Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Post Of The Day

Today's winner is a writer who spans every conceivable tempo, from gentle comedy to lively interviews and everything in between. It's Deborah Gamble on the podium, with Blessed Birth. And I'd like to give Pope Terry an honourable mention for Big Brother Season Wrap.

If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

Home Malone

So, Who Does Your Boss Remind You Of?

Cheers was the place where ``everybody knows your name'' indeed. But have alook at this list of TV characters' names and tell me if any of their characteristics sound familiar. A survey of more than 5700 US workers has found similarities between real-lie bosses and the TV characters. The most popular responses included Sam Malone from Cheers (amicable, fun), Charlie from Charlie’s Angels (absentee), Judge Judy (no nonsense), Donald Trump from The Apprentice (demanding, powerful), Simon Cowell from American Idol (judgmental, insulting) and Mr Burns from The Simpsons (sinister). So who does your boss remind you of?

Paul Bearers

Band On The Rung

Is your name Paul? Yes? That's great news, because you must be a pop star in waiting. More pop stars have been called Paul than any other name. From McCartney to Weller, people called Paul have appeared on 57 No.1 singles since the UK chart began in 1953, according to Yahoo! Music. John was the second most common name for chart-toppers, with the likes of Lennon and Queen bassist Deacon appearing on 54 best-selling songs. David was third (whew!) thanks to the success of artists like Bowie, while Brian - as in May and McFadden - came fourth. George Harrison, George Michael and Boy George helped their name into fifth place.

Trivia Pur$uit

The characters Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street were named after Bert the policeman and Ernie the taxi driver in Frank Capra's `It's A Wonderful Life’.

Red-Letter Daze

Aussies Aren't Really Colour-Blind, Mate

There was an interesting aside from Montana-based Ms Creek in a comment she contributed to my post Krusty The Crown. She sounded a bit puzzled when she said that an Australian bloke she once knew, used to refer to her as ``Bluey’’. Yep, that’d be right. Anyone with red hair is traditionally called Bluey here. Pretty logical, isn't it? Same reason a six-footer is called ``Shortarse''. Same reason a colleague of mine used to call me ``Curly''.

Other great Australian nicknames are ``Colt 45’’ for a big bore; ``Hurricane Lamp’’ for someone who’s not very bright; and ``Barrister’’ for a drinker who is always at the bar.

And Sir Richard Branson, whose latest revelations about joining the mile-high club can be seen at The Sun, showed his corporate nous when he brought his airline to Australia. The airline, which started flying in May 2000, is called Virgin Blue – because its planes are red.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Post Of The Day

Today's winner is part four of an ongoing tale of some unusual trials and tribulations and it's called Why Thursday Sucked, Part Four. It's written by Lin, a very engaging writer who is based in New Mexico.
If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

Monster Zinc

Fur Crying Out Loud

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This life-sized figure of Sully (aka James P. Sullivan) from Monsters Inc is one of few features that can actually be photographed at the Pixar: 20 Years Of Animation exhibition at the ACMI here in Melbourne. The 2001 Academy Award-winning film was the fourth animated feature produced by Pixar Animation Studios and Sully was memorably voiced by John Goodman. The film is set in Monstropolis, a city inhabited by monsters. The top ``scarer'' at the power company (Monsters, Inc.) is Sully, whose partner is the green, one-eyed Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal). And yes, I’m very one-eyed when it comes to supporting animated film-making.

FOOTNOTE: He's a scaring, sharing kinda guy.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/60, F6.7, ISO speed 800.

Bus Top

Prime Minister Wants To Get Behind The Wheel

Fares, please. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago says the one remaining ambition he wants to achieve in life is to drive a bus. Patrick Manning, who has twice held the highest office, made the statement late last week. ``I don't know if I ever told you all a secret desire I have, and I'll do it before I die, is to drive a bus," he said, according to the Trinidad Express Newspaper. "I haven't made it yet, but one day I want to drive one of the long ones, you know the articulated ones."

Rolling in D’oh

Springfield Conquers The World

Shall we break out the champagne, or a crate of Duff Beer? Homer Simpson and his family were the top draw at movie theatres around the world in their big-screen debut, surpassing even the most optimistic forecasts. "The Simpsons Movie" sold almost $168 million worth of tickets on its first weekend. The North American component was $71.85 million, the fifth-highest opening of the year. Fox had expected the animated comedy to open in the $40 million range. Internationally, the film took $96 million from 71 territories, the highlights being Britain ($27.8 million) and Germany ($14.2 million). The TV show begins its 19th season in the fall.

Trivia Pur$uit

The White Stripes' recent tour of Canada – which even included a one-note gig! – embraced a bizarre range of venues, from a bridge in Winnipeg, to a bowling alley and a classroom.

Watch The Spudometer

This Is The Race Car Everyone Wants To Beet

This is the ultimate green machine, surely. A UK university student has virtually grown a 240km/h car from seed. One-seater racing car Eco One has tyres made of potatoes, brake pads from ground cashew shells and a body created from hemp and rapeseed oil. It runs on fuel made from fermented wheat and sugar beet. Powered by the engine from a Triumph Daytona motorcycle, Eco One does 0-100km/h in under four seconds. It will be on display at the National Science Museum in London from August 28 to 30.

