31 August 2009

child of WD-40

The Times (of UK) reported that the WD-40 company has gone out to its customers in a bid to diversify and develop a new product or modification.

They should improve it so that it will dissolve a T-1000 model from Terminator - the liquid metal one.

the smart straw version is unfortunately not sold in Australia

29 August 2009

football - round 22

SYDNEY: 3.4, 6.6, 11.7, 14.8 (92)
BRISBANE: 3.5, 10.8, 13.9, 15.10 (100)
O'Loughlin 4, White 3, Goodes 3, Thornton, Ablett, Kirk, Jack
Brisbane: Brown 3, Sherman 3, McGrath 2, Clark, Harding, Brennan, Austin, Stiller, Black, Polkinghorne
O'Keefe, Shaw, Jack, Goodes, O'Loughlin
Brisbane: Clark, Sherman, Black, McGrath, Brennan

UMPIRES: Kennedy, Wenn, Jeffery,
CROWD: 27,933 at SCG

Finally, a win at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Lions led by 38 points at one stage, but squandered the lead.

Browny (photo by Michael Willson for Geoff Slattery Publishing)

Jared (photo by Michael Willson for Geoff Slattery Publishing)

Blacky (photo by Anthony Johnson for Brisbane Times)

luxury pets? part 3

In April, I wrote about pets being abandoned in Britain due to the economic climate. In July, I followed up about the same thing happening in Australia.

From Der Spiegel
08/28/2009 06:12 PM
Fido Feels The Financial Crisis
Dogs On Benefits, Cats in Care
By Guido Kleinhubbert

Germany's furry and feathered companions are feeling the pinch. The economic crisis means that many unemployed owners can no longer afford to take care of them. Meanwhile, the animal refuges they end up in are receiving fewer donations. One animal lover is even suggesting a special welfare payment for unemployed pet owners.

If you're planning to visit Europe's largest animal refuge in Falkenberg, Berlin, be sure to put aside plenty of time and bring a hardened heart. You'll find pens full of horses, sheep and even a Vietnamese pot bellied pig alongside a cattery three times the size of your average gym and a veterinary clinic that is bigger than most provincial hospitals. The refuge, which has 120 staff, is already as big as 30 football fields -- but soon it will need even more space.

The problem is that currently the refuge is dealing with a whole new breed of animal refugee, one that nobody had ever encountered before. Up until recently, most of the animals that ended up here were either orphans, strays or had been taken into custody because they were not being looked after properly. But today there's a whole new influx of beasts and they're coming to the refuge because of some distinctly human problems. Their German owners are no longer able to afford them for a variety of economic reasons, maybe because they are on a pension or drawing the reduced Hartz IV long-term unemployment benefit and neither will stretch to vet bills or pet food. Over 1,600 animals live in the Falkenberg animal refuge at the moment -- and that's 400 more than at the beginning of 2008.

Terriers Abandoned, Tagged With 'Unemployment Beneficiary'

This is not only happening in Berlin. Animal homes in Munich, Düsseldorf and elsewhere around Germany report that more animals are being given to them due to the owners not being able to afford food or vet bills. Wolfgang Apel, the president of the German Animal Protection League, believes that this year around 400,000 poverty stricken pets will need to be cared for by animal refuges, which is around one and a half times more than a decade ago. Additionally, more animals are simply being abandoned in the vicinity of the refuges -- this means that the owners don't have to pay the fees that are normally required when an animal is given to the home.

For example, animal refuge employees found a box of chinchillas in Münster, a miniature pig and piglets in Bochum and, in Schlage near Rostock, two terriers with handwritten tags around their necks that said: "Unemployment Beneficiary."

Unfortunately in some cases, you can see how little thought people have put into buying pets, says Norbert Schlösser, the head of Schlage's animal refuge. They need to be aware that an adorable little St. Bernard puppy is going to grow into a 90-kilogram monster with a big appetite and a tendency to suffer from hip problems, he argues. Despite this Schlösser says he knows of several families who are struggling financially but who still keep more than one large dog.

An Unemployment Benefit For Dogs

At the same time that animal refuges are dealing with an influx of animals, Apel reports, the amount of donations to the refuges is also decreasing massively. Which puts the future of large facilities like the one in Berlin at risk. The Falkenberg refuge requires €10,000 ($14,260) daily, a fact that is prompting an increasing number of calls for political assistance.

And Apel has another idea that might stop the flood of animals from broke homes reaching the refuges. He suggests that Germans who are on the Hartz IV long-term unemployment benefit, which is substantially smaller than the short-term employment insurance, could get a little additional money for their dogs -- but only if those dogs were part of their household before they started on social welfare. But German Labor Minister Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats (SPD) has ruled this out. He sees no reason to change the system that already exists. At the moment only beneficiaries who are blind and require a seeing eye dog, or those who need a dog for psychological reasons, can claim extra money from the state for their pets.

