Tenth Archive
Items from 12 March to 24 July 2011

20 July to 24 July 2011

Forest retreat

Above is a Maison Sylvestre, one of four 'feral' houses which was built in a French forest. They act as ecological hotel rooms and 'intertwine the indoor and outdoor environments'. A skeleton of galvanised steel is covered with acacia wood and Douglas pine to provide a small building which sinks into the background. Each maison has a wood stove, gas lights, a compost toilet and an outdoor water supply. The buildings do not have foundations but can be moved around the forest without harming the environment.

That's my mug!

For those who consider their office mug to definitely be their own property, the above mug provides the solution to inter-office theft. Simply remove the red plug and the mug is just a piece of useless china. Israeli designer, Efrat Gommeh, came up with the idea of the removable plug which is made of silicone.


I detest watching programs where actors chew gum. Now I have discovered that these days chewing gum is made from a plastic, polyvinyl acetate whereas it was originally made from the sap, or chicle, from a tree (type unknown) which grows in Central American. People who chew gum have been described as 'dim-witted ruminants'. I'd say no comment but I am trying hard to avoid cliches.

16 July to 19 July 2011

Delightful maggot cheese

Cheese is an integral part of my diet and I usually eat all types but I think, if this cheese was the only cheese in the world, I would instantly drop the item from my menu. The interesting appearance is caused by insect larva which is why this cheese from Sardinia is known as either rotten cheese or maggot cheese. Imagine trying to do an advertising spread for it.

Maggot cheese, which has been banned by the health department, is now a wriggly favourite on the black market. It is basically a Pecorino with the larvae of the cheese fly added. It has to be eaten while the maggots are alive because the cheese is considered to be toxic if they are dead. And mad eaters apparently shield their eyes to prevent the mad larvae from jumping into them.

Pizza in a cone

I think I must be hungry, I'm attracted to photographs of food and drink at the moment. Here is a great idea, pizza in a cone. Think how much easier it would be to eat and the mess would be contained. These are available in Seoul, in South Korea.

Trouble with a capital T

With a name like Trouble one would assume this dog would have caused such mayhem he would have been ignored by his owner but Leona Hemsley, who died four years ago, left twelve million dollars to the Maltese terrier. At the same time, the delightful Mrs Helmsley cut two grandchildren out of her will. She had previously evicted her daughter-in-law from her home after Leona's son died.

For the past four years Trouble lived in a luxury hotel retirement retreat in Florida. Prior to his death, the dog's inheritance had been reduced to a piddling two million dollars as his carer said it was actually possible to manage on $100,000 a year. Platinum bones no doubt. Following his death a few months ago, trust funds for the dog reverted to the Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust.

5 July to 15 July 2011

Interior, Groningen tax office

Images, above and below, courtesy UNstudio

As I grind my teeth doing tax returns on line, I was delighted to come across the building featured above. Groningen in the Netherlands is the home to this attractive tax office. The building, which is 92 metres tall, features a series of fins which wrap around an assymetrical base and tower.

The site is woodland which includes rare and protected species. The building will include a public garden with a pavilion and an underground garage. The garage has spaces not only for cars, but also for 1500 bicycles which is indicative of the habits of the Dutch. Sustainability features include underground energy storage, natural lighting and ventilation and a structure which can be transformed into housing.

And below..
News not initiated by bloggers

Online blogs are sometimes credited with driving newspaper agendas but it seems they are yet to challenge traditional forms of media when it comes to generating original reporting. According to a study by the Pew Research Centre in Washington DC, blogs still rely heavily on the traditional press, such as newspapers and television broadcasters, for their information.

The study found that, for 99 percent of the time, bloggers linked to stories in traditional media. The Pew study found that while blogs and social media sites, such as Facebook, were not producing large volumes of original journalism, they made news a more shared, social experience and gave citizens more scope to influence a story.


Rat slippers

Oh yes, just the thing to give your wife or girlfriend as a special gift.

2 July to 4 July 2011

Baby and computer

Babies are being registered not only for social media sites but they are also being provided with domain names. In some instances unborn children are also being set up with e-mail addresses and for Twitter. Parents are apparently doing this so that their children won't have to accept long and awkward e-mail and domain names. Parents see these actions as an investment in their child's future, after all baby X might grow up to be a professional and how awful it would be if they couldn't use their own name for their e-mail address. Earth shattering.

