Wednesday, November 7, 2007

GarageBand 4.1

(For those not in the know, GarageBand is Apple's make-your-own music program.)

GarageBand 4.1 is part of the iLife 08 suite (also comprising iPhoto, iMovie, the .Mac Web Gallery, iWeb and iDVD) and is the logical 'next-step-forward' from previous versions.

Although most of the advertising and many of the articles about it dwell (at great length, sometimes) on the new Magic GarageBand, I found that I whizzed through that aspect in about five minutes. Woohoo, you can choose different instruments to play exactly the same piece of muzak.

The real difference lies in its speed: the app is a real hog of processor power and I still find myself quitting out of all unused apps before launching it - a bad habit from G4 days - but unless you're attempting a really ambitious project it's not really necessary anymore. In fact, I've had the warning window that I've exceeded my number of tracks appear before I've had the dreaded "Some parts of this song have not been played..." window (which means it's too big and the computer's not coping and you have to save it as a song in its own right and then start up another one and import the song you just saved as a single track...phew!).

Another plus is the introduction of an Arrangements feature - amazingly handy and time saving, especially if you're using a theme repeatedly in your song, as it allows you to denote parts of it as 'verse' or 'chorus' (or whatever you want to call them), and to copy and paste them and move them around and change their order. Unfortunately, if you decide you want the 'verse' section, say, to be a little longer, you can't just drag the bar to extend that section and push the next section along (if you drag the bar over, all you're doing is extending the 'verse' part to include a few bars in the next section. You need to create a new section and then move it to the end of the one you want to extend; It's a lot less stuffing around than doing it the old way but there's a lot of room for improvement in the Arrangements area.

There are a lot of little tweaks on features that were in the older versions of GarageBand; one of my favourites is a drop-down menu on lops that will display the family of loops - very good when the loop you have is close but not quite right, and you can thus easily chose a better one without having to wade through the loops menu (which has also been expanded - goody! New noises!)

New features also described for the app (which I haven't used yet, but I can see they'd be a good thing) include multi-take recording, support for 24-bit recording and notation, and a greater range of effects you can apply to your tracks and instruments (which I've tinkered with, acknowledged there are more than there used t be, and made a mental promise to investigate further, one of these days, when I have time...)

Overall: it's still intuitively easy to use, and it's still a good app, better than it was, but could do with yet more tweaking in some areas.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What one should wear at a fashionable Japanese dinner...

A straw poll was conducted by the Daily Telegraph this week (with no mention of the total number of respondents!) to ascertain public understanding of the Kyoto Protocol.  Respondents were asked to select a description of Kyoto from a set of multiple options: a) A Korean car, b) The treaty that ended WWII, c) An agreement on carbon emissions and d) A Japanese banquet dish.  

Almost half of the people surveyed answered correctly, identifying Kyoto as an agreement on carbon emissions, but close to half of those who answered correctly admitted guessing the response.  38 percent thought the Kyoto Protocol was the treaty that ended World War 2, and 14 percent thought it was a Japanese banquet dish...

This is very much a current topic, and makes me wonder - is it really our school system that is letting us down, history-wise, or is it simply that the average, man-in-the-street Australian chooses to be massively uninformed?  This is a topic which all Australians should have heard of (it's been very much on the news for at least the past few months) whether it is mentioned in school or not, which would indicate that the craptacular poll results stem less from a namby-pamby syllabus and more from a high percentage of the respondents being apathetic, lazy, disinterested and possibly just plain stupid.

But they'll be allowed to vote at the upcoming election, where they can exercise their opinions as to the shortfalls of the education system and our position on global matters of environment...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

OOOO three posts in one day LOL

Gotta see today's Joy of Tech
You can turn Steve Ballmer into Johnny Depp (sort of...)


And I don't know why the colour and layout are screwy...

... I think I may go back to using Camino...

Second World Country

One thing that I was expecting from Leopard (and I'm not sure why, as the advertising for Leopard doesn't mention it) was a crisper, faster, better iChat.  There really hasn't been much of an improvement in this area, and it's not really Leopard's fault.  Dad and I tried the whole presentation and screen sharing thing last night, and the app quit on us.  Not enough bandwidth.  Ferchrissakes, we're both on broadband!!!  But yes, folks, it's good ol' Telstra-governed, Australian broadband.

Mr Justin Vellejo, of the Daily Telegraph, wrote an article on October 20, 2007, in which he claims broadband in Australia is a "Third World Joke".

AUSTRALIANS are paying nine times more for broadband that trundles along 35 times slower than the world's fastest networks.  A report from the US has revealed Australia has become the Third World of broadband developed nations, ranking 26th out of 30 countries for its transfer speeds.  Sydney households pay an average $2.65 per month for one megabyte of service at a speed of 1.7 megabytes a second, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation's broadband rankings.  By comparison, users in Japan have the world's fastest broadband and pay a paltry 29c a month for one megabyte at a blistering 61 megabytes a second.  On a scale of speed, Australia is even ranked behind the Slovak Republic, which separated from the former Soviet country Czechoslovakia in 1993.

