31 August 2010

The end is nigh

Last June, I wrote about 2012, a disaster film that I eventually watched when it was released in November. I enjoy the genre. Depictions of humanity trying to survive the possible end of humankind due to some form of calamity draws out the strengths and weaknesses of people.

The September 2010 edition of Scientific American, is a special issue focusing on 'The End'. They have published an online only article on their editors' picks on 'visions of the apocalypse' in film and literature. What a great list it is. I have only included the ones that I have read/seen (refer to link above for original list). My additional comments in italics.
1. Astronomical catastrophes
Day of the Triffids (novel 1951)
A beautiful meteor shower brings widespread blindness to all who watched it, causing civilization to descend into chaos—resulting in the release of bioengineered plants that move around and attack people.

Armageddon (film 1998)
NASA sends oil-rig workers on a mission to blow up an asteroid that is on course to destroy all life on Earth. An overbaked action version of Deep Impact. But it has Bruce Willis!

Deep Impact (film 1998)
The world braces for the impact of a seven-mile wide comet that threatens to cause mass extinction. A touchy-feely version of Armageddon. This one has Morgan Freeman. As the President!

Sunshine (film 2007)
The sun is dying, so a heroic crew travels by spacecraft to deliver a massive bomb to reignite the Sun. And the crew appear to be tripping!

2012 (film 2009)
Neutrinos released from a massive solar flare melt Earth's inner core, triggering a chain of catastrophic natural disasters, and survivors struggle [to] take refuge on a small number of arks. Bad science but nevertheless fun. None of the survivors deserved to live.

2. Biological Calamities
A Sound of Thunder (short story 1952, film 2005)
A time-traveling hunter inadvertently crushes a butterfly during an excursion to the Jurassic period. It causes a succession of “time waves” to batter present-day Earth—and its embattled human occupants—and wrenches reality onto a different evolutionary path. Think baboon-dinosaurs besieging your local gas-mart. A time-travelling 'butterfly effect'.

I Am Legend (novel 1954, films 1964 (The Last Man on Earth), 1971 (Omega Man), 2007 (I Am Legend))
One lone man is immune to a pandemic virus that ravages humanity. He struggles to develop a treatment to save the infected.

The Andromeda Strain (novel 1969, film 1971, TV miniseries 2008)
A satellite returns to Earth with a deadly microbe that wipes out an entire town except for a baby and an old man.

The Stand (novel 1978)
A deadly virus is accidentally released from a research lab, wiping out humanity. The story chronicles the confrontations that occur among the survivors.

12 Monkeys (film, 1995)
A terrorist release of a virus has devastated civilization, forcing the remainder of humanity underground. Scientists send a convicted felon back in time as part of an effort to stop the release. I still haven't worked this one out.
28 Days Later (film 2002)
A chimpanzee harboring a deadly virus escapes from a research lab and infects the entire population, resulting in societal collapse. The film focuses on four uninfected people and their struggle to survive. The sequel '28 Weeks Later' was not as interesting.

Reign of Fire (film 2002)
Dragons suddenly populate Earth and wipe out all people in their path. Small bands of survivors across the planet struggle to evade the dragons and fight for their lives.

3. Geophysical Disasters
Soylent Green (film 1973)
The planet has warmed significantly and is overpopulated. Food is scarce; humanity clings to survival by consuming a processed food called soylent green, which contains a horrifying secret ingredient. And 37 years later, Scientific American still don't want to spoil the ending!

Waterworld (film 1995)
The polar ice caps have melted, leaving civilization underwater. Small bands of survivors drift across the waters seeking land. Kevin Costner and it flopped at the box office.

The Core (film 2003)
Earth's inner core has stopped rotating, and its magnetic field dies. A heroic crew must travel to the center of the planet and detonate a nuclear bomb to restart the inner core and save humanity.

The Day After Tomorrow (film 2004)
A series of severe weather events brought about by climate change triggers a devastating ice age that prompts survivors to flee to warmer latitudes. Bad science, but the effects were stunning.

4. War
On the Beach (novel 1957, film 1959 and TV movie 2000)
A nuclear World War III has wiped out most of the planet, except for a band of survivors on Australia. This story follows the lives of these ordinary people as an impending radioactive cloud nears their refuge, bringing certain death. A very slow way to die, unless there were alternative ways.

