Sunday, June 28, 2009

Attention, Cunning Linguists!

If you like having fun with the visuality of language, I recommend having a play with "wordles".
Wordles is a tool for generating 'word clouds' from text you provide.
If some words appear more often in the text than others, they're given more prominence. You have the options of changing colours, fonts, layouts...and then using them in any manner you wish: perhaps as a visual aid in a presentation, a T-shirt, you could even select lyrics from your favourite song to create a poster. Here's one I created using text from this blog. Enjoy!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Setting Sun

Ahhhhh, remember THAT poster!...when he still looked like himself...Pop culture took a big hit today, with the deaths of two iconic characters.
Those old enough to remember the original '70s TV series Charlie's Angels will sigh at this legendary poster of Farrah Fawcett - a picture that adorned many a teenage lad's bedroom wall. Actually Farrah made far more income out of this poster than she ever did from Charlie's Angels: let's face it, she won no Oscars for acting but she was tops for just lookin' good! In the last few years she's battled cancer and passed away at 62. Excuse me, has anyone seen my nose...?
And those a bit younger will always remember where they were today, when Michael Jackson died of a heart attack at 50. An incredibly talented performer and artist, Farrah in her last weeksJackson's abilities were latterly overshadowed by his many demons: his constant plastic surgery, reclusiveness, mounting debts, allegations of child molestation and hush-money payments...and within two hours of the news breaking, I'd received four jokes via text about "Wacko Jacko". It doesn't take long to tear down our Tall Poppies, does it? I don't say that to defend him: more a comment on humanity in general. Curious too how the vilifying media, who bayed for blood during the court case, are all running tributes and appearing to be his best friends! Hmmm....
As we all age and morph into completely different people than who we started out as, perhaps it's better to remember the poppies for who they were and what they gave us, rather than how they ended their time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

$8.9million of Apathy!

Voters receive information soon about a Citizens-Initiated Referendum (running July 31-August 21) asking: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”
This follows 2008's removal from law of the "reasonable force" defence, for parents or guardians who hit their children. More than 300,000 signatures were collected to attempt a reversal of this decision...and yet PM John Key says, regardless of what the voters say, the Government is unlikely to change the law.
So we'll get a complete re-hash of arguments we heard when the original law was passed. We'll ride the see-saw of differences between smacking and thrashing, abuse and discipline, violence and firmness... and it won't mean a thing!
"I think it's important that governments listen to the public, but the I don't think the law is working I will change it," says Our Leader. "To date I have not seen any evidence that it is not working." So John thinks it's fine, to hell with voter opinion...and all this costs $8.9million!
As long as these referenda can't change things, what is the point in having them? Hey! Let's have one asking: “Should Citizens-Initiated Referenda be binding on the Government?” Hmmm, wonder what John would think of that?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hogging the Headlines: Swine Flu is Makin' Bacon!

Love me, love my pig!I'm not buying into the global panic surrounding Swine Flu, a panic that seems to have escalated in some quarters to near-hysteria following the WHO's labelling of it last week as a *gasp* "pandemic".
But "pandemic" doesn't mean what many people think: we're not talking worldwide death, plague pits, contaminated bodies being incinerated on village greens. "Pandemic" simply means an epidemic that is geographically widespread. But doomsayers hark back to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic which killed 20-million people globally, and attach that innuendo to Swine Flu.
The fact is that malaria kills 3,000 people every day, and it's only regarded as a "health problem". Of course, no drug company has a malaria vaccine...which could make billions of dollars in a very short time. But for Swine Flu, there's Tamiflu, which governments are shipping in by the truckload! It's sure bringin' home the bacon for the giant pharmaceuticals.
I don't wish to sound like a Conspiracy Theorist, but I do advocate reading some medical articles about this current pandemic. Investigate what happened during the 1976 swine flu outbreak... and how many people fell ill and/or died FROM THE VACCINE itself, not the flu. Or fly back to the 2005 Bird Flu flap: US President (at the time) George Bush said up to 2-million Americans would die as a result. What happened? Nothing. But this time around, panic is causing bizarre behaviour globally e.g.: 350,000 pigs are being slaughtered in Egypt, despite no swine flu being reported there. Poor pigs...and what a waste of good pork chops!
Here's food for thought: in January 2009, a member of the Utah Mormon community emailed a friend of mine, warning of a pending global Swine Flu pandemic...TWO MONTHS BEFORE IT HAD EVEN BEGUN! When I consider how influential some of those Mormon businessmen are and how powerful the American drugs alliance is, I wonder about the timing of that email.
All I'm saying is: don't panic. Do your homework. Maintain normal daily health precautions. Carry on living. Oh yes, and wait for someone to produce T-shirts that say: 'I Went To Mexico and All I Got Was This Lousy Swine Flu!'.
...and read my Swine Flu update of 05 July 2009!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Musing on Modifications to Flight Recorders

