Saturday, December 31, 2005

I'm melting. I'm melting ...

I think it is safe to say that today is hot. More to the point, it's bloody hot!

The maximum temperature for today was 43° Celsius (109.4° Farenheit). Right now at 7:15pm. believe it or not, it is still 41° Celsius (105.8° Farenheit).

Any fan of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series would be familiar with the character Odo, who regularly has to return to his natural liquid state in order to rejuvenate. He has a bucket in his office for this purpose. I now know how he feels. This is a pool of grease talking to you, not a corporeal entity.

And I hate greasy foods.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


This piece was inspired by the sight of Easter eggs in a store on Boxing Day.

In a move sure to leave millions of children around the world devastated, police yesterday arrested Santa Claus for the hit and run death of the Easter Bunny last December.

In a press conference this morning, spokesman for the police and head of the Road Kill taskforce set up to investigate the death, Detective Inspector Bharrum Bhugge, said that Claus had been lead suspect in the case right from the beginning. He said that unique parallell skid marks at the scene pointed to Claus being responsible but, up until now, police have been unable to question him as there is no treaty of extradition with the North Pole.

Inspector Bhugge said the breakthrough in the case came last week when an anonymous caller phoned Crimestoppers, telling them that Claus was going to re-enter the country, most likely coming from New Zealand. Acting on the information given by the informant, and in conjunction with customs officers and the Navy, Road Kill taskforce members were able to successfully apprehend the suspect when he flew in.

In addition to the hit-run offences, Bharrum Bhugge said, Claus was also facing charges of trying to avoid paying customs duties after a multitude of items which he had failed to declare were discovered in his sled. A number of passports under various names were also found. The vehicle itself, which has been impounded for forensic examination, also appears to be unlicenced and uninsured. Quarantine officials had to be called in to organise the capture of eight reindeer which Claus had apparently been using to pull his sled.

"This could very well be the worst case of animal cruelty ever seen in this country! And God knows what diseases they're carrying!" said one unamed source close to the investigation.

Inspector Bhugge also appealed to the public for any information they might have on Claus.

"It seems that this man is an habitual criminal who likes to flaunt his lawlessness. He practically admitted to us that he illegally enters peoples homes when they are asleep, and leaves gifts for the children. We are asking any member of the public who has had dealings with a man who calls himself Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Saint Nick, Papa Noel, Pere Noel, Papai Noel, Viejo Pascuero, Dun Che Lao Ren, Kerstman, Joulupukki, Weihnachtsmann, Kanakaloka, Mikulas, Babbo Natale, Hoteiosho, Julenissen, Swiety Mikolaj, Ded Moroz, Jultomten or Father Christmas, to come forward. We need to keep our children safe from this predator, and any information you have will go a long way to ensuring this. We would especially like to talk again to the person who phoned Crimestoppers in the first place; a young adolescent male, we believe. This could very well be the first time one of this man's victims has had the courage to come forward."

Claus is due to appear before the magistrates Court tomorrow morning. A lawyer for the firm representing Claus, Chris Angel and Partners, said they would be asking for bail on humanitarian grounds.

"It is our contention that Big Business, not Santa Claus, should be the ones held accountable for the death of the Easter Bunny. This was a tragedy just waiting to happen. There is a disease running rampant through our society, and that disease is commercialisation. Santa was only doing his job as demanded by the aspects of commercialism. So was the Easter Bunny. The two of them should never have met, but they did. Tragically."

"If Big Business hadn't been so quick to start promoting Easter after Christmas ... well. Our client is as much a victim as the Easter Bunny, and we are prepared to show that in court."

The lawyer refused to comment on the other charges Claus was facing.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

To all

I would just like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to visit and read and comment; I hope you enjoyed what you found. Special thanks, too, must be given to the spammers who have helped increase the visitor count to a point where the Retreat looks, to the casual surfer, like it might be a blog of interest.

