Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Came, I Thaw, I Conquered

Is A Bell Necessary On An Icicle?

Photograph copyright: MIKE BRUCE

Another great picture sent to me by Mike Bruce, taken during his year in the Czech Republic. The story, in his words ....
``The Czechs have an expression: `zima jako v Rusku' or `as cold as in Russia'. The winter we spent in the Czech Republic was just that, with regular daytime temperatures of -15C to -20C and night-time temperatures falling to as low as -30C. The winter saw an awful lot of snow resulting in several roofs collapsing and whole villages losing power, in some cases for weeks. I took this picture at a ski field in the hills of northern Moravia (Czech Republic) just a few kilometers from the Polish border. Our `chalet' was enveloped by a host of these beautiful icicles that grew from the snow that melted during the few sunshine hours each day and froze as soon as the sun disappeared.''

One Talented Fokker

F-15 Pilot Wings It Onto The Runway

Even if Robert Ripley (of Believe It Or Not fame) had dreamed up this script, we might have deemed it implausible. But who would have thought a fighter aircraft could land safely with only one wing?
We’re not merely talking about losing a wingtip, mind you. In this amazing case, there is very little that remains outboard of the starboard wing root. Check out for a memorable film sequence that will completely change your perception about the way modern fighters are engineered and flown.
That said, I remember reading something by a Messerschmitt Me-109 pilot who described beautifully how he watched in amazement as his fighter continued albeit momentarily in level flight, even as its severed wing - sheared off at its lug nuts - literally flew alongside as a separate entity.
The F-15 in this film clip comes in on only one wing - and lots of prayers. If there are any fighter/ commercial pilots or aviation enthusiasts out there, leave a comment to let me know what you think.

FOOTNOTE: Thanks to C.K. Sharma in New Delhi for sending me this link.

You've Got M@il

``The only person who ever played better on grass than Roger Federer was Jimi Hendrix in the Sixties.''
Text message received from Nirmal Ghosh, Bangkok
and Amitava Guha, New Delhi, India

You've Got M@il

``Buzz Aldrin got a travel allowance of $30 for going to the moon and back. You see, he got government transportation, government housing and government food. The $30 was for use of his personal vehicle at Kennedy Space Centre for a few days before Apollo XI blasted off. His home base was the Manned Space Centre at Houston.''
Email received from J. Thomas, New Delhi

Sweden Gives Second Life The Thumbs-Up

Virtual World Gets First Embassy

Sweden has given a big boost to Second Life, announcing its plan to be the first country to open an embassy in the popular virtual world. As and all the major newsagencies reported, the embassy will be called House of Sweden and will be modelled on the country’s new embassy in Washington. It will open in a couple of weeks and according to Olle Wastberg, general director of the Swedish Institute, “It will have answers to questions on all aspects of Sweden.” Second Life is a 3-D virtual world created by Linden Lab and opened to the public in 2003, with an estimated three million ``inhabitants’’ from around the globe. I did get a chuckle out of the fact that you can’t get a Swedish visa at the Second Life embassy, but it will tell you how to go to a real embassy to get one.

FOOTNOTE: Reuters operates a virtual news bureau in Second Life. According to their website, the bureau chief is ``Adam Reuters’’ aka Adam Pasick. Want to view his calendar? Go to

Trivia Pur$uit

The popular US racehorse Barbaro, who was put down on Monday, captured the public imagination by winning the 2006 Kentucky Derby by nearly seven lengths - the biggest margin in 60 years. When he was injured two weeks later, more than $1 million was raised for a fund in his honour and even Christmas songs were written about him.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Get Off Your High Horse

This One's Older Than Most Thoroughbreds

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken on Princes Highway, just after the Glenferrie Road turnoff and before the Caulfield underpass. It's an old Melbourne landmark, perched high above an old-style shop on the street strip. I just rocked up, asked the owner if I could photograph the horse and he told me to go ahead. The blue sky complemented the paintwork perfectly. And, fittingly enough, the old horse is not far from historic Caulfield racecourse.

Levi’s Wrangle

Denim Giant Has A Blue Fit

One of the biggest legal challenges in American fashion history is brewing over the design of pockets patented by Levi Strauss. According to Michael Barbaro and Julie Creswell at The International Herald Tribune, ``the company claims that many competitors have stolen its signature denim stitches’’. The article points out that Levi Strauss is becoming a leader in a new arena: lawsuits. The company has initiated nearly 100 against its competitors since 2001 - more legal action than General Motors, Walt Disney or Nike.

