In the true tradition of the Internet you should send these facts to everyone you know so that these facts become more widely known.
- Cold water boils quicker than warm water and a saucepan of solid ice boils quickest.
- Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) once won a karaoke competition in Berlin singing the Mel Brooks song “Springtime for Hitler”
- All the buildings in the World Trade Centre were closed from 1 September to 10 September 2001 for ‘maintenance’. This was when rogue CIA operatives planted all the demolition charges.
- Bicycle lanes are mentioned in chapter three of “Das Kapital” as a means of turning the proletariat towards socialised transportation systems.
- It is possible to catch a bullet with your teeth, but only if it is less than .22 calibre and fired from over 30 metres away.
- In 1974, the Shell Oil Company left the balance sheets out of its Annual Reports in all Middle Eastern subsidiaries for fear of insulting Muslims. They were replaced the following year after it was discovered the phrase “Images depicting the prophet” had been mistranslated.
- Mixing Coca-Cola, vegemite and white vinegar produces a drink with mildly hallucinogenic effects.
- Bears only defecate in a designated section of the cave in which they hibernate. This means they do not “shit in the woods”.
- A study by material scientists from the University of Innsbruck in 2001 measured the lengths of string used in over 10,000 household and industrial tasks. The average length was 17.3cm, thus answering the question “How long is a piece of string”.
- In 1957 Ford briefly released a “four-speed” manual car to compete with a rumoured Dodge model. On closer examination it was actually a three-speed with the numbers, 1,2,4,on the gear knob.
- From 1926 to 1931, the Northern Territory was divided into Central Australia and North Australia with the border at the 20th parallel of latitude. During this time, Central Australia dropped import tariffs on left-hand drive cars and drove on the right hand side of the road.
- The high pitched “Woo” in Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” was performed by Michael Jackson.
- After Michael Jackson’s death, his pet monkey “Bubbles” was euthenased and placed in the casket with him.
- Coca Cola will soon be releasing a brand of Amazon Cola where the coca leaves are collected after passing through the digestive tract of a White Faced Capuchin Monkey. It is expected to cost over $2,000 a can. Continue reading Facts that few people know.
The government introduced plain cigarette packaging on 1 December 2012, although the graphic pictures have been on the packs for a while.
Over the last few weeks, several smokers have told me “You know that skinny guy on the cigarette packs died of AIDS, not lung cancer and now his family are suing the government “(or sometimes it is the tobacco companies).
That story sounded a bit suspect to me, a rumour made up to try and deny that these illnesses can be caused by smoking. So I did a bit of research.
The man on the packets is Bryan Curtis. He was from St Petersburg in the US. He had been smoking since he was 13, building up to two packs a day. On 2 April 1999, at 33 he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that attacked his lungs and liver. He died on 3 June 1999.
The story is well documented in the St Petersburg Times. There is no mention of AIDS. Continue reading Smokers in denial over plain packaging
I recently started a job where I encourage doctors, aged care facilities and Aboriginal Medical Services to take up telehealth. For the purposes of the job, telehealth is simply a video conference between a patient and a specialist. This saves them having to travel long distances to get treatment and is very handy in rural and remote areas.
But I found that there is an IT battle raging more fiercely than the long-running Windoze vs Crapple> It is the fight about Skype.
This highly successful, functional and near ubiquitous program is the devil incarnate for some IT/telehealth workers and I wonder why.
Far from being a Skype evangelist, I am technologically agnostic. I like the advice given by the Rural Doctors Network which basically advises people to use something they are familiar with, whether it is Skype, Google video, Facetime or Facebook’s video client.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) who were originally a bit cold on Skype have now warmed a little saying that it is suitable for telehealth if you take reasonable precautions. The precautions they suggest are a little strange and demand a level of security that is not expected or enforced in alternate methods of communication.
For example, the RACGP says “Skype has an open access address book (directory), which means that anyone, anywhere with an internet connection can search for anyone published in the Skype directory. The RACGP advises that if Skype is used for video consultations, you consider creating a slightly encrypted user name (ie pseudonym) and avoid a username like Dr John Smith, Townville.“ (Their emphasis)
There exists a resource called the white pages. This is a telephone directory that anyone can pick up and read and dial anyone listed in that telephone directory. I wonder if the advice of the RACGP in the 1880s was for GPs to get telephones registered under a pseudonym? I think not.
