Monday, September 29, 2008

Scrumpox: fully sick sport

It's well known that sport can leave you a cripple due to physical injuries, but how about illness? Apparently there are a range of bugs that afflict athletes. My "favourite" is scrumpox, a potentially deadly herpes virus that afflicts rugby players, sumo wrestlers and gladiators.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Another great attractor?

I wonder if this is related to the Great Attractor that is also in the direction of Centaurus and pulling us along for the ride.

How can something so small take up so much space?

We visited the Mazda dealer yesterday to get a trade-in valuation of our Mazda 3. B was just curious, but the salesperson, the same guy who sold us our Mazda 3, suggested that we should look at the larger Mazda 6 model. A fairly new father himself he warned us that we could find ourselves rather squished inside our existing car once the baby capsule was installed.

Today we tested his assertion and, by Jove, he was right! With our Safe'n'Sound Meridian AHR seat in rearward facing newborn mode my knees were almost touching the glovebox and my head the ceiling. Even B was not particularly comfortable.

Thankfully our stroller is reasonably small and fit in our hatchback's boot with room to spare. Still, we would be moderately restricted with boot space should we take it along with us.

The Mazda 3 interior is quite large for its external size class and we had envisaged it as being suitable for our future needs. Now we are troubled. We don't really want to spend big bucks upgrading our car's size. I guess that one of us could sit in the back next to the baby. Kids really do change everything!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ikea

When we walk around Ikea, I always stop to admire the little display rooms, those mocked up apartments, kitchens, bedrooms. So perfect. Everything has its place and nothing out of place.

They are fictions from a magazine, not real rooms. Despite the thousands of people that pass through each room, where is the detritus of living? Where are the projects-in-progress, the scattered papers, the book left off the shelf? Where are the snacks left on the kitchen bench, the notes by the telephone, the random photos of life? They are hotel rooms before the arrival of their guest.

Yet I find myself wanting those tiny rooms, where the furnishings are complete and not a neverending quest for the perfect item. Rooms without clutter, despite the fact that I am a source of that clutter. Miniature houses with a minimum of space to look after. Is a simpler life a happier life?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Crime Time Concert

Tonight I attended the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's Symphony at the Movies: Crime Time concert at the Sydney Opera House. The theme was obviously movies about crime, although I thought that including music from The Matrix and The Sixth Sense was stretching the definition a bit.

Hitchcock's works were a major focus with Franz Waxman's music to Rebecca and Rear Window was included, along with a suite from Dial M for Murder by Dimitri Tiomkin. I must confess that I am not a big fan of films from Hollywood's supposed Golden Age and I find their music, like the movies themselves, to be rather too melodramatic.

I am an avowed fan of John Williams' compositions and I was not disappointed by the inclusion of music from JFK. The main title music was played followed by The Motorcade. This is not one of my favourite tracks on the CD soundtrack, but hearing it played live was a revelation, enveloping the listener in the drama and confusion of the shooting, which still offering hints of the main theme.


I was looking forward to hearing Jerry Goldsmith's compositions for Basic Instinct and Chinatown as I am not familiar with the soundtracks. The former was okay, but Chinatown was an excellent listen, evoking the sultry underbelly of LA along with some interesting orchestration and use of instruments.

Don Davis' suite from The Matrix had a lot of energy and excitement, but it lacked the melodic skills of Williams and Goldsmith. James Newton Howard's score to The Sixth Sense was far more restrained, if not a little boring at times compared to some of his other works.

The end of the program took a trip back to the 60's with Ron Goodwin's swinging Miss Marple theme, which I didn't really enjoy. The program ended with a James Bond medley, familiar and fun, though I'm not really a fan of the music. Likewise, the encore of Nino Rota's famous music for The Godfather is not my thing and I thought it was a fairly meloncholy way to end the night.

As I commented back in 2006 when I attended a previous Symphony at the Movies concert I felt there was too much emphasis on older music and not enough on the new. Thankfully the Sydney Symphony redeemed itself last year with the brilliant concert: The Music of John Williams. They should do the same for a few other composers, like Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner.

Finally, it was a shock to see how much Clive James appears to have aged. He wasn't in good form tonight, stumbling over his words at times and appearing quite tired. He only truly came alive for political quips.

I'm happy to see film music getting more recognition in Sydney, but I do think that the concerts could further improve. Sydney Symphony: if you want a good film music program, I'll help pick the pieces!

The full program (pdf)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's the real message?

Sometimes you have wonder what message the automated keyword linking system is trying to give...


Science Daily: Boss’ Gender Impacts Employee Stress Levels

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Review of the National Innovation System

The government's Review of the National Innovation System has been released. Haven't had a chance to read much of it yet, but I do see that it calls for more funding for research and educational institutions, which is good. The report is called venturousaustralia which is just plain stupid.

I can't believe Venturous isn't a made up word. How long until it is used across government agencies?

At least they have an Innovation Review Cartoon Gallery!

Beijing Paralympics

The Beijing Paralympics are on!

Eight years ago we attended a day of the Sydney 2000 Paralympics. Our tickets allowed us to enter any of the sporting events and venues and we took advantage of this to see as much as we could. Australia topped the medal tally and, unlike during our attendance of the 2000 Olympics, we actually heard the Australian Anthem played (a number of times, as it was). We also saw the interior of the swimming facility with the seats stretching back to nosebleed levels.

But those were just bonuses on top of the sport itself. When watching the athletes we didn't see disabilities, only different ways of playing fantastic sport. Wheelchairs were just extensions of the body, missing limbs meaning just a different style of swimming stroke. It was great to watch and we had a wonderful day.

