30 May 2010

good evening Oslo

The final of the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest is on TV tonight, hosted by Norway in Oslo, as last year's winner was the Norwegian entry.

This year, I stayed up through all of the counting... "good evening Oslo, here are the results from the Swedish vote. Eight points go to United Kingdom, huit point pwarnt pour Royaume-Uni ... twelve points go to Greece, douze points pwarnt pour La Grèce" etc. Actually, United Kingdom didn't do so well this year.

Again, there was no longer the undignified nul point pwarnt awarded, as 39 voting countries award points for 1-7, then 8, 10 and 12 so there would be lots with nul point anyway.

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

Lena Meyer-Landrut from Germany with Satellite

Unfortunately, Lena sung in English.

The Belarusian entry sung about butterflies

As always, there is usually a 'boy' band dressed in white. This year, it was Greece

The best part of the broadcast was the Norwegian performance between the entries and voting. The ultimate flashmob all over Europe.

29 May 2010

football - round 10

Brisbane Lions 4.4 6.6 9.8 13.10 (88)
Collingwood 6.5 8.9 9.11 11.14 (80)

Brisbane Lions:
Fevola 4, Brown 4, Rich 2, Banfield 2, Power
Collingwood: Didak 2, Dawes 2, Sidebottom 2, Thomas, Pendlebury, O’Brien, Jolly, Anthony

Brisbane Lions:
Power, Rich, Black, Brown, Patfull, Johnstone
Collingwood: Thomas, Pendlebury, Didak, Prestigiacomo, Swan, Sidebottom

Umpires: Stevic, Stewart, Pannell

Official crowd: 34,239 at the Gabba

The win was certainly a pleasant surprise. Unpleasant game to watch but a good win.

AFL Rd 10 - Lions v Magpies

AFL Rd 10 - Lions v Magpies

AFL Rd 10 - Lions v Magpies

AFL Rd 10 - Lions v Magpies

28 May 2010

canine concert

Vivid Sydney is an arts festival from 27 May to 21 June 2010.

On 5 June, there will be a concert 'Music for Dogs' at 10am in the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House.

Reported in Sydney Morning Herald. Extract

Music for Dogs - a high-frequency concert that aims to captivate canines while being inaudible to their owners - takes over the northern boardwalk on June 5. It has been inspired by the music that Anderson, a legendary performance artist who is curating the festival with her rock legend husband [Lou Reed], has been playing to her beloved rat terrier, Lollabelle, for 11 years.

"She likes things with a lot of smoothness but with beats in them,'' Anderson said from her Manhattan loft. ''Things with voices and lots of complicated high-end stuff. Chk-chk-chk-chk-chk … that kind of stuff."

The free morning concert will be as short as, well, a chihuahua. "Dogs don't have a giant concentration span - 20 minutes tops,'' Anderson said. ''Actually, I think a lot of shows for people would be improved if they were 20 minutes. Shows are too long - my own included. I dream of making something that's a perfect half hour and then it just goes on and on."

How will humans know if anything is being played? "You can just about hear it sometimes," Anderson said. "And you look at it on the meters and you see what it's doing. And your dog's ears will be twitching."

I wonder if there will be howling from canines who wish to sing along.

27 May 2010

Food havens

More on the food theme.

Lesley Freeman Riva wrote in The Atlantic about friends that she has fed with good cooking, who are unable to reciprocate. Excellent article - extract
Collectively, we food people (and if you frequent this site, I'm talking to you) may have to take ownership of this one. You know what I mean: our endless course-by-course recounts of memorable restaurant meals, our chatter about fennel pollen and pork belly and pimentón. If you're just not a cook, it can be both intimidating and obnoxious (not to mention boring). So you end up with situations where non-foodie friends—whom you genuinely like—invite you to a restaurant to avoid cooking, and then spend the evening worrying that it's not "gourmet" enough for you. Or worse, they invite you home to dinner, and the anxiety the meal preparation has evidently cost them is completely exhausting for both of you.
Read more. Riva mentioned those friends who were not such good cooks. In this case, perhaps she could 'dumb down' her meals now and again for them. After all, if Riva didn't mind what her non-foodie friends prepared, surely these same non-foodie friends would not really care either.