Any unemployed Germans who have tried to get support for their pets without such medical reasons have been unsuccessful. In fact, in March, judges in Giessen, in the state of Hessen, decreed that there would be no additional support for dogs living in the households of the unemployed. And the social welfare court in the city of Dessau-Rosslau in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt decided that pets would not come into consideration when it came to housing allowances. Housing allowances are part of the long term unemployment benefit and depend on the size of the house that the unemployed person is living in. The court's decision came about when one unemployed woman felt that another was advantaged in her housing allowance by the fact that she had children whereas nobody cared that the first woman had a dog and also needed more room. The court disagreed. And their decision also means that if, for financial reasons, a beneficiary is forced to move into a smaller home that forbids pets they will simply have to give up their animals.

Soup Kitchens For Dogs

This was one of the motivations behind the Animal's Dining Table, a project founded by 45-year-old computer programmer Claudia Hollm three years ago. The initiative started as an afterwork hobby but has since turned into a full-time occupation for the resident of the state of Brandenburg. Currently there are 24 branches of the charity, which distributes free pet food throughout Germany. More are likely to be established in the near future.

"More are urgently needed," Hollm says. Because it doesn't matter where the Animal's Dining Table sets up, there are always a great number of takers. In Hollm's hometown of Rathenow alone, population 24,000, around 2,400 pet owners have already shown themselves eligible to receive the free pet food because they are either long-term unemployed or living on a pension.

Among them is Matthias Petter, 32, and his two-year-old son Malte-Richard with their large bulldog, Snoopy. His dog "only thinks about food and sleeping," Petter says when the trio arrives at the Animal's Dining Table counter to collect some pet food. Thanks to the charity, Petter is now saving an extra €30 ($43) a month. That money came in handy when Snoopy recently suffered from a tick infection and needed medicine. "It also means there's more money left for the little one," the unemployed truck driver says, indicating his son.

Hollm is trying to help pet owners who have cared for their animals for years already. She's a little more reluctant when it comes to the unemployed or beneficiaries who want to get a new dog, or get another pet. A pet is good therapy for someone who is unemployed, "because they support you even if you don't have a job," she explains. But owning a pet creates new costs that the prospective owners can't even guess -- and that's why someone coming to the Animal's Dining Table with a puppy -- like the young men in Berlin often do, with the offspring of their fighting dogs -- is not welcome.

It is quite an innovative solution. Shelters, through charitable donations, could provide 'welfare' to dogs and cats to stay at home, provided that they were already part of the household before the people became unemployed. Vets could provide services as part of their pro bono.

See Tiertafel Deutschland

28 August 2009


Fatty (March 1990 - 28 August 2004)

It's been five years since Fatty has gone. He was the best cat and I still think of him.

26 August 2009

Kaboom and Shay

Shay and Kaboom - photo by Craig Borrow.

See more photos here. They chase each other in a game of tag that lasts 10 minutes.

Kaboom is a miniature horse who is best friends with Shay a German Shepherd. They live with Angela Watkins in Corindhap, a town some 140 km west of Melbourne in the former gold fields, population 100.

First reported in Geelong Advertiser, then Herald Sun.

It won't be long before the photos make their way around the world, and in those cutesy chain emails.

25 August 2009

withdrawing sausage and mash

photo by Will Pavia for The Times

ATMs in East London run by Bank Machine are bamboozling non-Cockney customers with a new gimmick. They're 'aven a giraffe.

- The Guardian
- Daily Telegraph
- The Times

Somehow, it would be more efficient to just use the plain English word than garbling it with another three words.

24 August 2009

good and bad jokes of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Edinburgh Festival Fringe is one of the best arts festivals in the world. I have yet to attend any in the world. BBC News reported on the awarding of the funniest joke of the Fringe.

Top ten were

1) Dan Antopolski - "Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge?"

2) Paddy Lennox - "I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: 'This could be interesting'."

3) Sarah Millican - "I had my boobs measured and bought a new bra. Now I call them Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes because they're up where they belong."

4) Zoe Lyons - "I went on a girls' night out recently. The invitation said 'dress to kill'. I went as Rose West."

5) Jack Whitehall - "I'm sure wherever my dad is; he's looking down on us. He's not dead, just very condescending."

6) Adam Hills - "Going to Starbucks for coffee is like going to prison for sex. You know you're going to get it, but it's going to be rough."

7) Marcus Brigstocke - "To the people who've got iPhones: you just bought one, you didn't invent it!"

8) Rhod Gilbert - "A spa hotel? It's like a normal hotel, only in reception there's a picture of a pebble."

9) Dan Antopolski - "I've been reading the news about there being a civil war in Madagascar. Well, I've seen it six times and there isn't."

10) Simon Brodkin (as Lee Nelson) - "I started so many fights at my school - I had that attention-deficit disorder. So I didn't finish a lot of them."

Some others were judged to be the worst.

Carey Marx - "I'm not doing any Michael Jackson jokes, because they always involve puns about his songs. And that's bad."

Frank Woodley - "I phoned the swine flu hotline and all I got was crackling."

Alex Maple - "Michael Jackson only invented the moonwalk so he could sneak up on children."

Phil Nichol - "She's got a face like a rare Chinese vase - minging."

Alistair McGowan - "I've just split up from my girlfriend, which is a shame, because it was a long-standing arrangement. Perhaps if we'd sat down a bit more..."

Adam Hills (sixth of the top ten best jokes) is Australian.

Actually I did attend events at the Melbourne Comedy Festival one year with my friend Leah, and stand up acts in Brisbane and Seattle.