FOOTNOTE: British racing green, innit?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Luck Of The Iris

Did Someone Say Sally Forth?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Remember Sally, the blue Porsche from the movie `Cars'? This full-size replica was part of the Pixar: 20 Years Of Animation exhibition at ACMI which I described below, in Lamp Post. Shucks, I don't think I've ever been so close to a movie star before! If you look closely at Sally's eyes, you'll see the reflection of Federation Square's distinctive roofline.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/60 F8, ISO speed 400.

Wii Are The World

Nintendo Workout Is In The Fitness Of Things

A Canadian health club is offering a new form of exercise for people bored with the treadmill or cycling classes - the Wii Workout Station. Studio 55 in Vancouver has incorporated a Nintendo Wii into circuit training where users can punch, run and jump with the system's movement-sensitive controller. While some other gyms have combined stationary bikes with PlayStations and Xboxes in a bid to win younger clients Nintendo Canada said this is the first they have heard of a gym using the Wii in its schedule.

FOOTNOTE: Game for anything.

Once In A Brew Moon

This Beer's Been Watered Down, Guv

This story has particular resonance for Victoria, the state where I live - because we've just been through the worst flooding in the history of the state's farming area. A couple of days ago, I was intrigued to read that beer tankers were being used to get safe drinking water to flood-stricken British communities. Five of Britain's main brewers have already made 23 tankers available. The British Beer and Pub Association quipped it was a reversal of their normal business of turning water into beer. Many pubs, God bless them, offered food and shelter to evacuated householders and rescuers.

Lamp Post

Melbourne Gets Really Animated

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Recognise this lamp? Does it look vaguely familiar, perhaps? Think Pixar, the wonderfully creative animation studio. Yep, you figured that one out pretty quick. It's the lamp that is synonymous with Pixar's work. In recognition of their 20th anniversary, there is an enthralling exhibition of their work, titled Pixar: 20 Years Of Animation at the ACMI which is the Australian Centre For The Moving Image here at Federation Square in Melbourne. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed indoors at the exhibition itself, but this lamp (I reckon it's about six meters high) is outside Fed Square. That's Flinders Street in the background and the domed building is the State Theatre, with Part of Fed Square visible on the right.

FOOTNOTE: The silence of the lamps.

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs For Week Ending 28 July

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.

1. Carol Cooper, 2. Bob T Bear, 3. Grumpy'n'Farting,
4. Deborah Gamble, 5. Chewy, 6. Ak-Man,
7. Mushy, 8. Phaseout Girl, 9. Suz.50,
10. Bartraeke, 11. Rambling Traveller, 12. Dan Mega,
13. Jenera Healy, 14. Cherished 79, 15. Blog Guelph,
16. Yes But Images, 17. Blue Yak, 18. McGlinch,
19. Ianqui, 20. Random Blethers, 21. Querkey Turkey,
22. Pasture Musings, 23. Auto Parts, 24. Invisible Studio,
25. Creek Journal, 26. Oz Lady, 27. Gerald the Goat,
28. Woman Wandering, 29. Brian in Oxford, 30. Luke Dockery,
31. Chumma Chumma, 32. Lotus Reads, 33. Fat Hairy Bastard,
34. Travellin' Mama, 35. Goddess, 36. Laurent,
37. Victorya, 38. Magick River, 39. Craver vii,
40. Lady T, 41. Scooter Guy, 42. Savannah,
43. Rambling With Bellur, 44. Shashikiran, 45. Broken Man,
46. Cuckoo, 47. Praveen Who Writes, 48. Merisi,
49. Nobody's Friend, 50. Kitchen Fire

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.

And honourable mentions go to:

Karoline, Pope Terry, Aquarius2626, David's Pics, Unforeseen Paths, Prof Bush, Copper Stiletto, Terry's Playpen, Kalyan's Dreams, Near Post, Colorado Bob, Chalkhills Collective, Chess World, Lensational, Ubertramp, Allan Cook, I'm On My Weigh Down, Daub du Jour, Chele 76, Movies Sans Frontiers, Mur 38, Sandip Madan, Who Dat Dare Pokah, Sketch and Colour, Love's Ragpicker, Confused Sam, Coffee Conversation, Peace With Guns, Bruno's Blusterings, Hammer, Les Becker, Mrs Nesbitt, Ms Creek, Roc Rebel Granny, Ruth's Gardening Blog, The Hippie Parade.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wait Watchers

Hmmmm, Are You A Lady In Waiting?

Righty-o, I'm looking forward to the diverse comments on this one. Two or three days ago I saw a report that British men spend almost a year of their lives waiting for their wives or girlfriends, according to a survey for clothes website Miss Butterfly. The average man spends 22 weeks alone, waiting outside shop changing rooms while their wife or partner tries on clothes.

