Showing posts from 2007

News: Entertain Me!

To me, there is nothing like sitting on the couch with a nice big, hot cup of coffee and a newspaper. It's a mystery to me, but for some reason it can be very relaxing to be able to sip a steaming cuppa and read the news: usually morbid stuff like how many people died in what tragedy in which part of the world. I remember that when I used to have a TV at home I would watch the news as a form of entertainment. Sure, I rationalized that I was "informing myself" about world events. But, get real, it was enjoyable to sit and munch on a cheese-topped cracker and listen to the newscasters report on things that only happen to other people. It is for this reason, I also used to like listening to the news on the radio. Talk-back radio was especially fun because you got to hear regular people air their opinions on how leaders of foreign countries should shape their policies towards other foreign countries. When it comes to foreign affairs (especially someone else's), everyon

Center of Attention

Why is it that some people seek to be the center of attention? There are some situations where being the focus is expected (as the bride at your wedding, for example) and there are times when one should stay out of the limelight (for instance, when you are being investigated for fraud). As a kid, the best way to seek attention was to either win an award or throw a tantrum. Both tactics worked for me. As an adult, I have noticed that it becomes more and more difficult to be the center of attention. Winning awards is harder to do and throwing tantrums is not nearly as effective as I would have hoped, so I have discovered. In my opinion, the more successful attention seekers in a social scene are those with a really good sense of humor. Witty people tend to attract others. Everyone likes a good laugh, especially if the person telling the joke or the story tells it well. On the other hand, it is a bit dangerous because you can lose your audience just as easily as you got them. A few bad jo

Semi-Intelligent Gifts

It is that time of year again when all good little children write down their wish lists and hope for the best: firetrucks, footballs, fluffy bunnies. However, parents' shopping lists this year featured a $300 robotic dinosaur called Pleo , who, incidentally, is the most popular toy of 2007 (at least according to some website or other, which probably makes it true). According to the blurb: "This techno dino is equipped with sensors (35 in total) throughout his tiny body, allowing Pleo to react instantly to sight, sound and touch. They also make Pleo capable of expressions and reactions. They also make each Pleo unique. As Pleos learn, Ugobe says, they begin to form their own distinct behaviors and personalities developed from their environment". From the sounds of it, Pleo is better than a real pet because you can go away for a vacation and not have to worry about it.


I'm all for saving the environment. We have spent thousands of years messing up this planet. It's time to right the wrongs, stop plundering the planet get the place back in order. It's time we cleaned house. There are things that one can do to facilitate this: drive eco-friendly cars (or ride a bike), recycle glass, plastics and paper, and buy environmentally friendly toothpicks (see: Spirit of Nature ). But there are some environmentally "friendly" products out there that make no sense at all. Take, for example, scented plastic bags used for disposing dirty diapers. Living in a household with small kids, I understand the whole nappy sack thing: you want to keep the smell in the bag. I relate to that. So why would you want to buy biodegradeable nappy sacks ? Your Huggies won't biodegrade for a thousand years, yet the nappy sacks take only 60 days to turn to dust. What a great invention! I suppose that 60 days is long enough to get the sack out of your house

Call Centers in the Caribbean?

I read in Business Week Online that India is losing business to the Caribbean. According to the article, the number of Caribbean call center employees jumped from 11,000 in 2002 to 55,000 in 2007. That‘s pretty cool. North America has discovered that the Caribbean Islands are full of hotels. Hotels deal with grumpy customers. Senior Management contends that people who deal with grumpy hotel customers would make great call center staff. A good solid business argument - and a suspicious one. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had a choice of traveling first-class on business to Calcutta or Barbados, I think that Barbados would win. Do I want to spend time in busy, dusty New Delhi, or would I prefer to wear board shorts and do business on white, sandy beaches in the Bahamas? Would I want to eat curry in a sweaty restaurant in Bangalore, or drink dacharies by the pool in Aruba? Of course, doing business in the Caribbean has its drawbacks, too. One of them is if the Caribbean Islands

