29 October 2010

Beyond reasonable doubt 3

Last year, I wrote twice about the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 by the state of Texas on charges of murder. Today, questions remain about whether he was actually innocent.

More recently, again in the state of Texas, an inmate named Anthony Graves was finally freed after 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was also on death row. Melissa Block in All Things Considered on NPR interviewed Pamela Colloff, editor of Texas Monthly who wrote an in-depth article about the case. Extract of the radio transcript
BLOCK: Let's recap this case. Anthony Graves was convicted of capital murder. That conviction was actually overturned 12 years later, but he was awaiting retrial on capital murder charges. Now, the D.A.'s office says, unequivocally, he is an innocent man.

Ms. COLLOFF: Yes. What's interesting is that they say that unequivocally. This is not the sort of situation where a D.A. is saying we don't have enough evidence to move forward or this case is too old to prosecute. There is a remarkable press conference this morning that the district attorney held in Brenham, Texas, in which he and his special prosecutor said this man is innocent. We have absolutely no shred of evidence that connects him to this crime.

BLOCK: Well, how was it that Anthony Graves was first implicated in these murders back in 1992?

Ms. COLLOFF: This began because Robert Carter, the man who did in fact commit this crime and he was later executed for committing this crime, was asked repeatedly on the night of his arrest who had helped him. The Texas rangers who were investigating the case believed that one person could not have been responsible for the murders of six people. Finally, after a lengthy interrogation, Robert Carter came up with the name of Anthony Graves, a person he knew very, very casually, and that was the beginning.

BLOCK: And there was no physical evidence connecting Anthony Graves with the murders. He had an alibi, witnesses to back it up. What is the explanation for what happened with this case? Pamela, was this, as we said, missteps by the D.A., or was it something really more pernicious? Was there a willful misconduct on the part of prosecutors?

Ms. COLLOFF: The night before Robert Carter, the man who committed this crime, took the stand at Anthony Graves' trial, he told the district attorney, I did this myself. Anthony Graves had nothing to do with this. The district attorney at that point was obligated to disclose that information to the defense. He claimed that he did. The defense said that he never disclosed that. And there's no evidence to support that he ever did disclose that information. The following day Robert Carter took the stand, he testified against Anthony Graves and delivered the testimony that the district attorney had hoped he would. A federal court later found that when Mr. Sebesta took that testimony, he knew that that was perjured testimony.

BLOCK: It's worth noting that it was a journalism class engaged in investigating wrongful prosecutions that led to Anthony Graves' original conviction being overturned, right?

Ms. COLLOFF: That's correct. There's a professor here in Houston at University of St. Thomas, Nicole Casarez, she and her journalism students spent eight years investigating this case and turned up some remarkable facts. They went back. They reinvestigated the case. They found new people to talk about what had happened. They pored over this incredible lengthy and complicated court record. And what Nicole and her students put together was a very damning picture of miscarriage of justice.

BLOCK: Anthony Graves was, what, 26 when he was arrested. He leaves prison now at age 45 - 18 years of his life behind bars. What happens with him now?

Ms. COLLOFF: I think that's the question. I talked to him very briefly yesterday, and he said this is the beginning - I think, meaning, this is the beginning of my life or the rest of my life. But keep in mind he will get no money from the state of Texas. He's 45. He has nothing to his name. When he called his mother yesterday to tell her that he was finally being let go, he didn't know how to use his attorney's cell phone. And no amount of money, even if he were being given money, I think could give back what's been taken from him.

BLOCK: Pamela Colloff, it is a chilling and terrifying story. Thank you very much.
This would surely be another case to support the abolition of the death penalty.  Unlike Cameron Todd Willingham, Anthony Graves is now free. And alive.

What is worrying is the miscarriage of justice that allowed him to be imprisoned for so long in the first place. That is a separate issue and just as important.

28 October 2010

Watching watches

A consumer survey by Mintel Oxygen revealed that "some 86% of consumers wear a watch, but nearly 40% only buy a new one when their old one is broken". The rest of the report will cost £1500, US$2310 or €1793.

Fortunately, BBC News Magazine was either provided a free copy of the report, or purchased the report, and was able to report that the 14% of consumers not owning a watch claimed they did need one, numbering some 7.2 million people in the United Kingdom and likely to grow due to ownership of mobile phones. Particularly amongst young people.

