fictional characters called Gaius. There is Dr Gaius Balthar in Battlestar Galactica, and more recently Gaius (only one name), the royal physician in the new take on Merlin.

Gaius is a cool name. There should be more baby boys named Gaius.

Indeed, more Roman names should be brought back to common usage, like
  • Flavius
  • Lucius
  • Tiberius
  • Titus
  • Gallus
  • Agrippa
Happy Tuesday!

15 December 2008

Banksy work destroyed

I first wrote about Banksy earlier this year and mentioned his work called 'Little Diver' in Melbourne (painted in 2003).

Unfortunately, some vandal has destroyed this work. See The Age
The painter painted: Melbourne loses its treasured Banksy

Janae Houghton

December 14, 2008

Image from Web. Showing a Banksy artwork. 131208.
The Little Diver by Banksy (right) and after the vandals struck (left)

HE IS a small, faceless man and was supposedly well protected with a piece of perspex plastic, but famous laneway graffiti artwork 'Banksy's little diver' has been destroyed by vandals.

It is believed the less-than-one-metre-tall grey figure, wearing a duffle coat and diving mask, was stencilled in 2003 when the famous British graffiti artist known just as Banksy visited Melbourne.

The little diver lives on a wall, surrounded by rats and rubbish, on the back of the Nicholas Building on the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane.

A piece of screwed-in plastic, paid for by the building's owners, has protected him from the elements and damage since April this year.

But someone has ruined the iconic little diver, by tipping silver paint behind the plastic protector and tagging 'Banksy woz ere' on the plastic, potentially ruining the artwork forever.

Earlier this year, the little diver's potential value went up when another Banksy artwork on a London wall was sold for £208,000 ($A472,528) on an eBay auction.

Banksy, the elusive street artist, keeps his identity secret and hardly ever gives media interviews.

Fans and buyers of his works include Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Christina Aguilera.


What makes this senseless act of vandalism even worse, is that the vandal knew it was a Banksy.

Even so, Banksy would have been aware of the risk in leaving art in such publicly exposed places.

This week is going to be a very strange one at work.

14 December 2008

imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

The Times (UK) has reported that a wealthy Bangladeshi plans to build an exact replica of the Taj Mahal at Sonargaon, 20 miles north east of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
December 12, 2008

No love lost over Bangladesh's copycat version of the Taj Mahal

The construction of an exact copy of the Taj Mahal has sparked a diplomatic fracas between India and Bangladesh - raising the vexing issue of whether or not it is possible to claim copyright on a building.

The row began after Ahsanullah Moni, a wealthy Bangladeshi film director, gave the first glimpse of his copy of the Taj Mahal this week.

The project has cost about £40 million and is being built about 20 miles northeast of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. But the Indians are upset. “You can't just go and copy historical monuments,” an official at the Indian High Commission in Dhaka told a reporter this week.

“Someone will go out there and have a look. This [the original Taj Mahal] is a protected site we are talking about, so we need to find out if it really is the exact size.”

Deepak Mittal, a spokesman for the High Commission, confirmed to The Times that the matter was being investigated. “We have heard about this new Taj. We are checking the details,” he said.

For their part, Bangladeshi officials are incensed by suggestions that the Taj Mahal - which was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and completed in 1653 - is protected by some sort of copyright.

“I'm not sure what they are talking about,” one said. “Show me where it says that emulating a building like this can be illegal.”

To make his Taj, Mr Moni imported marble and granite from Italy and diamonds from Belgium to add to 160kg (350lb) of bronze. He hopes that his version of the mausoleum will attract tourists to Bangladesh, a country that is well off the beaten track for Western holidaymakers.

Construction work began five years ago, but Mr Moni says that he came up with the idea in 1980 when he first visited the real Taj in Agra, northern India.

He said that his homage had been built because most people living in Bangladesh - where nearly half of the population exist below the poverty line - cannot afford to travel to India to see the real thing.

“Everyone dreams about seeing the Taj Mahal but very few Bangladeshis can make the trip because it's too expensive for them,” he said.

Mr Moni first visited the original in 1980 and has made six return trips. So enamoured was he of the site that he hired a group of architects and sent them to India to measure it.

He said: “I used the same marble and stone as in the original Taj. We used machinery, which is why it took less time. Otherwise it would have taken 20 years and 22,000 workers to complete it.”

Last night Mr Mittal, at the Indian High Commission, did concede that the replica was unlikely to detract from the magnificence of the original.

He also admitted that visitors were unlikely to mix up one with the other. “A copy is a form of flattery, I suppose,” he said.

