31 May 2009

bull's revenge

Madrid's annual San Isidro festival traditionally opens with a bullfight. On Wednesday, 27 May, matador Israel Lancho was gored by a bull (ABC Espana).

photo by Gorka Lejarcegi (More pictures)

The poor bull. How can decent human beings torment and torture an animal for fun?

30 May 2009

the truth about cats

From The Guardian
Only in it for the biscuits

Paul MacInnes
Paul MacInnes
Friday 29 May 2009 18.30 BST

Changes are afoot in the field of cat studies or, to use the technical term, apaw. New research into quite how cats went from being wild to apparently domesticated has shed greater light on the loving gaze shared each morning by pet and owner over a bowl of reconstituted meat.

An article in the latest Scientific American looks again at the history of feline domestication. It has long been held that cats were first tamed in ancient Egypt some 3,600 years ago. Thanks, however, to the discovery of a cat-shaped corpse buried some 9,500 years ago alongside their human associate in a shallow grave in Cyprus, the game has been changed. The new thinking is that wildcats of the type Felis silvestris lybica began to dwell alongside humans as farming developed in the fertile crescent of the Levant. Wildcats were tempted into human settlements by the prospects of scraps and, crucially, a ready supply of Mus musculus domesticus, aka the house mouse, an ancient Jerry to their pre-classical Tom.

In other words, we didn't domesticate cats, they domesticated themselves. The animal was not tamed by the human, it looked the human up and down, liked what it saw and decided it would put on its cutest expression and pretend to be friends – a small price to pay for a high-mouse diet.

Cat owners reading, this, perhaps with Tango or Whiskey (or both) sitting nonchalantly on top of their paper, may not be overly surprised to learn of these zoological developments. Unlike obliging, loving, slavering dogs, cats can often give the distinct impression of only being in it for the tuna-flavoured biscuits. The fact that this might be a habit established over millennia only proves the consistency of their interests.

That said, the postulations of the academics ought to give those same owners pause for thought. For every moment of insistent miaowing for meat, there is also the soft purring your cat emits while it submits willingly to your caress, seemingly because it likes it. It is all too easy for humans to imagine a sophisticated relationship between themselves and their familiar. As opposed, say, to it being just an extended period of transactions designed to guarantee the continued delivery of Whiskas.

Anthropomorphism is sometimes decried by ecologists who would prefer it if attempts to preserve endangered species were more evenly spread, rather than concentrated on creatures who look like they'd make nice company at a dinner party. Polar bears are perceived as cute and friendly, despite their penchant for bloody destruction, while snakes are devious and ruthless despite donating upwards of 30% of their income to charity (or so I was told by a snake oil salesman). This tendency applies tenfold to our domestic animals, despite the fact that we have not even the slightest clue as to their actual thoughts and feelings.

It seems that now might be the time to revise downwards our expectations of cats. To continue to imagine, as I have done myself, that a cat actually loves you may only lead to heartbreak when the next study comes out revealing that, far from having an emotional bond with his human host, Felix has in fact conducted due diligence on his owner before deigning to move in.

When it comes to cats, humans aren't owners and MacInnes is correct in using the almost correct term of host. Cats don't need people to provide for their needs, but make the choice to do so. And we end up being their slaves.

I wonder if cats go around talking to other felines about their slaves. Perhaps their term is 'provider'.

football - round 10

North Melbourne 3.3 6.5 9.7 12.9 (81)
Brisbane Lions 4.2 8.6 12.8 15.9 (99)

North Melbourne:
Warren 4, Hale 2, Petrie 2, Thomas, Harris, McMahon, Wells
Brisbane Lions: Hooper 4, Sherman 2, Brown 2, Polkinghorne 2, Adcock, Stiller, Bradshaw, Black, Rich

North Melbourne:
Simpson, McIntosh, Warren, Gibson
Brisbane Lions: Adcock, Clark, Rich, Hooper, Henderson, Black, Power

North Melbourne:
Grima out, replaced in selected side by Harris
Brisbane Lions: Rischitelli (shoulder)

Umpires: Kennedy, Nicholls, Hay

Official crowd: 21,583 at Docklands

Great to have the win, but not a great win.

Photos by Andrew White (AW) and Michael Wilson (MW) for Slattery Media Group.

Rhan (MW)

Notting and Drummo contest a mark against Ben Warren (AW)

Luke (MW)

Jared (MW)

Ash (AW)

29 May 2009

Swiss mountain cleaners

To paraphrase Phineas Taylor Barnum (who may or may not have said it), there's one born every minute.

28 May 2009

Panda population increases by one

Reported in Bangkok Post

Zoo staff grin and bear it

Published: 28/05/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

Seven-year-old panda Lin Hui has delighted staff at Chiang Mai Zoo by giving birth to a cub following artificial insemination.

Veterinarians at Chiang Mai Zoo examine the latest addition to the zoo family, a panda cub. The cub's mother Lin Hui gave birth on Wednesday, three months after receiving artificial insemination. Photo courtesy of ASTV MANAGER

Zoological Park Organisation director-general Sophon Damnui said the zoo's veterinary staff were delighted at the birth of the cub on Wednesday. "We are thrilled at the success," he said.

It is the first successful artificial insemination of a panda by a Thai veterinarian team.

Mr Sophon said the gender of the newborn was being confirmed. The cub weighed 200 grammes.

He said veterinary staff were concerned if Lin Hui could raise the cub as it was her first.

A team of Chinese panda experts will arrive in Thailand today and give advice to staff about raising the cub.

"We have to let her take care of the cub. Then we will find a way to separate the cub and raise it in a nursery," Mr Sophon said.

Lin Hui produced her first cub at 10.39am Wednesday - three months after being artificially inseminated - under close observation of the zoo's veterinary staff.

It was the second artificial insemination attempt on the panda who is on a 10-year loan from China along with her male mate Xuang Xuang.

Lin Hui was first artificially inseminated in April 2007 but failed to become pregnant.

The artificial insemination came after other methods - including showing the animals films of other pandas mating to get them in the mood - failed.