Happy birthday to Kial

Kial is 19

I hope your 19th birthday is very enjoyable.

Vertical garden as it is known today

The photograph above represents what we think of as vertical gardens, an ordinary building covered with greenery but the term is being used in a different context these days. Within forty years it is forecast that around 80 percent of the world's population will live in cities. During this same period the population will increase by three billion people. Where will the food come from to feed all these people?

Microbiologist Dickson Despommier suggests an answer to the problem is vertical farming in specially constructed greenhouse skyscrapers which are self-sufficient ecosystems. In order to feed every 50,000 people living in cities, a greenhouse building which covered a square block (New York City size) and which was thirty stories high would be required. Within three years it is expected both Holland and China will begin building vertical farms. Despommier further suggests that with the advent of such vertical farms, 'real' farms could be allowed to become fallow and be planted with trees. While the idea is excellent for plants, I would be very disturbed should animals also be farmed in such a manner.

27 June to 1 July 2011

...but yet another coffin

A well bred coffin

And below, keep your friends or you may become sick

STICKS and stones may break your bones, but words might make you more likely to get arthritis. Not as catchy as the original, but it seems social rejection could trigger diseases linked to inflammation.

124 poor volunteers gave speeches and undertook mental arithmetic problems in front of a panel of observers who expressed their dismay at the poor showing of the performers. A saliva analysis, done after this showed the volunteers "exhibited elevated levels of two inflammation markers".

Functional MRI scans showed this triggered increased activity in two brain regions associated with rejection. The role of the brain, in conditions linked to inflammation, which includes asthma, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and depression, is the centre of a study which will provide pointers to new treatment.

Cat shoes

23 June to 26 June 2011

Centro Niemeyer

Where architecture is concerned you can never be too old. Centro Niemeyer was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, a Brazilian, who is 103 years old. During his long career he also designed Carnegie Hall and the Ravello Auditorium. His latest work, Centro Niemeyer, in Aviles, Spain includes an auditorium, museum, cinema, meeting areas and conference halls. A spiral staircase enables visitors to view the estuary and the city. Art work is housed in a three storey dome and the building is surrounded by a plaza which will provide a venue for cultural activities.

Happy birthday Murdoch

Kelly (the dog) says happy birthday to owner, (and my nephew), Murdoch

You can obtain spectacles with wipers so the obvious next step was to fit iPhones with them as well.

Happy birthday Murdoch

20 June to 22 June 2011

Happy birthday to

Happy birthday Michael

my son-in-law Michael. Hope you have a happy year.

18 June to 19 June 2011

Happy birthday Peggy

Today is Peggy's birthday - I hope you have a delightful birthday.

White faced Saki monkey

For some obscure reason I have this photo in my files but unfortunately have no documentation so have no idea why I kept it. It is the white faced Saki monkey which is found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela. They feed on fruits, nuts, seeds and insects and will occasionally munch on a bat.

12 June to 17 June 2011

the Aplysia Snail

Traumatised snails in the United States have had their awful memories either eliminated or reduced. It is expected that following success by inhibiting the activity of the protein kinase in the snails, a similar thing in humans may help reduce their traumatic memories.

David Glanzman, a UCLA professor of integrative biology and physiology and of neurobiology. said the scientists had gained important insights into the cell biology of long-term memory. Snails, specifically the Aplysia, were chosen because the human brain is too complicated to study directly. They are the first scientists to show that long-term memory can be erased at a connection between just two neurons. You don't want to know what they did to the snails to work out that they became less traumatised.

Less trauma for dead bodies

a human bowel following autopsy

The University of Leicester has developed a non surgical technique for post mortems which involves only a small incision in the neck as opposed to post mortems which involve cutting the body open. A computed tomography, commonly known as a CT scanner, searches externally for trauma, fractures and cancer. To investigate the heart the incision is made in the neck to allow a catheter to be fed down to the coronary arteries. An injection is made of air and then of a white dye. At the time this story was released 33 bodies had been autopsied in this fashion. Further autopsies will be undertaken to provide an evidence base.

