Thursday, 30 June 2011

Don't go near the water... oops, I mean the crop circle

No fewer than five new Wiltshire formations arrived in the past few days. Here's just one, to which our fearless researchers have added a dire warning to stay out of the field... seems the two farmers whose crops are affected are not only annoyed but of a mind to take direct action against trespassers. Anyone who ever wants to visit a crop formation should read and heed the etiquette for such visits. Essentially: first receive the landowners' permission and be respectful even if this is denied; if given, make sure your visit does no further damage. From the owners' points of view, the formations already constitute damage!

Fonthill Down near Chicklade, Wiltshire, England

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Mars or bust

Great news. You're still in time to apply for a spot in a you-pay-to-get-there test run in a desert habitat in Colorado - to practise for... being part of a future team to land on the planet Mars. I knew you'd be pleased!

This is fair dinkum. Applicants can apply individually or in groups up to an entire team of six. It helps if you are already a geologist (Mars style) or engineer or space-related -ologist of some kind. Better yet if you have your own TV Show as a survival expert. You know, the Bear Grylls kind. That way, if any scary life form is encountered on Mars, you'll simply - well - eat it.

Don't complain to me later that you didn't know. Go see. Meanwhile, they write:
"Plans for the 11th field season of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) are moving ahead rapidly.  The 11th field season is now planned to run from December 3, 2011 through May 6, 2012. Volunteer slots are open for participation as a crew member at the MDRS. Crew members will be required to pay for their own transportation to Grand Junction, Colorado, and pay a $1000 participation fee (reduced to $500 for students) to cover station expenses.  Volunteers should send their applications to: by September 30, 2011 in order to be considered."

I note that it's the "Eleventh field season." Nobody is saying what happened to the participants from the first ten seasons!! Already on the red planet, p'raps. Wasn't there a movie about that? No, really really truly... lots of very intelligent - well, quite intelligent - people are working hard towards human habitation on Mars by the end of the present century. Habitation, not a touch-and-go landing and takeoff. It's a neat idea.

I'd apply for that desert habitat deal but I can't find a pen. Don't bother lending me one, Annabel.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Ladder of success... and getting down

Local GP referred me today to another quack - it's OK, guys, that's my generic term for all of that indispensable profession (if we were 100% fit and well, we COULD dispense with 'em) - one who does those tricky knee reconstruction jobs. Good luck to him. Good luck to ME! More in due course. Meanwhile I must remember not to climb ladders or similar up-stepping tasks, only to find there's no easy down-stepping. We should come provided at birth with spare parts of anatomy, and replacement guarantees - possibly automatic - every five years. That would work. Why has nothing been done about it, eh?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

NBN... wozzat? One of those sporting bodies?

Aha! Not a sporting acronym. Bill's blog (not Will's) yesterday provided more mind-food of concern to all. Wrap your brain around this report...

"The news at present is full of the National Broadband Network and the Gillard government's deal for the NBN to buy up and demolish Telstra's present copper-cable phone and Internet lines.

The NBN is not really "national". We have the NBN optic fibre running right through the town, but our house will never be connected to it, because our town is classified as "rural", and does not therefore qualify for NBN connection. The same is true of nearby Derby and Branxholm. This seems ridiculous.

Our present Internet connection is through our copper Telstra link. Its speed has increased substantially during the time we have been here, and is more than satisfactory for our purposes.

The upshot of yesterday's NBN-Telstra deal is that at some time in the future, our copper connection will be pulled out. With no NBN connection, we'll have to rely on wireless connections for both telephone and Internet. Wireless connections are notoriously unreliable in Tasmania because of the mountainous terrain. Even with 3G, our mobile coverage is patchy. Wireless networks deteriorate as the number of users increases, so we are expecting (eventually) a greatly inferior service as a result of the deal.

The NBN roll-out in Tasmania has been a disaster. It has happened in two declining country towns (Scottsdale and Smithton) and an outer Hobart suburb (Midway Point). Only 5% of householders with the NBN are using it. In Scottsdale, neither of the schools nor the hospital is using it. NBN connection, with its optic-fibre modems, is too expensive for most. The Gillard government is expecting to spend $40b on a infrastructure that will see us worse off. Why?"
End of Bill's blog entry. Who knew?
A personal observation here. I've known the author for many years and I judge his insights to be fact-driven, not dependent upon preconceived party-political preferences. Would that we could say that of our legislators!
Onya, Bill.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Hit persons. Scandinavian humour.