They will also spend nearly a week of their lives sitting in their car before picking up wives or girlfriends from ``girlie nights out''. Six out of ten men say it drives them crazy, and one in ten were so annoyed by it they had dumped their partner. But one in five men said they got their own back by eyeing up other girls in the store.

FOOTNOTE: Surely it's not a case of ``Britannia rules the wives''.

Krusty The Crown

Royally Plastered After A Night On The Tiles

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Wanna buy what every good king or queen needs, a decent Crown? Cost ya four bucks here. Okay, so I'm kiddin'. Let me explain, a Crownie is actually Aussie slang for a Crown lager.

This shot was taken at the Racecourse Hotel in Caulfield, just a stone's throw away from the racecourse that is home to the Caulfield Cup, which is the precursor to the world famous Melbourne Cup. We love adding the ``Y'' sound to our words here in Australia. Hence board shorts are ``boardies'', firefighter are ``fieries'' and sunglasses are ``sunnies''.

And the same rules apply to surnames. Thus, a Sutcliffe becomes ``Suttsy'' and a Payne becomes ``Payney''. Even Steve Bracks,who stunned the nation yesterday when he resigned as Premier of Victoria, is hailed as ``Bracksy''.
But just to confirm your suspicions that we're an oddball bunch Down Under, guess what we do with surnames that actually end with a ``Y''? We remove it! That's why Aussie Rules legend Kevin Sheedy, whose contract was not renewed this week by the Essendon Football Club after an incredible 27 years as coach of the Bombers, is not Sheedy, but ``Sheeds''.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/250, F9.5, ISO speed 200.

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Parts Club

Many Nappy Returns

Much to the chagrin of Fab Four fans, a classic Beatles song about peace is now being used to sell diapers. Procter and Gamble are using "All You Need Is Love" in their Luvs diaper campaign – but won’t reveal how much it paid for the song, which was re-recorded by a studio group. Sony and Michael Jackson hold the copyright to the song, and they don't need permission from the surviving Beatles or their heirs to licence the song. A spokesman for Paul McCartney declined to comment.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Post Of The Day

Today's award goes to Deborah Gamble, for the heart-warming post The Date. It is a real-life story that encompasses a quest to ``find'' love for a sibling. It is a wonderful, light-hearted narration that leaves us wanting a follow-up.

If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

The Buck, Er, Bug Stops Here

If At First You Don't Succeed, Thigh, Thigh Again

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

So there I was, on my way home. Going southbound. Stuck at a traffic light. On a side street, six lanes away, I spot a Volkswagen Bug with an unusual paint job. Mate, I tell ya, they were the longest legs in the world. Gotta get the picture. Drive to the next set of lights. Get across three lanes. Manoeuvre into the turning lane. U-turn. Now I'm going northbound. Get across another three lanes and turn into the side street. Suspense. Is the Bug still there? Yup. Whew! And if you really must know, the vehicle was advertising a laser hair removal place.

FOOTNOTE: Volkswagen? That's no ordinary folks' wagon.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/250, F8, ISO speed 400.

Espirit De Corpse

A Clear Case Of Dead Reckoning

A Moldovan who claimed his wife had died and borrowed cash to pay for her funeral was exposed when pals went to see how he was coping - and she opened the door. Vitalie Varinca, 38, raised 3,000 quid in a whipround from workmates at the factory where he was a foreman in the town of Hughnchesht. He told them his beautiful young wife had been tragically killed in a car accident while pregnant. But he was arrested and charged with obtaining money by deception.

Flying High

Report Says `Intoxicated’ Astronauts Blasted Off

US astronauts were allowed to blast off into space after turning up drunk for launches, reports ABC News.

A panel appointed by NASA to report on the mental health of astronauts found that on at least two occasions astronauts were allowed to fly on space shuttle launches, even though flight surgeons warned they were intoxicated and posed a flight-safety risk.

The panel's findings were reported by Aviation Week & Space Technology, a publication that covers the space program closely. Several sources separately confirmed the report for ABC News.

No names or missions are cited in the report, according to Frank Morring, the Aviation Week writer who broke the story. Officially, NASA said the report contains serious information the agency will have to consider. It has scheduled a news conference for Friday afternoon.

A Isn't Always For Apple

Core Blimey, It's Got Four Legs, Mate

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot is for Mrs Nesbitt, who invites fellow bloggers to post a photograph for a different letter of the alphabet this week. You can have a chuckle at her own post A Is For AGA. I was about to dig out images from my folder marked `Algonquin National Park', where any mug can take a great shot. Then, as I pondered a suitable ``A'' shot, I remembered this picture that I took recently.

It's a simple shot of a neon sign outside an Amcal chemist in central Melbourne. No, it's not a cropped image, prepared specially for this post - what you see is the whole frame, exactly as I shot it. And the reason I composed it this way was to show that the sign actually seemed slightly warped, for some strange reason.

But don't believe that A always stands for Apple. Good friends of ours have a lovely daughter who caused great consternation when she was at pre-school. Every time she saw a picture of a horse, she would chant, ``A for Apple.''

Er, no, said the teacher, with growing consternation each time this happened, on a regular basis. ``That's H for Horse.''