Under the loan programme, Lin Hui and Xuang Xuang will be returned to China in 2013.

Some vision from Associated Press

There are only some 1600 pandas believed to be in the wild - last counted in 2004, but population growth isn't high in the species. 180 are raised in captivity.

The birth of a panda is a big deal.

I can't wait for Adelaide Zoo to get their pair later in September this year. The last time pandas lived in Australia was in 1988 when two were on loan for three months in Melbourne and Sydney. Millions of Australians visited them at the time.

26 May 2009

Red Bull coked up... giving people wings

In Europe, Red Bull has been found to contain traces of cocaine. or rather, Kokain.

A temporary ban might be in place in Germany, but sales elsewhere are likely to rise.

This is the television commercial that has been shown in Australia
(Red Bull gives you wings)

from The Inquistr (now we know where the wings line comes from)

25 May 2009

I still want one

Two years ago, I wrote about the Eames lounge chair (and ottoman). 53 years old, and it remains a design classic.

The chair was introduced in 1956 on NBC's Home hosted by Arlene Francis. The segment has now found its way on to YouTube and makes fascinating watching.

In part 1, both Charles and Ray Eames are introduced - with Ray as the 'woman' behind the 'man'.

In part 2, the chair is 'previewed' at 3.48min into the video, showing how it is put together.


24 May 2009

David Dale's list of best books about Australia

In the Sun-Herald (Sydney Morning Herald's Sunday edition) today, and compiled with the assistance of readers of his column

1. 1788, by Watkin Tench: a new edition of his two books A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay (1789) and A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson (1793), edited by Tim Flannery).

2. The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes: "probably the most readable history of colonial NSW and Tasmania ever written ... let academics argue over its worth, but no one will doubt its value as an introduction to Australian history" (says Peter).

3. A Fortunate Life, Albert Facey: a "down-to-earth, first hand account of the life of a rambler in early twentieth century Australia" (says GC).

4. My Place, Nadia Wheatley: "a beautiful view of the many people who have made this place home" (says Kate). And another book called My Place, by Sally Morgan: "important for understanding the Aboriginal Australian's perspective of their changed homeland and the difficulties they face in trying to keep their self-worth and their families together" (says Jane).

5. Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy: "His beautiful prose makes the city of Darwin as important a character as the main protagonist" (says Beckala).

6. The Magic Pudding, Norman Lindsay: A hilarious tale of mateship and madness and the source of Australia's national metaphor.

7. For the Term of his Natural Life, Marcus Clark: "read it in the Botanical Gardens and be transported back in time" (says Chris Fuller).

8. They're A Weird Mob, Nino Culotta: The first celebration of a diverse Australia as a nation of immigrants.

9. Kangaroo, D. H. Lawrence: "It was written in 1923 but it so fresh and vivid and relates to many events happening today" (says Shirley).

10. Eucalyptus, Murray Bail: "What could be more Australian? Hopefully Rusty Crowe never gets his plans for a film version off the ground" (says Darren).

11. The Lost Continent, Terry Pratchett: "a hilarious look at everything we think makes us Australian" (says Brett).

12. Devil's Hill (Nan Chauncy): "contains wonderful chapters filled with Aussie perseverance taming a wild Tasmania - 'There's a leech having a free beer on your leg, son'" (says Dragonfly).

13. The Future Eaters, Tim Flannery: "a somewhat dry but thorough and profound discussion of the ecology of Australia, and goes a long way towards describing how we have tried to adapt to the bush" (says Nathan).

14. Grand Days, Frank Moorhouse: "quite possibly my favourite Australian novel, with a wonderful heroine ... it shows Australia as once being an important and respected part of the world stage, and it really makes me regret the insularity of modern Australia" (says tqd).

15. Cloudstreet, Tim Winton: "voted Australia's favourite book a couple of years ago," says Julie, but adds: " very different but just as good is The Shark Net by Robert Drewe. Both are set in Perth in the time frame of Eric Cooke the serial killer who was the second last man to be hanged in Australia."

Cloudstreet is a great novel. What a shame works by Xavier Herbert, Patrick White and Katherine Prichard didn't make his list.

football - round 9

ST KILDA 4.2 5.9 8.12 14.13 (97)
BRISBANE 1.0 5.1 10.3 13.3 (81)

St Kilda
: J Koschitzke 4 N Riewoldt 4 S Milne 3 L Montagna 2 M Gardiner.
Brisbane: J Brown 3 A Cornelius 2 D Bradshaw 2 J Polkinghorne 2 J Sherman 2 M Austin S Black.

St Kilda:
L Ball L Montagna N Riewoldt J Koschitzke S Fisher M Gardiner C Jones.
S Black J Drummond D Bradshaw J Brennan J Macdonald J Adcock.

Umpires: Chris Donlon, Todd Keating, Simon Meredith.

Official Crowd: 30,673 at Etihad Stadium

Despite the loss, it was an awesome effort against an undefeated side. I was expecting a thrashing. Unfortunately, there was no live broadcast of the game so I can only watch the replay.

Photos by Greg Ford (GF) and Andrew White (AW) for Slattery Media Group

Mitch (GF)

Shermo aka Worminator (GF)

Jared (AW)

Drummo (GF)

Acorn (GF)

22 May 2009

bring back Bruce

I enjoyed this light-hearted piece in The Age by Cameron Noakes about the lack of football players name Bruce
Bruce discrimination

Cameron Noakes | May 22, 2009

FORMER AFL footballers called Bruce are stunned and angry today after an AFL feasibility study has revealed the name Bruce is no longer feasible. An AFL insider told Mongrel Punter alarm bells had been ringing at headquarters for more than a decade as officials watched the rapid decline of Bruces in the game.

"This is a disgrace," the insider said. "These results are a slap in the face to Bruce Doull, Bruce Nankervis and Bruce Duperouzel - they're even a slap in the face to Bruce Monteath.

"Yes we have Cam Bruce running around, but surnames don't count. We want answers and we want them now. Where have all the Bruces gone?"