The problem with Leopard is that it was written in America.  For computers with American-speed broadband. or Japanese-speed broadband.  Or Korean-speed.  You get the idea.  I doubt we in Australia will be able to use some of Leopard's features unless it's at an ungodly hour of the morning when no one else is using broadband.

We're having an election here soon, and I'm gonna vote for whichever party is willing to drag us, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, broadband-wise.  And at least make us a Second World country.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Installed it last night and have been playing with it since....  I've read quite a few comments about it in other blogs, both good and bad; so far, I like it.  I've had a couple of hiccups with some apps, but they were easily fixed by either downloading up-to-date versions (oops... like Adium - updated from 0.89.1 to 1.1.3) or by typing in "Leopard 10.5" and the name of the app in a Google search and most of the time finding the answer to the problem and fixing it that way.

Front Row finally works with iPhoto (it never did under Tiger) but I can't work out how to turn off, let alone change, the muzak that accompanies the slide show, and just for once neither the net nor the help menu has been much help...  Not that I use Front Row much anyway, just to watch DVDs from my bed; so in the end it's a minor annoyance and not a major peeve.
I went through the list of 300 changes (on the apple site) and tried them out on my own set-up, and learnt a lot on the way:
1. In iChat, when you change the background to a video (for example, so it looks like you have an aquarium behind you, you really need to be sure that you're wearing different coloured clothing to what the back ground originally was (photo shows a dark background and a dark singlet...) or it gets a bit confused... and you end up with fish or whatever where nature never intended (you have to imagine that the fish in the background are actually a movie and they swim around behind you as you talk).

2. Stacks opening up from the Dock will only fan if the Dock is positioned at the bottom of the screen... But the Download Stack is a blessing, in that it gets my downloads folder off my desktop and still keeps it in a very accessible place (refreshing desktop icons uses a fair bit of processor power, and although that's probably less true nowadays than it used to be, why push it?)

3. Safari is a whole lot better, and I've changed back to it from Camino... for the moment...

4. Quick look ROCKS!!!  I can see the contents of a Word document without launching Word.  I can scroll through a movie or a song and see if it's the one I was looking for without launching whichever app I need to open it.  All good.

5. There don't seem to have been any improvements to Speech Recognition and Speakable items, but as my computing life doesn't depend on them it's no biggy - I guess one day someone in Cupertino will notice that what was revolutionary in 1993 (Plain Talk) is a bit passe now and it's one area of the Mac that could use some serious updating.

Well, that's my initial impression, 24 hours after installing...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We've always been at war with Eastasia...

Imre Salusinszky and staff writers from The Australian say "SCHOOLS have been complacent about the teaching of Australian history, Prime Minister John Howard said today as he launched a compulsory national curriculum.

Under the new plan, students in years nine and 10 will be made to attend 150 hours of Australian history lessons, and the compulsory teaching of Australian history will be a condition of the next commonwealth schools funding agreement with the states and territories, which begins on January 1, 2009."

Quite so. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps, though, before attempting to teach history, we should attempt to 'up' the literacy and numeracy levels in schools so that the majority of students can not only be told about our history but can also read and write about it as well? So that they can, for example, work out the number of years between 1901 and 2007? Heaven forbid that they also be taught to think critically so that they can draw their own conclusions from what they read... Yes, curriculum and standards are an issue.

History is written by the winners. That may have been true even up to 20 years ago - nowadays, history is written by the whingers. I'm interested is seeing exactly what and whose version of events will be passed off as history this time (given that the whole post-modernist pendulum has pretty much reached the end of its swing). Facts versus Opinion versus Political Correctness is also an issue.

But the issue that's making me twitch a little is the whole "you will teach what we recommend as 'History', or we'll cut your funding" suggestion. As George Orwell said, in '1984': "We've always been at war with Eastasia." (For those of you who are unfamiliar with this classic novel - read it. Or at least read the Wikipedia entry for a very basic overview.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jumping Beef

An article from AAP suggests that "Eating kangaroo meat instead of beef will help lower Australia's greenhouse emissions by reducing the numbers of methane-belching cows, according to a study by the University of New South Wales, which suggests a 20 per cent cut in beef production from 1990 levels, the equivalent of 15 million tonnes of methane."

"Beef production is chosen in this measure because it is responsible for the biggest share of livestock-related methane emissions," says the report, Paths to a Low Carbon Future."

Kangaroo meat is healthier than beef, containing less fat and more protein, but is sold as a gourmet food ('game' meat), with the appropriate price tag. It seems that 'jumping beef' is still (after all these years!) a bit of a novelty item in Australia!

