31 January 2009

blonde quotes

That dreadful tabloid British newspaper The Sun has compiled a list of top 50 dumb blonde quotes.

MAYBE these blonde stars traded fame and fortune for a large slice of their brains?

Paris Hilton, for instance, might fancy finding a bff in Blighty, but she should work out that Gordon Ramsey is not the Prime Minister first.

But the hotel heiress isn’t the only famous fair-header to uphold the blonde stereotype.

Check out our top 50 dumb blonde quotes below:

1) Paris Hilton talking to press about the US chain store: "Wal-Mart... do they like make walls there?"

2) Jessica Simpson on NewleyWeds: "Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it's tuna, but it says 'Chicken by the Sea.' "

3) Alicia Silverstone on her role in Clueless: "I think that the film was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it's true lightness."

4) Chantelle Houghton when Big Brother said she had changed since becoming a celebrity: "I've changed? What do you mean... I've changed my clothes?"

5) Jodie Marsh in a recent interview: "Eskimos are uncivilised because they don't have any shops."

6) Paris Hilton on her technique on the red carpet: "I don't really think, I just walk."

7) Jessica Simpson on her first day at high school: "A teacher asked us if anybody knew the names of the continents. I was sooo excited. I was like, Damn it! It's my first day of 7th grade, I'm in junior high and I know this answer. So I raised my hand, I was the first one, and I said A-E-I-O-U!"

8) Goldie Hawn on her favourite types of films: "Comedy is funny".

9) Sam Fox on fitness clothes: "I’ve got 10 pairs of training shoes - one for every day of the week."

10) Britney Spears on her taste in clothes: "So many people have asked me how I could possibly be a role model and dress like a tramp and get implants... all I have to say is that self-esteem is how you look at yourself and I feel good enough about myself so wear that kind of clothing... the breast implant issue has nothing to do with that..."

11) BB's Helen Adam’s on education: "The worst thing is when the press call me a dizzy blonde - I got a B in Drama, a D in English, I did a hairdressing course and a beauty certificate."

12) Lady Victoria Hervey on the homeless: "It's so bad being homeless in winter. They should go somewhere warm like the Caribbean where they can eat fresh fish all day."

13) Britney Spears on Japan: "I've never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don't like eating fish. And I know that's very popular out there in Africa."

14) Jessica Simpson when offered buffalo wings: "Sorry I don't eat buffalo."

15) Paris Hilton on her fame: "There's nobody in the world like me. I think every decade has an iconic blonde, like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana and, right now, I’m that icon."

16) Chantelle Houghton on George Galloway: "He looks at us like we're stupid, scatty, uneducated girls. He's a right chauvinistic pig, whatever that means!"

17) Cameron Diaz on science: "I've been noticing gravity since I was very young."

18) Britney Spears on where she might start her theatre career: "I would rather start out somewhere small, like London or England.”

19) BB's Helen Adams on magic man Paul Daniels: "Yeah, you know Jack Daniels... he does all the magic stuff!"

20) Christina Alguilera on film festivals: "So where’s the Cannes film festival being held this year?"

21) Paris Hilton on her career choices: "First wanted to be a veterinarian. And then I realised you had to give them shots to put them to sleep, so I decided I'd just buy a bunch of animals and have them in my house instead."

22) Alicia Douvall on motherhood: "I think a 16-year-old with a nice, sexy figure will do really well as a model as long as she's managed well. That's why I'm happy for Georgia to have a boob job because it will give her a career."

23) Chantelle Houghton on hearing George Galloway was an MP: "Does that mean you work in that big room with the green seats?"

24) Britney on capital punishment: "I am for the death penalty. Who commits terrible acts must get a fitting punishment. That way he learns the lesson for the next time."

25) BB2's Helen Adams on pulses: "How much chicken is there in chick peas?"

26) Chanelle Hayes on her Posh spice obsession: "I like what she (Victoria Beckham) wears. That's what magazines are all about - there's always a picture of a celebrity and where to buy a replica of what they're wearing. It's not as if I'm doing anything weird."

27) Paris Hilton on her title: "I don't want to be known as the Hilton heiress, because I didn't do anything for that."

28) Tara Reid on her fellow blonde celeb: "I make Jessica Simpson look like a rock scientist."

29) Ivana Trump on literature: "Fiction writing is great. You can make up almost anything."

30) Christina Aguilera on herself: "I'm an ocean, because I'm really deep. If you search deep enough you can find rare exotic treasures."

31) Britney Spears on her first tour: "Where the hell is Australia anyway?"

32) Alicia Douvall on surgery: "I know it (plastic surgeries) will kill me. But I'd rather die trying to sort things out."

33) Jodie Marsh on cooking: "Is an egg a vegetable?"

34) Kimberly Stewart on Jennifer Aniston: "I like her cos she's like, homely. She must have something else going on cos it's not like she's gorgeous or anything."

35) Jessica Simpson on her mood at the VH1 '05 video awards: "Isn’t it weird I’m getting all emotionable."

36) Helen Adams on BB2 : "I probably sound Welsh on the telly."

37) Mariah Carey on the death of the King of Jordan: "I loved Jordan. He was one of the greatest athletes of our time."

38) Chantelle Houghton on different types of doctors: "What’s a gynaecologist?"

39) Pamela Anderson on her secret to success: "I don't think about anything too much . . . If I think too much, it kind of freaks me out!"

40) Ivana Trump on getting one over on her ex's new girlfriend: “Gorgeous hair is the best revenge.”

41) Brooke Shields on her campaign against smoking: "Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."

42) Heather Locklear on being proud of her heritage: "From an early age I was aware of what America meant, and how the Marines at Camp Pendleton were ready to defend us at a moment's notice. I also remember what fabulous bodies those troops had."

43) Jessica Simpson on her scantily clad videos: "I'm definitely shy, so it was definitely acting for me to drop a trench coat and be in a bikini and try to get my cousins out of trouble by using my body. That was definitely acting!"

44) Chantelle Houghton working out the shopping budget: "Eleventy-twelve pence? I don't get it. How much is that then?"

45) Britney on why she did a cover of I Love Rock and Roll: "I always loved Pat Benatar."

46) Emma Bunton on moobs: "I wish men had boobs because I like the feel of them. It's so funny - when I record I sing with a hand over each of them, maybe it's a comfort thing."

47) Cyndi Crawford on modelling: "In the studio, I do try to have a thought in my head, so that it's not like a blank stare."

48) The late Anna Nicole Smith on suicide bombers: "Doesn't that hurt?"

49) Jessica Simpson to the President when visiting the White House: "I love what you’ve done with the place!"

50) Mischa Barton on being blessed with looks: "Pretty people aren't as accepted as other people. It comes with all these stigmas."

I don't know half of them either - probably C-list British minor celebrities from 'reality' television programs.