Mongrel Punter believes the AFL spent $200,000 on the feasibility study and can reveal that:

* The last Bruce to be recruited by an AFL club was Hando in 1991 (by North Melbourne but he did not play a senior game).

* The last Bruce to play senior football was Lennon (for Richmond, round 22, 1993)

* In round 20, 1992, two Bruces appeared in the same game, Lennon for Richmond and Lindner for Adelaide (the last time this feat was achieved).

* Bruce Lennon is not related to John.

* Doull's record for the most senior matches played by a Bruce (356) will never be beaten.

* Doull's record for the most finals matches played by a Bruce (29) will never be beaten.

* No Bruce has won a Brownlow Medal and never will.

* McAvaney will be the last Bruce to call an AFL/VFL game.

* Melbourne midfielder Cameron Bruce has refused to change his name to Bruce Cameron, despite pressure from the AFL.

* Cameron Bruce has refused to call any of his offspring Bruce Bruce, despite mounting pressure from the AFL.

Speaking exclusively to Mongrel Punter, my Uncle Bruce said: "Bruces around the country are in mourning today. We're absolutely gutted. We want to know why AFL clubs are snubbing us."

A visibly emotional Uncle Bruce said he expected "heads to roll" after the details of the study were released and dubbed the refusal to recruit Bruces as "name-ist".

He also scoffed at suggestions that Bryce was the new Bruce.

The AFL has also denied that Murray, Peter, Percy and Terry had all been put on a critical list.

Even though it is a humorous piece, there is some truth in it.

Popular names at the Brisbane Lions are Joel (x3, Macdonald, Patfull and Tippett) and Daniel (x5, Bradshaw, Merrett, Rich, Dzufer and Murray).

Being named Daniel or Joel may increase the likelihood of being drafted to the club. Being named Bruce would not.

21 May 2009

the future of DVDs

Just when we thought Blu-ray was the future of storage on disc, Australian scientists have worked out how to store even more on regular DVDs. From Swinburne University media release
Researchers to create next gen discs

Futuristic discs with a storage capacity 2,000 times that of current DVDs could be just around the corner, thanks to new research from Swinburne University of Technology.

For the first time researchers from the university’s Centre for Micro-Photonics have demonstrated how nanotechnology can enable the creation of ‘five dimensional’ discs with huge storage capacities.

The research, carried out by Mr Peter Zijlstra, Dr James Chon and Professor Min Gu was published today in the scientific journal Nature.

The Nature article describes how the researchers were able to use nanoscopic particles to exponentially increase the amount of information contained on a single disc.

“We were able to show how nanostructured material can be incorporated onto a disc in order to increase data capacity, without increasing the physical size of the disc,” Gu said.

Discs currently have three spatial dimensions, but using nanoparticles the Swinburne researchers were able to introduce a spectral – or colour – dimension as well as a polarisation dimension.

“These extra dimensions are the key to creating ultra-high capacity discs,” Gu said.

To create the ‘colour dimension’ the researchers inserted gold nanorods onto a disc’s surface. Because nanoparticles react to light according to their shape, this allowed the researchers to record information in a range of different colour wavelengths on the same physical disc location.

This is a major improvement on current DVDs that are recorded in a single colour wavelength using a laser.

The researchers were also able to introduce an extra dimension onto the disc using polarisation. When they projected light waves onto the disc, the direction of the electric field contained within them aligned with the gold nanorods. This allowed the researchers to record different layers of information at different angles.

“The polarisation can be rotated 360 degrees,” Chon said. “So for example, we were able to record at zero degree polarisation. Then on top of that, we were able to record another layer of information at 90 degrees polarisation, without them interfering with each other.”

Some issues, such as the speed at which the discs can be written on, are yet to be resolved. However the researchers are confident the discs will be commercially available within 5 – 10 years.

The discs are likely to have immediate applications in a range of fields. They would be valuable for storing extremely large medical files such as MRIs and could also provide a boon in the financial, military and security arenas.

The researchers’ ground breaking achievements would not have been possible without the long time support of the Australian Research Council.

Media Contact: Crystal Ladiges +61 3 9214 5064 or cladiges@swin.edu.au


See also abstract of Nature article.

1.6 terabytes (1600 gigabytes) is 300 times what a normal DVD can store. I'm looking forward to the shrinking of box sets onto a single disc, as long as the extra high definition and sound now on Blu-ray is also available.

Yep, technology - always getting obsolete.

20 May 2009

two left feet

Many people who cannot dance claim to have two left feet.

In most cases, they do not remove their shoes to prove that this is the case. There is little medical evidence to suggest that this is a common deformity, of having two near identical feet with the big toe facing the same direction.

Perhaps what these people mean is that they are uncoordinated and dance badly. In this case, they should just say so.

19 May 2009

801st post

Over two years (since 4 February 2007) and first created with great sadness, this blog has received over 104,000 hits.

Someone must like my warped sense of humour and view of the world.

18 May 2009

headline of the month

From the Adelaide Advertiser
Pull down those erections!
Making up that headline wasn't that hard, considering the original source in the China Daily (English edition)
Sex-theme park closed prematurely
I wonder what the original Chinese language headline would have been, considering that Chinese language is renown for word play.

17 May 2009

good evening Moscow

The final of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest is on TV tonight, hosted by Russia in Moscow, as last year's winner was Russian.

I am not going to stay up to watch all the counting though... "good evening Moscow, here are the results from the Swedish vote. Eight points go to United Kingdom, , huit point pwarnt pour Royaume-Uni ... twelve points go to Greece, douze points pwarnt pour La Grèce" etc

This year, the undignified nul point pwarnt is no longer awarded. Makes sense really. A country is getting nothing, so there is no point (ha ha ha, I made a pun) in mentioning it. In any case, only 8, 10 and 12 points awarded are now announced to cut down on the time.

Tonight's telecast isn't live so we already know who the winner is.

Alexander Rybak from Norway with Fairytale

The entry from Greece - Sakis Rouvas singing This is our night - was written by Australians. Oh my. Perhaps that is why he didn't win. Sakis needs to ensure when he goes shopping for shirts, that they actually fit.

