Monday, April 30, 2007
Got a lazy $10 million lying around in your piggy bank? That's about $820,000 in greenbacks and a tad over 400,000 quid if you live in the United Kingdom. You see, if you're looking for new digs, that's the asking price on Shane Warne's upmarket home in the Melbourne beachside suburb of Brighton. Don't quite have the required amount? No worries, mate, the whisper is that the ``nearest offer'' could be in with a chance. No need to get into a flat spin.
PS: Well, guess who was in a flat spin? Me! My friend Siddharth Khandelwal just pointed out a basic flaw in my maths. I should have written the conversion as 8.2 million in greenbacks and a tad over 4 million quid.
Please write out new cheques.
Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
There is no sound like the autumn wind whispering through the gum leaves (and no, my middle name's not Russell!). Then you look up and you realise that it's the perfect time for a photo opportunity. The blue sky (no, the colours have not been enhanced) is the ideal counterfoil for the gumnuts and the graceful shower of leaves. This shot was taken at Glenrowan, in country Victoria. The town is best known as being the site of infamous bushranger Ned Kelly’s last stand against police in 1880. Glenrowan gets its name from pioneer pastoralists James and George Rowan, who owned sixteen thousand acres of grazing land in the area in the middle of the 19th century.
An Austrian computer store owner in Grieskirchen caught two teenage thieves after he put closed-circuit TV footage on YouTube. Thomas Karer, 45, installed the video surveillance gear after a spate of thefts. It allowed him to film the two teenagers stealing a laptop from his store. The video shows how one of the teenagers kept watch and covered what his accomplice was doing as the second teenager slipped the computer under his jacket. People who saw the video online recognised the pair, told the owner, who in turn alerted the police.
Old habits die hard. Some customers are spending thousands of dollars on LCD or plasma TVs and hooking them up to grandpa-style $60 antennas. Many tech geeks say that the local channels available from over-the-air high-definition signals are superior to what cable and satellite companies can offer because some compress the signal. This could degrade picture quality because some of the data is removed from the digital signal. The best part for the consumer is that the over-the-air H-D is free. Antenna prices range from $20 to $150 for indoor and outdoor versions.
Here’s another common question I get asked. The reason every newspaper in the world has a circulation manager is to keep track of (and increase) sales. That policy is no different with blogs, but each blogger is his or her own circulation manager.
How do I install a hit counter?
The best way to keep track of who's visiting your blog is to install a hit counter. There is first-rate archived information on this subject at the Google Blogger Help site. Hit counters – as the name implies – provide information about the number of hits/ visits your blog attracts. These counters are free and widely available. I opted for Site Meter, which provides a wide range of stats and information that I find really useful. Installation is simple. Just go to SiteMeter.com where you can review the variety of counter styles available. When you’ve chosen one, you just have to sign up for a new account which is self-explanatory. In addition to real-time reports on who’s visiting your blog, you also get weekly email reports on your site's traffic. In terms of reader research, it is an invaluable tool, because you can see at a glance where your reader base lies and the amount of time people are spending on your blog.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
This was taken outside the post office at Port Carling, northern Ontario. I had goofed really badly when flying out of Montreal, leaving a jacket and formal trousers in my hotel room at the Queen Elizabeth. The hotel staff kindly sent the clothes to Port Carling, hence my quick trip to the post office! As I came out, I just happened to notice this reflection on the roof of my rental car. Out came the camera immediately. This was taken with a Canon EOS 3000, a film camera to which I am very partial.
I am always happy to answer questions from fellow bloggers, although the best technical knowledge comes from the team of experts and Blog*Stars who provide great information at the Google Blogger Help site. Nonetheless, I answer any queries, based on my knowledge of editorial technology, my experience in writing, my expertise in magazine and newspaper layout and editing techniques, and my own foray into photography. Of the many questions I've been asked, I've decided to post some of the most common ones here on this site, along with the answers.
How do I increase the size of a picture on a blogpost?
After uploading a picture to a post, it will go to a default position and will appear in a default size.To enlarge the image, just click on it to activate the element. Then click on any of the toggles that outline the picture and enlarge to whatever width and depth you choose.
If you want to go back on an old post and alter the size of the image, go to your dashboard and click the `Edit Post' option for that particular blogpost. Again, just click on the image to activate the element - and repeat the process described above.
Great skyline. Interesting pre-dawn colours. Strong silhouette. Reach for camera. Capture scene. Very happy with shot. Especially the flock of seagulls on the left-hand side. Pack camera away. Good idea to take the Pentax with me wherever I go.
For the benefit of new visitors to this site, I never digitally enhance my images in any way. What you see here is what I see through my viewfinder. That's fair dinkum.