Some of the absurd statements might very well have been said as a joke. It also takes an intelligent person to play dumb.

Far too hot.

30 January 2009

moo cows need names

Moo cows with names produce more milk. From the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University - press release

Names give cows a lotta bottle

A cow with a name produces more milk than one without, scientists at Newcastle University have found.

Drs Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson have shown that by giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual, farmers can increase their annual milk yield by almost 500 pints.

The study, published online today in the academic journal Anthrozoos, found that on farms where each cow was called by her name the overall milk yield was higher than on farms where the cattle were herded as a group.

“Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention,” explains Dr Douglas, who works in the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University.

"What our study shows is what many good, caring farmers have long since believed.

“By placing more importance on the individual, such as calling a cow by her name or interacting with the animal more as it grows up, we can not only improve the animal's welfare and her perception of humans, but also increase milk production."

Dairy farmer Dennis Gibb, who co-owns Eachwick Red House Farm outside Newcastle with his brother Richard, says he believes treating every cow as an individual is “vitally important”.

“They aren’t just our livelihood - they’re part of the family,” says Dennis. “We love our cows here at Eachwick and every one of them has a name. Collectively we refer to them as ‘our ladies’ but we know every one of them and each one has her own personality.”

What the study found

The Newcastle University study looked at how farmers’ attitudes to their cows influenced milk production.

Dr Douglas and Dr Rowlinson questioned 516 UK dairy farmers about how they believed humans could affect the productivity, behaviour and welfare of dairy cattle.

Almost half – 46 per cent – said the cows on their farm were called by name. Those that called their cows by name had a 258 litre higher milk yield than those who did not.

Sixty six per cent of farmers said they “knew all the cows in the herd” and 48 per cent agreed that positive human contact was more likely to produce cows with a good milking temperament.

Almost 10 per cent said that a fear of humans resulted in a poor milking temperament.

Dr Douglas added: “Our data suggests that on the whole UK dairy farmers regard their cows as intelligent beings capable of experiencing a range of emotions.

“Placing more importance on knowing the individual animals and calling them by name can – at no extra cost to the farmer – also significantly increase milk production."

Academic paper: Exploring stock managers’ perceptions of the human-animal relationship on dairy farms and an association with milk production. Catherine Douglas (nee Bertenshaw) and Peter Rowlinson

Published in: Anthrozoos, Berg Publishing. DOI: 10.2752/089279307X224764

FOR PHOTOGRAPHS: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/photo-library/

published on: 28th January 2009
Even moo cows like to feel appreciated. I wonder whether chickens feel the same.

Heatwave continues.

29 January 2009

Tintin watch: Jamie Bell plays Tintin

From UPI
Tintin' filming under way in LA

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Director Steven Spielberg began principal photography Monday in Los Angeles on his 3D motion-capture film, "The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn."

In addition to directing the movie, Spielberg is co-producing it with Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy.

Jamie Bell, who has starred in "Billy Elliot" and Jackson's "King Kong," plays Tintin, "the intrepid young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure," press notes for the film said.

"Quantum of Solace" and "Defiance" star Daniel Craig plays the nefarious Red Rackham in "Tintin," a film that also features the talents of actors Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook.

"The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn," which is due to hit theaters in 2011, is based on the iconic Tintin comic-book character, created by Georges Remi, who is better known by his pen name "Herge."

A second "Tintin" feature is scheduled to be directed by Jackson -- and there a third installment is possible, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment said in a news release.
Woohoo! Nefarious!

Today was too hot.

28 January 2009

not only cops talk funny

Not only do Cops Talk Funny, but also 'uniformed' 'defence personnel'.

When I worked for the Department of Defence, army folk were always 'promulgating' and 'implementing'. One silly army sergeant even asked when new office furniture would be 'implemented'.

Army talk makes dumb people seem even dumber.

Today was far too hot.

27 January 2009

airline food on the ground

A Taiwanese restaurant is cashing in on the new Airbus A380 by offering 'simulated in-flight' dining. From Reuters
Everything but the turbulence at Taipei airline diner
Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:06am EST

By Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Imagine boarding a plane without security checks or even tickets and more importantly, there's more than just fish or chicken for dinner.

Set in a dull commercial building in central Taipei, the A380 In-Flight Kitchen looks and functions like an airline in many ways, expect that it serves a regular restaurant menu of Western food, sometimes in plastic trays.

Since November, the restaurant has been packing in wannabe passengers, who sit in soft speckled blue seats with headrests covered in white napkins and under oval-shaped windows. Locked white baggage compartments hang overhead.

Waitresses dressed as flight attendants take meal orders for filet mignon or waffles, as well as the customary fish and chicken. Staff say "welcome aboard" to customers and issue boarding passes to those who must wait for a table.

Of the 84 seats, 20 are "first class" or set aside for groups with advanced bookings, and the place is often overbooked, said business operations manager Emily Lu.

"There are customers who come in and say 'is this real airline food? Airline food doesn't taste good,'" Lu said, adding that they had turned a profit.

The restaurant, in Taipei's university quarter, opened after owner Yang Mao-hui figured that he could ride some of the Airbus A380's recent fame in the aviation industry by offering a simulated experience, Lu said.

The diner decor cost about T$7 million ($209,000), she added.

"The kids like flying, so coming here gives them that experience," said regular customer Wu Shu-hua, 44.

"It looks exactly like an airplane, but the food should be a bit more extensive here," added first-time lunch customer Vivian Mo, 14, who had just ordered a soup and salad.

The Airbus A380, billed as the most spacious passenger aircraft in the world, began flying commercially in October 2007.

Airbus has no actual stake in the restaurant, Lu said.

Taiwan has a smorgasboard of theme diners, including one modeled after a hospital ward, one that holds puppet shows and two that seat customers on toilet bowls.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

Anybody who romanticises the notion of airline food, particularly in economy class hasn't travelled enough.

The smaller portions are a good idea though. Perhaps an airline food diet would be a good idea - small portions of inedible stuff.

Anybody used to good food in business or first class, just would not be seen in such an establishment.

26 January 2009


Not only was today Australia Day, it was also the first day of the Chinese New Year (Year of the Ox) and there was a partial solar eclipse at sunset in the north of Australia.

Good omens.

Simon Black

Simon Black is one of the best players in the league and one of my favourites.

Brisbane Lions Training Session

a footy birthday

Happy Birthday to Justin Sherman who turns 22 today.

Brisbane Lions Training Session

24 January 2009

taking the swear jar to extremes

South Carolina Senator Robert Ford has sponsored a bill to criminalise swearing. Full text below.



Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Article 3, Chapter 15, Title 16 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 16-15-370. (A) It is unlawful for a person in a public forum or place of public accommodation wilfully and knowingly to publish orally or in writing, exhibit, or otherwise make available material containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.

