Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sure, if the news is true... ALP, R.I.P. Bob Zubrin too.

The words of the Ulster song, "Sure, if the news is true..." can be applied. OK, the rumoured news in the song is of a new ship to be built in Belfast shipyards and better times ahead for the currently unemployed workers. But a similar celebratory note is struck by yesterday's strong indication that the execrable Michael Rann has had his day. Our State Premier - for much too long - better styled as President Rann of Rannistan. Australian Labor Party? Heck, no. Any further right he'd fall off the starboard bow. This is a man who has consistently attempted corruptly to influence the courts and the independence of the judiciary in South Australia. A wannabe el supremo of a tinpot dictatorship. There are umpteen nasty regimes around the world who could maybe offer him a job. Did I say I don't like him or what he stands for?

Well, that felt good.

On a lighter note, today is the fortieth anniversary of... let's see, day eleven of Viking I's successful robotic mission to Mars, gathering soil samples for analysis by its onboard GCMS. Its what? Y'know, the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer thingey. You knew that. I've known it ever since last night when I reached page 31 of Dr Robert Zubrin's book (revised edition) The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must. Not this week, but over the next millenium. No harm in packing early. Double click the image to go to full screen - then you can also get rid of any annoying ad at the foot of the picture.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Those crops, those designs

You're fed up with links to crop circles for the time being, but I am letting you know that they keep coming. In Europe it's the height of the cropping season, and specifically in England we are getting formations appearing every couple of days, on average. The "epicentre" remains the Wiltshire area.

In recent days there was a curiosity of a picture in a crop, clearly intended to represent the classic portrait of a "grey" - you know, the image of the large-eyed big round headed "space alien" (draconian) made (?)popular from the covers of books by Whitley Strieber, and others. A strong suggestion that this particular crop circle was man-made. However, around 1999 there was a spectacular similar image, but a better one, and it came with a complex embedded code. Our Russian investigator friends claim a non-human origin for that "artwork" at least. You are welcome as ever to go and visit or join the important website - and to share any of your thoughts on the phenomenon.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


I came across a stat yesterday, you know the kind, a hazard of watching those nature shows. But this was simply a mention, "guess how many" sort of thing. OK, so the number 14 popped up. We've all heard, I'm sure, that the planet has more ants than people. We will keep it to just ants, no other creepy-crawlies. The question was put: how many ants are there for every human? Is it; 14, 140, 1400, 14000, or 140000? I have to take it on trust that the answer's one of those numbers. I have no idea who did the counting. A hundred and forty thousand DOES sound a lot. That's PER PERSON.
Yes, that was said to be the answer. I'd call that A LOT. But I do know that I trip over an ant any time I trudge the 30 metres in the dark to the shed I call a garage. So it must be true.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Thank you Cadel

Sleep deprivation is a horrible thing; cruel and unusual punishment for staying up to watch the Tour de France which they unreasonably conducted in Europe during daylight hours, even for yesterday's time trial (a 42km individual "sprint"). This morning much of the country is in awe at the achievement of Aussie Cadel Evans, first antipodean in the race's 108 year history to go to the final stage wearing the maillot jaune, the stage-winner's yellow jersey. It is the result of years of preparation and effort, a great team around him (BMC), battling setbacks of injury and then mechanical troubles at crucial points in Friday's mountain stage in the Alps, and as gutsy a sustained performance as you will see in any sport.

Now here's an odd thing. The Tour is the sole event in world sports where by tradition the competitors, and only they, have determined that the leader - since 1975 - at the second last stage, will remain the leader - and therefore overall winner - for that last stage into Paris, making that run in effect a triumphal ceremonial finale.

However, the race is technically not over yet. An unforeseen accident, illness, or even a stray dog, could conceivably wreck the show. Stay away, please, any stray dogs reading this blog. And here's to Cadel Evans, worthiest of Tour winners. Forget any Swedish golfers going into final rounds at 20-under. Forget English Test cricketers ahead of India in the 2000th test match. But you're allowed to keep an eye on Mark Webber in Formula One motor racing.
Go Aussies. What, me? One-eyed?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Women play soccer too. Laid down at Cherhill Down.

What? You didn't know? The Japanese Women's Soccer Team has just won the World Cup - winning the final against America in a 2-2 final scoreline then a 3-1 penalty shoot-out. The event has been embraced as a boost to morale for a country still reeling from the March earthquake and tsunami devastation.

