Friday, 29 August 2008

Post #75 High-tech search for Tasmanian Tiger

Australia’s most prominent Tasmanian tiger and puma photographic hunter will visit Mount Gambier to set up high-tech infrared camera equipment, following a spate of recent large cat sightings and unexplained attacks on sheep in the region. Glenburnie resident Russell Smith says sheep have been mauled by something bigger than foxes.

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Post #74 Generations of Stars in W5

"Explanation: Giant star forming region W5 is over 200 light-years across and about 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. W5's sculpted clouds of cold gas and dust seem to form fantastic shapes in this impressive mosaic of infrared images from the Spitzer Space Telescope. In fact, the area on the right includes the structures previously dubbed the Mountains of Creation. New evidence indicates that successive generations of stars formed in the W5 region in an expanding pattern of triggered star formation. The older, earlier generations of stars seem to cluster near the middle of the enormous cavities, with younger stars seen near the rims. Winds and radiation from the older, central stars likely carve out and compress surrounding interstellar material, triggering the collapse that gave rise to younger, later generations of stars farther out. In the false-color image, heated dust still within the cavities appears red, while the youngest stars are forming in the whitish areas. W5 is also known as IC 1848, and together with IC 1805 it is part of a complex region popularly dubbed the Heart and Soul Nebulae."

Credit Lori Allen, Xavier Koenig (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) et al., JPL-Caltech, NASA

From APOD.

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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Post #73 Ziggurat: Dubai Carbon Neutral Pyramid will House 1 Million

The Mayans and Egyptians constructed incredible feats of architecture able to weather the test of time, but they had no idea their pyramids would inspire the shape of the latest carbon-neutral super-structure to hit Dubai.

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Post #72 Hire a Hall / Nothing (Not a Secret at All)

I saw an article in the Weekend Australian Magazine about Rhonda Byrne. It was a revelation to me that the originator of the "Secret" scam was an Australian. Not an expatriate to be proud of. I'd first noticed this con when some advertisements were run for a programme which was, eventually, not run on Australian TV. I later discovered through The Chaser series on ABC TV what it was all about.

The Chaser made a great mockery of this maximus bogus, revealing what had been behind the ads. The gist of the "secret" is to compel "The Universe" to grant your wishes. The method is that you set your hopes on something, believe you'll receive it - and then you do. The piece shown by The Chaser team from "The Secret" video was of a boy dreaming of a new bicycle, reinforcing his wish by making a montage of clipped pictures of it and then being presented with it at the front door by a man who is apparently a benevolent uncle. (The Chaser crew called this bike-donating character "a friendly old paedophile" in their summary of the action.) They then went about to various retail premises trying to take possession of clothes, cars, etc. by "focussing, believing and receiving" - all spoken of in falsely reverential and unctuous tones. The proprietors of these establishments were suitably and hilariously dumbfounded by this presumptuousness. A clothing retailer was told by these provocateurs, "We've commanded the Universe to give us these clothes. Now we must receive them." This was said in a tone such as would be used explaining a fact of life to a child. All loving and so forth.

Where this ceases to be funny is that this twit, Byrne, is proposing that cures for serious ailments such as breast cancer may be obtained by this glorified "wishful thinking". She's currently enmeshed in litigation over the millions she's reaped from this drivel. Apparently the people who did the actual technical work of producing the film were prepared to believe her about their cuts of the proceeds...but they haven't received. What a surprise!

Post #71 Socialist response to car industry cutbacks

A blog post from the Australian Socialist Party's website.

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Post #70 Lucky Bastards, I Chose the Wrong Profession... [COMIC]

"Life is always better on the other side. Being content is pretty difficult sometimes.." - from a Digg by MakiMaki.

When I saw this I thought of the song that has the chorus: "The other man's grass is always greener, the sun shines brighter on the other side."

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Monday, 25 August 2008

Post #69 Hire a Hall / Everything (The "Environmental" Egg)

A new brand of egg has appeared on the shelves in my local Woolworths. It's retailed under the brand name "Wattle Ridge" and has the slogan "The Environmental Egg" printed below the brand name. Thereafter follows this:

When you buy these eggs you are buying a completely renewable resource, in a completely biodegradable, environmentally sound pack. You are also contributing towards a massive tree planting program in an arid area (14,000 trees so far), recycled water through our water treatment plant and a recycling program second to none that turns the chicken's waste into valuable compost to fertilise the trees and add vital nutients to depleted soils. And, as you will notice, the pack also bears the Egg Corp Assured (ECA) mark of quality assurance.