English Lesson

It says somewhere that one of G-d’s greatest gifts to us is the ability to forget. That way, pain and suffering don’t stay with us forever. Memories of bad experiences fade with time. The cost of this all, as you well know, is that good memories also fade away. We forget details of places, people and events. Sometimes we even make up our own memories in place of the ones that we forgot. Have you ever had a conversation that went something like this: “Yeah, I remember. It was a big blue boat with white writing on the side. How can I forget?” “Actually, it was a small white boat with blue writing on the side. You were three at the time, how can you possibly remember?” “No, I’m sure of it: big, blue with white writing!” This is called misremembering. It’s not exactly forgetting, but it’s remembering incorrectly. We do this for all sorts of things, especially people: “He was such a good guy.” “Well, he evicted us from our house.” “No, wasn’t that his brother?” “I think you are misrememb

The Crash

On the way home from work the other night we passed the scene of a car accident. The vehicle in question had both its front and rear ends smashed in and it was positioned across two lanes. There were no other cars involved, although one could easily be mistaken considering the amount of broken glass strewn across the road. It must have taken extraordinary skill to crash the car in such a spectacular way, especially since the road was dry, well lit, flat and very straight. As we passed by, I glanced out the window and noticed the driver sitting on the road barrier. I know it was the driver because he was inhaling his cigarette smoke so deeply that, if he let go, the cigarette might get sucked down his throat. His foot was also rapidly tapping the floor. Two sure signs. What also struck me was that the barrier was twisted horizontally, creating a perfect place to sit. How convenient. Why not make the most of a bad situation, sit down and have a smoke? Wait a minute, this sounds a litt

The Truth About President Bush

I have to admit, watching clips of President Bush messing up his speeches is funny. I don’t know why that is. I mean, poor guy, it seems that every time he stands behind the microphone it is a disaster waiting to happen. “…and if you are working hard to put food on your family…” Granted, he is a very visible President. He attends lots of functions, gives lots of speeches and he is likely to make a mistake every now and then. Nobody’s perfect. I’m sure that every President before him made the occasional slip. Bush has been in power for nearly two terms, so he has ample opportunity to make a mess of it. “..I know that human beings and fish can live together peacefully…” Okay, but then you can say that every President faced the same challenge. It just so happens that President Bush botches it more often than others. Or that could just be the media picking up on his shortcomings. Ostensibly, the President of the United States is supposed to be the most powerful man in the world and the fa


When you think of a real man, do you think of a middle-aged professional with graying hair, wearing a power tie and a fancy Rolex, working in a big office building with a doorman and marble floors; or do you think of rough-faced cowboys breaking-in wild horses, or muscled workmen on a rig surrounded by huge pipes and oversized spanners? Does the word “bloke” conjure up images of sophisticated, educated and refined gentlemen smoking long cigars in the club, or of tall, strong, sweaty men doing the jobs only real men can do? Sport is also manly. I’m talking about well-built blokes with bowling-ball biceps who put their bodies on the line because they only play to win. No pain, no gain. If you aint sweatin’, you aint workin’.* Let’s face it, there is nothing more manly than doing hard, physical work and getting sweaty. I’m not talking about perspiration – that’s too delicate a term. I’m talking about sweet, salty, gritty, sweat. Men love to sweat. It’s true. Here’s an example: wha

Welcome to the New You

Identity Theft is a crime that claims more and more victims every day. Personality aside, your details are a large part of who you are - your family status, your health, address, telephone numbers, income and so on. The age of technology, where your personal information is stored electronically, has given rise to this new phenomenon. If someone can tap into that database, they have the ability to virtually become you (in many senses of the term). This is only possible because the security of the information is at the fickle mercy of technology, organizational policy, budgets and the expertise of the database administrator. Identity Theft sounds like a bad thing. But it aint necessarily so. Here’s why: I figure that the medical condition that troubles the majority of people today (whether they know it or not) is depression. Everybody has gripes, complaints and dissatisfaction. I’m not talking about complaints about lousy service at the local grocery store; I’m talking about complain