There was a time when I cooked slow braised duck in red wine with chestnuts and porcini. Friends I had served it to described it as tasting like chicken. From then on, I only prepared that dish with chicken and not duck. It was obviously wasted using duck. Similarly, while baked quail seems gourmet, most people do not know how to eat it properly, leaving too much of the meat on the small bones. While it looks impressive, it is a wasted dish on most people.

The answer to Riva's dilemma is to cater to your guests and not be a food snob. It's about the company of friends after all.

26 May 2010

The coriander/cilantro love/hate dichotomy

People either love it or hate it. I have yet to meet someone who is ambivalent about fresh coriander/cilantro (not the dried seeds). Lynda Balslev recently wrote a great article for NPR. Extract
Like politics and religion, cilantro elicits strong opinions. People love it or hate it. For some, it's an acquired taste, thus attracting its share of proselytizing converts, such as myself. Even the name of the plant can be controversial. In the U.S., the leaves are called cilantro, while the seeds are called coriander. In Europe (and Australia), the leaves are called coriander, while the seeds are also called coriander. To confuse matters further, cilantro leaves are also known as Chinese parsley.

Whatever your culinary or linguistic disposition, this is one herb the world apparently can't live without. Featured in the cuisines of the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Asia, cilantro has a culinary history dating back millennia. Its seeds were found in 8,000-year-old caves in Israel. There are ancient Sanskrit and biblical references to coriander. Even King Tut claimed a piece of the cilantro action with seeds scattered in his tomb. Introduced to the Americas by Europeans in the 1600s, the coriander plant is a relative newcomer to this part of the world. It's been growing like the dickens ever since, making up for any lost epochal time while achieving a prominent place in American Southwestern, Mexican and Latin American cuisines.

The entire cilantro plant is edible, including its root. The seeds, known as coriander, are the dried ripe fruit of the plant, frequently used whole for pickling and spicing, or toasted and finely ground into the dried spice also known as coriander. Dried coriander seeds bear no resemblance in flavor to the fresh leaves. Fresh coriander leaves are delicate and lacy, imparting a unique soapy aroma that either attracts or repels, depending on which side of the cilantro fence you sit. Cilantro leaves are best served fresh and used as a final flourish to dishes, because their fragility does not lend well to the heat of cooking.

So, why is this ancient, worldly herb so polarizing? There are theories that nature plays a role: Some people may be genetically predisposed to cilantro intolerance. This can manifest itself in an intense aversion to the aroma and flavor of the leaves, and, in rare cases, a physical reaction... For the rest of us, nurture or environment may be a factor. Chances are that if you were raised in a culture where coriander is a kitchen staple, you are a cilantro lover. If you had little exposure, cilantro might take some getting used to.
Ms Balslev acquired the taste of coriander and appears to love it. Read more, including recipes. Josh Kurz, writing for NPR in late 2008, on the other hand detests the herb.

Surely it is not that much different to parsley (flat leaf or curly) with a hint of aniseed.

25 May 2010

The Dalai Lama on religious harmony

His Holiness the Dalai Lama (the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet) wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times on 24 May 2010. Extract
WHEN I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how naïve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today.

Though intolerance may be as old as religion itself, we still see vigorous signs of its virulence. In Europe, there are intense debates about newcomers wearing veils or wanting to erect minarets and episodes of violence against Muslim immigrants. Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs. In the Middle East, the flames of war are fanned by hatred of those who adhere to a different faith.

Such tensions are likely to increase as the world becomes more interconnected and cultures, peoples and religions become ever more entwined. The pressure this creates tests more than our tolerance — it demands that we promote peaceful coexistence and understanding across boundaries.

Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.
Read more. It's a powerful article worth reading.

Interfaith dialogue is an important means of social interaction to improve mutual understanding.

Interestingly, the byline used was Tenzin Gyatso, meaning ocean of wisdom. It's the shortened version of the full name of Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom) given to the Dalai Lama as a young boy who was born as ལྷ་མོ་དོན་འགྲུབ་ (Lhamo Döndrub) after he was recognised as the 14th reincarnation.

Given the name Dalai Lama is a title, similar to Pope, the byline could not have been simply 'Dalai Lama'. Similarly, an article by Pope Benedict XVI would probably have the byline 'Benedict XVI' and not Joseph Ratzinger or 'Pope'.

Unlike the Dalai Lama (aside from the expected criticism from the Chinese Government) who has been considered to be embracing of all people, Pope Benedict XVI has been criticised by some for divisive views.

