Wednesday, March 26, 2008

is your stuff "shot from guns" ?

How much stuff have you got? That's the question being asked by a new Australian television series titled simply Stuff.

Its creator Wendy Harmer says in the show's outline:

[quote]This series looks at the human life-long love affair with material objects. It is a deeply personal and psychological portrait of our connection with our own “stuff”.

Stuff examines – from the cradle to the grave – the abiding passion all of us have for stuff – the stuff we buy, the stuff we treasure, the stuff we desire and the stuff that’s most important to us.

“In making this series I wanted to present a view about consumption that was beyond basic academic theory. I wanted to present a human view of consumption.

I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the many books, newspaper columns and documentaries that finger-wag about the way we consume. We consume, they say, because we’re “greedy”, “unthinking”, to “show off” to “have power over others.”

We are told that consuming is a habit we have to quickly unlearn, as if, somehow, we had only recently learned it.

In fact, we humans have been consuming forever. The desire to acquire goods is as much a part of our lives as is the desire to work.

In researching this topic, I was much inspired by a wonderful book: “The World of Goods – towards an anthropology of consumption” written by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood ( Basic Books New York, 1979).

In this book, the authors make the point that consumption cannot be discussed without looking at our social system. In fact, we humans consume for many different reasons - to keep our selves warm and fed, certainly, but we also consume books, poetry and beautiful objects that inspire; we use goods to celebrate; as gifts; to honour our spiritual life; to express our identity and encode memory.

Therefore stuff is both the hardware and software of human existence.

I am very proud to have made a documentary about consumption that does not contain the usual footage of factory smokestacks, landfill tips and bulging supermarket trolleys.

Instead, it features many happy human faces and all their wonderful stuff! It’s a study of a love affair as much as anything else.

The message of this programme is to be mindful when you consume and above all, love your stuff. It is as unique as you are. Hopefully, this series will have people thinking about over-consumption, but in a gentle and humorous way.[unquote]

The only problem, perhaps, is that Wendy is not a neutral observer - she is a self-confessed "chucker" who is visibly restraining herself from telling the interviewees they should just throw out all that junk.

This series is for those who get the horrors whenever they watch Collectors on Friday night!


I've been listening to some old radio serials recently and have been intrigued by one of the sponsors, a breakfast cereal that is "shot from guns."

I didn't think I would get very far asking about it at my local supermarket, but it took me quite a while to bring up a straightforward explanation of what this meant (even with help from Mr Google).

The best explanation was from a website where they were discussing breakfast cereals (!) and somebody spelled it out as follows:

"The 'shot from guns' slogan refers to the normal method of making puffed wheat kernels: a metal cylinder is rapidly injected with hot compressed air, causing the wheat kernels to expand, and then opened to release the puffed kernels. A similar process is performed with other grains. When the cylinder is opened, it creates a loud noise; the cylinders are generally referred to as guns, since this works very much like a shotgun shell and the process is most efficient when performed with long and slender tubes that resemble large rifle barrels."
So now we know.


New tablets mean a new leaflet about side-effects and all that. All about biguanides and metformin hydrochloride.

The paragraph about low blood glucose is a bit concerning. If not treated promptly, the leaflet warns, this can lead to
loss of co-ordination
slurred speech
fits or loss of consciousness.

They've certainly got my number -- most days I suffer from the first three anyway!

how bout dem shift keys??

I didn't write this, but I think you'll find it amusing....

The Shift Key FAQ - Version 0.001

by Alan Meiss,

Unleash the Power of Shift!

Q. What happens if I press both shift keys?

A. Even bigger letters may show up on your screen. You should not use this feature, however, because these letters are also brighter, and may cause Screen Burn-In, which would be particularly embarrassing if you were typing something naughty at the time. You might consider obtaining the author's Shift Key Burn-In Protector program for only $139.95. Or you might not, it's your computer, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Q. My shift keys have little arrows on them. Does that mean the *real* shift keys are located above them, and these keys are just little signs to point them out?

A. Nope, they're the Real McCoy. The little arrows mean "up", as in "look up at the screen". Your keyboard is telling you to learn to touch type and quit staring at your fingers.

q. my religion prohibits the use of shift keys. how can i type capital letters and punctuation

A. Discuss alternatives to the shift key with your spiritual advisor. Perhaps your deity would not be angered by repeated use of the Caps Lock key, or maybe you can retain a consultant to depress the shift for you. You might also consider replacing punctuation marks that require the use of shift keys with lower case expressions; replace ? with "huh" and ! with "zowie".


A. Do small children with a fondness for peanut butter use your keyboard frequently? If so, you may want to clean it off for more reliable operation. First, disconnect your keyboard by gripping each of its ends firmly and pulling as hard as you can. Next, immerse the keyboard in warm water and scrub thoroughly with your favorite lemon-scented detergent and lots of steel wool. Finally, you need to dry the keyboard. Either dry it to touch with a handheld blowdryer, or place it in the dryer for not less than 60 minutes. Be sure to clean the lint screen when you are finished.

Q. Why are there are no "shift" keys on my keyboard, but there are two keys labelled "hif"?

A. Again, you may want to consider cleaning your keyboard, and washing your hands more frequently for that matter.

Q. Are there shift keys on my Macintosh?

A. Yes, although instead of the notation "shift", the key may be labelled with an excited Mac face, something like :O . Press this key to use shift, and be thankful you're using a friendly Mac instead of a mean old PC with all them confusin' words 'n stuff on it.