So the 2007 Cricket World Cup has come to an end, with Australia unbeaten not just in this tournament but the 2003 World Cup as well. Ricky Ponting's team is now the first nation to win the World Cup three consecutive times, after losing the 1996 final to Sri Lanka. Today's hero was Adam Gilchrist , who reached his century in only 72 balls, when not one of his teammates could score at the rate of a run a ball. The affable Gilchrist told Damien Fleming it had been a ``long time between drinks'' in terms of his one-day hundreds. Gilchrist's 149 at the top of the order took Australia to 281 for 4, to win by 53 runs in a rain-affected game.
The victory gives Australia a 29-game unbeaten streak in World Cup games. It also marks the last international performance by Glenn McGrath, the most accurate bowler of his generation. As the final came to a close in near-darkness, McGrath quipped: "Bit dark at the moment, but loving every minute."
And interestingly enough, the game was also remarkable for the fact that Mutthiah Muralitharan did not take a wicket against the best side in the world. But don't be fooled, This spinner is soon going to overtake Shane Warne's record haul of the most Test wickets in history.
Once upon a time there were four brothers who decided it was time to start recording their family history - and all the funny stories as well. How best to do this? They all live in different cities and there was no real way for them to build a computer-based, shared-resource document that would be accessible to all of them.
So I suggested they start a blog. Once that was done, they just needed to have common access to the blog, thus allowing them to archive pictures, documents and quirky stories. The project is in its early days, but it seems to have a rather distinctive tone. If you have time, do visit Clan McMahon and let the brothers know what you think.
For the first time, Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards have been adjudicated by a guest judge, Joel Bush of Arkansas. He has published the full list on his site Prof Bush.
The awards are meant to encourage bloggers from all round the world and they give new bloggers the chance to get their work noticed in an increasingly popular forum, alongside the world's most-visited blogs.There is no monetary reward, no live TV coverage, no red carpet interview, but the exposure comes with international bragging rights.
If you would like your blog (or someone else's) to be considered for next week's awards, please leave the url here, in the comment section. You can nominate as many blogs as you want. Entries close at midday Greenwich Mean Time each Friday.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
The most common question I get asked by fellow bloggers is ``How do we get noticed?'' I always direct them to the Blogger Help site, where a team of Blog*Stars and many other dedicated bloggers provide some great information for start-up bloggers.
Some weeks ago, I wrote a couple of posts, Reader Radar and House of Lauds which have general, easy-to-follow information for bloggers of any description.
And since this blog is committed to helping other bloggers, I would like to point out some of the more memorable blogs I've seen this week. They are, in no particular order, Pasture Musings, Sketch and Colour, A Chess World, Random Blethers, Memoirs of a Broken Man, Scala, Necronomipod, David's Pics, Who Dat Dare Pokah, One From The Cuckoo's Nest and Karoline's Wednesday's Child. Do give them - and other new bloggers - the encouragement they deserve.
A large English cheddar cheese has become a star of the internet, attracting more than a million viewers to sit and stare at it as it slowly ripens. First placed in front of a webcam in late December, the Westcombe cheddar came to public attention in early February and has since attracted viewers from 119 countries. ``It has been a real challenge keeping the cheese up and running with all the interest it has generated," a spokesman for the company running the website, Cheddar Vision, said Wednesday. Watchers have tuned in from as far afield as Albania and New Zealand, although most are from the United States where a school has even sent in pictures of two crocodiles to guard the cheese.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Photograph copyright: GAUTHAM MANOHAR
Maybe I should have used the headline `Mortar Bored' for this post. The photograph was sent to me by India-based Gautham Manohar, whose work was featured here last week. ``I was backing my car out of my car park,'' he told me, ``when I noticed this little guy lying on the opposite wall. He was looking extremely alert at the time, glaring at me continuously. With thoughts of taking the proverbial cat on the wall shot, I rushed upstairs to my apartment to get my camera.
``When I got back, I realised that what I had mistaken for a hostile glare was actually his struggle to keep his eyes open. He was now virtually asleep. He did make a feeble attempt at opening them once he saw the intrusion into his private space, but it was a lost cause, and he drifted off again, and I had the shot of the puuuurfect nap. I like the shot because it conveys a sense of bliss and content, a world where Tom has never met Jerry.''
You can see more of Gautham's photography at his Flickr account.
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
Here are a couple of photographs, taken from exactly the same spot, almost four weeks apart. I was standing near the tram stop opposite Flinders Street station a couple of days after five months of Daylight Saving ended on the last weekend in March. I was intrigued by the light and shade and the sunlight reflected on the saddleback-shaped building in the background. Look at the clock and you’ll see it was 6.45am.