(B) A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both."

SECTION 2. Article 3, Chapter 15, Title 16 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 16-15-430. (A) It is unlawful for a person to disseminate profanity to a minor if he wilfully and knowingly publishes orally or in writing, exhibits, or otherwise makes available material containing words, language, or actions of profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.

(B) A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both."

SECTION 3. Section 16-15-305(A)(3) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:

"(3) publishes orally or in writing, exhibits, or otherwise makes available anything obscene to any a group or individual; or"

SECTION 4. The first undesignated paragraph of Section 16-15-375 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:

"The following definitions apply to Section 16-15-385, disseminating or exhibiting to minors harmful material or performances; Section 16-15-387, employing a person under the age of eighteen years to appear in a state of sexually explicit nudity in a public place; Section 16-15-395, first degree sexual exploitation of a minor; Section 16-15-405, second degree sexual exploitation of a minor; Section 16-15-410, third degree sexual exploitation of a minor; Section 16-15-415, promoting prostitution of a minor; and Section 16-15-425, participating in prostitution of a minor; and Section 16-15-430, disseminating profanity to a minor."

SECTION 5. The repeal or amendment by this act of any law, whether temporary or permanent or civil or criminal, does not affect pending actions, rights, duties, or liabilities founded thereon, or alter, discharge, release or extinguish any penalty, forfeiture, or liability incurred under the repealed or amended law, unless the repealed or amended provision shall so expressly provide. After the effective date of this act, all laws repealed or amended by this act must be taken and treated as remaining in full force and effect for the purpose of sustaining any pending or vested right, civil action, special proceeding, criminal prosecution, or appeal existing as of the effective date of this act, and for the enforcement of rights, duties, penalties, forfeitures, and liabilities as they stood under the repealed or amended laws.

SECTION 6. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.

What the fuck? There should be a law against legislators wasting time (paid for by taxpayers) on trivial matters.

See also WCBD TV news

Today was a do nothing day.

22 January 2009

heroine to the maids

Reported by Associated Press, this is a very uplifting story about a Filipino maid who rose above her hardship and is now helping others
Philippine celebrity maid fights abuses with songs

By JIM GOMEZ – 18 January 2009

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Sentenced to death for killing an employer she accused of trying to rape her, 14-year-old Sarah Balabagan became the public face of poor Filipino migrant workers who regularly suffer abuses abroad.

That was 13 years ago. Her execution by firing squad in the Middle East commuted, she is now a budding singer and TV host who uses her songs and story as weapons against labor abuses.

"They should not be afraid to talk and to fight, that's the message in my songs," said Balabagan, who has recorded two CDs focusing on her campaign and newfound Christian faith.

She has sold several thousand copies, mostly to Filipino migrant workers during concert tours, where she preaches the lessons of her near-death ordeal. In October, she visited Malaysia and Singapore, frequent destinations for Filipino maids.

At a Manila gathering of overseas workers in December, Balabagan and her band belted out a mix of songs and ballads.

"Don't let yourself be stepped on wherever you end up," she admonished the crowd in a Tagalog-language song. "Don't cower when you know you're right."

Former President Joseph Estrada, an ex-movie star, shook her hands and posed with her before TV cameras. "She's a celebrity now," Estrada said.

Balabagan is from a Muslim family in southern Maguindanao province, a region torn by a decades-old Muslim separatist rebellion. Her family was so poor that half of her 14 siblings died because they lacked access to basic medical care, she said.

In June 1994, when she was 14, she left for the United Arab Emirates to work as a maid, saying she was 28 to circumvent an age limit set by Philippine authorities. After more than a month, she stabbed her Arab employer 34 times, alleging he tried to rape her at knifepoint.

A court sentenced her to seven years in prison while acknowledging she was abused. But in a 1995 retrial, a second court found no evidence of rape and condemned her to die.

An international outcry led to her sentence being reduced to one year and 100 lashes, plus payment of "blood money" to her employer's family, which was provided by a Filipino businessman. She returned home in 1996 to a shower of cash, scholarships and attention.

A Philippine studio made a 1997 film about her, which earned her $92,000. Then came on-and-off appearances on TV and radio programs that dealt with overseas workers, allowing her to travel to Europe, the United States and Asian countries.

Balabagan later started a small business to help send her three children to school. She converted to Christianity in 2003.

Such cases, ending in death sentences, aren't just a Middle East problem.

After a Filipino maid was hanged in Singapore in 1995 for a double murder she claimed she didn't commit, the Philippines passed the Migrant Workers' Act, which outlined steps for the government to protect migrant workers abroad.

The more than 8 million Filipinos who work overseas have been called "new heroes" by the government for the earnings they send home. In 2007, they remitted almost $14.5 billion, equal to 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
Her story should inspire the millions of Filipino (and indeed Indonesian) maids worldwide to stand up to abuse by their employers.

Human exploitation and cruelty is abhorrent.

20 January 2009

headline of the month

Okay, it's the third one for January, but how could one resist?

From UK Daily Mail
How wine can turn you into a werewolf (And the bad news is, we're not joking)
Go on, click on it. You know you want to.

19 January 2009

Lèse majesté part 2

I wrote about lèse majesté last June. An Australian author has been sentenced to three years imprisonment under the charge. From ABC
Man who insulted Thai monarch jailed for 3yrs

By South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy

19 January 2009

Sentence reduced...Nicolaides was originally given a six-year jail term.

Sentence reduced...Nicolaides was originally given a six-year jail term. (Reuters: Sukree Sukplang )

An Australian man has been sentenced to three years jail in Bangkok after pleading guilty to insulting the Thai royal family.

Forty-one-year-old Melbourne man Harry Nicolaides wrote a book in 2005 which briefly referred to the private life of Thailand's Crown Prince, Vajiralongkorn - the son of the current King, Bhumipol Adulyadel.

There were tears in Nicolaides' eyes as he faced the court.

The five criminal court judges initially imposed a six year sentence, but it was reduced because he pleaded guilty.

Nicolaides told reporters after the ruling that he wished his family the best.

He was arrested in late August when he was trying to leave the country.

The lese majeste laws are fiercely upheld in Thailand where King Bhumipol is revered by his people.

Nicolaides is likely to apply for a pardon from the King.

Two years ago a Swiss man found guilty of insulting the monarchy was pardoned and deported from the country.

Is the reverence for the royal family freely given or a result of draconian laws? Surely if this reverence is real, there would not be a need for such laws.