So buy the egg that isn't just good for you, but good for the planet.
To learn more see inside lid or visit
The material inside the lid offers you a chance to win "a year's worth of green electricity". Just send in two barcodes from their packages in an envelope with your contact details on the back. Send as many envelopes/entries as you please.

The clanger is that these are cage eggs. In order to do all this ecological good, thousands of chookslaves, incarcerated in cages the size of shoeboxes, are frantically squeezing out "the environmental egg" for their masters' profit. I don't know whether the idea is to make the best they can of a bad job, to assuage their consciences, or whether it's just a sop to the potential consumer. I suspect the latter. Cage eggs have been getting a beating lately in the media and this is a mighty good marketing move. So, of course, I wouldn't buy these eggs, would I? Hell I wouldn't! Mighty fine eggs they are too! 12 with a gross weight of 700 grammes. I'd like it better if they fed and watered their forest from the effluvia of free range chooks, but there ya go. (Now I've blogged it out of my system and had a chance to reflect on how cruel those cages are, I think I'll stick to free-range eggs in future - forest or no forest.)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Post #67 Sopogy thinks small to make megawatts of solar power

If giant solar thermal power plants spread across the desert are like a mainframe, Sopogy is making the equivalent of a personal computer. The Hawaii-based company on Tuesday at the Intersolar 2008 conference will show off the latest version of its MicroCSP--essentially a shrunk-down version of concentrating solar power (CSP)[...]A story from Digg.

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Monday, 18 August 2008

Post #66 Gee I wonder if this phone works?

Improvised telecommunications from the Odd Planet blog.

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Post #65 Phew, what a scorcher: The world's hottest chilli pepper

"Its lethal effects include burning eyes, streaming nose, uncontrollable hiccups and much, much worse. And it is about to be sold at Tesco. The world's hottest chilli pepper, the Dorset Naga, will be available in 10g sachets containing up to three tiny fruits, at a price of 89p..."

A story from Digg. Check out the chart on the article cited. But I don't believe it. I've tried the Habanero too and it's overhyped.Those short Asian chillies are the masters.

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Friday, 15 August 2008

Post #64 Hire a Hall / Everything (Flight of the God-botherer)

All these stories appearing recently about Qantas and its deteriorating fleet reminded me of an aerial adventure I had way back in the days before the Internet or Britney Spears. I was flying the long leg from Canberra to Perth on a two-engine jet operated by what was then called Trans-Australian Airlines. It was a bare-boards affair by today's standards and, although I was seated on the right, on the aisle, about three rows back from the bulkhead behind the cockpit, there was no such thing as First Class. What I did get was a first-class look at the action when an "incident" occurred.

I was reading a paperback when I felt a slight jolt of the kind that occurs when a car has a transmission glitch. Then, about a minute later, I noticed a noise coming from the cockpit; the doorway was open and a stewardess was leaning in the open doorway to the compartment, apparently talking to the pilots and bracing the door open with her back. The noise was a barping sound, of the sort favoured by designers of electronic alarms. There was some urgent talking going on and I noticed that the woman in the doorway was clinging on to the doorframe and actually holding herself up with it, not just being casual. I then saw that I was holding my book at a funny angle. In fact my head was craning to the left to keep in line with it.

I looked around the cabin and realised that the aircraft was leaning to the right. I knew it was the aircraft and not just my inner ear being humorous because every other passenger in sight was adjusting their posture for the list. Nobody was yelping at this point, but there was an undercurrent of muttering. Then the "Fasten Seatbelts" sign pinged on. The aircraft was developing a seriously dexter inclination by now and the engine sound through the fuselage was sounding weaker. The angle of this tilt was probably only 5 degrees but it was enough to be disturbing. The talk from the cockpit was becoming more noticeable; no trace of distress but a tone of strictness as instructions were given in a terse voice and repeated back. I heard the word "restart" among it all; that wasn't a good sign. What had stopped that needed a restart? I guessed it was the right engine. I guessed right. The aircraft was beginning to make a long slow turn to the right and we were descending.

