January 30, 2010

Taliban spruces up image

"The Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, issued a lengthy directive late last spring outlining a new code of conduct for the Taliban. The dictates include bans on suicide bombings against civilians, burning down schools, or cutting off ears, lips and tongues."
Working hard to become the type of club the whole family wants to join.

Taliban overhaul image to win allies

The big one

As you know by now - because it was HUMONGOUS news all over the world - Steve Jobs has even impressed himself with the release of the new and even bigger iPhone - the iPad.

Just like the baby-pad, the big-pad won't let you multi-task, and unlike the baby-pad, you won't be able to make a phone call using the big-pad.

It's so outrageously innovative and cool. Now we'll be able to surf the interwebs on a nice screen and everything. Oops, I mean one thing ... at a time.

So worth waiting for!

Belated Australia Day Tribute

Australians all, let us rejoice ...

The following was written by Douglas Adams.

Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the bottom half of the planet. It is recognisable from orbit because of many unusual features, including what at first looks like an enormous bite taken out of its southern edge; a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep into the girting sea. Geologists assure us that this is simply an accident of geomorphology and plate tectonics, but they still call it the "Great Australian Bight" proving that not only are they covering up a more frightening theory but they can't spell either!

The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the place. Where other landmasses and sovereign lands are classified as either continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three. Typically, it is unique in this.

The second confusing thing about Australia are the animals. They can be divided into three categories: Poisonous, Odd, and Sheep. It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. However there are curiously few snakes, possible because the spiders have killed them all.

But even the spiders won't go near the sea. Any visitors should be careful to check inside boots (before putting them on), under toilet seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is very useful for this task.

At this point, we would like to mention the Platypus - estranged relative of the mammal, which has a duck-bill, otter's tail, webbed feet, lays eggs, detects its aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel and has venomous barbs attached to its hind legs, thus combining all 'typical' Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.

The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants.

First, a short history:

Sometime around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the north. They ate all the available food, and a lot of them died. The ones who survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man's proper place in the scheme of things and spiders. They settled in and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories.

Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north. More accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and stupid people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in Autumn (failing to take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from the top half of the planet to the bottom), ate all their food, and a lot of them died.

About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever since. It is interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider themselves vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they can lie, cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilised culture they say) - whereas all the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left in the middle of a vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick.

Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on Extended Holiday and became Australians. The changes are subtle, but deep, caused by the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet, where a person can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the core of their essence, their reasons for being, and the necessity of checking inside your boots every morning for fatal surprises. They also picked up the most finely tuned sense of irony in the world, and the Aboriginal gift for making up stories. Be warned.

There is also the matter of the beaches. Australian beaches are simply the nicest and best in the entire world. Although anyone actually venturing into the sea will have to contend with sharks, stinging jellyfish, stonefish (a fish which sits on the bottom of the sea, pretends to be a rock and has venomous barbs sticking out of its back that will kill just from the pain) and surfboarders.

However, watching a beach sunset is worth the risk. As a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst and wombats, you would expect Australians to be a dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful and always willing to share a kind word with a stranger.

Faced with insurmountable odds and impossible problems, they smile disarmingly and look for a stick. Major engineering feats have been performed with sheets of corrugated iron, string, and mud.

Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the 'Grass is Greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome, and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence. They call the land "Oz", "Godzone" (a verbal contraction of "God's Own Country") and "Best bloody place on earth, bar none, strewth." The irritating thing about this is they may be right.

There are some traps for the unsuspecting traveler, though. Do not, under any circumstances, suggest that the beer is imperfect, unless you are comparing it to another kind of Australian beer Do not wear a Hawaiian shirt.

Religion and Politics are fairly safe topics of conversation, (Australians don't care too much about either) but Sport is a minefield.

The only correct answer to "So, howdya' like our country, eh?" is "Best (insert your own regional swear word here) country in the world!". It is very likely that, on arriving, some cheerful Australians will 'adopt' you on your first night, and take you to a pub where Australian Beer is served.

Despite the obvious danger, do not refuse. It is a form of initiation rite. You will wake up late the next day with an astonishing hangover, a foul taste in your mouth, and wearing strange clothes.

Your hosts will usually make sure you get home, and waive off any legal difficulties with "It's his first time in Australia, so we took him to the pub", to which the policeman will sagely nod and close his notebook. Be sure to tell the story of these events to every other Australian you encounter, adding new embellishments at every stage and noting how strong the beer was.

Thus you will be accepted into this unique culture.

Most Australians are now urban dwellers, having discovered the primary use of electricity, which is air-conditioning and refrigerators.

Typical Australian sayings:

* "G'Day!"

* "She'll be right mate."

Tips to Surviving Australia:

* Don't ever put your hand down a hole for any reason WHATSOEVER.