18 January 2009

bizarre foods to try

Andrew Zimmern's list from Bizarre Foods.
Cow's Urine Tonic

Fish Stomach Sauce

Raw Camel Kidneys with Berbere and Lemon Juice

Fresh Goat's Blood

Giant Flying Ants

Roy Yamaguchi's Homemade Natto Tofu Skin with Hana Snails and Salmon Roe

Giant Clam Sashimi

Rob Evans' Honey Glazed Smoked Raw Lobster
Toasted Ears at Hugo's

Los Angeles
Wolfgang Puck's Hunan Style Rooster Balls
Nobu Matsuhisa's Uni Shooter

Niache (seasoned lamb's blood)

Hakari (eight-week-old putrefied shark) in Slatur (blood pudding)

Pickled Lamprey

Chafaina (cow vein stew)
Chunos (freeze-dried rotten potatoes)

Lutefisk (dried cod rehydrated in lye)

Penis Soup
Donkey Skin
I would try anything, but draw the line at rotten shark. See also Pilot Guides (Intrepid Dishes: Mouldy Shark Meat).

Today was a very lazy day.

17 January 2009

trillionaires who are not actually rich

About six months ago, I wrote about Zimbabwe's billionaires. There has since been the addition of more zeros. From Agence France Press
Zimbabwe unveils $100 trillion banknote

16 January 2009

HARARE (AFP) — Zimbabwe unveiled a 100 trillion dollar note Friday in the latest grim measure of its staggering economic collapse, heightening the urgency of a new round of unity talks set for next week.

Veteran leader Robert Mugabe and opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai are set to hold talks Monday with key regional leaders in a bid to salvage a four-month-old unity accord, which has yet to be implemented.

The stalemate over disputed elections last year has only fuelled the economic and humanitarian crisis that has impoverished the country, leaving nearly half the population dependent on food aid as a cholera epidemic sweeps the country.

The Reserve Bank announced in the government mouthpiece Herald newspaper a series of trillion-dollar denominations to keep pace with hyperinflation that has left the once-dynamic economy in tatters.

The new 100,000,000,000,000 Zim-dollar bill would have been worth about 300 US dollars (225 euros) at Thursday's exchange rate on the informal market, where most currency trading now takes place, but the value of the local currency erodes dramatically every day.

The move came just one week after the bank released a series of billion-dollar notes, which already are not worth enough for workers to withdraw their monthly salaries.

Inflation was last reported at 231 million percent in July, but the Washington think-tank Cato Institute has estimated it now at 89.7 sextillion percent -- a figure expressed with 21 zeroes.
Robert Mugabe is an idiot.

I was far too busy today, spending most of the day out.

14 January 2009

Economic freedom

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in the United States has released its Economic Freedom Index for 2009.

graphic from Wall Street Journal

The foundation defines economic freedom as
The highest form of economic freedom provides an absolute right of property ownership, fully realized freedoms of movement for labor, capital, and goods, and an absolute absence of coercion or constraint of economic liberty beyond the extent necessary for citizens to protect and maintain liberty itself. In other words, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, and that freedom is both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state.
The list makes sense with Hong Kong coming first, with its unfettered capitalism with little government interference.

It's quite interesting that the top two, Hong Kong and Singapore have issues being democratic. It's not all about money.

Today was a very hot day.

13 January 2009

liberating George

PeTA has rescued a 140 year old lobster nicknamed George from human consumption

Seafood Restaurant Agrees to Release 'George' Back Into the Sea

For Immediate Release:
January 10, 2009

Ashley Byrne 757-622-7382

Kennebunkport, Maine -- Just three days ago, the prospect that a 140-year-old, 20-pound lobster confined to a tank inside a New York seafood restaurant would ever see his ocean home again were bleak at best. But after initially denying PETA's request to release the ancient crustacean, the folks at Manhattan's City Crab and Seafood had a change of heart and agreed to let PETA return the lucky lobster to Kennebunkport, where he will be released back into the sea today. PETA invites the media to cover the lobster's release:

Date: Saturday, January 10
Time: 10:15 a.m.
Place: The pier on Ocean Avenue, between Pearl Street and Green Street, Kennebunkport, Maine

According to Dr. Jaren G. Horsley, an invertebrate zoologist, lobsters have a "sophisticated nervous system" and feel "a great deal of pain" when cut or cooked alive. And because lobsters do not enter a state of shock when they are hurt, they feel every moment of their slow, painful deaths when cooked in a kettle of boiling water. Scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., have found that lobsters use complicated signals to establish social relationships and take long-distance seasonal journeys, often traveling more than 100 miles in a year.

"We are thrilled to be able to let lobster George, who has avoided being trapped since the Civil War, to live out his days in freedom and peace," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "We hope that City Crab and Seafood's kind gesture serves as an example that these intriguing animals don't deserve to be kept in tiny tanks or boiled alive.

PeTA blog

In this photo released by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, "George," a live 20 pound lobster rests on a plate at City Crab and Seafood in New York, Friday, Jan. 9, 2009. City Crab and Seafood has spared the lobster, which is expected to be released Saturday, Jan. 10, near Kennebunkport, Maine, in an area where lobster trapping is forbidden. PETA and the restaurant gauged George's age at about 140, using a rule of thumb based on the creature's weight. (AP Photo/P.E.T.A.)Reported by CNN, Associated Press and other media outlets.

Good for George. Just like all other living creatures, if it has lived for this long, it deserves to continue doing so.

In the meantime, I found some great recipes for lobster - here and here.

A day at home today, but a shame it was so warm.

12 January 2009

the first dog dilemma solved

In November, I wrote about the dilemma being faced by the new President in choosing which breed of dog they would adopt from a shelter. Recent media reports have suggested that the First Family will now decide between Labradoodle and Portuguese water dog. From USA TODAY
Obama choice: Labradoodle or a Portuguese water dog
Will the next pooch in the White House be a dog of change?

Sunday, President-elect Barack Obama told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News' This Week that the family has narrowed the choice to either a Portuguese water hound or labradoodle.

The former is actually known as the Portuguese water dog. It dates back to the 1200s and worked on boats with Portuguese fishermen, according to the website of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.

Sen. Ted Kennedy has helped make them famous, returning to the Capitol after brain cancer treatment with his two Portuguese water dogs.

The labradoodle, on the other hand, is a relatively new dog whose cross-breeding between a Labrador and a poodle goes back only to the 1980s.

In his election-night victory speech, Obama promised daughters Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, they could have a puppy in the White House. He later said that Malia is allergic, that the family would need a "hypoallergenic" dog and that they wanted a pound dog.

Both dogs are non-shedders and do not cause as much reaction in allergy sufferers as other dogs, says Stu Freeman, president of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.

"There really is no hypoallergenic dog," Freeman says. "We tell people to spend time around the dogs to make sure they're going to be OK. The hair might not bother them, but the saliva might."

Freeman says it can be difficult to find either breed in shelters because "rescue groups will always get word they're in shelters and save them."

Obama told Stephanopoulos they were going to start "looking at shelters to see when one of those dogs might come up."