24 May 2010

Playing the beer market

In most pubs and bars, the price of drinks are fixed. Now if the price changed based on supply and demand, it would be similar to a stock market. However, in the case of supply, there would be only one seller with a virtual monopoly.

Hence price variation would only be based on demand.

A bar in Berlin actually operates such a beer market (or Brokers Bierbörse), the Berliner Republik. They have 18 draught beers with changing prices based on demand, after 6pm daily.

photo by Melanie from holidaycheck.com

Another possible variation would be to set prices based on public auction by customers with whoever bid the most purchasing the beer. Of course, it would depend on the customers. While most would prefer to pay the lowest price, others who could afford it might turn an establishment exclusive based on wealth.

23 May 2010

football - round 9

Adelaide 5.3 6.9 9.12 13.15 (93)
Brisbane Lions 2.2 6.5 9.11 11.15 (81)

Douglas 3, Dangerfield 3, McLeod 2, Walker 2, Porplyzia, Tippett, Gunston
Brisbane Lions: Fevola 5, Banfield 2, McGrath 2, Rich, Sherman

van Berlo, Douglas, Rutten, Thompson, Reilly, Dangerfield
Brisbane Lions: McGrath, Banfield, Rich, Fevola, Sherman, Leuenberger

Umpires: Grun, Nicholls, Meredith
Official crowd: 31,517 at AAMI Stadium

Beaten by a bottom team. Not good. I fell asleep after half time and didn't miss much of the rest of the game. A way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

AFL Rd 9 - Crows v Lions

AFL Rd 9 - Crows v Lions

AFL Rd 9 - Crows v Lions

AFL Rd 9 - Crows v Lions

3D projection on buildings

Projections on buildings using light and laser have been used to good effect on monuments on special occasions. A more recent innovation has been 3D projections with spectacular results.

NuFormer Digital Media is a Dutch company that has earned plaudits for its work on 3D projections on buildings.
The projection is a digital re-creation of the architecture of a building. Architectural features of buildings are often used to fantastic effect. Due to the impressive size of the projection a spectacular visual experience is guaranteed. There are no size limits whatsoever.
See examples of their work below

Projection on Buildings from NuFormer Projection on Vimeo.

Frankfurt - There Is More To Life Than A Volvo from NuFormer Projection on Vimeo.

Copenhagen - The Time Is Now from NuFormer Projection on Vimeo.

22 May 2010

Australian Prime Minister back at school

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been reissued his student card from university. Reported by AAP via Sydney Morning Herald

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hasn't been a student for about three decades, but he's just acquired a memento of those heady days at Canberra's Australian National University (ANU).

ANU vice-chancellor Professor Ian Chubb has presented the PM with his very own ANU student card, complete with his original student number: 1466022.

The idea was actually generated by Mr Rudd during a recent visit when he commented that he'd been back to his old campus on so many occasions - four times in the past four weeks - that he should renew his student membership.

"Prime Minister, it gives me great pleasure to give you your student card. It is your original student number but not your original student photograph," Professor Chubb told the bemused PM.

On the card, Mr Rudd is described as a part-time student. It doesn't actually entitle him to cut-price movie tickets and cheap student travel, a university official said.

Mr Rudd's honours thesis, submitted in 1980 was titled Human Rights in China: the Case of Wei Jingsheng (described in SMH in May 2008).

Actually, Mr Rudd is still entitled to borrow from the ANU Library, not that he needs to, as being prime minister, he has access to material from the Parliamentary Library.

Student cards are worthy memento. I still have mine somewhere. In those days, they were cardboard with a passport photo then laminated. There may have even been a barcode on it.

21 May 2010

'artificial' life

Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, recently published findings of the first known case of creating 'synthetic' life. Abstract - Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1190719
Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome
Daniel G. Gibson,1
John I. Glass,1 Carole Lartigue,1 Vladimir N. Noskov,1 Ray-Yuan Chuang,1 Mikkel A. Algire,1 Gwynedd A. Benders,2 Michael G. Montague,1 Li Ma,1 Monzia M. Moodie,1 Chuck Merryman,1 Sanjay Vashee,1 Radha Krishnakumar,1 Nacyra Assad-Garcia,1 Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch,1 Evgeniya A. Denisova,1 Lei Young,1 Zhi-Qing Qi,1 Thomas H. Segall-Shapiro,1 Christopher H. Calvey,1 Prashanth P. Parmar,1 Clyde A. Hutchison, III,2 Hamilton O. Smith,2 J. Craig Venter1,2,*

We report the design, synthesis, and assembly of the 1.08-Mbp Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 genome starting from digitized genome sequence information and its transplantation into a Mycoplasma capricolum recipient cell to create new Mycoplasma mycoides cells that are controlled only by the synthetic chromosome. The only DNA in the cells is the designed synthetic DNA sequence, including "watermark" sequences and other designed gene deletions and polymorphisms, and mutations acquired during the building process. The new cells have expected phenotypic properties and are capable of continuous self-replication.