Q. I'm sick of pushing the shift key every single time I want big letters. Is there any other way to do this?

A. This is the Modern Age of Convenience, and you may be able to activate the shift key merely with the power of your voice! Check to see whether your computer is equippped with speech-recognition equipment by saying the word "shift" very clearly and slowly into its speaker. Then watch the keyboard closely to see if the Shift key moves down. Note that you may have to repeat this action several times to "train" the computer to recognize your voice before the feature works reliably.

Q. There are two shift keys, which should I use?

A. Avoid unnecessary wear on either shift key by alternating between the two. Keep track of your usage of each key so that you press them in equal amounts. Your keyboard may be equipped with a small notepad; you should use this to make little tally marks in two columns for each time you shift. Remember, it's better to go to a little trouble than wind up with a broken shift key.

Q. Why are the shift keys bigger than the other keys?

A. They aren't. This is simply an optical illusion. Just as the moon appears much larger when it is close to the horizon, your shift keys look larger because of their proximity to other keys. To verify this, go out in a large field at night with your keyboard, place it in an upright position, and view it from a distance of 200 yards. Sure enough, the keys all look the same size!

Q. If I press the shift key at the wrong time, or too many times, will my computer explode?

A. No. Well, generally no. Not unless you are using a NEC laptop. Or vt100 terminal emulation. But even then, hardly ever. Really, don't worry about it. Forget I mentioned it. Just type softly. Move along, next question.

Q. No matter what I do, the shift key just doesn't seem to work. What's wrong?

A. Have you ever considered that the problem may not be your keyboard, the problem may be YOU? Perhaps God Himself has suspended the operation of these keys to send you a Message that you have strayed from the path of righteousness. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your life. Before rushing blindly ahead with a lot of shifting, consult the spiritual advisor of your choice for help in dealing with any unresolved issues in your relationship with the Almighty.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Present Laughter"

Name a Noel Coward play. Chances are you wouldn't say "Present Laughter" but that was Hobart Rep's opening production for 2008.

First staged in 1942, this comedy has been revived around the world many times with varying degrees of faithfulness. Here we have Nick Falk in the demanding role of theatrical superstar Garry Essendine -- Garry is seldom off-stage and never stops talking when he is on stage. His dialogue is like a Gatling gun, firing witty remarks, sarcasm and barbed comments at maximum speed.

The story takes place in Garry's London flat, where he is plagued by a never-ending series of visitors including his manager, his ex-wife, a star-struck admirer and even (a modern touch) a creepy stalker, all played by veteran members of Hobart Rep.

The Playhouse was full of enthusiastic theatregoers for this farce. It bodes well for Rep's 2008 season, though I notice they're only doing five plays this year. Most years they've been doing six.

There's a list here>

Friday, March 14, 2008

red hot Friday

I don't know about global warming, but local warming is certainly a fact. When I opened the back door this morning, there was a blast of hot air hit me in the face like I was standing at the door of a boiler room.

It stayed above 30 degrees from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. tonight -- that's 86 degrees in the old Fahrenheit scale.

At midday it hit 37 degrees, which is 98.6 in the old scale, meaning that the temperature was the same inside and outside your body. Not a pleasant feeling at all.

The hens in the backyard had found sheltered spots to escape the sun, and the goose sensibly decided to settle in under the table in the garden. No eggs today but I could understand that. I don't know where the cat ended up but he stayed there for most of the day so it must have been comfortable enough.

After I'd been to my sister's house to help feed the livestock, I suggested we call in at Subway in Moonah. It's air-conditioned and we could get something to eat that wasn't hot.

I'm glad don't live in South Australia. Their record-breaking run of hot weather must be unbearable for the people of Adelaide.

It's a shame I wasn't at work in the office this afternoon. Those old stone walls can withstand the most withering blast of heat for at least a day or two.

Not that it's always comfortable. I spent most of one day this week installing a new multi-function printer (a Brother DCP) and at one stage I was wriggling about on the floor checking the USB connections under the desk -- a real spaghetti dinner under there.

At least I was able to get a good deal at Officeworks. Originally $199, marked down to $129. They only had two left when I was there. There were some el-cheapo ones for about $95 but I tend to be wary of them.

What dog breed are you? I'm a Golden Retriever! Find out at

Friday, March 07, 2008

farewell to the queen

The queen of the seas. That's how I'll always think of her. The QE2 made her final visit to Tasmania this year and I drove down to the waterfront to take a last look at her.

Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) was named after the earlier Cunard liner RMS Queen Elizabeth. She was the flagship of the line until 2004. When she was built in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1969 it looked as though she would be the last of the great transatlantic ocean liners.

Who could have guessed that liners would not only survive but would become bigger and bigger until they now look like floating cities.

But the QE2 still has the old-world styling of the traditional ocean liner, a little like a wedding cake in appearance. And the discreetly lettered name Cunard on the side of the vessel still has gives one a little thrill.

On her many visits to my home town, the ship brought back a welcome whiff of the old days of ocean travel. Two of my uncles travelled on the original Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary during the war, when their phenomenal speed made them the only troopships that could out-run German submarines and surface raiders.

We shall not see her like again. Modern liners look like office buildings turned on their side, and lack the prestige of "the Queens." She will be retired from active service in late 2008, to become a floating hotel in Dubai.

It was just a pity that modern security requirements meant that the townspeople of Hobart could not get close to the ship for a last look. I remember on previous visits one could stroll down the dockside and look right into the ship through open doorways and hatches.

To get a good photograph of the ship we needed to drive to the top of a hill in South Hobart and look back at the Derwent river.