Thursday, 26 July 2007

Shouting from the rooftop: Great Love

10 years ago today, Scooterboy and I began our adventure together. Right now, he is on a plane, on the way home, to celebrate this day on which we found each other, and the wonderful years we have spent together.

I looked for a gift to commemorate this day but everything I considered just didn't seem quite right. Nothing seemed to capture my thoughts about him, about today, about our life together, about the fact that because of him, I get to be in love every day.

Then I chanced upon this gem, The Gift of Nothing.

Perfect.

So, I shout from the rooftop, my words from our wedding last November.

The last nine and a half years have been the best of my life. You have made me so very happy.

I often find myself thinking life just doesn’t get much better. But, I find that I am wrong because every year with you has been better than the last and every year, I find myself even more in love with you.

Someone recently asked me if I believed in soul mates. I absolutely do. You are my soul mate. Who else could make me laugh pretty much every day in the last nine and a half years? Who else could make me feel this love, that gives me my understanding of what life is all about.

You are the smartest, funniest and most extraordinary man I could have ever wished to cross paths with in life.

I love you, Paul, and I hope that when we are both old and gray, we will still walk hand in hand on our adventure. You and me against the world.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

I am a Tetris Nerd

Years ago, I spotted a nifty little key-chain sized Tetris gaming gadget. I bought it and showed Scooterboy. "Oh cool! Ace!" he said. "Here, let me have a go." And so began the Tetris wars.

Whenever we bested each other's score, there would be a triumphant "HA HAH!" and the bested would set out to unseat the victor. We actually developed blisters on our thumbs from keying the tiny buttons on that little gadget for ages at a time. The battery ran out eventually, which was a relief of sorts. I never replaced the batteries. We wanted our lives back.

And now, we have Facebook. I came across a Tetris application that can be embedded within my Profile. I, of course, added the app and hollered at Scooterboy about the discovery. We soon found that our Tetris hyper competitiveness had not waned since our war on the trusty little keychain gadget. We have both been wasting time jostling for poll position. I am sitting on a score of over 180,000 and the boy is on over 160,000. *HA HAH!*

Says TG, a buddy of mine, "The 'level' of nerdiness when it comes to you two is somewhat irrelevant. When you are scoring over 100,000 on Tetris you are populating a realm of nerdiness that is so far removed from everyday life that it's like trying to distinguish, with the naked eye, planets orbiting a far off sun. You both just blend into one distant nerd." :D

In the application, you can play against friends or against the top scorers. I wondered what the top score was and had a look-see. To my amazement, number 1 has a score of over 600,000! My first instinct was, 'She must be an alien' because I tell you, those blocks are FLYING when the score hovers around the 180,000 mark. It is simply not humanly possible to be able to control those suckers beyond the 250,000 mark. Guess I'll just have to prove myself wrong.

1.5 MORE SLEEPS!

Sleep tonight. Semi sleep tomorrow, then Scooterboy will be home on our 10-year anniversary! Whoo hooooo!

Book Happiness!


Discovered a picture book version of Mark Kurlansky's book, Salt. Brilliant!

The Story of Salt

and also found Robert Ingpen's The Voyage of the Poppykettle

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Fun Time Sucker: Facebook

I have just discovered Facebook and frittered away most of my Sunday mucking around with it *shaking my head* :D

I highly recommend joining up despite the time suckerage. I've never really participated in social networking sites, but this one had me hooked with its ease of use and entertaining functions. I especially like the Tetris competition against friends.

I could rattle on a bit but, best if you just jump on and give it a go. I toyed with Friendster upon an invite a few years ago but left it alone soon after. I haven't investigated other social networking sites but from all accounts, Facebook is a player that is changing the game.

There are a good grab of screenshots on this page if you want to have a look-see before joining.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Africa: The Mothership

" We are solely children of Africa—with no Neandertals or island-dwelling "hobbits" in our family tree, according to a new study.

Scientists who compared the skulls and DNA of human remains from around the world say their results point to modern humans (Homo sapiens) having a single origin in Africa."

Full article here

Related link concerning The Genographic Project here

"A few days ago he got the results and shared the online account with me. They’re utterly fascinating. The picture below shows my “ancestral journey.” At the website, this picture is interactive — clicking on a marker will tell you the story behind it."

