28 February 2010

Misunderstanding Israel

The UK Daily Telegraph and ITN have reported on the Israeli Ministry of Publicity's latest campaign - asking Israeli citizens to act as ambassadors to correct misconceptions about Israel

One would think that with the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, they would have some notion of the concept of soft power. Of course, Mossad stuff ups don't exactly help.

27 February 2010

New on the weather channel - solar storm reports

I previously wrote about the possible effect of solar flare activity on earth.

Also from from NPR All Things Considered comes a report, again from Jon Hamilton, about the effect of solar storms

Extract of transcript
A massive solar storm could leave millions of people around the world without electricity, running water, or phone service, government officials say.

That was their conclusion after participating in a tabletop exercise that looked at what might happen today if the Earth were struck by a solar storm as intense as the huge storms that occurred in 1921 and 1859.

Solar storms happen when an eruption or explosion on the surface of the sun sends radiation or electrically charged particles toward Earth. Minor storms are common and can light up the Earth's Northern skies and interfere with radio signals.

Every few decades, though, the sun experiences a particularly large storm. These can release as much energy as 1 billion hydrogen bombs.
The exercise was conducted by the Space Weather Prediction Center, part of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (attached to the Department of Commerce). The exercise found that satellites would be disrupted, affecting telecommunications including telephones and banking/credit card transactions. It would also affect the electricity grid, blowing transformers and in turn affecting water pumps and probably sewerage.

Solar flares and storms are related. Flares are regular occurrences while storms are intensive.

It might be time to revive Y2K disaster recovery plans on an ongoing basis.

26 February 2010

Those curling pants

Norway's curling team at the Vancouver Winter Olympics has attracted a lot of media and public attention, not over their performance, but by their attire.

photos from AFP

From MSNBC Today Show

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Even His Majesty King Harald V of Norway has expressed an interest in the pants

They even have a facebook fan page, dedicated to the pants.

Cool pants. I like them.

25 February 2010

headline of the month

From SBS World News online, reporting on the current concert tour in Australia by Whitney Houston
Houston, we have a problem
Even better was their tweet on Twitter
Whitney Houston had fans on their feet during her Sydney performance, but many of them were looking for the exit
Corny but clever.

24 February 2010

Speed kills, even at the speed of light

At a recent meeting of the American Physical Society (not sports, but physics), researchers have suggested that travelling at close to the speed of light would be fatal. Abstract from http://meetings.aps.org/link/BAPS.2010.APR.D13.8
Speed Kills: Highly Relativistic Spaceflight Would be Fatal for People and Instruments
WILLIAM EDELSTEIN, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine,
ARTHUR EDELSTEIN, University of California, San Francisco

Stories, books and movies about space travel often describe journeys at near-light velocities. Such high speed is desirable, as the resulting relativistic time dilation reduces the duration of the trip, at least for the travelers, so that they can cover interstellar distances in a reasonable amount of time (by their own clocks) and live long enough to reach their destination. The relativistic rocket equation shows the enormous difficulty of achieving such velocities. As spaceship velocities approach the speed of light, interstellar hydrogen, although only present on average at a density of about 2 atoms per cm3, impinges on the spacecraft and turns into intense radiation (Purcell, 1963) that would quickly kill passengers and destroy instrumentation. In addition, the energy loss of ionizing radiation passing through the ship's hull represents an increasing heat load which necessitates large expenditures of energy to cool the ship. Preventing this irradiation by the use of material or electromagnetic shields is a daunting and, as far as we know, unsolvable problem. The presence of interstellar hydrogen is yet another formidable obstacle to interstellar travel.
It will be worth reading the entire paper published in Physical Review Letters. When I was a science undergraduate at the Australian National University, I enjoyed reading PRL, particularly the papers on superstring theory.

Near speed of light travel may not be possible, according to Edelstein and Edelstein, but this is based on current technology. In the future, 'dampeners' may be invented to absorb or deflect stray hydrogen atoms.

What about wormholes?

