Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Rest Warrant

More Gold Than El Dorado

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It's always an interesting challenge, trying to photograph an object that is more or less the same colour as the background. This reclining Buddha is actually made of wood and is covered with gold paint. But there was just something about the workmanship and the intricate patterns that drew me to it.

Rite Of Reply

I Dream Of Genie

Righty-o, then, here's the new weekend game, as I promised. I ask you a simple question and you post your reply as a comment. On Monday I collate all the answers and post them here, with links to all your sites.

If a genie appeared and said you could be anyone you wanted for 24 hours, who would you choose?

A wide range of wonderful responses to that question:

Shrink Wrapped Scream: ``A grown-up Hermione (of "Harry Potter" fame) - can you imagine anyone more awesome?''

Rambling Traveler: ``I wish I could have a good singing voice. I'm the one who only sings when no one else is around.''

Helena: I'd go back in time (you didn't say I couldn't!) and be a close friend of Queen Elizabeth I. She has always fascinated me, and this way I'd get to know her close-up. My only stipulation is that it be when they were both young. Toothache is bad enough in the 21st century: I don't want to experience it in the 16th!

BTBear: I'd be Lisa Simpson's Bear, and she'd cuddle me at night.

Dilly: Dilly be Puff, Magic Wagon. Live by sea. Go paddle. Fwolic in mist.

Animals With Opinions: I would be moosey, then I would walk out in front of a semi truck (That's from Gerald, who doesn't always see eye-to-eye with Moosey).

Cecilia: I'd like to be Maria in `The Sound of Music', because then I can sing, dance and get my beloved at the same time! That'd be so cool...

Cuckoo: I would like to be a much smarter version of Tom. Now that I know all the tricks of that little brat Jerry, I think I would give him an equal fright!

Jenera Healy: I would so ask to be President of the United States but with unlimited 'powers'. Oh the things I'd get done.

Pope Terry: Well, it's a tough one. It would probably have to be Rasputin ... he seemed like a cheerful bloke.

Papoosue: No one special, just someone who was really happy.

OzLady: Robert A. Heinlein's best friend - he was an awesome gentleman with such an amazing mind. Or Albert Einstein - he was a cheeky genius.

Fat Hairy Bastard: I'd be myself, my current self, and pop back to the 1930s and see my dad as a kid, picking cotton in Texas during the depression. My granddad, who died long before I could get to know him, would walk over to see who this large stranger was, talking to his son. I'd take him by the shoulder, and I'd say "Hey, let's go fishing!", and for some reason, unknown to himself, he'd decide to come along. We'd sit by the river, watching bobbers sway in the shallow waves, and I'd tell him about himself. He'd know from the things I told him that I was serious. He'd look at me in a strange way, and I'd tell him not to worry, that his kids were going to grow up to be happy and successful. I'd win over his confidence, and find a way to eventually say "I know all this, because I'm your grandson"... At which point he'd laugh, and we'd hug each other tightly, finish the day with a few beers, and I'd come back to my own time, happy to wait for the day when I'll see him again. I can't wait to see all of them again. I miss them a lot.

Siddharth Khandelwal: I would be Kimi and drive the F2007 all day long. Take a few 360 turns, hit the tyre walls, do all the fancy stuff. Thats 12 hours and the next 12 I would want to be Darren Heath with a Canon EOS MarkIII and take snaps of all these F1 cars wizzing past. Now I really want a genie.

Who Dat Dare Pokah: I would choose to be my two-year-old daughter to remember the sheer joy and wonderment at discovering something new every day.

Passing Sentence Game #5

Goosey In The Sky With Diamonds

Okay, folks, let's kick off the fifteen-sentence game. I’ll provide the first sentence, the next thirteen sentences come from anyone who wants a bit of fun; and the big challenge is for me to wrap it all up with the fifteenth sentence. Have fun ...

I should never have been so impulsive as to put Grandma's antique diamond choker around the neck of one of the geese on our family farm, for the goose, suddenly endowed with magical powers, flew away and never returned.

Second sentence, from Carol in the Isle of Man:
``As if that weren't bad enough, Grandpa (aka Gandolph), had spied me in the act, and he certainly didn't take well to my frittering what was his love-token, so carelessly away. ''

Third sentence, from Bob the Bear in the UK:
Especially as, whilst taking off, the goose had flown straight through the washing on the line, getting Grandpa's best pants hooked up round its foot, so Off they flew together, necklace, pants and Goosey; 'You better have a way to fix this!' Grandpa boomed, as he shook his long pointy stick in the direction of my quivering bottom.

Fourth sentence, from Cecilia in Canada:
Meanwhile, Goosey had landed on a patch of green in the middle of Central Park, felt something quivering inside, and promptly lay a golden egg in full view of park goers!

Fifth sentence, from Cuckoo In India:
“Oh, the diamond choker, my golden egg and Grandpa’s baggy pants, all in the middle of a perplexed crowd ... what a mess, where do I hide now?” groused the Goosey Goo.

Sixth sentence, from Pope Terry in the US:
The goose, unable to make up his mind where to turn, decided the best thing to do was to avoid all attention, as singing `Ave Maria' probably wasn't the best of choices, as now people were pitching coins at the hapless bird.

Seventh sentence, from Victorya in the UK:
All eyes in the park glinted like a spaghetti western and lips began to curl as each person eyed each other in suspicion and defiance as they gauged who would, in fact, get to the egg first.

Eighth sentence from FatHairyBastard in the US:
Goosey took a defensive pose, protecting her egg from the threatening onlookers; she tried to straddle it, but it was moving and the crowd drew closer, as she squawked a warning because they would overpower her easily - however, before they could fight one another for the egg, it began to glow and stand upright; in amazement, they all stood and watched as the egg began to rise into the air and glow brighter and Goosey stood erect, wings outstretched, beak open in amazement; the onlookers could swear they heard singing, but looked around at one another and knew there was no chorus, then, in a flash of light and brilliant sound...

Ninth sentence from Sam in India:
And then the egg burst open to reveal the most beautiful bird one had ever seen, bright as it was as if on fire, with a voice that sang with all the energy of 100 singers ... music filled the air and an ethereal silence engulfed the crowd as the bird flew away, leaving Goosey opened-eyed and wondering how that happened!