Footnote: It’s not the brotherhood of the travelling pants, is it?

Train Of Thought

You Could Say The Earth Moved For Him!

A drunken man who tried to climb over a freight train that was stopped at a downtown crossing in North Dakota ended up going for a ride - when the train took off unexpectedly. The man, 23, called 911 from his cell phone mobile because he was cold and wanted to get off. Authorities stopped the train promptly, but he did not require any medical treatment, and the railway company did not press charges. The man was taken to a detox centre.

Trivia Pur$uit

Sofie Herzog, a pioneer doctor and the first female surgeon in Texas, wore a unique necklace made of 24 bullets she had removed from wounded gunfighters. She commissioned a jeweller to link the bullets with gold.

Google Search Party

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

A Google search for ``French military victories'' brings up a satirical first result that says: ``Your search - French military victories - did not match any documents.'' Clicking the link brings up a mock-up of a Google search page which asks: ``Did you mean: French military defeats?''

wwweb Cite

Cinema Scope For New Bond Flick

I didn’t realise – until I saw this on BBC - that `Casino Royale’ is the first Bond film to be shown in China. Previous 007 films fell foul of censors, but the new flick will get a run at more than 100 cinemas. Sony Pictures, the film’s distributor, said `Casino Royale’ will be screened unedited in the country as its gets the widest release of any foreign film. Daniel Craig, Eva Green and director Martin Campbell were at Monday’s Beijing premiere, to be followed by a similar event in Shanghai. We’re told, too, that pirated DVD copies of the film are doing the rounds for 15 yuan, or less than a quid.

PLAYING THEIR CARDS RIGHT: According to the Associated Press, the producers of `Casino Royale’ hired local experts to ensure the Chinese-language dubbing of its gambling scenes sounded authentic.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Lock Mess Monster

So That's Cutting-Edge Technology?

How d'you rescue the pilot of an F-22 when he's locked inside the cockpit of a $361 million state-of-the-art fighter? You whistle for the nearest firefighters - and ask them to use a chainsaw to cut through a polycarbonate canopy that is three-quarters of an inch thick. No kidding. I hadn't heard about this incident, which apparently took place last April. So when I received an email a couple of hours ago, I did some checking and found a report by Robert Bryce - and these pictures - at According to his report, the cost of replacing the canopy was $286,000. Tres embarrassment.

Footnote: Maybe there's a lesson to be learnt from the pilots who flew the World War II-vintage Supermarine Spitfire. They had a crowbar on the left side of the cockpit - just in case they couldn't get out.

wwweb Cite

The Bitter Truce (Wanna Caffeine Doughnut?)

Want a caffeine fix but you don’t like coffee? How about a custom-made doughnut or bagel instead? Dr Robert Bohannon, a North Carolina molecular scientist who moonlights as a cafe owner, has developed a way to add caffeine to baked goods. According to StarNewsOnline.Com, he says his method eliminates the natural, bitter taste of caffeine. Each piece of pastry is the equivalent of about two cups of coffee. Bohannon, who owns Sips Coffee & Tea cafe in Durham, isn't selling the amped-up baked goods yet - but he recently began seeking patents and sending the products to some of the big names in the industry.

Italian Weather To Get Very Snoggy

A Matter Of Romp And Ceremony

A park where passionate couples can romp freely is to open in Italy. Many young couples in Italy find it hard to be intimate as high prices force them to live with their parents for longer. According to, entrepreneur Giuseppe Foggetti is to introduce the concept in the southern port town of Bari, where couples pay $5 to enter and another $2.50 for every half hour they stay. He said: ``My idea was to create a place for those that want to spend intimate moments together without thinking whether someone would be shocked if they saw it. I intend to offer security and privacy.''