Kangaroo farming is much more environmentally friendly than present sheep or cattle farming as roos require less feed, are well-adapted to drought, do not destroy the root systems of native grasses in the way that sheep do, and have much less impact on Australia's fragile topsoils (and let's not forget about that methane!)

Of course the status quo suits the beef and mutton barons very well - under the current culling quotas (not even considering farming), about 2% of Australia's meat production would be roo, if all the animals shot were actually used for meat (most of them are just shot for their skins which are exported to the States and Italy for shoe leather and the remains used as dog food in situ or left to rot). The small amount of meat that makes it to the shops is thus comparatively rare and therefore overpriced.

With the Big Drought we're having, I've sometimes wondered why the sheep and cattle farmers who are forced to chuck it all in and walk away from the farm because most of the stock has died or is so thin it's unsaleable, don't turn to roo farming? It's got a lot to do with legislation, and a bit to do with carefully fostered public perception of roo meat. The stock barons (squattocracy) can bring a fair bit of weight to bear on the legislation; and somebody has been circulating nasty rumours (for a generation or so) about how roo meat is a risk for toxoplasmosis and salmonellosis, and how it's full of nematodes. Roo meat can become infected with Salmonella, but it is not more prone than other meats, as long as the usual hygiene standards and practices are followed; and if any red meat is contaminated with cat faeces, it can transmit toxoplasmosis. About 5% of wild kangaroos carry a nematode, Pelicitus roemeri, in their lower legs, which is quite harmless to humans, but is unsightly...

When I was a kid, and money was a bit tight, we ate a fair bit of rabbit (another threat to the cattle and sheep barons, and funnily enough nowadays another gourmet meat at nearly twice the price of beef per kilo); roo wasn't legal to sell for human consumption in most states until 1993. Still, we got a taste of it occasionally, if someone had a friend who had a friend who'd been out shooting... it was pretty damned good (especially kangaroo tail soup!) I rather like eating meat a few times a week; I'd have no objection to eating kangaroo instead of beef or lamb, except that at its current price, my budget doesn't allow it. Paths To A Low Carbon Future is all very nice and fine, but until they bring the price down (or until beef becomes as expensive as roo, which will probably be in the very near future) I'll just have to stay being environmentally unfriendly and eating farty cow meat.

And before any of my foreign friends point out the obvious - yes, I'd like to go out and hunt it myself, but you need to have a licence to shoot roos, and the gun laws here are tighter than a nun's nasty... and I'm a pathetic shot with a bow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Dancing Lady

I first saw this a few years ago, and now it seems it's really been making a come-back: I've had it in an email, seen it on YouTube, and now even is getting into it! (if the gif's not moving, you can see it here, and for some reason clicking on it opens it in a new window and it moves there, too... I dunno ).

The deal is that you look at the gif of the spinning lady and the way you see her turning indicates whether you are using your left brain or your right brain (no, I don't know how scientific this actually is, but it's fun...)

If you see her turning clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa. Most of us evidently see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction.

I find that if I glance at text then look back at the picture, she'll be spinning anticlockwise (i.e. I'm using the left brain), then to get her to spin the other way, I glance at the photo on my desktop, and off she goes clockwise, exercising my right brain! Thinking of a maths problem versus thinking of drawing shapes has a similar effect. Kind of fun!!

According to the blurb that usually accompanies the picture, LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS are: uses logic, detail oriented, facts rule, words and language, present and past, maths and science, can comprehend, knowing, acknowledges, order/pattern perception, knows object name, reality based, forms strategies, practical, safe; and RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS are: uses feeling, "big picture" oriented, imagination rules, symbols and images, present and future, philosophy & religion, can "get it" (i.e. meaning), believes, appreciates, spatial perception, knows object function, fantasy based, presents possibilities, impetuous, risk taking.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Kitchen Renovations

I usually have a couple of projects going at any one time; that way, when I get the shits with one I can move onto another and come back to the first later with a refreshed attitude ("It can't be nearly as bad as the one I've just done..."). One of these projects has been renovating the kitchen, the majority of which I did earlier in the year (see blog) and which, with a change of flooring, I have finally finished (yay!).

Originally, I discovered, the floor had been partly polished wood (in the dining section) and probably lino (in the kitchen), which had been glued straight onto the original, unsanded floorboards. At a later date, someone had covered the entire lot in masonite sheets (3 x 4 feet each, held down by nails every couple of inches around the edges and a couple in the centre of each sheet for good measure) and a most interesting pink/beige lino - not the old linoleum lino, but that plastic sheet stuff that wears easily and rips when you move a fridge across it incautiously (oops... d'oh!). Did I mention it was pink? Eeeeuw...