While checking up on the current Paralympic coverage on the ABC I discovered that cheating is a problem for the Paralympics as well and in some ways to make the able bodied squirm:
Some of the ways that Paralympic athletes "boost'' include sitting on pins, thumb tacks or ball bearings, turning off their catheters - allowing fluid to build up inside the body - while some male athletes who go so far as to tie wire around their genital area.
Ouch!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Monkey tragic!

It's not just eyeVio that I am using to watch Japanese video. I just bought the boxed set DVD's of Monkey from the ABC Shop today. Now, at long last, I will be able to realise my childhood dream of watching the entire series. And maybe share a little of my childhood with my own child (I also have a boxed set of Goodies episodes). That is, if they can cope with the old fashioned special effects!

Check out the lyrics of the theme song to the series: Monkey Magic.
Born from an egg on a mountain top
The punkiest monkey that ever popped

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Party pooper

I'd love to be in Japan seeing the Japanese Poop Museum but unfortunately I'll be in the backyard picking up poop from three different dogs (two of which don't belong to us!). Then there are the preparations for our little poop machine (currently kicking pressuring mummy's digestive system from the inside). 432 disposable newborn nappies in our possession so far.

Courtesy of babelhut.com

How to see out of an invisible cloak

The problem with an invisible cloak is that your wouldn't be able to see anything from under it - the light has been bent away from you rather than transmitted through the material. But now researchers believe they may have found a solution by using a material that has the inverse refractive properties of the invisibility cloak's materials, cancelling out the effect!

Invisibility Undone: Chinese Scientists Demonstrate How To Uncloak An Invisible Object

Virus Weaves Itself Into The DNA Transferred From Parents To Babies

The human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6) can integrate itself into your chromosomes, then be passed on to your children.

Virus Weaves Itself Into The DNA Transferred From Parents To Babies

The virophage as a unique parasite of the giant mimivirus : Abstract : Nature

"So nat'ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller fleas that bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum."

Jonathan Swift
To the best of our knowledge the predator-prey sequence doesn't proceed ad infinitum. The smallest "flea" we know of is the virus. Most viruses can only be seen with electron microscopes, but as anyone who has a cold knows, the can pick on some very big hosts. Now researchers have found that viruses themselves can be prey - to other, smaller viruses.

The virophage as a unique parasite of the giant mimivirus

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The grass and the train


More like this from Hiro Y.

Why I want to return to Japan


Cherry blossoms in Springtime. Just one of many reasons to return to Japan!

Flight associated headaches

I have been on a few international flights where I suffered debilitating headaches. One was so bad that I considered quitting international travel altogether. Now it seems that I am not alone.

A paper in Cephalalgia, An Internation Journal of Headache, as it dubs itself, found that over 22% of passengers reported flight associated headaches at least once a month.

The research was based on questionnaires filled out by travellers, the majority of whom flew in economy class. Suggestions for possible causes of these headaches were the constant noise of the engines, the quality, the lower air pressure and oxygen content of the recirculated cabin air.

Another, earlier, study in the New England Journal of Medicine where the changes in cabin pressure was simulated in a hypobaric chamber found that some participants suffered symptoms akin to high-altitude mountain sickness.

Thankfully, at least in my case, I don't get headaches on every flight and it has been possible to enjoy many holidays in distant places. It will be interesting to see what future research uncovers, as well as the impact of quieter cabins, such as on the Airbus A380, and the higher cabin pressures of the Boeing 787.

References

I Potasman, O Rofe & B Weller, Flight-associated headaches—prevalence and characteristics. Cephalagia, 2008; 28:863-867.

Muhm JM, Rock PB, McMullin DL, Jones SP, Lu IL, Eilers KD et al. Effect of aircraft-cabin altitude on passenger discomfort. N Engl J Med 2007; 357:18–27.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Beware the Librarian

The secret of negotiating with anyone is to strike a balance between respecting the worker's rights and enforcing boundaries of acceptable behaviour, says conflict resolution trainer Eleanor Shakiba - whose interest in conciliation stems from a stint as a librarian, when she faced clients incensed by 90-cent fines.
Managing office conflict

Monday, September 01, 2008

Genes and geography

Researchers studying the genomes of Europeans found correlations between their genetic differences and their geographical ancestry.

Human geography is mapped in the genes - being-human - 31 August 2008 - New Scientist

Travel Blog Diarrhoea

I copied the text of my China blog and my other travel blog into Word and discovered that I have written about 63,000 words and 133 pages of 12pt text since the start of the China trip last year. And I still have plenty to write even without another trip. There are also 10,253 photos taken by B and I during our trips since that time (even more from earlier trips and others that are travel related).

New Narita Express

The Narita Express, or N'EX, is one of my favourite trains. It was my first experience of Japan outside of the airport and it was always a welcome chance to relax after a long flight or the last minute rush of shopping that accompanies a final day in Tokyo.



Now I read that the current 253 series trains will be replaced by the new E259 series late in 2009. In most parts of the world the current trains would already be considered exceptional. I'm going to miss the original N'EX, on which I have travelled seven times. At least I will still have my little N-scale version running around the desk at home!

Videos of Japan

EyeVio is Sony's competitor to YouTube. It's Japanese only at this point and I discovered it through an RSS feed on my MyLO. The video quality is often extraordinarily clear, though I find the high definition option is too slow even on the fat bandwidth of work.

Amongst the wild and wacky videos of synchronised Rolly dancing, a puppet's guide to Kawagoe and a Japanese Christian band with tambourines(!!!) are beautiful clips of Japanese festivals, views out of hotel windows and normal Japanese street scenes. I love these simple reminders of Japanese life. Listening to the announcements on a train, the sound of the walk signal across the road, they remind me of Japan, make me want to return.