Trivia Pur$uit

According to Ripley's Believe It Or Not, at the Sanwa Bank in Japan, banknotes are washed and sanitised before being dispensed from automatic teller machines.

wwweb Cite

Nintendo Mini Hits The Right Button

You want to play Zelda and Donkey Kong – and you want to be unobtrusive? No worries at all. You don’t need a console, or even a GameBoy. Thanks to Nintendo Mini Classics, you can now get hooked on keychain-size versions of the classic games – at only $9 each. I can't help wondering when they'll complement the line with a Mario Party 3 version. (That would probably be Mario Spartan!) If you want to see what the games look like, go to, which is always a great source of reviews and updates.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

An Error Message During Eagle's Descent

Not Just Delighted, They Were Over The Moon

Ever heard of a bloke called Steve Bales? No? Well, neither had I, until today. Bales played a critical role in making a snap decision during the Apollo XI lunar landing.
According to a report at, he was the one who had to make a critical call as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were halfway through the descent to the moon's surface. A yellow warning lamp lit up on the computer control panel as Eagle, the Lunar Module, was about 2000 metres above the moon's surface. ``It was a 1202 error, indicating a memory overload,'' says the report, ``and the astronauts asked Mission Control for instructions.''
The responsibility now shifted to Bales, the expert in the lunar module's guidance systems. This was the most critical call in the entire Apollo space programme. Was the United States about to postpone its long-held ambition to put man on the moon?
Was the computer error serious enough to abort the lunar landing?
A colleague named Jack Garman, working at another console, recalled that a similar problem had occurred during a computer simulation a week earlier.
Confidently, he reassured Bales that the descent could continue. The report quotes Bales saying: ``I had just started to relax a little bit, if you can call it relaxing, and I heard the program alarm. Quite frankly, Jack, who had these things memorised said, 'that's okay', before I could even remember which group it was in. I remembered yeah, that's one of those we said it's okay. I looked up, the rest of the computer looked good, so I said 'Lets go!' It took us a long time. In the Control Centre any more than three seconds on descent is too long .... and it took us about ten to fifteen seconds."
Sure enough, the software rebooted and reinitialised the computer. It was a good decision, made under unbelievable pressure. The report states: ``The same error repeated itself several times in the following minutes, but did not stop the Eagle from landing.''
Want to know how the story ended? Neil Amrstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins all received the US Medal of Freedom. But a fourth Medal of Freedom was also awarded to a civilian. He was only 26 years old. His name was Steve Bales.

It'd be great if any of my US readers could add to this. Are any of Steve Bales' relatives out there? I'd love to hear from you.

You've Got M@il

``Thanks to David McMahon for this blog. However, let me say that all this is well known to people who have read about Apollo XI. The computer used was very advanced for the time. And, sorry, it did not work perfectly. It got overloaded just before landing and displayed an error signal. So, the Lunar Module pilot - Col Edwin E. ``Buzz'' Aldrin - had to take over and do a manual landing. Thanks , David for the picture and the info. The QWERTY keyboard and TV-type monitor were not used for computers in 1969. Computers of the time were either mainframes that usually used punch cards or mission specific like this Apollo XI computer. ''
Email received from J. Thomas

My reply to the email:
``You're absolutely right about the error message. It is a riveting story that could be a piece of bestselling fiction. See my blogpost titled `An Error Message During Eagle's Descent' and let me know what you think.''

That's One Small Computer For Man

One Giant Leap For Minimal Processing Power

I received a group email a couple of days ago, telling me that the computers on Apollo XI had about 60 KB (yes, kilobytes) of memory. So I did some scouting around and found this great article at In a nutshell, this is what it says. The computer had to control a 13,000 kg spaceship, orbiting at 3500 km/h, land within metres of a specified location and guide it back from the surface to rendezvous with the Command Module in lunar orbit. There was no margin for error, as the Lunar Module, carrying Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, carried only enough fuel for one landing attempt. So, what were the specs of the vital computer? It weighed 30kg. It didn't have a disk drive, only 74 kilobytes of memory that had been literally hard-wired, and all of 4 KB of something akin to RAM, or random access memory. In order to use the computer, astronauts used a display and keyboard unit (DSKY, pronounced "disky" - see image above right), which weighed another 10kg. It was not a QWERTY keyboard, but a number pad along with some special buttons. In order to input a command or action, the user had to press a button marked "Verb", followed by a number that corresponded to the action. To input data, the user pressed the "Noun" button along with a number. But, as we all know, the MIT-developed system worked perfectly. If you want to read more about the error message that almost caused a crisis at Mission Control as Eagle descended towards the lunar surface, use the link above. It's gripping stuff - and it's history we didn't know.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

You've Got M@il

``Perhaps your blog, with your personal touch, gives folk a different view. You have a great gift for imparting the light, the humorous, the beautiful and the different. Perhaps you should just keep on keeping on!''
Email from Carol Perrett-McFarlane, Idaho, USA