On one of my weekly trips to the recycling centre at the local dump, I noticed that someone had donated a truckload of Italian tiles in various sizes and colours, and so I dug around and eventually got together a sufficient number to do the kitchen floor (the dining area now just has a wooden floor like the rest of the house). $10 a box, 17 tiles in a box (they're quite large, at 31 x 15 cm), tile cement left over from the bathroom renovations last January, and a couple of tubes of pale fawn silicon - I think I got out of it for just under $100, if you include the flapper disk for the angle grinder that was necessary to remove some of the more obvious unevenness on the wooden floor (which, you must remember, had never been sanded back with the rest of the floors in the house). Smug mode kicked in when I found the same tiles at the local hardware shop for $7 each - I'd paid about 60 cents... love my recycling centre!

Stripping off the old floor took a couple of nights, a pinchbar, clawhammer, much bad language (but no broken fingernails!); the actual laying of the tiles took a couple of hours (and 24 hours for the tile cement to dry), and then I siliconed the gaps between them and have ended up with a tiled floor that has only a few silicon cat paw prints on it ( which will scrub off) and is NOT PINK!!

Looking back, it really was pretty easy - I can't imagine why I didn't do it earlier! Now, there's the entrance room to be tiled, the back stairs to be sanded back and oiled, and my bedroom ceiling to be done; and I need to clean out the shed, do a bit of gardening... Stuff it - I'll have another cup of coffee first and surf the 'net for a while. THEN I'll get into it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Depending on your genre, this acronym may mean Rocket Propelled Grenades or, in this case, Role Playing Games. Many, many moons ago when I was but a wee 8-bit sprite (so, back in the late 70s...), my friends at school would occasionally indulge in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, which was pretty new back then. Of course, these were played at a table - computer games were sort of limited to 8-colour PacMan (in a pub) and primitive versions of snake and Pong (on our Microbee Z-80, where they had to be loaded into the machine's memory from a casette tape :-) - and our family was unusual because we had a computer at home...) Mum used to game with the folks at work - their choice was a game called 'Diplomacy', and while not strictly speaking an RPG in the modern sense, it involved 'being' the country (and they occasionally dressed up to look the part - her costume one time as 'Turkey' was incredible!) I never really got into RPGs myself, but associating with gamers from an early age gave me a kind of understanding of them if not actual appreciation.

So I felt considerable glee when I came across that Oldie-But-Goodie on YouTube recently, Summoner Geeks. I first saw this clip after a mate had played through the Summoner game on the playstation - "Get a load of this!" It was screamingly funny back then, because although neither of us played RPGs, most of our friends did - and it wasn't that far off real life, we both knew people like that...

Now, 30-odd years later, the RPG thingy has come home to roost again as the Eldest Daughter is heavily involved in (table top!) D&D and has managed to snare the interest of the Youngest Daughter. The Middle Daughter is much more interested in FPS (First Person Shooter) games, in which RPG takes on a totally different meaning... And then we have the Guild Wars and WoW addictions... Yes, I have three TTBs (that's Tech-Talking Babes for the uninitiated).

My kids are all geeks: computer-literate, pale-skinned beings with incredible hand-eye coordination, who can carry amazingly complicated maps and storylines in their heads, and talk about characters in the games they're playing like they're old friends; the real friends they've made through the games that they play, whether face-to-face or online, are almost like war buddies - I mean, they've been on campaigns together, faced incredible odds, and lived through it. And they've probably learned more about human communication, relationships and negotiations through these interactions that they would have learnt in the real world in 10 years, because the games are intensified vignettes of life.

My kids are geeks... and so am I, and so were my parents before me... Ain't it grand!

(And while I can still outrun them, I have to put a link to this!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Free Speech in Amerika

SO this young fella at a Q&A session with American Democrat John Kerry asks a smart-arse question and promptly get hauled off by 4 cops who just happen to be standing behind him at the time. The video's currently playing on YouTube here .

Couple of questions raised: Did the young fella have a line-up of boys in blue behind him because he was a known trouble-maker and they expected some REAL trouble (let's face it, that whole 'secret society' shit was a question designed to embarrass rather than elicit any useful information, but it didn't really require a police escort from the premises, or tazering...)

And what ever happened to the much-vaunted American 'Free Speech'? The guy asked a question no stupider or more irritating than a lot of TV show commentators, and they don't get dragged off and zapped. Probably coz they're in public view. And this guy wasn't meant to be.

And even though he was screaming and crying for help (let alone an explanation as to why he was being arrested), no-one in the audience (let alone on the stage) raised a finger to help him. Any politician worth his salt should have leapt off the stage into Shining Armour onto his White Charger, and rescued the poor, mouthy fellow - what a media coup! But Mr Kerry ignored the plight of a 'Fellow American', and do did the rest of his audience. Maybe that sort of behaviour wouldn't have been such a media coup after all, because the concepts of free speech and helping one's fellow man seem totally alien to these people.

Next time I see an American politician posturing about Free Speech, and his Fellow Americans, I am going to snigger. Partly for them, but mostly for me - I was labouring under the misapprehension that Total Loss of Credibility was a finite state, but I was wrong - they just lost even more.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Yeah, yeah, it's been a week...

