29 April 2010

Marmite might 2

I've previously written about both Marmite and Vegemite, noting that Marmite is a passable substitute for Vegemite for Australian travellers to the UK. Both products made of yeast extract, the by-product of brewing beer, I was pleasantly surprised to read a recent article by Michele Kayal for NPR, an American defending Marmite. Excerpt
... Its stench stings your nose. I call it glossy, but I'll give you slimy. To me, it's pure umami. To you, it's like sucking on a bouillon cube. Plus, it looks like sludge. In fact, it is a kind of sludge.
In the article, Kayal writes about visiting the Marmite factory and observing how it is made. She was also excited about the new Marmite XO, a stronger and more pungent version.

I want to get some.

28 April 2010

Another Banksy destroyed

This blog has followed the travels and travails of the artist Banksy for over two years.

It seems that another significant Banksy work has been destroyed by over-zealous cleaners contracted by the city council of Melbourne. Reported in The Age,

MELBOURNE City Council sent the cleaners into Hosier Lane on Thursday to tidy up the rat-infested garbage, but they caught the wrong rat.

A request by deputy lord mayor Susan Riley to clean up the laneway, world famous for its colourful street art, inadvertently resulted in the painting over of a stencil of a rat by the celebrated British graffiti artist Banksy.

''I went down there on Thursday and saw the cleaners and said: 'You realise you have just painted over a Banksy?','' Hosier Lane resident Kerry Butcher told The Age yesterday. ''And they said: 'We are just doing what we're told'.''

Read more.

A picture of the work, a parachuting rat, can be seen here.

Nevermind, it was just paint over stencil. Banksy can always recreate it.

27 April 2010

grand theft octo

A San Franciscan now living in New Zealand was had his video camera stolen by an octopus whilst diving. See YouTube clip by Victor Huang
April 15, 2010while trying to get video of a wild octopus, it suddenly dashed towards me and rips my shiny new camera from out of my hands, then swims off, all while the camera is recording! he swam away very quickly like a naughty shoplifter. after a 5 minute chase, I placed my speargun underneath him and he quickly and curiously grabbed hold of the gun as well, giving me enough time to reach in and grab the camera from out of his mouth. I didn't feel threatened at all during the whole ordeal. he seemed to be fixated on the shiny metallic blue digital camera. the only confusing behavior was how he dashed off with it like a thief haha. cheeky octopus.
See also reporting by CBS News

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The octopus is lucky it doesn't live in the coastal waters of Greece. It would have ended up as dinner.

26 April 2010

Bank of North Dakota

The Bank of North Dakota is unique in the United States in that it is the only commercial bank that is in public ownership, that is by the taxpayers of North Dakota. Profits (about half) go towards the state budget and not into the hands of private shareholders. Indeed, it could be said that each and every North Dakota taxpayer is a shareholder.

Strange then, that Newsweek, in an article about the bank chose to title it 'Socialism thrives in North Dakota'.

Socialism appears to be a dirty word in the United States, particularly amongst tea partiers.

Oddly, and I've mentioned this before, state-provided education is not called socialised education, Amtrak is not called socialised rail transport, and subsidised agriculture is not considered to be socialised agriculture.

In fact, US federal and state governments own many of their own buildings, when they could lease from the private property sector. Surely this is socialised real estate.

There needs to be a serious think about the role of government and what can be provided or owned by the private sector. It is unfair to pick and choose which bits of public ownership or provision to call socialist.

25 April 2010

random optical illusions

I quite like optical illusions. A lot of times, I can't see the effect. These ones I can.

24 April 2010

football - round 5

MELBOURNE: 4.2, 9.6, 12.7, 15.13 (103)
BRISBANE LIONS: 2.3, 3.6, 7.9, 7.11 (53)

GOALS: Melbourne: Petterd 2, Trengove 2, Sylvia 2, Davey 2, Jamar, Green, McKenzie, Jones, Bate, McDonald, Scully
Brisbane Lions: Fevola 4, Brown, Clark, Drummond

BEST: Melbourne: Trengove, Sylvia, Bate, McDonald, Moloney, Davey
Brisbane Lions: Black, Johnstone, Rischitelli, Leuenberger, Staker

INJURIES: Brisbane Lions: Merrett (hamstring)
CHANGES: Rohan Bail (quad) replaced in Melbourne's selected side by Stefan Martin; Justin Sherman (corked thigh) replaced in Brisbane's selected side by Albert Proud
UMPIRES: Kennedy, Wenn, Jennings
CROWD: 36,396 at the MCG

Thoroughly thrashed tonight.