But the little girl would shake her head vehemently and declare, ``A for Apple.''

She was immovable. And each time this happened, the teacher grew more worried about her tiny pupil's grip on reality.

After a few weeks of this apparent obstinance, the teacher sent for the parents. Shifting uncomfortably in her seat and wringing her hands with concern, the teacher explained that the child seemed to be experiencing a very serious learning difficulty.

Why, asked her parents.

The teacher told them about the child's inability to recognise a horse and how she kept insisting it was an apple.The parents burst out laughing. They told the teacher not to worry. They owned a racehorse - called A for Apple.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/125, F 8, ISO speed 400.

Trivia Pur$uit

International Orange is the official name of the orange-red paint used on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and it has always been that colour. There was once a strong push to have it painted black with yellow stripes.

Satan Francisco

Better The Devil You Know

Some call it the number of Satan, but the San Francisco taxi commission sees no reason to get rid of taxi medallion Number 666. Cab driver Michael Byrne asked the agency to retire the number that was assigned to him last year, saying it has brought him nothing but bad luck. Some other cabbies, however, brought a touch of levity to the debate as they argued against retirement. But the commission voted 5-1 to keep Number 666 on the streets. Comissioner Ton Oneto said the 666 medallion had been around for at least 30 years and San Francisco has somehow survived.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Post Of The Day

Today's award is shared between two American bloggers. One post is a flashback to a life-changing experience, while the other is an edge-of-the-seat narration about facing fire danger. It is my pleasure to give you Leaving My Innocence Behind by Mushy and Two Days of Terror by Rachelle.

If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

Short Cut

That Ain't A Rose, That's A Prune

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

In a comment on my recent post Great Hips, Rose, a fellow blogger, It’s The Little Things, asked me recently why roses have to be pruned at an angle - and there is a very simple explanation. Because roses are pruned in winter, the cuts should be carried out at a 45-degree angle - or as close to that angle as possible. If the cuts were horizontal, frost or dew would remain on the stalks, possibly causing them to rot or even impeding new growth. But an angled cut means any moisture simply runs off harmlessly. No residue, therefore no disease.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/180, F8, ISO speed 200.

Farewell, Leicester Square-Off

Witches Give Thanks For Mall Mercies

A coven of English witches has claimed victory in a battle to change the name of a $310 million (that’s 150 million pounds) shopping centre in Leicester. The witches objected after developer Hammerson announced a huge addition to a mall would be called Highcross Quarter, the name given by witches to the four most important periods in their calendar. Once the name was announced, the witches immediately registered several internet domain names using the term and Hammerson has now given up the fight, renaming the development Highcross Leicester.

FOOTNOTE: Did they use the spell-check option?

ET, Foam Home

Air Force Version Of Ire Retardant

There were bubbles everywhere Wednesday near Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. Foam spewed from an airplane hangar after an anti-fire foam system malfunctioned. Bubbles could be seen, well, bubbling over from all openings of the building. At one point, it appeared the foam was as high as an airplane wing. To see the photograph, go to WKYC.com.

FOOTNOTE: More bubble barf than bubble bath.

Gizmo Machismo :)

Nerdy Policemen? Is That Like Copper Wire?

This is a modern equivalent of crime and punishment. Police in India are desperately seeking geeks to help them fight the rise in cyber crime. Officers in Chandigarh, in the Punjab region, plan to recruit a team of computer-savvy nerds. A senior Punjab officer told the Times of India: "Geeks will be the masters and act as the real super cops in the virtual world. Once hired, the police geeks will also be used to train cops who currently can't tell a laptop from a PC.

FOOTNOTE: That's rank - and file!

Mount Ever Rest

High On A Hill Lives A (Very Relieved) Goatherd

Europe’s highest toilet has been built on the snow-capped peak of France's Mont Blanc. More than 30,000 visitors make their way to the peak each year and local mayor Jean-Marc Peillex said: "This move was much needed. Our beautiful mountain's white peak was full of yellow and brown spots in summer." The two toilets were flown up Mont Blanc to a height of 4260 metres. A helicopter will also be used to empty the toilets on a daily basis at, er, peak times for visitors.

FOOTNOTE: Mind your pees and queues.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Post Of The Day

Today's award goes to the poignant post You Forget, I Remember, by Singapore-based OzLady. She takes us into the world of memory loss and how it touches a close relative.

To nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

At A Loo’s End

Producer Is Flush With Funds

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

A Kenyan film about two people stuck in a toilet has secured a deal for international release. The film, Malooned, is a romantic drama about two people from different tribes who have to resolve their prejudices when they become locked in a washroom. The deal for international release was secured after the film won two awards at the Zanzibar film festival. Producer Bob Nyanja says he was inspired by a true story about a university professor who was locked in a toilet for several hours. The film was produced for less than a third of the $2.5m deal signed with Pretty Pictures International.