With wrist watches becoming unpopular with young people, there are concerns that it will become redundant. Obviously, the report could concern watchmakers.

Obviously, some people are under the impression that watches are used to tell the time. This is only a minor useful function. Watches are actually a fashion accessory that should look good.

Nevermind Rolex. The perfect fashionable watches are made by Patek Philippe, particularly the 5004G.

However, I will just have to be satisfied with Longines.

27 October 2010

Über Alles nicht

Reported in Der Spiegel

Diplomatic Gaffe

Chilean President Wrote 'Deutschland Über Alles' in German Guest Book

In a gesture of thanks for Germany's help in rescuing the 33 Chilean miners, President Sebastián Piñera wrote the historically charged slogan 'Deutschland Über Alles' into the guest book of German President Christian Wulff last week. Now Wulff's office is pondering how to remove the words.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has apologized for writing the words "Deutschland Über Alles," a phrase frowned on in Germany because of its association with the Nazi era, into the official guest book of German President Christian Wulff during a visit to Berlin last week.

Media reports claimed Piñera had said on Monday that he had learned the slogan in school in the 1950s and 1960s and understood it to be a celebration of German unification in the 19th century under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. He said he was unaware that it was "linked to that country's dark past."

The first verse was dropped from the anthem after World War II because it is deemed too nationalistic. Piñera had been on a European trip to thank countries for their help in freeing the 33 Chilean miners. A spokesman for Wulff's office played down the gaffe on Monday, saying the president had no doubt intended to express something positive about Germany.

Bild's Loser of the Day

Piñera isn't the only one to have unwittingly broken the taboo. Even experienced Europeans have done so. Last year, the French presidential office was so excited at the prospect that Chancellor Angela Merkel would attend the official celebrations to mark the French victory in World War I, the first German leader ever to do so, that its press department announced that the choir of the French army would sing "Deutschland Über Alles" at the event, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported at the time.

The mistake was spotted in time and the choir confined itself to singing the third verse which has been officially used since the end of World War II, starting with the unoffensive words: "Unity and justice and freedom for the German fatherland!"

Bild, Germany's best-selling tabloid newspaper, responded to the faux pas by declaring Piñera as its loser of the day, a regular item on its front page, on Tuesday. "He's better at rescuing miners," the paper declared.

Meanwhile, "Deutschland Über Alles" continues to sully the pages of Wulff's guest book. Wulff's office now plans to discuss the matter with the Chilean embassy in Berlin. Piñera may get a chance to revise his entry.

cro -- wire reports
Most people making this error would be unaware of the sensitivity despite the offensive stanza no longer being used since 1952 and again confirmed upon German reunification in 1990.

Perhaps educating this fact could be part of Germany's usual international public diplomacy.

A timely reminder indeed.

26 October 2010

Amazing Amazon's new discoveries

The 10th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is currently being held in Nagoya, Japan (18-29 October 2010).

To coincide with the event, WWF - World Wide Fund for Nature today launched Amazon Alive!: A Decade of Discoveries 1999-2009, which listed new species including 637 plants, 257 fish, 216 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 16 birds and 39 mammals.

See media release.

New species also included spiders, such as this very attractive one

Avicularia braunshauseni (photo by Karl Csaba for WWF)

25 October 2010

Brisbane zombie walk

The fifth Brisbane zombie walk occurred yesterday.  Unfortunately, regular zombie reporter for the ABC, Gary Kemble, was unable to attend. Brisbane Times (Fairfax) reported that some 10,000 zombies shuffled through Brisbane yesterday. Excerpt
The Brisbane Zombie Walk 2010 attracted police car escorts and caused minor traffic delays as about 10,000 people dressed in fake-blood splattered costumes and moaning for brains walked from Wickham Park to Fortitude Valley.

“I do this every year,” said zombie walker Ged Maybury, of Logan, who only started making his costume on Saturday.

“I'm trying to catch up (with the crowd) but I keep having to stop for people to take my photo.”

Paige Vickers heard about the event from her flatmate.

She caught the bus into town covered in red food dye mixed with glucose syrup.

