Saturday, 31 January 2009

Are you a Reader or Follower?

Sometime ago, I started out using Google Reader to keep track of my favourite blogs, let me know when they have changed to save spending time visiting static ones.  You know the sort of thing.

Then Following came on the scene.

And now I have a mix of the two - there is a certain social pressure to follow people and 'be their friend'.  But not everyone has a Follower link.  Not everyone has RSS for that matter.

So, what do you do?  And why?


Am off on a "Foodies Tour of Melbourne" in a minute (Xmas present).  Will do a report and a garden update later on.

After three days of 43°C today will be a mere 37°C.  No rain of any worth this year yet.  (0.8 mm is not of any worth.)

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Midday, 38.7°C and climbing.

Lady Jicky asked how I was surviving the heat. So far so good. Above is the vegetable garden with a partially useful umbrella in the middle. Two zucchini plants have conceded defeat but everything else is holding up.

The weather bureau, often a non-prophet outfit, are usually pretty good at predicting temperatures. Rain is more problematic as the clouds seem to just pass by. The forecast for today is 41, tomorrow 43, then 40, 40, with a 'cool change' bringing 30 on Sunday. Woohoo!

This morning was our watering day; so we were up at 6:30 giving the garden a drink. The next one is Sunday morning. The garden will have to survive on shower, laundry and sink water until then.

Looks cool, no? Well, no. The photo of the backyard was taken about 9am and the shadows are deceptive. But the shade sail is partially effective. Psychologically good too. The grass gets no water at all and still has a bit of green to it. There's another post in that story.

Realised yesterday, a mere 38°C, that the house stays pretty cool during the day (We have evaporative cooling but only run it at night, for sleeping.) but the sun comes in strongly through the back windows late afternoon. The jacaranda tree has pretty meagre leaf cover at present, plus the late sun comes in under the branches. Last night I put up a shade cloth; not particularly elegant but we will see what difference it makes this afternoon.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009



The weather bureau has declared that we are about to have a five day period of temperatures in excess of 40°C days (104°F). It will be, they said, the longest heat wave in over 100 years.

This is coming on top of a very dry January. Rainfall so far 0.8 mm (Average = 48mm).


If I don't blog it will be because I have melted and run under the house.

Good thing this climate change stuff is all a myth, isn't it!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Australia Day

"Spirit of the Drought" - Arthur Streeton

A holiday here in Australia, Australia Day.
Some things we have bequeathed to the world:

The secret ballot
The Australian crawl
Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry
Tall poppies
Sausage sizzle
The wiggles
Steve Irwin, Paul Hogan & Elle McPherson.
Penicillin via Florey
Combine harvester
Box kite
Black box flight recorder
Rack and pinion steering
Lithium for bipolar
Bionic ear
Kerosene fridge
Dual flush toilet
Hills hoist
The electric drill
2-stoke lawnmower
Garage roller door
Plastic bank notes
Wine cask
Heart pacemaker
Spray on skin
Winged keel

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Undermining their Environment Policy?

Subsiding the construction? I suspect not.

From the ABC website.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Could backfire...

An Adelaide woman who survived for nine days in New Zealand bushland, eating just Weetbix and muesli bars, wants to remain anonymous.

The woman, aged in her 20s, was trying to cross a track on rugged land owned by Canadian singer Shania Twain near Wanaka in the south island.

She got tired and scared, so she sat in a hut for nine days until another bushwalker arrived to raise the alarm.

Phillip Melchior from New Zealand's volunteer search and rescue organisation LandSAR says the woman does not want to speak publicly about her ordeal.

Mr Melchior does not know if people from Weetbix have been in touch with the woman, but says he would not be surprised if she was offered a contract.

- ABC.

This could backfire terribly on the company; imagine the headlines:

Woman survives for nine days despite having only Weet-Bix to eat!


BTW if you are feeling up to it, try to eat a dry Weet-Bix in under a minute. No cheating: no water.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Not a case of Black or White.


Much is made of Obama's race and, while not wanting to in anyway dim the pride of African Americans, Kenyans, Indonesians or other, I really don't care.

Looking at him give his inaugural address, I just saw a human.

A young, articulate, intelligent human.

Something that has been missing from the helm for a long time.

A man of today's world.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Good Luck! Here's hoping.


No other President will have started off with so many high expectations
from a world, tired and jaded from
a prolonged overdosing of political manipulation and cynicism.