Rock Start

Spirit Medium In Deisel Hoax

Zimbabwe police are hunting a traditional spirit medium who led President Robert Mugabe's Government on a fruitless search for much-needed fuel she said was mysteriously oozing out of a rock. A 35-year-old traditional healer and spirit medium claimed to have discovered diesel streaming from a rock in the northwest around Chinhoyi Caves, protected by locals asa traditional shrine. Rotina Mavhunga had said ``the diesel was a gift from ancestral spirits.''

Pier Pressure

A Brief Taste Of Spring

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

For about two or three hours yesterday afternoon, it was as if someone had switched off winter at the mains. Not only did we have the bright sunshine that is such an integral part of a Melbourne winter day, but the breeze was positively balmy. I had my shirt sleeves rolled up, my tie undone and my sunnies on. This shot was taken down at Southbank, to give you an idea of the sun-dappled surface of the Yarra River.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/125, F9.5, ISO speed 200.

In Memory

How Alzheimer's Touched My Family

Image: Clip Art

My attention was caught by a news report today, about Scottish scientists who claim to have stopped Alzheimer's from killing brain cells in laboratory tests. About three weeks ago, the `Herald Sun' reported, ``Melbourne scientists have discovered a drug compound that radically improves memory, and they hope to transform it into an anti-dementia and memory loss drug.''

All I could do was think back ....

My life and the lives of all my blood relatives was touched by Alzheimer's, but we didn't know it at the time. When I was still in primary school, Mum would lose her keys and her glasses several times a day. They were the earliest signs that she was in the grip of a condition that would gradually erode her memory, her power of speech, her grasp of Latin and French, and her vivacious personality.

Yet, as she lived until the age of 88, it was a seemingly capricious condition. Occasionally, it seemed, the mists would clear to allow moments of clarity.

On one occasion, our eldest daughter was doing her homework and she needed to name a fruit or vegetable that began with the letter Q. I turned to Mum, who by this stage couldn't remember whether she had eaten breakfast or not. She nodded. ``Quince,'' she said, without missing a beat.

On another occasion, my brother Mike, who was based in Paris at the time, flew to Melbourne to visit Mum for a few days. That morning, he mentioned that the French were blessed with a stirring national anthem. Mum responded by singing the first verse of La Marseillaise - in French.

When she embraced my brother that day, he asked her gently if she knew who he was. Her eyes clouded over and she stumbled slightly over her agonised reply.

``I don't know your name,'' she admitted, ``but I know I love you very much.''

Oi, Queenie, Can We Camp ‘Ere, Luv?

Some Day, My Prince Will Come

Queen Victoria would not be amused. Part of Buckingham Palace is being transformed into a caravan park to mark the Caravan Club's 100th anniversary. Some 7500 specially invited caravanners will be at a special garden party hosted by the Duke of Edinburgh. He has been patron of the club since 1952. In a charming example of utter discretion, the organisation refused to confirm or deny if the Duke had ever spent the night in a motor home.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Post Of The Day

Today's gong goes to Ker-Plunk, by Bob T Bear Esq. Specifically, the award is on the basis of the very clever presentation of the two lawn-mowing graphics. I guess that's one way of establishing lawn order!

If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

Here Endeth The Lesson

School Closure Is A Case Of Cross Purposes

One of the smallest schools in Britain has closed its doors for the last time. Cross Inn school, which opened near Aberystwyth in Ceredigion in 1855, had just two pupils. The running costs of $92,000 (about 45,000 pounds) a year per child made the two-room primary school one of the most expensive, eclipsing the fees of Eton and Harrow. Ceredigion Council decided to close the school after a steep drop in the number of pupils and the rising costs of keeping it open. The parents of the two remaining pupils fought a long campaign to save the school, stalling its closure by a year.

Great Hips, Rose

Prune Those Bushes Down To Size

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I've never joined in the lemming-like rush to prune roses as soon as winter starts. Why? Mate, what's the point of encouraging new growth when the frosts are cruel? So while the rest of the country's gardeners eagerly get out their secateurs in the first week of June, I wait until the third week of July. I started the task on Sunday and of course I had to get the camera out to shoot these beautiful rose hips. It wasn't just the colour I wanted to capture, but the distinct curves on the stalk above this one reminded me of a set of curved elfin shoes. And the light was just right, too.

Marge Simpson, Catwalk Queen

She's A Model , After A Fashion

Marge Simpson has gone from harassed Springfield housewife to glam catwalk queen. Stylists for Harper’s Bazaar have transformed the cartoon character into a magazine model, for a eight-page photo shoot alongside supermodel Linda Evangelista. She is said to cut a stunning figure, draped in famous designer labels, including Versace, for a fashion spread in the August issue of glossy mag Harper's Bazaar. Yes, even Homer steps into a designer suit while Bart, Lisa and Maggie also joined the fashion shoot. But will Marge’s blue beehive be replaced by stunning straight locks? Watch this space.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Post Of The Day

Today's clear winner is From The Putney Boat Race, To This by Carol Cooper, who introduces us to the tubs of the Tin-Bath Race in Castletown's harbour. If there were TV cameras around, it would have been a case of the Tubby Tellies!

If you'd like to nominate a post, leave me a comment with the url.