1 The J. Craig Venter Institute, 9704 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, MD 20850, USA.
2 The J. Craig Venter Institute, 10355 Science Center Drive, San Diego, CA 92121, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: jcventer@jcvi.org
Elizabeth Pennisi's article in Science is also worth a read
For 15 years, J. Craig Venter has chased a dream: to build a genome from scratch and use it to make synthetic life. Now, he and his team at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, California, say they have realized that dream. In this week's Science Express (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/science.1190719), they describe the stepwise creation of a bacterial chromosome and the successful transfer of it into a bacterium, where it replaced the native DNA. Powered by the synthetic genome, that microbial cell began replicating and making a new set of proteins.

This is "a defining moment in the history of biology and biotechnology," says Mark Bedau, a philosopher at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and editor of the scientific journal Artificial Life. "It represents an important technical milestone in the new field of synthetic genomics," says yeast biologist Jef Boeke of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

The synthetic genome created by Venter's team is almost identical to that of a natural bacterium. It was achieved at great expense, an estimated $40 million, and effort, 20 people working for more than a decade. Despite this success, creating heavily customized genomes, such as ones that make fuels or pharmaceuticals, and getting them to "boot" up the same way in a cell is not yet a reality. "There are great challenges ahead before genetic engineers can mix, match, and fully design an organism's genome from scratch," notes Paul Keim, a molecular geneticist at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Read more.

It should be noted that what was 'created' wasn't a new life form, but a constructed copy.

Just some more work and it would a great script for a science fiction film. Hang on, that would be Species, in which SETI transmissions provide information about an alien DNA structure and instructions on how to splice it with a human's, producing a hybrid.

19 May 2010

wishful thinking...

Three years ago, I wrote about the Qantas First Class Lounge at Sydney International Airport, which looked stunning. Since then, a number of airlines have taken delivery of the new double decker Airbus A380 including Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Air France and Emirates.

Today, Lufthansa received its first Airbus A380, named Frankfurt am Main. Lufthansa also lauded its new First Class onboard the A380.

Like the other airlines, it has wide lay-flat beds in First Class. Photos published by Der Spiegel show something even more amazing in First Class. The over-sized bathrooms.

Enough room for a party

Nice wide comfortable seats that fold into a flat bed

One day, I may win the lottery.

18 May 2010

Kit Kat has a break from orangutan killing palm oil

After a two month campaign by Greenpeace (UK) against the use of palm oil by Nestlé over concerns about deforestation and the effect on orangutans, the company has just announced its suspension of purchase from suppliers involved in deforestation

The supply chain of palm oil is very complex and there are no quick and easy solutions. We have conducted an in depth analysis of our supply chain in order to create transparency and detailed action plans. Read more about the complexity of the palm oil supply chain in the RSPO Supply Chain Systems Overview (pdf, 3.95MB)

As a first step, we have suspended all purchases from Sinar Mas, which has admitted to mistakes in the area of deforestation. We can also confirm that we have made arrangements with a number of suppliers, including Cargill, to suspend purchasing from Sinar Mas for delivery to our European factories.

The YouTube video was quite graphic

See Greenpeace's response following the announcement by Nestlé.

According to Australia's Heart Foundation, palm oil isn't that healthy.
Palm oil is a vegetable oil derived from the oil of the palm plant and does not contain any cholesterol. However, palm oil is one of the two tropical oils that the Heart Foundation recommends to avoid (the other is coconut oil). Palm oil contains 55% saturated fat, 8% polyunsaturated and 37% monounsaturated. While it contains no trans fat, it contains too much saturated fat and not enough unsaturated fat to be recommended by the Heart Foundation.
Unfortunately in Australia, palm oil is usually shown in ingredients lists as 'vegetable' oil.