23 February 2010

faux bookcase

I've had fun in the past checking out interesting bookcases. From Anthropologie comes the Stacked Paperback Wallpaper
Out of bookcase space? Fear not - Tracey Kendall's bookish paper fills nooks of your home with towers of titles.

* Adhesive required
* Hand-screenprinted paper
* Roll: 144"L, 18.25"W
* Covers 18 square feet
* Handcrafted in England

style #983285

Many of the titles are also in French (click on the link and magnify the image). I wonder whose collection it was.

22 February 2010


Margot Adler from NPR reported in All Things Considered that she had read 75 vampire novels in the last nine months

... what I started noticing as I read all these novels and looked at all the recent television shows featuring vampires is that their near-immortality isn't the most interesting thing about them. Almost all of these current vampires are struggling to be moral. It's conventional to talk about vampires as sexual, with their hypnotic powers and their intimate penetrations and their blood-drinking and so forth. But most of these modern vampires are not talking as much about sex as they are about power.

Take the CBS show Moonlight, which aired for only one season in 2007-2008. Mick St. John is a private investigator who is also a vampire. In one scene, he's trying to reason with a violent rogue vampire by telling him, "We have rules."

The rogue responds, "There are no rules: I'm top of the food chain."

"This is the central question of so many vampire novels and films, " says Amy Smith, a professor of English at the University of the Pacific. "If you had power over people, how would you use it? 'We can do what we want' vs. 'We were human, how can you treat humans as if they were cattle?' "

People keep going back to these stories because they illustrate a tension that exists in real life, Smith says.

"For example, if you earn more money than someone else, you find that you have more power: How will you use it?"

Smith teaches courses on Jane Austen and the literature of war, as well as a course on vampires in literature. She says the issue of power is both personal and global.

"How do you treat someone you love, for example?" she says. "The core question is always: Does might make right?"

The vampire genre is hardly original and many of the more recent novels were written for teenagers, many of whom would probably find Anne Rice's series difficult to read with all the philosophical musings.

I certainly wouldn't be putting the Twilight series at the top of the list.

In any case, vampires don't need to be kissed. They should be staked. Right through the heart.

21 February 2010

Daddy's gone

I previously wrote about Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan's pit bull Daddy, who was a faithful companion and helped to rehabilitate many canines. Cesar, in his website, late on Saturday night, has advised of Daddy's passing.
In Memoriam: Daddy the Pit Bull

Cesar Millan, all his family and friends, his staff and volunteers, and dog lovers all around the world today will mourn the passing of one of the most loyal, trusting, well-balanced, and influential pit bull ambassadors the world has ever known. Daddy, Cesar’s longtime friend and partner in canine rehabilitation, died peacefully surrounded by family on Friday the 19th of February. He was sixteen years old.

He lived each day of those sixteen years happy and fulfilled as Cesar’s right-hand-“man,” helping to shape the behavior of entire generations of dogs by showing them the way to balance. He stood as champion for calm-submissive pit bulls everywhere, and was instrumental in helping to repair their image as violent, savage, uncontrollable beasts. He successfully battled cancer and weathered chemotherapy, and even got the opportunity to present at the 56th Annual Creative Arts Emmy Awards!

His name is now added to that honorable roster of dogs gone by whose influence is still felt today, and which includes some of Cesar’s beloved childhood heroes: "Rin-Tin-Tin." "Lassie." … "Daddy."

He has been immortalized by Dog Whisperer fans in all mediums, from painting, to photographs, to charcoal drawings and papier-mâché sculpture. And, of course, he lives on in his work, reflected in the balance and calm-submission of his protégé Junior, the countless animals to whom he was a positive role model, and in the hearts and minds of everyone who knew him as a calm, sweet, and mellow example of a widely misunderstood breed.

In Loving Memory.

If you would like to honor Daddy’s memory and the contribution he made to improve the lives of other animals, you can make a donation to Daddy’s Emergency Animal Rescue Fund, which will provide assistance for dogs who are victims of abuse or violence, man-made disasters (hoarder and puppy mill rescues), and large-scale natural disasters (hurricanes, fires, and other natural catastrophes).