Edition And Subtraction

It’s The Quip And The Dead As A Paper Launches

There’s a funny thing about newspapers. Despite the intense pressure under which they are produced, they also spawn rapier-like wit. This month, a landmark anniversary reminded me of an off-the-cuff remark that made me splutter with mirth. The Telegraph, produced by the Ananda Bazar Patrika group in Calcutta, was launched 25 years ago, on 7 July 1982.

Apart from being much better designed than other competing papers at the time, the new paper had the memorable ad slogan `Unputdownable’. It was advertising genius Stanley Pinto (who also created the famous Luxol Silk campaign) who came up with that slogan and when I recently exchanged emails with him, he confirmed that it had survived the test of time and was still the paper’s tagline.

Back then, when the paper was launched, I was in my early twenties and was employed as the chief sub-editor of its sister publication, the weekly magazine `Sportsworld’. Like other young journalists in that very creative building, I volunteered to help launch the new paper in addition to my normal duties.

The paper’s founding editor, M.J. Akbar, was the man who hired me as a journalist and it was my way of repaying his faith in me. I should point out here that Akbar (right) never made any attempt to conceal his frequent ire, but he also had a wicked sense of humour. In my early days as a trainee sub-editor a colleague and I were struggling to write a headline for a feature story about the rise of sexually transmitted diseases. We took him a sheet of paper, with several of our headlines written on it. He tore up the paper and echoed Julius Caesar as he wrote his own headline: ``Veni, VD, vici’’.

The night `The Telegraph’ was launched, however, there was more chance of a seizure than a Caesar. Things were a little bit tense as the deadline approached. Akbar wore a constant frown and that was not a good sign for skittish rookies.

Two very experienced colleagues of mine – Tirthankar Ghosh and Saumitra Banerjee, then on the staff of `Sunday’ magazine – were also helping that night. Akbar used the three of us as trouble-shooters for his maiden edition, which was understandable, as we knew the intricacies of the system and the nitty-gritty of the overall production process.

At one stage, with that trademark look of exasperation on his face, Akbar turned to me and asked me to take over the front page. As I did so, he called one of the others over, to speed up a photograph of then Karnataka Chief Minister Bangarappa. ``Just hurry up and get the picture of Banga-bloody-rappa,’’ he yelled.

Okay, so it wasn’t ``bloody’’. It began with ``F’’, ended with ``G’’ and rhymed with ``trucking’’.

Going Like The Clappers

Give Him A Big Round Of Applause

A Chinese man whose clapping hands are nearly as loud as the roar of a helicopter is hoping to get into the record books. Zhang Quan, 70, of Chongqing city, had his clapping monitored by local environmental protection officials. His claps measured 107 decibels - only slightly lower than helicopter blades, which measure 110 decibels. Workers from the environmental protection bureau confirmed that technically Zhang could face arrest for noise pollution if he clapped too often.

Hook, Line And Thinker

Welsh Anglers Find Greenhouse Solution

Three fishing buddies in North Wales might have cracked the problem of carbon emissions. They have developed a box that replaces a vehicle’s exhaust system, to trap the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming - including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide - and emit mostly water vapour. The gases can be processed to create a biofuel, using genetically modified algae. Organic chemist Derek Palmer and engineers Ian Houston and John Jones have dubbed their invention ``Greenbox’’.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Post Of The Day

Starting today, I'm going to give you a link to a noteworthy post. It's something I'd like to do every day, so if you'd like to nominate a post on your blog, or someone's else's, do leave me a comment with the url. The aim is to publicise the work of other bloggers, and to direct new traffic to them as well. Today, I give you Rachelle Black's Let Me Esplain.

Time For A Sundowner

Aye, Cap'n, The Sun's Gone Below The Yardarm

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I shot this at dusk yesterday. As you would remember from the post The Sound of Silence, we had a very foggy start to our Saturday, but the sky cleared up in the afternoon. I got the camera out as soon as I saw the colour of this cloud band. It was an interesting dusk, because there was a normal-blue-grey sky below the cloud and also in the top right-hand corner of this frame.
Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter speed 1/125, F 6.7, ISO speed 200.

Game On

We Won’t Get The Better Of Chinook

It took 18 years to figure out all 500 billion billion combinations at checkers, but Canadian scientists have programmed a computer that can't be beaten at the 5000-year-old game. The achievement, reported in `Science' magazine, is considered a milestone in the development of artificial intelligence. Called Chinook, the checkers champion computer is the brainchild of Jonathan Schaeffer and his team at the University of Alberta. Chinook can never be beaten, and can only be tied at checkers if its opponent makes all the right moves.

According to The Los Angeles Times the task of analysing the game to its end was so difficult that from 1996 to 2001, the researchers had to put their efforts on hold because the most powerful computers of the time weren't up to the task. The team had up to 200 computers working full-time on the problem.

Bear Necessity

This Diary Is A Reflection Of Life

I'm used to writing review of single blogs. But someone who writes three blogs? Now that's a tough challenge, mate. The ``mother'' of a little British teddy bear named Bob brings us the heart-warming blog Bob's Diary.