... and I've had the 'flu, been renovating my dining room floor, and coping with the last couple of weeks of school for the term (so, fairly busy).

The renovating has been a bit of a learning curve - notes to self: removal of ringed nails from the very edge of a hardwood floor should be undertaken not only with pliers and a screwdriver, but also armoured gauntlets and copious amounts of alcohol (afterwards!); that pissy little bag on the end of the orbital sander that has to be emptied when it has reached one-third full is really there for decoration - most of the dust never makes it that far and I think I got an entire teaspoon-full after sanding the whole floor (the rest of the dust settled artistically in the afternoon sun on the glassware, coffee mugs, and food preparation areas necessitating a scrub-down of the entire kitchen.

Next week I'm doing the kitchen floor and hiring a floor sander (the machine, not the fella), which has a really BIG dust bag attached. I think I'll move the contents of the kitchen to the other end of the house and invest in breathing apparatus.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Blond Moment

AAP , September 04, 2007: AUSTRALIA should aim for a population of 50 million through "significant migration", says Queensland Premier Peter Beattie.

Addressing a business luncheon at the Brisbane Club today, Mr Beattie said the current ageing population of 21 million was too small to meet future needs.

"In terms of the general issue of migration - I know there are pressures on, and all that stuff, in terms of the environment - I think 21 million Australians is not enough,'' he said.

Well, we have the land to put them on... but what are they going to drink? Our current infrastructure is having serious difficulty in supplying enough water to the people who are currently living here - half the proposed number.

Having a Blond Moment, Peter, Honey? Ya great twit!

Friday, August 31, 2007


Edith Bevin, of The Daily Telegraph, wrote today that "Ninja stab toy 'should be banned'". She says that homicide victims' support groups have called for the toys (Naruto action figures based on a Japanese ninja cartoon series), which act out stabbing and slashing and come equipped with an arsenal of weapons, to be taken off the shelves.

Homicide Survivors Association founder Peter Rolfe said the toys taught children a very dangerous lesson. "I think there's a link between playing with these toys and violent behaviour later. It doesn't happen to everyone but it can have an effect on people with problems . . . If they play with toy weapons does it make them more comfortable with real weapons later? At some stage there's an imprint left on them."

Mattel marketing director Julie Kearns said the toy met Australian safety standards. She said it was up to parents whether they wanted their children to own a doll based on the ninja ethos of weapons and defence. "We have found within the toy industry that often concerns about safety aspects or image aspects of a toy are based on what the adults believe not necessarily what the child understands and believes," she said.

NSW Fair Trading Minister Linda Burney said her office was powerless to intervene. "While Fair Trading regulates product safety in NSW, it has no power to regulate products that might be in bad taste but do not pose a physical danger," she said. "The best way to let businesses know their products are not acceptable is not to buy them."

Platinum ponders: if you look back in history, you have to wonder where humanity got its violent nature nature before there were plastic toys to 'imprint' on? However if Mr Rolfe is correct, we should also ban toy weapons, toy cars (you've seen a three-year-old 'drive' ... imagine the imprint THAT leaves!) and baby dolls that allow the 'mum' to play with it sometimes and then ignore it for days on end with no consequences. And tea-sets. They may cause some to grow up to become caffeine addicts or socialites. And books and pencils - they may persuade some (people with problems?) that, just because they can read and write to a basic level, their analysis of the human condition and its causes are not only newsworthy but should be taken seriously and used in legislation. They might think they understand psychology ... or take up journalism...

I like Linda Burney's idea - if you don't like it, don't buy it. Rather than bitching about something and expecting Big Brother to legislate to protect yo' ass, exercise a) your right as a parent, and b) some decision-making processes; and tell the child "no". Tell the child why "no". Let the child come up with persuasive arguments as to why maybe "yes". This is called negotiation and is a valuable skill that parents should teach their children. Whining and threatening is not negotiation and won't get you even a red jelly bean; debate, critical thinking and reasoning may make the person with the purse loosen the strings a little. Of course, these things don't come naturally to a child and they have to learn it from somewhere, and that takes time, effort and patience.

Those chunks of the population that seem to want to legislate against anything that might require parental effort from them also seem to indulge in a lot of parroting of half-baked, pseudo-scientific arguments rather than debate, critical thinking and reasoning - I bet they don't even know what they are (and I bet their parents didn't, either). And I'm not going to listen to a word they say until they stop whining and start behaving like civilised little beings....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blood Moon

Our intrepid band set forth about half past four this afternoon on the Great Eclipse Excursion; the Clan had arranged to meet up at Shorncliffe to view this Astronomical Anomaly, and it involved some fairly complicated (for us) logistics; two cars, picking up folks here and there, later meeting up with a couple more on a bike... In the end, as go the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men, one car and the couple on the bike couldn't make it, and one of the others had the 'flu so only four of the original ten ended up going.