We wish him well.


Monday, 19 January 2009

No, I'll stick with "dodgey".


Andy Green contacted me yesterday, via the comments to yesterday's post, and asked that I remove the dodgey designation to the Beat Blue Monday site.

While I am sure, or at least hope, the site means well, I do not think their 'beat the blues' equation is remotely scientific and promoting it as such is deceptive and, hence, dodgey.

The equation is described as "first defined by Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University". I hope this is not typical of his research methods. It calculates that Monday 19 January 2009 is the worst day of the year.

It is as follows:

The model was broken down using six immediately identifiable factors;
  • weather (W),
  • debt (d),
  • time since Christmas (T),
  • time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q),
  • low motivational levels (M) and
  • the feeling of a need to take action (Na).
A few points, just a few, I don't want to bore you.

The D in the equation is undefined; presumably it is the day of the year.

There is no second half to the equation: like x = y+z. So what does the equation equal?

Units are undefined. How do you subtract debt from days and then subtract the difference from weather?

It is really quite bizarre.

Now if they said it was a joke, and made it a joke rather than a university endorsed 'equation', they could still pursue the cause of depression but without the fake authority of scientific endorsement.

The emperor's new labcoat.

So I thought it dodgey. Still do.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

No way, Man! I'm hap-hap-happy!



There is a very dodgy website called Beat Blue Monday.

Using the following quite bizarre formula, they have determined that tomorrow, January 19th, is the most depressing day of the year.

Blue Monday was first defined by Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, marking the symbolic time in January when people suffer from a series of combined depressive effects.

Blue Monday was devised using the following mathematical equation:

The model was broken down using six immediately identifiable factors; weather (W), debt (d), time since Christmas (T), time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low motivational levels (M) and the feeling of a need to take action (Na).

The equation calculates that Monday 19 January 2009 is the worst day of the year, when the Christmas glow has faded away, New Year’s resolutions have been broken, cold Winter weather has set in and credit card bills will be landing on doormats across the land – whilst the January pay-cheque is still some way away.


Today was fine, temperatures in the mid 20s C, mid 70s F.
The garden is a bit water stressed but looking reasonable.
The further I get away from Christmas, the happier I am.
All my resolutions are intact because I was selective in what I resolved.
Debt is manageable.
I am sipping a nice glass of Shiraz

...the 19th of January is the last day of the reign of Mad George.

What's not to be deliriously happy about?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A strange thing about learning.

This is an abbreviated version of a fascinating Mind Hack post today.

"Once you have learnt something you see the world differently. Not only can you appreciate or do something that you couldn't appreciate or do before, but the way you saw the world before is now lost to you. This works for the small things as well as the big picture. If you learn the meaning of a new word, you won't be able to ignore it like you did previously. If you learn how to make a cup of out of clay you won't ever be able to see cups like you used to before.

We can see this in microcosm if we look at a small example of what is called one-shot perceptual learning. What do you think this picture is?

Now probably you don't know, but I would like you do savour the feeling of not knowing. Try and taste, like a rare wine, what the perceptual experience is like. You can see the parts of the picture, the blacks and the whites, various shapes, some connected to others and some isolated.

If you now look at this popup here then you will have this taste washed out of your mind and irrevocably removed. It will be gone, and you will never be able to recover it. This is why I asked you to savour it. Now look at the original again. Notice how the parts are now joined in a whole. You just cannot see the splotches of black and white, the groups, the isolated parts, again."


Read the full post: Mind Hack

Monday, 12 January 2009



Shark bite out of a surfboard, Tasmania yesterday.

Good thing the critters have weak jaws, isn't it?

They are playing with your brain!


On the Mind Hacks blog, he is discussing the psychology of choice:

"He notes that the UK magazine The Economist was offering a web only subscription for $59, a print subscription for $125 dollars, and a print-and-internet subscription also for $125.

It seems no-one would choose the print-only subscription - it seems obsolete - but its mere presence affects our reasoning and boosts the sales the more expensive option.

In a study to test this, Ariely gave participants the choice between these three subscription options, and to another group of participants, the choice only between web-only and print-and-internet subscriptions.

In the three option condition 16 people chose the internet-only subscription, none the print-only subscription and the other 84 chose the print-and-internet option.