But of course the RACGP seems to ignore the fact that, unlike the telephone, just because people can see your listing in Skype, doesn’t mean they can call you. You can set the privacy settings in Skype so only people in your contact list can call you. Something I wish could be done with a telephone.
The RACGP also advice “Medical content, such as still images or desktop screen shots are not exchanged during a video consultation using Skype.” There is no real satisfactory explanation for this advice. Skype is a point to point communication system that uses 256 bit encryption for all its communication including video, IM and file transfers. As well as being encrypted, such information can also be easily de-identified. If you are talking to the specialist and about to transfer a file, you can say “I am just sending you an image of Mrs Smith’s colon” without that image needing to be labelled as such. The alternative is to send the message using Argus-encrypted email which offers the same level of security (although you will probably need to have some identifying data in the email). If both options are just as secure, why is one of them not recommended? Continue reading Skype hype and FUD
I was looking forward to “An Evening with John Cleese” and seeing the creator of some of the great Monty Python sketches, Fawlty Towers and A Fish called Wanda.
The evening started with a rant about how this tour was basically to make money to pay alimony. $14M down and $4M to go. This gave the impression of a bitter old man who was just going through the motions for the money and didn’t really want to be there.
I thought it would really be like having an audience with him. Maybe people could ask him questions and he could amuse us with a series of off-the-cuff reminiscences. Alas it was not to be.
Questions were certainly asked. The first half of the show was Cleese being interviewed by Richard Glover. When I say ‘interviewed’ I mean he asked questions in the same way that members of the government ask questions of their own ministers in question time. “Can the minister tell the house what the government is doing about improving literacy” “I thank the honourable member for his question and will now read out five pages of answers prepared by the same public servant who wrote the question.”
Glover was merely providing well placed segues to enable Cleese to jump from one topic to another. “Tell me about your mother”, “Funny you should mention her and how amazing that before you had even finished the question, a picture of her came up on the screen.” Having been in the country for months and having done countless shows the answers came out flawlessly but sounding so contrived. As an audience member I felt cheated and somewhat embarrassed for him and me. It felt as if I had walked along the street and seen a disheveled Cleese standing on a street corner with his hat on the footpath and a cardboard sign saying “Will silly walk for cash”.
The second half on this one man show finally became a one man show, or one man and a projector.
When I say second half, I actually mean 2/3 of a second half, as the first act was one hour, but the second a mere 40 minutes, the majority of which was a series of clips from the Holy Grail, A Fish called Wanda and Fawlty Towers.
We have all seen those episodes of a popular series where the writers just get a bit lazy and the opening scene is the entire cast in some contrived situation. One cast members says some like “Hey, does everyone remember when…….” and the rest of the episode is a series of flashbacks to other episodes. It is one of the signs that the series is starting to “Jump the shark” and is entering an idea free zone.
He tried to string it together by making it a mini lecture on black comedy, but it was a lazy and ultimately unsuccessful effort. “One of my favourite scenes from Fawlty Towers is when …… Let’s look at it now”. The video runs for two minutes, then Cleese comes back on stage and says “But what happens when Sybil finds out? Let’s have a look” and runs another two minutes of video. It was like watching Bert Newton doing that “Top 20″ show. What was even worse, was that from our perch in the front row of the dress circle we could see the extent to which his laziness extended. On either side of the theatre was an autocue from which Cleese was reading word for word. I felt so tempted to start reading along with him, but half a sentence ahead.
Finally the autocue showed three refreshing words “End of Show” which Cleese ad-libbed into “That’s the end of the show” and walked off. Cue Monty Python theme, bring up the house lights and leave the audience feeling as valued as the ex-wife whose alimony they had just contributed to.
I give the show two dead parrots out of five.
It is the first day of the working year for me and I am sitting in a morgue. Not literally. I am on the train, but I have never heard it so silent. No one is talking or even making a sound apart from the occasional cough. The sound of me tapping the keyboard of my laptop is reverberating throughout the carriage. I am almost reluctant to continue. In getting the laptop out of my bag, the sound of velcro opening was like the sound of the very space-time continuum being torn asunder. As if I was opening a wormhole in time and we would all be sucked to oblivion. This is surely what the Mayans had predicted.