* The beer is stronger than you think, regardless of how strong you think it is.

* Always carry a stick.

* Air-conditioning is imperative.

* Do not attempt to use Australian slang, unless you are a trained linguist and extremely good in a fist fight.

* Wear thick socks.

* Take good maps. Stopping to ask directions only works when there are people nearby.

* If you leave the urban areas, carry several litres of water with you at all times, or you will die.

* Even in the most embellished stories told by Australians, there is always a core of truth that it is unwise to ignore.

January 27, 2010

Wednesday Wisdom

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

Rene Descartes

January 23, 2010

Big penis walking

How did we miss this?

Helsinki is the home of a 2.5 metre erect penis made of brown parachute fabric.

The penis's most recent public outing was by way of a performance artist promoting a cabaret show about personal shame.

"It's about (the) personal shame of three men. And there is also one penis in the show. It's a bit smaller than this," said Sakari Maennistoe, who accompanied a fellow actor sheathed inside the largely silent-unless-spoken-to phallus.

This is not the first time the giant penis has wandered the streets of Finland, and Maennistoe said it was generally well-received."

Which is nice.

The performers / big erect penis official site .... here

Soothing interlude

Creative thinkers

An analysis of 32 million online passwords has produced this top twenty list of those most commonly used:

1. 123456 (290,731)

2. 12345 (79,078)

3. 123456789 (76,790)

4. Password (61,958)

5. iloveyou (51,622)

6. princess (35,231)

7. rockyou (22,588)

8. 1234567 (21,726)

9. 12345678 (20,553)

10. abc123 (17,542)

11. Nicole (17,168)

12. Daniel (16,409)

13. babygirl (16,094)

14. monkey (15,294)

15. Jessica (15,162)

16. Lovely (14,950)

17. michael (14,898)

18. Ashley (14,329)

19. 654321 (13,984)

20. Qwerty (13,856)

I suppose the trillions of Jessica's will be thrilled to know that their name has not only been in the top ten of most dirt-common for nearly three decades, but is also in the top twenty most used passwords.

I don't know what explanation there could possibly be for 'Ashley' coming in at number 18. More Gone with the Wind fans in the world than we thought?

'Password', at number four, must be enough to make the collective IT industry weep.

Hacking online accounts is as easy as abc

January 22, 2010

Code Pink

I've always had a vague belief that minor crises can reduce us to blithering idiots, while major crises concentrate the mind.

Not so, it seems.

Stemming from last year's catastrophic and lethal bush fires, Victoria now has a bemusing seven tiered system of fire danger alerts, and code red - catastrophic - is still being adjusted, because no one can decide how to decide the threshold that would tip a region from code orange to code red.

Good thing we have a three month long cold weather front headed our way.

CFA 'changes code red policy, again'

Duck Friday

January 20, 2010

Wednesday Wisdom

Reality is nothing but a collective hunch.

Jane Wagner

January 17, 2010

Totally, totally gross and creepy

Sheep gives birth to lamb with human face ... and the headline isn't lying.

This is truly revolting ... here.

January 16, 2010

A teaspoon of medicine isn't

The latest astonishing finding in our never-ending guide to Dah Research:

When given a non-teaspoon sized spoon and asked to measure a teaspoon of medicine, most people get it wrong - a bit too much, or a bit too little.

This is startling news.

In future, I'll be careful to buy nothing other than teaspoons. It's those other spoons that cause all the problems.
the amount of liquid varied, depending on the size of the spoon: students underdosed when they used medium spoons, and overdosed with larger ones
Truly, that's what they found.

Awareness: to measure medicine, mind the spoon

Not hard to be happy on a small scale

It's fabulous that the land of Costa Rica and it's inhabitants are the happiest on the planet, as measured on a limited criteria.

But how hard can it be to make the decision to abolish your defence forces and throw the saved money into education when you only have a population (at that time, even fewer) of four and a half million people?

With a rate of urbanization of around 60%, one of the highest in the world, and beautiful beaches, no wonder the natives are happy chappies.

So, yeah, on ya Costa Rica, but the rest of us can't appropriate your way or scale of life. Sucks for us.

The happy planet index

The happiest people

January 14, 2010

Yes, we will have fewer Indians

The number or Indian students applying to Australia for vocational education and training (VET) and university visas has plummeted - yes, plummeted!

The number of VET visas granted to Indians each month has dropped from the dizzy heights of 4000 a month only last year to a trickle of just 200 to 300 a month now.

During the same period, the number of visas granted for university study in Australia has slumped from 1200 a month to 300 to 400 a month now.

Our fine reputation for training Indian cooks and hairdressers is ruined, ruined, ruined!

A few random dumb-thugs in Melbourne have destroyed the lucrative Victorian, and Australian, market for selling education to Indians.

Except that it's not true.