As the print-only is obselete, it should make no difference whether it is part of the choice or not, when it isn't there, in the two choice condition, the reverse pattern emerged. The majority, 68 people, chose the cheaper online option, while only 32 took the print-and-internet option.

In other words, the print-only is a decoy and it makes us think that the print-and-internet option is a better deal because it has something 'free', when in reality, this impression is just created because we've just been presented with a decoy worse deal."

- Mind Hacks
Nasty, nasty advertising people!


When you read the words "card credit"
and "you thank" in this sentence,
you'll probably think you read
"credit card" and "thank you",
but you didn't.

Thanks to Mark for this.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

I've heard of marriages going pear shaped...


"In theory we are asking for the return of the kidney. Of course, he wouldn't really ask for that, but the value of it" - Lawyer for a US surgeon, who donated a kidney to his wife who is divorcing him.

OK there's bitter divorces and then there's bitter divorces. Richard Batista has cause to be a little aggrieved that his wife is now divorcing him. He donated one of his kidneys to her in 2001 and she started divorce proceedings in 2005.


I've heard of marriages going pear shaped, but kidney shaped? That's new.

And a pretty serious form of transplant rejection, too.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Six is not bad. Seven is better.


Was in at the chemist's today (Pharmacy, drug store, you work it out.) and fronted to the counter to put in a prescription.

The conversation went something like this:

Sweet thing: How are you today?

Me: Good. How about yourself?

Sweet thing: Not too bad.

Me: (thinks) OK. That means what?

Me: (Asks) OK. If Bad is a 3 and Good is a 10, where are you on that scale?

Sweet thing: Uh...6.

Me: Excellent! That's above the national average!

I go off and do some shopping for dinner tonight and then return to pick up the prescription.

Sweet thing: Hi! How are you?

Me: Good, thank you. Yourself?

Sweet thing: I'm a seven now!

Me: It's been a good morning for all of us then.

(scene fades...)

Friday, 9 January 2009

Shaking a fist at a largely uncaring world!


I'm just feeling like treating myself to a rant about blogs.

Don't worry, I will lie down in a minute and all will be well. Here goes:

1. Word verification.

What are people hoping to achieve with word verification? I have ten blogs (yeah, really. Some inactive, some experimental and one that lets me have a therapeutic outlet without scaring the neighbours), none of them with word verification and I have never had any serious problem with them.

Occasionally some bod (or bot) will post a suspect comment but they often do it in old posts and so no one sees them anyway. When I did the sex blog post on the effect of Viagra on the drooping of cut roses I got a couple (2) dodgy comments but they are easy to delete.

All word verification does is slow up people who are out to comment-graze.

And most of us bloggers want people to post comments; make it easy for them! How many have something like "Please comment, you really want to, go on, just do it" above your comment screen but then have word verification? Mmmm?

2. New format word verification

Most of the blogs that have word verification look like this:

But some of the new ones look like this:

The nasty difference is that the old style word entry field will let you push 'return' after entering the word and publishes your comment.

The newer style one deletes your comment if you hit 'return' instead of clicking 'finish'. A few times, after composing possibly the most brilliant repartee for a blog known to man, I have deleted it accidentally by pushing 'return'.

3. Moderation

I can sort of see the use of moderation if you feel that you have enemies and want to vet the comments before they a posted. But it is no great thing to delete a troublesome comment. It is disconcerting to post a comment and then wonder where it has gone (no chance for last minute speeling apolgies. Sorry.). And, for the mentally challenged like me, I sometimes comment twice on the same blog. Always embarrassing.

So what is the purpose of moderation? I'm not really sure as it is easy to remove unwanted comments. Mind you it is often funnier to leave them there.

4. Moderation AND word verification.

Really, if you are going to moderate the comment anyway, spare us the hoo-ha of word verification. Why have word verification if your are going to moderate anyway?

5. Slow loading blogs.

Some blogs show the last 50 posts and take ages to load. Just show the last 10 or so. Let the occasional interested person click the 'Older Posts' link. That's what it's there for. Widgets, gadgets, awards, fancy backgrounds and all the other 'guff' in the sidebars can take for ever to load. Do you need them all? People have come to read your latest post, not find out the ambient temperature in Irkutsk.

6. Music.

Arrrgh! Your music is part of you, true enough, but I don't necessarily share your taste. And neither does my wife trying to sleep in the next room.