23 August 2009

director of fun

Six-year-old Sam Pointon from Leicester wrote to National Railway Museum in York and applied to replace retiring director Andrew Scott.

He wasn't successful in landing the top job, but was instead appointed 'director of fun'.

See BBC News

The job description will have to be geared towards 'performance' if he is to be paid. According to Health and Safety Executive UK,
Children under 13 years of age are generally prohibited from any form of employment and local authorities have powers to make bylaws on the types of work, and hours of work, children aged between 13 years and the MSLA can do. However, children below these age limits may be licensed to take part in performances. The licence must be issued by the relevant local authority for all children below the MSLA, taking account of their fitness and arrangements for their health, kind treatment and education as appropriate to their age.
MSLA is minimum school leaving age. I expect Sam's 'director of fun' is an honorary one. Still, what a great job for a six-year old train enthusiast.

22 August 2009

football - round 21

Brisbane Lions 3.2 7.5 12.8 16.11 (107)
Port Adelaide 10.0 10.4 14.5 14.8 (92)

Brisbane Lions:
Bradshaw 5, Brown 4, Rischitelli 3, Redden, Sherman, McGrath, Rich
Port Adelaide: Tredrea 4, Salter 3, Motlop 2, Brogan, Burgoyne, Carlile, Lade, Thomas

Brisbane Lions:
Power, Clark, Bradshaw, McGrath, Rischitelli, Brown
Port Adelaide: Krakouer, Carlile, Boak, Brogan, Surjan, Salter

Brisbane Lions
: Merrett (ankle)
Port Adelaide: Robbie Gray (appendix) replaced in selected side by Logan

Umpires: Ryan, Chamberlain, Wenn
Official crowd: 26,437 at the Gabba

The first quarter was abysmal and it seemed that my team would receive a thrashing after a 47 point deficit early on. The eventual win was one of the best comebacks.

Mitch's speccy

Blacky (photo by Mervyn Lowe for Geoff Slattery Media)

chasing the ball (photo by Mervyn Lowe for Geoff Slattery Media)

Joely Pat (photo by Mervyn Lowe for Geoff Slattery Media)

Jared (photo by Darren England for Herald Sun)

Mitch (photo by Darren England for Courier Mail)

further travels of Tintin

Georges Prosper Remi, writing as Hergé, created many adventures for Tintin.

He did not write these, but clearly Tintin continues to feature in the imaginations of people around the world.

20 August 2009

awesome fictional terminology

I think some of the terms used in science fiction are awesome. Some of my favourites -

The Arc of Infinity - an interdimensional gateway (from Doctor Who).

The Ark of Truth - a device designed to brainwash whoever looks into it (from Stargate).

The Shadow Proclamation - a galactic treaty enforced by an agency of the same name (Dr Who).

Gravimetric field displacement manifold - the reactor used in warp drive, also known as the warp core, which uses dilithium as a regulator (Star Trek).

19 August 2009

the fall of the iron curtain started with a picnic

1989 was a momentous year in Eastern Europe.

Today marked the 20th anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic, when Hungary momentarily opened its border with Austria and allowed hundreds of East Germans to cross over to the west. From Wikipedia (factual)
In a symbolic gesture agreed to by both countries, a border gate on the road from Sankt Margarethen im Burgenland (Austria) to Sopronkőhida (Hungary) was to be opened for three hours. About 6 km away from this spot on 27 June 1989, Austria's then foreign minister Alois Mock and his Hungarian counterpart Gyula Horn had together cut through the border fence, in a move highlighting Hungary's decision to dismantle its surveillance installations along the border, a process started on 2 May 1989.

More than 600 East Germans seized the opportunity presented by this brief lifting of the Iron Curtain, and fled into the west. In the run-up to August 19th, the organisers of the Pan-European Picnic had distributed pamphlets advertising the event. The Hungarian border guards, however, reacted judiciously to the growing number of people fleeing, and, despite their orders to shoot anyone who attempted to cross the border, did not intervene.

In Budapest and around the Lake Balaton, thousands of more East Germans were waiting for their chance to cross to border, not believing that the border would be opened, and not trusting the procedures in place. The number of people who crossed the border into the west on the day of this event was therefore limited to no more than a few hundred. Over the next few days, the Hungarian government increased in the number of guards patrolling its western border, so that only a relatively small number actually reached the west successfully. On 11 September 1989, Hungary finally opened its borders for citizens of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) for good.

The Pan-European Picnic is considered a highly significant milestone in the efforts that led to the end of the GDR and to the German reunification. Commemorative ceremonies are held each year on 19th of August at the place where the border was opened.

The picnic was organised by members of four Hungarian opposition parties, the Hungarian Democratic Forum the Alliance of Free Democrats, the FIDESZ and FkgP. The event's patrons were, CSU MEP Otto von Habsburg, and the Hungarian Minister of State and reformer Imre Pozsgay.
See also www.1989-2009.at (in German).

The world has changed a lot in 20 years. The events of 1989 are as significant, if not more so, as those of 1969.