8 June to 11 June 2011

Quick eater

Starnose mole

And the mammal which eats the fastest is the starnose mole which can take as little as 120 milliseconds to identify and consume an item of food. They can also smell underwater. There are more than 25,000 sensory receptors in the 22 fleshy tentacles which surround their noses. The moles are almost blind and these tentacles identify food by touch. A zoologist, Theodor Eimer, gave his name to the sensory receptors which are called Eimer's organs.

Have a banana

Banana shaped shoes

I haven't run any photographs of shoes for a while but these ones apeeled to me.

Help wanted

An organisation called Good Return helps people to break out of a life of poverty. Good Return provides an online showcase for a range of people who apply for small loans, often around $600, which will help them start or expand a business and increase their incomes. Donations from as little as $25 can be made online and these donations go directly to the person concerned. The website includes photographs and stories about the different people who are seeking the interest free loans.

A review of more than 100 microfinance programs points to evidence that such programs can increase incomes and lift families out of poverty.

Royal Coffin

Purple coffin

No, this is not an item for a loungeroom, it is a coffin. What a waste to bury it under the ground.

5 June to 7 June 2011

Lakeda's birthday

Many happy returns to Lakeda - hope you have a very happy year

And now for a fishy story....

I've featured numerous weird buildings and weird shoes, and now I am reaching a dead end - here is a weird coffin, obviously for the person who enjoys fish, or fishing, or perhaps for someone who enjoys eating fish. And if a fish had a coffin would it be shaped like a human?

An air-tight coffin speeds up the process of decomposition which results in liquified remains whereas one which provides access to air, such as a wooden box, allows for skeletonization. And I'm sure everyone wants to know that.

Weird fish-shaped coffin

21 May to 4 June 2011

Forget the hangover and the headache, just enjoy the benefits of red wine by taking a pill. Most people don't drink red wine for the benefits though, but for the enjoyment of the liquid however the pill could be the answer for teetotallers as research into such a pill is underway in Italy.

Red wine contains flavonols which are antioxidant chemicals which boost the levels of good cholesterol while cutting down on the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. The antioxidants in red wine also help to reduce the bad effects of free radicals which may lead to cancer.

Four generations

Peggy, Ticky, Imogen and baby Iris

Peggy, Ticky, and Imogen with baby Iris

And below, all about a cog building

This startling, sustainable building, called Kuggen or cog, is in Gothenburg, Sweden. Each level is slightly off centre which provides shading to the floor below. Included in the design is a mesh system of photovoltaic cells which provide both shade and electricity. Sun collectors on the roof heat water for the building.

Cog building in Sweden

What happens to old thongs? They wear out, wash away, float off to eastern Africa and there they are collected and recycled into objects which bear no relationship to footwear. Known as remolded objects this bright lamp once protected the soles of numerous people.

Lamp made from thongs

17 May to 20 May 2011

Palliative Care Week coffin

Let's Chat about Dying again...

And why not because we are all headed in that direction, however the catch phrase is being used this week as the theme for National Palliative Care Week. To mark the week, Palliative Care Australia has released a resource kit which includes two new resources, About the Process of Dying, and About Pain and Pain Management.

PCA recognises most people don't want to talk about the final stage of their lives but it is important for everyone to be aware of what support is available, not only for the person who is dying, but also for their families. PCA encourages people to think about where they would like to be when they die, who they want to be present, and that they also communicate these wishes to family and loved ones.

The resources can be viewed and downloaded from the PCA website.

Pretty coffin

Above is a very pretty coffin
and below
is the Desert Lodge

Desert Lodge

A competition winning design has a resort lodged into natural faults and fissures in Wadi Rum in Jordan. Desert Lodge, designed by Oppenheim Architecture from Florida, is for accommodation which is luxurious but which subtly fits within the landscape. The resort will include a rock lodge, a spa lodge, a tent lodge and a reserve villa.

Coxsackie Kills

A virus associated with the common cold, coxsackie A21 is now known to kill melanoma cells. Immunocomprimised mice suffering from skin cancer were injected with coxsackie and within five hours the melanoma cells were dead and in addition, the virus rampaged through the tiny bodies to attach itself to previously undiagnosed tumours.

