The Blog (archived)

All posts in chronological order, as originally published
Page 8

Lost in Wonder

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A while back I heard someone speak about the importance of maintaining a child-like sense of wonder at the world around us, as opposed to becoming blase and taking everything for granted, as adults are inclined to do. This can be difficult when immersed in the routines of life, doing and seeing the same things every day.

To contemplate and appreciate the amazing things about our world may require a conscious effort … or a holiday. In my case its the latter - I’m travelling in New Zealand’s south island, where there is much to be impressed by. The awesome scenery is captivating. The pink glow of snowy peaks after sunset gets me thinking “wow!”, as did the power of a sudden hailstorm the other day. While in Lake Tekapo I visited the Mt John observatory at night, and was impressed by some amazing celestial sights. The night sky was the clearest and starriest I think I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen lots of clear skies in inland Australia) - I could have stared at it for hours.

Wonders aren’t confined to the natural world. At the observatory the next day I learned about the MOA project, in which a sophisticated telescope (pictured) uses gravitational microlensing (which I won’t attempt to explain) to detect planets around distant stars. Its cutting edge stuff, and filled me with a sense of wonder at the technology, the geniuses that can do these things, not to mention the scale of the universe.

We are all surrounded with things, both human and of nature, which are impressive and amazing. Lets be like little children and allow our curiosity to get us lost in wonder at them. Its liberating, adds colour to life, and only needs a change of mindset. A holiday just makes it a bit easier.


Infrequent updates and why

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Many blog writers add to their blogs every day, but its two weeks since I last added to mine. There are reasons.

I was using public transport while my car was off the road, and this ate into my after-work time. Also my focus has shifted to a holiday I’m about to embark on. However the main reason I don’t update daily is my habit of not saying anything unless I’ve got something to say.

I expect I’ll have much to say when travelling, but on the other hand, I work with computers for a living and it might do me good to have a break from them. So if there are no updates here for a while, it probably means I’m enjoying myself doing some computer-free winter hiking in the spectacular south island of New Zealand.


An ice age caused by global warming?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The idea that an ice age could be caused by global warming, not cooling, seems counter-intuitive … but its an idea being taken more seriously by many scientists.

This article states “if enough cold, fresh water coming from the melting polar ice caps and the melting glaciers of Greenland flows into the northern Atlantic, it will shut down the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe and northeastern North America warm. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age - in a period as short as 2 to 3 years from its onset …”. The article explains how this could happen, as does this one.

The above mainly affects the northern hemisphere, but some scientists (such as Dr Joachim Scheven) claim that warmer oceans may have triggered an ice age globally - due to higher evaporation being balanced by higher precipitation which leads to more snow in cooler areas.

Global average temperatures may have risen, but a lot of weather events are breaking records in the other direction. This extensive list of record cold weather and unusual snowfalls suggests warming is not exactly global.

So where is it all heading? I’ve no idea; as a weather enthusiast I just find it interesting.


Humphrey Bares All

Friday, June 23, 2006

Image from www.humphreybear.comA chance discovery on a Sydney bus has sent shockwaves around the world of children’s television - Humphrey B Bear is gay.

This revelation surfaced in a humble wallet, left on a suburban bus last night and found by its driver. A quick search revealed the owner’s ID … and a membership card for a gay organisation. Also found were some photos of Humphrey with another male television character, in a pose clearly unsuitable for broadcast to Humphrey’s young fans.

Humphrey’s refusal to wear pants has been of concern to many parents for some time; this revelation of his habits can only add to those concerns. Investigations are now under way into Humphrey’s relationship with Donald Duck, who also fails to wear pants.

I wrote this fictional newspaper story as part of an exercise on a writing course, and thought I’d share it. Surely I’m not the only one who finds it oddly amusing that so many children’s TV characters are depicted with clothes on their upper bodies, but naked from the waist down?


Self-help for the bathroom

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

You can find out almost anything on the internet. A classic example of this is the Toiletology 101 website by Kay Keating - “A free course on toilet repairs to save water and money”.

This unique resource promises “Almost everything you ever wanted to know about your toilets! And some things you probably never knew you needed to know”. Many years ago it helped me repair a fault in my toilet’s cistern. Last weekend, with my toilet constantly dripping, I remembered the site and was able to rectify the problem, thanks in part to the understanding of toilet plumbing gained from reading Toiletology 101.