At this point I decided to put my head back in the book. There was nothing I could do about it and I didn't want to start discussing it with the woman sitting in the window-seat to my left. She was starting to make very faint noises of a hyperventilating kind. I wasn't being brave; I just didn't think anything would really happen. I knew two-engine jets were designed for safe single-engine flight and I assumed we were turning to make a landing at some diversion-site. After we'd described a full circle, I knew that wasn't it. Then the tilt began to really make itself felt and the word "stall" could be heard from the front.

I could see that my optimism was not going to be readily rewarded and I wasn't making any headway with the book. I'd read the same sentences over several times. Then a new stimulus arrived. In the very front seat on the aisle a man rose up to meet the occasion. He was about sixty years, white-haired and bespectacled; a tall rangy type. He was clutching his seat and wrestling himself upright in defiance of the seat-belt warning. He looked back down the cabin and called out in a preacher's voice: "Brothers and sisters! Put your trust in Lord Jesus! He shall protect us!"

The murmuring of the passengers had stayed within non-panic levels to this point but the preacher's words were a catalyst. At that time the religious revival which seems to be on today was nowhere to be seen. Organised religion, particularly Christianity, was probably at its nadir in Australia. Most of the passengers had probably only been in churches in recent years (if at all) to attend weddings and funerals and we surely weren't going to a wedding. I don't certainly know to this day the gender of that first person to crack, (and I never will) but I think the strangled shriek that came forth was uttered by a man. "I don't want to diiiee!", he bawled. That set a bunch of others off; women began sobbing, voices were raised to ask, "What's happening?" and the old favourite, "Are we going to crash?"

The stewardess at the front remonstrated with the preacher and got him back in his seat and then started calling for quiet and calm over the public address. It took a good five minutes to restore order and in that time the pilot managed the restart. Another jolt, a returning roar of engine power (welcomed with a cheer by some) and we were heading back on course and pleasantly horizontal.

The pilot announced over the PA that the fault had been a temporary failure of fuel supply to the right engine and that we were going to proceed to Perth as there was nowhere closer to land. And that we did, with no further alarms. We walked off the aircraft onto the tarmac (no airbridge in those days) and into the terminal and collected our baggage and...went on our ways. Leaving the aircraft, I saw the preacher talking earnestly to the chief stewardess, apparently assuring her of his honourable intentions and that he'd never expected the name of his God to be a synonym for a death cry. He was, apparently, a real minister of religion in country Victoria, Methodist or Baptist, and he was visiting relatives in Perth. I heard most of the yarn as I was getting my gear together and then making my way past to the door. Other people passing him glared at, ignored or sneered at him according to their taste. One disembarker laughed and interjected, "Good on ya mate!" as he passed. I saw that the woman he was speaking to had a frozen smile and was obviously just wishing he'd get to Hell out of there so she and the others could have a good private collapse in our absence. After all, they knew how close we'd really come to buying it.

I walked past with an impassive face (I think) and did just get the Hell out of the airport. There was no media pack waiting for us. In those days people in distress couldn't call ahead with mobile phones and raise an alarm. There were no such things. Nor were there counsellors or public relations flaks waiting. And I never heard another word about it. Not a word in the papers or on television or radio. It figures; the airline had no reason to draw public attention to it. The wholly government owned airport infrastructure had no reason to publish it. The people who panicked had no reason to brag on it. And here's how the loop closes: When I told a few people, they didn't believe me. Because if it had happened, why wasn't it reported? And everybody knew that Australian airlines didn't have incidents like that. That happened overseas, to foreigners. Like terrorist attacks.

I still have that book I was trying to read when it happened. It's volume one of a collection called The Past Through Tomorrow, and it's a collection of speculative fiction by Robert Heinlein about a future which didn't happen. Real events have made his stories redundant, but as the editor points out, the future he imagined may have happened somewhere in a parallel universe. I can find the exact page I was looking at in that book when all the above happened. Sometimes I take it off the shelf and read that passage and imagine I'm back on that plane hearing those words, "Put your trust in Lord Jesus!" and I feel a tingle up my spine. Works every time.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Post #63 Review: Cuil, Google's bastard child.

They have the Google scam down pat. If you are looking for another route to spamming your way into being a pseudo-millionaire on pennies, then this train wreck is worth waiting at the depot for...A post from the Linkback Project

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Post #62 Aging Disco Diva's polemic against John Edwards.