The cheapy and dodgy VET sector for Indian students grew by 160% between 2006 and 2007, and a further 90% the following year.

That's a lot of Indian students taking advantage of a quick and easy path to Australian residency and a lifetime of taxi driving or standing behind a 7/11 counter.

In August last year, the immigration minister changed the rules for checking applications, plus shifting the permanent residency opportunity back toward students who obtained a university qualification, rather than a VET certificate of some kind.

An analysis of applications at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi found that more than 50% contained at least one fraudulent document.

So, there it is.

Federal government policy, getting to grips with outrageous levels of fraud, and an exploitative VET industry, is the reason we'll be seeing fewer Indian students making Melbourne their home. The supposedly violent and racists streets of Melbourne have nothing to do with it.

Policy, not race, deters Indians

January 13, 2010

Wednesday Wisdom

A sense of duty is useful in work, but offensive in personal relations. People wish to be liked, not be endured with patient resignation.

Bertrand Russell

January 9, 2010

Pipe dream

Only eight days into the new year and the ever alert Kathy has spotted the first penis mis-step of 2010.

Having found himself with a pipe attached to his penis ... ooops ... seven firefighters bearing a metal grinder came to the rescue of man in Britain.

A spokesperson for the fire service said:
"It's certainly an unusual call-out and I'm sure the man won't be getting into that situation again."
Man's penis cut free with grinder

Hot new objects in the universe

"One of the newly discovered planets is so airy that ''it has the density of Styrofoam"
Turns out those high school science projects are stunningly realistic after all.

Planet-hunting telescope unearths hot mysteries

Purloined global warming emails

No one knows who Harry is, but his attempts to make sense of the data that underpins those beaut (and largely secret) global warming / extreme weather events / climate change computer models are illuminating.

The scientific method is unequivocal: the results, if the hypothesis is to be deemed proven, must be repeatable - over and over and over and over and over again, ad infinitum.

All of our knowledge about climate, which is precious little, singularly fails to provide data or information sufficiently robust to be repeatable - at all.

Yes, I know, I know: the computer models all deliver the same - ostensibly repeatable - results, some simply more dire than others.

Just remind yourself that they're all using the same flawed data, ergo, same results.


Here, the expected 1990-2003 period is MISSING - so the correlations aren't so hot! Yet
the WMO codes and station names /locations are identical (or close). What the hell is
supposed to happen here? Oh yeah - there is no 'supposed', I can make it up. So I have :-)

Well, it's been a real day of revelations, never mind the week. This morning I
discovered that proper angular weighted interpolation was coded into the IDL
routine, but that its use was discouraged because it was slow! Aaarrrgghh.
There is even an option to tri-grid at 0.1 degree resolution and then 'rebin'
to 720x360 - also deprecated! And now, just before midnight (so it counts!),
having gone back to the tmin/tmax work, I've found that most if not all of the
Australian bulletin stations have been unceremoniously dumped into the files
without the briefest check for existing stations.


As we can see, even I'm cocking it up! Though recoverably. DTR, TMN and TMX need to be written as (i7.7)./code>


OH FUCK THIS. It's Sunday evening, I've worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done I'm
hitting yet another problem that's based on the hopeless state of our databases. There is no uniform
data integrity, it's just a catalogue of issues that continues to grow as they're found.


If Harry can't get his head around the confusing and contradictory data, upon which the spending of trillions of dollars rests, how is it that any individual can stand up and declare, in good faith, that anthropomorphic global warming is a scientific fact?

Hide the decline - codified

January 6, 2010

Wednesday Wisdom

It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English - up to fifty words used in correct context - no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.

Carl Sagan

January 5, 2010

Vile, low act

Counting bodies and beatings is a vile, low act. I'll do it anyway.

Tensions between India and Australia are "running high", our export education market is at risk, and Indian students in Melbourne are living in perpetual fear and perpetual hysterics.

During the last 24 months, two Indian men were killed in acts of street violence in Melbourne.

During the last 24 months, five Indian men were bashed in acts of street violence in Melbourne.

Total assaults reported over the period: seven.

That's about one assault every three to four months. That's one death every twelve months.

Deaths of white Australian men and assaults on white Australian men on the streets of Melbourne in the last 24 months? Figures unknown. No one is interested.

Deaths of Indian men and assaults on Indian men on the streets of Mumbai, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, or Delhi in the last 24 months? Figures unknown. No one is asking.

One murdered Aussie and one alleged perp, who high-tailed back to India: Australian government action - none; Indian government cooperation to haul his arse back here to face murder charges - none.

BTW - neither of the deaths were of Indian students, while three of the assaults were of Indian men studying here.

See, told you I would stoop low.

Now, if someone could pony-up with statistics (including per head of population comparisons, that is, by race, etc) then we can collectively determine if hysterics is required and legitimate.