Pictures via Getty Images (hover mouse over for descriptions)

AFL Rd 5 - Demons v Lions

AFL Rd 5 - Demons v Lions

AFL Rd 5 - Demons v Lions

AFL Rd 5 - Demons v Lions

AFL Rd 5 - Demons v Lions

AFL Rd 5 - Demons v Lions

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 24: Joel Patfull of the Lions looks for a teammate during the round five AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Brisbane Lions at Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 24, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Eyjafjallajökull meets aurora borealis

From Reuters

The Northern Lights are seen above the ash plume of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in the evening

The Northern Lights are seen above the ash plume of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano

The Northern Lights are seen above the ash plume of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in the evening

Eyjafjallajökull... the song

After listening to this song, everybody should be able to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull correctly. From Al Jazeera
Eyjafjallajökull - pronounced ay-uh-fyat-luh-yoe-kuutl-ul - is the name of the Icelandic volcano that threw up plumes of ash clouds causing airspaces across Europe to close down. Eliza Geirsdottir Newman, an Icelandic musician, sang an exclusive song to Al Jazeera to help clarify the word's correct pronunciation. The video includes a bouncing ball to help karaoke singers pronounce the volcano's name.

23 April 2010

Solar magnificence

I've previously written about the effect of solar flare activity on earth.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was launched on 11 February 2010 to study the sun.

NASA recently released stunning images of the sun.
Some of the images from the spacecraft show never-before-seen detail of material streaming outward and away from sunspots. Others show extreme close-ups of activity on the sun’s surface. The spacecraft also has made the first high-resolution measurements of solar flares in a broad range of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths.

"These initial images show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more than 40 years of solar research,” said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "SDO will change our understanding of the sun and its processes, which affect our lives and society. This mission will have a huge impact on science, similar to the impact of the Hubble Space Telescope on modern astrophysics.”
NASA also released footage of solar flares in action.
This compilation of video shows some of the first imagery and data sent back from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Most of the imagery comes from SDO's AIA instrument, and different colors are used to represent different temperatures, a common technique for observing solar features. SDO sees the entire disk of the Sun in extremely high spacial and temporal resolution and this allows scientists to zoom in on notable events like flares, waves, and sunspots

Just in time for 21 December 2012.

22 April 2010

Eyjafjallajökull could be worse

According to an Australian scientist, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption is not as 'big' as Mount Pinatubo (1991). From ABC (Australia)

In fact, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (which means 'island mountain glacier') is small compared to other recent eruptions such as Pinatubo and Mount St Helens, says Professor Ray Cas from Melbourne's Monash University.

Scientists use a scale called the Volcanic Explosivity Index or VEI to provide a relative measurement of the explosiveness of a volcanic eruption. The largest eruptions to date have a VEI of 8.

At 7 on the VEI scale, the eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia in 1815 is "probably the largest historic eruption that we know of," says Cas.

Mount Pinatubo, on the Philippine island of Luzon erupted in 1991, killing hundreds. Considered to be the second largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century it had a VEI of 6 — that's the equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT, or about 13 thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in Japan.

Pinatubo was the same size as the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa in the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra. That eruption culminated in a series of massive explosions and tsunamis, which destroyed most of the island leaving a giant caldera and killed at least 36,417 people.

"People often talk about Krakatoa. The eruption blast was so loud it was heard thousands of kilometres away in central Australia and is said to be the loudest noise ever heard by humans," says Cas.

In 1980, Mount St Helens in the US state of Washington erupted sending a column of gas and ash over 24 kilometres into the air, melted glaciers creating volcanic mudslides (lahar) and gouged a crater in the left side of the peak. The eruption rated 4 on the VEI scale.

Rated a 2 on the VEI scale, Eyjafjallajokull's eruption caused glacial flooding and created a 10 kilometre-high column of ash that shut down air travel over Europe. But, unlike the Pinatubo, Krakatoa or Mt St Helens eruptions, it is not expected to have any effect on global temperatures.