My Theory on Gifts

Everyone knows that buying a gift for your spouse can be a dangerous undertaking. If you buy her jewelry then you have to make sure it is exactly the color and style she likes - otherwise it shows that you haven’t been paying attention. If you buy him any type of clothing, no matter what it is, he will think you are unimaginative. A popular grumble is, “what do you give a person who already has everything?” This person already has so much stuff that he will not appreciate a gift which merely adds to his collection of material possessions. So the only option left is to buy him something that is not a material possession, like charity in his name, or maybe a consumable (bottle of wine, a cake, batteries for his MP3 player) or, say, an experience (theatre tickets, a meal at a fancy restaurant) and so on. If you can’t find the right gift, you can always blame it on the manufacturing industry. Look, the fact is that we each have a birthday every year, but inventors and manufacturers can’t

Snippets of Conversation

One of the most often used opening scenes in movies is when the camera follows a man walking along a street. The man inevitably crosses the road, enters a shop or gets into his car just as the main characters appear. The camera stops moving so that it can concentrate on the main characters, leaving the man in the opening scene to move off camera, never to be heard from again. He was merely an excuse for the camera to get from its starting position to where the main characters are located. I wonder what the "opening scene man" is thinking as he plays his part. Is he measuring his strides? Is he trying desperately to walk the route without tripping over? Well, he certainly isn't trying to remember his lines. After all, the "opening scene man" never talks. It could be that the "opening scene man" is not thinking anything in particular. Perhaps he is a professional "opening scene man" who has done this opening scene many times and just wants to

Pink Elephants

The title of this blog is "Pink Elephants", although it has nothing to do with pink elephants. But since I am afraid of a visit from the KGB, I thought I'd better don the proverbial fake mustache and give this post an innocuous name. I'm sure the KGB internet crawlers are prowling for articles just like this one. Fox News has Putin winning a landslide victory of 306 seats of a possible 450 seats in the lower house. That's only 68% of the vote. What's more, overall, Putin won 61% of the vote. Fox News calls this a major win. Well, Fox, I disagree. This is not a triumph for Putin, it is a disgrace. It is utterly despicable that a former Major in the KGB managed to only convince 61% of the people to vote for him. Vladimir Putin should be ashamed of himself. According to news articles from before the elections in the former Soviet Union, factory workers were being forced to vote in favor of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on pain of unemployment. This o

Are Museums Outdated?

According to 24 Hour Museum News 15,462 people visited the Coal Mining Museum for England in August 2004. Between April and August of the same year, 2,118,518 visitors passed through the turnstiles of the British Museum. While these statistics are almost as old as some of the exhibits, one wonders why so many people go to visit museums. I mean, in this day and age, everything you want to know about any subject - including History - can be found on the internet. If you want to know about Christopher Columbus, go to If you want to know about Australian explorers, Burke and Wills, go here: If you want to learn about Herod, Wikipedia will help you out. Do you think that you will learn something extra by being in the same room as a wax replica of an original reconstruction of an ancient tool, based on either fragments of iron and crustacean fossils or some book-worm-historian's educated (best) guess of what life was like way back

My Advice to US Presidential Candidate Hopefuls

The latest news reports out of Australia have Prime Minister elect, Kevin Rudd, appointing a former rock singer, Peter Garrett, as Environment Minister. This may not be a surprising move because Peter Garrett is not only known for his bald head and gangly dancing, but he is also known as a social activist. I suppose you could call him "new age". His very popular song about Aboriginal Land Rights ( Beds Are Burning ) is a case in point. Now Peter Garrett is a Minister in the Federal Government. I'm sure that Peter is delighted with his new-found power. Instead of getting out there and protesting, he can actually do something about the problems he has complained about through his music and the media. Considering that Mr Garrett will manage Australia's slow push towards a more environmentally friendly society, he may have to change the name of his band from "Midnight Oil" to "Midnight Energy Efficient Renewable Resource". It doesn't quite have


The art of popcorn-making is dying. I remember when my father passed on the secret of popcorn-making to me one night. We were standing by the stove and he was shaking the pot over the open oven flame. Not too much oil. Not too much heat. Shake. Shake. Shake. And the fourth secret, which I am not at liberty to disclose. I was never much good at making popcorn, despite that I know the fourth secret. The last time I tried to make popcorn from corn-kernels over an open flame, I wasted a bag of popcorn and about an hour and a half. There were times, though, that I got it right and the corn popped perfectly. I dubbed myself "The Popcorn King". I seem to have lost the knack and thus the popcorn throne. My shake-the-pot technique has been found wanting - and then there's the fourth thing, which I don't do very well. But I can't tell you what that is. So now I do what the majority of the popcorn-eating population do. Either I buy it ready-made from a popcorn vendor, or