Your standard everyday run-of-the-mill common-or-garden flight recorderFollowing the tragic loss of Air France 447 over the Atlantic (1st.June 2009), the unsolved (at time of writing) reason/s for the crash, and hunt for the 'black box' flight recorders before the 30-day bleeper runs out, a few thoughts spring to mind...
Construction: often flight recorders (which are bright orange, NOT black) are retrieved from crashes too badly damaged to recover much data from. Surely being such a vital part of any crash investigation, they should be constructed from something as virtually indestructible as a space shuttle's heat shield which can withstand up to 3825°C.
Flotation: improvements could include a flotation element – some compressed gas compound that would activate when water pressure reached a certain level, and thus return the box to the surface.
Locator: the 'bleeper' could be powered by a tiny radioactive isotope which would continue to signal much longer than the current 30-day battery. Or in this digital age, it could even be a GPS.
Data Recording: the Air France jet sent out automatic messages in its final moments, detailing various technical faults. Flight recorders store info: 2hrs of cockpit voice recordings and up to 25hrs of flight data. But this IS the 21st.century! As the globe is constantly circled by satellites, could these 'black boxes' be designed to – instead of storing data – stream that information non-stop via satellite to terrestrial servers?
Location: And thinking of satellites, surely GPSs could be used to accurately 'fix' a flight crossing an ocean instead of relying on land-based radar? Flight 447 was 'off the scope' when it was lost.
Data Transmission: alot of information can be sent in incredibly short bursts of nano-second (or one billionth of a second) duration: the military transmits thus to avoid detection by electronic warfare elements. It would not be hard to design a “data burster” transmission system for planes. An 8-hour flight with “data bursts” every second of a nano-second duration would produce 28,800 bursts, or 28,800-billionths of a second worth of information: storage would never be a problem.
Experts may well find gaping holes in my suggestions, but unless I'm overlooking something fundamental, improvements in the resilience of and transmission from 'black boxes' need serious attention.
For more about flight recorders, check the How Stuff Works link...
PS: 17 Dec.2009 - it looks as if experts in the field now echo my suggestions...
PS: 19 March 2011 - Airbus faces manslaughter charges following this crash.
PS: 05 April 2011 - Wreckage and some bodies have been located on the ocean floor by unmanned submarines.
PS: 02 May 2011 - The 'black box' has been recovered...
PS: 28 May 2011 - First evidence from the 'black box'...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Technophobia – meet Keyboard.