I suspect the sombre outlook of my fellow passengers is because for many of them too it is the start of the working year. Burdened by new year’s resolutions and the thought of spending the first half of the day telling their fellow workers what they did over the holidays and the second half of the day wading through accumulated email. This includes the 157 emails showing little known colleagues head superimposed on dancing elves and singing some climatically inappropriate song about snow and eggnog. Continue reading The year begins
I am now on the plane home, having watched the award winning safety video starring Richard Simmons and some of the All Blacks. The Francophones are somewhere on the plane, but as yet they have not started singing. My final Au Revoir with them will probably be at the baggage carousel in Sydney.
As we came up through the clouds this morning and I looked out over the vast sea of white I felt for a moment I was back in the ice.
The aftershocks from the earlier two earthquakes continued and there were five tremors before I arrived in Christchurch. Apparently there was another at three o’clock this morning. I did wake up around that time but didn’t realise we had had an earth tremor. There was another one just after I arrived at the airport, although, once again I didn’t feel it.
So now it is all over bar the shouting. And customs, quarantine, duty free and the drive home.
So what of the recap?
It was the best of trips and the worst of trips. Continue reading The journey home
My day started a little earlier than intended when Ira decided to get up at 0340 to edit some photos. Over the course of the next two hours he was in and out of the cabin so often I was about to suggest he have a revolving door installed. As predicted we sailed through the night, but being in the lee of Stewart Island the whole time it was a very smooth voyage
The pilot came on board at 0500 and I re-awoke just before 0600 when we were settled into the port. I looked out the porthole and the first thing I saw was the word Italia. “Shit,” I thought, “they’ve taken us to the wrong bloody country.” Luckily it was merely the name of the ship tied up beside us.
We had breakfast and just after 0700 the customs and immigration people came on board. Until they had cleared the ship and the passengers, no-one was to leave the ship. Much to the annoyance of Helen Mawson’s husband who was pacing up and down the dock. (I found out who he was later, until then many people were wondering who the dodgy looking character was. Most suspected a drug dealer.)
Once we were free to leave the ship, we had a group photo on the wharf and the first of many goodbyes. Not just goodbyes from many people, but many instances of goodbyes.
We of course said goodbye to the crew and staff on the ship, but many passengers said goodbye to each other. Then promptly all got on the same bus to go to town or the airport. Continue reading Bluff/Invercargill – Terra Firma
48° 24 minutes south 166° 36 minutes east
So begins the last full day on the boat.
The trip from the Aucklands has been relatively smooth, but for some reason I am feeling a bit queasy. It is not a hangover, since I actually didn’t drink that much on Christmas Day, plus the feeling is in my stomach not my head.
The sun woke me this morning around 0630, so I got up and had a shower. I had seen some birds flying past my porthole and went outside to take some photos, but the wind almost blew me off the deck. So I went back to bed to await breakfast. I am not sure how sheltered it is at The Snares and wonder if the wind will alter our ability to do a Zodiac cruise. Assuming we get breakfast tomorrow, I am about to have my second last breakfast, but every meal after that will be the last. I will save the post-mortem of the trip until tomorrow when I potentially have many hours to kill at the airport.
The wind persisted but dropped a bit, enough for us to go on a last Zodiac trip. It was an incredible trip. The seas meant that it was a bit of a wet trip but the wildlife was abundant. We saw the Snares Crested Penguins, which really should be called Mountain Climber Penguins for the steepness of the rocks they were climbing up. We cruised through a natural arch that was long enough to be called a tunnel and found a small freshwater pond where the penguins seemed to be having a bath. Being the last group through we stopped there watching them for about 15 minutes bathing and jumping from rock to rock. Continue reading Boxing Day – The Snares
50° 32 minutes South 166° 13 minutes East.
This morning at some ungodly hour of the morning we began moving from our little sheltered inlet around to the north part of the island and another inlet called Port Ross. It is here that we will have our penultimate landing (the last one being the landing of no return).
Everyone on the boat is happy and wishing each other both Joyeux Noel and Happy Christmas. The Russian (Orthodox) Christmas is not for a few weeks yet.