O.K. so you don't really care. Hmm. What might tickle your interest? I know. Crop circles. Hey! Who just said "Oh no! Not again." Listen... this MIGHT be important. Anyway, in the past twenty four hours two more of the little suckers showed up in England. One's in Lincolnshire. The other is our old friend Wiltshire, at Cherhill Down, and what is different, or rare, is that the internal pattern is formed within a full circle entirely by the lay of the crop. That is, NOT by the contrast of standing and laid-down stems. This makes for a less distinct look, but seen from the air it is subtle and fascinating. Aren't they all? Have a squiz. A nice touch is that Stuart's ultralight was flying low and some of the people inside the formation are looking up at him, one even waving. No big deal. I just thought it was a friendly moment.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

More circling

[See below for an update this evening.]

I don't KNOW what it is about Avebury and Wiltshire generally when it comes to the crop formation phenomenon. Simplest speculation is that a tireless hoaxer lives next to the pub near the famous Avebury standing stones, within cooee of Silbury Hill (and Stonehenge). All very spooky. Or other circle-makers, of whatever sort, have a special affinity for the area. Or else the area itself possesses a little-understood "earth energy" which lends itself to being a focus for the extraordinary art form. The special nature of this and certain other regions has been believed by individuals for centuries, quite independently of any association with the crop circles/formations.
THIS design appeared in recent hours, shown as aerial shots only.

Update: I posted at breakfast time, SA time, and after a day of singing with our intrepid group practising like mad for three concerts in the coming month, I see that articles and diagrams have been added to the above crop circle connector site for yesterday's Overton Down formation. Especially, there is a coherent discussion from two Russian researchers - women with PhDs and presumably a few smarts - who offer eyebrow raising notions. Another article is translated from the Chinese. So, the Wiltshire formations are by no means of only local interest to the UK enthusiasts.

Friday, 15 July 2011


Nope, not the "spirals"(spirali) which are a kind of Italian pasta - yummy though they be - but yet another Wiltshire crop formation from a couple of days ago. Great artwork if nothing else. Elegant, deceptively simple geometry, not as damaging to the farmer's crop as some seen in recent weeks, equally mysterious.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Top marks to the reindeer beanie

Sunny and cool. No, I tell a fib. It's cold. Not car-encased-in-ice cold, but cold enough for woolly jumper AND a zip-up top garment too. A wool beanie works well, I find, especialy one with a pompom on top: and somewhere I still own one which has a green and white reindeer design. Memo. Must look it out.

Chainsaw out this morning. Wood in the woodshed, and from there to the back porch, and from there to the open fire in the lounge-room. What I really need is a chain of handy garden gnomes to keep the wood-bucket topped up. All right, you know I lead a quiet life. There's a dearth of news locally - either that or people just don't tell me. Internationally, of course, there is the normal mayhem.

How sad about the deaths in the capsized ferry on the Volga River - typical third worldly contributing reason: overcrowding / overloading. How often have you heard it? Adelaide has its River, called the Torrens, over which an individual can literally hop, if you feel so inclined. Not huge then. By contrast the Volga in places is several kilometres wide. The combo of wind and wave, with an unstable vessel, can be lethal, and in this case was.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Cold enough? Try Versoix in winter.

People keep complaining about the winter chill. Come ON! In South Australia this means we put on a woolly jumper. A notoriously cold spell in a Swiss town on the shore of Lac Leman (the Lake of Geneva) - sorry, don't know which year - was lyrically filmed and posted with a nice music track. Happily they are currently in mid-summer over there. Just a reminder that we are kinda lucky. In 1989 I enjoyed a boat trip on the lake from Geneva to Lausanne. It was pleasantly warm then!

Double click on the image to get full screen viewing. Actually, that winter was not out of the ordinary - the remarkable ice effects occur from wind-blown spray from the lake, which successively freezes and builds up (even encasing vehicles). And because the author called her clip "Incredible event..." it has been automatically cataloged with some mainly silly UFO and ghost clips. Nobody says you have to watch any of that.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

wicked weekend

What a weekend of worldly event! Not for me... my most exciting episode was wondering if I was going to be eaten at Edithburgh by a red heeler bitch (I was talking with her human) but when I proved inedible she made friends instead. Must have said the right things in dog. Most dogs like me; in fact, they find me delicious.

The successful Shuttle launch (number 135... and terminal) kicked off the weekend, 1am Saturday. Did you remember? Set your alarm? Me neither. Then the demise of Rupert's The News of the World newspaper, sleaziest rag of the UK's gutter press. The joke is that Mr Murdoch doesn't give a hoot about it or its staff; he's looking to acquire BSkyB and its nine billion dollar annual income, beside which the NOTW cashflow was a fleabite. Nine billion...? Or was it pounds?

And today, not that most Australians would bother to note it, South Sudan's people - following the referendum earlier this year - take up their new-won independence as the planet's latest nation state, now divided from the Arabic-speaking Moslem north which had bombed and strafed them for the last couple of decades. Good luck, people.