The entry from Germany - Alex Swings Oscar Sings singing Miss Kiss Kiss Bang - was unfortunately in English so didn't deserve to win anyway. US burlesque artist Dita Von Teese was just a prop. Oscar Loya may as well have been one too. The photo must have been taken at the semi-final as Dita was more covered in the final (as 'ordered').

16 May 2009

football - round 8

BRISBANE LIONS: 3.4, 6.4, 13.7, 18.11 (119)
ADELAIDE: 5.5, 7.8, 9.9, 12.11 (83)

GOALS: Brisbane Lions:
Bradshaw 5, Sherman 3, Brown 2, Polkinghorne 2, Proud 2, Clark, Rich, Harding, Black
Adelaide: Porplyzia 2, Walker 2, Knights 2, Tippett, Moran, Edwards, Mackay, Reilly, Dangerfield

BEST: Brisbane Lions:
Sherman, Bradshaw, Johnstone, Black, Drummond, Rich
Adelaide: Edwards, Vince, Goodwin, McLeod, Mackay

INJURIES: Brisbane Lions:
Merrett (ankle), Adcock (leg), Patfull (jaw)

UMPIRES: Vozzo, Ryan, Armstrong
CROWD: 27,767 at the Gabba

I thought we were done at half time with Adelaide ahead. What a good comeback and shows of brilliance from Sherman.

Photos by Mervyn Lowe for Slattery Media.



Mitch in the ruck contest



15 May 2009

Charles "Bud" Tingwell 1917-2009

Charles "Bud" Tingwell (3 January 1917 - 15 May 2009)

Bud Tingwell had a long and illustrious acting career and became ingrained in Australia's cultural landscape. He was a legend.

See obituary in Sydney Morning Herald and Bud Tingwell's blog.

I remember Bud Tingwell for his more obscure roles such as House Rules (1988) and Catweazle (1970).

14 May 2009

comparing hate

WARNING - some may find the quoted item offensive.

A hypothetical video advertisement created for The Gruen Transfer was banned from broadcast for its racist and discriminatory content. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald
Discrimination: Gruen ad ban sparks online debate
Arjun Ramachandran
May 14, 2009 - 1:46PM

IT was banned from TV last night, but hundreds online have watched an "insensitive" segment of The Gruen Transfer that jokes about Jews, black people and homosexuals.

And public and expert opinion is divided on whether the controversial ad produced for the ABC show was racist and discriminatory, as deemed by the ABC.

The powerful ad, part of a segment in which two ad agencies tried to sell "fat pride", has also forced the show's host, and comedian, Wil Anderson to reconsider his habit of telling "fat jokes".

Shot in black and white, the ad - produced by Sydney agency The Foundry - features three people each telling extremely offensive jokes:

- How do black women fight crime? They have abortions.

- How do you stop a poofter from drowning? You take your foot off his head.

- What's the difference between Santa Claus and a Jew? Santa Claus goes down the chimney.

Then the final joke, aimed at fat people, was: "Why did God create alcohol? So fat chicks could get a root."

The ad concludes: "Discrimination comes in all shapes and sizes."

While ABC canned the segment, it permitted The Gruen Transfer's producers to show the video online - www.antiprejudicead.net - with appropriate disclaimers.

"We are grateful for the ABC's consent for us to put the material on this website, as it facilitates further debate and discussion," the show said.

Hundreds of people have since viewed the ad and weighed in on whether it was offensive and discriminatory, as the ABC had declared, and whether it was effective.

"An ad? I don't think so. It's just biased and bigoted trash," declared one poster.

Another wrote: "I can definitely understand why it wasn't shown on TV. People have a right not to be confronted with offensive material - even if properly used - in their homes."

But others disagreed.

"I loved it - having been the brunt of 'fat chick' jokes in the past, it is refreshing to see someone branding it as actual discrimination," wrote one.

During a robust panel discussion (also viewable online), the ad's creator Adam Hunt explained his motivation.

"The point is to say if you discriminate against somebody on the basis of their shape then you are no different to someone who is racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic," he said.

The idea was conceived in the pub when Mr Hunt caught himself laughing at a "fat chick joke" made by his friend, he said.

"I literally choked on that laugh, beer went everywhere and I had an epiphany about shape discrimination starting with laughing at a fat chick joke."

One viewer disagreed with the premise, arguing those who had suffered "real discrimination" would be offended by that comparison.

"... the analogy is overly hysterical. Just how many people have been murdered for being fat?

"Yet literally millions of blacks, gays and Jews have suffered violence, murder and genocide.

"Sure, in the abstract, 'discrimination is discrimination' but the difference in degree is so huge that the point is lost and members of the groups who have suffered real discrimination are very likely to be offended by the comparison."

Ad agencies involved in the show's regular segment - called The Pitch - usually produced humorous ads.

The Foundry's competitor in this contest, JWT Melbourne, produced an ad that celebrated fat people as voracious consumers who could lead the economic recovery.

But Mr Hunt said: "Any idea that made you laugh at people was actually going to celebrate shape discrimination, not end it."

But regular Gruen panellist Todd Samson said the ad failed because viewers failed to get over the shock of the initial racist joke.

"I don't think it's brave ... it's easy to offend and make people watch that ad," he said.

"I dont think you need to offend one group to help another."

Anderson accepted the ad was unlikely to be suitable for TV.

"But I think it would kind of work as an ad on someone like me.

"It equates discrimination, so for someone like me ... who thinks it's perfectly acceptable to make a fat joke, to discriminate against fat people ... it says to you 'Hang on, maybe what you're doing is exactly the same as someone who would make a joke about Jewish people.' "

Anderson's reaction was mimicked by others who watched the ad online.

"As a person who makes derogatory remarks about overweight people I never realised how offensive my attitudes were until I saw this ad," one wrote.

"Yes, redneck mouth-breathers are not going to get it but they never do. It's about changing mainstream attitudes (of which I feel I'm part of) that matters."