18 August 2009

When zombies attack

I did not understand why a philosopher professor would write about zombies. Scientists or mathematicians on the other hand, I can understand. Researchers at the University of Ottawa have published a paper in Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress modelling a zombie attack called 'When zombies attack! Mathematical modelling of an outbreak of zombie infection'- abstract
Zombies are a popular figure in pop culture/entertainment and they are usually portrayed as being brought about through an outbreak or epidemic. Consequently, we model a zombie attack, using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies. We introduce a basic model for zombie infection, determine equilibria and their stability, and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions. We then refine the model to introduce a latent period of zombification, whereby humans are infected, but not infectious, before becoming undead. We then modify the model to include the effects of possible quarantine or a cure. Finally, we examine the impact of regular, impulsive reductions in the number of zombies and derive conditions under which eradication can occur. We show that only quick, aggressive attacks can stave off the doomsday scenario: the collapse of society as zombies overtake us all.
Finally, some valuable research on the zombie phenomena. See also BBC News. I liked this bit

The study has been welcomed by one of the world's leading disease specialists, Professor Neil Ferguson, who is one of the UK government's chief advisors on controlling the spread of swine flu.

"The paper considers something that many of us have worried about - particularly in our younger days - of what would be a feasible way of tackling an outbreak of a rapidly spreading zombie infection," said Professor Ferguson, from Imperial College London.

However he thinks that some of the assumptions made in the paper might be unduly alarmist.

"My understanding of zombie biology is that if you manage to decapitate a zombie then it's dead forever. So perhaps they are being a little over-pessimistic when they conclude that zombies might take over a city in three or four days," he said.


17 August 2009

saved better than eaten

Melbourne experienced strong winds a few days ago and a Maltese-Shih Tzu cross was blown off a pier into the sea. Thankfully, he was saved by a kind stranger. Of course the dog would not have been blown away if he had been leashed. See Melbourne Herald Sun (pics).

In New Zealand, a man originally from Tonga skinned and cooked his pet dog but did not break any laws. See New Zealand Herald.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world in the United Kingdom, puppy trafficking is a problem. See The Independent.

16 August 2009

future food shortages

Popular Science magazine has a feature about Earth's future food problem - "The challenge of growing twice as much food by 2050 to feed nine billion people—with less and less land—is everyone’s problem. But scientists are hard at work fomenting a second green revolution.

Some suggestions included farming the desert, using robot labour and making supercrops.

One would hope that part of the solution would be to minimise food wastage and discourage gluttony.

There is always Soylent Green.

15 August 2009

football - round 20

Brisbane Lions 2.3 4.8 8.8 12.12 (84)
Western Bulldogs 5.2 10.5 13.10 15.12 (102)

Brisbane Lions:
Brown 3, Bradshaw 3, Drummond 3, Stiller, Polkinghorne, Rischitelli
Western Bulldogs: Eagleton 3, Akermanis 2, Johnson 2, Gilbee 2, Welsh 2, Minson 2, Reid, Hahn

Brisbane Lions:
Black, Clark, Sherman, Bradshaw, Drummond, Power
Western Bulldogs: Lake, Boyd, Cooney, Eagleton, Murphy, Harbrow

Western Bulldogs: Johnson (corked thigh), Gilbee replaced in selected side by Reid

Umpires: Nicholls, Schmitt, McInerney

Official crowd: 33,421 at the Gabba

Both teams were playing for the fourth spot on the ladder. The Dogs deserved the win as our Lions boys only really played one good quarter. Drummond (my nickname for him is Drum roll) was awesome playing down the other end of the ground, kicking some awesome goals.

Shermo (photo by Mervyn Lowe for Geoff Slattery Media)

Drummo (photo by Mervyn Lowe for Geoff Slattery Media)

Scotty (photo by Peter Wallis for the Courier Mail)

13 August 2009

Left Handers Day

Today was International Left Handers Day, recognising the 7 to 10 per cent of humanity who are left-handed.

I only managed to wish one person in the office happy left handed day. Even writing with her left hand, her handwriting is still very messy.

A very famous left-handed person is US President Barack Obama.

The only person whose left-handedness I've really noticed is footballer of the Brisbane Lions (my team) Simon Black as he's signed a few things for me. He is also a left-footer.

12 August 2009

messages from Earth

At 20.3 light years away in the constellation of Libra and orbiting the low-mass dwarf star Gliese 581 is the planet Gliese 581d, which may or may not be inhabited by intelligent life. Australians have been invited to send a message. From COSMOS magazine's website www.hellofromearth.net
At COSMOS magazine, we thought it would be a cool way to celebrate National Science Week in Australia - and the International Year of Astronomy - by sending a message to a potentially habitable planet outside the Solar System.

Thanks to the support of Australia's Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, the CSIRO and NASA, and a bunch of other really helpful people, the text messages collected on this site will be transmitted to the closest Earth-like planet that might harbour life: Gliese 581d.

At the end of Science Week, NASA will transmit the messages to Gliese 581d using the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in Tidbinbilla.
Messages are limited to 160 characters and only in the English language. Totally useless of course to an alien civilisation.

At any rate, random gibberish in an Earth language would still reach Glieese 581d well before the Voyager space craft, which is now outside of our solar system, is intercepted by intelligent extra-terrestrial life forms.