Planet of the Apes (novel 1963, film 1968)
Astronauts crash land on a distant planet with a civilization of walking, talking apes that are hostile to humans. Sequels to the 1968 movie include Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

Mad Max (film 1979)
Set in the wastelands of post-apocalyptic Australia, the film tells the story of a vengeful policeman and his clashes with a violent motorcycle gang. Sequels: The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).

The Day After (film 1983)
Fictional account of the devastation wreaked by a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

5. Machine-Driven Takeovers
Logan's Run (novel 1967, film 1976)
In a futuristic society, every aspect of people’s lives is controlled by a supercomputer, and, to keep the population and planet's resources in equilibrium, no one is permitted to live beyond the age of 21.

The Terminator (film 1984)
In a post-apocalyptic future, intelligent machines devise a plan to exterminate the remaining humans. The film led to several sequels, a television series and two gubernatorial victories in California.

The Matrix (film 1999)
Machines harvest humans for energy by keeping their minds trapped in a simulation of the late 20th century. Sequels: The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions
I would probably add to that list, Damnation Alley (film 1977).

Perhaps a screen-writer might combine all the elements of different catastrophic into the ultimate disaster movie. Not a parody either.

29 August 2010

When beans were bullets

I've previously written about wasting food a number of times.

There is a National Agricultural Library (US Department of Agriculture, USDA) exhibition until 10 September 2010 of war-time food posters at 10301 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville MD curated by Cory Bernat. The exhibit then moves to USDA at 1400 Independence Ave SW, Washington DC.
The exhibit examines the evolution of poster styles, propaganda messages and advertising history during the two time periods.

Viewers will recognize familiar wartime messages about food conservation, rationing and home canning. But today's audience might be surprised by government messaging during World War I encouraging home front populations to eat locally, healthfully and conscientiously in order to put the nation's interest first and contribute to distant war efforts. The exhibit also retraces the advent of modern consumer culture, including the far-reaching influence of both the Advertising Council of World War II and the dawn of the advertising industry in the 1920s and '30s.

Combining the eye of a graphic designer with the research skills of a historian, curator Cory Bernat highlights the dramatic differences in style and content that emerged between the two wars. She displays copies of over seventy posters on fence panels instead of in frames to highlight their mass-produced quality. She uncovered the educational and patriotic gems over the last two years among unprocessed posters within NAL’s Special Collections, where the originals are still held.

(picture via treehugger)


(picture from Beans are Bullets)

More of the posters can be viewed at the Beans are Bullets website. See also treehugger.

There may be a message somewhere that is relevant to today's over-consumption and obesity problem. Even during today's 'times of plenty', we owe it to those who faced tough times (and indeed many continue to do so through out the world) to treat food with respect and not be so wasteful.

28 August 2010

football - round 22

Brisbane Lions: 3.2 6.5 6.7 10.8 (68)
Sydney Swans: 4.1 6.4 11.9 16.10 (106)

GOALS
Brisbane Lions:
Brennan 2, Banfield, Proud, Power, Adcock, Collier, Pokinghorne, Staker, Hanley
Sydney Swans: Dennis-Lane 3, Jack 3, Bolton, Jetta, Kennedy, Malceski, McVeigh, Meredith, O’Keefe, Shaw, Reid, Goodes

BEST
Brisbane Lions:
Staker, Brennan, Rockliff, Leuenberger, McGrath
Sydney Swans: Jack, Malceski, Mattner, Kirk, McVeigh, O’Keefe

Umpires: Donlon, Stevic, Jeffery
Official crowd: 24,789 at the Gabba

The Lions were okay up to half time. Unfortunately, the Swans surged after that. It's the end of the season now for the Lions and what a horrid season it has been, apart from the first month.

Pictures by Getty Images Bradley Kanaris) via PicApp

Chinny
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Cheynee Stiller of the Lions and Jarred Moore of the Swans compete for the ball during the round 22 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Sydney Swans at The Gabba on August 28, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Joely Pat
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Joel Patfull of the Lions looks for his support during the round 22 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Sydney Swans at The Gabba on August 28, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Blacky under pressure
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Simon Black of the Lions attempts to break free from the Swans defence during the round 22 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Sydney Swans at The Gabba on August 28, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Shermo marking
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Justin Sherman of the Lions takes a mark during the round 22 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Sydney Swans at The Gabba on August 28, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Leuey tap
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Matthew Leuenberger of the Lions and Mike Pyke of the Swans compete for the ball during the round 22 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Sydney Swans at The Gabba on August 28, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

27 August 2010

Who cares about Pakistan?