OK, so who was it?? One of you in the last quarter hour was the thousandth outside visitor to this blog. Jolly good. I'll let readers know when we reach the million. Ha Ha. I suppose you expect a prize. Too bad.

Actually, that's a fib. The mini-target was probably reached quite a while back. I've only had the blog's (invisible) stat-counter turned on intermittently, and when I thought it was "running in the background", it wasn't. Oh well.

I have just surfaced from three and a half hours of online editing; one job for a Dane and one for a Dutchman. The Dutchman was easy. I know him and he sends me his stuff. The Dane was a blogger, always a bad sign. I sent him some feedback after I delivered the work. This was a test of his sense of humour... the Danish people claim to be proud of theirs. I wrote, "I sincerely admire an author who writes 'sclerotic' and 'kick in the pants' in the same sentence", but after I'd sent this message I remembered that the sense of humour in question is more the custard pie in the face sort of humour. This could be the start of a difficult working relationship, or the end of one. Damn. Maybe I was thinking of the Norwegians. Not the Swedes anyway. They think that humour is a only a word in the dictionary! Now, who else can I insult? And it's only lunchtime.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Circle? You call THAT a circle?

Update on the current crop formations - just coming into the real "season" in the southern U.K.
Four new formations, main focus in Wiltshire. Two were at Stonehenge, but one of the others was was this: note the scale and the mathematical elegance. Thanks again to Mark and Stuart. Go visit!

Monday, 20 June 2011

New formations at the weekend

These two crop formations appeared in the U.K. over the weekend, one in Hampshire and one in Lincolnshire. Thanks to Mark Fussell and to Stuart Dike who do much of the aerial photography from ultralight craft.

In Worlaby, Lincolnshire
(image) or go here for the report


at Cow Drove Hill, Hampshire  or go here for the report.  The people at the centre of the formation give the viewer a good  idea of the scale. Great names!
One can understand why farmers are not happy chappies at the loss of significant harvestable area when a crop is "laid down" -  even though otherwise not damaged. I link to these reports in support of their owner, the Crop Circle Connector website.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Mice Are Back

Well, OK, just one mouse. One mouse is plague enough. After multiple captures a week ago, there was a respite, and then yesterday one incautious creature got his left back foot caught in one of those newfangled plastic rocker-motion traps. That's the problem. The old-style metal-spring devices - on a wooden base if it's the real traditional kind - managed to despatch the catchee in one snap. Mus musculus Wikipedia says "often kept as a pet." Hmm.
 But these newer traps do from time to time merely grab a paw and hold it fast, apparently with no permanent damage. A simple one-handed action to release the plastic jaws of inconvenience and ouch, and the released mouse will scamper off muttering very rude things. This has happened, more or less by accident.What to do? I am mindful that locals were horrified when, eight years ago, as a newcomer to this farming area, I released a couple or three mice back into the wild - and this is a region which has experienced rodent plagues as the real thing.

Yes, I cannot in public spirited duty let mice go about their business of invading human habitat. There are no available animal shelters or retirement homes for surplus mice. With a cowardly effort to avoid looking them in eye, I do, after all, despatch live beasts which use the trap facilities inefficiently. It's quick and clean, and I draw a view over the actual process. I apologise herewith to all the ex-mice who have come my way, and I ask your successors to stay away from my immediate living quarters.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

An Inconvenient Truth, falling from the sky

Friend John L. remarked with dry humour, in regard to the held-up airline passengers whose planes have been cancelled and who - or some of them - complain of the no doubt great inconvenience, that few things in air travel are as inconvenient as your plane falling from the sky with engines seized and shutdown by volcanic ash.

I have the luxury of remaining ground-bound with no immediate plans for being airborne.

On Wikipedia I read through the article on the geology - or volcanology - of the Chilean volcano (Puyehue) which is causing all the damage. It puts matters in better perspective. This is not just a single-vent volcano. More like a multiple complex of vents converging near the surface. A veritable four-for-the-price-of-one. No wonder it's a big 'un.

Its previous blow-out in 1960 triggered the BIGGEST earthquake in recorded history, not so much reported at the time only because of the combination of remoteness, deaths of any nearby witnesses, lack of media access and hence absence of TV coverage which we nowadays take for granted, plus this was all pre-internet and pre a lot of things.