11 August 2009

Flippant cultural misappropriation

From Liverpool Daily Post
Maori Haka dancers help launch new ‘All Black’ away kit
Maori dancers performed the ceremonial Haka dance at Goodison Park to launch Everton FCs new "All Black" away kit
A TEAM of Maori dancers performed the ceremonial Haka dance at Goodison Park to launch Everton FC’s new “All Black” away kit.

It was the first public appearance of the new playing strip for the 2009/10 season.

It takes its inspiration from one of the first kits ever worn by Everton in the late 19th century, when they were known as the Black Watch.

The shirts are all black and decorated with pink lightning horizontal stripes.

The troupe of Maori dancers also performed a version of fans favourite, If You Know Your History, during their appearance.

The Haka dance is traditionally associated with the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, and is performed before the start of matches to intimidate opponents.

The new kit is available from the Everton One store at Goodison Park, and Everton Two at Liverpool One.

As much as I like Everton Football Club (Australian Tim Cahill plays for them), there is no link between a New Zealand Maori cultural tradition and an English football. The use of such is clearly a misappropriation.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, and reported by the New Zealand Herald
English Premier League side to perform haka
4:00AM Sunday Aug 09, 2009
By Heather McCracken

One of England's top premiership soccer clubs is to perform a flippant haka before its season-opening game this week, despite legal protests that it insults Maori.

The lawyer spearheading Maori intellectual property claims is writing to Everton Football Club, warning that its "bastardised" haka trespasses on Maori rights and disrespects their heritage.

But the club is unrepentant about its use of the "he ha" haka, part of the team's new "All Black" look and unveiled three days ago with its team strip.

Hired Maori dancers will perform the haka as Everton and Arsenal run on to Goodison Park in Liverpool on Saturday, the opening day of England's Premier League club competition.

The game, the most important match-up of the opening day, is likely to feature football internationals such as England prodigy Theo Walcott, Spaniard Cesc Fabregas and Australia's Tim Cahill.

It will be watched by television viewers around the world.

Intellectual property lawyer Maui Solomon said he was appalled by the haka. "I think it's showing cultural disrespect to Maori. People overseas need to know Maori culture isn't just up for grabs."

Solomon, who represents three iwi in an intellectual property rights claim before the Waitangi Tribunal, said it was also damaging to New Zealand's "cultural brand".

"This is the thin edge of the wedge. People all over the world are appropriating Maori culture for commercial purposes."

Everton officials should have checked with the New Zealand Rugby Union or a Maori authority first, Solomon said.

Performances of haka by overseas pop stars and advertisers have sparked anger before, and lawyers for the Ngati Toa iwi fought unsuccessfully to trademark the All Black Ka Mate haka, written by Te Rauparaha.

In February, the Government and Ngati Toa agreed a Treaty settlement that recognised the iwi's authorship of Ka Mate. The iwi has agreed to the All Blacks' continuing use of the haka.

Everton FC spokesman Mark Rowan said there was no intention to be disrespectful in the club performing a haka.

"As a club we understand what the haka represents and we simply wanted to celebrate the launch of our new all black playing strip with a dedicated Everton haka," he said.

"Since the haka took place on Thursday we have received nothing but positive comments and we do plan to perform the Everton haka again."

The club's website described the new strip as a "dynamic new 'All Black' look."

NZRU commercial manager Paul Dalton said intellectual property rights around the All Blacks were monitored carefully.

"Our main concern here would be making sure there's no confusion for our fans," he said. "Everton's new pink and black strip, at first look, doesn't look like anything All Black fans should be worried about."

Radio host Willie Jackson is one Maori not concerned about the haka. The English lyrics didn't "mangle the language."

"I only get angry if they deliberately set out to make what we're doing look stupid. I don't think we need to get too precious."

* Words to the Everton haka:

Everton! Everton! He, ha, he, ha!
It's a grand old team, he, ha!
It's a grand old team to support
And if you know your history
it's enough to make your heart go he, ha!

* Maori mimics - from pop stars to adverts

Previous attempts to hijack the haka have ranged from impromptu performances by pop stars to alcohol ads. Earlier this year the Royal Shakespeare company caused a ruckus by including a drunken haka in a performance of The Taming of the Shrew.

An English television ad featuring women in bikinis performing a haka was pulled off air in 2001 after more than 100 complaints.

New Zealand High Commissioner Paul East was among those to complain about the alcopop ad featuring the tag-line, "Go Native". In the same year, Ngati Toa objected to a topless version of Ka Mate, to be performed by dancers at an Auckland strip club.

In 2002 the BBC was criticised for featuring a Welsh rugby team performing the haka in an ad. The use of moko in a French fashion collection has also come under fire and pop group the Spice Girls were criticised for performing a haka in Bali in 1997.

Of course misappropriating culture upsets those for which it is part of their identity. It would be like an African dictator wearing the Scottish kilt.

10 August 2009

U55 - does not connect

The Berlin U-Bahn is one of the best (mostly) underground metros in the world. Line U5 runs eastward from Alexanderplatz station to Hönow station. There are plans to extend the line westward from Alexanderplatz to the new main railway station Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

On 8 August 2009, line U55 was opened. U55 is an extension to line U5 but doesn't actually join it yet. There are only three stations from Hauptbahnhof to Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate).