One of the biggest concerns surrounding Eyjafjallajokull is the fear that it could spark its much larger neighbour, Mount Katla, to erupt.

Cas says the two could share the same magma source and the subsurface plumbing between the pair may be connected.

"There's some history that when one erupts the other also erupts for a short time. But as I understand it there's no signs of activity under Katla at the moment."

An eruption by Katla could be far more explosive than Eyjafjallajokull. Past history has seen eruptions from Katla with an VEI of 4 or 5.

There should also be economic impact assessments made as a basis of comparison.

21 April 2010

headline of the month

From The Age
'Desperate to get home': Melbourne trio's $4000 ash dash a rash cash splash
Almost onomatopoeic.

20 April 2010

The earth moves in mysterious ways

The Los Angeles Times reported that southern California has been experiencing increased seismic activity this year
Southern California, along with Baja California, has seen a surge in moderate earthquake activity this year and scientists are trying to figure out what's causing the uptick.

There have been 70 quakes greater than a magnitude 4.0 so far this year. That's the most of any year in the last decade -- and, it's only April. There were 30 in 2009 and 29 in 2008.

Seismologists say they are looking into the recent surge but they can not yet fully explain it.
Meanwhile, AP has reported that an Iranian cleric is blaming women who dress immodestly and engage in promiscuity for the cause of earthquakes

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader.

Women in the Islamic Republic are required by law to cover from head to toe, but many, especially the young, ignore some of the more strict codes and wear tight coats and scarves pulled back that show much of the hair.

"What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?" Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon Friday. "There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes."

Now, neither of those two news reports are related.

Perhaps a plausible explanation is geological faults and in many cases, due to tectonic plate movement.

19 April 2010


According to the New York Times, Eyjafjallajökull is pronounced


The “EY” rhymes with the word “bay.” The “k” is softer than an English “k,” almost like a hard “g.” And the “t” at the end kind of sticks for a second and pulls away with a hint of a glottal “l.”


Say it soft and it’s almost like, “Hey, ya fergot La Yogurt.”

“The first problem for Americans is, you see this long word and don’t know where to begin, “ said Joan Maling, a professor emerita of linguistics at Brandeis University. “You don’t know how to divide it up.”

It’s simple. “Eyja” is the Icelandic word for island. “Fjalla” means mountain. “Jokull” is glacier.

But it seems even the NYT may be incorrect. From YouTube - you're doing it wrong

18 April 2010

Proofreading is more than just a spellcheck

Reported in The Age, publisher Penguin Books Australia has had to pulp 7000 copies of the cook book Pasta Bible at a cost of $20,000.
The publishing company was forced to pulp and reprint 7000 copies of Pasta Bible last week after a recipe called for "salt and freshly ground black people" — instead of pepper — to be added to the spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto.
A lesson on proofreading. Surely it would have been cheaper to print an adhesive label to put over the error and less wasteful.

17 April 2010

football - round 4

Brisbane Lions 2.5 4.11 10.18 13.23 (101)
Western Bulldogs 2.4 9.5 11.6 12.7 (79)

Brisbane Lions:
Fevola 4 Banfield 2, Brown 2, Proud, Johnstone, Drummond, Brennan, Sherman
Western Bulldogs: Hall 4, Giansiracusa 3, Addison 2, Boyd, Hill, Higgins

Brisbane Lions:
Brennan, Power, Rischitelli, Proud, Fevola, Drummond, Johnstone.
Western Bulldogs: Hudson, Griffen, Higgins, Lake, Hall, Addison, Cross.

Stevic, Meredith, Findlay
Official crowd: 33,323 at the Gabba

After the second quarter (half time), with the Bulldogs in front I thought they would steam roll the rest of the game, coming into the game as favourites. In the end it was a good win, though the score would have been even better had some of the kicking been more accurate.

Pictures via Getty Images (hover mouse over for descriptions)

AFL Rd 4 - Lions v Bulldogs

AFL Rd 4 - Lions v Bulldogs

AFL Rd 4 - Lions v Bulldogs

AFL Rd 4 - Lions v Bulldogs

AFL Rd 4 - Lions v Bulldogs

AFL Rd 4 - Lions v Bulldogs

15 April 2010

Over Here, Over There

National Public Radio (NPR) is a semi-independent, privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organisation that serves as a national syndicator to public radio stations in the United States. NPR programming is considered to be 'over here' and 'high brow' culturally. In other words, sophisticated.