See also: The Genographic Project

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Heebie Jeebies: Whacko Reds

Neocons on a Cruise: What Conservatives Say When They Think We Aren't Listening

"The Iraq war has been an amazing success, global warming is just a myth and Guantanamo Bay is practically a holiday camp. The annual cruise organized by the 'National Review,' mouthpiece of right-wing America, is a parallel universe populated by straight-talking, gun-toting, God-fearing Republicans."

Courtesy of BoingBoing.

Chuckler: Oh My God This New TV Is Huge

"This monster appliance sports full 1080p capability, with a 15,000:1 contrast ratio and an 8 ms response time. If I understand it correctly, this means that every pore on Jenna Jameson's thigh can be seen by wild hawks from two miles up, small bleeding flesh wounds can be instantly cauterized within an 8-foot radius of the screen, and if you adjust the dynamic backlighting to 100 percent and reduce the color channels to just above medium and stick your tongue into the HDMI port as you kneel down and stare into the screen for six straight hours without blinking, you will actually see God. Or the devil. Your choice."

Heh heh

Full post by Mark Morford here.

Original Transformers Boxed Collection Sold for $1,000,000



Cool!

Courtesy of Gizmodo

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Book happiness: Strunk & White's The Elements of Style Illustrated


One of my favourite books of all time. I had no idea of the existence of this beautifully bound illustrated hardback edition, which I chanced upon while browsing the shelves at Reader's Feast.

Details on Amazon.

Metlink Gestapo

Lo and behold, just found the article Inspectors are like Gestapo on The Age online about more fleas on the public transport system.

The reference to "non-functional ticketing system" is particularly apt.

I always warn friends from overseas holidaying in Melbourne that they can have legal tender, say a $20 note, at the ticket machine on board a tram, but not be able to purchase a ticket since the machines are... get this... coin only. And that despite having legal tender on board the tram, and being prevented from buying a ticket by a crap-ass machine, they can be fined approximately $160 for not buying a ticket.

I always wonder what the hell happened during the tender process for public transporation ticket systems in Victoria. Somebody must have been shtoopin somebody in the approval process to get the ridiculous system currently in place past the gate!

Melbourne will implement a new smart card system later this year. About freaking time we crawled out of the dark ages!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Flea on Melbourne Metlink Tram

I walk to work in around 20 minutes. If I'm running late, as I was this morning, I jump on the tram if it's right outside the door waiting at the lights. This way I shave off around 5-10 minutes. I don't often catch the tram as I have to fork over $3.20 for a 10-minute trip: such is the way the public transportation system in Melbourne works – there are no fares geared for city residents to just get around the small city grid. There is a single trip ticket laughably named the City Saver for $2.40 but you can only board one tram for a single trip, and only a few blocks at that. I need two trams for two streets to get to work - the damn tram doesn't bend around the corner.

The $3.20 ticket is valid for 2 hours so, I usually pop the ticket onto the ticketing machine on the tram before I leave for someone else to pick it up and use for the remaining 1 hour and 50 minutes that has already been paid for. Waste not want not.

This morning, a couple of plain-clothes Metlink officers on board the tram checked passengers for tickets. One gentleman checked mine. Fine, ticket went back into the pocket. 5 minutes later, as the tram approached my stop, I headed to the door and around 8 metres before the tram stop, I popped the ticket onto the machine. The second ticket officer who was standing behind me, snatched it off the machine and the following ensued:

Flea: "Where's your ticket?"

Me: "You saw me put it there. Your colleague (I gestured to the gentleman who was now seated around 1 metre away and was watching the incident unfold) checked my ticket around 5 minutes ago. I'm getting off the tram and since the ticket is still valid and I don't need it, I'm leaving it on the machine for someone else to use."

Flea: You can't leave your ticket on the tram. Where's your ticket?

Me: Are you serious?

Flea: See now you don't have a ticket.

Me: It's in your hand.

Flea: See you could get into trouble.

Me: There are plenty of witnesses. I could easily challenge this.

Flea: Sure you could challenge it but you'd still be in trouble.

Me: Naaaaasty! *while wagging my finger at him*

By this time, the tram had rolled up to the stop and I had to jump off since I was late for a meeting, otherwise I would have gladly stayed on board to see how far he would have gone with his cheap-bastard-bullying.

It would be nice if karma really does exist. That flea is definitely a candidate for sprouting something where the sun don't shine.

Create your own Simpsons avatar

Simpsons Scootergrrl :D

Create your own here.