...and there was I, with 2 dozen hard-boiled eggs... about a kilo of home-made ANZAC bikkies, and enough coffee makin's to float an armada heh heh...

The Excursion, however, was a limited success - we saw the moon go through phases in two hours that usually take two weeks; when the clouds condescended to part a little it was a lovely dark orange hue, more copper than blood; and we had a fairly pleasant evening playing cards and admiring the moon in its various stages of eclipse while we gorged ourselves on eggs and bikkies (we somehow strayed from the original, alliterative, plan of fish'n'chips by the foreshore) and then decide by 8.30 that it was all over bar the shouting and it was getting just a little too damp and cold and that going home was seeming quite a good idea (especially in a warm, dry car).

I attempted to take some photos with my phone camera (2 megpixel) but it was really not up to the task and the pictures look like fuzzy squashed onions on a black background (during the first part of the eclipse, while the moon was looking like a large white cookie with a bite out) or fuzzy hereford cows (when it was mainly orange with a bit of white still at the top). So I got Art Photos, and I'm not going to post them because, like all True Art, I'm the only one that will understand them....

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Crafty update

Just chucked some more stuff on the other blog, here

Monday, August 20, 2007


It hasn't rained here for 6-7 weeks and we're in the middle of a pretty bad drought - water restrictions, government subsidies for tanks and water-saving devices, stuff like that. Yesterday we actually started to get some serious rain (after a bit of drizzling on Saturday), and now all my tanks and water containers are overflowing. The whole place is looking greener even after only one day of good rain (probably because the patina of dust that has been coating everything for the last month and a half has been washed off) and the rain continued, albeit in a pretty half-arsed fashion, for most of today. The predictions are for drizzle tomorrow and fairly heavy rain on Wednesday and Thursday, and we're all hoping that some of it hits the dams that the city gets its water from, which are currently at about 16.74% of their capacity - hence the water restrictions. The wet weather has warmed the place up a bit, from getting lows of near 5ºC (it's 'winter' here) to lows of around 15ºC.

You'd think people would be delighted.

You'd think that washed out family picnics, washing taking longer to dry (hung undercover), and hairdos being mussed would be put in perspective, shrugged off, and the much longed-for rain appreciated, even celebrated. At least seen as a Good Thing.

You'd be wrong. We're a fickle bunch, humanity. Now that we've got the rain we've all been hoping and praying for, we're bitching about it! How it's cramping our lifestyle, how unpleasant it is to be wet, how the bloody kids are tramping the wet all through the carpets...

Reschedule your sodding lifestyle, bring an umbrella or a towel if you're such a freakin' aspirin that you dissolve under a few raindrops, and the carpets will dry out next time we have a drought (so, next week, probably).

Honestly, I'm going to be SO f*&$%king rude to the next person who whinges about the rain...

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Tried to log in to Skype today, without success; I could get on the Net okay, but for some reason Skype just refused to let me online (it was working fine a couple of days ago...). So, I hopped onto the website to see if there was a maintenance problem - there wasn't; so I decided to email their support people and see if they could help. I filled out all my details but couldn't type in the "Problem Description" box (see pic below) as it's just a graphic, not a text-input area.... Great programming, guys! And the worst of it is, the "Problem Description" box is a required field and the email won't send if there's nothing in it...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


So, as I mentioned, I was playing a lot of Midnight Mansions last week... It took me a couple of days to get through the 8 mansions on the Easy setting, then I had a bit of a play on Normal (much harder - more bad guys, traps and extra rooms) and then for the hell of it tried the Hard setting - owie! The game came with a Level Builder - an application that allows you to make your own mansion, basically, using the scenery, bricks and monsters from the real game. And so it begun...

I spent the most of the long weekend in my tracksuit, building levels, emerging only for coffee and snacks. Not nearly enough sleep! Granted, there was a bit of a learning curve to start off with - I'm not used to working in layers (so graphics sit 'on top' of each other) and there were a few shortcuts I discovered along the way (next time RTFM before I start?), but I'm still going, 98 rooms later...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Renew, Re-use, Recycle...

They're the buzz-words nowadays - we're killing the planet, we're a throw-away society, too much rubbish, too much waste, too much packaging. We have to look at new and better ways to live our lives, to save our planet. We need to jump on the ecological bandwagon and live outside our Comfort Zone and try new things, even if they may be a little strange at first - this is the way of the Future, if we are to have one. We have to act now to correct the mistakes made by past generations, either out of ignorance or selfishness, that has put our planet on a path to destruction

35 years ago, when I was a kid, we evidently lived in an eco-friendly Dark Age. We didn't understand back then about Renew, Re-use, Recycle. We burnt coal by the ton, drove gas-guzzling cars (well someone did - we had a Datsun 1000), lived selfishly for the moment and gave no though for the next generation which is now reaping the rewards of our hedonistic, wasteful and unthinking lifestyle.