We do. From ABC
On Friday 27 August, ABC Radio networks including ABC Local, triple j, NewsRadio and Radio National joined up to help UNICEF Australia raise money to help victims of flooding in Pakistan.

Heavy monsoonal rains in July - the heaviest in over 80 years - caused flooding on an unprecedented scale.

According to the United Nations:

  • 2,000 people have died, though this toll may rise as areas cut off by flooding are contacted
  • 20 million people are homeless or displaced
  • 1 million homes have been destroyed
  • 17 million acres of cropland have been submerged
  • 200,000 livestock lost
The effects will be felt for years to come: farmers may not be able to plant this season, leading to food shortages, and infrastructure damages for highways, railways and public buildings alone are now predicted to run over US$4 billion.

UNICEF Australia and ABC Radio - which reaches more than a quarter of our population through its various networks - set a goal of raising $1 million for the flood appeal, and Australians responded.

The response was overwhelming, with UNICEF needing to set up a second phone number to take donations.

The target was surpassed at $2.3 million as reported by UNICEF.

See ABC Radio how to help page to see how you can help if you are in Australia. I actually donated through Australian Red Cross.

In the United States, see State Department.

26 August 2010

Australiana

Australiana by Austen Tayshus (real name Alexander Jacob Gutman or Sandy Gutman) was a spoken-word single (in vinyl) that was a hit in the Australian music charts in 1983. The words were written by Billy Birmingham.



A hit at the time, parts of it were actually censored. Today, the puns would probably attract cringe rather than laughter. Still, it reflected the zeitgeist of Australia in the 80s.

25 August 2010

La Tomatina


(photo by André Hänni Tortorelli 2009)

One of the world's largest food fight festivals was held today (11am local time) in Buñol, Spain. From La Tomatina (official)

It all started on the last Wednesday of August 1945, when some young people were getting fresh air in the town square. The evening did not promise much, so they decided to form part of a parade that was taking place with musicians and carnival figures of giants and enormous headed individuals. The impetus of their entry caused the fall of a participant who full of rage, began to hit everyone in his way. By a quirk of fate, there just happened to be a stand of vegetables beside them. The angry crowd started throwing tomatoes at each other until the public law put an end to the vegetable battle.

The following year, the young people repeated the tomato fight on a voluntary basis and brought tomatoes from home. Although the celebration was dissolved by the police during the following years, the boys, without knowing it, had made history. La Tomatina was banned in the early fifties, although this fact did not dissuade participants, eventhough some were arrested. But the will of the locals was heard and the celebration returned, more people took part in it and it became increasingly wild.

Again the event was canceled until 1955, when, in protest, the Burial of the Tomato was held: an event in which residents carried a coffin with a big tomato inside. The parade was accompanied by a music band playing funeral marches, and it obtained a complete success. Finally, in 1957 official permision was granted and La Tomatina festival was formaly established. After that it has been the City Councils of the municipality themselves that have organized and promoted this curious battle, that has made Buñol world famous.

The festival became popular in the rest of Spain thanks to Javier Basilio who, showed the event in a television program Informe Semanal “Week report” on Spanish TV. Since 1980, it has been the different City Councils that have supplied the tomatoes to the participants, which year after year, increase in number and enthusiasm. The success has led to have La Tomatina, of Buñol, be considered, as of August 2002, International Fiesta of Tourist Interest by the General Secretariat of Tourism of Spain.

It looks like a lot of fun. However, is it ethical to waste so much food that is perfectly edible? Even if the quantity of tomatoes (around 100,000 kilograms or 100 tonnes in 2010) was surplus to need, it required water and probably fertiliser on land that could have grown another crop.

24 August 2010

Australian wine. So good that there are now fakes.

The Age reported that Australian wines are now being counterfeited in China
Chinese entrepreneurs are counterfeiting Australian wine, including knock-offs of one of our best-known brands, Penfolds, and promoting the fakes as quality wines in shops and trade fairs throughout the country.
Unfortunately for Penfolds, their success has come at a cost

Perhaps the highest-profile casualty so far has been Penfolds, maker of Grange. Wines labelled "Benfolds" and claiming to be Australian were seen at a trade fair in China earlier this year.