I enjoyed watching Daddy on Dog Whisperer. He seemed to be the most calm dog for a breed perceived and misunderstood as aggressive. After Kane died, I couldn't watch the show anymore as it was too painful. Daddy reminded me of Kane and vice versa.

My heart goes out to the Millan family.

You can leave a message of support to Cesar Millan on his website.

20 February 2010

Vancouver Winter Olympics - Frenchgate

The opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics has sparked a national debate over the use of the French language amongst Canadians, with claims that there was not enough or that there was too much. Werner Patels was embarrassed and wrote in his blog

Turn to any news channel or open any newspaper, and one topic you’ll likely find discussed just about everywhere in Canada right now is the perceived slight of the French language at the Olympic Games in Vancouver. At the same time, letters pages in (Albertan and Western Canadian) newspapers are filling up with irate comments about how the “French should go home and shut up”.

I first became aware that there was an issue on the night of the opening ceremony, when my Twitter page started being inundated with angry comments about the use, not lack, of the French language. I decided then not to reply to or comment on any of them, because, frankly, they made me feel embarrassed and ashamed. Albertans tend to have a bad reputation in the rest of the country, and the last thing we need is to be known as French bashers (particularly in a province where, like in the rest of the country, the rate of functional illiteracy – in just one language! – now borders on fifty per cent).

Those who criticized the use of French at the Olympics proved only one thing: that they’re utterly uneducated and uninformed about what goes on in the world. The Olympics organization is an international organization, and its first and primary official language is French. Naturally, any official Olympics business is conducted in French first, and English second. So, when, for example, Canada’s Governor-General Michaëlle Jean spoke in French first and then switched to English, she merely adhered to the practices of the international organization. Now, though, many Canadians (in the West) appear to be calling for her head to roll over this “affront”.

Read more

The editors at La Presse (a daily published in Montreal) are not happy. I agree with them. In fact, I would go as far as suggesting that instead of the usual practice of alternating between French and English, they should have mangled it into Franglais.

Who said sport and politics don't mix?

19 February 2010

High level, low level, unofficial official meeting...

Statement issued by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
The President met this morning at the White House with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. The President stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China. The President commended the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” approach, his commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government. The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks. The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China.
One official photograph of the event was publicly released, which is why all media reports are using the same picture.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

The meeting was held in the Map Room, not the Oval Office, to play down the status of the meeting. There was no official welcome (or fanfare) and no media witnesses to the 'private' 70 minute meeting.

As expected, Beijing responded sternly. Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, summoned Jon Huntsman, the US Ambassador to China, and “lodged solemn representations”. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu issued a very strongly worded statement about US President Obama's Meeting with the Dalai Lama
On February 18, 2010 (EST), the US side bent on arranging the meeting between President Obama and Dalai in the Map Room of the White House in disregard of the repeated solemn representations from the Chinese side. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also met with Dalai on the same day. The action of the US side has seriously interfered in China's internal affairs, seriously hurt the national feelings of the Chinese people, and seriously undermined China-US relations. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai has summoned the US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman for solemn representations.

Tibet is an inseparable part of the sacred Chinese territory and Tibet-related issues are purely China's internal affairs. China is firmly opposed to any meeting with Dalai by leaders or government officials of any country in whatever form. China is also resolutely opposed to the interference in China's internal affairs by any country or person under the pretext of Dalai-related issues. The words and deeds of Dalai in the past several decades have shown that he is not purely a religious figure, but a political exile engaged in long-term anti-China splittist activities under the disguise of religion. The approval of Dalai's visit to the US and the arrangement of meetings with the US leader and other government officials have severely violated the basic norms governing international relations, undermined the principles enshrined in the three China-US Joint Communiqués and China-US Joint Statement, and gone against the commitment of the US Government on different occasions that Tibet is a part of China and the US does not support "Tibet Independence". China hereby expresses its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition.