It is not known if results will translate from the mouse model to the human model. Approximately ten percent of the population has immunity to the coxsackie virus.

Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM), the most serious type of skin cancer, rapidly spreads throughout the body. The question is also whether such treatment could be used on other types of cancer.

Coxsackie, first documented in 1948 during a polio investigation, was so named because it was found in the settlement of Coxsackie in New York. A total of 61 non-polio enteroviruses cause diseases and of them, 23 are Coxsackie A viruses. The common childhool illness, the aptly named Hand-Foot-And-Mouth disease, is produced by Coxsackie A16.

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

Above, it is fairly clear why it is called hand, foot and mouth disease

Directory for Older People

For those of you who are in the senior age bracket make your way to the excellent production, the Australian Government Directory of Services for Older People 2011. The directory, which is in excess of 300 pages, can be downloaded to your computer.

14 May to 16 May 2011

Pretty Paris potholes

Image by Juliana Santacruz Herrera

Mackay has major problems with potholes - perhaps we should follow the example set by Juliana Santacruz Herrera who has transformed the potholes in Paris with swatches of pretty fabrics. Mackay already has various trees which have been wrapped with coloured knitting so there is a precedence. I can also see a safety aspect as if our potholes were filled with colour perhaps fewer people would crash into them thereby destroyed tyres, rims and suspensions.

Image by Juliana Santacruz Herrera


I fail to understand why a man, who spent his working life bashing up other men, should be given a state funeral.

Pretty Cedit Union Building to offset idiotic state funeral

Pretty credit union

Images by Emmanuelle Moureaux Architecture and design/Nacasa and Partners Inc.

Above is the very pretty Suamo Shinkin Bank which is actually a credit union in Shimura, Japan. The exterior features twelve rainbow coloured layers which are lit up, when night falls, varying with the weather and the season.And below the inside is just as pretty.

Images by Emmanuelle Moureaux Architecture and design/Nacasa and Partners Inc.

7 May to 13 May 2011

This is a truly lovely story.

Greater love hath no man than that he gives the kiss of life to his pet goat. John Bond, from Buronga, near Mildura in north-west Victoria, found his pet goat hanging from a balcony after choking itself on its chain. I won't go into details about what the poor goat looked like but found himself in this deathly fix after he broke away from his tether and traipsed to an upstairs balcony.

Although John thought his pet was dead, he continued to perform the kiss of life for some ten minutes urged on by his caring wife who would later probably kiss that same mouth. The goat revived and is now in excellent health. We hope Mr Bond is as well.

Peanut butter is good for you

Let's hear it for peanut butter

Every now and then I have an overwhelming craving for peanut butter. I don't eat sandwiches very often so this means I need to buy bread which, after a few slices, goes into frozen heaven in my freezer where it hoards ice crystals. The idea for peanut butter began hundreds of years ago when the Aztecs mashed up roasted peanuts. About a hundred and thirty years ago sugar and molasses was added to the mix to make it more palatable. In the 1890's an American, Dr Ambrose Straub made a form of peanut butter in order to provide protein for his toothless elderly patients.

I should eat peanut butter more often as it appears the diets of committed peanut butter eaters are higher in vitamins A and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and fibre than in the average population. The mono unsaturated fat content has also been linked to lower cholesterol and may help protect eaters against a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Looks like a giant paper bag

Paperlook chair

The photograph above may look like a large folded paper bag but it is actually a commercially available chair and the material is Tyvek which is a high density polyethylene. The sheets of material to make the chair were soldered together using an ultrasonic technique. The Sachetto chair was displayed during Milan Design Week. It can be used indoors or outdoors and while it maintains the fragile look of paper it is quite durable and is also waterproof.

A technique to make Japanese paper umbrellas has been used for the chairs, below, which were designed by Zhang Lei, Christoph John and Jovana Bogdanovic. The newly graduated students spent two months living and working with four craftsmen who specialise in the production of umbrellas. Called piao, the chairs are made entirely from glued paper. They are strong enough to sit on (and as they are chairs this is jolly good) and the design interest is the contrast between the smooth body and the frayed edges.