Then on Tuesday (24 April) I just happened to be in the same spot at about 6.40am. The weather was identical, a clear morning with no cloud. Because I had my camera with me, I waited until exactly 6.45am and took the shot below. Same place. Same time. Same weather. But look at the difference in the light – the cars even have their lights on. And of course, the station facade is lit by floodlights in the second shot.
Since the sun rises about a minute later every morning, it just shows what a difference 26 days can make.
Forget taking a limousine to the prom. One high school senior drove his date in a 1992 green John Deere 8760 tractor. "A few people made bets with me that I wouldn't do it," said Levi Rue, a senior at New Rockford-Sheyenne High School. "I guess I won them."
Rue suggested the idea to his date, Alissa Bachmeier, last Thursday, two days before the prom. She wasn't sure, worried about her dress getting dirty. But after Rue showed her pictures of the tractor and promised to make sure it was immaculate, Bachmeier agreed. "I cleaned it up pretty good," he said.
Bachmeier wore a lime green prom dress that nearly matched the tractor. Rue said they drove around town and to his grandmother's house to show her the unusual chariot. "We got quite a few people who stopped and looked and stared and waved," he said.
Pointing out stories you may have missed. An Indian court has issued an arrest warrant for Hollywood actor Richard Gere after he kissed Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty in public. Gere, 57, kissed Shetty, 31, several times on the cheek at an Aids awareness event in Delhi earlier this month. The court in Jaipur, in Rajasthan state, called it "an obscene act", after a local lawyer filed a complaint. It was not immediately clear how the warrant could affect Gere, who is a frequent visitor to India. Shetty, who found fame outside India as the winner of Celebrity Big Brother in the UK, has also been asked to appear before the court.
News source: BBC.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
There's dilemmas. And there's, well, dilemmas. There I was, in the driveway about five hours ago, about to head out on an important errand of mercy. And to my right, there was this amazing sunset. No time to drive to higher ground to shoot it, for the sun was descending rapidly into cloud. So I called for the cavalry (my son) who immediately emerged with my camera. I reversed out of the driveway on my errand, secure in the knowledge that he would take the shot quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
For some trademark humour, check out That Blue Yak and have a bit of a chuckle. I always have time for comic relief and Dr Zibbs is in vintage form with this post. And don't forget to read the comment/ reply from McGlinch, who is never lost for a reply, or for words. By the way, his blog can be seen at McGlinch.
Everything might be bigger in Texas, but the stars cannot possibly be larger than they are here in Melbourne. Here's proof! These giant blue stars were actually part of an advertising display for one of the big banks. Forgive me for showing some interest!
A Welsh teenager with a serious heart condition is on cloud nine after British pop-rock band McFly stopped by his home for a visit. Illness forced Mikey McCormick, 14, to cancel a trip to meet the chart-toppers before a gig in Liverpool. So he was stunned when the band pulled up in a huge tour bus outside his home. They spent a large part of the afternoon talking to him and watching DVDs of their shows with him in his room. His uncle, John McCormick, said: ``They just walked in like any other visitors.''
Pointing out stories you may have missed. An early-morning bank customer in Germany, got a bit of a shock when he found a horse in line at the automatic teller machine in front of him. It seems the horse's owner, identified only as Wolfgang H., had a bit too much to drink the night before and decided to sleep it off inside the bank's heated foyer, police said.
The 40-year-old machinist told Bild newspaper he had had "a few beers" with a friend in Wiesenburg, southwest of Berlin, and decided to hit the hay in the bank on his way home. "It was late, it was already dark and cold," he was quoted as saying.
Confronted with the lack of a hitching-post, he brought the sixar-old horse, named Sammy, in along with him. When a customer came across the horse and sleeping rider in the bank at 4:15 a.m. Monday, he called police, who then came and woke the owner up and sent him on his way.
No charges were filed, but there might be some cleanup needed: Apparently Sammy made his own after-hours deposit on the carpet.
News source: CNN.com.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Melbourne is a city of many moods and this photograph shows the deep symbolism of the Shrine of Remembrance and the collective consciousness of this city. When we first came to live here almost 20 years ago, crowds were dwindling at the dawn service on Anzac Day and there was debate over how long the tradition would last. But the historic pine needles in sharp focus here; and the Shrine with its columns in soft focus, are a powerful magnet.
Before dawn today, Melburnians defined reverence. How? With 35,000 people braving the cold to stand and honour those who died at Gallipoli 92 years ago. That's right, 35,000 people in the darkness, with only the light of the Eternal Flame. In complete and utter silence.
Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
Today is Anzac Day, commemorating the 1915 landings by Allied troops at Gallipoli during World War I. Every year on 25 April, the Shrine of Remembrance plays host to one of the most moving Melbourne experiences, the Dawn Service. This shot shows not only the Shrine, but I've framed it deliberately. In the foreground, in silhouette, is a tree that holds mystical significance for the Australian nation and in the history of Gallipoli. It is a Turkish pine grown from a seed of the original Lone Pine from the battleground.
I've wrestled with this one for 24 hours, I really have. But I've finally reached a decision. A friend of mine in the US, a man with great life experience and a wonderful take on life, needs a little encouragement at the moment. Colorado Bob is always readable, always thought-provoking and always brings a wonderful perspective to us all. But, never having asked anyone to write a comment on my own blog, I am certainly asking you to leave one on his blog. I respect his privacy, for sure. But as he is a blogger and communicates with the world through his computer, I figure it is up to us, his audience, to reach out and be there for him when he needs a shoulder - or many shoulders - to lean on.
Pointing out stories you may have missed. Birthday celebrations were even sweeter for a man who bet £100, a decade ago, that he would live to be 100. He now has a cheque for £25,000. Alec Holden, from Epsom in Surrey, is picking up his winnings from bookmaker William Hill, which gave him odds of 250/1 that he would reach his century.
The retired engineer, born on 24 April 1907, joked he had been "very careful" about what he had been doing recently. He placed the bet on 10 December 1997, when he was aged 90, with the thought that he "would live forever". He said in recent months he had been keeping watch for "any hooded groups from William Hill standing in the street", so that he could avoid them.
Mr Holden, who also used to work as a teacher and a carpenter, plans to take some friends to a hotel to celebrate. He placed the bet on 10 December 1997, when he was aged 90, with the thought that he "would live forever".
News source: BBC.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
And you always thought iPods were just for listening to your favorite tunes? They're also for cheating, at least according to some school administrators. Many US schools have banned iPods and other digital music players from exams. In Idaho, Mountain View High School principal Aaron Maybon says the students come up with "new and creative ways to cheat pretty fast." While no kids have actually been caught iPod cheating, Maybon says a teacher overheard a couple of students talking about it. The music players can be used to record audio answers to tests, or crib sheet can be displayed as the text of song lyrics.
Pointing out stories you may have missed. British Airways has airbrushed a scene of arch-rival Sir Richard Branson out of its in-flight James Bond movie `Casino Royale’, sources close to the company said. The Virgin Atlantic chief is briefly featured in the original 007 film at an airport security scanner, but can only be seen from the back in the edited version. Shots of the tail fin of a Virgin plane have also been obscured.
A spokesman for BA said only that it "previews films before they are screened on our aircraft and regularly edits films" on the grounds of taste and suitability. Virgin Atlantic said it had helped the film's producers get a plane to Prague, Czech Republic, where some of the scenes were shot.
A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said the company does not have a policy of editing its in-flight films. "We think that passengers should see all the film, and nothing but the whole film," she added. Branson has had cameo roles in other movies, including a Superman film, and in TV shows such as "Friends."
News source: CNN.com.
Monday, April 23, 2007
I'm honoured to be tagged by laconic Queenslander Mur, who writes the blog A Clockwork Blancmange and who was given a `Thinking Blogger Award' with the request that he tag five worthy bloggers in turn. In his words, he included ``Authorblog aka David Mcmahon, who is a prolific writer and has a bestseller to his credit 'Vegemite Vindaloo'.''
Thanks for the tag and as it's now my turn to tag five other bloggers whose work makes me think, I'll turn to 1. Shrink Wrapped Scream; 2. Uncommon Notions; 3. Copper Stiletto; 4. Bartraeke; 5. Lotus Reads.
And according to Mur's instructions, ``The rules are: a) If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think, and b) link to this post so that people can easily find the origin of this award.
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
This shot of an idyllic Outback scene was taken at the tiny community of Dadswells Bridge, the northernmost town in the Grampians National Park. With a population of just 250 (yep, that's correct) it is a fuel stop on the Western Highway, connecting Adelaide and Melbourne.
Dadswells Bridge is most famous for the Giant Koala, a 14-metre-high landmark in the farming community. It’s just a tad more than 250 kilometres from Melbourne and as you can see in this shot, I’ve tried to capture the essence of the Outback. Wide open spaces. Gum trees. Clear blue sky. Contrast of colours. The sort of scenery I love to photograph.
Okay, now look at the second picture (below), which is also taken from the same spot. But this time I’ve used the zoom lens. The hoarding/ billboard that blends into the background in the first frame, is in sharp focus this time. Obviously, they love their curry in the Outback. And for those who like a bit of multi-lingual trivia, the name of the restaurant, Namaskaar, translates to the classic Aussie greeting of ``G'day''.