“I didn't care. Half the bus was filled up with zombies. There's thousands of us here,” she said.

Meanwhile blood-splattered bride Vanessa Campbell and her friends found yesterday was a nice day for a white - and red flecked - wedding.

“Who doesn't love dressing up?” she said.

The annual event raises money for the Brain Foundation Australia but organisers say the walk is also for fun and for those “obsessed with the living dead”.
Photos from facebook group

 (photo by Ryan Cunningham)

 (photo by Ellie Marie Whiting)

Here is a video footage, although the zombies appear to be a little too animated

Zombie walks also took place in Sydney, Melbourne and cities around the world.

24 October 2010

Six billion stories and counting

Today, Australia's multilingual/multicultural network Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) marked its 30th anniversary of television broadcasting. Its first full-time television transmission began at 6.30pm on 24 October 1980 as Channel 0 in Melbourne and Sydney. The late Mr Bruce Gyngell, who first introduced television to Australia back in 1956, welcomed Australians to the new channel. See below

In 1985, the network then known as Channel 0-28 was renamed SBS and began to expand its coverage nationally.

Today, aside from some local productions, SBS rebroadcasts programs from all over the world, fulfilling its former slogan from 1983 of 'Bringing the world back home'. With the onset of digital broadcasting, there are now two channels, SBS One and SBS Two, with Three and Four reserved.

The news schedule this morning on SBS One looked like this
07:00 Hungarian News from Duna TV (DTV) Budapest
07:30 Latin American News via satellite from Television National de Chile, in Spanish
08:00 Polish News Wydarzenia from Polsat in Warsaw via satellite
08:30 Dutch News via satellite from BVN
09:00 Portuguese News via satellite from RTP Portugal (Lisbon)
09:30 Urdu News from PTV Pakistan in Islamabad
10:00 Maltese News from Public Broadcasting Services Limited, Malta

On weekdays, the news schedule on SBS One includes news from YTN Korea, NHK Tokyo, TVB Hong Kong, CCTV Beijing, DW Berlin, RAI Rome, ABS-CBN Manila, RTVE Madrid, ERT Athens, FT2 Paris, NDTV India, DRTV Dubai, NTV Moscow and TRT Turkey. All up, there are news bulletins from 26 countries in 25 languages.

Tonight, on SBS One is a French film Un vrai bonheur (The Wedding Day) and on SBS Two, two more French films Ensemble, c'est tout (Hunting and Gathering) and La maison de Nina (Nina's Home). During the coming week there are films from Spain, China, Italy, Israel, India, Croatia and Norway. All films are subtitled in English.

Some of the regular series broadcast on SBS that are popular include Kommissar (Inspector) Rex from Austria (in German with English subtitles), police drama Rejseholdet (Unit One, from Denmark, in Danish with English subtitles) and the American South Park, which is deemed too offensive to be shown on the commercial stations.

SBS is wonderful in reminding us that we in Australia are just a small part of a larger world and indeed that Australians come from all parts of the world.

30 years on, SBS television is as relevant as ever if not more so. It is unique in being the only national (public-funded with some advertising revenue) multilingual/multicultural broadcaster in the world.

The world is an amazing place.

23 October 2010

The ugly face of Islamaphobia

From (US) ABC News
The Sept. 11 attacks, the Iraq war and suicide bombings worldwide have changed not only the way we live but the way we look at those around us, especially Muslims. "Islamophobia" has entered the American vernacular, and the anti-Muslim attitudes and prejudice it describes remain common.

But what if you witnessed "Islamophobia" in action and saw someone being victimized because of someone else's prejudices? What would you do?
As the father, of a soldier just returned home from serving in Iraq, said "every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity".

21 October 2010

Terry Durack's top 50 food experiences in Sydney

Terry Durack is a well known Australian food reviewer/critic. He was the Sydney Morning Herald's chief food reviewer and editor of The Sydney Morning Good Food Guide for many years before leaving Sydney in 2000 to work in London as food critic for The Independent. He returned to Sydney with partner Jill Dupliex (who was food editor for The Times) in 2009, again as food reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald.

He recently wrote about the 50 things every Sydney food lover should try.