The Chinese Government and people stand steadfast in their resolve to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Any attempt from any person to interfere in China's internal affairs under the Dalai issue is doomed to failure. China requests the US side to take China's position seriously, take prompt and effective measures to remove the malign impact, stop the connivance and support of the anti-China splittist forces for "Tibet Independence", and stop the interference in China's internal affairs by taking concrete actions to maintain the healthy and stable development of China-US relations.
Beijing should perhaps take some comfort in the fact that this visit was very much a low key affair compared to the last time.

President George W. Bush, joined by U.S. Senator Robert Byrd and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, presents the Congressional Gold Medal to The Dalai Lama at a ceremony Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
(photo by Chris Greenberg, then employed at the White House)

So the diplomatic dance begins again.

Here is a good analysis from PBS Newshour

18 February 2010

faux pinot noir

There has been a wine substitution scandal of massive proportions. Apparently between 2005 and 2008, the Aude department of Languedoc (in the south of France), exported 160 million bottles of pinot noir per year when it only produced 67 million bottles per year. Most of the exports were to the United States. AFP has reported that merlot and syrah were substituted for pinot noir.
La répression des fraudes avait découvert la tromperie en mars 2008 lors d'un contrôle à la société Ducasse à Carcassonne. La fraude consistait à vendre au négociant américain Gallo du merlot et du syrah pour du pinot, presque deux fois plus cher. Des viticulteurs et des négociants du Languedoc Roussillon ont donc été épinglés, mais l'image de marque des vins de la région devrait en pâtir.
What is actually shocking is that American consumers mistook the taste of syrah and merlot for pinot noir. Only real wine connoisseurs actually drink pinot noir, so we do not need to feel sympathetic to those who purchased the mislabelled wine and did not even notice the difference.

The real stuff would have been wasted on them anyway.

17 February 2010

Tiny Desk Concerts

NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts feature renowned musicians from around the world, performing live, usually next to the desk of Bob Boilen, host of All Songs Considered.

I particularly enjoyed the 21 December broadcast (around 17 minutes long), which featured the Australian Chamber Orchestra (not all of them)

Ravel: String Quartet (1st movement)
Ravel (arr: Tognetti): Kaddisch
Tawadros: Oasis

Tawadros' Oasis is worth checking out.

You can also subscribe to the regular podcast via iTunes.

16 February 2010

Happy Fat Tuesday

Also known as Shrove Tuesday in English-speaking countries and even Pancake Day, it is traditionally a day of feasting before Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the fasting season of Lent.

In Germany, the celebration is known as Karneval, Fastnacht or Fasching, depending on the region.

In France, it is called Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). In Australia, Mardi Gras has a completely different meaning, devoid of the original Christian religious reason, but then so are celebrations in New Orleans.

Happy Fat Tuesday.

15 February 2010

football - preseason NAB cup round 1

Finally, the footy is back and it was in town too, on yesterday afternoon! Some terrible umpiring decisions cost my team the game, although the third quarter was dismal. It rained all morning and early afternoon, finally clearing just before the game. The oval surface was really wet.

Western Bulldogs 0.0.4 0.1.8 0.4.14 1.5.14 (53)
Brisbane Lions
1.1.3 1.3.6 1.3.6 1.5.6 (45)

Nine pointers:
Western Bulldogs: R Griffen. Brisbane: J Sherman.
Goals: Western Bulldogs: A Everitt 2 A Cooney J Roughead L Jones.
Brisbane Lions:
J Sherman 2 B Fevola J Brennan J O'Brien.

Best: Western Bulldogs: A Cooney D Giansiracusa M Hahn L Gilbee B Moles. Brisbane Lions: J Sherman T Rockcliffe A Buchanan T Johnstone J Redden C Stiller.