"I've seen a 'Penfolds 888' [8 is a lucky number in China] and even 'Benfolds' with the same cursive 'P' but instead it's a 'B'," said Matt Bahen, deputy general manager of Australian-owned wine distributor, The Wine Republic, in north China.

Perhaps quality wine is still a status thing in China, like buying and drinking expensive cognac (XO not VSOP). Until more recently, people in China didn't really appreciate wine, particularly red wine as many were mixing it with lemonade. If this is the case, then most people won't even know that they are drinking an inferior product. Perhaps one of the solutions, apart from marketing, is to educate people's palate and appreciation of fine wine.

See also my earlier item on the wine substitution scandal in the United States - faux pinot noir.

22 August 2010

football - round 21

Essendon 2.1 2.4 4.6 10.8 (68)
Brisbane Lions 5.3 10.5 12.9 14.11 (95)

GOALS
Essendon:
Reimers 2, Marigliani, Carlisle, Monfries, Howlett, Stanton, Neagle, Myers
Brisbane Lions: Brown 4, Banfield 3, Rischitelli 2, Clark, Brennan, Adcock, Polkinghorne, Redden

BEST
Essendon:
Howlett, McVeigh, Hurley, Watson, Carlisle, Hille
Brisbane Lions: Brown, McGrath, Leuenberger, Rockliff, Rischitelli, Redden

INJURIES
Essendon:
Paddy Ryder (virus) replaced in selected side by Michael Quinn
Brisbane Lions: Selwood (rib)

Umpires: Stewart, Grun, Chamberlain
Official crowd: 28,785 at Etihad Stadium

I considered travelling to Melbourne for this game in the afternoon. Browny put on a good show for his 200th game. I had hoped for a tighter game as both are my teams.

Pictures by Getty Images Quinn Rooney) via PicApp

Browny after a goal
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: Jonathan Brown of the Lions celebrates kicking a goal during the round 21 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on August 22, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Jared
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: Jared Brennan of the Lions kicks whilst being tackled during the round 21 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on August 22, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Hurley vs Browny
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: Michael Hurley of the Bombers spoils a mark by Jonathan Brown of the Lions during the round 21 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on August 22, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Mitch
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: Mitch Clark of the Lions marks during the round 21 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on August 22, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

21 August 2010

20 August 2010

Heston Blumenthal's perfect roast potatoes

Heston Blumenthal (from The Fat Duck) shows us how to cook perfect roast potatoes, from the BBC cookery show 'In Search of Perfection'.



I would have left the skin on.

19 August 2010

What you didn't know about Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster being interviewed in French for the film The Brave One (2007)


Jodie Foster attended a French-language prep school, the Lycée Français de Los Angeles and travelled frequently to France as a teenager to work.

She has dubbed her own films into French.

18 August 2010

headline of the month and fishy puns

From ABC News (Australia)
Elusive marriage-wrecking fish carps it
In reporting the death of a 45-year-old much loved carp in the UK, only Australia's ABC came up with a headline with a pun. Even worse were some of the comments including, in sequence
I shouldn't carp but that fish has haddock. I hope it goes to a better plaice. (David Skidmore)

Indeed - not even the most gillful of sturgeons could have warded off the bream reaper here. (lefthandside)

His sole has gone to a betta plaice, he's with the angelfish now. fin. (pun gent)

You're saying he's with his Cod? (bark)

Surely you both mean a 'batter plaice' (KJ)

stop this wordplay nonsense, it's making me feel eel. (Glen)
Smells a bit fishy to me.

See ITN News report

17 August 2010

The Doctor Who Radiophon-A-Tron

Nearly six years old on their website, but still hours of fun. From BBC

Create your own version of the Doctor Who theme tune.

Ever wanted to mix a bit of Delia's Diddley-Dum with Howell's Wee-Wah-Woo? Well, now you can. We've combined all those basses, bleeps and whooshes into a fun Flash application for you to play with.

Enjoy the Radiophon-A-Tron, but spare a thought for your neighbours too!

Link here http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/news/radiophonatron.shtml

16 August 2010

Strata tower gets carbuncled

Strata SE1 was designed by architects BFLS (formerly Hamilton’s Architects), led by Robin Partington and Ian Bogle, and built by developer and contractor Brookfield Europe.