Indian students 'fearful' after murder

January 3, 2010

All inner lives not the same

For a change, a fascinating area of research, with genuinely original - that is, not self-evident to any moron in the street - findings. Equally interesting is the way in which other researchers dismiss the approach as being useless and ultimately without provability. I don't agree. It has much promise and offers a ray of creative light in the search for how we think and how we each create reality.
"... the basic makeup of inner life varies substantially from person to person.

“My research says that there are a lot of people who don’t ever naturally form images, and then there are other people who form very florid, high-fidelity, Technicolor, moving images,” he said. Some people have inner lives dominated by speech, body sensations or emotions, he said, and yet others by “unsymbolized thinking” that can take the form of wordless questions like, “Should I have the ham sandwich or the roast beef?”

After abstaining from his own experiment for more than 30 years for fear of becoming biased, Dr. Hurlburt submitted to a single day of introspective fieldwork in late 2007. He discovered that although he had never noticed it before, most of his thoughts contained no words or images at all. Rather, they consisted of what he calls “unsymbolized thinking.”

I'm a word and images person. I'm not sure I would know how to do "unsymbolized thinking". I'll have to remember to give it a try, although it might result in me taking three hours to order a sandwich.

Taking mental snapshots to plumb our inner selves

Feel better about your body now?

Jointly promoting "positive body image", Jennifer Hawkins has posed naked and Marie Claire magazine has printed the resulting photographs - unretouched, flaws and all.

We're supposed to look at this vision of the unretouched 26 year old and feel much, much better about our own realistic bodies.

Err, good luck with that.

‘‘I was like ‘Oh my God! It’s Jesus on a banana!’’

When she found an image of Jesus on her banana, Lisa Swinton was so overcome with, like, reference and everything, that she ate the banana and posted photo's of the peel on her Facebook page.

One of her friends once saw Mary in the mold on her shower floor. Ewwe.

Jesus appears on banana peel

January 2, 2010

Happy Easter!

Tick tock, tick tock. We're deep into the New Year, day two!

Having barely recovered from the holiday season, over in the UK, grocery shops are foisting Easter - due this year around 04 April - onto their customers.
A Tesco spokesman said: "A small selection of Easter eggs are on sale in response to customer demand."
Yeah, right. I met the Tooth Fairy this morning too, along with some talking chooks demanding to lay chocolate eggs for me.

Shoppers fuming at early Easter egg sales

Intelligence is so complicated

One of the most respected bankers in Nigeria walks into the local American Embassy and dobs on his son, informing the US, in unambiguous terms, that his boy is going to carry out a terrorist attack.

US intelligence fails at every hurdle, and doesn't consider this direct knowledge sufficient, or sufficiently credible, to cancel the son's visa to the US.

We know the rest.

Joining the dots is a difficult business, isn't it?

Instead of writing a memo insisting that mum's and dad's knowledge of their kiddie's activities trumps casting a steely eye of suspicion over lip balm and little containers of shampoo, the US responds by restricting passengers to their seats for the last hour of a flight (never mind your irritable bowel, or incontinence problem), such time having to be spent sans anything in the lap - no blanky to keep you warm, no book to keep you entertained.

Sure, that oughta do it.

At least for terrorists who wait until the last hour of a flight before acting, and who like to keep themselves snuggly-warm during
the flight.

Yes folks, we must continue to pray there is intelligent, rational, life somewhere in the universe.

I wish they'd hurry up and get here, things are becoming downright embarrassing.

January 1, 2010

Carpe diem - not so much

Humans are letting down the hedonistic team. We're a bunch of happiness procrastinators.

So, in the new year, the new decade, let's throw caution over the precipice and make-happy as if there's no tomorrow, because you can be certain that one day - a long way off I hope - there won't be.

In other words: only ever wear the good undies, open the expensive wine, develop a jaunty walk, be the crazy person who strikes up conversations with strangers, read all the new novels sitting on your bookshelf, notice things, care more about something - anything, start a hobby, today, not when you retire, clean out shit you don't need - things, people, habits, do stuff that feels good, smile a lot and laugh easily - it makes other people crazy, for that alone, it's worth developing the habit.

Seize the minutes, the hours, the days. Pick up the pace. Live like you mean it.

Carpe diem? Maybe tomorrow

Duck Friday

Twenty Tens

Well, looky there: 01 01 2010.

A new day, a new year, a new decade.

So long to the noughties, which weren't, at least not especially, to my mind.

(Well, apart from the guy with the pumpkin, and the guy with the garden furniture, and the guy with the park bench, and the guy with the farm manure. They were all a bit naughty.)

Hello to the twenty tens.

Remember how, only yesterday, we were all going cockamamie over the beginning of a new millennium?

This is just like that, only smaller. One tenth the size.

Happy new year everyone. Happy new decade.

Hugs & Kisses & Best Ever Wishes