What could be simpler than a computer keyboard? Just tap the keys and the characters appear. Ya think?
I've had a few gremlins in my computer of late, and the latest decided to move some keyboard functions around. Hit SHIFT and 2, and get . Likewise, hit SHIFT and and get @. # ended up on SHIFT and , while £ (which isn't even marked on this keyboard) popped up above 3.
Maybe I'd accidentally hit some sort of bizarre function swap key. I tried for several days to fix this on my own – idiot!
Then a pal emailed me these pearls of wisdom: “You might need to look in the control panel under keyboard.” So, technofool that I am, I flipped over the keyboard and looked for a little control panel! Seriously – and I'm not even blonde!!
Then I googled 'keyboard problems' and found many people globally had the same problem. One UK site (Cherry Keyboards) explained I'd somehow changed the nationality/functionality that the computer recognised! I needed to change everything from US to UK...but when I reached Instruction Step 8, I discovered my computer's 'keyboard layout/IME' settings had NO option to choose English over US!
Then a light went on: change all the settings back to US, you prat! And with a huge sigh of relief, everything returned to normal! So if this happens to you, that's a probable solution.
...or maybe think about getting a blonde rinse!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

...introducing BEN!

Meet BenLast weekend, I had a little furry visitor.
*whisper* Now, there are certain members of my household who go hysterical over the sight of a mouse (and spiders too!), so I'm not going to tell them!
Only a few months ago, this little rodent would not have lasted five minutes, due to the vigilance of the legendary Blobby. Blobby was a tortiseshell British Shorthaired, wonderful disposition, a very VERY good friend...and, in cat years, about 110!! She showed little sign of slowing down, so Mr.Mouse would not have lived long. Sadly in March, Blobby was run down by some arsehole motorist who didn't stop, and probably was not even aware of his/her actions (and the gut-ripping pain brought to us all).
So now we've got da mouse in da house. I've christened him Ben (after the rat in Michael Jackson's hit song from the 1971 movie Willard): I guess he's sheltering from the winter cold. Hopefully he'll find his way out again and SOON...coz I can't stand the screams!
PS: 03 June 2009 - I've been warned not to give a pest a name. I'll get attached to it, and THEN what'll happen...?
04 June - Hmm, haven't seen Ben since that initial sighting...but he's leaving little poos everywhere. Getting annoying.
05 June - Ok, novelty's worn off. Tired of cleaning up mouse poo. Am buying a WMD.
06 June - Have my Weapon of Mouse Destruction: am told mice love peanutSay bye-bye to Ben...! butter so I'll use that to tempt Ben.
07 June - Oh, he likes peanut butter alright: he got it all off the trap without being caught!
08 June - Ben 2/WMD 0.
09 June - Ben RIP...the picture says it all.
10 June - I'm feeling sooooooo guilty about Ben's demise. Silly, but yeup, I should NEVER have given him a name...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tall Talk on Telecom TVCs...

Richard Hammond from Top GearThere's been a lot of talk, a lot of court wrangling and now a lot of pretty flash-looking TV commercials preceding the launch of Telecom's new XT Network.
Is that a...could it be a...?The ads feature Richard Hammond from TV's Top Gear and Zoe Bell, a NZ stuntwoman.
Now, having been associated with advertising for 26 years, I'm conversant with 'bending credibility' a teeny bit to make things look ever-so-slightly glossier... yea, I can wear that, to an extent. But these two TVCs erk me! Here're two reasons why:
TVC No.1 - Richard Hammond it a bird? Is it a plane?states he's tested cars... boats... planes... yes, he HAS. An incredible array. No argument. But I'd like to know when he actually tested these FIGHTER JETS (featured in the TVC)! I think not...
PS: 22 June 2009 - RNZAF Publicity says these are most likely shots of an F-16 Fighting Falcon... in which case it's EXTREMELY unlikely that Richard Hammond has tested one!
Zoe Bell in action!TVC No.2 - To test the effectiveness of the new network, Zoe Bell is strapped into a shipping container and dropped from a helicopter into the Hauraki Gulf! Impressive imagery. Zoe in the shipping container, that's just been dumped in the Hauraki Gulf...yea, right!However, I'm certain the impact would have caused her serious injury. Then she's seen sitting atop the floating container using her phone on the all-new singing-and-dancing XT Network! Question: how did she get out of the floating container without the water rushing in, drowning her and sinking said box?