Vintage Crop

An Event Not To Be Mist

Photograph copyright: MATHURES PAUL

This was one of two shots emailed to me overnight by Mathures Paul, one of the star reporters with `The Statesman' newspaper in Calcutta. Being a Calcuttan by birth, this picture struck a chord with me because it was taken at The Statesman Vintage & Classic Car Rally, one of the must-see events during the city's winter. This shot says it all. A dedicated owner dusts invisible specks off the paint surface of his car, but the key to the weather is on the left of the picture. A group of visitors appears like a ghostly image through the morning mist that is such a part of January in the city.
Now maybe someone can help me here. I noticed the stylised `S' on this car, which matches the typeface of the newspaper's masthead. I just wonder if it is the vintage car that was bought in 1970 by the popular `Junior Statesman' (the paper bought it from an army officer, if I remember correctly). That purchase was a key factor in introducing the Vintage Car Rally. Any clues, folks?

Trivia Pur$uit

Remember the famous sound of Darth Vader breathing through his respirator? We can thank sound designer Ben Burtt for that. I read somewhere that instead of electronically modifying an existing sound, Burtt actually created it - by recording the sound of his own breathing - into an old Dacor regulator used by scuba divers!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Here's A Shady Deal

Things Are Looking Up

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

An architect friend of mine once explained to me that the wooden slats on patios and outdoor entertaining areas aren't just placed in a random pattern. He showed me how the slats are placed at specific angles, depending on the alignment of the patio or deck area. Ever since I assimilated his wisdom, I have always paid close attention to these wooden structures. This one intrigued me, especially because of the light and shade and its sheer geometric precision.

Gizmo Machismo :)

Thanks For the Memory, Chip

Scientists have built a memory chip that is roughly the size of a white blood cell, about one-2000th of an inch on a side. Kenneth Chang of The New York Times reports that ``although the chip is modest in capacity - with 160,000 bits of information - the bits are crammed together so tightly that it is the densest ever made. The achievement points to a possible path toward continuing the exponential growth of computing power even after current silicon chip-making technology hits fundamental limits in 10 to 20 years.'' The scientists involved, led by James R. Heath of the California Institute of Technology and J. Fraser Stoddart of the University of California, Los Angeles, reported on aspects of their work as early as 1999, revealing details of specially designed molecular switches and a novel technique for making ultrathin wires. The density of bits on the chip - about 100 billion per square centimetre - is about 40 times greater than current memory chips, Dr. Heath said.

No Hef Measures For Playboy

Hugh (And Cry) Over Kelly Osbourne Spread

Her father might bite the heads off bats, but it seems Kelly Osbourne has bitten off more than she can chew this time. There'll be no `Playboy' photo spread for her - because Hugh Hefner himself says she'll never appear in his magazine. Why? Well, according to Stuff.Co.Nz, Hef's official explanation is that her body would need too much airbrushing. The 22-year-old recently revealed she would love to pose for the legendary magazine, but when asked by Britain's Closer magazine if he'd give Kelly a centrefold, Hefner replied: ``I can't see it happening somehow - we don't airbrush to that extent.'' But he did reveal a plan to invite Victoria Beckham to pose for `Playboy'. He said: ``She should do a pictorial with us. We've got big plans for her. I think she's going to fit in fine - they're both gorgeous." However, hints that Posh has apparently turned down an invitation to visit the Playboy mansion in LA.

I'm Afraid The Joker's On You

Must Be An Identity Crisis Of Sorts

A Dutchman has been issued with an ID card featuring a picture of himself dressed as Batman's enemy The Joker. Ananova reports that the man, from Hellevoetsluis, persuaded officials that he had to wear the costume because of his religious beliefs. He wanted to challenge new rules introduced last year in Holland, restricting the way people are allowed to pose for passport and ID card photos. The Dutch Ministery of Interior Affairs insists people must keep their mouths closed and must look serious when posing for photos. Headgear worn only for religious reasons is permitted, but the whole face must be shown clearly.

wwweb Cite

Horrfied By The Prise Tag

A city-owned mural in Richmond, California, estimated to be worth more than $1 million, was damaged when firefighters, unaware of its value, prised it from a wall to move it to safety during construction. The mural, by renowned Harlem Renaissance artist Sargent Johnson, was produced in 1949. According to, two weeks ago the chamber was being readied for major renovation, and employees were tagging furniture and other belongings for removal. A renovation project manager was shocked when he realized what was going on, and told the firefighters that the city had hired professionals to move it, because of its value.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Dam Blusters