While there are some pricey ones, most are relatively reasonably priced, if not cheap. I like these and will add them to my list of things to do in Sydney
4. Wagyu burger and Martinez cocktail at Rockpool Bar & Grill
Every great bar has its perfect order. Here, it's the wagyu burger and a Martinez, the not-so-dry precursor to the dry martini. Settle into a dark leather chair in the lovely dimly lit bar – you'll need a candle to scan the menu – and hit on David Blackmore's full-blood wagyu burger with Schulz house-smoked bacon, gruyère cheese, Zuni pickle (zucchini and red onion) and relish ($22). Match it with the Martinez ($19), made of sweet vermouth, Tanqueray gin, bitters and a splash of maraschino. 66 Hunter Street, city. Phone: 8078 1900. rockpool.com.au

28. Pho dac biet from Pho Pasteur
The decor and service are basic but the special beef noodle soup ($9.50) is just that – special, with its silky rice noodles, slices of beef, tripe and translucent tendon awash in an aromatic broth. 295 Chapel Road, Bankstown (also at Haymarket and Parramatta). Phone: 9790 2900.

34. Xiao long bao dumplings from Din Tai Fung
Half the fun is watching the white-gowned, white-masked staff make these little porkand soup-filled dumplings ($8.80 for six) in the seethrough kitchen while you wait for a table. The other half is eating them. World Square, 644 George Street, city. Phone: 9264 6010. dintaifung.com.tw/en/index.asp

35. Tonkotsu ramen from Gumshara
It's worth hanging around once you've put your order in for this seriously thick, lipsticking pork broth swimming with ramen noodles ($12) just to watch chef Mori's assured technique as he swirls broth, strains noodles and tucks in barbecue pork and soft-boiled egg at speed with utter concentration. Eating World, 25 Dixon Street, Haymarket. No phone.

36. Hainanese chicken rice from Temasek
The uninitiated may ask what is so special about a simple Malaysian dish of chicken served with a bowl of the broth in which the chicken is poached, along with a mound of rice cooked in the same broth ($12). Temasek's regulars know better. 71 George Street, Parramatta. Phone: 9633 9926.
There were others on Durack's list that did not take my fancy, such as the famous pie with mushy peas from Harry's Cafe de Wheels (number 30 on his list). I tried it once but found the cold mushy peas unappealing.

20 October 2010


I speak German like a country hick from the south - Bavaria. Needless to say, many Germans from the north, especially Berlin, and proper Hochdeutsch speakers treat Bavarians and Austrians with bemusement.

From NDR (based in Hamburg. In the north)

How rude!

19 October 2010

Not the Eurostar

In late 1994, the first direct rail service between London (Waterloo Station) and Paris (Gare du Nord) and Brussels (Midi/Zuid) commenced. Named Eurostar, the train travelled under the English Channel through the newly built Channel Tunnel.

Since, then the Eurostar service has had a monopoly in the use of rail services through the tunnel with the London terminus switching to St Pancras Sation.

New EU legislation has opened up the route to competition with Germany's Deutsche Bahn (DB) rail operator pushing to compete with Eurostar.

An ICE (Inter City Express) train arrived at St Pancras Station today on a test run.

ICE alongside Eurostar at Waterloo (photo from dpa via Der Speigel)
DB hopes to offer services in time for the London Olympics in 2012, with regular services from 2013. A journey from London to Frankfurt would take five hours.

- Deutsche Welle
- Daily Mail

Having travelled on Eurostar from London to Brussels, I am looking forward to the London-Frankfurt route on ICE.

18 October 2010

Hipsters 2 (everybody hates them, even other hipsters)

In August, I wrote that Hipsters are today's alternative counter-culture fashionable wannabes.

Alex Rayner in The Guardian wrote about why people hate hipsters "Hipster-hate blogs are multiplying online. But who are these much-maligned trendies – and why do people find them so irritating? Perhaps we should learn to love our skinny-jeaned friends instead" Excerpt
Nevertheless, from London to Lima, Sydney to Mexico City, detractors might not know exactly what a hipster is, but they do know what they don't like: a tiresome sort of trendy, ostentatious in their perceived rebellion, yet strangely conformist; meticulous in their tastes, yet also strangely limited. Squatting somewhere between MGMT, The Inbetweeners and Derek Zoolander, this modern incarnation is all mouth and skinny trousers.
Read more (the article has numerous links to interesting websites).