There were a lot of new faces/numbers following a busy period of trading and delisting at the end of last season. Hence there were some pleasant surprises.

photos by me

Charmo in the ruck contest - some nice tap work from him

walking off the ground after the third quarter

preparing for play

Toddy with the ball

13 February 2010

We are the world

We are the world 25 for Haiti - 2010

We are the world - USA for Africa 1985

And unbeknownst to most, there was a remake of Do they know it's Christmas

Do they know it's Christmas - Band Aid 20 - 2004

Do they know it's Christmas - Band Aid/Live Aid 1984

12 February 2010

Colton drops in

I wrote about "Barefoot Bandit" Colton Harris-Moore in late December 2009. It seems he has struck again. Reported by Islands' Sounder, excerpt

An airplane theft and a break-in at an Eastsound business could be linked to alleged serial burglar Colton Harris-Moore, authorities say.

On the morning of Feb. 11, an airplane taken from Skagit County was found abandoned at the Eastsound airport, and employees at Homegrown Market and Deli walked into a nightmare: the store was broken into, vandalized, and sustained damage to internal security systems.

“He took everything in the dessert cabinet. He took a whole tray of raw croissants with meat. I guess he has an oven to use,” said Homegrown accounts manager Sherri Pearson. “He discovered our monitor for our security system, broke that open and was trying to take out the parts. He put the monitor in the sink and ran water over it; (owner) Kyle found the water running in the morning.”

Large footprint outlines were drawn all over the floor of the store; each one is around three feet long. A parting message of “Cya!” was left by the front door.

photo by Meredith Griffith, Islands' Sounder

Read more

Associated Press video

See also
- Seattle Weekly
- Everett Herald
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- Outside magazine - 'Bob Friel's 'The Ballad of Colton Harris-Moore'
- Bob Friel's blog Outlaws & Outcasts (apparently, read by C H-M)

Colton Harris-Moore's facebook fan club now has nearly 18 000 members.

Naughty Colton is closer to being caught.

11 February 2010

9 Hours - capsule hotel

From Monocle magazine (one of my all time favourite monthly reads) comes a report about a new innovation in the capsule hotel called 9 Hours, located in Kyoto.

The 9 Hours - Capsule Hotel from tier1dc on Vimeo.

See also - designboom

Capsule hotels challenge the concept of space, our use of space and how much we need and use.

Not for the claustrophobic.

10 February 2010


Recent heavy snowfalls in Washington DC have been dubbed 'snowmaggedon' by residents including President Obama.

It does make a nice postcard picture though.

From the White House's Flickr stream. Thanks to Miles Fisher for the tweet.

09 February 2010

astro tweets

Wow, Buzz Aldrin is on Twitter twitter.com/TheRealBuzz

A few NASA (and non-NASA) astronauts are also on Twitter and have been tweeting from the International Space Station (ISS). According to the website, currently at ISS are astronauts

Jeff Williams (Twitter - Astro_Jeff)
Maxim Suraev
Oleg Kotov
T.J. Creamer (Astro_TJ)
Soichi Noguchi (Astro_Soichi)

It seems that Jose Hernandez (Astro_Jose) has also been tweeting from space.

I've been following most of them for the past few weeks and Soichi's twitpics (photos) from space over the past two weeks have been amazing.

Sydney, Australia (two hours ago)

Thanks to Claire O'Neill at NPR for the prompt.

08 February 2010

The roo stays

From ABC News by Lisa Millar and staff

The giant boxing kangaroo flag will continue to fly in the athletes' village in Vancouver after Australian Olympic bosses reached an agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The flag hangs over two storeys of the apartment block where the Australians are staying.

The IOC wanted it removed but Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates says he has reached a compromise and it can now stay in place for the duration of the Winter Olympic Games.

"But we will need to register the boxing kangaroo with the IOC as the third identification we have," he said.

Australian athletes have welcomed the decision.

Australian gold medallist Anna Meares says the boxing kangaroo flag is an iconic symbol that has become a team mascot at Olympic Games.

"It's something that really is held dearly to all Australians," she said.

"It's great to see that it can stay."

While it is already an Australian Olympic trademark, the boxing kangaroo will now be registered with the IOC along with Australia's national flag and the coat of arms.

The IOC initially asked the Australian team to take down the banner because it was deemed too commercial.

Calls to ban the boxing kangaroo flag was branded as scandalous, ridiculous and infantile.