Did I ever tell you about the heartbreakingly beautiful woman who snubbed an offer to buy a personally autographed copy of my novel, Vegemite Vindaloo. No? Never told you the yarn? Well, newer readers of this blog might not realise that the novel made the bestseller compilations, ranked on the same list as the Booker Prize winner. I was also very touched by a couple of web-based reviews, one at Terry Fletcher's outstanding Anglo-Indian Portal and another at Dance With The Sun.
But how could anyone say no to an autographed copy of the novel that even outsold Frederick Forsyth and Jeffrey Archer? Read all about it at Oxford Bookstore. One word of caution, however. As the Oxford Bookstore feature article is an external link written by me but not related to my blog, it can be a bit slow to load, so do be patient. Let me know what you think of the story - I'd love to hear your views.
A slip-up by a North Carolina store clerk has paid off, bigtime. Wadburn Allen accidentally rang up an extra, duplicate Powerball ticket for a customer in Conover. At the end of the day, after she was unable to sell the second ticket, Allen decided to pay for it herself. The next day, Allen returned to the store and found to her surprise that the ticket matched all five numbers - earning her a $200,000 jackpot.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
You reckon this is an Aboriginal painting that cunningly depicts a row of aircraft windows? Got that one wrong, mate. Yes, it is a painting, but it's a painting that is splashed across the entire fuselage of a Qantas Boeing 737. The Australian national airline first introduced Aboriginal art on the airframe of one of its Jumbos about a decade ago. The artwork in this photograph is called `Yananyi Dreaming' and is redolent of the rich ochre that is so typical of the art form.
Okay, so the Awards are being judged in the Northern Hemisphere for the first time. Drum roll, please, maestro. It is my pleasure to announce that Professor Joel Bush will be the first guest judge, for the week ending 28 April. Regular readers will be familiar with the fact that Joel's blog, ProfBush has been a permanent fixture on the Awards' honour roll for several weeks.
Joel is chair of the computer department at a small rural community college in Arkansas and lives on what sounds like my idea of heaven - 60 acres in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains in the state's southwest with his wife Sandy.
He will be judging blogs on the following criteria: readability; photo/ image content; any X-factor, which could be a great headline or a witty remark; type of content (higher for full original content, less for block quote or reference content, zilch for feed content); consistency of theme; relevance; catchiness of post titles; accuracy; and use of keywords.
If there are any other blogs you would like to nominate, please let Joel know. Good luck, all.
Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
This time it was the extremely unusual pattern that caught my eye. But the colour of the Melbourne sky was rather nondescript, and I think the shapes would have looked better against a darker sky. However, such minor problems have never stopped me getting the camera out and capturing a scene that has caught my interest. You gotta do the best job in the existing light conditions.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
It might look as though a violet-azure mini-tornado is approaching, but it was just a harmless evening sky without a hint of menace. I actually took this shot just before I went to Sydney - and promptly forgot about it over the Easter holiday. I shot this from our nature strip (for my US and Canadian readers, a nature strip is the two-metre-wide strip of grass that separates an Australian front yard from the edge of the street). The soft pastels in the sky intrigued me, as well as the clearly demarcated colour separation. Less than five minutes later, the colours were completely washed over.
Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards are meant to encourage bloggers from all round the world and they give new bloggers the chance to get their work noticed in an increasingly popular forum, alongside the world's most-visited blogs.There is no monetary reward, no live TV coverage, no red carpet interview, but the exposure comes with international bragging rights. If you would like your blog (or someone else's) to be considered for next week's awards, please leave the url here, in the comment section. You can nominate as many blogs as you want. Entries close at midday Greenwich Mean Time each Friday.
And an honourable mention goes to:
In conclusion, I would just like to say I've been mentoring several bloggers for a while and it is important to know that the work of a blogger whose url has only 10 hits can be ranked alongside a blogger whose url has 10,000 hits or more. I would like other would-be writers and bloggers to benefit from the fact that I am a bestselling novelist (`Vegemite Vindaloo', published by Penguin) and career journalist with almost 30 years' experience in writing, editing, design, newspaper technology and production.
Bhowanipur War Cemetery, Calcutta. Photos copyright: MIKE McMAHON
The story of Flying Officer Arthur Maurice Owers Pring is a perfect example of how the Internet brings together the jigsaw pieces of a life from a previous generation. Flying Officer Pring, of the Royal Indian Air Force, lies buried in the soft green turf of Bhowanipur War Cemetery in Calcutta, the city where I was born.
He was only 22 when he died. It is my privilege to tell his story.
Late last month, I received a group email that mentioned the exploits of a fighter pilot called Pring. The name rang a bell immediately. I recalled vividly how my father had told me about this World War II pilot, how his name became a byword for heroism and how Calcutta, the city which he defended so nobly, grieved when he died.