Have a happy and safe festive season, and I hope to see you in the new year, hopefully with a bit more regular input from me.

Be strong, be happy, be safe, and most importantly, be who you are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Me as a Tarot card

Copying S again.

The Hierophant CardYou are the the Hierophant card. The Hierophant, called The Pope in some decks, is the preserver of cultural traditions.

After entering The Emperor's society, The Hierophant teaches us its wisdom. The Hierophant learns and teaches
our cultural traditions. The discoveries our ancestors have made influence the present. Without forces such as The Hierophant who are able to interpret and communicate traditional lore, each generation would have to begin to
learn anew.

As a force that is concentrated on our past and our culture, The Hierophant can sometimes be stubborn and set in his ways. This is a negative trait he shares with his zodiac sign, Taurus. But like Taurus he is productive. His traditional lore can provide a source of inspiration for the creatively inclined, and his knowledge provides an excellent foundation for those who come into their own in the business world.

The mathematics of Christmas

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist (except maybe in Japan) religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks.

This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second--3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element.

Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them... Santa would need 360,000 of them.

This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch). 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake.

The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip. Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to acceleration forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Is Australia going to drop the bomb?

It has long been the nature of Australians to not take themselves too seriously, and this has never been better reflected than in their language. Australians have a wonderfully irreverent, knockabout vernacular. Nowhere else would being called bastard, poof, dickhead, and various other titles of a derogatory nature, be considered a compliment.

Naturally, like anything that has two meanings, it depends on the way it's said as to how it should be taken. If an Aussie calls you a mongrel, it might be because you've bested him in some sort of competitive exercise, and that he is accepting defeat gracefully and offering you a compliment. But look out if he calls you a flaming mongrel. It's easy to see how someone not raised in Australia could find themselves in all sorts of bother.

With Australia becoming more and more multicultural, and particularly with the endless downpour of American culture in the media, much of the subtlety and nuance, and much of the uniqueness, of the Australian language is being lost. And now, with the recent passing of the new anti-terrorism laws through parlaiment, it looks like another Australian language icon is set to become history.

Australia is going to have to drop the "bomb".

The bomb is a car. More precisely, it's one of those cars that goes past, and you're suprised that it makes it to the end of the street, let alone it's actually running. Chances are, particularly if you're a male, you have owned one at some time in your life. You know the car I'm talking about; faded paintwork, four different coloured doors, a windscreen that leaks in a heavy dew, rust-eaten panels, a hole in the muffler so you can hear it three kilometres away, and blowing a smokescreen they could have used on D-Day. A car that you would swear was going to blow up any second, hence the term "bomb".

The bomb became an Australian icon. It was almost a rite of passage for the adolescent Aussie male to purchase a bomb for his first car. Men would gather at the local watering holes and compare bombs. It was a subject of great hilarity if someone was seen driving a bomb, especially if they were someone generally considered to be well off. When buying a new car, it was common practise to let the Missus have the bomb to run around in. "Strewth! What a bloody bomb!" was the catch cry heard at a majority of male gatherings.

As I mentioned before, new anti-terrorism legislation has been passed. All of a sudden, Aussies now have to think twice before using the words "car" and "bomb" in the same sentence - or even using the term "bomb" to describe a vehicle. Imagine the confusion that could occur.

Someone rings the local authorities to complain that a bomb has been parked at the corner of First and Main for the past week. Who do they send? The RACV or the bomb squad?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bats and balls.

Scientists at Syracuse University in New York last Thursday released the results of analysis of 334 species of bat. They concluded that males cannot have both big brains and big testes. It's either large brains and small testes, or small brains and large testes.

"Because relatively large brains are metabolically costly to develop and maintain, changes in brain size may be accompanied by compensatory changes in other expensive tissues," wrote Dr Scott Pitnick in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Letters.