Mary Harkings, who oversees a Portuguese water dog rescue group, says the breed is "funny and very family-oriented" but adds that the dogs crave exercise. "You can't just put them in a backyard and let them run it out," she says. "They want to do things with you."

That might be one huge plus for the labradoodle. "They can get by on 30 minutes a day of walking," says Melissa Angelini, a breeder in Monroe Township, N.J. "They're not that high-energy. Mine have been lying around for three days and are fine."

Obama has said finding the right dog has been "tougher than finding a Commerce secretary."

Rolli Grayson, a Chicago breeder of the Portuguese water dogs, was watching the show and had this advice for Obama: "I just wish he'd get what he wants. He should stop worrying about pleasing everyone and get what's best for his family."

This is what a Portuguese water dog looks like

Neither of those two breeds would be receptive to wearing lipstick, unlike Pitbull Terriers or pigs.

Today was far too busy at work.

11 January 2009

how to explain about Tintin on his 80th anniversary

Another Tintin article - from the BBC

Confused by the cult of Tintin? You're not alone

Tintin and Snowy
Tintin and Snowy: the intrepid duo
Tintin turns 80 at the weekend as Steven Spielberg begins work on a Hollywood film of the comic book hero. He has long been a star on the Continent, but the cub reporter is almost unheard of in the United States and little more than a cult in the UK, writes Laurence Grove.

When, on 10 January 1929, Tintin first appeared in the children's supplement of Brussels' right-wing newspaper Vingtieme Siecle, the serialised adventure that was to follow could, at the time, have had all the makings of a transatlantic hit.

Tintin au Pays des Soviets was to portray a cruel and corrupt communist regime, where factories were cardboard cut-outs and those who spoke out against the Party were dispensed with immediately.

Unfortunately the boy scout may have ruined his chances of becoming an all-American role model in his subsequent adventures by belittling the natives in Tintin au Congo (1930) and then unveiling Mafia strangleholds and cruelty to native Americans in Tintin en Amérique (1932). Nonetheless, Europeans have largely forgiven him his flirts with Nazi sympathies (L'Étoile Mystérieuse, 1942).

So how come, as Tintin approaches 80, like Johnny Halliday, but unlike Jacques Brel, he's a famous Belgian who has not yet managed to woo the US?

Made in Britain

There is no doubting that Tintin is a Euro-hit: he has featured on stamps, phonecards and a range of products from underpants to edibles, and is to be the main subject of a new museum opening in Belgium this year. Although Herge, his creator (real name Georges Remi, 1907-1983), expressly forbade the series to continue after his death, related publications are a Rackham-like treasure trove for Moulinsart, the organisation known for its draconian enforcement of Herge's copyright estate.

Tintin and Snowy
Despite being a journalist, Tintin is only ever seen once with a completed article
The now defunct chain of UK bookstores, Ottakars, was named after the Tintin book King Ottokar's Sceptre
The Thom(p)son twins weren't twins, despite looking almost identical

By comparison, recent albums of Tintin's comic-strip colleague Asterix, a relative whippersnapper at 50 this year, have, in France, outsold Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code put together.

Even in the British Isles, Tintin's following tends to be cult rather than mass devotion. Although for many, it was the bequiffed boy's trip to Britain that sealed his longevity.

The 1938 album L'Ile Noire (The Black Island), which takes its inspiration from The Thirty-Nine Steps, is, for many Tintin's coming of age. It is this album that refines his trademark thrill-a-minute adventure format, and saw Herge perfect his clear-line style, which proved a major influence upon Andy Warhol and the pop artists. Arguably L'Ile Noire is to Herge what Macbeth is to Shakespeare.

Yet while Tintin embraced Britain, the English-speaking world never returned the compliment

Maybe he just came on to the scene too late.

The formula of a serial newspaper strip that each week had a cliffhanger ending was one that the US Sunday supplements had successfully exploited from the turn of the last century onwards. Herge in effect was doing little more than providing a Euro version of a US phenomenon.

More recently, Tintin can be seen as quite simply the Hollywood James Bond, but without the girls: he travels to exotic locations, mixing humour and gadgets as he battles the generic international baddie du jour.

Cosmopolitan character

Bond, like Indiana Jones, is a superhero without specific superpowers. And it is the idea of a Superman, or indeed a Wonderwoman, that has typically drawn North Americans to comics. In Britain a more self-effacing outlook has underlined the comic in comic, with heroes from the Beano or Topper traditionally making us laugh.

Ironically, when it comes to Tintin the person, it is perhaps his very internationality that is his undoing

The "bandes dessinees" that are the French-speaking world's equivalent have, however, been more ambiguous; a graphic creation - in France comic strips are known as the Ninth Art - on a par with New Wave cinema.

Ironically, when it comes to Tintin the person, it is perhaps his very internationality that is his undoing. Euro-characters who do well in the States - James Bond, but also those portrayed by Hugh Grant and Gerard Depardieu - often play on national stereotypes and foible-laden sophistication. Herge, however, went out of his way to deny Tintin any specific Belgicite, underlining rather his international features.

Hercule Poirot he is not. He lives in a French chateau, has no Belgian linguistic tics, and could not be imagined tucking into mussels, chips and fine chocolates. His friends and acquaintances evoke different aspects of Euroness, from the Thompson twins' bowler-hatted Englishness, Bianca Castafiore's hot-headed Italian traits, or Professor Calculus's Germanic scientific-ness.

Even the names must have seemed entirely alien to an American audience.

Indeed Tintin's sophistication is of a very different kind: Le Bijoux de la Castafiore (1963), an album in which nothing happens, plays with notions of degre zero writing. Tintin au Tibet (1960) considers the evolving status of the post-colonial Other. And the posthumous Tintin et l'Alph-Art (1986), a book about artistic creation, is essentially a work of meta-fiction.

Tintin's creator, Herge, stripped his character of Belgicite

It is easy to see how, from afar, Herge, let alone Cuthbert Calculus, can be seen as indulging in traditional French-style philosophical beard-stroking.

Such intricacies may have worked against Tintin, with Steven Spielberg having had his planned movie on ice for years since he bought the movie rights in 1983.

The project's shortcoming was apparently US puzzlement at Tintin. One rumour suggested there were problems with an adventure hero whose only love interest appeared to be a fox terrier, to the extent that at one stage making Tintin into a girl was not out of the question.

The situation may however be changing, as filming is finally to start on a Tintin movie, to be produced by Spielberg and Peter Jackson, apparently a mixture of animation and "real-life" with extended 3-D effects.

Tintin certainly has evolved since the days of his politically incorrect misadventures, and so too has America. Perhaps in the brave new world of Barack Obama there will be more room for this white European octogenarian.

Laurence Grove, is head of French and senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow. He is also president, International Bande Dessinee Society.

I love Tintin and cannot explain it. Tintinophiles will understand. There is no point in explaining ourselves!