Imagine the shock listeners must have felt when NPR featured Justin Bieber. Furthermore NPR felt the need to justify this choice (blogged by Linda Holmes)

It was not difficult to predict that there would be a lot of horror about the idea of discussing Justin Bieber. Justin Bieber is perhaps this cultural moment's greatest embodiment of the idea that some things are Over Here, and other things are Over There, and I only like things that are Over Here, and I don't want to hear about what's Over There, and I don't want to talk to the people who are Over There, because if I did, I'd be Over There instead of Over Here. I came Over Here; why are you telling me what's Over There?

Pursuant to this paradigm, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears and American Idol are Over There, while, say, Animal Collective and all unsigned bands are Over Here. Treme is Over Here, but CSI is Over There; the Coen Brothers are usually Over Here, while the Farrelly Brothers are always Over There.

Surely there is enough 'over there' 'low brow' cultural material available commercially. Still NPR tried to justify the choice with some discussion

If you look back across cultural history, this kind of progression happens all the time. Justin Timberlake doesn't carry nearly the "all sizzle, no steak" baggage that he did when he was a member of 'N Sync or, let's say, on The New Mickey Mouse Club. Julianne Moore got her start on As The World Turns. Alanis Morissette was a Canadian teen pop star before she came, you know, Over Here. There are countless examples of this -- people who are now highly respected in their fields who cut their teeth on projects that might have seemed like throwaways at the time.

I'm not saying don't be discerning. You should absolutely be discerning. You should absolutely have standards. But just be careful about the breadth of the sweep of any dismissals you might make, because who knew Michelle Williams was a serious actress when she was on Dawson's Creek?

Seriously, that's not even a justification. What next, the Twilight series and Harry Potter considered to be serious literature?

13 April 2010

hold the fries... and the drink... and skip your next meal

There was a lot of buzz about KFC's new Double Down, prior to its release, described as a sandwich (but without any bread).

The new KFC Double Down sandwich is real! This one-of-a-kind sandwich features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce. This product is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun!
See also television advertisement/commercial

NPR just had to have a taste test. Their verdict? I think you'll need to find out for yourself.


Fortunately or unfortunately, the concoction is not available outside of the United States.

Yes, I would try it once and forgo the next two meals.

12 April 2010

Finally, real coffee in New York

Reported in the New York Times on 9 March 2010, New Yorkers are finally getting the real taste of coffee.

The difference between a cup of coffee from these new style coffee bars and what was available before is striking.

These shops use only beans that have been roasted in the past 10 days (though some say two weeks is fine), so the flavors are still lively.

The beans are ground to order for each cup. Certain coffee bars have a skyline of grinders: one for espresso, one for decaffeinated espresso, one for brewed coffee. If they offer more than one variety of espresso bean, that gets its own grinder, too.

Milk is steamed to order for each macchiato or latte. A telltale sign is an arsenal of smaller steam pitchers, instead of one big one.

And coffee bars reaching for the highest rung use only manual espresso machines run by baristas who, in the past three years, have been able to attend classes given by the leading roasting companies in the intricacies of these devices. Many chain stores are turning to automatic machines with preset levels for coffee, temperature and timing.

The article also provides a list of cafes serving real coffee.

Melbourne has been the centre of Australian cafe and coffee culture for many years and Melburnians are now taking their expertise to New York. Reported in The Age

Melburnian Alexander Hall who previously managed St Kilda's Cafe Racer and Il Fornaio, reckons New Yorkers still have plenty to learn.

''The New York coffee scene is similar to Melbourne in 1985. When I moved here about six years ago, there was virtually nowhere that served quality espresso coffee. I originally planned to pick up an idea here and then move back to Melbourne to cash in.

''But I realised there was a huge opportunity here because nothing in New York compared to our cafes,'' Mr Hall says.

He opened The Milk Bar in Brooklyn last year and is looking for another site in Manhattan.