Join the search for cosmic 'axis of evil'

"In 2005, Land noticed an unexpected alignment of spots in the cosmic background radiation, which seems to defy the standard model of cosmology. Earlier this year, New Scientist reported that a study of 1660 spiral galaxies suggested the galaxies were oriented along this so-called "axis of evil". Land says, "It's a massive and alarming claim, which if true, forces us to come up with a new framework for cosmology."

Courtesy of New Scientist.

GALAXY ZOO

Self-centered cultures narrow your viewpoint

When I read this title, I thought the article would discuss the effects of self-centeredness in Chinese culture. But no, to my surprise, it found that the US participants displayed self-centeredness.

I have not lived in the U.S. and my experience of US culture has been through American friends and exported U.S. fare. So, I can't speak of any real experience of 'American culture.' However, having been raised by 'Chinese culture' influenced parents, and experienced my own sense of Chinese culture when I lived in Shanghai, China for 3.5 years not too long ago, in my experience, compared with 'Australian culture', 'Chinese culture' is far more self-centered.

The short of the long of it is that there was little or no concept of social nicety, and a high incidence of the 'look after your own and screw everyone else' / 'what's in it for me' mentality... which adds to the lack of social nicety. All exacerbated by the one-child policy which breeds countless overindulged insufferable princes and princesses... and I'm talking about children and adults.

The article also notes, "Nisbett adds that in some Asian cultures people use less blunt language, making it necessary for them to read between the lines, and imagine the perspective of the individual with whom they are speaking."

I believe that describes the infamous, "No means yes, and yes means no, and sometimes no and yes means maybe... and when I said apples, I really meant oranges... and you really should have been able to read my mind on that".

Article in New Scientist.

Chuckler: Brown Zune finds meaning in Hide-a-Pod



"Harnessing the mathematical perfection of ugliness that only the Brown Zune possesses, Hide-a-Pod makes iPods physically invisible to lower standing members of society." *lol*

More here.

"Pimp My Casket" - Whacky Coffins




Unbelievable!

More on Gizmodo.

Korean researchers develop uber-cheap solar cells

" We'll go ahead and hand it to Spectrolab for crafting such an immensely efficient solar cell without regard to cost, but a team of Korean researchers have reportedly conjured up a rendition of their own that, you know, would actually be feasible to commercialize in the not too distant future."

Cool!

More at engadget.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Gimme Gadget: Kung-Fu Stickie!




SHWEEEET!

Courtesy of Gizmodiva.

Whacky Japanese Soaking in Ramen

"A Japanese spa on Saturday opened special baths meant to resemble ramen, complete with bath salt shaped like the dangling delicacy, a giant pair of chopsticks overhead and water the aroma of pepper."

More here. *LOL* :D

Egypt's Oldest Known Art Identified, Is 15,000 Years Old

"The rediscovered artwork—similar in look and age to iconic paintings in Spain and France—pushes "Egyptian art, religion, and culture back to a much earlier time," archaeologists say...

... There is "little doubt" the engravings are 15,000-years-old, Huyge said. They depict a now extinct species of wild cow whose horns have been recovered from Paleolithic settlements nearby.

The drawings would be examined for lichens and organic grime called "varnish rind" that could be carbon dated or subjected to another process known as uranium series dating, Huyge added. Because the rocks are inorganic, they cannot be dated directly using these methods.

In the meantime, the finding has raised a big question: How were people in Western Europe and southern Egypt producing almost identical artwork at the same time?"

Full article here.

See related book on a lost civilisation in Earth's history: Fingerprints of the Gods

Fond Sesame Street Childhood Memories

I've just found one of my favourite Sesame Street segments of all time on YouTube! Many years ago, not long after we had found each other, Scooterboy, for some reason that I can no longer recall, broke out in "yip yip yip yip yip" sesame-street-alien-style. I beamed a 1000watt smile at him. I knew I had found my soulmate :D

But Madam Butterfly, Where Are All the Males?

"In one of the swiftest examples of evolutionary adaptation ever observed, scientists have discovered that male Blue Moon butterflies (Hypolimnas bolina) on the Samoan island of Savaii developed resistance to the selectively male-killing bacteria Wolbachia within 10 generations that spanned less than a year."

Full article here.

Friday, 13 July 2007

"Beautiful Breakage"

Brilliant shots by Steve Strawn courtesy of Gizmodo.