Today was far too busy for a Sunday. I so wanted to have an afternoon nap.

09 January 2009

Elvis in Parkes

Not in Nashville nor Graceland, but a small outback town in New South Wales called Parkes. From the Canberra Times, reporting about the Parkes Elvis Festival
In Parkes, where the King is not dead
9/01/2009 12:07:00 PM

The king of rock and roll lives on, with thousands of Elvis Presley enthusiasts set to pay tribute to the hip-swivelling legend this weekend in central NSW.

On Friday almost 400 Elvis look-a-likes will board an eight car "Elvis Express" at Sydney's central railway station at 9.30am (AEDT) bound for Parkes.

On the way those aboard will be entertained by a Elvis tribute artist, and prizes will be awarded to the best dressed Elvis wannabe.

In Parkes more than 8,000 Elvis enthusiasts are expected to take part in the five-day festival.

Planned events include an Elvis Gospel Church Service, an Elvis street parade, and the crowning of Miss Priscilla.

Retired Wiggle performer Greg Page, a huge collector of Elvis memorabilia, is loaning items to the council of Parkes for visitors to glimpse.

They include the first management contract signed between Elvis and his manager Colonel Tom Parker, the original blueprints for Graceland, two original pairs of Elvis' trademark Aviator sunglasses, Elvis and Priscilla's marriage certificate, and one of only two gold lame suits made for Elvis by Nudie of Hollywood.

The Elvis Festival is now in its sixth year.

It kicked off last Wednesday and will finish on Sunday.

On Monday the Elvis Express is scheduled to return to Sydney.
Why Parkes? Why Elvis?

First week back at work after 16 days off. I still need a holiday.

08 January 2009

headlines of the month

From a number of media outlets

- Mermaid discovery confirmed (Brisbane Times)
- Mermaid found on Great Barrier Reef (NT News)
- Scientists' hopes up for discovery of Mermaid (The Australian)

Actually, I only read one of them. Had to. How can one not?

Cooler day today.

07 January 2009

foodie kids

I was most impressed with this article in the (Melbourne) Herald Sun
Hey mum, pass the oysters
Kylie Hansen

January 07, 2009 12:00am

AN army of tiny, sophisticated child foodies is changing Melbourne's dining scene.

Personalised and multi-course menus, allergy-sensitive dining and sandpits are part of an arsenal of offerings by restaurants and cafes to lure children.

And it's food-savvy children who are often in charge of where parents spend their restaurant dollars, according to industry experts.

* Kids' menu: Parents campaign for better food for children
* Tips and links: How to enjoy eating with kids

"The child diner is a growth industry," said Restaurant and Catering Victoria CEO Todd Blake.

"Children are becoming more sophisticated diners than in the past, and business is starting to see the importance of children in terms of their appeal.

"Often it is the four-year-old who has control of the $130 parents spend on dinner."

The Pantry in Brighton offers crayons, tablecloths that double as drawing paper, takeaway child juices and milkshakes to match mum's coffee, and 4pm dinner starts.

"It can be a bit of a zoo in here sometimes and there are perils to child dining -- waiters sometimes end up being childcare workers," said Pantry manager Tim Purton-Smith.

Gail Donovan, of Donovans, said she had noticed a change in the role of children.

"Parents are more relaxed to be out with their kids," Ms Donovan said.

"We notice lots of little babies here and from age four they become quite sophisticated at eating out.

"While we offer a child menu, we find many parents talk them through the main menu and children order from that."

Even the city's high-end establishments are happy to cater to children.

"We do get regular guests who make it a priority to bring their children so that they can show them fine dining," said Vue de monde marketing manager Anna Augustine.

She said the adjoining Bistro Vue offered a children's menu, with mains $16.

The Boathouse restaurant in Moonee Ponds offers a children's menu and will customise food to a child's tastes.

The Boathouse menu doubles as a colouring sheet while Birdie Num Nums cafe in Carlton has installed a sandpit and enclosed play area.

Even Lynch's in South Yarra, well known for its no-child policy, is considering letting children in to its soon-to-be-opened bistro area.
And even advice
Tips to dining with kids
Kylie Hansen

January 06, 2009 12:00am

TIPS to successful dining with kids

Some ideas from Jacqi Deighan, chef, children’s food educator and spokeswoman for the Parents Jury:

YOUR local Thai, Japanese, Greek or Indian are often a good starting point, as they have a wide variety of flavors and tastes to try.

IF the children’s menus is not to your liking, encourage children to order from the main menu. Within reason allow them to choose what they want to try. Avoid saying ‘You won’t like that’ and consider ordering one for everyone to share. Praise them for trying new things.

IF your kids are only used to kids menus try expanding their taste buds a little. Restaurants that offer ‘tasting plates’ are a great way to introduce new foods and flavors. Middle Eastern, Spanish, Turkish and Greek restaurants are good at this.

MAKE sure your kids are hungry but not ravenous as they may try something new but if they are starving they may become irritable and restless.

EAT early, before the restaurant becomes too busy, and leave before boredom sets in.

MAKE it an experience the kids will want to repeat and let them see you eating and enjoying good food.
All those so called "children's meals" at fast food joints - Happy Meal anyone? - are a con job, equally marketed to parents as well as their children. Why would a child eat that junk when they can discover interesting cuisine.

I was at a food court once and overheard a child asking her mother for some satay sticks at a curry stall. Her mother's reaction was to refuse and take her to McDonald's. I was appalled. Grown ups with no palate for tasty food are depriving their children and responsible for them eating junk.

Today was a very hot day.

06 January 2009


Someone at work used the word skedaddle today. I honestly thought that it was a nonsense word. Even a writer from Encyclopaedia Britannica thought the word had fallen off the lexicon from disuse.

Michael Quinion in World Wide Words explains the origin of the word and its usage

Run away; scram; leave in a hurry; escape.

This archetypal American expression has led etymologists a pretty dance in trying to work out where it comes from.

What we do know for certain is that it suddenly appears at the beginning of the Civil War. Out of the blue, it became fashionable in 1862, with lots of examples appearing in American newspapers and books. The focus of all the early examples is the War; without doubt it started out as military slang with the meaning of fleeing the battlefield or retreating hurriedly. Its first appearance in print, in the New York Tribune of 10 August 1861, made this clear: “No sooner did the traitors discover their approach than they ‘skiddaddled’, (a phrase the Union boys up here apply to the good use the seceshers make of their legs in time of danger).” However, it quickly moved into civilian circles with the broader sense of leaving in a hurry. It crossed the Atlantic astonishingly quickly, being recorded in the Illustrated London News in 1862 and then being put in the mouth of a young lady character by Anthony Trollope in his novel The Last Chronicle of Barset in 1867: “ ‘Mamma, Major Grantly has — skedaddled.’ ‘Oh, Lily, what a word!’ ”

So far so good. Where it comes from is almost totally obscure. Was it Greek, as John Hotten argued in his Dictionary of Modern Slang in 1874, derived from skedannumi, to “retire tumultuously”, perhaps “set afloat by some Harvard professor”? It sounds plausible, but probably not. The English Dialect Dictionary, compiled at the end of the nineteenth century, argues that it’s from a Scottish or Northern English dialect word meaning to spill or scatter, in particular to spill milk. This may be from Scots skiddle, meaning to splash water about or spill. Jonathon Green, in the Cassell Dictionary of Slang, suggests this transferred to the US through “the image of blood and corpses being thus ‘spilled and scattered’ on the battlefield before the flight of a demoralised army”.