All rather strange really as Melbourne's cafe and coffee culture arose from Italian migrants. They preserved this culture and promoted it to the wider Australian community in Melbourne. New York also has a high Italian migrant population but somehow they lost it.

11 April 2010

Interns, unpaid volunteers or exploitation

The San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times recently published articles that questioned whether many of the internships offered by for-profit companies are in reality a means of exploiting college students and graduates for unpaid labour instead of providing training as intended. From the Chronicle

In an increasingly competitive job market, internships have become crucial for graduating students or people looking to change careers. In some professions (especially the arts and the world of nonprofits), the unpaid internship is nothing new. But as unpaid internships mushroom in the for-profit world of business, government officials need to step in and ensure that interns aren't being exploited.

Some of these unpaid internships violate federal workplace laws: They displace regular employees, fail to pay interns who should be paid, and don't provide "educational benefits" for those who are legally allowed to work for free.

To put it bluntly: For some employers, the internship has become about taking advantage of free labor rather than a mutually beneficial exchange of work and training for employers and students.

In addition, NY Times also suggested that many students and graduates from poorer backgrounds simply cannot afford to work unpaid compared to those with a means to support themselves.

Volunteering for non-profits and charities is one thing, to receive actual on-the-job training although unpaid is another thing. To work for a for-profit company with no benefits other than for the company is just exploitative.

10 April 2010

football - round 3

BRISBANE LIONS 5.5 10.8 14.9 16.12 (108)
PORT ADELAIDE 1.4 3.11 6.12 11.15 (81)

J Brown 5 J Sherman 4 B Fevola 3 B Staker J Patfull M Rischitelli T Banfield.
Port Adelaide: W Tredrea 3 J Schulz 2 S Salopek 2 A Carlile D Pearce J Davenport T Boak.

J Brown B Staker J Sherman B Fevola M Rischitelli D Rich M Leuenberger T Banfield.
Port Adelaide: K Cornes S Salopek D Pearce J Schulz.

Injuries: Brisbane: S Black (calf tightness). Port Adelaide: J Schulz (medial ligament strain) D Brogan (shoulder) replaced in selected side by C Cloke.

Reports: Brisbane: M Clark (Brisbane) reported by field umpire M Nicholls for striking J Trengove (Port Adelaide) in the first quarter, A McGrath (Brisbane) reported by field umpire M Nicholls for rough conduct on C Cloke (Port Adelaide) in third quarter.
Umpires: Hayden Kennedy, Todd Keating, Mathew Nicholls.
Venue: AAMI Stadium

It was a decent game and Sherman played a blinder for his 100th with four goals. He loves to kick goals and as he said to me a few years ago, he loves to run.

Pictures via Getty Images (hover mouse over for descriptions)

AFL Rd 3 - Power v Lions

AFL Rd 3 - Power v Lions

AFL Rd 3 - Power v Lions

AFL Rd 3 - Power v Lions

09 April 2010

Camel steak

Last year, CNBC anchor Erin Burnett reacted strongly on air to reports of Australia's plan to cull wild camels. As reported by ABC (Australia)

Erin Burnett, an anchor on American financial news channel CNBC, launched a verbal attack targeting Mr Rudd following the Federal Government's decision to spend $19 million culling feral camels in the outback.

"There is a serial killer in Australia and we are going to put a picture up so we can see who it is," a stern-faced Burnett said during a segment on CNBC on Tuesday.

A large photo of Mr Rudd was then shown.

"That would be the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd," Burnett said.

"OK, well, do you know what he is doing?

"He has launched air strikes - air strikes - against camels in the outback."

Burnett, with a stuffed toy camel sitting in front of her, broke away from her usual analysis of stock movements on Wall St to vent about the camel cull.

She raised the issue during a segment with CNBC's colourful financial guru Jim Cramer.

Burnett said there were one million camels living wild in Australia and the animals would be shot.

"They are slaughtering them?" Cramer, looking shocked, asked Burnett.

"They are slaughtering them," Burnett replied.

She also complained the meat and milk from the camels would be wasted.

"Apparently there is $1 billion of meat out there," Burnett said.

"Are they going to do anything with it?" Cramer asked.

"No. They're just slaughtering them," she said.

"That's genocide. Camelcide," Cramer commented.

Burnett then told Cramer she hoped Australians would see her segment.