In California, for royal-watchers the Kate and Will show rolled on. If you play polo on horseback (not the water sort) and played on the opposing team against Will, it cost you $50,000 (to charity), but the price hike was significant if you wanted to be on the prince's team. A hundred grand. I thought about it quite briefly and counted off the problems on three fingers. One: no cash. Two: no horse. Three: can't play polo. That's without even factoring in the added issues, like: wasn't there; wasn't invited; and didn't want to anyway. Which might be sour grapes, let's face it.

It's 9pm Sunday. 'Nother three hours and we'll have survived the weekend. Go Matildas. (Aussie women's national soccer team). Chopped some firewood. Oh, and I did online editing jobs for a Brazilian biochemist / medical researcher and a Canadian author. Small but interesting, the job not the author. No, actually I'm sure the author's interesting too. And may well be small. Hell, end this paragraph, why dontcha!?

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Last Space Shuttle Launch

At a few minutes after 1am South Australian time, Saturday morning, the shuttle Atlantis will be launched on not only her final  voyage but the last such trip in the 30 year American space shuttle program. It is rather sad.
See more here about the event.

This leaves, for now, only the Russian-leased Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan as a viable space-port for connections to the International Space Station.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Rhythm method, hugs, horses... oh, and crop circle

OK there was one smile this morning when I did an otherwise annoying edit job for a software-developing company in Russia: the boss said his team used "the rhythm method" to achieve results. And "big hugs" were due to those who got good results.

In the past 24 hours this formation appeared at Milk Hill, near Alton Barnes, Wiltshire, in the UK, famous for one of the hillside horses (on Tan Hill) which is shown in the aerial view, where turf has been removed and replaced by chalky white stones. The horse is NOT a crop formation: it's been there for several centuries. And this time the formation in the standing crop can reasonably be called a crop CIRCLE. Look at the scale: the human figures inside the circle are tiny. That's right. It's quite hard to even see them

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Yesterday's two new crop formations

Wow. Weird or what? Reported in the past 24 hours, both formations near Alton Barnes, Wiltshire, and both extraordinary art works - whether by some local genius or (also genius) our playful space alien buddies who clearly have a thing about Wiltshire fields (not a million miles from Silbury Hill and Stonehenge, each of which is a site of great interest to archaeologists and researchers into 'earth energies').

This invites you to ?translate from an intriguing square-looking 'script'. Tolkien did it, so why not book-loving aliens? This next formation goes back to the insectoid art of earlier phases... and for an unknown reason appears unfinished. Julian suggests somewhat enigmatically that it's because the design is too close to the local pub. Cheeky sod.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Moscow Nights

This is a beaut version of the famous song Moscow Nights (podmoskovniye vechera) beloved of Muscovites and I daresay most Russians even those who live elsewhere in the biggest country on earth. Not to mention all the ex-pats. I shared with friends earlier today and now with all blog watchers. There are of course good English words but this is in the original. I've know it with pleasure for over fifty years, since a summer spent - in part - in Moscow. The lyric has gentle romance and especially a portrait in words and melody of the Moscow River in the evening light, then moonlight, and finally the dawn.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Last Exit to... Mars. The Final Shuttle.

July already. Jeez. How'd we get here so soon?
One week from today, July 8, will be the final launch in the US space shuttle program. There is no replacement plan in view.

So, you know I was rabbiting-on the other day about my interest in Mars 'n' stuff ? I was being rudely flippant about that desert habitat deal for volunteers. Actually, I was just annoyed because nobody sent me a free ticket; and because it sounded a little like, y'know, work. I am after all a creature of comfort when I can get it. Like this morning, faced with the choice of coffee and a choc cookie, versus taking the trailer with garden organic waste up to the tip. Tough call.

Anyways (as our Canadian friends say) back to Mars. Bob Zubrin is one of my modern heroes. I mentioned him before, with a link to a talk he gave about, guess what, the do-able mechanics of reaching that destination using essentially current technology. It's his mission, so to speak. His book, co-authored with Richard Wagner (no, not THAT Richard Wagner) says more. It's called The Case for Mars and you can go here to read the preface which turns out to be a re-run of a paper Dr Zubrin first published in 1996. No harm in that.

If you're still reading, and if like me you go bug-eyed at pix of the Martian surface, you might care to read also this CNN item which re-prints a great talk by Dr Robert Zubrin (full title this time), who is in fact a rocket scientist as well as visionary. He's also our honorary President of The Mars Society, and yes, I'm a member of the Australian sister society: we're called marstralians. Enjoy.