Waiting For The Man From Snowy River

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I took this shot a couple of weeks ago, at the Cardinia Reservoir in Melbourne's south-east. I took about six frames in the mid-morning sun and for some reason this is my favourite. Maybe it's the shape of the dam wall and its gentle grey mid-tones. Maybe it's the mix of greenery in the middle distance. Or maybe it's the fact that some recent rainfall has teased a few green patches across the parched expanse of hillside. Or maybe it's simply the fact that scenes like this help me understand what inspired the bush literature of people like Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson.

wwweb Cite

No Stamp Of Approval From Pamela Anderson

Jeannette Walls reveals in her column on that (her words, not mine) ``Pamela Anderson has gone postal over a stamp''. Yup, Pammy's in high dudgeon indeed. She has written to Postmaster General John E. Potter, saying she is not happy about KFC’s request to put the bearded image of Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of the fast-food chain, on a stamp. Just for the record, Anderson, is of course a staunch animal-rights activist and a PETA member whose opposition to KFC is well documented. ``I hope that you’ll deny KFC’s request,” Anderson wrote, “how about another Elvis stamp instead?”

Gizmo Machismo :)

I Game, I Saw, I Conquered

An in-game advertising network has won the right to exclusive advertising in Counter-Strike, the hugely popular online game. The agreement between IGA Worldwide and software firm Valve is one of the largest deals of its kind to date, reports BBC. The hugely popular online game generates over five billion player minutes each month and is a potential gold-mine for advertisers. In-game advertising has been delivering results unheard of in traditional media. Meanwhile, Blizzard's expansion to World of Warcraft has stormed in at number one in the UK video gaming charts. The Burning Crusade (for performance review, see has become the second fastest selling PC game ever, with 2.4 million copies sold on the first day. It knocks the Xbox 360 sci-fi action shooter Lost Planet: Extreme Condition into the number two slot. WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Fifa 07 and Pro Evolution Soccer 6 maintain their top five positions, at three, four and five respectively.

Colt Comfort? Not This Time

Introducing The Tummy As A Billboard

Want the world to see your message at the Super Bowl? Just call Jennifer Gordon. The rabid Chicago Bears fan wants two tickets and says, in exchange, you can paint your message on her eight-months-pregnant belly. According to, she and her husband already have their plane tickets to Miami. Jennifer says she already has received a bunch of inquiries to her ad on Craigslist that says her ``beautiful, stretchmark-free belly’’ is available. Just before you join the queue, though, there's one condition. No advertising for Indianapolis or the Colts.

Trivia Pur$uit

An unsigned British band has reached a settlement with Coca-Cola over the soft drink giant's use of its material in a television commercial. The band, called 7 Seconds of Love, argued that Coke used the song `Ninja’ and its distinctive kitten-filled video without permission in a South American advertisement. After talks, Coke agreed to an out-of-court settlement of an undisclosed sum.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cassius Cray

Looks Like A Pincer Movement

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This huge crayfish/ lobster is a mammoth landmark in the Melbourne suburb of Dandenong, on the facade of a seafood restaurant called Gardens, on the corner of Dandenong Road and Kidd Road. You just can't miss it. I'm guessing the crustacean is probably six or seven metres long and, because it is set on an angle, at least four metres high. I took this shot a couple of hours ago and although I had to stand close to an eight-lane highway to get the best view, I had to shoot it through a rash of overhead wires and support struts. Nothing fishy about that.

wwweb Cite

Great Return Of S(w)erve

If you're driving a horse and buggy and you're DUI, please don't do what this bloke did. Patrick Maloney of London Free Press reports on that a 29-year-old man faces alcohol-related charges after his horse and buggy nearly hit not one but two police cruisers, north of Stratford. The officers were forced to swerve to avoid a horse-drawn carriage being ``operated in a dangerous manner''. The official statement issued by police said, ``In this case, the buggy didn't have any lights or reflectors''. The officers found a 24-pack of beer and arrested the man who was ``extremely intoxicated''.
But here's the real debate, folks. Was the bloke on the wagon? (And if you listen really carefully, you'll hear my fellow blogger Allan Cook groaning at that line!)

The Purple Prose Of Chiro

Has Anyone Seen This Missing Bigfoot?