"The disco diva's view on Edwards scandal.."From a shout to me on Digg by Amy Oops. Check out Amy's blog from my blogroll.

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Blogpost from "For Free".I'd heard about this. Now I wonder what's motivating them.

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Monday, 11 August 2008

Post #60 Hire a Hall / Everything (A dismal choice.)

Alan Carpenter, Premier of Western Australia, has decided to take advantage of the change of leadership which I foresaw/dreaded in an earlier post. We're to have an election on Saturday, 6 September, 2008. The rapidity with which the Labor government led by Carpenter has degenerated into arrogance and contemptuous behaviour has been a thorough disappointment to me. Carpenter spent a lot of years bashing corrupt and incompetent ministers when he practised journalism for a living. He now seems to be putting into practice the aphorism about having "learned nothing and forgotten nothing".

He's been replicating the sort of antics that saw both the previous Coalition government and its Labor predecessor thrown off the government benches. This election is reported to be the earliest called in a Parliamentary term in 50 years. It's apparently intended to catch the Liberal and National parties on the hop; I think the lesson of early elections is that those who call them are punished. In this case I think the result will be a narrow squeak back for the Labor party, narrower than would have been the case if Alan had shown a bit more ethics and let the Parliament run its term. Oh boy... this whole decade is living proof that we need some new ideas and some honest people in government.

Post #59 APOD: Open Cluster NGC 290: A Stellar Jewel Box

Jewels don't shine this bright -- only stars do. Like gems in a jewel box, though, the stars of open cluster NGC 290 glitter in a beautiful display of brightness and color.

From The APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) Collection.

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Thursday, 7 August 2008

Post #58 Great Impoverishment Opportunity - Got to be missed - Nigerian Advance Fee Scam Comes To Cote D'Ivoire!!

Here's a gem from my spam folder:

From Moore and Sussan Fona.
Private and Confidential
Abidjan - Cote d'Ivoire.
Dear One,

It is my pleasure to contact you for a business venture which I and my Sister,intend to established in your country. Though we have not meet with you before but we believe, one has to risk confiding in someone to succeed sometimes in life. There is this amount of Eight Million,Five Hundred Thousand US Dollars (US$8.500.000.00) which our late father deposited in one the prime bank here in Abidjan Capital city of Cote d'Ivoire which he wanted to used for his political ambition in our Country before he was assassinated.

Now we have decided to invest this money in your country or anywhere safe enough outside Africa for security and political reasons. Our father was an international Gold and Diamond dealer who operated the province of Africa and the rest of the world during his days in business.

We want you to help us claim and receive the money in your account for onward joined partnership business and investments in your Country. We will like to invest part of the money into these three investments in your Country but, if there is any other business that is better than our suggestion, we will be very glad to follow your advice.

1). Real estate
2). The transport industry
3). Five star hotel

If you can be of an assistance to us we will be pleased to offer to you 15% Of the total fund while the balance will be invested by you. I await your soonest response.
Respectfully yours,
Moore and Sussan Fona.

Go on, send 'em your love!! But nothing else, mind!!!

What defeats me is how there can be anyone left on the planet who: A. Is tech-savvy enough and informed enough to be using email and the Internet and B. Willing to fall for this stuff.

Anyway, "Moore and Sussan" have given me a reminder to spread the word about the most excellent website of the Western Australian Department of Consumer and Employment Protection. They have a division on their site called Scamnet which is well worth a look. Most of the scams targeted are international, not W.A. - focussed.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Post #57 APOD: X-Rays from the Beautiful Cat's Eye Nebula

This composite picture combines the latest Hubble optical image of the Cat's Eye with new x-ray data from the orbiting Chandra Observatory and reveals surprisingly intense x-ray emission indicating the presence of extremely hot gas.

(Very beautiful...glad it's not close to home. - Retarius.)

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Monday, 4 August 2008

Post #56 Hire a Hall / Everything (Camera contempta. - Sara Daniel, Iraq, Trial by Media, Dr Haneef)

I've just read the rather strange book, Voyage to a Stricken Land by Sara Daniel. Inter alia, she tells of having been the recipient of video material showing the attack on the DHL aircraft at Baghdad airport which was recorded by a French news crew, as described in this article. The weirdest thing about this is that, although the role of the news crew in the incident was a major furore at the time, Daniel doesn't mention their existence at all in this book. (The book is also one of those eclectic efforts where the timeline is all over the place. I don't know why authors can be bothered with such pretentious stuff; it just wears out the readers' patience.)