You Took the Music Right Out of My Mouth

Ever heard of Wierd Al Yankovich ? He's a musical satirist. That means that he takes a popular tune and substitutes the original lyrics for his own, more amusing ones. For instance, one of his most famous victims is Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (renamed "Eat It"). One may be forgiven for thinking that the parody is often better than the original, which it often is. Songs have two main parts: the music and the lyrics. As it turns out, the lyrics are secondary, it's the music that's important. You can take the words away from almost any song and you are left with the musical component, which often stands on its own. But, believe it or not, there are people who deliberately break the rules. They retain the words and substitute the original music for their own. I'm talking about the following unfortunate invention: Rock Operas - operas sung to contemporary rock or heavy metal. Imagine if they decided to make a Rock-Opera out of Macbeth. Yep. That&#

Mysteries To Befuddle Us

Apparently, one of the great mysteries of the 20th Century is "who really wrote JFK's famous "ask not what your country can do for you..." speech. I'll give you a few options. Was it: a) John F. Kennedy himself b) Theodore Sorensen, his chief speech writer c) Something he overheard his janitor saying while cleaning the Presidential Bathroom d) None of the above If you guessed c) or d), you would be wrong, although, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the janitor did say to Kennedy, " Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right", while freshening up the toilet bowl . Guessing b) would put you in range, but not quite, according to author Thurston Clarke. Mr Clarke has written a book called " Ask Not ", which delves into the mystery of who actually wrote that famous speech. He would have you believe that a) is the correct answer. The drama of the story behind the speech will probably be revealed in some multi-million

Don't Google Yourself. You May Not Like What You Find.

I did a bit of egosurfing (otherwise referred to as vanity searching, egosearching, egogoogling, autogoogling or self-googling). I looked up "Karp" and didn't find much that thrilled me. I then Wikipedia'd myself and found a whole bunch of Karps listed - from punk rock bands to mathematicians. Not that I was expecting an article about me, but I thought that I might find someone with the same family name that did something interesting, something I could relate to. And then I saw him. Robert Karp . This was the type of guy I can identify with. Bob lived from 1911 to 1975, but from 1938 to 1974 he was employed by the Walt Disney Company to write the scripts for the Donald Duck newspaper comic strips. Now, there you have it, a man after my own heart - he writes, doodles and gets paid for it. What a perfect job. So now that Donald Duck is my favorite cartoon character, I just had to find out some interesting facts about him. I discovered that not only is Donald Duck a

Living Your Life Vicarously Through Others

You are a parent who wants your kid to be a lawyer or a doctor, but they really want to be an accountant or an actuary. You are a coach pushing your team to be the best at their sport, but they just want to run around and get sweaty for fun. That's because you are living your life vicariously through others. I have no problem with that. In fact, I condone and encourage it. Just because you didn't make it in your dream profession or in your dream sport, it doesn't mean that you can't still live the glory. Just because you found yourself sitting behind a desk, day after day, shuffling papers or whatever, it doesn't mean that you can't feel the warm glow of the spotlight of victory on your shoulders, albeit through someone else. In fact, living your life vicariously through someone else is the easiest way to become successful. All you have to do is pace the side of the pool and shout unintelligble instructions while your child swims lap after lap. They feel the

Not Everyone Can Be a Superhero

I would make a bet that when we were kids we all wished, at some stage or other, that we could be someone special, like Superman, Spiderman or, heaven help us, even Batman. Sometimes those fantasies linger a little bit longer and live in the recesses of our minds during our teenage years, fading away slowly as we approach adulthood. I seem to fall into some unclassified category of adults who still like to think about what life would be like if I found that I was, say, impervious to bullets. Oh, yeah! Fearlessly striding into battle, shooting at the bad guys with bullets bouncing off my chest as I single-handedly win the war. But I would also have to be able to fly as well because what is the point of, say, going to an Iranian nuclear site to blow it up if I couldn't get over the fence? I'd also have to have super-strength because even if they couldn't shoot me, all they would have to do is punch me in the nose and I'd be finished. Maybe I should add invisibility to my