Strata SE1 is the tallest residential building in central London at 148 metres (485 feet) and 43 storeys. There is also a five-storey pavilion building with a mix of residential and retail facilities, together both providing 408 apartments.

According to BFLS, it is the "first building in the world with integral wind turbines" (which look like clocks to me).

The three five bladed nine metre diameter wind turbines are rated at 19kW each and are anticipated to produce 50MWh of electricity per year. To put this figure into context, it is enough energy to meet the total annual demand from 30 two bedroom apartments (based on current 2006 Building Regulations) or 20 two bedroom apartments (based on 2001 Building Regulations); approximately 8% of Strata SE1's estimated total energy consumption.

The electricity generated by the turbines will be used to supplement the landlords supply for the common areas of Strata SE1. The actual energy output of the wind turbines will only accurately be known after they are fully commissioned and 2 years of comprehensive wind data analysis has been completed.

The building has been described as a 'Giant Philishave' and its local nickname is Isengard, the tower of evil Saruman in Lord of the Rings.

On 12 August 2010, Building Design magazine awarded the building the Carbuncle Cup for 2010, for the ugliest building in the United Kingdom.

See also Daily Telegraph x2 (UK) and treehugger.

I think it looks alright actually.

15 August 2010

football - round 20

Brisbane Lions 4.7 6.12 12.14 13.19 (97)
Adelaide 2.4 9.5 13.8 15.14 (104)


GOALS
Brisbane Lions:
Clark 5, Banfield, Black, Hanley, Harwood, Patfull, Pokinghorne, Power, Staker
Adelaide: Tippett 5, Porplyzia 3, Douglas 2, Henderson 2, Davis, van Berlo, Sellar

BEST
Brisbane Lions: Clark, Black, Rockliff, Stiller, McGrath
Adelaide: Tippett, Douglas, Symes, van Berlo, Porplyzia, Johncock

INJURIES
Adelaide: Vince (knee), Knights (hamstring)

Umpires: Farmer, Ryan, Jennings
Official crowd: 25,403 at the Gabba

I had thought about travelling to Brisbane to attend the game this afternoon. The first quarter started well and Mitch Clark was outstanding but a win was not to be.

Pictures by Getty Images (Bradley Kanaris) via PicApp

Mitch
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Mitch Clark of the Lions takes a mark during the round 20 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Adelaide Crows at The Gabba on August 15, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Mitch
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Mitch Clark of the Lions takes a mark during the round 20 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Adelaide Crows at The Gabba on August 15, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Riska
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Simon Black of the Lions is tackled during the round 20 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Adelaide Crows at The Gabba on August 15, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Jack
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Jack Redden of the Lions kicks the ball during the round 20 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Adelaide Crows at The Gabba on August 15, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Albie
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Albert Proud of the Lions dives to take a mark during the round 20 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Adelaide Crows at The Gabba on August 15, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Big Red
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Daniel Merrett of the Lions takes a mark during the round 20 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Adelaide Crows at The Gabba on August 15, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Giant salamanders

From National Geographic's channel on YouTube
Giant salamanders, some growing up to 5-feet in length, face a barrier of dams in Japan, built to control flooding. Now it's hoped a new system will help these giant amphibians get upstream past the dams to lay their eggs.


Amazing creatures and an innovative way to save them.

See also breeding program at Smithsonian's National Zoo (report by National Geographic).

13 August 2010

Twin pandas

Adventure World, located at Katata Shirahama-cho Nishimuro-gun Wakayama in Japan, announced that nine-year-old Rauhin gave birth twin cubs, a male and female, on 11 August 2010, as a result of natural mating (not artificial insemination).

Rauhin herself was born at Adventure World on 6 September 2000.

This birth is her second, her first set of twins were born on 13 September 2008 (Meihin and Eihin), also from natural mating.





Given their very low numbers, every birth of a panda is news and celebrated world-wide. Besides, they're cute too!

See reporting by AFP.

12 August 2010

Ramadan kareem

Thankfully, it is winter in the southern hemisphere, so those observing Ramadan are able to break their daily fast earlier in the evening. My Muslim colleagues at work always found it difficult, particularly when Ramadan fell during summer and long days, when the rest of us ate during the day.

France24 has a great report on Ramadan 2010.