The boxing kangaroo became Australia's sporting symbol in 1983 when it was used in the successful America's Cup.

John Longley was part of the crew.

"It was an image that we created, to be a symbol for what we stood for, which was the red gloves," he said.

"It used to have a red eye and the puffed up chest and so forth. It was aggressive - we're taking the world on."

The AOC has since bought the trademark and now the boxing kangaroo is seen among crowds at Olympic and Commonwealth Games and other major sporting events.

(photo by AFP: Mark Raltson via ABC)

Duh! Australia's Olympic mascot. And a very iconic one at that. Hard to believe that the IOC deemed it 'too commercial'. Hello, the Olympic movement was commercialised years ago.

07 February 2010

The most interesting thing about Scott Fujita

Scott Fujita (#55) is a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints, which is lining up against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

The most interesting thing about Fujita is his background.

By David Fleming in ESPN magazine
Given up by his birth mother when he was 6 weeks old, Scott was adopted by Helen and Rod Fujita and raised in Camarillo, Calif. Helen, a retired secretary, is white. Rod, a retired high school teacher and coach, is a third generation Japanese-American. He was born inside an Arizona internment camp during World War II.

Many adopted kids grapple to come to terms with who they are and where they came from, especially those raised by parents who don't look like them. But Fujita says he doesn't struggle with his identity, never has. First as a child and now as a football player, his path to success has always been about the same thing: defining for himself who he is. "That's the connection point for Scott," Lillie says. "You choose to be what you are. It's not your location, your obstacles or your skin. You. You choose. He learned that from his family."

Not that he wasn't tested. When his parents took him and older brother, Jason, who was also adopted, to stores, they got the occasional odd looks. Sometimes Scott had to show his ID to substitute teachers who didn't believe that his last name belonged to him. And he ate so much rice with chopsticks that he was 8 before he knew what to do with a baked potato. But he shrugged off most of it, confident in thinking of himself as half Japanese at heart. To his dad, it was even simpler: "American, Japanese. To me he's always just been my son."

Every Jan. 1, the Fujitas celebrated Shogatsu, Japanese New Year's. Every May 5, Rod would raise a koi flag on a bamboo pole in the backyard in honor of the Japanese national holiday of Kodomo-no-hi (Children's Day). But because Rod had become, as he says, "Americanized," most of Scott's knowledge of Japanese culture came from Lillie and Nagao, Scott's grandfather.

See also
- New York Times, 2010 February 2
- Huffington Post, 2009 October 6

Most people are naturally curious about other people's names, particularly if they don't look the part. There are always stories that challenge assumptions.

Given that migration from other places go back many generations, it shouldn't be surprising what anybody looks like. In Australia, Josh Quong Tart is a young actor in a television soap, descended from Mei Quong Tart - for people who don't know the history of Sydney, he is probably forever explaining his name.

With the United States 2010 Census coming up on 1 April, it would be interesting how Scott would respond to the question (9) about race. Ultimately it shouldn't matter, but the question needs to be asked in order to measure the level of discrimination in the provision of services, in employment and housing etc.

As for the Super Bowl, Go Saints!

06 February 2010

WARNING! Pictures are offensive.

Not really.

Reported by Fox News (Kansas City), some groups such as the American Family Association's spin off One Million Moms and the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families are outraged over a window shop display by Armani Exchange - A|X, claiming that this is offensive.

Not surprisingly, Fox News pandered to the extremist conservative moral minority by reporting this non-issue. Thankfully, other members of the public interviewed by Fox News did not agree with the extreme views.

Here is the so called 'offensive' display

From One Million Moms
OMM typically focuses on issues that air on television, but there is one other issue we cannot ignore any longer: fashion designers using scantily dressed models in advertisements who have recently put their focus on threesomes or same-s*x couples. This is not okay!