Since 9 September 2010, a video mocking hipsters has received over three million views.

Hipsters are surely the new Bohemians, except that they are cashed-up and more self-centred. So did emos evolve or are do they still exist and missing the attention?

17 October 2010

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Everybody Wants to Rule the World was a worldwide hit for British group Tears for Fears in 1985. Curt Smith on vocals.

There is something comforting about this song. To me, it represents the zeitgeist of the 1980s.

16 October 2010

The world's longest railway tunnel

AlpTransit Gotthard AG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB-CFF-FFS), is currently building the world's longest railway tunnel. From their communiqué of 15 October 2010
World record on the Gotthard: The longest railway tunnel in the world has become a reality. On 15 October 2010 in the east tunnel, 30 km from the north portal and 27 km from the south portal, the final breakthrough of the Gotthard took place. At about 14:30, the tunnel boring machine, drilling from Faido, broke through the last metre of rock on the route to Sedrun.

The tunnel breakthrough was highly accurate. At 8 cm horizontally and 1 cm vertically, the deviation was very small. In his speech, Federal Councillor Moritz Leuenberger expressed pleasure, but was also moved by this important milestone on the Gotthard: “This breakthrough is a symbol of what policy can do, when we make it together,” he said. The new base tunnel will make Swiss – and also European – transport policy more sustainable. Renzo Simoni, Chief Executive Officer of AlpTransit Gotthard AG, singled out the numerous miners in his thanks. “Through their years of tireless commitment, they have made this world record possible. The miners are the heroes of today’s celebrations.”

Guests and miners are very happy

At the breakthrough point deep inside the mountain, a little over 6 km south of Sedrun, about 200 people, including Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger and other guests of honour, witnessed the breakthrough by the tunnel boring machine. About 3500 miners and others involved in the project, including current and former engineers, planners, geologists and surveyors, followed the breakthrough on big screens at various venues: the Sedrun workshop, the Faido multifunction station, the north portal in Erstfeld, and the KKL in Lucerne. Swiss TV broadcast the event live throughout Switzerland and internationally

Importance for transport policy

The 57 km Gotthard base tunnel traverses the Alps, connecting the north portal in Erstfeld (Canton Uri) with the south portal in Bodio (Canton Ticino). With a rock overburden of up to 2500 m, the Gotthard base tunnel is also the most deeply set rail tunnel in the world. Together with the 15.4 km Ceneri base tunnel, the Gotthard base tunnel will provide a level track through the Alps. The base tunnel through the Gotthard is the core of the new rail connection. It is planned to become operational by the end of 2017. This will markedly improve passenger and freight transport at the heart of Europe: it will favour the shift of north-south freight traffic from road to rail, and shorten the journey time from Zurich to Milan from 3 hours 40 minutes to 2 hours 50 minutes. With the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) on the Gotthard and the Lötschberg, Switzerland is contributing significantly to bring the people of Europe together – something the EU acknowledges.

Building the Gotthard base tunnel

The Gotthard base tunnel consists of two parallel single-track tubes, which are connected every 325 m by 40 m galleries. Overall, the tunnel system of the Gotthard base tunnel, including all tubes, shafts and galleries, measures 151.8 km. One and two thirds of the way along, at Faido and Sedrun, there are multifunction stations, which serve as emergency stopping points and places to change track. The Gotthard base tunnel was built simultaneously in five sections: Erstfeld, Amsteg, Sedrun, Faido and Bodio. The first works were carried out back in 1993, with the Piora exploratory boring, and from 1996 to 1998 with the blasting of the access shafts in Sedrun, Faido and Amsteg. Since 2001, the main lots have been constructed. The final breakthrough in the west tube is planned to take place in April 2011.
The previous longest railway tunnel was the undersea Seikan Tunnel at 53.85 kilometres (33.46 miles) linking the Japanese islands of Honshū and Hokkaidō.