Speed Demons

Recently, Wired Magazine Online ran a story about a man and his friend whose dream it was to beat the record of 32 hours and 7 minutes driving from New York to California . The title of the article was “ Totally Illegal Cross-Country Sprint for Glory .” Their mission was to travel at crazy speeds along public roads through various states, risking their own and everybody else’s lives in the process (I suppose that’s the “for Glory” part). The amount of planning it took to set this whole thing up is extraordinary. Police scanners and radar detection devices are only the start. 150 hours spent devising a series of complicated Excel spreadsheets detailing fuel stops, routes and detours proves their obsessive determination, not to mention the spotter plane they arranged to feed them information from the air about police, construction and other obstacles up ahead. Planned down to the very last detail, two men and their tricked-out BMW headed off to break a 20-year record. My first

The Product Every Supermarket Lacks

Go down to your local supermarket and take a look around. What is missing? Come on, think. What is it that you have always needed but could never find in your local grocery store? Any ideas? Okay, I'll give it to you: ham or latke flavored soda. Now you are kicking yourself because it was so obvious that you should have guessed it right off. CNN reports that this "holiday season" Jones Soda Co. in the United States is marketing a number of new flavors that have always been missing from the American diet, including ham flavored and latke flavored soda. Both kosher and caffeine free. I don't know about the ham one, but I wonder about the latke flavor. Did the product development team fight about whether it should taste like store-bought, instant or home-made latkes ? Also, do you have to drink through a thick layer of oil before reaching the actual soda? That could really put a damper on the fizz. Just in case you were worried that the other traditional Channuka

News: Entertain Me!

To me, there is nothing like sitting on the couch with a nice big, hot cup of coffee and a newspaper. It's a mystery to me, but for some reason it can be very relaxing to be able to sip a steaming cuppa and read the news: usually morbid stuff like how many people died in what tragedy in which part of the world. I remember that when I used to have a TV at home I would watch the news as a form of entertainment. Sure, I rationalized that I was "informing myself" about world events. But, get real, it was enjoyable to sit and munch on a cheese-topped cracker and listen to the newscasters report on things that only happen to other people. It is for this reason, I also used to like listening to the news on the radio. Talk-back radio was especially fun because you got to hear regular people air their opinions on how leaders of foreign countries should shape their policies towards other foreign countries. When it comes to foreign affairs (especially someone else's), everyon

Science: That's Entertainment!

I think that the point of scientific, theory, conjecture and experimentation is for our entertainment pleasure. I can just see all the white-coated scientists with their rotten tomatoes at the ready, aiming for my good typing hand. How dare I minimise the importance of scientific wisdom! Think of all of the good that science has brought to the world! In one line I reduced to mockery millennia of effort and thought. Entertainment, indeed! In the hope of causing a ruckus, I am prepared to defend my viewpoint - feel free to disagree. Take a look at this website . It lists the top 20 most bizarre scientific experiments of all time (note that they are only the top 20. This implies there are more!) Some of them are truly revolting, others are interesting and the rest are amusing. But they are all entertaining. I mean, reading them is fun. Science = Entertainment. I know you are thinking that the scientific experiments on a website called " museumofhoaxes .com" can't possibl

Keeping With Tradition

According to this Wikipedia article, in Nordic countries, only government-run vendors can sell alcohol because the government wants to crack down on alcohol consumption in countries where "binge drinking is an ancient tradition". Nice one. This got me wondering about other interesting ancient traditions. How about: kissing the Blarney Stone. According to tradition, one who kisses the Blarney Stone is given the gift of eloquence. At his own risk, one must climb over the parapet of an Irish castle and hope that his friend doesn't let go as he lowers himself precariously over the edge to lay his lips on the Blarney Stone. One of two things can happen. Either he falls, in which case the myriad expletives flowing from his mouth in the seconds before death prove the tradition true; or he doesn't fall and when questioned as to his death-defying experience he answers, "Oh, blimey. Lost for words! Can't describe the feeling!", proving the tradition of eloquence