In the 60s and 70s, we hadn't quite hit the Age of Plastic (there was a fair bit of it around, but it was considered to be less good than 'real' things made out of wood, metal, pottery/china, glass etc. - it was tacky to decorate your home in it and plastic toys never lasted as well as the 'real' ones); plastic shopping bags didn't exist - we had large brown paper (okay, lightweight cardboard) bags that, if they survived their original purpose of carrying the groceries home, could be reused as bags, wrapping paper, large surfaces to draw on - endless possibilities. I don't think there was paper recycling as such then, but ours tended to eventually get recycled into the garden by way of the incinerator. Big things came home in cardboard boxes that had originally been used to transport stock to the shop (yes, some enlightened establishments have started doing this again - what a good idea!). Most people has string shopping bags or shopping carts which sort of looked like a suitcase on wheels with a handle up top. And they lasted for years.

Soft drinks came in glass bottles. Big glass bottles that held a bit over a litre, little glass bottles that held about 300ml. All glass, all sought after by kids who would return them to shops and collect the bounty on them (only a couple of cents per bottle, but a couple of dozen bottles would 'buy' you a sizeable supply of sweets).

You bought meat at a butcher's (wrapped in newspaper or ... butcher's paper!), fish at the fish market, fruit and veg at the greengrocer's. It was local, not trucked in from interstate or flown in from overseas, and you ate what was seasonal and enjoyed the variety over the year. Other food like rice and flour came in cloth bags - about as successful, weevil-wise, as our current plastic packaging (the weevils are already in it when the bag is packed) - and definitely more re-useable. Canned goods were a source of, well, food and containers - cans were re-used to store workshop junk, bits and pieces in the house, and almost every home boasted a pre-school crafted, artistically decorated pencil holder that had started life as a can of beans or peaches. Packaging was minimal and what there was tended to be re-useable - not out of a sense of environmental salvation, but simply because that is how it was.

We kept string, rubber bands, wrapping paper, small paper bags, anything that might be re-used again - in case it came in handy (which it frequently did). Clothes were patched, mended, passed down to smaller siblings, and ended up in the rag-bag for cleaning and polishing. Our parents had been through the Great Depression and understood that renewing (or making it yourself) was better than buying another one and throwing the old one away because that was thrifty behaviour and meant they probably would be able to buy their own home. Of course, it helped that things were built, with pride, to last - inbuilt redundancy might mean initially a cheaper price tag but it also means having to throw the broken one(s) out and spend more money on another - more expense and more garbage. Cheaply-made items that didn't last were "brummy" and you wouldn't touch one with a stick if you could afford something better. How is it a 'bargain' when you'll have to shell out more money next year for another one because this one's stuffed? The local landfill is full of 'bargains'...

So, yeah, let's have a go at this new-fangled idea of Renew, Re-use, Recycle; after all, all the world's environmental problems were caused by that selfish generation just before us; poor, ignorant sods - they didn't know s**t...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My New Toy

I stumbled across a 'new' Mac game, played the free levels, and as I was feeling sorry for myself, I bought it... It's now referred to as The Bloody Game, and is taking up way too much of my time and giving me way too much fun! It's called Midnight Mansion, by ActionSoft (to be found here) and is very reminiscent of Montezuma's revenge, that wonderful old game from the days of the Apple II and the Commodore 128D which also used to amuse me for hours on end, despite being in 16 colours and having pixels sizes you could poke a stick at. The only problem is, I'm not used to playing games using the keyboard to control things, and so I'm dying lots... but I'm getting better! :-)

Another blast from the past is the Zip Disk Saga - I found a stack (okay, 17) of old zip disks hidden away on the back of a shelf, and Dad's obligingly mailed me the old drive so I can check out what's on them - but the Intel iMac won't run it! It will, however, run on the laptop which uses OS 9... Dammit, the disks are only 5 or so years old! Gotta love the speed at which technology moves! (Actually, I do - I think of things like the TV-phone on 2001- A Space Odyssey which we now have as iChat, Skype, etc. and take for granted. It was all sci-fi a few years ago!).

g2g chek out da disks :-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


So it seems there's this virus going around town at the moment... and working in a school, I picked it up and it knocked me flat for a few days and even the computer was a little too much effort... The details are as nasty as the photo, but may I just say: cover your goddammed mouth when you cough (and share an office with me), I don't want to Share! Incidentally, the same person was responsible for probably the grossest thing that's ever happened to me - and that's saying something! - when I found a teaspoon-sized chunk of white, glistening goop stuck to my notice board and, having exclaimed loudly about it, I discovered that my co-worker had been using my computer (because hers was attached to a printer in another room and she didn't wasn't to walk that far) and had been grazing on a chicken sandwich when she suffered a coughing fit... "I thought I got all of it off, " she said. Dear gods! woman, there was an entire mouthful on the notice board! How much more did she have her mouth, that that chunk was relegated to small and unnoticeable?!