Tenth sentence from OzLady in Singapore:
``Now I know why I was dreaming of `The Sound of Music' the night before I laid this egg," thought Goosey, who was also wondering how she was now going to get out of there with the antique diamond choker before the crowd caught on.

Guns 'n' Poses

That's Not A Uniform Approach, Soldier

I reckon no nudes is good news, but everyone ain't listenin'. An unusual public relations push by Israel's New York consulate is trying to sell the country by showcasing beautiful female ex-soldiers in `Maxim', the US men's magazine. The models were photographed wearing very little in the cause of their country. Headlined ``Women of the Israel Defence Forces,'' the photo shoot was launched during the week at a glitzy event in Manhattan. But Israeli lawmaker and former diplomat Colette Avital said the shoot doesn't help Israel's image. I agree with her. There's no need to flesh out the issue.

FOOTNOTE: They're sitting on defence.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Have A Long Weekend

We Can Streeeeeetch Two Days Into Three

We'll stop time marching on. Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

You’re wondering how the weekend can last three days? Easy, mate. Thanks to the International Date Line, it sure can. You see, New York is fifteen hours behind Melbourne, and LA is seventeen hours behind. So my weekend begins even before you start work on Friday - and I’m back at work Monday morning while you’re sleeping in Sunday mid-morning.

So now that we’ve grasped the concept of long weekends (okay, so it’s also a stretch of the imagination) let me tell you that I’m going to post a couple of things each weekend to give you a bit of fun - and also to direct some of my readers to your blog/ blogs as well.

The first one will be called Rite Of Reply. I’ll post a simple question. You leave a simple answer as a comment. And at the end of the weekend, I’ll collate the answers and post them, with links to the sites of all those who left replies.

And I’m re-introducing the popular Passing Sentence game. If you’re new to this blog, a couple of months ago I wondered aloud if 15 different sentences - written by different bloggers - could possibly make a cohesive, interesting story. I called it the Passing Sentence Game, because it was literally a case of passing one sentence on to the next person.

I’ll provide the first sentence, the next 13 sentences come from anyone who wants a bit of fun; and the big challenge is for me to wrap it all up with the fifteenth sentence. Then a big name critiques the game and I can reveal that among the judges I’ve lined up are a veteran author and a BBC columnist.

If you want to have a look at a previous Passing Sentence Game and get an idea of how freewheeling they really are, simply go to One Small Steppe For Man.

A Dome Away From Home

Wanna Run Away To The Circus?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was taken one afternoon last week. I was at a traffic light and shot this through my windscreen in fairly ordinary light conditions, so it loses some sharpness and clarity. But I was fascinated by the conflicting styles here. On the one hand, there was the big top of Cirque Du Soleil; on the other hand, there were the distinctive white curves of the sliding roof above Margaret Court Arena. A couple of days later, when the light was better, I drove past to take another shot - and the circus had gone. No big top, no big nuthin'. I'm so glad I followed my instinct the first day and reached for the camera.

FOOTNOTE: The perfect career for clown princes.

H€adlines & D€adlines

The Purple Rows Of Cairo

Pointing out stories you may have missed: The mummy of an obese woman in her 50s who had rotten teeth and likely suffered from diabetes and liver cancer has been identified as that of Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt's most powerful female pharaoh, according to the country's top archaeologist. Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt about 3500 years ago, was known for marrying her half-brother, dressing like a man and wearing a false beard. But a single tooth clinched the identification of the mummy, said Zahi Hawass at a news conference co-ordinated by The Discovery Channel. The discovery has been hailed as the most important find in the Valley of the Kings since the discovery of King Tutankhamun.

News source:

FOOTNOTE: Mummy’s buoy.

For He's A Brolly Good Fellow

Maybe He's Been Flooded With Stock

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This city shop has the perfect window display, especially at a time when most umbrellas have been destroyed after being blown inside out. We’e gone from drought to severe flooding in less than 48 hours, with the Victorian region of Gippsland hit by the worst floods in almost forty years. The entire town of Newry has been evacuated and across the state, more than 700 volunteers are working round the clock in flood zones.

Melbourne’s water catchments, at their lowest level in recent memory, received 19 billion (yes, billion) litres in a day. But here in the city, unlike the bush, we have been spared the capricious savagery of Mother Nature. There is still no indication of when the water will peak in Gippsland, with flood levels in some areas already surpassing the levels of 1998.

A few hours ago, I watched TV footage of a house being swept down the Mitchell River near Bairnsdale. But this is Australia, and we’re a hardy mob. When television crews found the home’s owner, he was laconic. A home could be rebuilt, he said. And with a touch of the wry humour that characterises the bush, he said his house had been turned into a houseboat.

The segment ended with a reporter asking the homeowner where he thought the floating home would end up. ``Tasmania, maybe,’’ he quipped.

Gizmo Machismo :)

IBM Launches The New Number Cruncher

The world's fastest commercial supercomputer has been launched by IBM. Blue Gene/P is three times more potent than the current fastest machine, BlueGene/L, also built by IBM. The latest number-cruncher is capable of operating at so-called ``petaflop'' speeds - the equivalent of a thousand trillion floating point operations a second. Approximately 100,000 times more powerful than a PC, the first machine has been bought by the US Government. It will be installed at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

FOOTNOTE: Cut to the quick.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vegetable Burgher

Prince Charles Get The Sack From Sainsbury’s

The heir to Britain's throne certainly knows his onions, but he's in strife because of his carrots. The Prince of Wales has been dropped by Sainsbury's as a supplier because it says his organic vegetables do not meet the right standards. Sainsbury's cited "quality issues" with the carrots from Highgrove. A Clarence House spokeswoman said there were "difficulties relating to packing, distribution and storage".

FOOTNOTE: He might blame Judas’s Carrot.

Beyond A Shadow Of Drought

Just A Fleeting Moment Of Sunshine

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was just a lucky shot. It was taken mid-morning today, under a dark grey sky. Okay, so you're paying attention here and you've seen the incongruity? Right? Yes, it was cloudy and stormy - and there's a clearly defined shadow here. There was a break of about 90 seconds when the sun's rays shone brilliantly and dramatically through a minuscule break in the heavy cloud cover. Luckily I always have the camera with me. I only had time to shoot two frames and the sun disappeared completely. Now, the question of the day - what word best describes the colour of that wall? Aubergine, I'm tippping, but I'd like to know what you think.