Surgeon General Sees 4-Year Term as Compromised

No surprises here but it's still scary as hell.

"The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm."

Full NYTimes article here.

See also extract from Letter to a Christian Nation.

Extract from Letter to a Christian Nation

(excerpt from Pg 43)

"While you believe that bringing an end to religion is an impossible goal, it is important to realize that much of the developed world has nearly accomplished it. Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom are among the least religious societies on earth. According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report (2005) they are also the healthiest, as indicated by life expectancy, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality. Insofar as there is a crime problem in Western Europe, it is largely the product of immigration. Seventy percent of inmates of France’s jails, for instance, are Muslim. The Muslims of Western Europe are generally not atheists. Conversely, the fifty nations now ranked lowest in terms of the United Nations’ human development index are unwaveringly religious.

Other analyses paint the same picture: the United States is unique among wealthy democracies in its level of religious adherence; it is also uniquely beleaguered by high rates of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and infant mortality. The same comparison holds true within the United States itself: Southern and Midwestern states, characterized by the highest levels of religious literalism, are especially plagued by the above indicators of societal dysfunction, while the comparatively secular states of the Northeast conform to European norms.

While political party affiliation in the United States is not a perfect indicator of religiosity, it is no secret that the “red states” are primarily red because of the overwhelming political influence of conservative Christians. If there were a strong correlation between Christian conservatism and societal health, we might expect to see some sign of it in red-state America. We don’t. Of the twenty-five cities with the lowest rates of violent crime, 62 percent are in “blue” states and 38 percent are in “red” states. Of the twenty-five most dangerous cities, 76 percent are in red states, 24 percent in blue states. In fact, three of the five most dangerous cities in the United States are in the pious state of Texas. The twelve states with the highest rate of burglary are red. Twenty-four of the twenty-nine states with the highest rate of theft are red. Of the twenty-two states with the highest rates of murder, seventeen are red.

Of course, correlational data of this sort do not resolve questions of causality – belief in God may lead to societal dysfunction; societal dysfunction may foster a belief in God; each factor may enable the other; or both may spring from some deeper source of mischief. Leaving aside the issue of cause and effect, however, these statistics prove that atheism is compatible with the basic aspirations of a civil society; they also prove, conclusively, that widespread belief in God does not ensure a society’s health."

More details on Amazon.

Uh oh! Australia's Google Gaffe?

"The ACCC is alleging that Google, by failing to adequately distinguish sponsored links from 'organic' search results, has engaged in and continues to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct," the regulator said in a statement.

It said it was seeking declarations from the Federal Court that Google and Trading Post had breached trade practices legislation, as well as injunctions preventing Google from publishing results that did not distinguish adverts."

I would dearly love to see screenshots of the alleged infringment. I hope my 'sinking feeling' will not be justified. I hope this won't be yet another instance of the powers that be molly-coddling the more IQ-challenged in society. In my experience, sponsored links in Google search results have always been clearly identified. Oh well, let's see what evidence they present.

Article here.

QUICK UPDATE: See excellent commentary here (Courtesy of commentor on this TechCrunch post)

An Unbreakable Code

Ok. I must confess. I am not nearly smart enough to know exactly what it is these guys have done so, I am absolutely dependent on the scientists/reporters telling me that they really have done what they appear to have done: create an unbreakable code. If they really have achieved this... fantastic!

Summary and transcript of Catalyst program featuring this achievement available here.

Book Happiness: Leonardo's Notebooks


Picked up this GEM of a book today. A collection of Leonardo Da Vinci's drawings and notes. Absolutely amazing. A must-own! Thanks for the recommendation T!!

More details on Amazon.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Chuckler: Why Nerds are Unpopular

*lol* :D

"...
Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds? It might seem that the answer is simply that it's populated by adults, who are too mature to pick on one another. But I don't think this is true. Adults in prison certainly pick on one another. And so, apparently, do society wives; in some parts of Manhattan, life for women sounds like a continuation of high school, with all the same petty intrigues.

I think the important thing about the real world is not that it's populated by adults, but that it's very large, and the things you do have real effects. That's what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.

When the things you do have real effects, it's no longer enough just to be pleasing. It starts to be important to get the right answers, and that's where nerds show to advantage. Bill Gates will of course come to mind. Though notoriously lacking in social skills, he gets the right answers, at least as measured in revenue."