A well-known Bigfoot has vanished from Federal Way, Washington - and there are no footprints, only some tyre tracks. The 2.5m wooden sasquatch carving was reported stolen by Tim Payne, a chiropractor who had it made and installed it by the driveway to his office. According to a report filed by Brett Champaco of, Bigfoot was there for more than five years, and Payne said it was a useful landmark to help patients and visitors to find his place. His daughter, Chantel Wilson, who works as a massage therapist at the office, said the intimidating beast was part of the family - even if it was hairier than the others.

Gizmo Machismo :)

Europe Pushes iTunes Compatibility

This sounds like a case of Norway, Jose. German and French consumer groups have joined a Norwegian drive to force Apple Inc. to make its iTunes online store compatible with digital music players made by rival companies. According to CNN, songs purchased and downloaded through iTunes are designed to work with Apple's market-leading iPod players but not competitors' models, including those using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media system. Likewise, iPods generally can't play copy-protected music sold through non-Apple stores. Last June, consumer agencies in Norway, Denmark and Sweden claimed that Apple was violating contract and copyright laws in their countries. Norwegian regulators have given Apple until September to change its polices, or face possible legal action and fines in the country.

Wanted: Ted Or Alive

Irish Islands Argue Over TV Comedy Festival

A row has broken out between two remote Irish islands over an inaugural Father Ted festival next month. Inis Mor, the largest of the three Aran Islands off County Galway, is planning a three-day ``Friends of Ted'' event. They want to mark the ninth anniversary of the death of comic Dermot Morgan, the star of the comedy series. However, Inis Oirr, the smallest of the islands, believes it has a bigger claim because local scenes, including the Plassey shipwreck, are shown in the opening scenes of the hit comedy. Dozens of fans have rushed to book hotels, hostels and B&Bs for the festival which runs from 23-25 February. The comedy series is currently screened on BBC America and is repeated frequently on pay-TV channels around the world. Visit for more information on the festival.
Afterthought: Maybe I should have used the headline `I see Ted people', a nice twist on the famous line by Haley Joel Osment in the 1999 movie `The Sixth Sense'.

Trivia Pur$uit

One of Elton John's very own limited edition red pianos has made its way to a Utah family who paid $50,000 for it. Only thirty of the pianos have been made and this one was played by Elton John while he recorded songs in Spain. The piano is a Yamaha diskalvier, a hybrid piano that can record whatever is played on it. The piano features original recordings of Elton John playing and singing five of his greatest hits.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Curtain Call

Let It Bead, Let It Bead

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This bead curtain caught my eye as I was walking around the Lower Town in beautiful Quebec City. The weather was cloudy and there was a constant drizzle that evening, but there were amazing splashes of colour throughout the historic fortified city. This unusual sight at the entrance to a shop brought me to an immediate halt. I deliberately framed this shot to get in some of the yellow tarpaulin in the foreground and I was pretty pleased with the range of colours and shades across the picture.

Gizmo Machismo :)

Grammar? Ain't She Married To Grandpa?

Arizona technical writer Mignon Fogarty has done the unthinkable – she has turned grammar, of all things, into entertainment, or webtertainment, as the case may be. According to CNN, Fogarty, the woman behind Grammar Girl’s Quick And Dirty Tips For Better Writing, has been explaining the finer points of commas, colons and split infinitives since July and even weighed in on a dispute over apostrophes that divided the U.S. Supreme Court. Fogarty, 39, said she got the idea for the podcast, during a California vacation. "I was sitting in a coffee shop one day in Santa Cruz, California, on vacation and editing technical documents, because I work on vacation, and found so many grammar errors and it just hit me that grammar was something that I had expertise in that would lend itself to a short tip-based podcast," she said. The show is currently the 47th most popular podcast on Apple's iTunes service, right behind "Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day." It has been as high as number two, Fogarty said. She said the shows have been downloaded more than 1.3 million times.

You've Got M@il

``Haven't visited your blog for some time, so have a lot of catching up to do. Can you please email me your autograph for `Vegemite Vindaloo' which I can print out and stick on the book? Or are autographed copies still available at Oxford's, Kolkata?''
Email from Rene Chaudhuri, Toronto, Canada

Nearer, My God, To The End Of My Tether

Drunk’s SOS Had A Very Familiar Ring

A drunk man who fell asleep and got trapped inside a UK church rang an SOS in morse code, using the church bell. According to Ananova, the man was reportedly worried about ghosts. So he started ringing the bell and finally, at dusk, a local resident realised something was wrong. He alerted police who, in turn, contacted church verger Vicki Mockford who came to the rescue. She said: ``I was called by police who said someone was using the bell as a sign they were trapped. Maybe after this he might consider taking up bell-ringing as a hobby.''
Worried about ghosts, hey? He must have been trying to wraith the roof.