17 May 2010

Spider goat milk silk

The National Science Foundation is a United States government funded independent agency that supports scientific research. Breakthroughs are often reported in NSF's Science Nation online magazine. This month, there was a great report about an innovative way of producing spider silk, without milking actual spiders.

See report transcript.

This should make people who regularly commit arachnicide start feeling guilty.

16 May 2010

Voyager spacecraft's invitation answered?

The Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts were launched into space in August 1977 to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Both have travelled beyond the orbit of Pluto, which was re-categorised as a dwarf planet in 2006. Having accomplished its original mission, both spacecrafts continued travelling into space, transmitting data back to Earth.

Until now.

On 6 May 2010, NASA reported changes in the data being received.

Engineers have shifted NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft into a mode that transmits only spacecraft health and status data while they diagnose an unexpected change in the pattern of returning data. Preliminary engineering data received on May 1 show the spacecraft is basically healthy, and that the source of the issue is the flight data system, which is responsible for formatting the data to send back to Earth. The change in the data return pattern has prevented mission managers from decoding science data.

The first changes in the return of data packets from Voyager 2, which is near the edge of our solar system, appeared on April 22. Mission team members have been working to troubleshoot and resume the regular flow of science data. Because of a planned roll maneuver and moratorium on sending commands, engineers got their first chance to send commands to the spacecraft on April 30. It takes nearly 13 hours for signals to reach the spacecraft and nearly 13 hours for signals to come down to NASA's Deep Space Network on Earth.

Voyager 1 and 2 also included an open invitation to visit Earth through the Golden Record.
NASA placed a more ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2-a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record-a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.

Once the Voyager spacecraft leave the solar system (by 1990, both will be beyond the orbit of Pluto), they will find themselves in empty space. It will be forty thousand years before they make a close approach to any other planetary system. As Carl Sagan has noted, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
Reported by newspaper Bild, German 'alien' expert Hartwig Hausdorf was quoted as saying (after translation) “It seems almost as if someone had reprogrammed or hijacked the probe – thus perhaps we do not yet know the whole truth…” - „Es scheint fast, als hätte jemand die Sonde umprogrammiert oder entführt – vielleicht, damit wir noch nicht die ganze Wahrheit erfahren ...“

An interesting speculation.

Bild could be considered to be sensationalist. Hausdorf, author of Ufos – Sie fliegen noch immer (UFOs – They Are Still Flying) has made other speculative claims.

We can only wait. Until the invasion.

15 May 2010

football - round 8

Brisbane Lions 1.6 4.8 8.11 10.14 (74)
Geelong 6.2 11.4 18.6 24.11 (155)

Brisbane Lions:
Brown 3, Sherman 3, Buchanan, Fevola, Power, Rockliff
Geelong: Johnson 6, Hawkins 4, Byrnes 3, Mooney 3, Bartel 2, Chapman 2, Ablett, Hogan, Ling, Varcoe

Brisbane Lions:
Brown, Black, Sherman, Polkinghorne, Leuenberger
Geelong: Johnson, Sellwood, Ablett, Chapman, Scarlett, Mackie, Ling

Umpires: Kennedy, Ryan, Avon
Official crowd: 33,629 at the Gabba

Totally thrashed tonight. As I expected.

AFL Rd 8 - Lions v Cats

AFL Rd 8 - Lions v Cats

AFL Rd 8 - Lions v Cats

AFL Rd 8 - Lions v Cats

AFL Rd 8 - Lions v Cats


This is an amazing time lapse film of Eyjafjallajökull over two days early this month by Sean Stiegemeier set to music by Jónsi (Kolniður from his latest album).

Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull - May 1st and 2nd, 2010 from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.

Stunning. Especially considering that it is destructive.

13 May 2010

Centre Pompidou-Metz

As part of cultural decentralisation in France, the Paris-based Centre Pompidou (and one of my favourites) built a new cultural centre in Metz, capital of the Lorraine region in the north east and near the German border.

Designed by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, the centre was built by Demathieu et Bard.

The Centre Pompidou-Metz building is a superstructure curving at both sides, held together by wooden slats forming hexagonal units, and supported by a central metallic spire and four conical pillars.

The structure is covered by a membrane in Poly-Tetra-Fluoro Ethylene (PTFE –fibreglass covered in teflon). The facades are made of retractable glass panes and vast picture windows. The three galleries and the support function areas (storage, offices, etc.) are concrete.

photo by AP via Der Spiegel - more

photo from BBC (see also report)

Built at a cost of €70 million, Centre Pompidou-Metz was officially opened on 12 May 2010, with free admission on 16 May.