The emails went back and forth and gradually many people across the globe began to unravel nuggets of his life.
On March 21, one person on the email group referred to a poster on the back cover of the recent book 'The Eagle Strikes'. Was it the same Pring, the sender of the email asked, ``who appears (as a Flight Sergeant) on the recruiting poster which forms the back cover of the book?’’
Within a few hours came a reply, from the author of the book, Squadron Leader Rana Chhina, who lives in New Delhi. Yes, it was the same Pring.
The author said: ``The poster on the back cover of 'The Eagle Strikes' dates from circa 1943. It shows Harjinder Singh as a Pilot Officer. Harjinder received his commission in September 1942. The blurb for Pring (an NCO pilot) reads: `The Flight Sergeant who shoots them down quickly. A cool nerve, a clear brain, and unlimited guts, that’s what it takes to make an ace pilot like Pring. Shooting down Japanese raiders takes more than courage.’’
Concluded Chhina: ``Judging from this I would wager that this indeed was the same Pring currently under discussion. The incident (and his name) would have been well known at the time, and he would have been the ideal candidate to figure on the recruiting poster that aimed to attract young men to serve in the fast growing Royal Indian Air Force.’’
At this stage, my brother Brian, a marine investigator based in Canberra, found an Internet reference to Pring. He sent me a weblink to the Sepia Mutiny website that took me to a tale narrated by someone who had lived in Calcutta while Pring was still alive.
The tale spoke of the regular Japanese air raids. ``During these many regular air raids we usually listened to All-India Radio. The reception was not good as commentary was frequently interrupted by pops, shrieks and whistles caused by atmospherics. Our hero was a pilot by the name of Pring, who shot down Zeros in fierce combat. We used to listen to his exploits with bated breath; we became an integral part of this man who was up there fighting our battles for us. It was rather like listening to a soccer match in the sky. We reacted to his every valiant move and kill with rapturous joy.
``He became the focal point of a Zero attack in the early hours of one morning. As we sat in the flickering glow of a lamp, we stared at one another in utter disbelief - through the static came the news of Pring’s death. There was a silence that seemed to last for an eternity. We all cried unashamedly…’’
Just who was this man Pring?
The answers started to come swiftly, beginning with a series of emails from John Feltham, a Queensland-based ex-RAF man. He gave me a weblink to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as well as relevant information that produced a nugget of information about Pring’s parents and where his remains were buried.
The CWGC site confirmed that Pring was the recipient of a DFM or Distinguished Flying Medal and that he was the son of Arthur Benjamin Pring and Doris Lilian Pring (nee Garrett), of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. It also provided an exact reference to his grave at the Bhowanipur War Cemetery - Plot L, grave # 113.
Another email from John Feltham, quoting Internet research, brought yet one more side to the Pring story. ``Yes, Flying Officer AMO Pring was the pilot who shot down three Japanese "Sally" bombers in one night in January 1943, which seemed to put an end to night raids on the city. At the time of the incident he was a Flight Sergeant, and he was not commissioned till later in the year.’’
At this point in my research, another of my brothers became directly involved in the story. A fighter pilot himself, he made a trip to Calcutta and set aside time to visit Pring’s grave. His photographs are the images that illustrate this article and I could not help but think it was extremely fitting that a hero of World War II should be honoured by a combat pilot of the jet generation.
And just to put things in perspective, my brother was only a few weeks old when Pring was shot down over the same city.
It seemed as if the story was all wrapped up and ready to print. But just when I was about to do a final edit on the feature, I received one last email from another former pilot, Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar, who lives in Bangalore, India.
``Hi David,’’ said the email, ``I surfed the web and found out that Pring was an Argentine citizen of British descent. I also found the name of a Japanese fighter pilot who had shot down a Hurricane near Calcutta on 5 December 1943, but it will be difficult to find out who the pilot was as three Hurricanes of 176 Squadron were lost that day.’’
So many questions answered; but a few left unsolved.
The full-length version of the article appears at Anglo-
Indian Portal and contains details of Flying Officer Pring’s combat history; as well as details of the Japanese pilot who might have shot him down.
This brief post is a reply to a wonderful comment left on my blog a couple of hours ago by Utah-based Deborah Gamble who said: ``How do you score such great jobs - like writing novels and photographing Quebec City? Yours is a dream life!''
Yes, I have a dream life. I have been happily married to the girl of my dreams for 20 years - and we have been together since she was in pigtails. We have three loving children who bring us joy, pride and happiness. If that's not a dream life, then I don't know what is.