After watching the ad and the panel discussion online, many criticised the censorship of the ABC.

"You can understand why the ABC chose not to air this ad but it's a shame because the decision denied to a wider audience what is by far the most illuminating examination of the advertising industry and the creative process the Gruen Transfer has yet produced," wrote one.
Perhaps it is worth remembering that people have been killed for being black, gay or Jewish, and it even continues today as hate crimes while countries like Iran executes people for being homosexual.

There is no evidence of large scale hate crimes and killings of people based on their weight. There is no comparison.

13 May 2009

President Spock

President Obama has been described by various American media as a Vulcan. There was a Newseek article comparing him to Mr Spock. The best article I've read was actually published in the British newspaper The Times by Chris Ayres.
May 13, 2009
Barack Obama: the first Vulcan in the Oval Office?
Debate rages over whether the President is a nerd, a geek or a dweeb

America used to be one nation under God. As of last weekend, it is one nation under Spock. With the new Star Trek movie at No 1 in the box office rankings, the US media has been falling over itself to compare the mixed-race President Obama with the half-human, half-Vulcan science officer of the USS Enterprise (“Obama is Spock: It's Quite Logical,” declared one headline).

The comparison is immensely tempting and, in many ways, reassuring. Both are cool, analytical and able to dispatch rivals with no more than a sarcastically quizzical eyebrow. Both are part of a rather annoyingly New Agey organisation (Star Fleet and the Democratic Party respectively). And both are greatly concerned with exploring new sources of energy: for Spock, it's dilithium crystals (needed for warp drive); for Barack Obama, it's lithium ion batteries (needed for plug-in hybrid drive).

But if Obama has given America its first Star Trek presidency, I don't think it's because of his Spock-like characteristics. Rather, it's because of the brain-meltingly implausible equations that have so far allowed the President to steer the USS Uncle Sam clear from a fate worse than a Romulan photon torpedo - a “deflationary spiral” (in layman's terms, a vicious economic cycle of falling wages and prices).

On Monday the cost of this evasive action was revealed to be a 2009-10 deficit in the region of $1.84trillion. Talk about science fiction! Would anyone have believed such a feat was possible only a couple of years ago? Meanwhile, below deck at the Federal Reserve, Ben “Scotty” Bernanke is keeping the ship's engines set to Quantitative Ease, thus beaming even bigger deficits several light years into the future.

All things considered, I'm not sure which I find more implausible: the alleged sexual tension between Spock and Lieutenant Uhura, or Obama's promise that most of this money will be paid back by the end of his first term.

Nevertheless, if the success of Star Trek over the weekend says anything about this country as it tries to zap its way out of the Great Recession, it is that Americans are more than willing to suspend their disbelief when presented with a glossy enough production. In that respect, the movie and the Obama Administration are one and the same. I just hope that the wilful gullibility of the general public lasts - and that we're out of this mess before everyone realises that the technology being employed to keep us from obliteration amounts to little more than a cardboard cut-out spaceship dangled from an old piece of string.

A nerdish debate

The President openly admits he's a Trekkie. But there remains some debate over whether he is, in fact, a fully qualified nerd. The evidence is persuasive. As a child, Obama collected Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comic books; his website used to feature a photograph of him posing nerdishly in front of a Superman statue; and he once made a joke at an after-dinner speech about coming from the planet Krypton. And then there is his BlackBerry fixation, his iPhone app and his boffin-friendly campaign pledge to appoint a Cabinet-level “chief technology officer”. From what I can tell, the only evidence to the contrary is that the President is a talented basketball player - whereas a true nerd would surely be happier at home with his computer, fiddling with an Air Force One flight simulator. Still, this is a man who once “joked” to his wife (within earshot of a Newsweek reporter) that her belt looked as though it were studded with dilithium crystals (see above). The future First Lady responded as most attractive women do when exposed to close-range nerdishness. She rolled her eyes.


Nerds themselves are split on the issue. Some claim that Obama is a geek, not a nerd, because nerds, unlike geeks, are socially awkward and therefore wouldn't be able to run for President. Nerds themselves find this offensive, arguing that, on the contrary, it is dorks and dweebs who are socially awkward, not nerds. Over recent months, however, a consensus appears to have emerged. The verdict?

Obama is not a nerd. He is simply “nerd-adjacent”.

Hands up

If anyone can settle the debate, it is Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in the original Star Trek.

And that is exactly what he has done.

“About a year and a half ago, I was at a political event,” he disclosed on a recent episode of the National Public Radio show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! “One of [the candidates] for the office of President of the United States saw me, and as he approached, he gave me the Vulcan hand signal.”

Was it Obama? Nimoy didn't say. He did, however, reveal that “it wasn't John McCain”.

If President Obama could be described as a nerd or a geek and compared to Mr Spock, I wonder how former President George W Bush would be described in similar terms.

12 May 2009

the gentlest pit bull terrier

One of Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan's constant companions who assists him in rehabilitating dogs is the very calm pit bull called Daddy. From Cesar's website
Cesar's Co-Stars: Profiles of Pack Members – Daddy Daddy

Many people don’t know that Daddy originally belonged to rapper Redman. When the pit bull was four months old, Redman didn’t feel he could care for it properly in his environment. He sought a trainer and, through a referral, found Cesar. Daddy has been with the Millan family ever since!

Daddy was Cesar’s first right-hand dog. Since Cesar raised him from four months of age, Daddy was used to being around dogs of all sizes. This exposure and his natural balanced energy made him a perfect candidate for rehabilitating other dogs, particularly those with dog-aggressive issues. Daddy doesn’t react unless he is given a command to react, and his calm-submissive energy is contagious.

One of Daddy’s remarkable traits is his extreme tolerance for smaller dogs. He allows them to do whatever they want to him. Italian greyhounds Lita and Rex like to climb on top of Daddy, often curling around his body to go to sleep. Daddy is also a keen observer of emotion. If a family member is having a rough day or feeling sad, Daddy immediately picks up on it. He’ll lay at your feet and wait for a belly rub or a pat on the back. After receiving affection, he shakes it off and walks away. He does the same with dogs who seem down!