Even I might start to use it.

Today was a warm day.

05 January 2009

the new Doctor is in

As announced by the BBC in a media release on 3 January 2009

Matt Smith is the new Doctor

Matt Smith is the new Doctor

The BBC today announced that Matt Smith has been cast in the role of the Doctor in the iconic BBC series Doctor Who.

Smith will be the 11th Time Lord and will take over from David Tennant who leaves the show at the end of 2009. He will be seen in the forthcoming fifth series that will be broadcast in 2010.

The fifth series will also have a new lead writer and Executive Producer in the form of the BAFTA award-winning writer Steven Moffat, who is taking over from Russell T Davies.

Moffat will be joined by Piers Wenger, who will be the new Executive Producer for BBC Wales making the show.

Following David Tennant's decision to step down at the end of 2009, the team behind the new series set about casting the new Doctor so that new adventures could be created and scripts written with Matt in mind.

The identity of the new Doctor was revealed on a special edition of Doctor Who Confidential that was broadcast on BBC One today (3 January) at 5.35pm (17.35 GMT).

In it Smith revealed his initial reaction at taking on such a legendary role and his thoughts on what direction the Doctor might now be going with him playing the part.

Matt Smith said of his new role: "I'm just so excited about the journey that is in front of me. It's a wonderful privilege and challenge that I hope I will thrive on.

"I feel proud and honoured to have been given this opportunity to join a team of people that has worked so tirelessly to make the show so thrilling.

"David Tennant has made the role his own, brilliantly, with grace, talent and persistent dedication. I hope to learn from the standards set by him.

"The challenge for me is to do justice to the show's illustrious past, my predecessors, and most importantly, to those who watch it. I really cannot wait."

Lead writer and Executive Producer Steven Moffat said: "The Doctor is a very special part, and it takes a very special actor to play him. You need to be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe.

"As soon as Matt walked through the door, and blew us away with a bold and brand new take on the Time Lord, we knew we had our man.

"2010 is a long time away but rest assured the 11th Doctor is coming – and the universe has never been so safe."

Piers Wenger, Head Of Drama, BBC Wales, added: "With two hearts, a ferocious mind and over 900 years of experience behind him, it's not every 26 year old actor who can take on a role like the Doctor but within moments of meeting Matt he showed the skill and imagination needed to create a Doctor all of his own.

"It's just the beginning of the journey for Matt but with Steven Moffat's scripts and the expertise of the production team in Cardiff behind him, there is no one more perfect than him to be taking the TARDIS to exciting new futures when the series returns in 2010."

Matt Smith is the new Doctor

Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama, added: "I am delighted to see Matt take on this iconic role. It will see him continuing his relationship with the BBC following his performances in Ruby In The Smoke and Party Animals, and his upcoming role in Moses Jones.

"The combination of Matt, Steven and Piers will, I know, take Doctor Who onto new and even dizzier heights."

Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One, said: "Matt Smith will be a mesmerising 11th Time Lord, true to the spirit of the show.

"He is a worthy successor to David Tennant who has been utterly remarkable in the role and promises to continue to be in next year's four special episodes."

Doctor Who Confidential – The Eleventh Doctor can be seen on BBC iPlayer until 10 January 2009.

There will be four Doctor Who specials featuring David Tennant that will run in 2009 into New Year 2010 (dates to be confirmed).

An extended interview with Matt Smith can be seen at bbc.co.uk/doctorwho.

Matt Smith pictures are available from www.bbcpictures.com.


Matt Smith, 26, grew up with his family including one sister in Northampton. He was head boy at Northampton School For Boys where he excelled at sports, music and drama.

Initially, Matt wanted to be a professional footballer and played for Northampton Town Under-11 & 12s, Nottingham Forest Under 12, 13 & 14s and Leicester City Under 15 & 16s before a back injury forced him out of the game.

Following his injury, and with the encouragement of one of his teachers, Jerry Hardingham, Matt decided to join the National Youth Theatre.

It was during this time that Matt first gained attention at the Royal Court Theatre when he was cast in the play Fresh Kills, directed by Wilson Milam, whilst still at the University Of East Anglia where he was studying Drama and Creative Writing.

Already a stalwart of the National Youth Theatre, his performance at the Court led to a variety of theatrical experiences at the National Theatre: in the award-winning History Boys (directed by Nick Hytner), On The Shore Of The Wide World (directed by Sarah Frankcom) and also in the acclaimed trio of plays Burn / Citizenship / Chatroom (directed by Anna Mackmin).

These roles led to Matt's first outings on the small screen, alongside Billie Piper in Phillip Pullman's period detective stories, The Ruby In The Smoke and The Shadow In The North (both BBC One), where he played Jim, right-hand man to Billie's detective heroine Sally Lockhart.

These pieces were followed by the lead role of Danny in the BBC Two series Party Animals, the brilliantly observed drama set in the world of young politicians.

In a dazzling return to the Royal Court in 2007, Matt played Henry in Polly Stenham's award-winning first play That Face, opposite Lindsay Duncan. His performance gained Matt an Evening Standard Best Newcomer nomination and a year later the play had a second life in the West End at the Duke of York's Theatre.

In between the two runs, Matt played Guy opposite Christian Slater's Buddy in Swimming With Sharks, Mike Leslie's searing West End adaptation of the 1994 Hollywood film.

In this time he also played a lead role in the BAFTA winning BBC One series The Street, opposite Gina McKee and Lorraine Ashbourne.

Matt has recently completed work on Moses Jones for BBC Two, directed by Michael Offer, in which he plays the lead role of Dan Twentyman, alongside Shaun Parkes in the title role.


Big shoes to fill.

Back to work today. It was okay.

04 January 2009

Stille Nacht

Christmas celebrations are not yet over, as Ephinany falls on the last day of the twelve days of Christmas on 6 January. Furthermore Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate 6 January as the nativity.

One of my favourite carols is Silent Night, which is best heard in the original German (Stille Nacht).

The words in German also have a slightly different meaning.

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute heilige Paar.
Holder Knab' im lockigten Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Gottes Sohn! O wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Jesus in deiner Geburt!
Jesus in deiner Geburt!