Images by Reuters via PicApp
A visitor stands at the Erstfeld-Amsteg section of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel October 5, 2010. With a length of 57 km (35 miles) crossing the Alps, the world's longest train tunnel should become operational at the end of 2017.  REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann (SWITZERLAND - Tags: BUSINESS CONSTRUCTION TRANSPORT TRAVEL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

REFILE - CORRECTING TYPO A miner stands in front of the drill machine 'Sissi' after it broke through the rock at the final section Faido-Sedrun, at the construction site of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel October 15, 2010. With a length of 57 km (35 miles) crossing the Alps, the world's longest train tunnel should become operational at the end of 2017.      REUTERS/Christian Hartmann (SWITZERLAND - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS BUSINESS CONSTRUCTION POLITICS IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)

See AP reporting (video)

In comparison, the Channel Tunnel (under the English Channel) is 50.45 kilometres. The proposed Gilbraltar tunnel linking Europe to Africa (via Spain and Morocco) would be 40 kilometres.

Travelling through the mountainous Swiss Alps by rail or car is a wonderful experience, through tunnels that are marvellous feats of engineering. 

15 October 2010

The most expensive residence in the world

According to The Times of India (reported by Reeba Zachariah), Mr Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, India's largest private sector company, with a personal estimated wealth of US$27 billion, is set to move into his new mansion. With a price nearing US$1 billion and named Antilia,
the 27-storey building completed after seven years of labour, has three helipads on the top floor and has been billed as the most opulent home of an individual anywhere in the world.

The glass tower that stands 570 feet tall features a swimming pool, a health club, a salon and a mini-theatre. The first six levels comprise the garage where more than 160 cars can be parked. Atop the parking lot is Antilia's lobby, which has nine elevators.

The lobby leads to numerous lounges, powder rooms and a ballroom. The top floors, with a sweeping view of the city, are where the 53-year old business magnate, his wife Nita and children Akash, Anant and Isha will reside.
Further reported in The Times (republished in The Australian), Rhys Blakely made a poignant observation
Looking over a city where more than half the population lives in slums, it is a soaring monument to the growing chasm dividing India's rich and poor.

For many, however, the gleaming tower will be an uncomfortable reminder that India's economic renaissance has delivered extraordinary benefits to a handful of hugely wealthy "Bollygarchs" but little to the 800 million Indians who live on not much more than $2 a day.

Mumbai suffers from a chronic shortage of quality homes, and visitors arriving at its airport are greeted by a seemingly endless patchwork of mottled tin and blue tarpaulin - the construction materials of the city's slum-builders. For decades, the slums have existed next to the luxurious bungalows and high-rises of India's super-rich - but not even the maharajas of past centuries exhibited the opulence of Mukesh Ambani, critics say.
Yes.  It is possible to have too much money. Such ostentatious displays of wealth in the face of poverty is a matter for residents of Mumbai to discuss.

13 October 2010

Last Minutes with Oden (Vimeo Festival Best Video)

Last week, I wrote about Last Minutes with Oden and the Vimeo Festival. It was one of the finalists across a number of categories.

During the festival this past weekend, the film was awarded Best Video along with $25,000 towards new work.  Blogged by Blake Whitman for the festival and awards team
When Eliot Rausch stepped up to the podium to accept the award for the Documentary category, his shock and appreciation were obvious. Later, when he returned to accept the award for Best Video and the $25,000 grant towards his future work, his genuine gratitude moved us just as much as his film.
Here is the film again.

Last Minutes with ODEN from phos pictures on Vimeo.

It is the story of Jason Wood and his dog Oden, towards the end of Oden's life (warning of euthanasia scene).

See additional reporting by NPR

12 October 2010

Dame Joan Sutherland 1926-2010

Dame Joan Sutherland (7 November 1926 - 10 October 2010)

She was one of the finest sopranos in the world and in history. Luciano Pavarotti, who worked with Dame Joan in numerous operas, described her as having the "the voice of the century".

The Australian Prime Minister issued a statement (in the third person)
The Prime Minister today joined Australians around the nation to mourn the death of Dame Joan Sutherland - a great Australian and one of the nation's greatest voices.

Dame Joan Sutherland died peacefully at the age of 83 with her family by her side in Switzerland.

Dame Joan will be remembered by opera lovers for her extraordinary performances that kept audiences around the world spellbound.

She was widely regarded as one of the finest opera singers of the 20th century, so much so that Luciano Pavarotti once described her as 'the voice of the century'.