(photo from Der Spiegel)

The very short line took 14 years to build, at a cost of €320 million. The three stops only runs 1.8 kilometres (1.1 mile) and only takes around three minutes. It will cost an additional €433 million to extend the U55 to Alexanderplatz, as planned with a completion date of 2017.

See Der Spiegel (auf Deutsh) und Der Spiegel (English), which was rather critical in its report.

The Berlin U-Bahn is one of my favourite metros in the world and along with the S-Bahn, covers most of Berlin public transport.

08 August 2009

football - round 19

ESSENDON: 4.3, 6.5, 11.7, 13.9 (87)
BRISBANE LIONS: 3.3, 6.6, 8.10, 12.15 (87)

Neagle 3, McPhee 2, Monfries 2, Lonergan, Hurley, Lovett-Murray, Prismall, Watson, Quinn
Brisbane Lions: Rich 2, Rischitelli 2, Harding 2, Brennan, Power, Polkinghorne, Sherman, Bradshaw

Fletcher, Watson, Pears, Lovett-Murray, Reimers, Neagle, Hurley
Brisbane Lions: Clark, Sherman, Power, Black, Patfull, Brennan

UMPIRES: McBurney, Schmitt, Hendrie
CROWD: 41,636 at the MCG

What a nail biter of a game. The Lions only drew the game after the final siren. One of my obligatory games to attend, but not this year.

Pictures from Slattery Media Group by Andrew White and David Callow

Patfull marking against McPhee


Mitch marks

Harding being tackled

Luke being tackled by Tayte Pears

Mitch rucking against Paddy

Joel spoiling Angus

Abbey Road 40

One of the great things about the old long play (LP) vinyl record was the artwork. One of the best was The Beatles' Abbey Road. The photo by the late Iain Macmillan was taken on 8 August 1969.

It is probably the most copied or parodied album cover.

Lawrence Pollard wrote a great article for BBC World Service
The idea for the cover of the Beatles' Abbey Road album was initially to call it Everest, after the favourite brand of cigarettes smoked by their engineer Geoff Emerik.

Then the thought of doing a Himalayan cover helped kill the idea, and instead they considered doing shoot closer to home.

"There's a sketch Paul McCartney did with four little stick men crossing the Zebra," says Brian Southall, author of the history of Abbey Road Studios.

"It gave a pretty good idea of what they wanted."

On the 8 August 1969 that the Fab Four walked out of No 3 Abbey Road, having finished basic work on what would be - and they subsequently said they knew would be - their last album.

The photographer who took the famous cover shot was the late Iain Macmillan, a close friend of Brian Southall's, who knew the Beatles through working with Yoko Ono.

"He was given about 15 minutes," says Mr Southall.

"He stood up a stepladder while a policeman held up the traffic, the band walked back and forth a few times and that was that."

He only took seven or eight pictures, now in the Apple archive, but they're fascinating for their difference to the end product we all know.

Conspiracy theories

Most striking is the one of the band walking in the opposite direction (right to left), caught mid-stride in different poses.

It looks all wrong of course, and draws attention to the accidental symmetry - despite Paul being out of step - of the final cover shot with its pattern of four firm inverted V shapes.

In one of the alternative takes Paul McCartney is wearing sandals he kicked off during the shoot.

This matters if you remember how the album cover was taken as evidence for the conspiracy theories that "Paul is Dead."

Barefooted, out of step, the car number plate behind him referring to his age - 28 if he'd lived - the Beatles forming a funeral procession for him.

George was cast as the gravedigger, Ringo the undertaker, and John the priest.

Years later in 1993, the very much alive Paul McCartney would spoof the cover and the rumours for his "Paul is Live" concert album.

A lesser noted curiosity is that the album cover has no writing on it and is just the picture.

That is thanks to John Kosh, who at the time, was creative director at Apple.

"I insisted we didn't need to write the band's name on the cover," he says.

"They were the most famous band in the world after all - EMI said they'd never sell any albums if we didn't say who the band was, but I got my way, and got away with it."

Zebra stripes

And it is hard to think of an album cover that has been so thoroughly repeated.

Dozens of bands have put stripes on their cover, like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but of course the biggest tribute comes from the thousands of fans and tourists who go to leafy north London every year.

If you want to check the crossing now, there's a webcam.

Watch it for a while and you will see scampering fans snatching at a gap in the traffic to recreate the shoot - much to the annoyance of local drivers.

One black taxi cabbie, Ron, who also used to drive a bus down Abbey Road, told the BBC World Service: "I come here all the time and its always been the same - it really does annoy you."

"All they're doing is posing on the crossing. Someone's going to get mown down one of these days there's no doubt about it."

Here's hoping Ron avoids the crossing on Saturday morning when Beatles fans will stage a mass crossing in honour of the photo shoot.

It is not known how many of those fans are injured on the crossing every year.

But the council have to repaint the wall next to the crossing every three months to cover over fans' graffiti.

And the Abbey Road street sign has now been mounted out of reach up a wall, so often has it been defaced or stolen.

If there was a way to steal the stripes off the zebra you can bet Beatle's fans would have taken them too.