It appears that in bat colonies where the female is more likely to mate with more than one male, it behoves the male to produce greater quantities of sperm to ensure it's his offspring that are sprung. Whereas, in colonies where the females are less promiscuous, the males tend to have larger brains. I guess this allows them to concentrate on other, more important things, like meeting their mates down at the pub, watching the footy, etc.

The correlation between larger brains and monogamous matings came as somewhat of a shock to the scientists, leading them to hypothesise that "Perhaps monogamy is more neurologically demanding."

I'm willing to lay odds their are a few people out there who would agree.

And what does this say about Batman?

So, ladies. If you're interested in a bloke and you want to know if he's half as smart as he makes out, give him a pair of Speedos and invite him to a pool party. A quick glance in the right direction should answer your question.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Childhood's bestest friend.

This was sent to me in an e-mail, and I thought I'd share it with you. Makes a change from all the spam and warnings about viruses, etc. (Yes, the hard-boiled cynic has a soft spot)
There is a miracle called friendship, that dwells within the heart.
You don’t know how it happens, or when it gets its start.
But you know the special lift it always brings,
And you know the friendship is a most precious gift.
A friend is someone we turn to

When our spirits need a rise.
A friend is someone we treasure
And their friendship is the prize.
A friend is someone who fills our lives

With beauty, joy and grace,
And makes the world we live in

A better and happier place.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Not what I would have said.

S, my partner, has her own blog called Beyond The Blank Page ... Yesterday, she posted one of those fun survey type things that you can find all over the Web. Being a copycat from Ballarat, I thought I would have a go. Surprisingly, I came up with the same result as her. Now, while I agree wholeheartedly that this describes S, it's certainly not how I see myself.

Might need to take it to the court of appeal, I think.

The Wisdom
You reflect the wisdom of the spirit. You shine as
a wise and anicent sage who values intellect
among the most. Your spirit brings guidance to
those around you. You have accomplished your
strength with age and time. Don't let your wise
advice go to waste. Share it with all who are
willing to listen.

Reflections of the Spirit?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Would you like flies with that?

Since meeting S, my partner, I have acquired a new skill. I am now one of this country's leading arachnid removalists.

With the onset of our Summer, and Christmas fast approaching, the holiday mood is starting to settle in. Many people's thoughts are turned to packing the family up and touring the countryside. The same can also be said of much of our fauna, especially those of a creepy-crawly nature. Not least amongst them, and
spelled with a capital, as all good lead characters in bettes noires should be, is the Huntsman spider. Unfortunately, the Hunstman's idea of a good holiday is to spend some time in the Great Indoors. In the last two weeks, two have made an incursion into our house.

It might not be so bad if these creatures weren't so bloody big. (I have included the above picture to give you some perspective) They have a specially designed flat body which allows them to hide between layers of bark, - and squeeze through the thinnest of cracks - that can measure up to 25 millimetres (1 inch) across. Their leg span has been known to cover 160 millimetres (that's a little over 6 inches for those of you who still believe it's easier to divide by twelve). Naturally, with legs like that, it's a foregone conclusion that they have the ability to jump. Actually, that's not quite true; they can leap. As much as 291 centimetres (approximately 3 feet). Little wonder their sudden discovery can be quite nerve wracking.

The experts reckon they're really quite harmless. Yeah, right. It's obvious they've never had one run up their arm when they opened up the daily newspaper, or had one drop from the ceiling with a thud onto the middle of their chest whilst laying in bed. And, if they're so harmless, why is it they produce in the majority of people a debilitating condition that requires the immediate and rapid administering of a stiff drink?

Which brings us to this guy over on the right.

Last Christmas, S and I spent a fortnight in Renmark, in the heart of South Australia's Riverland. We rented a beautiful old house, built around the turn of last century, situated less than fifty metres from the banks of the River Murray. Word must have gotten round that we would be leaving soon, and on our second last night, Mr Huntsman moved in, taking up residence in the spot most likely to cause distress the next morning; directly above the doorway leading to the kitchen. This was a deliberate ploy, calculated to create as much mayhem and disruption as possible, as evidenced by the evil gleam in two of his eight eyes.