Weigh To Go

Lookalike Wrestles With The Truth

A Russian armwrestler was disqualified for cheating at a European competition after attempting to move to a lower weight class by sending a lookalike to the weigh-in. Arsen Liliev tried to enter the 154-pound weight class at the European championships being held in Lycksele, northern Sweden, but weighed 4.4 pounds too much. Liliev then sent a "lookalike" to replace him at the weigh-in. The impostor, who was also Russian, passed the weight control, but officials discovered the fraud before the competition started.

FOOTNOTE: It was fairly armless.

Trivia Pur$uit

The age recorded on the label of a whisky bottle refers to the number of years it was aged before being bottled. Once in the bottle, whisky does not improve.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Classic Vehicle Gets The Pink Vote

Pointing out stories you may have missed:
Memorabilia collectors from across the world are gearing up to make a bid for the original Pink Panther car. The custom-made limousine, based on an Oldsmobile Toronado, was the first car of its kind to be produced and will be up for auction on July 14. It was built in 1969 by legendary Californian custom car maker Jay Ohberg and it is thought it could fetch up to 80,000 pounds, or $160,000. Auctioneer Chris Routledge said: ``We're expecting the 23-foot car to fetch somewhere in the region of 75,000 to 80,000 pounds ($150,000-$160,000). There has been interest on the car from all over the world. We've had collectors in America, Europe and Japan. The car is so iconic everybody remembers the Pink Panther car and an awful lot of people want to own it." Admiring crowds were able to catch a pre-auction glimpse at the car which has been on display at the West End Live 2007 event in London's Leicester Square.

To view the car, go to Autocar.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Raining Champion

At Last, The Dams Are Beginning To Fill Up

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

What better way to give you a Melbourne weather update than to give it to you visually? I took this shot around lunchtime today, as raindrops chased each other down windows and glass doorways. We've had rain all day and with it, gusting wind as well. The Mount Dandenong Tourist Road is closed, because of fallen trees and power lines, and at least one of the coastal roads is flooded as well.

In The Long Run

Fund-Raisers Are Not Tired, Just Groggy

Only in Wisconsin do beer and exercise mix. Several hundred people laced up for a 2km charity race in which suds were the refresher of choice. Competitors in the 19th annual Beer Belly Two might not be considered athletes, but they know how to have a good time. Event veteran Mike Marin said this is one workout he can really get into. The race has raised more than $350,000 for local charities since its inception.

FOOTNOTE: Everyone gets into the, er, spirit of it.

Munster’s Bawl

Card Scam Gives Herman Too Much Credit

Who will they think of next? Big Bird perhaps? It seems Herman Munster could be the latest victim of identity theft. Cyber crooks in an underground chat room have offered to sell Munster's credit card number. Of course, Herman Munster was a fictional, Frankenstein-like character from the 1960s sitcom `The Munsters’, starring Fred Gwynne. The personal data even included his television-program address, 1313 Mocking Bird Lane.

FOOTNOTE: Forget MasterCard, this is MunsterCard.

A Special Tribute In Normandy

Poignant Moment For A Pilot's Family

The ceremony to honour RAF pilot`Tiger' Rajan in Normandy this month.

Thanks to the power of the internet, the relatives of a World War II fighter pilot finally paid their respects at his grave in a tiny town in Normandy, France, this month. Late last year it was my very great privilege to piece together the story of `Tiger' Rajan, the RAF Typhoon pilot whose grave is uniquely marked in three languages - English, French and Hindi. It all began with in an exchange of emails between the webmaster of Bharat Rakshak and the French-based Association pour le Souvenir des Ailes de la Victoire de Normandie (ASAVN).

On 17 November I posted Elegy In a Country Churchyard on my blog and on 20 November I followed it up with a post titled Pilot Project.

Then, earlier this month, thanks to the reach of the internet, the long-lost pilot's relatives stood beside his final resting place, half a world away. The photograph above, of the official commemoration ceremony of a plaque in honour of the pilot, was sent to me by one of his relatives who travelled to France.

She and other family members sent me some wonderful emails last week. One email, from Dr Shobha Varthaman, acknowledged the fact that ``The West still remembers those who sacrificed their lives to bring peace to their land.''

Another email, from Farida Singh, said: ``The story both of you have opened up for us is truly amazing. So much so that my son, on a business visit from the US, was almost late for an important meeting: he wanted to read and see everything related to this. What is a country's legacy, if not to inspire the young? And in this case, a toast to those Frenchmen who realised what it would mean to the family and, a great many more interested Indians! Thank you both for taking the trouble!''

To view the whole story of Tiger Rajan, go to my full-length feature article at Anglo-Indian Portal.

Trivia Pur$uit

In the 1982 blockbuster film `ET, The Extra-Terrestrial', Harrison Ford was cast as the school principal, but his only scene was cut. Director Steven Spielberg decided his presence in the film would be too distracting.

Flying Sorcerer

Lawsuit Isn't Alien In This Case

A lawyer who landed an out-of-this-world job defending people who have suffered at the hands of aliens has started his first major case. Jens Lorek announced last year he would defend those whose close encounters with outer space visitors left them physically and mentally shattered. Now he has his first client - hotel chef Paul Hoffmann, 23, who claims he was kidnapped by aliens and has never been the same since. Hoffmann said: "About two years ago a cross-shaped space ship sucked me up and took me to space. When I came around, it was daylight again." He does not remember the aliens' looks, but only that he had been "manipulated" and was sent back to earth as an "apprentice shaman". When police caught him naked on a bike, he was sent to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital. Lorek thinks that police acted wrongly and is demanding his client's release.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stand Up Routine

This Must Be The Dummy Bidder

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

These two pictures were shot beside the New Market in Calcutta. At first glance, it looks like the bloke is catching the latest headlines before he gets into his car. Right? Nope. Wrong. Completely wrong. Now have a look at the picture below. The guy is actually a dummy. Yes, yes, I know you think most blokes are dummies anyway, but he's just a mannequin. The clothes are real. And the newspaper's real. And because I'm a stickler for detail, I even went and checked on the dateline on the newspaper. It was the edition of the day, so I'm guessing someone replaces the newspaper every day and places the current edition in his waxy hands.