Bob's mother just happens to be the most creative person I am in touch with across the internet. I write one blog and have my hands full, but she writes three and does so with flair and individuality. Her other two sites are Dilly's Castle and Sketch and Colour.

In any summation of her huge spread of talents, a critic would have to take into account another salient point. She has been refreshingly open about her issues, but I see none of these. That is not denial on my part. That is not a push-it-to-the-backyard-so-we-can-pretend-it-doesn't-exist attitude. No, I recognise her open admission of what is sometimes an uphill battle for her. And despite all of that, I see only a never-ending well of creativity, a passion for entertainment without damning satire, without bitter revelations and without sardonic comments.

She offers slice-of-life writing and a novel way of looking at life which sometimes touches the most creative people with occasional dark clouds of self-doubt. She transcends all that she speaks about so openly about. And she transcends those factors in a fashion that pays tribute to her Muses and her creative impulses.

She makes us smile in a way few can emulate. Some people can be funny when writing or talking about real life. Some writers can be funny when pointing out foibles of others. She does it with ease, when writing about imagined lives of inanimate objects - as much as we could be permitted to call the inimitable Dilly or Bob ``inanimate'', for they possess more life and soul than many.

She brings us nose hugs and tissue-issuers, dwagons in their castles and toys who speak their own distinctive language. Most fittingly of all, she brings us the agony ``uncle'' as well, with cheery advice, delivered by Bob (pictured above, right) on a variety of issues.

She is the A.A. Milne of the internet. There are many similarities between her own creations and those conjured up in the magical world of the Hundred Acre Wood. In both realms, stuffed animal toys have feelings and personalities. In both realms, humans are present but do not overwhelm the toys' interaction in any way. In both worlds there are bouncy, ebullient characters like Milne’s Tigger. And in both worlds, there is an occasional, but not critical, reminder of stark human frailties, such as the depression implicit in the utterances of the thistle-eating, deeply introspective Eeyore.

If Bob or Dilly ever wanted to look for an agent or a publisher, I would be the first person to help in that quest. Surely there is a book or three in the adventures of these plush toys who grow appealingly more animated with each day and each tale that passes.

Most crucially, I would never trivialise health issues, but I do appreciate the superhuman effort made by someone, day in and day out, to not only face the day, but to conquer it in more ways than one.

Bob and Dilly's mother speaks not just for herself, but she speaks on behalf of people of many races and beliefs from continents stretched across this earth we inhabit. The darkness of self-doubt, or questions of self-worth or of self-esteem can be assuaged in different degrees by different trigger factors.

Writing - and by extension, communicating - have given new purpose to this gentle, gifted artist and teller of tales. Hand on heart, she tells us that some people need a purpose to get them out of bed each day to face new challenges. Hand on heart, we can truthfully assure her that she has indeed found her personal purpose.

I'd like to remind her (and any publisher who reads this) that there was another British writer in a different era, who not only brought animals to life in her gentle stories, but had the talent to sketch and paint them as well. Her name was Beatrix Potter. Perhaps we have in our midst a modern-day Potter, who imbues animals with more life than we could ever imagine - and quietly and unobtrusively sketches them with aplomb. The sketch of the cat (above, left) is from her Sketch and Colour blog.

We, her audience, are grateful to have her. She deserves a much wider audience, just as much as she deserves a badge of courage for winning her own battle.

God bless her. God bless her amazing fortitude. And God bless and protect her many Muses.

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Top Blogs For Week Ending 21 July

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.

1. Carol Cooper, 2. Bob T Bear, 3. Grumpy'n'Farting
4. Rambling Traveller, 5. Chewy, 6. Ak-Man
7. Bartraeke, 8. Deborah Gamble, 9. Suz.50
10. Mushy, 11. Dan Mega, 12. Phaseout Girl
13. Jenera Healy, 14. Cherished 79, 15. Blog Guelph
16. Blue Yak, 17. McGlinch, 18. Yes But Images
19. Ianqui, 20. Random Blethers, 21. Auto Parts,
22. Querkey Turkey, 23. Karoline, 24. Invisible Studio
25. Creek Journal, 26. Oz Lady, 27. Gerald the Goat
28. Woman Wandering, 29. Brian in Oxford, 30. Luke Dockery
31. Chumma Chumma, 32. Lotus Reads, 33. Craver vii
34. Fat Hairy Bastard, 35. Goddess, 36. Laurent
37. Magick River, 38. Travellin' Mama, 39. Victorya
40. Savannah, 41. Lady T, 42. Scooter Guy
43. Rambling With Bellur, 44. Broken Man, 45. Shashikiran
46. Cuckoo, 47. Praveen Who Writes, 48. Merisi,
49. Nobody's Friend, 50. Kitchen Fire

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.