3 May to 6 May 2011

Soma Music Pavilion

What is this? A mass of single sticks makes up the Soma Music Pavilion in Salzburg, Austria. Constructed for the second annual Salzburg Biennale. the temporary structure showcased a variety of events including concerts, screenings, and talks. The permeable structure changed its appearance throughout the day as the light changed.

Fast and furious

The cornus canadensis , better known as the Canadian Dwarf Cornel, Canadian Bunchberry, or Crackerberry has petals which fling pollen so fast the pollen experiences 800 times the acceleration that a space shuttle does during liftoff. The motion of the petals flipping backwards as they release filaments under the petals, which release the pollen, takes place in less than half a millisecond. In order to photograph the plant a camera, capable of shooting 10,000 frames per second, is required.

Cornus Canadensis

And just to finish off this section, I realise I haven't put any shoes on this page for a very long time.The one below is quite attractive for a change. Not necessarily wearable, but as long as the shoes come free of a mortgage, rates and insurance...

House shoe

29 April to 2 May 2011

Mayday has been an accepted holiday for hundreds of years and today unions around the world celebrate with marches. But where did the cry for help come from? It has nothing to do with the month (into which we have so suddenly been thrust) but comes from the French for "come help me" - "venez m'aider". This emergency code word is an internationally understood phrase as long as it is repeated three times in a row. This is to distinguish an actual call for help from a message which refers to a mayday call. I couldn't use the term three times as my heading as someone may have wasted their time coming to give me help when I don't need any. (And besides, the call is always made via radio communications.)

A must for all parents of teenagers

A group of students from the Artesis University College in Antwerp have created a musical combination of gloves and a speaker backpack. This providers users with the ability to tap with the gloves and to recreate the sound of a full drum kit through the backpack.

Drum gloves and backpack

Above, the gloves and backpack
Below...A rose by any other face...

A man in China is undergoing ten lots of surgery to his face so he can look like Shakespeare. The operations, which will cost more than $150,000, will take place during a ten month period.

Zhang Yiyi, a high profile author, seems to think the operations will help him to become a better person as he is quoted as saying, "Life is a process of striving to become a better person. I think the surgeries are worth the money." It is a very good thing we all think in different ways. An easier way for him to go may have been for him to use operations to make himself look like Confucius, with whom he has compared himself.

Below, John's frogs

John's frogs

And below is a lovely line which colour co-ordinates.

26 April to 28 April 2011

Heather's Birthday

Happy birthday Heather

I hope my sister-in-law Heather has a wonderful birthday today.

22 April to 25 April 2011

The corpse flower

The flower above is of course the amorphophallus titanum. And why are thousands of people visiting the Basel Botanical Garden in Switzerland to see it? Is it because the plant, which has been growing for 17 years is blooming for the first time? Is it because this is the first amorphophallus titanum flower to be seen in Switzerland for 75 years? Not on your nelly. The hint is in the better known name of the blossom, which is the corpse flower, so named because it smells of rotten and rotting human flesh.

At murder scenes crime workers coat their nose with Vicks to hide the smell of dead flesh, in Switzerland people seek out the scent. The flower uses the smell to attract insects in order for pollination to take place. The flower, which is 2 metres tall, comes from Sumatra.


The churkey

The bird above, believed to be the off-spring of a turkey mother and a rooster father, barks like a dog and has an affectionate nature.

Owned by Ernie Stockdale of Gippsland, Churkey is a month old which is an achievement as similar births overseas have ended in early deaths. Churkey considers Mr Stockdale his mother and in typical infant fashion has made his desires known clearly, he will only eat from Mr Stockdale's hand, he won't touch seed in a bowl or on the ground.


Ashtray with very very weird symbol

Perfectly normal to specifically make an item for one purpose only and then to include a warning against that very purpose.

17 April to 21 April 2011

Balloon House

The Pixar film, "Up" featured a house which flew aloft under a bunch of balloons and now this has been replicated in real life. National Geographic, through a television series, launched a house (plus people) 3048 metres into the sky.

Thanks to the work done by engineers, scientists and balloon pilots over a two week period, the house flew for an hour. It took 300 balloons, in a cluster which was ten stories tall, and an entire tank of helium to float the 2000 pound structure plus 600 pounds of crew members.