In addition to the artwork exhibited, the building is worth a visit.

12 May 2010

Con-Lib-Dem Cam-Clegg coalition government

(photo by AFP/Leon Neal via ABC)

The new British Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister from two completely ideologically opposing parties are of a similar age, similar height and dress the same.

The coalition government will surely involve a lot of compromises in policy.

Still, I was half expecting Her Majesty to abolish Parliament and invoke the Divine Right of Kings.

11 May 2010

Giving your baby a ridiculous name is child abuse

Paul Schmidtberger wrote a brilliant reader-submitted article for the New York Times (complaint box) about the latest fad of misspelling names for newborns.
... I’m about to meet little Brittney, Brittny, Brittneigh, Brit’nee, Brittani and Bryttney. If you absolutely have to name your child after a rugged French peninsula, then get out a dictionary and look it up. It’s Brittany.

I have a major gripe with the trend of misspelling baby names. On purpose. The parents’ logic runs something like this: “My child is special and unique. Thus, my child deserves a special, uniquely spelled name.” The upshot is that Chloe becomes Kloey, and Jacqueline metastasizes into something ghastly, like Jaq’leen.

It would be easy to blame this on celebrities, since there appears to be an unspoken contest among them to saddle children with awful names. Gwyneth Paltrow set the bar high when she named her daughter Apple, but not high enough. Reign Beau, daughter of Ving Rhames, and Vanilla Ice’s Dusti Rain and Keelee Breeze are way up there. For boys, could any name be worse than Bronx Mowgli, son of Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz? Perhaps Jermajesty Jackson?

Not that this is just a Hollywood problem. All across America, parents are mangling names in a misguided mission to trumpet their kid’s individuality. Take the wildly popular name Chase, which is actually not a name at all, but something a dog does to its tail. It was annoying to begin with, but now it gets worse as it slowly mutates from Chase to Chace, and on to Chayce.

Perhaps not misspelling, but rather intentional variations of already perfectly spelled out names. Everybody is unique but there is nothing wrong with conforming.

See also Things Bogans Like.

10 May 2010

Evil faced tinned pear shocks woman

photo as supplied to The Southland Times

Reported in New Zealand's The Southland Times, a woman opened a tin of pears to discover a 'demonic face carved into one of its contents'.
Mrs McMahon said the shock of the find is nothing compared with the trial she has had trying to get answers out of the pears' supplier.

She bought the Budget brand can of pears from Invercargill Pak'N Save a fortnight ago and feeling "a bit peckish", she opened it, late on May 1.

She said it was when she returned to the can for a second helping that she scooped the freakish piece of fruit out.

"I thought `oh my God, is that a face'... it really kind of shocked me."

Inspecting the can, she found an 0800 number and called it.

That call went through to voicemail and, despite feeling "embarrassed", she left a message, Mrs McMahon said.

She took photos of the pear, posted them to websites, including TV3 and Facebook and listed it on Trade Me before going to bed.

The rest of the article details Mrs McMahon's dealings with the distributor, in which she had a greater problem with the complaint process and her treatment rather than the piece of fruit in question.

Seriously, the treatment received by Mrs McMahon was proportionate to the fuss she made about the now unimportant piece of fruit.

The tin of fruit was produced in and imported from China. The brand appears to be a low cost one. The piece of fruit was still edible.

What did Mrs McMahon expect the manufacturer to do? Launch an investigation to find the Chinese factory worker who may have done the deed? The Chinese worker who does the same job every day canning pears for very little pay?

Honestly, people should balance their outrage with a bit of perspective.

09 May 2010

headline of the month

From The Republican (Massachusetts)
Lord Jesus Christ suffers minor injuries in downtown Northampton crosswalk mishap
Of course, an explanation was required
Savino said officers checked Christ’s identification at the scene and confirmed it was his legal name.
There should be a law against the use of certain names, as there is in the UK.

08 May 2010

football - round 7

Brisbane Lions 5.2 6.4 10.7 15.10 (100)
Fremantle 5.5 9.9 12.15 15.23 (113)

Brisbane Lions:
Fevola 3, Banfield 2, Black 2, Brown, Drummond, McGrath, Rich, Rischitelli, Rockliff, Sherman, Stiller.
Fremantle: Pavlich 3, Johnson 2, Haselby 2, Ballantyne 2, Barlow, Fyfe, Mayne, Morabito, Palmer, Sandilands.