...

"
Life in this twisted world is stressful for the kids. And not just for the nerds. Like any war, it's damaging even to the winners.

Adults can't avoid seeing that teenage kids are tormented. So why don't they do something about it? Because they blame it on puberty. The reason kids are so unhappy, adults tell themselves, is that monstrous new chemicals, hormones, are now coursing through their bloodstream and messing up everything. There's nothing wrong with the system; it's just inevitable that kids will be miserable at that age.

This idea is so pervasive that even the kids believe it, which probably doesn't help. Someone who thinks his feet naturally hurt is not going to stop to consider the possibility that he is wearing the wrong size shoes.

I'm suspicious of this theory that thirteen-year-old kids are intrinsically messed up. If it's physiological, it should be universal. Are Mongol nomads all nihilists at thirteen? I've read a lot of history, and I have not seen a single reference to this supposedly universal fact before the twentieth century. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance seem to have been cheerful and eager. They got in fights and played tricks on one another of course (Michelangelo had his nose broken by a bully), but they weren't crazy.

As far as I can tell, the concept of the hormone-crazed teenager is coeval with suburbia. I don't think this is a coincidence. I think teenagers are driven crazy by the life they're made to lead. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance were working dogs. Teenagers now are neurotic lapdogs. Their craziness is the craziness of the idle everywhere."

Paul Graham on Why Nerds are Unpopular

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

China Shenanigans: Chinese Air Pollution Deadliest in World, Report Says

"The total number of Chinese whose lives are cut short by pollution-triggered diseases aligns closely with the figures that were reportedly left out of a recent World Bank study.

China's State Environmental Protection Agency engineered the removal of the statistics, the Financial Times reported, because the government feared the figures could trigger social unrest.

The World Bank is perceived as a staunch ally to China. The organization has committed roughly 40 billion U.S. dollars, along with expert advice, to projects ranging from rural poverty alleviation to promoting sustainable development.

Yet Internet access to certain World Bank reports on China is now being blocked in Beijing.

An official at the World Bank's headquarters in Washington, D.C.—speaking anonymously for fear of worsening the controversy—said the World Bank is still holding talks with the Chinese government on the final version of the pollution risk report, which is set to be published soon.

"After the [state environmental protection] agency raised questions about our methodology in calculating them, figures on the likely number of deaths per year related to air and water pollution were not included in the draft report—but remain under discussion for the final report," the bank official said. "

Full article here.

So, how does one get the likes of Carnegie Corporation to establish their technology in the PRC?

Monday, 9 July 2007

Event in Sydney: Separation of Church and State, 12th July

Thursday 12th July 2007 at 6pm
Separation of Church and State?

Venue : Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts,
280 Pitt Street Sydney
Cost : Free

See www.sydneymsa.com.au

Should there be a clear separation of church and state? Are implied or actual threats of formal church disapproval or even exclusion going too far?

Speakers: Max Wallace (NSW Humanists, former A.N.U academic, whose book,
The Purple Economy, supernatural charities, tax and the State is forthcoming) and Reverend Nigel Fortescue (Assistant Minister, Naremburn Cammeray Anglican Church, a dynamic and growing Anglican Church on Sydney's North Shore)

Political and policy debates on stem cell research, terminating pregnancies, same sex relationships, capital punishment and euthanasia are often the subject of 'conscience votes' ie when the discipline of party politics is relaxed and members of parliament are allowed to vote according to their 'consciences'. What these issues have in common is that they often relate to particular sets of religious beliefs about the sanctity of life, when life begins and other such issues.

This connection encourages lobby groups including the churches to intervene to persuade individual politicians to take up particular lines, as is a legitimate part of the democratic process.

But how far should these powerful institutions go to pressure their members to do their bidding? What is the role of Churches, Temples, Synagogues and Mosques and other religious institutions vis a vis government? Should church leaders publicly pressure their presumed members to comply with their policies?

There are interesting issues on how far the individual 'conscience' votes of politicians should reflect their personal views, those of their constituencies, scientific evidence or the influence of particular religious institutions.

The recent bill on stem cell research, in the NSW Upper house, has stirred up wide debate as various Church leaders sought to influence votes on what is fair and unfair influence and we wish to explore these questions in our July Controversies debate.

John August, convenor The Sydney Shove - www.sydneyshove.org