I seriously doubt that the Indian government can prevent a replica being built. I wonder if all those scaled down replicas of famous monuments in Las Vegas were built with any form of licence or permission.

Bollywood has been copying Hollywood productions for years and counterfeiting pharmaceuticals. The Indian government cannot start taking a high moral stand now.

Today was a real do nothing day. Just like yesterday.

13 December 2008

Triskaidekaphobics' avoidance or certain real estate

Triskaidekaphobia is the irrational fear of the number 13. A few hotels do not have a 13th floor, although many do. BBC News has reported that triskaidekaphobia even affects real estate.
Would you buy a number 13 house?

The housing market has slowed but if you're trying to sell a home which is Number 13, then superstition makes it even harder to shift, says Chris Bowlby.

There are many things that might sway our decision about where to live, some more trivial than others.

But surely the house number cannot be that important?

And yet in our age of sophisticated property research, and careful financial calculation, houses are rejected by many potential buyers simply because they are numbered 13.

The problem is apparently so great that some local authorities in the UK are banning the use of number 13 in all new property developments - while others are determined to hold out against this official blessing for ancient superstition.

In the picturesque Worcestershire town of Bewdley, local estate agent Linda Hayden says there are two house that have proved especially hard to shift, even allowing for the current property downturn. One has been on the market for about a year and she believes the fact that it is a number 13 is the reason why.

"How bizarre," she says with a shake of the head. "We are a society that can justify most things in life, and yet we're still frightened by superstition that living in number 13 is not where we'd like to be".

Such has been the local aversion to "unlucky" houses that the district council, Wyre Forest, has in recent years banned the use of number 13 in all new developments. Local councillor Stephen Clee resolutely defends the policy.

"We have to listen to what the people say," he says. "The local community were saying to us, 'we don't like living at number 13, so can we do something about it?'"

Wyre Forest is not alone in this - 13 is not used for new houses in authorities ranging from Herefordshire to Lewes in Sussex. West Wiltshire has also introduced a ban, blaming it on advice from the Royal Mail - a charge an indignantly rational Royal Mail spokesman has denied.

Others are holding out against the onward march of officially-approved superstition.

West Norfolk council's policy on street numbering states baldly that "there should be no sanction given to the avoidance of any numbers, for example 13".

Minister of superstition

And in Edinburgh, the city council upholds the strictest traditions of Scottish enlightenment by stating severely: "In all instances the number 13 is never omitted."

So if you want to avoid living at number 13, it all depends on where you are lucky - or unlucky - enough to live. Alternatively, if you opt deliberately to buy a number 13 in some parts of the country, you might get a bargain.

And other countries are just as superstitious. In Japan, hotels, hospitals and apartment blocks often skip the unlucky number four. And in the US, skyscrapers often omit a 13th floor.

It would all puzzle the Victorians, whose 1840s legislation on street numbering, designed to bring order to chaotic urban sprawl, still sets the broad outlines for policy today - though local authorities like to assert their autonomy.

Perhaps a new national policy is needed, maybe a minister for the regulation of superstition, with an office close to the centre of government power?

He or she could be based in a new building in Downing Street, which has house numbers 9 to 12 but curiously, nothing to follow.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/12/12 13:11:07 GMT
See also video from BBC - Sixes and sevens over street numbers

This is one of the silliest things I have ever read. There is nothing wrong with living at a number 13.

On the other hand, a house at the end of a T junction should be avoided. The front door could face oncoming traffic.

Also houses where the the front and back doors align are bad feng shui and allows energy to pass right through.

Today has been a lazy day.

11 December 2008

worse than lost in translation

For some reason, I found this story very schadenfreude. From (UK) Daily Telegraph on 9 December 2008
Advert for brothel mistaken for classical Chinese poem

A respected German scientific magazine has been embarrassed to discover it printed a Chinese-language advertisement for "jade-like girls" and "coquettish and enchanting housewives" across its front cover.

By Richard Spencer in Beijing
Last Updated: 7:49AM GMT 09 Dec 2008

The striking white-on-red text was intended to show off the Chinese focus of the official journal of the Max Planck Institute.

The editors, who thought they were printing a piece of classical Chinese poetry, said they ran it past "a German sinologist" to make sure.

In fact, the text appears to be a flier for a Hong Kong or Macau entertainment centre.

It says two new "directors" have been appointed to oversee a series of "matinees". They will personally lead "jade-like girls in the spring of youth, beauties from the north" - the north of China is a popular recruiting ground for Hong Kong and Macau prostitutes. It also has "housewives whose performances are coquettish and enchanting".

The magazine cover has circulated on Chinese blogs, causing amusement and a certain amount of schadenfreude.