The Grace children outdoors

The Grace children


The need for an Advance Health Directive

An Advance Health Directive should be compiled by everyone and, for those with a family history of dementia, it is particularly important. Publication of a report by Alzheimer's Australia showed those who suffered from dementia were less likely to receive adequate pain relief than other patients.

The report says this is partly because medical staff and families fear they will be accused of euthanasia. Professor Colleen Cartwright, from the Southern Cross University's aged services unit, said many Australians did not realise dementia was a terminal illness which could take many years before death claimed the patient. She said it was a progressive degeneration of the brain which led to loss of function including an inability to swallow.

"It can take a very long time to get there. People still need to be able to know that their wishes to not have their dying prolonged are respected." She added it was important to note desires for pain relief in an Advance Health Directive and to ensure the patient would not be left hooked up to invasive machines which would doing nothing more than prolonging their dying. People needed to be aware they had the right to refuse treatment, even life-saving treatment.

12 April to 16 April 2011

Happy Birthday to Doreen

Doreen Dudley's birthday cake

The beautiful birthday cake was much appreciated by Doreen, her husband, Fred, and family members.

Interesting Reading

I found a trio of interesting books at the library last week. Having been a part of a palliative care project for the past three years the subjects of ageing, death and dying have been of great interest to me.

I particularly enjoyed A Matter of Life and Death by Sue Armstrong which was a series of interviews with pathologists from around the world. Many of them had specific interests including AIDs, stem cells and babies. Dissecting Death was a fairly run-of-the-mill memoir from pathologist Frederick Zugibe however as I read it after the book by Sue Armstrong, it probably lost much of its impact. Zaldy Tan's book, Age Proof Your Mind, was of particular interest as dementia runs rife in my family. I was much relieved when I passed the test for memory loss with flying colours.

10 April to 11 April 2011

Nautilus House

Nautilus House, designed by architect Javier Senosiain, of Arquitectura Organica, was inspired by the sea and takes the interesting form of the nautilus shell.

designboom says the "sculptural whimsical house features a striking entry cut into a wall of colorful stained glass". An interesting feature is an interior grass carpet which leads residents and guests through a network of stone paths to the various areas of the home.

The house, in Mexico City, was built from "ferrocement constructio" which involves a frame of steel-reinforced chicken wire covered in a two-inch layer of composite of concrete. The end result is not only beautiful, it's also earthquake-proof and maintenance-free.

Beware a new scam which scams those already scammed!

Warnings began, about a new scam, in July last year where callers say they are from Microsoft and that your computer is infected. People who have paid several hundred dollars to these scammers, either via credit card or by bank account, are now being contacted again.

This time the caller says he is from a foreign law enforcement body, and offers to get your money back for a fee! Money, of course, that you have already paid to them.

The first scam involved a person requesting remote access to your computer and they then claim to run a scan, discover a fake virus, and pressure you to pay for a cleansing.

If you are rung by someone like the above, and you're at your computer, you can access the who calls me website and type in the telephone number of the person who is ringing you. This will give you instant feedback if it is a scam.

Scams can be reported to the Australian government agency SCAMwatch or you can ring 1300 795 995.

It is very important for you to protect yourself.

  • If you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer system's security status and requesting remote access, immediately hang up, even if they mention a well-known company or product.
  • NEVER give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.
  • If you have given remote access to your computer, or you fear that your computer has been hacked, seek out help or advice from a qualified and reputable computer technician.
  • Do not give out your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
  • Make sure your computer is protected with regularly updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall - but research first and only purchase the software from a source that you know and trust.
  • If you have fallen victim to a scam or you receive a lot of unsolicited emails and phone calls consider changing your email address and phone numbers.
  • If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

8 April to 9 April 2011

Maurice and Betty Roughsedge

Maurice and Betty Roughsedge

My twice over cousin, Betty Roughsedge, died last night at Numurkah aged 77. Her husband, Maurice, and their daughter, Suzanne, predeceased her. My sympathies to Bet and Maurie's children, Greg, Kim, and Kaye.

I haven't seen Betty for 23 years however I have many happy memories of her. Maurice and Betty, and Maurice's brother, Sid, and his wife, Dot, often visited my parents at 4 Flowers Street, South Caulfield, and I saw them all frequently when I stayed with my aunt, Daisy, mother of Maurice and Sid.