Brisbane Lions:
Black, Rischitelli, McGrath, Staker, Power, Sherman
Fremantle: Hill, Mundy, Tarrant, McPharlin, Barlow, Pavlich, Ballantyne

Brisbane Lions:
Patfull, Drummond (knee), Brennan (ankle)

Umpires: Nicholls, McInerney, Mollison
Official crowd: 27,739 at the Gabba

I didn't expect a win as Fremantle Dockers have been playing well. The margin would have been greater had Freo's goal-kicking had been more accurate. Still, despite losing important players like Drummond and Brennan to injury, the boys put up a good fight and it was a close game in the end.

AFL Rd 7 - Lions v Dockers

AFL Rd 7 - Lions v Dockers

AFL Rd 7 - Lions v Dockers

AFL Rd 7 - Lions v Dockers

Not wasting food

I've previously written about wasting food. In commercial operations like catering and restaurants, there are charities that make good use of unsold or untouched food to help those in need. In Australia, OzHarvest is one such charity.

What is still a problem, are diners at restaurants who do not finish their meals and who do not ask take home the leftovers. One restaurant in Sydney has come up with a workable and innovative solution. It asks diners to finish their meals if they wish to return in future. Reported in Sydney Morning Herald

CHEF Yukako Ichikawa cooked up a radical solution to food waste after a favourable newspaper review brought too many of the wrong kinds of diners to her restaurant door.

''They are picky eaters. I do not want to make food for these people,'' said Ichikawa, 42, who turns away customers not in tune with her homespun philosophy of eating, which partly derives from her horror about a world where people die from hunger.

Six weeks ago, at Wafu, her 30-seat restaurant in Surry Hills, she began offering a 30 per cent discount to patrons who ate all the food they had ordered.

She and her staff tell diners that if they do not leave clean plates, they will not be welcome back. ''Finishing your meal requires that everything is eaten except lemon slices, gari (sushi ginger) and wasabi,'' says the menu, which is tagged ''guilty-free Japanese food''.

''Please also note that vegetables and salad on the side are NOT decorations; they are part of the meal too,'' it says.

Wafu serves authentic Japanese food that is gluten free, wheat free, dairy free and organic.

It's a wonderful idea and one that could be adopted by other commercial premises serving meals. In the case of buffets, patrons could be encouraged not to pile food on to their plates.

05 May 2010

time travel - go fast and go forward but go nowhere

Professor Stephen Hawking recently wrote an article in the Daily Mail suggesting that time travel may be possible.

A well known paradox that suggested time travel to be impossible, called the grandfather paradox, where a traveller goes back in time to prevent him or herself from being born, Hawking overcame by proposing that time travel to the past is impossible.
Any kind of time travel to the past through wormholes or any other method is probably impossible, otherwise paradoxes would occur. So sadly, it looks like time travel to the past is never going to happen. A disappointment for dinosaur hunters and a relief for historians.

But the story's not over yet. This doesn't make all time travel impossible. I do believe in time travel. Time travel to the future. Time flows like a river and it seems as if each of us is carried relentlessly along by time's current. But time is like a river in another way. It flows at diff erent speeds in diff erent places and that is the key to travelling into the future. This idea was first proposed by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago. He realised that there should be places where time slows down, and others where time speeds up. He was absolutely right. And the proof is right above our heads. Up in space.
Hawking suggests that a means of travelling to the future would be by super speeds in a vehicle where the time elapsed during travel is less compared to that on earth. This would mean that when the travellers returned to earth, it would be in further in the future. For example, travelling for a day and returning to earth one year later.

Given that going back in time is impossible and the cost involved would be enormous, there really would be no point.

We are all time travellers, moving forward towards the future, albeit at at one second per second. There is no advantage to travelling through time faster than this rate and leaving our lives behind to go to a future that is uncertain. We may as well be cryogenically frozen, to wake years later.

As for travelling to the far reaches of space for research and then returning to earth, the travellers would return to a different world with possibly no memory of the mission itself.

04 May 2010

Gordon Brown's 'yes we can'

Incumbent British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had not been doing well at the polls ahead of the UK General Election this Thursday.

On Monday, he gave one of the best political speeches in recent times, of any political party in any country. For him, it may be too late, but he still has a few days to inspire voters.