Many English-speaking Chinese are keenly aware that poorly translated signs and restaurant menus here are a perpetual source of amusement for foreigners, with a number of popular online and published collections, such as www.engrish.com

Government-led attempts to spare the nation's blushes are matched with vengeful glee by tattooists who cash in on the current, David Beckham-led craze for Chinese characters by inscribing young backpackers' bodies with slogans such as "A fool and his money are easily parted" or crude sexual invitations.

On the other hand, Chinglish is hitting back due to attempts to use translation software to improve matters.

In one celebrated case, a rash of English-language signs featuring the prominent and inexplicable use of the F-word was discovered to be the fault of a piece of translation software that failed to distinguish meanings of the character for "to do", which carries the same sexual double entendre in Chinese as it does in English.

Particular online delight has come from the discovery of a restaurant whose sign gives its English name as "Translate Server Error".

How the "German sinologist" came to mistake a strip club advertisement for a piece of classical poetry has not been made clear. An apology for the cover's "inappropriate content" to Chinese subscribers from the Max Planck Institute said: "To our sincere regret, it has now emerged that the text contains deeper levels of meaning, which are not immediately accessible to a non-native speaker."

Chinese readers however suspect a practical joke, at best, if not a calculated insult to the pride of the Chinese nation.
And the illustration

I've always wondered about non-Chinese language readers with tattoos of Chinese characters in order to be fashionable. I wonder if they realise the meaning of the words.


10 December 2008

Dubai Towers - Dubai

Dubai Towers Dubai is currently under construction in Dubai by developer Sama Dubai.

A series of four towers, inspired by the movement of candle light, the tallest will be 400 metres when completed in 2009.

In the meantime, Dubai municipality is cracking down on expats sharing rental properties, who do so due to high rents.

I wonder why I find Gossip Girl addictive.

08 December 2008

questions about Santa Claus

I'm surprised that Santa Claus has not been apprehended for questioning yet, when he visits Australia.

There are a number of questions that require answers.

1. As Mr Claus intends to work in Australia, delivering presents and lumps of coal to children, did he apply for a work visa, and if so, was he granted one?

2. Does Mr Claus enter Australia at a designated border control - either airport or seaport?

3. Does Mr Claus pay customs duty and taxes on the goods that are outside of the allowable duty free allocation?

4. Are the reindeers quarantined upon arrival given the risk of foot and mouth disease in live deer imports?

5. Where Mr Claus enters Australia prior to his delivery of presents, and offers children to sit on his knee - has he had a police check to ensure he can be trusted to work with children?

Of course, there are even more questions about the status of the height-challenged staff working in Santa's workshop. There have been allegations that they are indentured slaves.

I finished painting the side gate/fence this evening.

07 December 2008

Rolex and Volvo on the high seas

I've been following the Volvo Ocean Race for sometime now, when it used to be called the Whitbread Round the World Race many years ago. Really, sailing should be the sport of kings, not horse-racing.

In 2005/2006, Melbourne was a port of call from mid January to mid February 2006. I should have travelled then, to check out the yachts.

For the 2008/2009 season, the yachts are currently in Cochin (India).

Though, there is still some way to go, the current leader is Ericsson 4 - also the favourite to win.

Ericsson 4

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is another major ocean race, with much bigger yachts.

Ranger (Cayman Islands) - overall winner in the Cruising Division of the 19th Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Another magnificent looking yacht was Moneypenny (USA) which competed in the Mini Maxi Division

Though I would never go on a holiday cruise (but perhaps never say never), I did almost enlist in the navy once.

Today, I fixed the gaps under the side fence/gate by screwing two 10 cm wide wooden fence palings joined together and did some more painting of it.

06 December 2008

'no eating' signs

Here is a list of common and universal 'no eating' signs.

The durian sign and the fine in dollars indicate that this is probably a sign in Singapore

I have seen some of them locally.

What I don't understand, is why food is always represented by a burger. Burgers are not a common food eaten by most people in the world.

The signs with a knife and fork are also common.

So, if people are not eating burgers, but something else, perhaps they should ignore the sign. Furthermore, people eating with their hands or chopsticks should also ignore the knife and fork sign.

For 'no eating', a far more appropriate sign would be a picture of a plate or bowl with lines showing there is something in it, without identification. Otherwise a bowl of rice - more people in the world eat rice, than hamburgers.

A 'no eating' sign with a picture of a hamburger is yet another culturally inappropriate export from the United States.

I need to keep going with the yard chores.