The Prime Minister said it was right for the nation to also celebrate the life of Dame Joan who made a tremendous contribution to her nation, to opera and the arts.

Dame Joan touched the lives of so many people around the world, yet never lost sight of her Australian upbringing and her many admirers at home.

She was generous in teaching and supporting new generations of singers and musicians, and until recently could be seen in the audiences of productions in Australia.

The Prime Minister offered her condolences to her husband Richard, son Adam and their extended family at this difficult time.

Born in Sydney in 1926, Dame Joan made her British debut in the Magic Flute in October 1952. Her 40 year career included a 19 minute standing ovation for her performance in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor in 1959.

She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1979 a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1975, Australian of the Year in 1961 and received an Order of Merit in 1991.
Amongst my favourite opera recordings are those with Sutherland in Lucia di Lammermoor and La Traviata (both with Pavarotti).
Donizetti - Lucia di Lammermoor / Sutherland · Pavarotti · Milnes · Ghiaurov · ROH Covent Garden · Bonynge

Verdi - La Traviata / Sutherland, Pavarotti, Manuguerra, NPO, Bonynge

Lucia di Lammermoor (a veranno a te sull'aure)

La Traviata (sempre libera)

Addio, stupenda

11 October 2010

The Great Typo Hunt

Just over two years ago, I wrote about the Typo Eradication Advancement League. Much has happened since then.

It resulted in The Great Type Hunt and a book. You can listen to a story from NPR back in August 2010 (transcript).

More recently, CBS News featured a story about it.

08 October 2010

The right to dry.

A battle is raging across the United States by people fighting for the right to dry their laundry naturally outside on clotheslines.

See Drying for Freedom (trailer of film above)
Tens of millions of individuals across Northern America are banned from outdoor line drying by the very communities they live in, forcing them to turn to the dryer. Homeowners who break the rules are fined, sued and even foreclosed on. This ban is not only infringing on civil rights, it's contributing to the environmental and energy crisis. The dryer is responsible for 6% of the average household's energy bill and it costs residential ratepayers in the US an estimated $5 billion annually.
The right to dry movement embodied by Project Laundry List was founded following a speech by former Australian Dr Helen Caldicott.

See also Chicago Tribune and BBC News Magazine.

The concept of not being allowed to dry clothes outdoors is unthinkable in Australia, where the rotary clothesline known as the Hills Hoist was invented.

07 October 2010

headline of the month

From Reuters
Michael Jackson scarecrows get Taiwan birds to beat it
Similarly, from ABC News (Australia) reprinting the article from Reuters but modifying the headline (they are good with puns).
Jacko scarecrows get birds to beat it
The story was about a rice farmer in Taiwan dressing a scarecrow as Michael Jackson. Reuters could have had a bit more fun but only gave one more fun sentence.
But not everyone in the family thinks the scarecrow idea is a thriller.
You know I'm bad, I'm bad...

06 October 2010

A parliament of owls and other collective nouns

Most people know about a pride of lions, a flock of sheep, a herd of cattle, a school of fish, an army of ants, a bunch of flowers, a swarm of bees, and a coven of witches in describing a collective.

Logically, a bunch of roosting owls might be described as a school of owls but no, they are a parliament. Perhaps the school came from Harry Potter.

Collective nouns are now rarely used except for the most common. Lists of collective nouns can be found here and here.

If in doubt, just use the word bunch.

05 October 2010

Last Minutes with Oden (Vimeo Festival)

Over 8-9 October (this weekend), Vimeo is hosting the Vimeo Festival in New York City. Viewers can view finalists in each category (five in each of narrative, remix, original series, documentary, music video, animation, motion graphics, experimental and captured) and vote for them.

The Best Video Award will be selected from across all the categories and the winner awarded a $25,000 grant to produce new work.

Last Minutes with Oden
by Eliot Rausch, Lukas Korver and Matt Taylor of Phos Pictures is one of the five finalists in the documentary category.

Last Minutes with ODEN from phos pictures on Vimeo.

It is the story of Jason Wood and his dog Oden, towards the end of Oden's life (warning of euthanasia scene).

Really worth watching.

See NPR.