5 April to 7 April 2011

Happy birthday to David

David in the olden days

Hope your year is a good one

4 April 2011

Clouston and Hall Booksellers

Over the years I have, on several occasions, mentioned people who provided me personally with good service, this time I am encouraging all readers of this site to support Clouston and Hall Booksellers. For many many years I have thoroughly enjoyed their monthly catalogues (available in real paper as well as online) and have bought numerous books from their excellent range.

As Tom and Sally Clouston say, the Australian book industry is going through a period of substantial readjustment with major bookshop chains in administration and with eBooks changing reading habits. They describe themselves as a "somewhat old-fashioned mail order model" and fear they may be swamped by the ongoing events. As someone who loves real books, who breathes in their scent, who touches the paper, who peers at the typefaces - I have had so many pleasurable hours from books, many of them bought through Clouston and Hall. They deal with remainders which means prices are far lower than one would find in a bookshop and their range, bought from around the world, covers every area imaginable.

Remainders are books which are unable to be sold through bookstores. They could be pulped, and no doubt many are, but how much more preferable is it that they go to loving homes where they will be cared for. As a published author I have had books remaindered and I know which fate I would prefer for them.

I have never been a very good salesperson, perhaps this plea will not be acted upon by anyone, but I encourage you to look at the Clouston and Hall site, to look at the range of books available, and to help support a business where the people love what they are doing. And their sense of humour comes through in their catalogues. (Admission: the logos, above are stolen, but it is in a good cause.)

No Kindle here

By Eugene Bertin


28 March to 3 April 2011


The English language is constantly changing and for that we should be very thankful or we would be stuck speaking as Chaucer's characters did. Although I did enjoy Canterbury Tales in form six once I got the hang of it. Unfortunately, it appears abbreviations from the internet are now changing the contents of advertisements. I was stunned today to see a full page colour advertisement on the back of a tv guide which had, at the top, in very large letters, WTF.

WTF indeed!

A proportion of the public would not have any idea what the letters stood for and therefore the copywriters have failed to communicate their intention.

And while I am going on about language what do you think the following refer to?

  • examplar of the interwar
  • exuberance tamed by a little Georgian austerity
  • Victorian decorum
  • birds flying in tandem
  • yachts in convoy
  • creamy, fluid expanse

Below is a typical Mackay street

Wrecked Mackay street

Visitors to Mackay could be forgiven for thinking we are all drunk drivers. The roads may be straight but we are veering all over the place in order to avoid the giant potholes that dot every road. Some of them are in disastrous places, on narrow roundabouts, at intersections etc. We have had 9 days of straight rain and there are dozens of road closures. People living in the northern suburbs who travel to the city and southern suburbs during peak hour are taking up to one and a half hours to get to their destinations, normally a 15 minute drive. March was the wettest month for Mackay in 48 years and the town is now so green it almost hurts the eyes. Plants are growing at a fantastic rate, lawns are mini wildernesses. I have lakes in my yard along with thick mud and slush and downstairs has been flooded for days.

Monika and Ros

Dr Monika Wilson (above with Ros Laspa) recently presented a full day workshop on the Complexities of End of Life Care to a group of 63 nurses who represented the link nurses, aged care homes, Mackay Base Hospital, Mater palliative care, Community Health, RSL Care, Blue Care and OzCare. The topics included end of life care ethics, talking about dying and self care practices. The workshop, which was extremely well received, was provided by the Mackay Rural Palliative Care project.

Below, Sharni and Megan from Mackay Division of General Practice
set up for the workshop

Sharni and Megan set up the workshop

22 March to 27 March 2011

Happy birthday to my brother Dale

Dale's birthday

I hope your year ahead is wonderful

Interesting study

Back in 1960, a study by Barritt and Jordan, "Anticoagulant drugs in the treatment of pulmonary embolism" looked at people presenting with pulmonary embolisms. Seventy-five percent of the patients were treated with anticoagulant therapy and every one of them survived. The news was not so good for the remaining 25 percent of patients who received placebos. Not one of them lived, however as a result of this study anticoagulant therapy is now the first line of treatment for such patients presenting at hospitals today.

pulmonary embolism

Hearty report

It appears that dying young is an excellent way to avoid cardiovascular disease (CVD). A recent report shows the main risk factor for this disease is age. Many of the other risk factors are also impossible to change as they include sex (although it is not clear if having it or not having it is the point), ethnicity, and a family history of the disease. CVD not only costs more lives than other diseases, it also has the greatest level of health expenditure. It imposes a burden of disease, measured in terms of disability and premature death, second only to cancer.