Here, There And Everywhere

We're Taking The Patient Approach

Many of you are probably wondering a) why I haven't been visiting your blogs every day and b) why I haven't been leaving comments on your posts and c) why I haven't been replying promptly (as I normally do) to the wonderful comments you leave here. Well, I haven't forgotten you - I would never do that. Nor have I turned my back on you - I wouldn't do that either. A family member has been in hospital after major surgery on Friday, so I've been a bit busier than normal. All is well, however, and the doctors are happy with progress being made, despite a few unforeseen hiccups. So don't worry. I'm here. You just can't see me!

Hurry, Krishna

Yum, It's The True Taste Of Justice

Okay, so this story's been around since the weekend and I was late to react, but it's a ripper. Inmates of an Indian prison are reportedly refusing to apply for bail - because the food is so good. Parappana Agrahara prison in Bangalore is crowded with 4700 inmates, more than twice its capacity. But criminals are refusing to apply for bail to get out while juvenile offenders are lying about their age to get in, reports the Bangalore Mirror. The paper says the reason is healthy food being served by ISKCON, or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Hindu evangelist organisation. ISKCON, commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement, started serving its pure-vegetarian fare in the jail in May.

FOOTNOTE: Obviously not a case of unjust desserts.

Back-Seat Deriver

Aussie Needed, For Driving Miss Deborah

My good friend, Utah-based blogger Deborah Gamble, is looking for an Australian. No, no, she’s very happily married, but she figures it’d be more fuel-efficient if she acted on something I posted last week. It all started when a colleague of mine told me (and I quote) ``The average Australian walks 900 miles a year, and drinks 22 gallons of beer a year, which means the average Australian gets about 41 miles per gallon.’’

Debbie was swift with her calculations. In the weekend post A Cleaner Burning Fuel, she reckons she’s going to swap her people-mover and opt for Plan B, which is ``to drive an Australian’’. I won’t give you all her punchlines, but you can see why there is good logic behind her assertion, ``There must be at least one Aussie that would prefer a sledding party Christmas to a beach party Christmas.’’

Monday, June 25, 2007

Take The (Paint) Tube

Some Photographers Love The Rain

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It's great taking photographs in rain, because the wet streets open up a whole range of reflection. This shot was taken late on a rainy September night in Quebec City. I had just walked past the Chateau Laurier hotel and the soft colours on the street corner caught my eye. The shot above was taken with a Pentax Optio, while below you can see a different rendering of the same frame. As I showed you in the recent post Easel Come, Easel Go, this is what it would look like as a virtual oil painting.

Check This Out, Comrade

Now's The Time To Come To The Aid Of The Party

Too young to remember East Germany? No worries, you can just go to a Berlin hotel called Ostel. The hotel, which opened last month, re-creates a pre-1989 era of brown and orange wallpaper, spartan furnishings and Politburo portraits. In the reception area, four clocks show the time in Moscow, Berlin, Havana and Beijing. The hotel was the brainchild of two former East German circus performers, Daniel Helbig and Guido Sand, who recognised the wave of interest for some aspects of life in former East Germany, expressed in the cult status of Trabant cars and the hit film `Goodbye Lenin'. So how on earth did they find all the Communist-era furnishings? Easy - they tracked them down in private homes and furniture dealers. A display case in the lobby even contains a rare roll of GDR toilet paper.

Chocolate Sheikh

Do Yourself A Favour And Try The Flavour

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Like Forrest Gump told us, back in 1994, life is like a box of chocolates. I was walking to my car on Thursday afternoon when I saw this delivery van pulled up outside a city hotel. I guess someone there must have had a suite tooth.

Trivia Pur$uit

In the 1850s, a Parisian newspaper was printed on rubber for the first time - for the benefit of people who enjoyed reading the latest news in the bath.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Soccer Scheme Cops Penalty

Business Plan Is Just A Load Of Hot Air

A Chinese company that once tried to sell land on the moon has lost an appeal against a court ruling that stopped it from selling bags of "World Cup air". The Beijing Lunar Village Aeronautics Science and Technology Co. lost a suit against the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce, which refused its application to sell "special air from a special place." Last December, the Chaoyang District People's Court ruled against the company's proposal to sell green plastic bags full of air from stadiums that hosted matches in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Li Jie, the company's chief executive officer, had planned to sell the bags to soccer fans for 50 yuan ($6.50) each.

Time To See The Light

Thanks, Terry, For The Great Idea

If you noticed the new pictorial header up the top of this blog, all the credit goes to my friend and tech oracle Terry Fletcher, who is based in Lisbon, Portugal. This morning I found an email from Terry, showing what my blog would look like with the picture in the header. I was gobsmacked. You might recognise the photograph, which is one of a series of winter solstice shots on my post Light Entertainment. My picture, his idea, his layout, his technical execution (and, crucially, the thumbs-up from his wife, Maria). My heartfelt thanks to Terry and Maria on a weekend when I barely had time to compile the weekly blog awards. If you'd like to know how to incorporate changes into your blog header, Terry will post a tutorial on his terrific knowledge-sharing blog, Terry's Playpen.

Freeze A Crowd

Wanna Play Ice Spy?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The best thing about an icy morning here in Melbourne is the sunny, cloudless day. This shot was taken about half an hour ago, just before 9am Sunday morning (yes, it's Sunday here) when most of the ice had melted off the top of my car. But I raced out with my camera because the sun was glinting on the thin remnants of the ice, making it glint like tiny diamonds.

On a working day, the trick is to make sure you never suffer from FHS, or frozen hose syndrome. Back in the winter of '95, I was confronted with a car so comprehensively frozen over, even the door handles were iced shut. What? Me worry? Never. I just walked over purposefully to where I had cannily uncoiled the garden hose the previous night, in preparation for what I knew would be a grim cold snap. Only problem was, the hose was frozen stiff. It was like someone had put a metal rod into the hose.

The other danger, for Melburnians, is in disconnected hoses. See ice on the car. Connect hose. Turn tap on. Hose connection splits under pressure. You're drenched and ready to do a Jack Frost impression.

But you have to feel sorry for the Russian bloke who copped his own version of FHS, about four years ago. There he was, at a deserted bus stop on a sub-zero night. And the pressure on his bladder was beginning to mount. So he did the decent thing and looked all around, to make sure he wouldn't offend anyone by seeking relief.