Or maybe they haven't thanks to the rumour that the famous crossing you now see isn't actually the original and has been moved for safety reasons.

And who would want to steal the wrong zebra crossing?
Let it be.

07 August 2009

Panda watch

San Diego Zoo's panda Bai Yun (only on loan from China) gave birth to a cub on 5 August 2009.

Footage of the birth taken from the zoo's panda cam and distributed by Associated Press

More from San Diego Zoo. See also San Diego Union-Tribute.

I'm looking forward to the arrival of two pandas on loan to Adelaide Zoo, later this year.

06 August 2009

apparently the 100 greatest sci-fi movies

Total Sci-Fi (online) used to be Dreamwatch magazine. They have published their list of the 100 greatest sci-fi movies.

I have probably seen about 75 per cent of them. Back to the Future (36) and Donnie Darko (71) may have used sci-fi concepts, but I wouldn't really include them in the genre.

05 August 2009

Chook the lyrebird does construction

A couple of years ago on a BBC wildlife series by David Attenborough, there was footage of a lyrebird (in the wild) mimicking sounds of other birds.

At Adelaide Zoo, a lyrebird called Chook has actually picked up construction noise.

According to Adelaide Zoo
Our male, “Chook”, was born in 1979 and has been at Adelaide Zoo since 1991.

During winter lyrebirds sing and dance as part of an elaborate courtship display. About 80% of Chook’s song consists of expert mimicry. Here is list of some of the sounds Chook makes.

Bird sounds
Laughing Kookaburra
Regent honeyeater
Yellow tailed black cockatoo
Flock of rainbow lorikeets
Eastern whipbird
King Parrot
Marpie Lark
Australian Magpie
Noisy Miner
Red Wattlebird
Pied Currawong
Bush Stone-Curlew

Other sounds
Electric drill
“Hello Chook”
Water drops
Truck reversing
Post-mix drink being poured
2 way radio chatter
Awesome, worth visiting Adelaide Zoo to see Chook, and the two new pandas (after they arrive).

I wonder if lyrebirds can recite complete Bach or Mozart pieces.

04 August 2009

5000 neue Wörter

The German diktionary has just akquired another 5000 new words. From Die Welt
Deutsche Sprache
Die wichtigsten neuen Wörter im aktuellen Duden

21. Juli 2009, 11:03 Uhr

Jetzt ist die neue Ausgabe raus: Rund 5000 Wörter hat der Duden in seine aktuelle Ausgabe neu aufgenommen. Darunter befinden sich Wörter wie "Abwrackprämie", "twittern", "Hüftgold" und "fremdschämen". Lesen Sie auf WELT ONLINE das ABC der wichtigsten neuen Duden-Wörter. Auch "Frauenversteher" und "Komasaufen" gehören dazu.

Foto: dpa/DPA
Der neue Duden ist da. Er ist seit dem 21. Juli erhältlich und kostet rund 25 Euro

Gerade ist die neue Ausgabe des Dudens erschienen. Die 25. Auflage enthält nach Angabe des Verlags 135.000 Stichwörter und über 500.000 Beispiele, Bedeutungserklärungen und Angaben zu Worttrennung, Aussprache, Grammatik, Stilebenen und Etymologie. Zu den neu aufgenommenen Wörtern gehören Ausdrücke wie "Abwrackprämie", "fremdschämen", "Hybridauto", "twittern" und "Zwergplanet".

Politisch wird es bei den Begriffen „armutsgefährdet“ oder „Bad Bank“, „Kreditklemme“, „Börsenzocker“, „Integrationsgipfel“ und „Einbürgerungstest“, „Klimakiller“, Gesundheitsfonds“ und „Herdprämie“. Eher unpolitisch ist da der „Frauenversteher“, das „Komasaufen“ und der „Kuschelkurs“, zu dem sich das „fremdschämen“und „urcool“, „Web 2.0“ und „vorglühen“ gesellen.

Dazu bietet das Wörterbuch rund 400 Infokästen mit Regeln und praktischen Beispielen zu Zweifelsfällen. Der neue Sonderteil "Sprache in Zahlen" soll wissenswerte Informationen rund um den deutschen Wortschatz vermitteln.

Die Rechtschreibprüfung für Microsoft Office und Works prüft und korrigiert unter anderem Fehler bei Rechtschreibung, Grammatik, Zeichensetzung und Worttrennung. Dabei korrigiert die Software nicht nur nach der neuen, 25. Auflage des Rechtschreibdudens, sondern enthält diese auch digital zum Nachschlagen direkt aus der Microsoft-Office-Anwendung heraus.

Mit der neuen Auflage steht das Standardwerk der deutschen Rechtschreibung erstmals auch iPhone-Besitzern zur Verfügung. Aktuell erscheint das Werk in zwölf Bänden, mit denen verschiedene Spezialgebiete abgedeckt werden:

Der Duden erscheint im Dudenverlag Mannheim, der unter dieser Bezeichnung verschiedene Spezial- und Fachwörterbücher herausgibt. Die Dudenredaktion beobachtet die Sprachentwicklung und nimmt Wörter, die mit einer gewissen Häufigkeit in den Medien auftauchen, in das Wörterbuch auf.