Those of you familiar with the comic book superhero, Spiderman, would know about his famous "spider sense", which warns him when danger is about. I swear that S has the same sense, only in reverse. She has this innate ability to detect when a spider is lurking nearby. The damn thing could be at the bottom of a box papers which is in the back of a cupboard that hasn't been opened for two years. It doesn't matter, S would know it was there. So, naturally, it was S who first noticed our visitor in Renmark.

How best to deal with it? Simple. Go find a man. And, as I was the closest, I got the honours. Too bad the man is also an arachnophobe.

In my mind, there were two problems. First off, we had no fly spray. Secondly, as the ceilings in the house were ten feet up, the spider was too high to give a good whack with a shoe. These were only fleeting considerations, however. S doesn't believe in killing things just because they happen to wander across our path, so the only option open to me was to get him down from the lofty heights, and out the door.

This presented with a whole new set of problems. Some careful planning was required.

Further assessment of the trespasser revealed he was rather large. In fact, he was bloody huge! If any cats in the neighbourhood were missing, I'm pretty certain I was looking at who was responsible. Obviously, even if I was able to manouevre him into a position where a cup could be placed over the top of him, he was too big to fit in the cup; his legs would still be sticking out from under the rim. Ick! This necessitated a desparate search for a container large enough to accomodate him. We finally came up with a screw-top plastic container, and were able to hunt up a piece of stiff card to slide underneath. Reaching him ( just) was solved by grabbing the broom.

Thus, armed with the appropriate weapons, we commenced the assault. With S offering encouragement from a position of relative safety - ie. several feet behind me - I moved in. You would have thought that someone in his position, when finding themself facing the business end of a broom, would take the hint and simply comply with demands and move in the direction indicated. Not this bloke. If he wasn't raising himself up on his haunches, he went running in all the wrong directions. At one stage he managed to get onto the ceiling itself, almost directly above me. Images of him jumping down on my head were extremely vivid. I kid you not when I tell you my heart wasn't exactly at rest.

I eventually managed to herd him to an area where it was possible to trap him underneath the plastic container. As S wasn't going to go anywhere near him, I had to do it, whilst still holding the broom. Moving carefully closer, I slapped the container against the wall.

I missed.

I put it down to fear and loathing.

Of course, Mr. Hunstman was quite indignant at this attack on his rights as a free spider, and he did what comes naturally; he ran. Down the wall at the speed of sound, hit the floor running, and dart under the door to the spare bedroom.

Now we were really worried. Our suitcases were in the spare bedroom, open and half packed prepratory to our leaving the next day. Neither S nor I were pleased at the thought of this guy coming home with us, so steeling my resolve, I carefully opened the bedroom door and scanned the area.

Two emotions hit me simultaneously. Relief and frustration. Relief because the spider hadn't gone directly into hiding, and was in plain view. Frustration because he was in the corner of the wall where it would be impossible to trap him with the container. More manipulations with the broom were called for.

After about two nerve wracking hours - it was probably only a couple of minutes in reality but, as far as I'm concerned it felt like two hours - I was able to successfully trap him. (Either my shepherding skills had improved, or he simply surrendered - I like to think it was the former). It was then simply a matter of sliding the card under the rim of the container, then picking all up together. Carrying him across the road - all the time praying the card didn't suddenly go floppy - I deposited our friend on a big gum tree beside the river.

And what did S say when I returned frazzled, perspiring but triumphant?

"Are you sure he's gone? He's not going to come back, is he?"

Since our Renmark adventure, my spider wrangling skills have improved, and the latest two invaders have been removed with a minimum of fuss (although one did return and S was forced to deal with it herself). My heart still races though.

Scary buggers, they are.

If you would like more information on these creatures, click here.