The content and delivery were reminiscent of Barack Obama's "yes we can". Regardless of political views, it was very well done.

03 May 2010

2010 White House Correspondents' Association dinner

This is the second time that President Obama has addressed the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) annual dinner. The dinner raises money for WHCA scholarships for journalism students.

The video is 38 minutes long and worth watching. See also the C-Span coverage. Of course, knowledge of the happenings within the Capital Beltway is a prerequisite to understanding Obama's remarks, as well as some popular culture. Otherwise, most of it will seem like a series of "in jokes" for the Washington media.

The transcript can be found at Chicago Sun-Times. I love these
THE PRESIDENT: By the way, all of the jokes here tonight are brought to you by our friends at Goldman Sachs. (Laughter.) So you don't have to worry -- they make money whether you laugh or not. (Laughter.)

We do have a number of notable guests in attendance here tonight. Obviously I'm most pleased that Michelle accompanied me. She doesn't always go to these things. (Applause.) And there are few things in life that are harder to find and more important to keep than love -- well, love and a birth certificate. (Laughter.)

The Jonas Brothers are here. (Applause.) They're out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But, boys, don't get any ideas. (Laughter.) I have two words for you -- predator drones. (Laughter.) You will never see it coming. (Laughter.) You think I'm joking. (Laughter.)

Speaking of 'tween heartthrobs, Scott Brown is here. (Applause.) I admire Scott -- a rare politician in Washington with nothing to hide. (Laughter.) Now, you should be aware that Scott Brown is not the only one with a salacious photo spread floating around. Recently David Axelrod was offered a centerfold opportunity of his own -- now, I did not know that Krispy-Kreme had a catalog. (Laughter.) But it's true.

I saw Michael Steele backstage when we were taking pictures -- AKA Notorious GOP. (Laughter.) Michael, who knows what truly plagues America today -- taxation without representin' --(Laughter.) My brother. (Laughter.) I did a similar routine last year, but it always works. (Laughter.)

Odds are that the Salahis are here. (Laughter.) There haven't been people that were more unwelcome at a party since Charlie Crist. (Laughter.)

Unfortunately, John McCain couldn't make it. Recently he claimed that he had never identified himself as a maverick. And we all know what happens in Arizona when you don't have ID. (Laughter.) Adios, amigos. (Laughter and applause.)
Funnier that last year's.

02 May 2010

It's not rocket science, but...

It's not rocket science is considered to be one of the worst clichés in the English language (there is even a book about it - see Amazon.com).

The phrase is used to emphasise that something is not that difficult.

Rocket science is now part of a wider field of aerospace engineering, with principles based on physics and in particular, fluid dynamics.

It's actually not that difficult.

Neuro-surgery on the other hand...

EDIT - Thanks to batarista for this clip from the BBC's That Mitchell and Webb Look

01 May 2010

football - round 6

Sydney Swans 5.1, 9.5, 16.8, 16.11 (107)
Brisbane Lions 2.2, 5.3, 11.4, 13.9 (87)

Sydney Swans
: Bradshaw 6, Goodes 3, Bolton 2, Smith 2, Moore, Jack, Malceski
Brisbane Lions: Fevola 4, Brown 4, Banfield 3, Leuenberger, Polkinghorne


Sydney Swans: Bradshaw, Bolton, Jack, Shaw, O'Keefe, Goodes
Brisbane Lions: Clark, Brown, Banfield, Rischitelli, Drummond, Raines


Sydney Swans: Jude Bolton (concussion), Seaby (ankle), Hannebery (shoulder), O'Keefe (concussion), Richards (ankle)
Brisbane Lions: Maguire (concussion)

: Vozzo, McBurney, Wenn

Daniel Bradshaw was a great goal-kicker for the Brisbane Lions. Losing him to Sydney over complicated contract negotiations and being offered as trade to another club has come back to haunt my team.

I missed most of the game, being out for the evening. Small mercies.

AFL Rd 6 - Swans v Lions

AFL Rd 6 - Swans v Lions

AFL Rd 6 - Swans v Lions

AFL Rd 6 - Swans v Lions

May Day

May Day has traditionally been the workers' holiday, celebrated as labour day.

Berlin appears to be the place with most significance, the day used in the past for political demonstrations. Now it's a showdown between liberal lefties and neo-Nazis.

See Revolutionary Berlin (walking tours) and Berliner Morgenpost