Even if your loo is faultless, there’s plenty to interest those into gadgets and learning how stuff works. Useful information freely available … its what makes the internet great.


Unseasonal activity at Lake Monger

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Black swan and chicks on nest at Lake MongerThe other day I walked around Lake Monger, just a few km from the middle of Perth, and captured this unusual photo of a black swan and her chicks on their nest, sitting on an egg (click on it for a larger version).

Its unusual because breeding season is September to March (spring and summer), and the black swans usually have babies in spring … whereas this photo is early June, the beginning of winter here.

Maybe the weather has upset their timing. Last winter and spring were unusually wet, followed by a very mild summer, and so far the driest start to winter ever recorded in Perth. I really don’t know. It was just a delightful serendipity to come across these wild creatures going about their business close to a busy pathway in the middle of an urban sprawl.


The sweating-shivering cycle of fevers

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Am currently at home with a virus, one symptom of which is alternating hot sweats and shivering caused by a fever. I’ve had fevers before, but this time I’ve noticed a remarkably regular cycle to it.

At one extreme, I’ll be shivering uncontrollably while in bed wearing warm clothes and covered by all available blankets. Two hours later, I’ll be hot and sweating profusely while laying on top of the bed and wearing little. Two hours later I’ll be back to shivering. So far this cycle has been almost as regular as clockwork, which sparked my interest in the physiology behind it.

In a temperate part of the cycle I browsed the net and found this good explanation of fevers. I won’t attempt to summarise it, but it does explain the cycling back and forth between shivering and sweating. This cycle is normal - I just hadn’t noticed it being so regular and predictable before.


Why I’m not allowing comments on this blog

Friday, May 12, 2006

Many blogs allow readers to post their own comments on whatever the blog writer has written. This input and discussion from others can make a blog much more interesting, however I’ve not enabled it here.

Sadly, forums where the public are freely able to post messages - such as blogs and discussion boards - are open to abuse in the form of spam and offensive messages. This requires somebody to regularly monitor and delete the inappropriate material, and the more visitors a site gets, the worse the problem. Thats why I stopped allowing entries to my guestbook years ago - deleting the pornographic and offensive rubbish started to demand more time and attention than I was able and willing to give it.

Its a shame … but this website is just an occasional hobby, and I don’t want policing it to be a daily headache!


Its the speed camera’s fault … or is it?

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Yesterday a story on the Today Tonight current affairs TV show (on Australia’s Channel Seven) annoyed me. Like countless other stories before it, this one featured an expert going on about how inaccurate police radars can be, if not operated correctly. It isn’t online, but this story from Channel Nine’s A Current Affair is in a similar vein.

The message of these endlessly recycled TV stories is that speed cameras and police radar traps are inaccurate and unfair revenue raisers, and that anyone driving lawfully will probably be hit with undeserved speeding fines. To these experts I pose a simple question:

If speed cameras are as inaccurate and unfair as you make out, then why, in 24 years of driving at the speed limit, have I never received even one speeding fine from an incorrect camera?

I’ve probably driven past between 2000 and 3000 speed cameras or hand-held radars in my driving years, within a couple of km/h of the speed limit. If all the TV reports were to be believed, I should have had many undeserved speeding fines by now … but I’ve had no fines at all, undeserved or otherwise.

I’m not saying that mistakes don’t happen. Some do, and that isn’t fair. However my experience suggests that mistakes and unfair speeding fines are nowhere near as common as current affairs TV shows portray. Its a human tendency to try to transfer blame for one’s own shortcomings, and giving people excuses to blame speed cameras is obviously popular with TV viewers.


What is the short end of the stick?

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Recently I read the phrase “get the short end of the stick”, and wondered where this expression came from. It means to suffer the bad effects of a situation, or to get a raw deal, or the worst outcome … but how this relates to sticks didn’t appear at all obvious.

At first I thought about it literally. How is the end of a stick defined? How far up the stick does the “end” extend? If the ends of a stick are its furthest extremeties, then that would make them points, which have no size and therefore can’t be short or long. If not, then what would make the short end worse than the long end? Some Googling was required.