Often, in the morning, Daddy will let you know he’s awake by bringing you a gift: a shoe, a T-Shirt, or a stuffed toy. He’ll walk around with the item in his mouth, waiting for someone to notice. Then he lets you take it out of his mouth and walks away with his tail wagging.

On hot days, Daddy likes to dig holes in the ground and enjoy the cool reprieve they provide. Even more than that, he loves mud! The last time it rained, Daddy had a blast, rolling around like there was no tomorrow. When he came back, wagging his tail in greeting, he was completely brown. There was even mud in his nose!

As Daddy ages, the Millans have had to pay close watch to his health and bring him on frequent veterinary check-ups. As Redman does not plan on returning to Los Angeles, he felt that arranging for Daddy’s return to him would be too complicated, due to the dog’s age. The rapper decided that the dog would be better off staying with Cesar and officially signed Daddy over to the Millan family!

A great video -

As Cesar says,
stay calm and assertive

10 May 2009

smarter than some humans

Orangutans are intelligent. From Associated Press (10 May 2009) and widely reported
Orangutan makes a run for it at Australian zoo

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — A zoo in Australia was evacuated Sunday after an "ingenious" 137-pound orangutan short-circuited an electric fence and hopped a wall surrounding her enclosure.

The ape, a 27-year-old female named Karta, jammed a stick into wires connected to the fence and then piled up debris to climb a concrete and glass wall at the Adelaide Zoo.

Zoo curator Peter Whitehead told reporters Karta sat on top of the fence for about 30 minutes before apparently changing her mind about the escape and climbing back into the enclosure.

"I think when she actually got out and realized where she was ... she's realized she shouldn't be there so then she's actually hung onto the wall and dropped back into the exhibit," Whitehead said.

Karta came within a few yards (meters) of visitors, who were the first to notice the animal's escape bid.

Whitehead said the animal was not aggressive, but the zoo was cleared as a precaution, and veterinarians stood by with tranquilizer guns in case of trouble.

"You're talking about an animal that's highly intelligent," Whitehead said. "We've had issues with her before in normal day-to-day operations where she tries to outsmart the keepers. She's an ingenious animal."

Officials at the zoo in the southern city of Adelaide would conduct a "thorough review" of the escape bid and it was likely some vegetation that could be used in a future try for freedom would be removed from Karta's enclosure.

Der Spiegel reports about Ujian at Heidelberg Zoo, who whistles
05/08/2009 12:48 PM
Heidelberg Zoo's Whistling Orangutan Releases CD

An orangutan in Heidelberg Zoo has attracted attention after teaching himself to whistle. Now the 14-year-old ape has recorded his first CD.

Although somewhat underrated as a musical technique, a spot of whistling can often add a certain something to a song. Who can forget Otis Redding's poignant whistling on the soul classic "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay" or the haunting whistle refrain on the fall-of-the-Wall rock anthem "Wind of Change" by Germany's Scorpions?


Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (9 Photos)

Now a whistling orangutan at Heidelberg Zoo in Germany is set to release his first CD. Entitled "Ich Bin Ujian" ("I Am Ujian"), the CD single by Ujian, a 14-year-old orangutan, will go on sale at the zoo in June. Proceeds will go toward the extension and renovation of the zoo's ape house.

The song, a jaunty pop-rock number with reggae elements, features Ujian's melodic whistling as a background element. The lyrics, sung by Tobias Kämmerer, follow a similarly self-aggrandizing stance as the classic "I Wan'na Be Like You" sung by the orangutan King Louie in the animated movie "The Jungle Book," with the chorus including the lines: "I am Ujian the orangutan, I am so cool, man, I'm a star."

Local musician Christian Wolf, who was one of the producers of the song, was passing Ujian's enclosure one day during a visit to the zoo with his son. He stopped in amazement in front of Ujian's cage when he heard the animal whistling.

He returned with a digital recording device. With the help of Bernd Kowalsky, who is responsible for apes at the zoo, they recorded five hours' worth of audio, from which they gathered enough of Ujian's whistling for the song.

Ujian apparently taught himself to whistle last summer. According to the newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Ujian was inspired to start whistling after a vegetable delivery man was late coming to his cage. Ujian let out an exasperated whistle in a bid to get him to hurry up. From simple notes, the gifted ape soon graduated to melodic phrases.

But Ujian is not only talented musically. Along with fellow Heidelberg Zoo orangutans Puan and Grisella, he paints and has produced a number of abstract works. The zoo has been holding an auction of their paintings to raise money, with Thursday marking the closing date for bids.

Orangutans are highly intelligent creatures and many zoos around the world have animals who paint or draw. However only a handful of orangutans have been known to whistle. Bonnie, an orangutan in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., recently attracted attention when she taught herself to whistle. Researchers believe she was trying to imitate the sounds of whistling zookeepers.

The song "Ich Bin Ujian" can be heard on the Stuttgarter Nachrichten Web site.

dgs -- with wire reports

Definitely smarter than some politicians.

09 May 2009

papal lessons

Pope Benedict XVI met with Muslim religious leaders, members of the diplomatic corps and university leaders in Jordan today, 9 May 2009. He gave a very interesting speech to them. An interesting passage -
For this reason we cannot fail to be concerned that today, with increasing insistency, some maintain that religion fails in its claim to be, by nature, a builder of unity and harmony, an expression of communion between persons and with God. Indeed some assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world; and so they argue that the less attention given to religion in the public sphere the better. Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied. However, is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society? In the face of this situation, where the opponents of religion seek not simply to silence its voice but to replace it with their own, the need for believers to be true to their principles and beliefs is felt all the more keenly. Muslims and Christians, precisely because of the burden of our common history so often marked by misunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippers of God faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and live by the Almighty’s decrees, merciful and compassionate, consistent in bearing witness to all that is true and good, and ever mindful of the common origin and dignity of all human persons, who remain at the apex of God’s creative design for the world and for history.
How interesting for the Pope to talk about manipulating religion for political ends.