Patient Was Impatient

Bosnian Man Fixed Hospital Machinery

A Bosnian hospital patient spent seven hours repairing hospital machinery - so his operation could go ahead. According to Ananova, doctors had told car mechanic Slobodan Mocevic, 56, his operation to remove a kidney stone was cancelled because of faulty equipment. Mocevic asked to borrow a set of tools and then stripped down and repaired the Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy machine at the hospital in Kasindol. He said: "I was in agony, and there was no way I could have waited any longer." The device removes kidney stones by sending a sonic wave through a patient's body to break up the stone.

Trivia Pur$uit

A simple shoe, popular in parts of Europe, gave us an everyday word. ``Sabotage’’ comes from the term ``sabot’’, a wooden shoe made of a single piece of hollowed-out wood – or with a thick wooden sole - commonly worn in France and Belgium.

wwweb Cite

I Know How Much You Love The Bears, Honey

Yes, I’ve been following the great form of the Chicago Bears and their 39-14 victory against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. And yes, I know they’re heading to their first NFL title game since 1985. But beyond all the hype, there is a terrific story about loyalty to the Bears. Teacher Colleen Pavelka, from Homer Glen, knows how much her husband Mark loves the Bears. So much so, she even chose to have their second child induced a few days early so that Mark could go to the NFC Championship showdown between the Bears and the Saints. The baby was due Sunday, but when Colleen went in for an appointment on Friday, her doctors said she could opt for an early delivery - and she did. According to, she said, ``How could he miss this one opportunity that he might never have again in his life?"

Monday, January 22, 2007

You Country Bumpkins, Er, Pumpkins

The One In The Middle Has A Roving Eye

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It was just before Halloween and I was walking around Montreal when I stopped to photograph a street stall selling flowers. After taking a couple of shots with both my film and digital cameras, I noticed these pumpkins, tucked away in a corner. Not only did they seem almost to have a personality of their own, the one in the middle seemed to have a distinctly buccaneering attitude. Even though he was hampered with only one ``eye'', he was definitely the leader of the group. Maybe he had just had an eye-popping experience.

Gizmo Machismo :)

Ferrari Computer Line is Colour-Fast

The partnership between computer maker Acer and Ferrari has resulted in a series of distinctive laptops and monitors the Italian automakers' logo and distinctive racing colours. Seems to be working too. According to, Acer sales have more than doubled since 2003. Intrigued, I delved a little further and saw a review of the Acer Ferrari 5000 on The reviewer gave it four stars out of a possible five, with the pros listed as: ``Signature Ferrari design. 160GB hard drive. HDMI-Out port. Option for HD DVD-ROM. Rotating 1.3-megapixel webcam,’’ and the cons listed as ``mobile AMD processor not as fast as its Intel counterparts. Slightly heavy for a mainstream laptop.’’
I guess the Ferrari computers are going, er, quick.

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Turtle Recall For Gulf Warm Veterans

At least three dozen sea turtles are getting a vacation under heat lamps in South Padre Island, Texas, after being rescued from an Arctic blast that caused the water temperature in an arm of the Gulf of Mexico to plummet 18 degrees in 48 hours. The cold-blooded animals were left comatose by the rapid temperature drop. According to, volunteers wrapped the turtles in blankets and towels. The creatures were scrubbed clean of grime, then put under heat lamps until their eyes opened and their flippers twitched - signs they were reviving and ready to be put in warm holding tanks and fed on romaine lettuce.

Sophie's Choice? Er, Not Really

British School Gets a Bad Report Card

Sophie Bond, a 12-year-old girl from Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, has received a report - from a school she has never attended. The report, from Patcham High School, praised her performance in English but said she was misbehaving in maths. How so? Turns out she attended an induction day at the school last July last year but instead took a place at Oakmeeds Community College in Burgess Hill. According to Ananova, a spokeswoman for Patcham High School said: "Due to an administrative error, Sophie's report was confused with another student with the same name.’’