7. Videos.

They can be funny but they are time consuming and bandwidth consuming. Sometimes they are not funny, they are just sweet and twee. I don't do much sweet and twee. At least give some idea of what they are about and how long they will run for.

That's it.

Time for a nice cup of tea and a wee lie down.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Silver Bullet School of Nutrition.


I am not a fan of the ‘silver bullet’ school of nutrition.

By silver bullet, I mean the belief that some foods that are super foods.

Granted, some plants will kill you. That does not automatically mean that, in an effort to maintain even-handedness in the universe, there are some plants out there that are designed to save you.

But people seem to like wonder foods. Every year we hear about some berry, root or leaf from some exotic location that the native people know about and it keeps them happy, healthy and fucking like a hamsters, until they die of sexually induced exhaustion well into old age.

Oddly, these wonder foods seem to be most often sold by some multi-level marketing crowd.

Always, my first question is always the same: If this product is so good, why aren’t the pharmaceutical firms growing it, refining it, and mass producing it? Quinine was an example of where that did happen.

The problem with some of these wonder foods is that they are not supposed to cure a specific (and hence measurable) illness, such as malaria, but are generalists. They will stop cancer, aging, heart disease or some other intangible thing. Yes, death rates are measurable but you must keep an eye on causality. What’s that? The Hellarwi tribe never got heart disease AND the ate the wacko berry every day. Great! Perhaps the fact that they spent the day running around on foot and didn’t have an ounce of fat on them played a part too.

And the small matter of crocodile induced mortality.

Mind you, the crocodiles who eat the Hellarwi live to a ripe old age.

If you drink $40 worth of exotic berry juice a day and never get cancer, how do you prove it was the berry’s doing?

Perhaps you just weren’t going to get cancer anyway.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

More research we could have done without.


Researchers have found that sharks in fact have very weak jaws for their size and can bite through their prey only because they have very sharp teeth - and because they can grow to be so big.

"Pound for pound, sharks don't bite all that hard," Daniel Huber of the University of Tampa in Florida, who led the study, said

- The Telegraph, UK.
Big mouth, very sharp teeth. Seems enough for me.


Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Lake Wobegon Effect.


Today, each of my four blogs has a relevant photo from
Will Lion's set that displays quotes and research in cognitive psychology.
View the complete set here.

Don't believe this quote?

Try and find someone who will admit to having a below average sense of humour.

Monday, 5 January 2009

A Monster Baby


We have had a Monsteria deliciosa, sometimes called The Fruit Salad plant, growing on our back verandah for a long time (As you can see from the size of the beast, below). And that's after we cut it back.

Anyway it has had young fruit on it before but this is the first time it has ripened.

Not surprisingly it tastes of fruit salad.

Its leaves have a distinctive hole pattern. I remember getting annoyed with Kodak once when their photography handbook had a photo of "the moth-eaten leaves of a Monsteria".


Friday, 2 January 2009

Just sing!

"Finches on Parade" - Karsten Stier

Have you ever noticed that it is a rare thing to find children all skilled in the same thing?

The classic three child scenario is that the first child has free reign and usually becomes mobile and vocal before the second. The second arrives and find that the 'skills' of the elder child too advanced to compete and so moves into unfilled niches, often sport. The third arrives and can't compete academically as well as the first or athletically as well as the second and looks for another unfilled niche, often humour.

Generalisations, but you get what I mean.

The same happens in our adult life, where we compare ourselves to people who do something really well and so, because we believe that we can't compete or exceed this benchmark, we give up.

The only benchmark should be you. Are you better now than you were then?


In year 10 at high school I was always second to Keith Ayres (Hi Keith, if you are reading this!). Time and time again, in all subjects, Keith topped the class and I was second.

Except for Art. I was much better at art than Keith was.

But, come the final mark for the year, Keith beat me. The rationale of the teacher was that he had improved more than I had over the year.

Only now do I really understand what she was on about.


Use the talents you possess,
for the woods would be a very silent place
if no birds sang except the best.

- Henry Van Dyke.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

First of the year. Possibly the only one.


Sitting in bed, drinking coffee, doing The Age crossword, listening to light rain on the roof.


The new year off to a flying start.

Can it get any better than this?

Well, yes. The light rain could ratchet up to heavy rain for a while. Not a lot of chance of that, though.

But I got the crossword out. First time for a long time.

Perhaps I should stop while I'm ahead.

Best wishes for 2009


Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old times since ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
And surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.