03 October 2010

An explanation of trans-dimensional engineering

or why the inside of the TARDIS is bigger than the outside.

From The Robots of Death, the Doctor explains to Leela, who had just joined him as a companion following The Face of Evil.

02 October 2010

Seeing the forest for the trees

The Curtain Fig Tree (strangler fig species Fichus virens), just outside the small township of Yungaburra on the Atherton Tableland near Cairns (in north Queensland, Australia) has been a tourist attraction for many generations.

(photo from Tropic Wings, a great tour company)

It might seem strange to travel some distance to view one tree but many people appreciate natural beauty.

Just outside San Francisco is Muir Woods, another attraction, which is a tree-lovers paradise.

01 October 2010

2010 Ig Nobel awards

The Ig Nobel is awarded to researchers, whose research should not be repeated. The 2010 winners, announced on 30 September 2010 at Harvard University were
ENGINEERING PRIZE: Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico, for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.
REFERENCE: "A Novel Non-Invasive Tool for Disease Surveillance of Free-Ranging Whales and Its Relevance to Conservation Programs," Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse, Agnes Rocha-Gosselin and Diane Gendron, Animal Conservation, vol. 13, no. 2, April 2010, pp. 217-25.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse, Agnes Rocha-Gosselin, Diane Gendron

MEDICINE PRIZE: Simon Rietveld of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University, The Netherlands, for discovering that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride.
REFERENCE: "Rollercoaster Asthma: When Positive Emotional Stress Interferes with Dyspnea Perception," Simon Rietveld and Ilja van Beest, Behaviour Research and Therapy, vol. 45, 2006, pp. 977–87.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Simon Rietveld and Ilja van Beest

TRANSPORTATION PLANNING PRIZE: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi of Japan, and Dan Bebber, Mark Fricker of the UK, for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks.
REFERENCE: "Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design," Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Dan P. Bebber, Mark D. Fricker, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi, Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Science, Vol. 327. no. 5964, January 22, 2010, pp. 439-42.
[NOTE: THE FOLLOWING ARE CO-WINNERS BOTH THIS YEAR AND IN 2008 when they were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for demonstrating that slime molds can solve puzzles: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero]
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Kentaro Ito, Atsushi Tero, Mark Fricker, Dan Bebber

PHYSICS PRIZE: Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand, for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.
REFERENCE: "Preventing Winter Falls: A Randomised Controlled Trial of a Novel Intervention," Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest, New Zealand Medical Journal. vol. 122, no, 1298, July 3, 2009, pp. 31-8.

PEACE PRIZE: Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK, for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.
REFERENCE: "Swearing as a Response to Pain," Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston, Neuroreport, vol. 20 , no. 12, 2009, pp. 1056-60.

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Manuel Barbeito, Charles Mathews, and Larry Taylor of the Industrial Health and Safety Office, Fort Detrick, Maryland, USA, for determining by experiment that microbes cling to bearded scientists.
REFERENCE: "Microbiological Laboratory Hazard of Bearded Men," Manuel S. Barbeito, Charles T. Mathews, and Larry A. Taylor, Applied Microbiology, vol. 15, no. 4, July 1967, pp. 899–906. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC547091/?tool=pubmed>
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Manuel S. Barbeito was unable to travel, due to health reasons. A representative read his acceptance speech for him.

ECONOMICS PRIZE: The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar for creating and promoting new ways to invest money — ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Eric Adams of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP [British Petroleum], for disproving the old belief that oil and water don't mix.
REFERENCE: "Review of Deep Oil Spill Modeling Activity Supported by the Deep Spill JIP and Offshore Operator’s Committee. Final Report," Eric Adams and Scott Socolofsky, 2005.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Eric Adams, Scott Socolofsky, and Stephen Masutani

MANAGEMENT PRIZE: Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy, for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.
REFERENCE: “The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study,” Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo, Physica A, vol. 389, no. 3, February 2010, pp. 467-72.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo.

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, and Shuyi Zhang of China, and Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol, UK, for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats.
REFERENCE: "Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time," Min Tan, Gareth Jones, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, Shuyi Zhang and Libiao Zhang, PLoS ONE, vol. 4, no. 10, e7595.
Compare to 2009 - I wrote about it then.

It is so tempting to read some of the research references.