Soon after I awoke I listened to Sue’s Xmas message, which consisted of a song and instructions about the three numbered presents. One was a novelty Christmas ear-ring, two was a pair of novelty Christmas boxing shorts and three was a 5cl bottle of 21 year old Poit Dhubh Gaelic Whisky. I was instructed to wear the first two all day and drink the third at lunch time. There was also a card that Sue had made with pictures of her and Jules and scented with her perfume.
Although there are two sleeps to go, there are really only two days to go as well, since the third day is basically wake up, have breakfast and get off. Continue reading Joyeux Noel – Port Ross
50° 43 minutes South 166° 10 minutes East
I have experienced the strangest of things, a full nights sleep. The bed was dead still. It neither pitched nor rolled nor yawed and there was no underlying bass thud of the engines to pound my brain into submission.
There is now only three sleeps to go. We spend all day today somewhere in the Auckland Islands and will have Christmas anchored in another sheltered fjord, of which there is no shortage provided the weather is coming from the right direction.
These are the frustrating days. Coming home is always like that. There is always a point in a holiday where you stop going away and start coming home. It is not the half way point, or the point where you change direction, it is a psychological point where the holiday is over and you are now travelling home. On my 1988-90 world trip it kicked in in Perth. I had flown there from London via two weeks in Zimbabwe. I thought I’d stay in Perth for a few days, since I hadn’t been there before, but this was a mistake. The journey home started in Perth and the days spent there were frustrating delays. On the 2001 family world tour the kids started coming home when we left London. For them, the intervening days in Canada and the USA fell into this ‘frustrating delays’ category to the extent that Belinda must have been the only 11-year-old on the planet that didn’t enjoy a trip to Disneyland.
For me, I started coming home on 15 December. The day we found out we were not going to get to Mawson’s Hut. (This failure now apparently publicised in national newspapers.) Every day since has psychologically been a step closer to home, but touring west along the ice edge for a day only to return west the next day has fallen firmly into the frustrating delays category. Waiting for Santa at the Auckland Islands, ditto. Continue reading Auckland Island déjà vu
51° 07 minutes East 165° 57 minutes South. Close to the Auckland Islands
Well, land is near, not sure about the ho. Last night was an incredibly smooth night of sailing and I was able to sleep almost all the way through. According to the chart (because you can’t just call it a map when you are on a ship) we were travelling in 3500 whatevers (feet, metres, fathoms, the chart didn’t say) last night and now we are in only 500, so the swell has picked up a bit.
Today is my birthday and I finally got to look at what Sue had given me. She recorded an audio message that I had to listen to. Half way through the message I had to open the present and then listen to the rest of the message. I got a block of chocolate, a piccolo of champagne and a small empty cardboard box. The box once contained a diamond ear-ring, but with my record of loosing them, Sue decided to keep it at home and I can pick it up there.
The program for today has been put up and the only activity is a Zodiac cruise at 1345.
It is only two sleeps till Christmas and four sleeps before my own personal Marie Celeste ends its voyage. At least it will be four days of activities.
Ahhh, breakfast beckons! Continue reading Land Ho
54° 44 minutes South, 161°33 minutes East.
The sea calmed down overnight and we have only 26 hours until we get to the Auckland Islands.
Of course, that is not home. It feels a bit like “Lost in Space” where they wanted to go back to Earth, but first they had to make it to Alpha Centauri. The Auckland Islands is our Alpha Centauri.
I have done the pre-alpha edit of the video and can already see a few missing shots I need to get. I will grab Matt shortly and tighten up the existing edit, before going to film some more (victims), stars.
The ocean remained very calm during the day to enable some more filming and editing. All of the footage shot so far has been put into the final product and so we know the gaps to fill and have a fair idea of how to film them. We hope to get a group shot on the bow of the ship tomorrow. This activity kept me busy and I had a very enjoyable day. In fact it is amazing how quickly a day can pass when you are doing something varied and enjoyable and not lying down watching the minutes tick by on your watch. (Not that my watch actually ticks, but you get my drift.) Continue reading Some relief
58° 15 minutes South 156° 00 minutes East
It is mid-summer day, the summer solstice, the longest day. However it is only the longest day in terms of daylight, it is still only a tedious 24 hours like any other day and yet another full day at sea. Actually in terms of daylight it is probably shorter than other days we have had, since the days get longer as you go south and we are a long way north of our southernmost point on this trip.