The National Centre for Monitoring Cardiovascular Disease has just released its fourth national report (based on the year 2007-2008) which showed 3.5 million Australians had a long-term cardiovascular disease. It was responsible for more deaths than any other disease group, 34 percent of the total.

The good news is that the overall death rate for CVD has fallen by about 80 percent since the 1960s and continues to fall and that death rates for the major types of CVD, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, rheumatic heart disease and peripheral vascular disease, have all fallen markedly in the past 20 years.

So take heart.

15 March to 21 March, 2011

Solar powered wasp

Photograph by Alamy Blickwinkel

Solar electricity is not just the domain of man, the oriental hornet has solar cells which generate electricity from sunlight. Matt Kaplan, writing in the National Geographic News, said the insects were most active when the sun was most intense and were able to produce electricity inside their exoskeleton.

Marian Plotkin of the Tel-Aviv University, researched the insects and discovered pigments in their yellow tissues trapped light, while its brown tissues generated electricity. Exactly how the hornets use this electricity is not understood however the cells are only 0.335 efficient at generating electricity compared with solar cells made by humans which are around 10 percent efficient.

Many of the hornet's brown tissues contain melanin, the pigment that protects human skin cells by absorbing damaging ultraviolet light and transforming it into heat. Grooves which capture light and break them into smaller rays are also part of the brown tissues.


Delightful skull lamp

This skull lamp was made by hand by UK designer, Alex Garnett, from bone china. He uses the same material to make vases which are shaped like footballer's knees. An enlarged computer key forms the basis of the computer stool.

Cat on computer stool Vases in the shape of the knees of footballers

13 March to 14 March 2011

Suzanne - a little bit more than half way to 40

Happy 35th birthday Suzanne

A murder of crows, not my murder of crows because I am a pacifist

For more than a year now crows have been haunting me. Every now and then, when I take Willow for his walk, we are met at the start of the bikeway, which bisects Mackay State High School, by a few crows up in the tree who caw loudly. As we walk so they fly from tree to tree following us. By the time we pass the oval there are usually 30 to 40 crows just standing there. And staring at us.

It is all Alfred Hitchcock's fault. If I had failed to see The Birds decades ago I would not be so unnerved. The crows follow us back to the road too. There are never any other birds around when this happens.

Crows are among the world's most intelligent animals so it is clear they know damn well they are causing a ruckus as far as my mental stability is concerned. Wikipedia tells us crows, along with rooks and jays, make up the species in the Corvidae family, and in East Asia are a sign of good luck.

Having written the above I delved deeply into Wikipedia to discover the following "Though humans cannot generally tell individual crows apart, crows have been shown to have the ability to visually recognize individual humans, and to transmit information about "bad" humans by squawking." I am therefore a bad human! Don't the crows realise I am a pacifist who would never hurt any animals? I am deeply upset.

7 March to 12 March 2011

Houtan Park, Shanghai

Photograph by Kongjian Yu

The best landscape category at the world architecture festival in Barcelona has been won by Turenscape for Houtan Park in Shanghai. This permanent waterfront park was built on the site of a former steel factory and shipyard and consists of a number of constructed wetland areas running down a narrow 14 hectare strip which treats polluted river water which was previously considered unsafe for recreational use, and which was devoid of aquatic life.

Selected species of plants absorb a wide variety of pollutants from the water while manmade cascades and terraces oxygenate the river. The meandering boardwalk along the wetland creates a way in which the visitors can be submerged within the landscape. The project provides a refuge from the urban life, recreation, education, and research.

Cat at large in London

Cat on wall in London 11th archive 9th archive

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This page was updated by Diana Kupke (Diana Mann) on 8 January 2024