Yes, I write novels. And yes, I am lucky enough to use my cameras in some incredible places around the world. And yes, I enjoy my full-time job as a newspaper journalist. But I'd like to point out that I also had a really happy, secure childhood in Calcutta, surrounded by people who showered me with love, respect and affection in equal measures. And if you'd like to find out about that wonderful chapter in my life, check out Calcutta Revisited and you'll see how life is really one big circle.
Friday, April 20, 2007
This is another shot from a series sent to me by Siddharth Khandelwal. In his own words: ``This was taken at a bird sanctuary called Ranganatittu which is on the way to Mysore from Bangalore. As we were being taken on the small boat around the lake I saw these two storks just crossing each other and standing there. A request to the boatman ensured that he got us in position - to have them right in front of us, forming a cross. Thankfully, they stayed there long enough for me to take one snap after which one of them flew off. Just one of the really pretty scenes that you get to see at a bird sanctuary with such a wide variety of birds.''
You can see another blogpost with shots from this series at Wait For Your Tern. And to view a complete catalogue of this talented young photographer's work, go to Flickr.
Everyone knows what it feels like to hit the wall at work - metaphorically speaking. But not everyone does it literally. Police in the UK received a late-night callout to a factory near Thamesville this week after a man believed to be drunk crashed into a cement wall. Officers said the man, 46, was driving a forklift when he had the collision. He was arrested because he appeared to be drunk. He was later charged with impaired driving.
A former Canadian prime minister has revealed how an inadvertent swear word made the Queen laugh. Jean Chretien was speaking on the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Chretien helped draft the Charter as the minister of justice at the time, and signed the document on April 17, 1982, along with then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau and the Queen.
But problems with a fountain pen created a last-minute hurdle and less-than-polite language in front of the monarch.
"What happened is that Trudeau broke the tip of the pen," Chretien told CTV. "He asked me to sign right after him. I started to sign it but there was no ink! It was broken! So I said "merde" and the Queen laughed. "She's bilingual and knew very well what I said."
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Okay, so autumn Down Under is not the riot of vivid colour that it is in Canada or the United States, but this shot just proves that if you look closely enough, you can still find a refreshing contrast of hues. I was doubly intrigued because the higher of the two red leaves looked for all the world like a starfish - and I kept thinking of Patrick in the hit TV cartoon `SpongeBob SquarePants'.
This shot was one of the series taken at Ku-Ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney. We were walking down this path, fascinated by the vista of the Pacific Ocean, a clear blue sky and all the yachts and sailing vessels below. Then something made me look up - and I saw this wonderful, mottled old branch that seemed to stretch forever. It caught my attention because it looked like an elephant's trunk or like something out of Jurassic Park. I had to work my way right under the branch, to try and get this angle, so that it looked as if the branch just went on forever.
Just a quick update to tell you that the image function of Blogger seems to be playing up. I can't add any new images and I'm guessing that's why some of the shots on this blog - at random - are showing up as non-readable images. Stay tuned.
Smoking just might have saved Brenda Comer's life. The South Carolina woman had just finished washing dishes and stepped outside to smoke when a 32m oak tree crashed through her roof, cutting her kitchen and living room in half. Amid the rubble and destruction, there was also a tinge of humour. ``I saw a bottle with two pills,'' Comer said. ``I thought, `Well, I have a headache, and there's two Excedrin'.''
Passengers on a British Airways flight from New Delhi to London were delayed about 13 hours when members of the cabin and flight crew reported they were too sleepy to fly. Crew members said they had not slept enough because of noise at their hotel, said Laura Goodes, a BA spokeswoman.
The 210 passengers, who had not boarded the plane,were sent to hotels. Each was booked a separate room, but passengers at one hotel were forced to double up after rooms ran out. "There's a lot of anger and outrage here," one passenger, Neal Thapar, told The Times of London, after he had to share a double bed with a man he had never met.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Photograph copyright: GAUTHAM MANOHAR
These shots were sent to me by Siddharth Khandelwal, a young photographer from New Delhi whom I have never met but whose work I admire. These shots of River Terns were taken, in his words, ``at the bird sanctuary called Ranganatittu which is on the way to Mysore from Bangalore. The River Tern is found along rivers in India, Pakistan and Thailand etc. Its eggs are greenish in colour with brown markings on them.''
His caption for the first picture - taken by his friend, Gautham Manohar - is ``Now, where did I put the car keys'' and if you look carefully at the shot, you'll see why it's so apt. Observe the angle of the bird's head, and where its right foot is.
The second shot (see below) is by Siddharth and it's only when you see the yellow beak and the flash of black, that you realise there is a female Tern in the middle of the frame - as she sits on her eggs.