Thankfully I came across The Phrase Finder website and the light dawned. This post contained an explanation:

I am quite confident that the phrase “short end of the stick” refers to an old fashioned method for carrying heavy objects (this can be visualized using a bale of hay). A long stick is inserted through ropes or cords wrapped around the object and two (or more) people carry the object together. If the load is off-center a disproportionate burden is placed on the person(s) on the “short end of the stick”

So now I know, and can once again sleep at night!


Increase in body temperature while eating lunch in a refrigerator

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

At work I often spend my lunch break inside a large walk-in refrigerator at 3 or 4 degrees (celcius) - not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it. One day I wondered how this affects my core body temperature.

If I stayed in the fridge long enough, my body temperature would eventually fall. However, the fact that I don’t even start shivering suggested little or no drop in temperature. I recorded my body temperature over several weeks, and the results surprised me:

Mid morning: 36.4
Before fridge: 36.2
After fridge: 36.9
Mid afternoon: 36.1

The slight decrease through the day was contradicted by an average 0.7 degree rise during the half hour spent in the fridge. Actual temperatures varied slightly from day to day, but warming of my body while refrigerated remained consistent.

Why? I’m active in the hours before lunch, then I sit passively in a deck chair during lunch. I thought the reduced activity would have slowed my metabolism, even if the cold didn’t.
Something is stimulating my core body temperature. Is it the cold that boosts temperature in the core parts by transferring blood away from my chilled extremities? Is it the eating of lunch that boosts my metabolism, like throwing another log on the fire? Or is it both, and if so, which has most influence?

Further measurements - with and without eating, and in and out of the fridge - are on the agenda. Having come this far I feel compelled to uncover the full truth.


Bathroom etiquette

Monday, April 24, 2006

If you’ve ever entered a public toilet and wondered which urinal to stand at, or wondered what the proper protocol is when using someone else’s bathroom, then a visit to the International Centre for Bathroom Etiquette may answer your questions … and others you hadn’t thought of. logoIts light-hearted, but more than just toilet humour. The use of e-mail in toilets, and the latest news in toilet technology, are some of the other subjects on this unusual website. Its good to see that someone is thinking about how to be considerate of others while conducting one’s business.


Bono On Faith

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bono, of rock band U2, is a God-fearing, bible-believing Christian. However this is not obvious to a lot of people, as he and his band are not outwardly evangelistic. His quote in the book U2 at the End of the World says something about his faith:

“We’ve found different ways of expressing it, and recognized the power of the media to manipulate such signs. Maybe we just have to sort of draw our fish in the sand. It’s there for people who are interested. It shouldn’t be there for people who aren’t.”

Bono’s spiritual beliefs permeate U2’s music, and his activism in social justice issues reveal his faith in action. The messages are there for those tuned in to them, but are subtle and non-preachy enough to not annoy non-believers (otherwise U2 wouldn’t be one of the world’s biggest bands).

The more direct “in your face” confrontational way of expressing faith in music has its place, and many respond to it. However it can alienate other non-believers, without doing much for the spiritually undecided who may be open to Christianity but don’t want it rammed into them. Both approaches are valid, and U2 are a great example of expressing faith in subtle (sometimes even cryptic) ways.

See @U2 Lyrics for examples of U2 song lyrics and allusions which are derived from, or inspired by, bible verses or themes.


Why I started a blog

Sunday, April 16, 2006

When it seemed as if almost every Tom, Dick and Harry was starting up a blog, or online diary, I felt no compulsion to follow suit. Following the crowd is something I avoid, often as a matter of principle. But a recent examination of some other people’s blogs suggested I may have been too hasty in dismissing the idea … perhaps it could be worthwhile after all.

I enjoy writing, and usually find it theraputic. However I’ll often think of things I’d like to share on the internet, but which go unexpressed because they don’t warrant a web page of their own. A blog is a quick and easy way of expressing something online without having to be concerned with page formatting, and should nicely complement other more structured or long term writing projects such as the rest of this website, or the novel I’ve been working on for many years.

Time will tell if I have anything much to say in the context of this blog. But if I have, my website traffic of 8000 visitors per month (long term average) means there is a potential audience that makes it worthwhile to at least have a go. Thats why I started a blog.

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