Let those without sin cast the first stone...

football - round 7

RICHMOND: 4.5, 7.6, 8.10, 10.11 (71)
BRISBANE LIONS: 1.4, 7.5, 9.7, 15.7 (97)

Simmonds 4, Cousins, Deledio, White, Schulz, Nahas, Graham
Brisbane Lions: Brown 4, Brennan 3, Bradshaw 2, Rischitelli 2, Harding, Sherman, Adcock, Black
Foley, Graham, Deledio, Jackson, Tuck, Polo
Brisbane Lions: Brown, Black, Power, Bradshaw, Brennan, Drummond
Rance (concussion, suspected broken cheekbone)
Brisbane Lions: Selwood (concussion)
CHANGES: Nathan Brown (groin) and Adam Pattison replaced in Richmond's selected side by Shane Edwards and Jay Schulz
UMPIRES: Kennedy, Findlay, Avon
CROWD: 34,646 at the MCG

Richmond started well, and I was expecting my team to lose - going into the final quarter only three points ahead - having gone to Melbourne the previous two years and watching a loss and a draw against them. Thankfully not. A hard game to watch this afternoon. Richmond played like a rabble.

Photos by Lachlan Cunningham (LC) and David Callow (DC) for Geoff Slattery Media.

Drummo (DC)

Jared (DC)

Saucehead doing what he does best - spoiling (DC)

Shermo being tackled (DC)

Bunzie Boo after a head collision. Thankfully he is fine and not concussed as reported. (LC)

08 May 2009

the greatest artist in the world .com

Arie Levit is 'the greatest artist in the world dot com'. According to artsconnect

Arie was born in Israel in 1969, and migrated to the northern beaches in Sydney in 2002. From a young age he discovered the joy of surfing, and the ocean has become a great source of his inspiration.

After migrating to Australia, Arie developed a new and unique style of painting. Using the same techniques as the great masters, Arie creates fresco / stucco paintings from ground marble that he mixes into a tinted paste and applies to high-quality board as his canvas. The results are stunning large format abstracts on board, painted solely with a builders trowel, as never seen in the art world today. No brushes are used in the creation of his work.

Arie's work is unique, never before has an artist modernised the technique of the old Masters with such dedication, vigour and passion. In each piece can be seen the ethos, love and unique style of this artist. The beauty of Arie's work lies not only in the visual experience, but in the beautiful tactile experience of touching each piece, which he openly encourages the viewer to do.

To glide one's hand over the cool smooth surface of his paintings is both surprising and relaxing. The textural quality that he masterfully emulates in tinted marble leads you to expect a one-of-a-kind experience, then delivers another. Arie's work exudes a kind of visual happiness, and in each piece he leaves a distinct imprint of his own playful personality.

Arie Levit at Double Bay Art Gallery

Double Bay Art Gallery has offered a million dollars (Australia) to anybody who can reproduce his work using the same technique.

" The Lions Den "
1220mm X 1220mm

It's a bold claim to style oneself as the greatest artist in the world. An interesting gimmick that works. Seriously, over hundreds or thousands of years in the history of art, it would be an immense task to overtake Leonardo da Vinci

07 May 2009

forbidden names

The United Kingdom's Identity and Passport Service has refused to issue a passport to a woman by the legal name of Mrs Pudsey Bear. See BBC
Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Sunday, 3 May 2009 14:06 UK

'Pudsey Bear' in passport fight

Mrs Pudsey Bear
Stand up the real Pudsey...Mrs Bear and friend

The Home Office has said it will "look again" into the case of a woman who changed her name to Pudsey Bear and had been fighting to get a passport issued.

The dental receptionist, 37, from Denbighshire had been told by officials her new name was "frivolous" and could cause her problems at border controls.

She said her two daughters called her "Mummy Bear" and she was Mrs Bear on her driving licence and bank cards.

A Home Office spokesman said it would consider if a passport could be issued.

Mrs Bear, from Prestatyn, was known by her original name of Eileen de Bont until she raised £4,000 through an online auction for the BBC's Children in Need charity appeal last year.

She decided to change her name to the appeal's mascot Pudsey Bear by deed poll.

She said: "We had had a really very difficult year and I just thought I would do something for us, to be honest."

There are lots of pop stars who call their children by wackier names and they manage to get a passport
Mrs Pudsey Bear

Mrs Bear started the process of applying for a new passport in her adopted name soon after Children in Need day last November.

"I had already got my driving licence, bank cards and even changed my name by deed poll to Mrs Pudsey Bear, " she said.

"Even my payslip has Mrs Bear on it."

Daughters Emily, 13, and Ellen, 10 had started referring to their mother as "Mummy Bear".

"So I was really disappointed to get this reply from the passport service saying they could not change my name because it was frivolous and could bring the passport service into disrepute.

Pudsey bear
Pudsey Bear the mascot appears up and down the country

"They also said that they had to safeguard my identity.

"There are lots of pop stars who call their children by wackier names and they manage to get a passport."

She said she was planning to take a break abroad later this year so a passport which matches her other documentation was essential.

Mrs Bear admitted that she had originally only planned to keep her Pudsey name for a year, but she said she did not expect it would create "so much of a palaver".

"At the end of the day I never expected to raise that amount of money.

Now, she said she is thinking of retaining it for longer, and then changing it again to raise more money for charity. She is even planning to release her one Pudsey Bear song for charity.

Vale of Clwyd Labour MP Chris Ruane confirmed his office had received some correspondence from Mrs Bear and he will be raising the matter with the passport service.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS), in their letter to Mrs Bear, wrote: "It is deemed to be a frivolous change of name, which would bring IPS into disrepute. It could also pose problems for you at border control in some countries."

But in a statement issued by the IPS on Sunday, a spokesman said: "We have to protect the integrity of the British passport as it is one of the most respected in the world, however, we will certainly look at this case again, and consider whether there could be any justification in allowing a passport to be issued in a name of Pudsey Bear"

Considering that most of the rest of the world are not familiar with the real Pudsey Bear, she should have no trouble at other borders.