The sea is slightly calmer, although not into the category of calm that I could spend hours at the computer editing a video.
The lectures are back on again and start with part two of the seven part series on Scott and Amundsen, followed by (wait for it) a lecture of the language of ice, definitions of snow, ice and icebergs. (This really is going to be the longest day.) The day concludes with a lecture on Antarctic artists and art. Spare me. I think this is all a bit cruel since we didn’t make it to Antarctica. It is rubbing salt into the would, like saying “Here’s some other parts of it you didn’t see.” (Katya gave a talk the other day on whales, where the description of every species was preceded with “This is another one we haven’t seen”.) I would like some information on where we are going. How about “Port of Bluff – Southern Excitement”, “Stewart Island for Dummies”, or “Interesting Street Signs of Invercargill”. Or even the passengers giving travelogues of their home towns. Anything but another fucking talk about fucking Ant-fucking-arctica.
There must be something pagan we can do to celebrate mid-summer. And pagan things usually involve nudity, so that might be interesting.
The cabin-fever is truly settling in and the only alternative to bitching about it on the computer is to curl up is the foetal position on my bed and hope it will go away. Continue reading The Longest Day
61° 24 minutes South 150° 58 minutes East.
The sea picked up overnight and the ship is bobbing like a champagne cork in a Jacuzzi. There is a 24 knot wind whipping up the chop and we are only making about 6.5 knots which is half our usual speed.
I did a little bit of filming and had breakfast, but I think I will take a horizontal approach to the day until conditions improve.
Lunch has just concluded and in our dinning room an entire table was empty. People are simply not up to eating at the moment. The captain has engaged the second engine so we are going a little quicker, presumably to get to the calm water quicker, however this has made the ride a little rougher. Damned either way. Rodney has deemed the lecture room too dangerous to use and he has postponed so the lectures. The weather is not expected to improve until tomorrow. It if does, then filming and other activities can recommence. In the meantime my mattress is looking attractive.
We just finished our last Tuesday dinner. Next Tuesday our only meal on the boat will be breakfast. Continue reading Into the washing machine
64° 01 minutes South, 147° 11 minutes East.
We are further north and further east than we were yesterday, although we were just drifting for about 24 hours. The captain started the motor early in the morning to avoid drifting too close to the icebergs.
I had the best nights sleep of the entire trip last night, to the extent that I forgot I was on a boat. Most of the other passengers are reporting the same thing.
Yesterday afternoon the bar was decorated with Christmas decorations and overnight the same to the dining rooms.
Fog surrounds the ship and visibility is down to about 200 metres. Within the area we can see there is no ice. Rodney has decided to head north to the Auckland Islands and so the engines have just been started. This gives the crew something to do. Rodney had originally planned leaving here on 20 December, so this means either we get to the Aucklands a day early or we are going to head there a bit slower. We have not set foot on land since 12 December and won’t set foot on land until 24 or 25 December. This 12-13 day stint at sea will be three times longer than anything on the original program and the length of time at sea that would have stopped me from booking the trip. Continue reading Into the fog
63° 38 minutes South 143° 27 minutes East
I think the sun set last night at about 0130. Not that it got dark as such. The sun just dipped below the horizon briefly and then came back. By 0430 there was enough light streaming into my cabin to wake me up.
At about 0615, Rodney announced we were heading back into the ice. We had found a sizeable lead and were heading south. This saw the morning sun stream directly through my now eastern facing porthole and onto my bed.
I got up and put on almost every piece of clothing I had. Although a bright sunny day it seemed to be sub-zero outside and the decks had a thin yet treacherous layer of ice on them.
The sun poked its head above a cloud bank producing that classic Bible cover starburst effect which then glistened off the surrounding ice floes. At least one floe had an Adelie penguin on it but it was several hundred metres away. The ice is apparently about 20NM further north than when we left it. I am not sure if this is good or bad news. I am also not sure what the plans for the day are. Perhaps we will just continue to head south until we find an iceberg to Zodiac around. (I have just turned Zodiac into a verb).