As in previous years and other presidents, President Obama issued a statement

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary


Statement by the President on the Occasion of Ramada
n

On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I want to extend our best wishes to Muslims in America and around the world. Ramadan Kareem.

Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God. This is a time when families gather, friends host iftars, and meals are shared. But Ramadan is also a time of intense devotion and reflection – a time when Muslims fast during the day and pray during the night; when Muslims provide support to others to advance opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere. For all of us must remember that the world we want to build – and the changes that we want to make – must begin in our own hearts, and our own communities.

These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings. Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. And here in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country. And today, I want to extend my best wishes to the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world – and your families and friends – as you welcome the beginning of Ramadan.

I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.

May God’s peace be upon you.
Ramadan kareem.

11 August 2010

Österreich: Arabische Touristen in Zell am See

Von ARD
Während viele Mitteleuropäer im Sommerurlaub in den sonnenverwöhnten Süden reisen, wählen immer mehr arabische Touristen aus Katar, Kuwait oder Saudi-Arabien den umgekehrten Weg. Urlaub im vergleichsweise milden Österreich und als Höhepunkt gelegentliche Regenschauer.


Interessant und wunderbar.

10 August 2010

There are 129,864,880 books in the world

As part of Google's attempt to digitize all the books in the world, they attempted to count how many there are. As at 8 August 2010, Google thinks there are nearly 130 million, or 129,864,880 to be more precise.

See Inside Google Books: Books of the world, stand up and be counted! All 129,864,880 of you.

Google should call this project Google Alexandria (after the Library of Alexandria).

Of the nearly 130 million books, I have probably read a few thousand. There is simply not enough time in a lifetime to read all the books in the world.

09 August 2010

The Oxford English Dictionary's secret vault of non-words, innit

Reported in the (UK) Daily Telegraph on 4 August 2010

Graphic designer Luke Ngakane, 22, uncovered hundreds of 'non words' as part of a project for Kingston University, London.

He said: ''I was fascinated when I read that the Oxford University Press has a vault where all their failed words, which didn't make the dictionary, are kept.

''This storeroom contains millions of words and some of them date back hundreds of years.

''It's a very hush, hush vault and I really struggled to find out information about it because it is so secretive.

''But when I spoke to them they were happy to confirm its existence and although I didn't actually get to see the room they did send me some examples.

''I picked out the words that resonated with me and really seemed to fit the purpose they were intended for.

''I get really excited when I hear someone using one of them because if enough people pick them up then maybe they will make it into the dictionary after all.''

Mr Ngakane researched hundreds of 'non words' before choosing 39 to etch onto a metal press plate and print onto A4 paper for his graphic design degree.

Read more. Mr Ngakane printed over 150 copies, which were distributed to writers, journalists, designers, copy writers and others to help bring expose the words. The 39 non-words Mr Ngakane selected were

Accordionated – being able to drive and refold a road map at the same time

Asphinxiation – being sick to death of unanswerable puzzles or riddles

Blogish – a variety of English that uses a large number of initialisms, frequently used on blogs

Dringle – the watermark left on wood caused by a glass of liquid.

Dunandunate – the overuse of a word or phrase that has recently been added to your own vocabulary

Earworm – a catchy tune that frequently gets stuck in your head

Espacular – something especially spectacular

Freegan – someone who rejects consumerism, usually by eating discarded food

Fumb – your large toe

Furgle – to feel in a pocket or bag for a small object such as a coin or key

Glocalization – running a business according to both local and global considerations

Griefer – someone who spends their online time harassing others

Headset jockey – a telephone call centre worker

Lexpionage – the sleuthing of words and phrases

Locavor – a person who tries to eat only locally grown or produced food

Museum head – feeling mentally exhausted and no longer able to take in information; Usually following a trip to a museum

Nonversation – a worthless conversation, wherein nothing is explained or otherwise elaborated upon

Nudenda – an unhidden agenda

Oninate – to overwhelm with post-dining breath

Optotoxical – a look that could kill, normally from a parent or spouse

Parrotise – a haven for exotic birds especially green ones

Peppier – a waiter whose sole job is to offer diners ground pepper, usually from a large pepper mill

Percuperate – to prepare for the possibility of being ill

Pharming – the practice of creating a dummy website for phishing data

Polkadodge – the dance that occurs when two people attempt to pass each other but move in the same direction