"I hope they have this on in the morning in Australia," she said.

As the discussion came to a close the photo of Rudd re-appeared on the screen.

"There he is," Burnett said.

"That is the man who approved it."

Erin Burnett is well known for having a fascination for camels. At the time, it was hard to tell whether her statement was expressing an outrage that camels would be killed, or that she was concerned that the killing would be wasteful.

An American journal, The Atlantic Monthly, has now suggested that camels should be eaten.

Camels were first brought to Australia from the Canary Islands in the 1840s as beasts of burden. They carried goods across the harsh, Martian-red desert. As roads were built, they were gradually released into the wild. Now Australian camels make up the largest wild herd in the world, numbering about a million. With no natural predators, they are expected to double in population every decade.

Like most foreign species introduced into Australia’s delicate ecosystem, camels have wreaked havoc. They feed on roughly 80 percent of Australia’s plant species, and have pushed some to the brink of extinction. In their search for water, they soil Aboriginal drinking holes, destroy everything from fences to air conditioners, and cause more than $12 million worth of damage each year. In response, the Australian government plans to cull 349,000 of them, at a cost of $17 million.

Dann thinks this is a waste of potentially valuable meat. He concedes that camel is still a novelty in Australia, but he sees a lucrative market in the Middle East, where it’s widely accepted. If he wins government approval to export, he aims to up the number of animals he slaughters each week from 20 to 300. “It’s a good meat, low in cholesterol,” he said. “I would hate to see it go to the worms.”

The American interest in Australia's feral camels is interesting. I wonder if there is a market in the US for camel meat.

06 April 2010

creating a scene 2

Two years ago, I wrote about Improv Everywhere's impromptu food court musical. Since then, they have performed another two in 2009, Grocery Store and I Love Lunch.

More recently (on 24 March), the University of Oregan's all male a cappella ensemble called On the Rocks travelled to New York and whilst on a train in the Subway, 'rick roll'd' other passengers.

Awesome. There is nothing more liberating than bursting into song in public.

Interestingly, there is a huge difference between passengers travelling on the New York Subway and those on the Paris Metro. The New Yorkers in the video appeared to be indifferent. In Paris, they would have been appreciated and given the diversity of busking styles on public transport there, would have received enough Euros for their effort.

05 April 2010

Discovery launched

Twenty minutes ago, Space Shuttle Discovery was launched from Kennedy Space Center on mission STS-131.

I followed the launch on the internet at
1021 GMT (6:21 a.m. EDT)
T+plus 15 seconds. Houston is now controlling as Discovery maneuvers to the proper course for intercepting the space station early Wednesday.

1021:25 GMT (6:21:25 a.m. EDT)
T-minus 10 seconds, go for ignition of the space shuttle main engines, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and LIFTOFF! Liftoff of shuttle Discovery, launching new science and supplies to support our orbiting space laboratory!

1020:54 GMT (6:20:54 a.m. EDT)
T-minus 31 seconds. AUTO SEQUENCE START! The handoff has occurred from the Ground Launch Sequencer to the space shuttle. Discovery's computers now controlling.

In the next few seconds, the solid rocket booster hydraulic steering system will be started, the orbiter's body flap and speed brake moved to their launch positions, the firing chain armed. Main engine ignition begins at T-minus 6.6 seconds.
The site also live streamed by video. For those who are able to access it, NASA TV.

Here is a replay from NASAtelevision

A suitable song to go with the launch is Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Carpenters)


04 April 2010

Brian Cox - celebrity scientist

Professor Carl Sagan's renown series Cosmos was first broadcast on PBS in 1980. Prof Sagan brought the world of science to many households and was probably one of the world's earliest celebrity scientists.

Some thirty years later, his footsteps have been followed by Professor Brian Cox, with a series on BBC called Wonders of the Solar System.

Prof Cox has been dubbed the 'rockstar physicist'; while completing his PhD, he was also member of a successful pop group, D:Ream.

Unfortunately, there are not enough scientists who are household names, unlike entertainers and so-called 'supermodels' and 'celebrity chefs'.

- personal website of Brian Cox
- Twitter
- article in The Observer
- article in Daily Mail

Professor Brian Cox deserves to be more famous than Paris Hilton.