There are now only nine sleeps until the voyage ends. Although it is good to get to single figures, it is still a long time. Maybe if I break it into smaller chunks. Five sleeps till my birthday. Then two more sleeps till Christmas and solid ground. Then two more sleeps till New Zealand, then one more sleep and I am home.
Ahhh…. That’s much better.
Continue reading Back into the ice
62° 23 minutes South 141° 48 minutes East
“Good morning everyone, good morning” although Gemma’s dulcet tones are sweet to the ear, the repetitious nature of the morning announcements makes me think I am living in the movie “Groundhog Day”.
The boat is relatively calm now, but we had a few rough patches overnight. We were pitching and rolling, so I was sliding across the bed as well as up and down. Occasionally there would be a big thud and the boat would shudder.
The plot of the ship’s course now looks like a one-legged man with Parkinsons trying to piss his name in the snow in cursive text.
The program announces today as a “True Expedition Day”, in other words we have absolutely no idea what we are doing.
It reads like this:
- Expedition Activities – listen for announcements
- Expedition Activities – listen for announcements
The only announcement yesterday was about a brown stain of whale food passing by. Who knows what untold excitement today will bring. Continue reading Somewhere in the Southern Ocean
63° 41 minutes south 143° 47 minutes east
Whose sea is this I think I know,
His house is in New Zealand though,
He will not mind me stopping here,
To watch his sea fill up with snow.
My little ship must think it queer,
To stop without an island near,
The captain gives a double-take,
To see if there is some mistake,
But I have promises to keep,
And nautical miles before I sleep, and nautical miles before I sleep.
(After Robert Frost)
After cruising around in the ice yesterday, we headed back north in the evening to the edge of the ice and have then turned west to follow the ice edge. Continue reading Cruising through the sea on a snowy morning
This is the day for the good news and the bad news.
On the good side the sea is calm. I mean really calm. I mean calmer than Sydney Harbour on a calm day. I slept almost all through the night and everything on the ship is where it was left last night. In fact, I don’t think my middle ear had adjusted to the sudden stillness and as I rolled over in bed I had a momentary episode of BPPV. (Add a Link in here).
We don’t know the results of the iceberg spotting competition, but the first one was spotted last night. That’s if we had a night. It was still fairly light at 0130 this morning.
The scenery has completely changed. Rather than seeing nothing but ocean for as far as the eye can see, there is nothing but sea-ice for as far as the eye can see. This actually has a bit of variety and the vista is punctuated by the jagged outline of icebergs. The biggest one so far has been about 200m long.
This ship is not an icebreaker, it is only ice strengthened. This means we can push the ice out of the way as long as it has somewhere to go.
Some of the pieces of ice has the tell-tale signs of having had penguins slide across them, but as of yet, I haven’t seen a penguin. We have seen several seals lazing on the ice.
We are 62° 39 minutes south, 145° 59 minutes east so still a long way from the Antarctic Circle. Rodney says it is unusual to see so much ice so far north and that it didn’t bode well.
It hasn’t, as we found out at the morning briefing. Continue reading We’re on the road to nowhere.
With the portholes closed on our deck we have no sense of day or night. We are now woken by the wake-up call rather than the sun streaming in the window.
My encounter with sea-sickness was the first of two episodes and so I am now a fully fledged member of Club Mal de Mare.
As also desperate times lead to creativity and so I have penned a club song.
Welcome, oh welcome to Club Mal de Mare,
Tuck in your T-shirt and tie back your hair,
For soon you’ll be spreading your lunch everywhere,
When staying at Club Mal de Mare
At Club Mal de Mare, we don’t make a fuss,
We travel with “Expeditions ‘R’ uss”
So keep a firm grip on the porcelain bus,
And you’ll soon be at Club Mal de Mare
At Club Mal de Mare we’re not big on music,
Our Rockin’ and Rollin’ is sure to make you sick,
So grab a white bag and make sure you use it,
Until you leave Club Mal de Mare.
At Club Mal de Mare everyone’s a winner,
You gain membership when you lose your dinner,
And return to New Zealand remarkably thinner,
After four weeks at Club Mal de Mare.
Since it is now twelve days to Christmas, I have also re-written the twelve days of Christmas.
Continue reading Sensory deprivation en route to Commonwealth Bay