He nestled into the corner of the bus shelter but he got too close. In that instant, flesh and metal fused together in the cold. Rescue workers eventually got him free, but when warm water failed to do the trick, they had to resort to pouring hot water instead. When the mortified bloke got to hospital, they had to figure out whether to treat him for frostbite or burns.

And spare a thought for the hardy residents of the Yukon (yep, Sergeant Preston's territory) in northern Canada, where the mercury often drops to minus 30C, even before the wind chill is taken into account. One evening I came out of the Gateway Lounge, a pub in Haines Junction on the Alaska Highway. And squinted at the electrical leads attached to every parking spot. Huh? That's where hardy winter drinkers plug in under-bonnet connections so their engine blocks don't freeze.

Hops Scotched

That’s Not Fruit Cocktail, It’s A Pour-Pour

The ``beersicle'', a beer icy pop, might be just thing for a hot day. But a suburban Washington restaurant is catching some heat from liquor authorities. Frank Morales began selling beer pops last week at his Rustico Restaurant, but the novel plan has hit a snag. State regulations require that beer be served in its original container or served to the customer immediately after it has been poured.

Easel Come, Easel Go

Oil Painting Without Any Brush Strokes

Photographs: DAVID McMAHON

Towards the end of 2005, just after I returned from photographing Quebec City, Montreal and parts of Muskoka for the Canadian Tourism Commission, I spent a few days cataloguing the images from that memorable trip. At the time, my son asked me if I had done any watercolours during my time in Canada. For once, I had not, because I had concentrated only on my cameras.

Then he showed me a program by which you can convert a photograph into a file that looks remarkably like an oil painting. The picture above was taken with a Pentax Optio down the charming lane in Quebec City that is famous for its artwork. The rendering below is what the same shot would look like in oils.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs For Week Ending 23 June

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 honourable mentions go to: Cuckoo, Near Post, Fat Hairy Bastard, Confused Sam, Goddess, Lotus Reads, Lensational, Craver vii, Savannah, I'm On My Weigh Down, Daub du Jour, Chele 76, Movies Sans Frontiers, Travellin' Mama, Pasture Musings, Nobody's Friend, Mur 38, Sandip Madan, Who Dat Dare Pokah, Sketch and Colour

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.

Vodka Slammer

How To Cement Your Reputation

A drunk Russian woman had to be pulled out of a newly-laid road in Kemerovo after she fell into a concrete mixer and then into a pool of drying asphalt. Elena Pavlovna, 43, saw her path was blocked by machinery left by workers who were taking a break from resurfacing a road. She tried to step over the machinery but she slipped and fell into a concrete mixer which had been left on and after a few minutes of being twirled around inside with the concrete mix she was "poured" out onto a pool of asphalt. As she struggled to get out of the asphalt mix she had to be pulled out by rescue workers. One of them said: "She did not shut up and kept on telling us what we should be doing. It was really annoying."

FOOTNOTE: Really a case of one for the road.

Big Ben(t)

From Go-Kart To Woe Kart

Things to remember when selling an item on eBay - don't damage the goods! Formula One ace Lewis Hamilton pranged his McLaren Mercedes go-kart - minutes after selling it for £42,000, with the proceeds to go to charity. He damaged a rear axle when he crashed on a corner of the specially-built track in Central London. McLaren Mercedes will repair the damage before it is handed over to its new owner. Ironically, the prang took place at only 40mph.

Turning Japanese

Could Be A Hit (On The Big Screen)

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot, taken a few hours ago, is reminiscent of one of those striking Japanese screen paintings, don't you think? But it doesn't always look like this. Let me start of the very beginning. I drive past the BMW showroom after work every day, but I do so in daylight. However, drive past a familiar scene in the dark and suddenly it acquires a completely different character. This is the top of the showroom and how dramatically the mundane view changes when there is a soft floodlight and the bare branches of a couple of trees in silhouette. I guess we all need to step away from familiar sights sometimes - and see them in an entirely different light.

That Sinking Feeling

Driver's Miracle Escape After Cliff Plunge

Photographer Mike Dugdale might find that one of his pictures becomes prime evidence in an unusual insurance claim. It's not your run-of-the-mill automobile picture, however. It shows a battered, dark shape, barely recognisable as a vehicle, floating out on Corio Bay here in coastal Victoria, about an hour's drive from Melbourne.

A 19-year-old driver had a miracle pre-dawn escape on Wednesday after his car veered off a road and plunged down a cliff and into the ocean at Clifton Springs. Sergeant Darren Savickas of Victoria Police told Southern Cross Broadcasting the driver had missed a sharp left-hand turn and drove through a wire fence. ``It's gone through a wire barrier fence and off a cliff with a drop of about 80 metres,'' he said.

Fortunately for the teenaged driver, a nearby resident heard the noise, went outside to see what had happened and then called police. An amazing rescue unfolded as the police helicopter managed to locate the car floating in the Bay. Police and State Emergency Service members had to contend with a rising tide as they tried to free the driver, the only occupant of the car. He is now recovering in hospital.

And the car? Alas, it sank in Corio Bay, which is why Mike Dugdale's great picture, published in the Geelong Advertiser and the Herald Sun, might be critical in proving that it actually came to a watery end. To view the photograph, go to target="_blank">Geelong Advertiser.

Trivia Pur$uit

According to strict protocol, the United Kingdom's flag is properly known as the Union Flag. It should only be called the Union Jack when it is flown from the jack mast of a ship.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Board With Life

Let Them Eat Cake, Says Los Angeles Baker

A bakery in Los Angeles is getting some mileage out of Paris Hilton's time in jail. The City Bakery is baking spice cupcakes with emery boards coming out of both sides. They're calling them Paris Hilton Visitor's Cakes. The owner of the bakery said, ``If anybody actually gets these to Paris Hilton, she has the choice to actually do her nails with it or try to break out.'' The bakery is selling 50 to 75 of the cupcakes a day.

Phantom Menace

Plenty Of Grunt Under This Hood

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Last week I had the privilege of photographing not one but two Rolls-Royce Phantoms at Trivett Classic Aston Martin at Southbank, here in Melbourne. After I had shot about twenty frames, I asked a staff member if it was possible to pop the hood. They readily agreed and I pored over the engine bay, revelling in the opportunity to shoot a fairly rare sight. The first shot (above) has the hood ornament, the Spirit of Ecstacy, in sharp focus, while the engine is in soft focus. For the second shot (below) I reversed the focus, concentrating on the engine and I was intrigued by the halos of reflection on the hood ornament.