Okay, I'm still surly coz of the 'flu...

Queensland: Beautiful one day, plague-ridden the next...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Check out the new link

Okay, now I'm just showing off... What the hell, it's my blog!

Oh yeah, the link is on the right... Platinum's Crafts...

Modesty?! What modesty?!

Caffeine and Cancer

"DRINKING a double espresso a day and taking regular exercise may help prevent skin cancer.
A study on mice at Rutgers University in New Jersey showed that a combination of exercise and some caffeine -- equivalent to one or two cups of coffee a day -- protected against the effects of the sun's ultraviolet-B radiation, which can lead to cancer.
Compared with the UVB-exposed control animals, the caffeine drinkers showed an increase of about 95 per cent in UVB-induced apoptosis, the exercisers showed a 120 per cent increase, and the mice that were both drinking and exercising showed an increase of nearly 400 per cent.
Dr Conney said the cumulative difference seen in the caffeine-drinking runners "can likely be attributed to some kind of synergy between the two factors".
Previous research has found that coffee may reduce the risk of developing gallstones, kidney stones and colorectal cancer."
(The Australian, August 1, 2007)

Pesonally, I'll take my chances with a long-sleeved shirt and sunscreen - bugger this whole exercise thing! The gallons of coffee, on the other hand, seem to have some additional benefits... between that and the red wine, I should live forever :-) Wonder what's going to be bad for us/good for us next month?!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Civil Liberties versus Living

I got called out on a search tonight for a poor old chap with alzheimers who'd gone missing. We get quite a few of these - old folks (and some young ones) who are not quite 'with it' get out from under the watchful eye of their family or carers and go for a wander. Fortunately this old guy was found alive and well, 8 hours after he'd gone missing; others have not been so lucky. Winter here is hardly severe - the temperature can drop to freezing in winter but usually stops a few degrees short of it - but for an inappropriately dressed (i.e. indoor wear) elderly person a few hours out in it at night can mean suffering from exposure; a lot of these people have medication they have to take once a day and the consequences can be dire if they miss it; and pretty much all of them are suffering from dementia or alzheimers or the like and are easily confused and lost. We often have a 12-hour time frame to find them before they start to deteriorate from the above (let alone just crossing the road!); after that we start to expect to find a body.

With this in mind, I often wonder why we don't use some sort of GPS-traceable tagging system, to be activated only when they go missing. This would increase our chances of finding a live and healthy person considerably. Detractors throw around the phrases "Brave New World" and "Big Brother", but if you consider parents can already issue their offspring with traceable mobile phones (so they know where they are at all times!), isn't this a more worthy, life-saving use of technology? Yes, the elderly and infirm have rights and pride - but if they were sane enough to make the choice, I think they'd choose being found alive, quickly.

We did a search a while back for an elderly person with dementia. The search ran for days and we found nothing. Three weeks later they found the body entangled in a fence, mostly submerged in a creek. Squishy. Not a lot of rights and pride left there anymore...

Monday, July 30, 2007

The tattoo...

Yes, it's real. No, it didn't hurt. No, I'm not from New Zealand. It doesn't have any particular religious or spiritual significance, but it DOES keep me honest (!). And it detracts from the wrinkles...

Yes, I do like the 'thermal' setting for photos - it's pretty :-)

Pedestrians in Armour of God

"SPEED limits in some Brisbane CBD streets could be lowered to 40km/h after a spate of pedestrian accidents.

Brisbane City Council's civic cabinet as early as today will discuss changing speed limits after a report found more than 300 pedestrians were hit by cars between 2001 and June last year."

And I'm willing to bet that a fair percentage of those 300 pedestrians had the same attitude as a lot of the pedestrians out here in suburbia - they can walk where they like because nobody will deliberately run into them, and because if they are hit there's likely to be a juicy big lawsuit involved. It's the drivers' responsibility to look out for them, on roads, in carparks; or the driver could be financially ruined by a combination of greedy pedestrian and greedier legal system. Make the buggers go back to school and learn the "look right, look left, look right again - and cross only when it's safe" mantra that we had to. If you think that you can blithely walk out in front of my car and I will stop for you because I am full of the milk of human kindness, or scared you'll sue me penniless - you're wrong. I stop because you'd make a fugly hood ornament...

...O gods I'm feeling old...

My youngest (twins) had their 18th birthday this last weekend, a raucous affair complete with cake, a bowl of increasingly alcoholic punch (the legal drinking age here is 18) and many, many glowsticks. For the price of a barely drinkable bottle of wine, we procured a couple of dozen glowsticks about the size of a pencil and they provided hours of entertainment: personal decoration (as per the picture), sport (4 of them in a balloon tossd back and forth in the dark) and finally battle, in the back yard, at night, tossing them back and forth... Okay, maybe I don't feel THAT old!