And honourable mentions go to:

Aquarius2626, David's Pics, Unforeseen Paths, Prof Bush, Copper Stiletto, Terry's Playpen, Pope Terry, Kalyan's Dreams, Near Post, Colorado Bob, Chalkhills Collective, Chess World, Lensational, Ubertramp, Allan Cook, I'm On My Weigh Down, Daub du Jour, Chele 76, Movies Sans Frontiers, Pasture Musings, Mur 38, Sandip Madan, Who Dat Dare Pokah, Sketch and Colour, Love's Ragpicker, Confused Sam, Coffee Conversation, Peace With Guns.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hopelessly Devoted To Ewe

Prince Charles Is A Sheep Skate

What do you give the woman who has everything? Prince Charles has surprised his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with an unusual gift on her 60th birthday - two sheep. The heir to the throne is reported to have paid about 300 quid each.

Cops Out

Swiss Drivers Get Chocolate Rewards

Swiss traffic police were handing out sweet rewards yesterday during a 24-hour "thank you" to safe drivers. Motorists in the western region of Fribourg were given a traditional gift of Swiss chocolate - if they passed roadside checks. The 100g chocolate bars were embossed with the police force coat of arms.

The Sound Of Silence

All Is Quiet, Under The Blanket Of Fog

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

You know the really strange thing about fog? Everything sounds quieter when the fog rolls in. Melbourne is a very quiet city, even when the business district is bustling. But when it's foggy like this, it's almost as if the dampness cloaks the sounds of everyday life. As you can see, it was a really foggy morning today. I like this shot because the only real colour is the red on the sign and the light, rendered amber by the fog and reflected in the surface of the Yarra River.

Click here: Pentax K100D, Shutter 1/60, F 6.7, ISO speed 400.

Grey's Alacrity

True Depiction Of The Branch Office

I’ve had an interesting query from a Canadian reader, in regard to the photograph I posted on Polar, Bare. Rene, a former teacher (and a very popular one, according to her ex-students) at Loreto Convent in Darjeeling, asked, ``Was it monochromatic or are those the actual colours?’’

It’s a simple answer. Those are indeed the actual colours. What you see on your browser is exactly what I shot. The image has not been digitally enhanced in any way. Thank you, Rene, for asking the question. I should also have pointed out that the reason I took the shot was that while the scene of the fruit tree’s bare branches against a grey sky looked rather foreboding, it brought a promise of much colour to come.

I guess that’s a handy metaphor for life itself. And yes, I will post a follow-up shot when it bursts into flower.

Hocus Pocus

Just Focus On The Crocus

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I had to chuckle at a comment a few hours ago from the inimitable Goddess. She surmised that I am not toting around a $99 el-cheapo camera and said (in a mock flouncy but not princessy kind of tone) that her pictures never turn out like mine. Why, thank you, Goddess. I'm glad you like my photographs.

Most of the time, I use a Pentax K100D, but it wasn't so long ago that I was using (believe it or not) a $99 el-cheapo Instamatic camera. But I treasure many of the photographs I took, in several corners of the world, using that simple Ricoh. If you'd like to have a look at some of those shots, just go to Putting Cameras In The Picture.

Just for the record, the frame above was taken with a simple, non-expensive, non-digital Canon. It was a cold morning in Huntsville, Ontario, and the crocus had keeled over completely, pointing to all quadrants of the compass in a little circle of shade and bright sun. It was a very interesting subject with subtle colours and strong variation of light quality.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Gizmo Machismo :)

From Internet To Sprinternet

Want to download a full-length movie to your PC in less than two seconds? Follow the example of Swedish woman Sigbritt Lothberg – who is 75 years old. Her 40 gigabits-per-second fibre-optic connection in Karlstad is believed to be the fastest residential uplink in the world. It is many thousand times faster than most residential connections, said Hafsteinn Jonsson, head of the Karlstad city network unit. Jonsson and Lothberg's son, Peter, worked together to install the connection. The speed is reached using a new modulation technique that allows the sending of data between two routers placed up to 1240 miles apart, without any transponders in between, Jonsson said. "We wanted to show that that there are no limitations to Internet speed," he said.

Trivia Pur$uit

This week, Anastasia Rodionova became the second WTA player disqualified from an event when she hit a ball at fans cheering her rival, Angelique Kerber, at the Cincinnati Open. The first was Irina Spirlea, in 1996, for using abusive language towards an official.

Palm Pilot

It's Just Fine And Dandy

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This photograph was taken from inside my car, at a traffic intersection in Dandenong, the Melbourne suburb that is best known as ``Dandy''. No filters. No special effects. I was just transfixed by the silhouette of the palm trees and the traffic lights, as well as the striking colours of the evening sky, in contrast to the two tiny splashes of red on the traffic signals.

Breeding Space

Shall We Monitor His Lizards?

A teenage boy who keeps dozens of reptiles in the garage of his parents' house in West Lothian, Scotland, has added two of the world's rarest lizards to his collection. Jordan Davidson, 14, has bearded dragons, bosc monitors, uromastyx, chameleons and a royal python he was given as a Christmas present. He also has 25 baby dragons, 20 hatchlings and 27 eggs in an incubator. He has now bought two endangered Fiji iguanas, which he hopes to be able to breed. He hopes to donate the lizards, which he has named Rhubarb and Custard, to Edinburgh Zoo after breeding them.

FOOTNOTE: He's not dragon his heels.