I can only assume that Daniel had a sensitivity in that matter which prompted her to just skip the subject; I can't imagine the glaring omission is a natural part of the narrative. Perhaps she simply didn't want to criticise her compatriots nor to try to justify their association with the jihadi group who carried out the attack.

The role of the camera's presence in encouraging or provoking incidents is a universal issue in these times. Apart from the capacity to invite everybody from terrorists to drunken, partying teenagers to try to score their fifteen minutes, it intrudes into the public's thought processes in more insidious ways. One of the most useless and reckless forms of this is the "perp-walk", an American invention, whereby a person arrested/charged by the police is paraded, by prior appointment, past the media. The corollary is when they've been put on trial and are subjected to being pursued to and from the courthouse. The media pack particularly love it when the target covers up with a coat or some other object and flees with the pack on their heels: it's great television.

I've begun to wonder why the judiciary ever allowed this malarkey to start in Australia. Our law doesn't contain any provision for punishment by public humiliation in this manner. It seems to have just entered some people's noggins that the suspect or convict is obliged to submit to this modern form of the stocks and pillory as part of the transactions of our system of jurisprudence. In fact the media become outraged when someone manages to avoid this ritual; particularly when employees of the state assist them in doing so. It's a scandal if someone is helped to leave the court via the underground carpark in a concealing vehicle and without paying their due of suffering under the cameras.

I finally lost all patience with these scumbags when I saw the photograph of the famous maybe-terrorist Dr Haneef wrapped in a blanket and huddled over barefoot in the back of a van. The cops couldn't find him a dignified suit of clothes to wear? Or shoes? And how do the photographers happen to be able to get close enough at the right time to take these shots? Recording of accused persons and witnesses approaching or leaving a court should be prohibited, as should recording of them without their consent in any other venue if it's going to be shown in connection with the case. The same goes for the convicted being conveyed from the court.

Every person under charge is innocent unless and until proven guilty. Recording them entering or leaving the court by any means should be a contempt of the court. The same goes for the aftermath of a trial. Whether they're walking away acquitted or being taken off to The Nick in a van with grille-covered windows, the public exposure of their situation in this way is, depending on the circumstances, an invasion of privacy or a potential influence on the effects of subsequent appeal proceedings which may produce an order for retrial. That is, if someone is granted retrial on appeal, the next jury to hear the case has seen them hauled off in the tumbril like the guilty dog they may not be. If they're acquitted on appeal, the media surely aren't going to run the story, "We were wrong!" with prominent footage of the vindicated one being kowtowed to by the offending news crews.

I'm not what the Americans fatuously call "liberal". If the right persons can be caught and absolutely proven guilty, I don't mind seeing the terrorists' carcasses swinging in the breeze from the lamp-posts along St Georges and Adelaide Terraces. I'd call that a nice set of decorations for Christmas. On the other hand, I don't want to see anyone blamed for any wrong they haven't done, whether it be great or small. Once the camera has seen and its edited view has been broadcast, the visual memory of the "guilt" is indelible. It remains to haunt the subject and their friends and family even when the charge is utterly refuted.

Of course the media will squawk and squeal if this prime-time fodder is withheld. The usual moans about "freedom of the press" and "freedom of speech" will be heard. This has nothing to do with "freedom of speech". It's about a repugnant grotesquerie, pure and simple. No political or reasoned legal opinion would be suppressed by not allowing these circuses.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Post #55 Hiltons Support McCain, Reportedly Fuming Over Obama Ad

..Apparently, the elder Hiltons had breathed a sigh of relief that Paris was starting to get her act together since hitting rock bottom with her stay in jail last year, when all of a sudden the McCain ad compares her unfavorably to Britney Spears and Barack Obama...

(Paris is diminished by comparison to Obama...and McCain's campaign has done it again...hypocrisy that is. - Retarius.)

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Post #54 Weasels bow to China's will

Andrew Bolt calls it as it is on China's Olympic con...Yep, I just agreed with Andrew Bolt. This is a story I Dugg from his blog.

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