05 December 2008

as one sinks, another rises

Last month, many media outlets (including CNN) reported that Maldives is looking for a new homeland in order to relocate its people as its many islands will eventually be submerged by rising sea levels due to global warming.

the capital, Male is on one island and protected by a sea wall

Meanwhile, developers in Dubai are reclaiming land from the sea in the form of designer islands such as Palm Islands and The World.

Palm Jumeirah

Perhaps the Maldives could buy into an island development in Dubai, before that too sinks.

The weekend couldn't come fast enough

04 December 2008

Rex in Rome

Kommisar Rex (Inspector Rex) moves to Rome in season 9 (season 11 in some countries).

Tonight's episode on SBS TV (Australia) was the first of the new series. In it, Italian detective Lorenzo Fabbri visited Vienna on a case. Strangely, he spoke in Italian in Vienna, while the usual German speakers were dubbed into Italian.

Strange, as any global traveller will note - an Italian visiting Austria, is most likely to communicate in English as the neutral language.

I can't wait for the weekend.

03 December 2008

when doing a funny dance will make you money

Back in July, I wrote about Matt Harding ("Where the Hell is Matt?") who did the funny dance around the world.

It seems that Matt has been able to make a living out of his antics. Reported in The Age
Dancing Matt profits from YouTube jig
Matt dancing in Bali for his new global ad campaign with Visa.

Matt dancing in Bali for his new global ad campaign with Visa.

Asher Moses
December 1, 2008 - 12:47PM
YouTube's most enduring star, Matt Harding, has turned a goofy dance he devised in a Brisbane office block into a global marketing colossus, which now includes the lucrative speaker circuit and a book deal.

Like reality TV winners, most YouTube stars are back to their day jobs within months but Harding has kept his jig going for four years since he appeared in his first web video.

During that time he has been paid to travel to the four corners of the globe three times, simply to be filmed dancing badly at various locations and in front of some of the world's most famous landmarks.

Now Harding, 31, is the face of a new global marketing campaign by Visa, which has been running since late last month on television in eight countries, including Australia.

In an email interview, Harding said he had also been hired to appear in several travel agency advertisements and by Google to create a new layer for Google Earth, showing off his favourite dancing locations.

He has also appeared on hundreds of talk shows around the world - including The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, the Jimmy Kimmel show and The Tyra Banks Show - and is frequently paid to speak at events and conferences.

"Speaking has become an unanticipated side occupation that I very much enjoy. I'm not very good at it, but I'm learning a lot," Harding wrote in his online journal after returning from a speaking engagement at a gathering of animal-feed salespeople in Minneapolis.

By May, Harding said he would have his first book in stores and he has not ruled out travelling the world again to make new clips.

He said the book would be a collection of anecdotes about making his videos.

Asked how long he expected to be able to milk his internet celebrity for cash, he said he had no idea.

"I don't pursue projects like this. I just make the videos and sometimes other cool opportunities come along," Harding, who keeps his earnings close to his chest, said.

For the Visa project, the financial terms of which have not been disclosed, Harding travelled to China, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam for two weeks with his girlfriend, keeping a diary on his blog.

"It was sort of like a paid vacation," he said.

But that's nothing compared with the travelling the pair did for Harding's latest YouTube video, which went up five months ago and has already garnered 13 million hits.

For the 4½-minute clip, Harding spent 14 months travelling to 42 countries. He did his geeky jive with Bollywood dancers in Gurgaon, India, with humpback whales in Tonga, with lemurs in Madagascar and even in zero gravity in Nellis Airspace, Nevada.

That trip began just months after Harding returned from a world tour of 39 countries for his second internet video, which was published on YouTube in June 2006 and has notched up 12 million views.

Unlike most viral web hits, Harding's popularity has increased with time. The 2006 video took a little over two years to reach 10 million hits but the latest one passed that mark in 83 days. Both were sponsored by Stride gum.

After high school, Harding, following his dad's advice, decided to skip university and become a video game developer. His career took him to Brisbane's Pandemic Studios in 2000 for 2½ years. I was there that he devised his now famous jig.

His first video, filmed while travelling with a co-worker and published on his website in January 2005 before the days of YouTube, was made simply as a running gag for family and friends but quickly spread virally across the web. It was viewed about 2 million times.

It's great that he can earn a living from something he enjoys, no matter how silly

I went to the dentist this morning. My credit card is severely dented.

01 December 2008

Melbourne - soon to be a bogan free zone

The City of Melbourne has a new Lord Mayor following recent elections.

In an interview with radio 3AW, he said he wanted bad buskers and bogans out of the city.

I think he forgot about emos.

Flinders Street train station is usually full of bogans

The weekend went too quickly.