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt seh'n
Jesum in Menschengestalt.
Jesum in Menschengestalt.

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Wo sich heut alle Macht
Väterlicher Liebe ergoß
Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß
Jesus die Völker der Welt.
Jesus die Völker der Welt.

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Lange schon uns bedacht,
Als der Herr vom Grimme befreit,
In der Väter urgrauer Zeit
Aller Welt Schonung verhieß.
Aller Welt Schonung verhieß.

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Alleluja,
Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah:
Jesus der Retter ist da!
Jesus der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht was written by Josef Mohr in 1816 and put to music by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818 for guitar. It was first performed on 24 December 1818 at the Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria.

I think it should only be sung in German.

Back to work tomorrow. Poor me.

03 January 2009

French Christmas accidents

From Le Journal du Pays Basque (24 December 2008)

Accidents de fêtes

«Dans les hôpitaux, c'est toujours la même chose. Les effectifs sont fixes quel que soit le jour, en tout cas aux urgences et en réanimation» selon un cadre de santé de l'hôpital de Bayonne. Noël est-il un jour particulier aux urgences ? «C'est imprévisible. On constate le même phénomène que les samedis et les dimanches, les gens viennent parce que leur médecin généraliste ne travaille pas. On a aussi davantage de personnes âgées oubliées pour les jours de fête ou de vacances... Et sinon, les accidents typiquement liés aux fêtes comme des chocs à l'oeil avec le bouchon de champagne, ou les blessures aux mains en ouvrant des huîtres».

Only in France - Champagne corks to the eye and cuts to the hand from opening oysters.

See also - The Times (in English)

One day left before work and I still have plenty to do.

02 January 2009

what is the 'normal' price of toilet paper?

Reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, the price of toilet paper is about to go up
Cheap toilet paper imports get flushed

Ian McIlwraith
January 2, 2009

ONE of life's humble staples, toilet paper, is likely to cost more and, oddly enough, it's because of an anti-dumping investigation.

The price of toilet paper is not generally top of mind, so most consumers would not have realised that cheap imports from China and India - most of them parcelled up into the Select brand for the Woolworths and Safeway supermarket chains - have been keeping their ablutionary costs down.

The Home Affairs Minister, Bob Debus, has now accepted the results of a year-long Australian Customs Service investigation, which found that imported toilet papers are coming in at prices almost 40 per cent below "normal" and hurting local manufacturers.

Two local makers, Kimberly-Clark Australia and SCA Hygiene Australasia, say that after Woolies awarded a tender in May 2006 to a local importer, Paper Force, their prices on supermarket shelves were undercut by up to 20 per cent.

Woolworths declined to give Customs full details of its toilet paper tender arrangements and says the success of its brand reflects a superior product at an acceptable price.

The retailer has also been under pressure from a campaign by the CFMEU over its sourcing of paper products from Asia Pulp and Paper, which the union says is a leading contributor to deforestation in Indonesia.

Most of the toilet paper used by Woolworths comes from two APP plants, Gold Hong Ye Paper in China's Suzhou and PT Pindo Deli in Indonesia.

A Woolworths spokeswoman said yesterday the toilet paper supply contract ended in August and a new one was being devised to include environmental sustainability specifications.

Woolies' brand may have kept a lid on toilet paper prices but Kimberly-Clark and SCA, which have the lion's share of the toilet paper market, complain the imports are unfairly damaging their businesses because the prices at which they are being sold are below the costs of production - that is, dumping.

Millions of dollars are at stake. In 2007 Australians spent $728 million buying 120,000 tonnes of toilet paper and the market has grown by 25 per cent in just four years.

About two-thirds of toilet paper sold is premium grade - thicker and softer - and Woolies' brand grew from nothing to 6 per cent of the market in just two years. Kimberly-Clark and SCA are foreign-controlled but the anti-dumping investigation found they make enough of their toilet paper here to qualify as locals.

Kimberly-Clark is better-known as the maker of Kleenex and Coles's own-brand in the premium market and Wondersoft in the mid-range. SCA makes Sorbent at the premium end and Purex in the mid-range.

The customs investigation found that PT Pindo Deli's products are 33 per cent to 38 per cent below "normal" prices and Gold Hong Ye's between 5 per cent and 10 per cent below.

Those companies, and other importers, have until late this month to appeal the decision before penalties are applied to the toilet paper they bring in.

A spokesman for APP in Australia says it is likely it will appeal the decision.

The dumping penalties mean it is likely that prices on supermarket shelves will rise.

I used to benchmark the cost of toilet paper at 50 cents per roll, even though the number of sheets per roll gradually reduced covertly, including another 50 cents for the packaging. The ideal price of a four-pack was $2.50 and a six-pack was $3.50 etc and that was usually only during the discounted specials.

The other day, I bought a six-pack of Sorbent for $4.49. Not allowing for packaging, that is 75 cents a roll.

Surely local manufacturers cannot claim that foreign made toilet paper is being imported (dumped) at below production costs as offshore costs would be far less than in Australia. I wonder how much profit those companies made last year.

Two days left before work, and I have done nothing for the past few days.

01 January 2009


Jeffrey Herf, writing in the New Republic about a German film called Der Baader Meinhof Komplex / The Baader Meinhof Complex opened his article with a reference to Vergangenheitsbewältigung.
There is an ungainly German word, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, that has no equivalent in the English language. It means "coming to terms with past," and it was coined to refer to the efforts of German intellectuals, journalists, and even some politicians who, over the past half century, insisted that facing unpleasant truths about their country's history was both a moral and political necessity. As a result of these efforts, Vergangenheitsbewältigung has become part of the core political culture of contemporary Germany.
It is quite a good description, even better than Wikipedia. It is a good means towards reconciliation and other countries have similar though not as formalised means of approaching unpleasant aspects of their histories.

Unfortunately, similar processes were not applied in Japan after World War II.

In hindsight, the American occupying administration (General Douglas MacArthur) let the wartime Japanese government off very lightly, being more concerned about the emergence of communism.

Compare this to what happened in Germany with the Nuremberg Trials. The Germans will always be reminded of its history by its culture of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, so that it will never be repeated. There is a sense of collective national guilt.

In contrast, many younger generations of Japanese have no knowledge of its history during the same period. This upsets the Chinese, as in their eyes there has been no atonement. The Chinese have very long memories which can stretch hundreds of years, and they do not easily forgive. (See BBC and The Independent about Nanjing).

I watched Brick Lane on DVD today. Brilliant.

candles to midnight

Villeroy and Boch crystal candlestick

three candle candlestick

Georg Jensen Swing Candelabra (six candles)

IKEA Stockholm Candelabra (eight candles)

I need to find ones that hold four, five and seven candles respectively. That is my mission for 2009.

Happy New Year (2009).