Meanwhile in Germany, triple barrelled (hyphenated) names remain verboten. From AP (in Englisch)
Germany upholds triple-barrelled name ban
6 May 2009

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's highest court ruled Tuesday that a married couple — Ms. Thalheim and Mr. Kunz-Hallstein — cannot become Mr. & Mrs. Thalheim-Kunz-Hallstein, upholding a 1993 law that draws the line at a maximum of two last names.

The Munich couple, whose first names were not released, challenged the law after they married. They argued they wanted to share a surname, while each maintaining professional names — Thalheim is a dentist and Kunz-Hallstein a lawyer.

They said the law violated their right to free choice and could be damaging their careers.

But the Karlsruhe-based Federal Constitutional Court rejected their claim, ruling the law exists to prevent clunky "name chains," while still allowing couples to decide for themselves which last name, or two-name combination, they wish to take on.

"This addresses the wish to create names that are viable in legal and business dealings, while at the same time do not lead to name chains in later generations," the court wrote.

Germany has strict laws governing not only which surnames can be used, but also which first names can be given to a child.

See also Der Spiegel which has a more in depth article.

As governments issue the most important personal identification documents, they are entitled make the rules.

Perhaps there should be a name registration board so that first names can be pre-approved beforehand for people who insist on making up wacky names. In the United States.

06 May 2009

Big Ben 150

Big Ben celebrates 150 years this year. Big Ben is actually the nickname of the bell (the Great Bell) and not the clock (the Great Clock) itself nor the tower. The Clock Tower is sometimes referred to as St Stephen's Tower.

Most people think of Big Ben as the entire package.

The Great Clock told time from 31 May 1859 and the Big Ben, the Great Bell, first chimed on 11 July 1859.

cleaning of the clock faces of the Great Clock is always interesting

Big Ben - the Great Bell

05 May 2009

geeky fanboy fun

From Reuters and widely reported
Geeks run gauntlet in Web series "Ultradome"
Mon May 4, 2009 2:31am EDT

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Who would win in a fight: Gandalf or Darth Vader? What about Neo versus Harry Potter?

"Heroes" star Milo Ventimiglia is determined to settle such hypothetical disputes. He will appear in and co-produce "Ultradome," a new scripted Web series in which passionate fanboys face off in special effects showdowns.

"My whole life has been spent engaged with friends in intellectual debate ... like whether Captain Kirk is tougher than Spock or if Middle Earth is a more difficult place to live than Tatooine," Ventimiglia said. "With 'Ultradome,' we can bring these debates to the public and settle them in the most logical way possible: through armed combat."

In each three- to five-minute episode, two characters engage in a heated geek-culture debate -- "Who's tougher, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, or Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones?" -- and then are transported to a stadium where the duo engage in combat using all the weaponry, skills and pop culture touchstones from their respective hero's creative arsenal.

The concept is similar to Spike TV's new series "Deadliest Warrior," which reconstructs hypothetical matchups between, for instance, a samurai and a Viking. But the pop-culture-driven battles on "Ultradome" -- a project from Agility Studios and Ventimiglia's DiVide Pictures -- will be played for laughs.

With sci-fi and comic-book-friendly content a large driver of online traffic to entertainment sites, the "Ultradome" premise is clearly Web-friendly. Producers said they're in negotiations with a couple of major portals for distribution and hope to launch this summer.

Ventimiglia said he and partner Russ Cundiff came up with the idea after putting a couple of mock lightsaber battles online and envisioning how Luke Skywalker would slice and dice Mr. Spock.

The actor will appear in the first episode, which pits "Star Wars" versus "The Lord of the Rings." Ventimiglia will be backing "Rings," but only because his co-star pleaded to represent for "Star Wars."

Milo Ventimiglia is indeed a geek. Fanboys the world over will be rejoicing.

I'd like to see a fight between a Terminator T800 and a Cylon centurion.

04 May 2009

City of Literature 2

Two years ago, I wrote about Edinburgh becoming the first UNESCO City of Literature. Melbourne became the second City of Literature in August 2008. See www.cityofliterature.com.

The best thing to come out of this is the Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. See article 'Bold chapter in a Melbourne's life' by Corrie Perkin in The Australian.

Melbourne is also sports mad. Now to combine the two - perhaps getting football players to talk about their favourite books.

Yeah, right.

03 May 2009

swine flu over-reactions

Egypt has no swine flu cases and that variant of the flu is not spread by pigs to humans, yet the Egyptian government has ordered the destruction of 300 000 uninfected pigs (AP).

China singles out Mexicans for special testing, even though they have been in China all along (AFP).

According to the CDC, the regular flu kills 36 000 people in the United States every year.

The mortality rate of anything new is grossly over-estimated. Nothing like a good scare for governments to show who is in control. Control being the operative word.

02 May 2009

football - round 6

BRISBANE LIONS 5.2 10.2 12.6 17.9 (111)
ESSENDON 1.3 3.8 5.12 9.14 (68)

Brisbane Lions:
Brown 5, Bradshaw 4, Power 3, Brennan, Sherman, Harding, Rischitelli, Selwood.
Winderlich 2, Lloyd 2, Lovett, Zaharakis, Hocking, Lovett-Murray, Lonergan.

Brisbane Lions:
Brown, Black, Power, Johnstone, Selwood, Brennan.
Watson, Lovett-Murray, Lovett, Lloyd, Winderlich.

INJURIES Essendon: Fletcher (ankle).

UMPIRES Avon, Hay, Rosebury.

CROWD 29,252 at the Gabba.

Awesome game.

Photos by Mervyn Lowe for Geoff Slattery Media

Bunzie Boo

Jared's exquisite one-handed skills

Jared and Paddy Ryder rucking

Luke disposing before being tackled by Henry Slattery

Shermo tackling Sam Lonergan

eat him Pooh

From Boing Boing (a wonderful blog)

I'm not sure what sort of a bear Winnie the Pooh is, but I'm still amazed that he hasn't eaten Piglet or Rabbit yet. Neither has Tigger for that matter.