Malls, where teens hang out, have retailers whose window displays poison our children with 10-foot posters that are nothing but soft p*rn. In particular, Armani Exchange has recently displayed Valentine's posters with partially dressed "couples" holding one another. These couples consist of two men, a man and woman, and two women. The women are scantily dressed while it is questionable if the men have any clothes on at all. Two of these models are used a couple of times to represent bis*xuals. If it could get any worse the text written is "SHARE THE LOVE." (An asterisk '*' is used to ensure our emails get through to those who have signed up for our alerts. Otherwise specific words referenced would be blocked by some Internet filters.)

Not every local mall has an Armani Exchange, but we need to take a stand since A|X is one of the fashion leaders and this is becoming a popular trend. You may view these on their website at www.armaniexchange.com. WARNING! Pictures are offensive.
Seriously, there is nothing offensive about people showing affection or love. There is also nothing offensive about being shirtless.

Perhaps these easily outraged people may wish to consider whether it would be more appropriate for them to live in Saudi Arabia or other countries where there exists a morality police.

05 February 2010

Misunderstanding the Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is a German word that translates to mean 'spirit of the times' and conveys a sense of mood of a period in time through collective public consciousness, particularly through cultural, intellectual, political, ethical, spiritual and sociological interests.

Unfortunately, the word is often misunderstood and used as a convenience in denoting media interests.

The Guardian recently launched their Zeitgeist as a visual record of what online readers currently find interesting on guardian.co.uk at the moment.

Not exactly a Zeitgeist, but a graphical representation of popular articles in the online edition of The Guardian. Why not just label it popular articles? Ironically, in introducing that new part of the website, The Guardian blogged with the headline 'What's hot? Introducing Zeitgeist' - so why not call it 'What's hot?'. Pretentious and a gross misuse of a wonderful word. The Guardian definitely does not understand the Zeitgeist.

Der Spiegel, being a German news magazine, understands what it means and has a separate Zeitgeist section in its online English language edition in which editors include a mix of articles. Of course, its German language edition doesn't need a separate Zeitgeist section because the Zeitgeist is evident in its various sections.

Google uses the word Zeitgeist at the end of every year to list the most popular search terms of that year as an indicator or list that reflected interests for that year. A better use of the term, but probably more appropriate to label those lists as an annual aggregated list of 'popular search terms'. However, they are an indicator of the Zeitgeist, but not the Zeitgeist.

Twitter lists the most popular topics of tweeting (comments in 140 characters or less) in real time under the heading 'Trending: Worldwide' (or various other locations). It should be possible for Twitter to aggregate this at the end of each year. Twitter's trending topics would be an even closer indicator of the Zeitgeist, but given the word limitations of the platform, would only be superficial.

The real people who understand the Zeitgeist are actually in a position to influence it. And of course, certain bloggers.

04 February 2010

What you didn't know about Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock was awarded a BAMBI media award in 2000 and accepted her award in Berlin, speaking in German.

Sandra Bullock's mother, Helga Meyer, was a German opera singer and though Sandra was born in Arlington VA, she lived in Germany for much of her childhood until aged 12.

Much of American films and television shows are dubbed in German rather than subtitled. I wonder if Sandra dubbed her own lines from English to German.

03 February 2010


John McCallum, creator of that iconic television show Skippy has died (ABC News). Skippy was fun to watch but it brainwashed generations of children into over-estimating the intelligence of kangaroos and wallabies.

Skippy probably delayed acceptance of kangaroo as food, despite being hunted by indigenous Australians for many millenia. There were around 25 million kangaroos a few years ago, which are possibly increasing to 60 million depending on rainfall in different habitats.

Kangaroo meat is very very lean and rich in iron but best not overcooked. Unfortunately, it smells very strong and gamey when being cooked, so best to barbecue outdoors.

02 February 2010

New on the weather channel - solar flare reports

A fascinating report from NPR All Things Considered by Jon Hamilton on the effect of solar flares on earth activities. Excerpt

When the weather in space is bad, you don't want to be in a plane taking a polar route, says Bill Murtagh of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo.

"The air traffic controller could be talking to the pilot one minute and really, literally within a minute or so, that signal can go from quite clear to scratchy noise," Murtagh says.