03 April 2010

Fucking Hell bier

Fucking (pronounced like cooking) is a village in the town of Tarsdorf, Austria, about 35 kilometres north of Salzburg.

The village has no plans to change its name despite reactions from English-speakers, as it has been so named since 1070, after a Bavarian nobleman named Focko from the sixth century. Street signs are now theft-proof.

Village sign with a polite request for motorists to slow down (photos from AFP via Die Welt)

Outside the village limits sign

The Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office of the European Union has approved the name 'Fucking Hell' to be registered as a figurative trade mark for a new beer.
R 0538/2008-4 – Fucking Hell [Fig. mark] - The applicant sought to register a figurative trade mark for ‘clothing, footwear, headgear' in Class 25, ‘beers and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks' in Class 32 and ‘alcoholic beverages (except beers)' in Class 33.

The examiner rejected the application the sign used sexuality in order to express contempt and violent anger. The village Fucking in Austria , to which the appellants had referred, had only 93 inhabitants, and no-one knew of it. Furthermore, the right of freedom of expression had to have limits in the case of upsetting, accusatory or derogatory signs

The Board held that in Christian terms, ‘hell' is the place of highest torment. It is a place of damnation. In common parlance ‘hell' is a synonym for something negative and causing torment. If the first word element stands for ‘damned', then the sign designates only that which according to popular belief happens in hell.

Under Article 7(1)(f) CTMR signs may not be registered if they are disparaging, discriminatory, blasphemous or derogatory, incite criminal offences or insurrection.

However, the word combination claimed contains no semantic indication that could refer to a certain person or group of persons. Nor does it incite a particular act. It cannot even be understood as an instruction that the reader should go to hell. The meaning assumed by the examiner is, overall, an interjection used to express a deprecation, but it does not indicate against whom the deprecation is directed. Nor can it be considered as reprehensible to use existing place names in a targeted manner (as a reference to the place), merely because this may have an ambiguous meaning in other languages.

Consequently, the Board annulled the contested decision and allowed the CTM applied for to proceed to registration.

Hell is a term for light ale in southern Germany and Austria.

- Die Welt
- Der Spiegel (Englisch)

To be offended by a word that has a different meaning in another language and another country would be culturally arrogant and self-centred. It is intent that matters.

02 April 2010

Stopping the sag

Two months ago, I wrote about how General Larry Platt's audition on American Idol with Pants on the Ground became an internet viral hit.

Platt now has an ally in New York State Senator Eric Adams. Senator Adams, together with Fully Persuaded for Children and Families Inc, has launched a campaign to encourage young people to raise their pants, with six billboards unveiled in Brooklyn.

See reporting by CNN. Needless to say, some youths in Brooklyn are not happy about being told what to wear (reported in The Brooklyn Paper).

The simple truth is that it looks ridiculous.

01 April 2010

football - round 2

BRISBANE LIONS 4.3 8.3 10.7 16.11 (107)
CARLTON 2.6 3.11 10.14 12.16 (88)

J Brown 7 B Fevola 3 T Banfield 2 B Staker M Clark M Rischitelli S Black.
Carlton: S O'hAilpin 4 L Henderson 3 B Gibbs B McLean K Simpson M Murphy M Robinson.

J Brown J Drummond T Johnstone A McGrath T Banfield D Merrett.
Carlton: M Murphy K Simpson B Gibbs S O'hAilpin H Scotland B McLean.

Injuries: Brisbane Lions, Adcock (thigh); Carlton, Bower (replaced in selected side by Armfield)
Umpires: Michael Vozzo, Shaun Ryan, Simon Meredith.
Official Crowd: 36,780 at Gabba.

It was a great game. Two wins in a row is a good start to the season, though against a better side would be a challenge.

Pictures via Getty Images (hover mouse over for descriptions)

AFL Rd 2 - Lions v Blues

AFL Rd 2 - Lions v Blues

AFL Rd 2 - Lions v Blues

AFL Rd 2 - Lions v Blues

AFL Rd 2 - Lions v Blues

AFL Rd 2 - Lions v Blues

AFL Rd 2 - Lions v Blues

There's nothing like it... almost

In typical Australian fashion, it didn't take long for a someone to spoof Tourism Australia's There's nothing like Australia website.

This is the tamest one, others featured in the site are terrible