Photograph copyright: SIDDHARTH KHANDELWAL
McGlinch is the new Man Friday. Wanna know why? Because every Friday you can contact him at his blog, ask for a sketch - and he'll do it for you. Just go to www.mcglinch.com and place your request. He tells me that Fridays are ``request-a-doodle'' days.
Like they say in da movies, tell da man I sent you. But I don't want to give you too many details. They might be a bit, er, sketchy.
This might look like a picture of a sombrero, but it's a photograph of the coin fountain at the Dog on the Tuckerbox. The central sign says ``Pioneers' Wishing Pool. Throw in a coin and wish. All proceeds go to the Gundagai Hospital''. I'm guessing they send in silver retrievers for the silver coins, while the gold coins are collected by golden retrievers!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
The mailbox (property of Australia Post, of course) at the Dog on the Tuckerbox says it all. Post your letter here, and it arrives at its appointed destination, with one of the more interesting postmarks in the country. The black-and-white notice says: ``Gundagai, NSW, 2722. All mail posted in this posting box will be postmarked with this pictorial postmarker.''
Yep, that gets my stamp of approval.
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
If you're driving through the Riverina region along the Hume Highway that links Melbourne to Canberra and Sydney, one of the must-see sites is The Dog on the Tuckerbox at Snake Gully, five miles or eight kilometres from the town of Gundagai. It is a monument to the early pioneers and is based on a poem that celebrated a loyal dog who guarded his master's tuckerbox (``tucker'' being the word for food) while a team of bullocks got bogged at a creek crossing.
Mind you, there is a bit of debate about whether the original bush poem about the dog guarding the tuckerbox originally said the dog ``sat'' on the tuckerbox or whether the dog, er, actually fouled the tuckerbox (think a four-letter word with an ``H'' after the ``S''.
In the late 19th century (some time in the 1880s, apparently) `The Gundagai Times' printed a poem by a person who wrote under the name Bowyang Yorke:
``As I was coming down Conroy's Gap,
I heard a maiden cry;
'There goes Bill the Bullocky,
He's bound for Gundagai .......
His team got bogged at the nine mile creek,
Bill lashed and swore and cried;
'If Nobby don't get me out of this,
I'll tattoo his bloody hide.'
But Nobby strained and broke the yoke,
And poked out the leader's eye;
Then the dog sat on the Tucker Box
Nine miles from Gundagai.''
There is no definitive answer to whether it was ``sat'' or the four-letter variant I've mentioned. Likewise, there is debate over whether it was ``nine miles'' or ``five miles'' but if you look at the photograph below you'll see that the official endorsement is for ``five miles''.
Would you like to be the guest judge of this week's Blog Awards? If your blog has been in the top 25 on any week since the Awards started, you are welcome to judge them this week. Just leave a comment here (with the url of your own blog) and I'll get back to you.
If I get enough expressions of interest, we could even set up a roster where one blogger judges the Awards this week, someone else judges them next week and so on.
After all, the Award are all about involvement ....
Pointing out stories you may have missed. Japan's leading toilet maker Toto Ltd. is offering free repairs for 180,000 bidet toilets after wiring problems caused several to catch fire. The electric bidet accessory of Toto's Z series caught fire in three separate incidents between March 2006 and March this year, according to company spokeswoman Emi Tanaka.
"Fortunately, nobody was using the toilets when the fire broke out and there were no injuries," Tanaka said. "The fire would have been just under your buttocks." The company will repair all toilet units manufactured between May 1996 and December 2001 for free, she said. A manufacturing defect is thought to have led to the faulty wiring.
Toto has been a pioneer in high-tech toilets fitted with pressurised water sprayers - a standard fixture in Japanese homes. The popular Z series features a pulsating massage spray, a power dryer, built-in-the-bowl deodorizing filter, the "Tornado Wash" flush and a lid that opens and closes automatically.
News source: CNews.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
I was intrigued by this sight as camellias normally bloom in our winter. This camellia tree was easily three metres tall, so it would be more than twenty years old, for sure. It had a few blooms on it, with lots of heavy buds set among those beautiful green leaves with their high sheen. The tree was set far back, with a huge, hardy golden diosma in front of it. I made sure to take two photographs from the same spot, one with the freshest camellia bloom in sharp focus; and the second with the camellia in soft focus and the diosma in sharp focus. Nice to have two different perspectives of the same scene - even if I can't explain why a camellia would be blooming several weeks early.
Steel and coal from the wreck of the Titanic have been transformed into a new line of luxury wristwatches that claim to capture the essence of the legendary ocean liner which sank in 1912. Geneva watchmaker Romain Jerome SA billed its Titanic-DNA collection as among the most exclusive pieces showcased this week at Baselworld, the premier watch and jewellery trade fair. The metal has been authenticated by the Titanic’s builders Harland and Wolff.