Radio interference is just one problem caused by space weather. A burst of energy from a solar flare can knock out GPS navigation systems, Murtagh says. A radiation storm could expose people on a polar flight to the equivalent of a dozen chest X-rays.

Despite the risks, airlines have pursued polar flights aggressively because they let planes fly the shortest path between North America and Asia, or Argentina and New Zealand.

"You're shaving off a couple of hours of flight time, which everyone appreciates," Murtagh says. Passengers reach their destinations sooner and the airlines can save thousands of gallons of fuel.

The sun's coronal loops, seen here, are often precursors to solar flares. Such flares emit strong electromagnetic energy, disrupting radio contact and GPS systems in airplanes flying near Earth's poles. (NASA photo)

Thank goodness for SOHO, the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (a project of international collaboration between ESA and NASA to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind).

Hopefully they will be able to warn when our sun expands into a red giant. In five billion years.

01 February 2010

Got milk?

This is where milk come from for consumers in the New York area

From Mercy for Animals

Far from leading the carefree lives portrayed in the dairy industry's "happy cow" commercials, the vast majority of cows used for dairy production today lead lives of deprivation, confinement, painful mutilations and cruel handling. These curious and intelligent animals are denied access to open pasture and treated as mere milk-producing machines - forced to live on manure-coated concrete floors in overcrowded sheds.

A new Mercy For Animals investigation is pulling back the curtains on the largest dairy factory farm in New York State – Willet Dairy in Locke. In early 2009 an MFA undercover investigator worked at the mega-dairy, secretly documenting egregious acts of animal cruelty, including neglect, with a hidden camera.

Evidence gathered during the investigation reveals:

  • Cows with bloody open wounds, prolapsed uteruses, pus-filled infections, and swollen joints, apparently left to suffer without veterinary care
  • "Downed" cows – those too sick or injured to even stand – left to suffer for weeks before dying or being killed
  • Workers hitting, kicking, punching, and electric-shocking cows and calves
  • Calves having their horns burned off without painkillers, as a worker shoved his fingers into the calves' eyes to restrain them
  • Calves having their tails cut off - a painful practice opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association
  • Newborn calves forcibly dragged away from their mothers by their legs, causing emotional distress to both mother and calf
  • Cows living in overcrowded sheds on manure-coated concrete flooring
  • Workers injecting cows with a controversial bovine growth hormone, used to increase milk production

In a joint statement, internationally renowned experts, including Dr. Bernard Rollin, an expert witness on animal welfare issues in the U.S. and abroad, and Dr. Temple Grandin, a world-renowned cattle welfare expert and advisor to the USDA, compared the conditions documented at Willet to the infamous Hallmark slaughterhouse, where undercover video exposing abuse of downed cows resulted in the largest beef recall in US history. They state, "This dairy presents at least as bad a picture of the industry as does Hallmark."

New York veterinarian, Dr. Holly Cheever, bluntly stated, "[I]t is my professional opinion that the environment that this dairy provides as well as its cattle-handling techniques are improper, unhygienic, dangerous, and inhumane."

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the dairy operation repeatedly violated New York's animal cruelty laws, which was meticulously compiled by Mercy For Animals and presented to the Cayuga County District Attorney, the law enforcement agency refuses to uphold the state's laws to protect animals - allowing abuse to continue at Willet, unchecked.

Sadly, the inhumane conditions uncovered at this factory farm are not isolated. Whether raised for meat, dairy or eggs, animals used in food production are frequently subjected to appalling confinement, mutilations, brutal handling and slaughter. Because agribusiness values profit over ethical principles, cruelty to animals continues to run rampant on factory farms.

See also report by (US) ABCNews Nightline.

It seems greater efficiencies and increased production at lower costs have been at a huge expense to the animals concerned. Mechanised farming seems to have ceased recognising animals as living creatures with physical and psychological needs and who feel pain.

Human beings don't actually own other living beings. We are merely their custodians providing for their care and welfare. They may give their lives to us for our sustenance. Surely we must show them respect. Losing sight of this denies us our humanity.