Page Buoy

Thanks For The Book Review, Dan

I guess every novelist writes in the hope of being recognised and (perhaps) dreams of being on a bestseller list. I was extremely fortunate that my debut novel `Vegemite Vindaloo', published by Penguin Books India, got some great media reviews and was on bestseller lists from July until late December last year. The best reward of all was being at No. 3 on one list, with the Booker Prize winner at No. 1 and two giants - Frederick Forsyth and Jeffrey Archer - below me.

But it's been equally rewarding to see a few bloggers ordering the book and reviewing it. Dan was kind enough to review it this week. Here is an extract from his post.

``Here is my review: GET IT. Honestly, I cannot recall a time that a book made me laugh out loud on a crowded train and I didn't care. The stares I received from others was interesting but again, I didn't care. I really enjoyed it and thought it was a good read. (might I add, its the second book that actually made my eyes well up ....just a little though, ha). ''

Seizure Salad

Sounds Like He Was Hungry (For Punishment)

Consternation over the hunt for a vegan burglar in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Someone kicked in the door of a man's apartment, stuck a knife in the door and took a chilled salad from his refrigerator. The man told investigators someone broke into his apartment while he went to a nearby tavern. Nothing but the salad was missing, police said.

H€adlines & D€adlines

Concert Pianist Has a Clean Image

Pointing out stories you might have missed: A university cleaner in Glasgow has become a concert pianist after a webcam caught him having a go on a grand piano. Aleksander Kudajczyk put down his mop and gave a spellbinding performance of Chopin compositions to an empty room. Kudajczyk, 28, who arrived in Britain six months ago, had landed a job cleaning Glasgow University's law department. He saw no need to mention the fact he had studied at one of Poland's finest music academies. But the unwitting public performance in Glasgow University chapel so enraptured his on-line audience that he is now playing to packed venues. Soon after, he was offered the chance to play concerts at the chapel and he has also been entertaining crowds at Glasgow's West End Festival.

FOOTNOTE: To see Jane Barlow's picture of the pianist and to read Jim Gilchrist's heart-warming report, go to Jim's report was the best of many versions in the international media, and he pointed out ``at the moment, however, he continues to work as a cleaner - this week's recitals were voluntary and unpaid''.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Light Entertainment

A Memorable End To The Shortest Day

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Melbourne, Thursday, 5.05pm. It's a good thing I always have a camera with me. I was walking to my car this evening and noticed the sky had an interesting glow. Not spectacular, just mildly interesting. Right? So I took the camera out, took a couple of frames and turned away. I put the lens cap back on, put the camera into its bag and snapped it shut. Closed the back door and got into the car.

Melbourne, Thursday, 5.07pm. Even before I could put the key in the ignition, I half-turned to get hold of my seatbelt. I blinked in disbelief as I realised how rapidly the sky had changed. Got the camera out again and took this shot. There was literally two minutes between the first frame and this one, because I checked my watch and verified it on the image properties.

Melbourne, Thursday, 5.08pm. This time I waited, because the rays of the sun - which had already sunk beyond the horizon - were turning into a golden war bonnet. This time, there was only a minute between these frames. The total time elapsed was less than four minutes, from start to finish. And there's a special significance to this sequence, because today's the winter equinox, the shortest day of the year. What a privilege to be able to capture it in this way.

Song Sung Brew

Every Garden Grows One

What's better than pizza and beer? How about pizza beer? Chicago-area real estate broker Tom Seefurth says he has created a pizza-flavoured beer. Seefurth brews beer and ale at his home in Campton Township. His pizza beer started as a brewing experiment. He added tomatoes, oregano, garlic and basil to one batch and calls the result Mamma Mia Pizza Beer. But do you ask for a pint or a slice?

On The Straight And Arrow

Where Are We, Mate? In Los Angles?

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

No, I haven't rotated the image above, or tinkered with it in any way. I just thought I would walk under this huge neon sign and shoot it. Does this image force you to look twice? The angled neon sign, to a multi-level car park, is rectangular, about a couple of metres high and six or seven metres across. The blue arrows show the ``in'' lanes and the red circle shows the ``out'' lane. It's a viewpoint that challenges your perspective (and your powers of perception) because there is no ``normal'' point of reference for the eye.

Now look at the second frame, below. It's taken from further back and gives you a couple of points of reference - the street lamp and the floodlit building. All of a sudden, your brain can place the neon sign in perspective. I guess you could say it's a bit like a visual jigsaw puzzle.

Star Tech

Time To Get Your Kicks, Soccer Fans

Every Wednesday, I have the pleasure of reviewing a site for my weekly Blog Cabin column which appears in all three editions (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) of mX newspaper. This segment appeared in yesterday’s paper.

``Would you please review my blog, Nearpost’’ - Email received from Eamonn Flanagan, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.

Q: Where do you find a good soccer blog? A: At the back of the ``Net''. There is definitely a ``woo-hoo'' factor to this Canberra blog. It is creatively presented and the high-rotation editorial mix embraces several timely news flashes alongside interviews, special columns, viewpoints, interesting photo selection and subtle touches of refreshing humour.

To wit: The end-of-week snippets are called ``Friday Short Shorts.'' And there's the story of Pete, a competitor in Canberra's Church League. After two all-in brawls, there are some hefty bans imposed and Pete's tongue-in-cheek comment is: ``It's God's way of telling us we're too old and should know better.''

Then there's the yarn about the Cardinals, an under-10 side accustomed to heavy losses, whose players and coaches are ecstatic with a 2-2 draw. Another gem is the tongue-in-cheek narration of how Ian Shaw, Capital Football's technical director, nearly (yep, nearly) played against the late George Best.

It's a gutsy effort, ramping up a soccer blog in a country whose citizens were only recently galvanised by the late nights and early mornings of the 2006 World Cup. But that's the beauty of blogging. If the folks in your own city or state or country aren't reading your blog, there's a whole world out there that could be. Nothing speaks to the global sports community like soccer.
This is a site with personality. It is a stirling example of the fact that a good blogger simply needs a clear focus. Eamonn Flanagan, who presents this site, said that two months ago he didn't even know what a blog was.