Pregreening – to creep forwards while waiting for a red light to change

Quackmire – the muddy edges of a duck pond

Scrax – the waxy coating that is scratched off an instant lottery ticket

Smushables – items that must be pack at the top of a bag to avoid being squashed

Spatulate – removing cake mixture from the side of a bowl with a spatula

Sprog – to go faster then a jog but slower then a sprint

Sprummer – when summer and spring time can't decide which is to come first, usually hot one day then cold the next

Stealth-geek – someone who hides their nerdy interests while maintaining a normal outward appearance

Vidiot – someone who is inept at the act of programming video recording equipment

Whinese – a term for the language spoken by children on lengthy trips

Wibble – the trembling of the lower lip just shy of actually crying

Wurfing – the act of surfing the Internet while at work

Wikism – a piece of information that claims to be true but is wildly inaccurate

Xenolexica – a grave confusion when faced with unusual words

See also Luke Ngakane's website This is Luke - Non Words and BBC News (video). The Daily Mail also reported on 8 August 2010 with a photo.

I'll furgle for coins in my pocket but hope I don't get an earworm.

08 August 2010

Gregory Rivers aka Ho Kwok Wing

Gregory Rivers was born in Gympie, Queensland in 1965 and grew up in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. While studying medicine at the University of New South Wales, he befriended students from Hong Kong and became addicted to Cantopop. In 1987, before he completed his studies, he bought an airfare to Hong Kong and has been living there ever since. His Chinese name is Ho Kwok Wing 河國榮 (Ho meaning River).



(he explains the origin of his Chinese name)


He has been an actor for TVB for many years.

Show reel (there is an intro where he speaks English)


See his blog - An Aussie in Hong Kong
See - interview with Adam Sheik about learning Cantonese; interview with CNN.

Of course, he wouldn't be the only 'westerner' who can speak Cantonese. After all, Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997. It's the perception that Cantonese is a difficult language to learn.

What is interesting about Gregory Rivers/Ho Kwok Wing is that he is probably the most famous Australian in Hong Kong and most people in Australia have never heard of him.

07 August 2010

football - round 19

West Coast 2.2 4.5 8.6 9.11 (65)
Brisbane Lions 1.3 7.5 9.7 10.10 (70)


GOALS
West Coast:
LeCras 2, Strijk, Sheppard, Embley, Selwood, Stevens, Lynch, Priddis
Brisbane Lions: Brown 5, Harwood, Hanley, Rockliff, Brennan, Banfield

BEST
West Coast:
S Selwood, Priddis, Strijk, McGinnity, Cox, Smith
Brisbane Lions: Rischitelli, Brennan, Black, McGrath, Brown, Staker

INJURIES
West Coast:
Beau Waters (illness) replaced in selected side by Koby Stevens

Umpires: Margetts, Armstrong, Keating
Official crowd: 32,587 at Subiaco Oval

The previous win was in round 10 so it was good to hear the club song again. Mind you, the two bottom teams of the ladder, battling it out to avoid being the wooden spooner summed up the atmosphere of the game. It was a dreadful game.

Pictures by Getty Images (Paul Kane) via PicApp

Chinny
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Cheynee Stiller of the Lions marks the ball during the round 19 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Lions at Subiaco Oval on August 7, 2010 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Ooh Ah (Ash) versus LeCras
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Mark LeCras of the Eagles and Ashley McGrath of the Lions contest a mark during the round 19 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Lions at Subiaco Oval on August 7, 2010 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Big Red and Ooh Ah contest LeCras
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Daniel Merrett and Ashley McGrath of the Lions contest the ball against Mark LeCras of the Eagles during the round 19 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Lions at Subiaco Oval on August 7, 2010 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Pumpkinhead
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Todd Banfield of the Lions runs onto the ball during the round 19 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Lions at Subiaco Oval on August 7, 2010 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Handles
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Pearce Hanley of the Lions marks the ball the round 19 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Lions at Subiaco Oval on August 7, 2010 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Jahz
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Jared Brennan of the Lions runs with the ball during the round 19 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Lions at Subiaco Oval on August 7, 2010 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Berger being tackled
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Matt Spangher of the Eagles tackles Matthew Leuenberger of the Lions during the round 19 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Lions at Subiaco Oval on August 7, 2010 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Mitch
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Mitch Clark of the Lions marks the ball during the round 19 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Lions at Subiaco Oval on August 7, 2010 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

06 August 2010

Reported by Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — A New Jersey couple who gave their children Nazi-inspired names should not regain custody of them, a state appeals court ruled Thursday, citing the parents' own disabilities and the risk of serious injury to their children.