Here's to mere inconvenience.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Airbus concept video

Airbus has unveiled for the Paris Air Show its concept for a hi-tech passenger craft before 2050. You can find a viewer friendly video here. I might not still be around but hey -  maybe I can pencil in a booking, just in case.
The Channel Nine News page  opens with the Airbus story screen, and you can click ('Next') quickly through the eight still concept-images: the ninth one will activate the video.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

New Crop Circle in Oxfordshire

A new crop formation appeared in the past twenty four hours in Oxfordshire, U.K., identical to one a year ago in another part of England. This in itself is unusual. The design seems to be a mathematical model of a three dimensional object or system. It is too soon for viewing better-informed opinion and articles which these early notices generate: go back in coming days to the Crop Circle Connector website if this interests you.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Green Door by Jim Lowe 1956

Well, if you watched a few videos of Simon's Cat from the last blog post then you get an idea of its innocent and chuckle-worthy humour. The artist does the sound effects too... purrs and miaows. Look for the video (on YouTube) where he talks to camera about the phenomenon which is the worldwide popularity of these Simon's Cat movies.

Thanks to Gwenda I am reminded of the 1956 song Green Door and you can check out the link to a nice YouTube clip of the Jim Lowe song. There were increasingly odd versions of the song in the 60s and 70s... then much later another "performed" by muppet Fozzie Bear, and I seem to recall a link to it on this blog about a year ago. The most iconic performance was probably that by British crooner Frankie Vaughan (1928-'99). Until this re-encounter - because like everyone else around at the time I did hear it often in the U.K. following its first release (in the U.S.) back then in September '56 - I had never until now heard that it stayed at the top of the charts for 22 straight weeks until replaced, eventually, by Elvis's 'Love Me Tender'. Curious and compelling as the little tune and its lyrics may be, I tire of it much sooner than five months. In fact, being made to listen for that amount of time would surely qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. But if you can stand a briefer listen, here it is, and if you stick around the link will offer you many more versions

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Simon's Cat this month, and Beyond the Fence

If you do not already know Simon's Cat as a screen star, check out the May 2011 offering on YouTube. It is for cat or rabbit lovers, and my acquaintances have numbers in both cat-egories or rabbit-gories. Here 'tis.

However, a personal favourite is Beyond the Fence (starring Cat), and there are heaps more clips to entertain.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Owen Waters. World affairs... guns vs tennis racquets

One of the authors I quite like ('New Age' if you insist on labels) is Owen Waters, with whom I had some conversations when he lived in SW England before returning to his home in California. I try to keep up with his writings which are available either as physical books or online - often free. He sent me a newsletter this morning and I smiled at his take on the recent embarrassment of one hellfire preacher whose proclaimed dates for "the end of the world" have been frustrated several times. Each to his own.

Weather's turned cold and wet. What a surprise - it's winter. Big decision... shift gravel outside, or stay indoors by the cosy fire! Everyone seems to be busy, whether with elections in Peru and Portugal, or starting new political parties (Independent MP Mr Bob Katter in Australia), or maintaining the mayhem in the Near and Middle East and North Africa. Of course, we tune in to the truly engaging events such as Rafa beating Roger for the Men's Singles tennis grand slam title in Paris; and what about the Women's Title going to Li Na, first ever Chinese winner of a grand slam tournament? Sign of things to come.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Wilton Windmill Wiltshire - where? New Crop Circle is a Snake

It's just over twenty four hours since Olivier Morel posted his latest aerial shots on the website of Crop Circle Connector. You can visit here:
Many in-crop designs have been suggestive of creatures - birds, fish, jellyfish... even spermatozoa - but here's a frank wavy snake, in the field alongside the windmill at Wilton, Wilts.

Goodness only knows how it's done, but certainly not by one bloke, or even a couple of blokes, in the darkness of a single night. The overnight appearance of all such phenomena - with no signs of other crop damage - during the past twenty odd years has never been plausibly accounted for by the skeptics, few of whom ever visited the sites in the flesh or tried to talk intelligently with researchers.

At the very least, the designs are open-air artworks, and their makers are entitled to be mysterious. The farmers are entitled to be grumpy, but the smarter ones recoup crop-damage costs by charging admission.

P.S.  You can check the 30 May blog entry, at the foot, for the answer to our quiz question on "the bridge to where?"