The editorial mix belies the fact that it's a newbie blog. All it needs is slightly tighter editing.If you missed the kick-off, log on now to keep track of the score. When it comes to judgement, I’m not sitting on defence.

Trivia Pur$uit

We all remember the raspy voice and the great comic legacy of the late Philadelphia-born comedian and actor W.C. Fields (1880-1946) but his real name was William Claude Dukenfield.

Open, Sesame

Like R. Kelly, I Believe I Can Fly

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I guess I was looking for a different aviation image. I didn't want a stock-standard, side-on fuselage shot. The Royal Australian Air Force F-111 is a swing-wing fighter with updated avionics and this one was sitting on a tarmac under a lead-grey sky. The open canopy gave me something to work with and once I'd decided what I wanted, the shot composed itself. In all honesty, I don't think this frame would have worked so well under a clear blue sky.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Soy Source

You Must Cedar Point Of This Story

A Japanese company will sell soy sauce that has aged for three years in the world's largest wooden soy sauce barrel. ``World's No 1 Wooden Barrel Soy Sauce'' - cured for three years in a barrel 9m in diameter and 9m tall - will be sold online by Fundokin Soy Sauce Co. The giant barrel can hold 5.4 million litres of the salty sauce, and was made by hand in 2002 using 400-year-old cedar trees from Canada. The wood helps give the sauce a desirable fragrance, colour and taste, the company said. The big-barrel sauce will cost $10 for a 500ml bottle.

Swearing-In Ceremony

McEnroe Was Such A Well-Heeled Champion

After I posted the earlier picture caption about my gardening boots (see below) I remembered a great ad slogan for Nike, back in the days when John McEnroe was carving up every opponent on Wimbledon's historic grass courts. I was a tennis writer at the time and jeepers, it was a great era to be reporting a sport I had played since I was a kid. I guess I got to see the golden era, the rivalries between McEnroe-Borg-Connors, Navratilova-Evert-Graf, Lendl-Becker-Edberg at close quarters. Of course, the most outspoken was the superbly talented McEnroe. And the Nike slogan was so simple yet so memorable: ``John McEnroe swears by them''.

Sole Mates

Anyone Looking For My Foot Prince?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I've got an old pair of Nikes that I keep outside the house because, well, because every bloke has to have an all-purpose pair of shoes, right? The soles are generally caked with mud, because I use the Nikes as my gardening boots, my all-purpose footwear, my multi-faceted shoes. I also spend a fair few hours raking up the many millions of leaves (you think I'm kidding?) from the plane trees on our nature strip. This morning I noticed one of the Nikes was on its side and surrounded by many of the wind-blown leaves. Of course, I had to share the shot with you.

Star Tech

Okay, So We Get The Picture

I had an interesting question on the weekend from that livewire blogger Bart.

``How do you format your photos in your posts? Do you link to a separate locale? And how do you get the little copyright blurb in there? I've seen others do this, not always with copyrights. Some pictures I'd like to caption separately and I have no clue how.’’

My photos are also saved as jpeg files, and I only ever upload low-res versions of the original hi-res files. When I’ve written my post and I’m ready to upload a picture, I simply click on the coloured ``Add Image’’ icon. Then I choose the alignment I require and tick ``Left’’ if I want the picture to align on the left-hand side of the post, or ``Centre’’ if I want it in the middle, or ``Right’’ if I want it to appear on the right. Then I tick the Size icon. I use ``small’’ if I need the little dinkus that appears with the Gizmo Machismo posts or the H€adlines & D€adlines segments. But if I’m just posting a normal picture, I tick the ``large’’ box.

Then you just need to click the ``Browse’’ option and select a folder or desktop, depending on where you’ve saved the image you need. Tick the precise image you require and hit the ``Upload’’ box. As I mentioned in a Star Tech segment on 29 April, the picture will appear in a default position up the top of the post.

To drag the picture to its intended position, simply click on it to activate the element, then drag and place it. 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.

As for the ``copyright'' lines I use under my pictures - they are typed in normally. Then I highlight the text and click the ``Centre Text'' option, click B for bold text. You can also display it in a different typeface/ font and size by clicking and choosing respective options from the pulldown menu.

Gator Aid

Sorry, Officer, We Were Just Playing Snap

An alligator raised in the basement of a house in Buffalo, New York, is headed to a new home in a more gator-friendly place, Florida. A former Buffalo couple who operate a reptile sanctuary in Tampa moved the 2.5m gator. It's illegal to keep an alligator in New York state, but officials say the man who raised the gator won't face any charges because he turned himself in. He had built a pond in his basement for the reptile.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

H€adlines & D€adlines

Email Is The Queen's Crowning Glory

Pointing out stories you may have missed: The Queen has her own email account - but she does not actually type her emails herself. She dictates them. The 81-year-old monarch, who also has a mobile phone and an iPod mini, revealed her email address at a recent Buckingham Palace garden party. At the end of a conversation with Elizabeth Saltzman, editor of Vanity Fair, the journalist said: ``We must keep in touch''. What followed was rather unexpected. ``Absolutely,'' agreed the Queen. "Here, let me give you my email address.'' Saltzman, stunned, replied, "Good lord, you use email?" The Queen did not miss a beat. "Oh yes," she continued, "but I don't actually write them - I dictate them all, of course."

News source:

FOOTNOTE: Click the link above to The Telegraph and you’ll see an intriguing pointer that says, ``Send Her Majesty an email by leaving a comment here. When Spy finds out the Queen's email address, we'll forward your message to her.’’

Trivia Pur$uit

The QE2 was built at the John Brown shipyard on the Clyde in Scotland and was known only as "Job number 736" until she was officially launched by the Queen in September 1967.

Someone's Stringing Us Along

Arty Approach Is Really Crafty

Photograph copyright: MELANIE McMAHON

As you can see, I'm not the only one in the family who enjoys using a camera. My Pentax K100D has been known to disappear in the hands of certain other members of the clan as well. I like this shot because of the rich colours, the variety of shapes and the fact that there are so many points of reference on which the eye can alight. These pink plastic containers with their many compartments are part of a bracelet-making set that was sitting on a table in our family room. In all honesty, I don't think I could have composed this frame any better.