Read more.

The names of the children were not given as a reason for their removal. Perhaps it should be. Surely there should be some law to protect children from being given inappropriate names and prevent their registration in the first place, like there is in the United Kingdom.

05 August 2010

Grammar mistakes

Please do not use apostrophes for non-possessive plural nouns. It is incorrect and really annoying to read.

Thank you.

04 August 2010

France: creating second class citizens

Reported by Bloomberg (and other media outlets)

The French government will present a bill in September empowering it to strip naturalized citizens of their French nationality if they commit serious crimes, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said.

The law would apply to people who have been French for less than 10 years and who commit crimes punishable by more than five years in prison, Besson told journalists after leaving a Cabinet meeting today in Paris.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, responding to a recent spate of riots and violent crimes, said in a July 30 speech in the Alpine city of Grenoble that violent criminals with “foreign origins” should be stripped of their citizenship. There was a night of rioting in Grenoble last month after police shot dead an armed 27-year-old of North African origin who led them on a car chase after robbing a casino.

Read more. See also reporting in Le Figaro (in French).

For a nation that has liberté, égalité, fraternité as its national motto, it is strange that they plan to create a separate class of citizenship for the foreign born. The concept of citizenship is that once it is conferred, that person would be treated equally like other citizens irrespective of country of birth. The same laws should apply equally to all.

Applying different laws to a notionally different class of citizens undermines the concept of equality and citizenship. Citizenship can't be conditional. Either a person is or isn't a citizen.

03 August 2010

Australia's most famous dessert

On 25 July 2010, around 3.9 million Australians watched two contestants prepare a dessert in their bid to be MasterChef 2010.

Consequently, the dessert called Snow Egg, created by Peter Gilmore of Quay restaurant in Sydney is now the most famous in Australia. Reported in Sydney Morning Herald

After its starring role in the MasterChef final, Sydney restaurant Quay's snow egg is arguably the most famous dessert in the country.

“We've had to put extra people on [the section] to help make it,” Quay general manager John Fink says of the stratospheric demand over the past week for the dessert (pictured).

“We've had people phone up asking if we do it as takeaway,” he says.
It looks stunning.



Components

* poached meringue
* maltose tuilles
* guava puree
* guava granita
* custard apple ice cream
* vanilla custard base
* vanilla cream
* guava fool

Poached Meringue

* 300g egg white
* 300g sugar

Maltose Tuilles

* 200g liquid maltose
* 100g sugar
* 20g flaked almonds

Guava Puree

* 175g sugar
* 250ml water
* ½ vanilla bean
* 375g strawberry guava flesh

Guava Granita

* 500ml water
* 100g sugar
* 400g strawberry guavas, peeled
* 100g fresh strawberries

Custard Apple Ice Cream

* 6 egg yolks
* 200g sugar
* 200ml milk
* 300ml clear custard apple juice
* 100ml single cream

Vanilla Custard Base

* 400ml single cream
* 2 vanilla beans
* 1 whole egg
* 3 egg yolks
* 80g sugar

Vanilla cream

* 100g vanilla custard base
* 100g double cream

Guava Fool

* 400g guava puree
* 200g vanilla cream

The full recipe can be found at Lifestyle Food Channel or MasterChef.

02 August 2010

Hipsters

Hipsters are today's alternative counter-culture fashionable wannabes.



Look at some of my links of favourite websites on the right-hand-side. Oh dear.

01 August 2010

when someone goes missing, a day spent waiting is a day lost



This week is National Missing Persons Week (in Australia).

National Missing Persons Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the issues and impacts surrounding missing persons.

Research has shown there is a persistent myth that people believe they have to wait 24 hours to report a person missing. In 2010 the focus of the week is to dispel this myth. If you don't know the whereabouts of a loved one and you are concerned for their safety and welfare, you don't have to wait before reporting to police.

The tagline for the 2010 campaign is -

'when someone goes missing, a day spent waiting is a day lost'.

National Missing Persons Week also seeks to bring to light national efforts to find missing Australians and prevent others from becoming a missing person.

Information on people reported as missing in Australia can be found here.