1872 veröffentlichte Konrad Duden in Leipzig den „Schleizer Duden“. 1876 wurde er Direktor des Königlichen Gymnasiums zu Hersfeld. Hier veröffentlichte er am 7. Juli 1880 sein wichtigstes Werk, an dem er 30 Jahre geschrieben hatte: sein im Bibliographischen Institut erschienenes Vollständiges Orthographisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache.

Die erste Auflage dieses „Duden“ hatte 27.000 Stichwörter. Der Verlag bezeichnet die Ausgabe von 1880, die sich nachfolgend im gesamten Deutschen Kaiserreich als Orthografie-Nachschlagewerk durchsetzte und dessen Schreibweisen ab 1892 in der Schweiz verbindlich wurden, als "Urduden“.

A similar article in English about this was in the UK Daily Telegraph. Out of 135 000 German words, my favourites are still gern, genau und genug. Of the 5000 new words, Das It-Girl was probably the most unnecessary. What was wrong with Das It-Mädchen?

03 August 2009

BBC's Justin Webb signing out of USA

The BBC's North America editor spent eight years in Washington DC. His parting piece Checking out of 'Hotel America' was very interesting. An excerpt

Zest for life

And yet for all the ugliness, the deadening tawdriness of much of the American landscape and the tinny feebleness of many of its politicians - for all that nastiness and shallowness and flakiness - there is no question in my mind that to live here has been the greatest privilege of my life.

The immensity of America, the energy and the zest for life remind me sometimes of India. And as with India, where I spent some time for the BBC many moons ago, America shines a light on the entire human condition.

Few other nations really do. Italy reveals truths about Italians, Afghanistan about Afghans, Fiji about Fijians. But America speaks to the whole of humanity because the whole of humanity is represented here; our possibilities and our propensities.

Often what is revealed is unpleasing; truths that are not attractive or wholesome or hopeful.

On the last day we spent in our home in north-east Washington, they were holding a food-eating competition in a burger bar at the end of our street. The sight was nauseating: acne-ridden youths, several already obese, stuffing meat and buns into their mouths while local television reporters, the women in dinky pastel suits, rushed around getting the best shots.

America can be seen as little more than an eating competition, a giant, gaudy, manic effort to stuff grease and gunge into already sated innards.

You could argue that the sub-prime mortgage crisis - the Ground Zero of the world recession - was caused mainly by greed: a lack of proportion, a lack of proper respect for the natural way of things that persuaded companies to stuff mortgages into the mouths of folks whose credit rating was always likely to induce an eventual spray of vomit.

There is an intellectual ugliness as well: a dark age lurking, even when the president has been to Harvard. The darkness epitomised by the recent death in Wisconsin of a little girl who should still be alive.

Stone-Age superstitions

Eleven-year-old Kara Neumann was suffering from type one diabetes, an auto-immune condition my son was recently diagnosed with.

Her family, for religious reasons, decided not to take her to hospital. They prayed by her bedside and the little girl died.

The night before she died - and she would have been in intense discomfort - her parents called the founder of a religious website and prayed with him on the telephone. But they did not call a doctor.

If Kara had been taken to hospital, even at that late stage, insulin could have saved her. She could have been home in a few days and chirpy by the end of the week, as my son was.

It was an entirely preventable death caused, let's be frank, by some of the Stone Age superstition that stalks the richest and most technologically advanced nation on earth.

I deplore the superstition and the eating competitions and the tatty dreariness of so much of America, and I note that the new president is also unimpressed by the infrastructure and not a fan of fat but, after more than seven years living here, I am increasingly convinced that these elements of the nation are not the flip side of the greatness of America, they are part of that greatness.

There is something about the carelessness of America that gives space for greatness.

The views of outsiders sometimes provides the greatest insights, with an impartial view. How else can people actually understand themselves?

02 August 2009

What it meant - coming from a land downunder

The BBC's Smashed Hits thinks they've worked out what Men at Work's song Down Under is about.

Some songs are just absurd and don't mean anything, like I am the Walrus.

01 August 2009

football - round 18

Collingwood 2.4 4.8 9.14 12.23 (95)
Brisbane Lions 4.1 7.4 7.6 8.7 (55)

Thomas 3, Davis 2, Beams 2, Pendlebury, Didak, Medhurst, Anthony, O’Bree
Brisbane Lions: Brown 5, Sherman, Rischitelli, Merrett

Pendlebury, Davis, Cloke, Swan, Didak, Maxwell, Medhurst
Brisbane Lions: Brown, Clark, McGrath, Black, Sherman

Prestigiacomo (head), Dawes replaced in selected side by Goldsack
Brisbane Lions: Bradshaw (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Roe

Umpires: Vozzo, Grun, Chamberlain

Official crowd: 47,268 at the MCG

I didn't expect my team to win this one, but the first half was very promising. A shame the guys couldn't give Black a win for his 250th game.

Tommy Rockliff (photo by Greg Ford for Slattery Media Group)

Joel Patfull (photo by Andrew White for Slattery Media Group)

Jimmy Hawksley (photo by Greg Ford for Slattery Media Group)

Mitch (photo by Greg Ford for Slattery Media Group)

Blacky (photo by Michael Dodge for Herald Sun)