Kart Blanche

Formula One Star Sells Go-Kart For Charity

Britain's new Formula One star Lewis Hamilton is selling his go-kart on eBay. Offers for the customised McLaren Mercedes kart shot up to 16,000 pounds ($US32,000) after he won the US Grand Prix last weekend. Hamilton, 22, wrote on eBay: "It is brand new with only one careful owner and this kart was customised for me. It is pretty fast, just how I like it. For anyone who aspires to be a Formula One driver, this is for you."

The kart is worth about 2000 pounds ($US4000) and the proceeds will go to baby charity Tommy's. The successful bidder will collect the kart from Hamilton, who has promised: "I will give you some tips on handling this beast when I see you."

Gizmo Machismo :)

Short Circuit Halts Russian Robocop

A Russian Robocop hailed as the first member of a revolutionary new crime-fighting force broke down on its first day after rain caused a short circuit. The 2m egg-shaped robot on four wheels was unveiled by city authorities in Perm in a blaze of publicity, but it was only on the streets for a few hours before experts had to be called in for repairs. Heavy rain leaked through and damaged its circuitry. Just for the record, the robot is a prototype and has video cameras and sensors which relay pictures and data to police stations across the city.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Under A Brooding Sky

A Dark Day In Melbourne's History

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I was at work this morning when I got a call from a colleague who was just on his way in to the office. ``Do you have your camera with you?'' he asked. I sure did. He told me to come downstairs and get some shots because, as he put it, ``the light is really unusual.'' I raced down without bothering to get my coat and scarf and there I was in my shirtsleeves while everyone else was in overcoats and gloves.

It really was an eerie sky, but I thought nothing of it. I only spent about five minutes taking photographs in a light, mist-like drizzle. Then when I got back to my desk, we heard about the shooting in the city that left one person dead and two people in serious condition in intensive care. As I write this post, police have identified the gunman who carried out the cold-blooded shooting. For latest updates, go to Herald

H€adlines & D€adlines

We’re A Bit Rusty When It Comes To History

Pointing out stories you may have missed: Since the story of the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere was flagged a few months ago, my attention was arrested immediately. I think it’s been a memorable weekend and I’m not fussed about the fact that Miss Belvedere was not exactly in pristine condition when dug out of the concrete vault. I don’t care that the car wouldn’t crank; I’m fascinated instead that chrome was still visible around the doors and front fender, and that workers were able to put air in the tyres. I got a shiver down my spine when I saw that the American flag was unfolded to reveal that it was in pristine condition. Now I just want to see whose estimate, 50 years ago, came closest to guessing Tulsa’s population in 2007. The best comment came from Pittsburgh car enthusiast Dave Stragand, who said, ``It's our King Tut's tomb. It's like a fairy tale."

News source: Napa Valley Register.

The Door To Nowhere

Jim Morrison Would Not Have Approved

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The person who gave us the pithy saying ``When one door closes, another opens'' obviously never saw this door. It really is the door to nowhere, in every sense of the word. The hand-made, intricately-carved door is actually mounted on a wall in a friend's home. It goes nowhere, yet I guess it leads to many things. And this stunning light (below) is another feature of the home. Obviously it sheds light on many matters!

Monday Update: I've just received an email from the owner, who has been one of my closest friends for 25 years. He told me that when he bought it from a warehouse in Ahmdeabad (western India) a decade ago, he was told that it was from Patan (the interior of Gujarat state, with trade links with ancient Arabia). It was estimated at the time that the door was 250 years old. In his words, ``The legend has stuck.''

Trivia Pur$uit

Prince Charles once gave the Queen and Prince Philip a gift of plastic noses and fake moustaches wrapped in old socks. (Now we know what they do to while away the time at Buckingham Palace.)

It’s Enough To Make You Blubber

Whale Had A Nervous Tic (Tick-Tick, Tick-Tick)

Part of a 19th-century bomb has been found inside a whale. The fragment is part of a time delay bomb that was introduced in 1879 and manufactured until 1885. This suggests the bowhead whale may have swum its first strokes not long after the Civil War. Scientists say it is rare to find a whale more than 100 years old but believe some may reach 200. The nine-centimetre fragment was lodged in a wound inflicted about 1890.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Jemima, Puddle Dux

It’s Like The Rain Of King Henry VIII

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Gotta love the rain we’ve been getting. And here’s a shot, just to prove that inclement weather doesn’t put a dampener (okay, so that pun was unintentional) on photography. Every good Aussie has to be ready to have a barbecue at a moment’s notice, so I drove off to swap my almost-empty gas cylinder for a full one. All the local service stations have swap-and-go programmes, so you just rock up, give them your old bottle and pay for a full one and you’re away in a minute or so. The red, white and blue signage at this ``Switcheroo’’ station looked so incongruous reflected in the puddles on the concrete concourse, that I just had to get the camera out. There was one other element too - with the clear blue sky, it was like looking at an image concealed in an ice cube.

Yes, But Have You Voted?

These Are Laughter Lines, Not Crows' Feet

If you're looking for a blog that makes you laugh, then you can't go past YesBut Images, where all the humour comes from readers, in a neat interactive way. Every day the webmaster posts a photograph and every day people post witty captions, relevant to the image. The funniest captions are displayed on the site, with a live link to the blogs of those who contribute them. Now the blog has gone one step further - you can vote on the best captions of the week. To view the week's captions, simply go to YesBut Images and leave a comment with your winner and runner-up. Voting closes midnight (GMT) on Sunday 24 June.

Posh Spices

Fish 'n' Chips With Curry Powder, Guv

A celebrity British chef hopes to woo ``over-spiced'' Indian palates with her version of ``bland'' British food. Manju Malhi is in the Indian capital, New Delhi, to present a 40-part TV series promoting British cuisine. British cuisine has failed to tempt Indian tastes, but Malhi says she will right that wrong. ``British food is good if you know how to cook it properly,'' she said.

Hang Solo

Weeping Willowy Is The Essence Of Grace

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The foliage on this weeping tree caught my attention yesterday afternoon. Not just because of the striking colours, but also because they formed such a graceful pattern. The horizontal frame is a handy close-up, but the vertical frame below makes use of the pattern on the adjacent building. The slender branches were an amazing blend of burgundy and maroon, and the rooster-claw protuberances are actually the news season's growth.